(with a little inspiration from P.K.W.)

How we rushed to get through antiquity
discarding the pre-socratics
their dialec-tic monistic vapory
esteemed anachronistic.
Until meeting with Friedrich Hegel's
dialectic holds absolute sway
engendered in reality
philosophy of day to day.
Utilitarianism of desire
accumulating gains
observes the train that’s crashing
and Calculates net pain.
And if it’s you that suffers
as long as it’s less than me
I'm thoroughly Epicurean
following John Dewey.
Bu’the rules o’the game are written
with cheating built right in
and this game is played for keeps,
incentivize! play! just win!
How frivolous our objections
when observing all the rules
we dare to come up short
o brother, - Racca, - fool:
If you think society's aim
your ultimate demise
you esteem yourself too highly
and consider us too wise.
For margins were added on purpose
to level the playing field
and you are but the means
to-day on the alter kneeled.
- This the people's confession
as you drown in a sea of terror:
"there is - no - conspiracy
just a comedy – of - errors."

Democritus Was Right

The most perverse of pleasures
eject from us at whim
and yet our humblest moments
evoke from us no sin

The tongue untrained unskilled
commits a genocide
though mightier than the sword or penis
wherein we chance confide

Words contain no meaning yet,
until to them ascribed
a fluidity of motion,
by interpretive design

Convey to you myself I fail,
but know you shall insist
the heart and ill intentions
of this ephemere-al wisp

Ideas are not the same as words
or reality
and so my conscious universe
is not entirely free

But stuck within a neural frame
a matrix of desire
of blood of toxins and of pain
of putting out such fires

This tyranny of urgency
demands my full obedience
while each and every agency
rebels o'er this allegiance

To mechanist pursuit
in the context of attention
our span is far too short
antecedent e'en to mention

And like our woe betided friend
Democritus we'll expire
in pursuit of circumstantial cause
to a-priori aesthetic fire.

And to this teleology we
admit an admiration
for science owes in part its frame
and we suppressed emotion

Midst rational fallacies adroit
and new ones of our invention
The phallic symbol of our might
a black/white world and pension

A decontruktion of our faults
the modernist prescription
bloody gruesome crimes of war
turned into progression

Yet to our antediluvian mind
we have not achieved a state
we falter at merely being kind
how dare we try-trick fate

Taking that which we haven't earned
we claim a destiny
Manifest in the result;
it must; because it be

And yet Albert Schweitzer's Jesus
still calls from a rolling wheel
or a beachhead, was it in Normandy
Silence, peace, be still

The beauty of human endeavor
is that we try e'en though we fail
that’s the story of god incarnate
it is the tearing of the veil

The truth is seen with many eyes
yet we cannot come together
for at the ending of the day
all we share is but the weather

Out of lonesome hearts we lash
our tongues betray our fear
we drive away all sense of other
lest it become too dear

And ultimately at last
a judgment few, no none
can bear upon the soul we hear:
nothing, we’re alone.

What hope then but the atomist
quantum theory can't provide
the space between our atoms
or the dark stuff that be god

But in our first beginnings
beauty it did slay
or slake and quench a "baser" thirst
which? we dare not say

For if we accept the first premise
then falls behind the second
We've built our worlds upon our might
and false humility it beckons

With the crafty voice of a serpent
slithering near the tree
it’s easier to be wrong
than live up to: who is me

Why I don't live in Maine

(Originally written in 2010)

I thought racism was dead. Sure, when I was growing up, I heard the occasional rude comment. I remember an old lady who told me about the war with the Germans and “J*ps”, but for the most part those are insensitivities, and no-one ever expressed hatred. I went to college in the Boston area. There people of all colors and nationalities co-exist in relative harmony. You get the sense that if you try you can succeed; nobody is standing in your way you just have to get out of your own.

I have found that in Maine, Racism is both alive and accepted. My first introduction was when at the Maine Criminal Justice Academy we were told “Asians are violent" and it was explained that there was special policy toward Asian inmates. I thought, ok, these are inmates, nobody hates me.

I took a job working for a high end homebuilder, and worked there for three years. There I learned that there are some deep seated personal hatreds that are getting stronger here in Maine. When individuals insist on using insensitive language, you can write it off as a reaction against political correctness, but when they talk about burning crosses, and people's houses down, there is a different level of concern. Further, when a respectable employer who does multi-million dollar projects, labels racism “conventional vagaries” which must be accepted, you realize Maine is way behind the times. (If you are interested Jinno v. MUIC)

For those of you who think as I once did, that Martin Luther Kings's dream was accomplished - I entreat you to think again. Especially consider those prejudices against Asians, Hispanics, Native Americans, and Arabs - all of which never gain the same attention as Jesse Jackson or Al Sharpton.

I have a dream, that one day MY children too…

Beauty: Hate is the Denial of Beauty

Much has been written and spoken in response to the killing of nine people during Bible Study at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston SC - some of it does not bear the dignity of a response, much of it verges on appropriating the very real suffering of others as our personal cause. There is a temptation to repeat the phrase that the Christian should have "The Bible in one hand and the Newspaper in the other."

But a very astute Barth actually said…

"The Pastor and the faithful should not deceive themselves into thinking that they are a religious society, which has to do with certain themes; they live in the world. We still need according to my old formulation - the Bible and the Newspaper."
"Take your Bible and take you newspaper and read both. But interpret the newspaper from your Bible."

I fear the church has become reactionary joining the chorus of unison voices as we all seek a cathartic experience, and I do not mean to devalue those expressions as we seek to make peace in our own ways. But the church is called to be prophetic - speaking truth to blindness. We live in a time where one finds it necessary to speak out in condemnation because there is the very real risk that someone will in interpret our lack of condemnation, our silence, not as respect but as condoning the prejudice and hatred in others.

We as human beings have a penchant for identifying the things we hate, as the cause of hate and thus perpetuate a vicious cycle and whirlwind of propaganda, and creating such a noise that nothing meaningful can be heard or understood; for (let me be clear) Hate is not made possible in our culture by bad parenting, ignorance, differences, or the prevalence of guns.

Martin Heidegger, one of the most influential philosophers of our post-modern era wrote that "Aesthetics is the consideration of humanity's state of feeling in relation to the beautiful." Heidegger went on to argue that only and "anti-aesthetic" or "post-aesthetic" view of art and beauty can help us understand its true significance, our basic sense of what is and what matters.

Heidegger essentially declared war on beauty, in the interest of a mechanistic post-modernity. And the past several generations of Americans have with religious fervor chased the illusive promises of the "American Dream," all the while devaluing the only things of infinite value. We as a people far from being united by what and who we are, have learned to be united only against a common enemies. (i.e. Soviets and Terrorists) We deny the intrinsic value of human life, quantifying humanity as wealth producers and consumers thus making beauty in the form of the image of God, only the means to an end: wealth and consumption.

But Stephen looking up to heaven displays the transcendent in and exclaims his praise in the face of beauty while being stoned.

Acts 6:15 All who were sitting in the Sanhedrin looked intently at Stephen, and they saw that his face was like the face of an angel.
Acts 7:55 But Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, looked up to heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. 56 “Look,” he said, “I see heaven open and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.”

Hate is made possible in our culture by the cultural war on beauty itself as an end in itself, as intrinsically valuable, as universal experience of transcendence - beauty instead is superfluous, unnecessary, without utility to our industrially refined capitalistic sensibilities.

Only in a culture like this: where beauty or its imposters are harnessed to sell products do we find a utility which is marketable, is it possible to devalue that which we personally find no utility for... Only in a culture like that is it possible to walk into the sanctuary of a church and shoot Nine people.

We think we know beauty, but much of what we experience is merely reminiscence of something past, a comfortable feeling, salacious, even pornographic - or it is our attempt to appear erudite in the face of esoterism. But beauty, true beauty, when experienced is transcendent. Beauty inspires, and this is what makes art special: The Sistine chapel is not beautiful because of the frescos, and the millions of people who experience the work of Michelangelo, rather the Sistine chapel is beautiful because it gave Michelangelo the means to attempt to express through fresco, his own personal experience of transcendence.

This is historically the unique relationship between the church and the arts, and this is why the church must stand for beauty, teach not art appreciation (mechanist appreciation) but beauty appreciation, the praise of a beautiful God for the Beauty of the earth. We as a body are called out to display Gods glory, or as Romans 8 says:

18 I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. 19 For the creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed. 20 For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope 21 that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God.

So we must also try its expression, though we fail, though we feel hideous, though we engender ridicule, and especially because we invite hate.

Solzhenitsyn wrote:

"so perhaps that old trinity of Truth and Good and Beauty is not just the formal outworn formula it used to seem to us during our heady, materialistic youth. If the crests of these three trees join together, as the investigators and explorers used to affirm, and if the too obvious, too straight branches of Truth and Good are crushed or amputated and cannot reach the light—yet perhaps the whimsical, unpredictable, unexpected branches of Beauty will make their way through and soar up to that very place and in this way perform the work of all three. And in that case it was not a slip of the tongue for Dostoyevsky to say that "Beauty will save the world" but a prophecy. After all, he was given the gift of seeing much, he was extraordinarily illumined. And consequently perhaps art, literature, can in actual fact help the world of today."
The church is called to be beautiful: Be ye perfect, in Matthew 5:48; or a pure bride, Ephesians 5:27; to walk in light... But all we can truly do is try - to appreciate all beauty, to let it affect us in our core, express that we have been changed - To bear witness that we have experienced beauty.
One blogger has written "why do the hateful come to houses of worship"
"I thought about a church gathered for prayer and Bible study last night, and how they had opened their circle to let a stranger join them. And I thought about a mosque in Arizona, and how the faithful walked past angry, mocking crowds with guns in order to worship. And I thought about the temple in Maryland, and the anti-Semitic graffiti they found one morning this spring.
“There’s a reason the hateful choose houses of worship. It’s because that’s where so many of us put our hope."
No. The hateful choose places of worship, because the house of God’s family represents a safe place to try, it represents sanctuary. The hateful choose places of worship because that sanctuary represents the experience of the transcendent and the encouragement to seek out transcendence. The hateful choose places of worship because the experience of the transcendent requires the acknowledgment of beauty - and hate is the denial of beauty; it is the war on beauty. God allowed the fullness of his revelation; of his beauty to be nailed to an ugly cross, in order that a beautiful people might rise up and help redeem this world for the Beauty, the Glory, and the Majesty of God.

Let me end with this exhortation from Kurt Vonnegut:

"Go into the arts. I'm not kidding. The arts are not a way to make a living. There are very human way of making life more bearable. Practicing an art, no matter how well or badly, is a way to make your soul grow, for heaven's sake. Sing in the shower. Dance to the radio. Tell stories. Write a poem to a friend, even a lousy poem. Do it as well as you possibly can. You will get an enormous reward. You will have created something."
We must as a people bear witness to beauty.

Sermon, June 21, 2015 - First Baptist Church of Plymouth MA.

? for Economists

Is a slave wealthy or a consumer...

"If people were like ants, then there would be no unemployment. There would be no need for redistribution of wealth, because people would produce enough wealth for themselves, so they wouldn't depend on others to create wealth for them."

"Those people like the idea of redistribution of wealth who do not produce enough for themselves and depend on others to supply them. They believe that wealth is limited, because they don't count themselves into the [equation]. They view themselves as consumers and wealth as finite. The workers who produce wealth view wealth as something renewable, something infinite."

"Wealth can be infinite only if we get up and work. Otherwise, we can discuss economics all day long and try to convince each other that it's infinite, but sooner or later we'll run out of wealth and realize that it is finite."

So again, is a slave wealthy or a consumer...

Public outrage misplaced

The public outrage at law enforcement with regard to the many incidents of abuses of power, authority, and outright waste has missed a fundamental question that underlies the entire fabric of our public service sector. While the DEA might be hosting sex parties, what do you think happened to the DEA agent who didn't want to participate? While Baltimore PD apparently used excessive force and poor judgment with regard to Freddie Gray, what happened to the police officer who objected to the violence in a thousand other cases where no headlines were made? While we are outraged by abuses of civil forfeiture, intimidation, even the story here in Boston of John Connolly - what do we think happened to the peers, subordinates and anybody else who may have gotten in their way? (not to mention the FBI and falsified hair analysis)

The answer is that they get unfavorable work reviews, they are labeled as not being team players, it is said that they can't follow orders, they get reassigned to a desk, or a less favorable position, demoted, they become the fall guy in falsified reports, or they plain get fired. We only hear about it when someone sues like Gerry Pickens - Does anyone remember Richard Jewell? How about Adrian Schoolcraft? As a society we look on these people with scorn, and we doubt their stories - we're supposed to trust the police, these people aren't police anymore - there must be a reason.

So do we need more people who follow the gang lockstep, until someone dies - or do we need to honor the ethical scruples of the "non-team players" who actually want to "protect and serve" and help keep everybody out of trouble. 

The conversation that isn't happening.

As a proud Gordon College Alumni (one of my sons has Adoniram as a middle name), I'm watching this whole thing unfold, wincing and cringing as the reactions and blog posts roll out. If you live in a deeper hole than I do: D. Michael Lindsey - the fairly new president of the college signed a petition to be granted exemption from certain non-discrimination practices. This has blown up into an opportunity to attack Mr. Lindsey, Gordon College, Christianity, and promote the theology of human sexuality and LGBT issues. (here for one take)

But what about the overlooked conversations we're not having?

D. Michael Lindsey was touted as the best thing since sliced toast/A.J. Gordon himself, and Gordon was proud to have won him in the bidding for the up and coming academic leader. Lindsey is said to be improving the image of Gordon, being more professional and credible: "His leadership... is part of a longer-term strategy to position the institution as the liberal arts college of choice worldwide for the development of thoughtful Christian leaders." That’s some big aspirations for the "Boston Missionary Training School." His Bio on the college site drops the names of "Presidents Carter and Bush, and hundreds of CEOs at the nation’s largest corporations and nonprofit... The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, USA Today, CNN and Fox News Channel," and "Pulitzer nominated" books (as well as a million degrees and accolades).

But I've met D. Michael Lindsey, he's about my age. I've met his wife and kids, and do you know, they put their pants on the exact same way as I do? All the BS aside, nobody is a "professional" and if we honestly believed we were,  our self worth would be tied to our accomplishments, and we would have lost the intrinsic value of humanity. So Michael Lindsey made a judgment call, maybe a mistake, but is he a human being or a professional?  And why is it that nobody is talking about this "Hobby Lobby" case (the supposed reason for the petition) in light of the fact that the courts seem to be cementing the person-hood of corporations, while stripping it from actual PERSONS.

See the conversation nobody is having is a conversation we won't be able to have if we strip funding to the humanities and especially the oft maligned "Philosophy major;" Does a human life have intrinsic value?  If it does, Mr. Lindsey deserves a break, but we also can't celebrate the Supreme Court's decision to say it doesn't. If it does, you can't evaluate people based on titles, resumes, politics or the wealth of their success - no you actually have to meet them, and know them. If it doesn't, then we are all just merely means to an end, to be discarded when we step out of line: and we should be fearful of what that end might be.

I'm scared too

We had a visitor at church this week.

That in itself is earth shattering when you consider we have average attendance of 12, and I haven't gotten a paycheck since March 30. It's hard not to appear "too welcoming." But you know what was the best thing about this visitor? This person wanted me to be aware of how much courage it took for them to walk into a strange church. I can identify with this: I'm a pastor in an American Baptist Church in a small New England Town, and I'm terrified of other Christians. Just take a look at what's going on and tell me why anyone would want to join our sorry lot?

Sovereign Grace Ministries Scandal
Gospel Coalition Split
Mark Driscoll - need I say more
Casting stones
Black or white only please

I may be a pastor, but I'm also a human being.

I've been told that in my current situation, if I invest more, and put more time and effort into re-developing this small church, it will turn around and grow. I've been told I also need to find a second job (60 funerals in two years don't count) - any job even though we're a single car household, and getting to most of these jobs would cost more than I'd earn. I've been told I shouldn't be helping a Brazilian Church because it's not mine. I've been told that I need to make my family the priority, and spend quality time with them. I've been told I really should be helping my parents more; I've been told I really should be helping my parents less. I've been told I really need to pursue my wife, take her on dates and buy her flowers make her feel special; and I've been told it's financially unsound to spend any money when we have bills to pay. I've been told I need to bring more security and stability into my families life; and I've been told I need to keep trusting God to provide, and stop trying to figure it all out. Mostly I've been told to stop over thinking it...

The problem is that talk is cheap, and consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds. Everybody wants to be your mentor, nobody wants to learn. Should I be terrified to point out Jimmy Evans Eisegesis of Genesis 2:24-25 from "Marriage on the Rock?" Or that a Biblical Hermeneutic requires us to at least consider that Man was created for a purpose, part of which was to "tend the garden"... and it was for the purpose of helping Man with this work that a suitable helper was formed? I'm not trying to demean Jimmy Evans, but I also don't see God writing four laws in Genesis 2:24-25. Should I be terrified that by raising the idea that maybe we should seek to fulfill our role in creation that more Christians will abandon me, or worse attack? Should I have to stay up all night working on a funeral because I'm terrified an Evangelical or Conservative will be present and deem that I didn't use enough scripture, or watered down the gospel; while trying to also be sensitive to the grief of a family? Should I continue to earnestly work with church that's tried to fire me several times, and now can't pay me? Should I have to pretend I'm naive and a fool - or just keep silent, in order to get along with pretentious and arrogant people? Should I be afraid of posting this post?

Part of me says if I haven't proved myself yet, I never will - I don't want to be the kind of Christian other people are afraid of.

"So hold me Jesus
Cause I'm shaking like a leaf
You have been king of my glory
won't you be my prince of peace"
- Rich Mullins

The living and the dead

Death is a topic I'm pretty familiar with. I've done almost fifty funerals and in almost every case I have personally talked with and comforted the bereaved. On the one hand these help pay the bills (I usually receive some sort of honorarium), on the other hand I'm one of a few ministers who don't have a set fee, because I believe that everybody deserves a proper burial even if they can't afford it. There was one funeral however where the attendance consisted of  the Funeral Director, The Cemetery worker, and Myself. I've been to funerals where some family members weren't allowed to attend, and one where an inappropriate "eulogy" was shared. 

I've always maintained that Funerals are for the living, not the dead. Even in the case of the non-attended funeral, there was someone living who wanted to know that their relative was buried "properly."

The news that Fred Phelps of Westboro B*****t C****h  passed away has been met by mixed reactions even before it occurred. While I can understand so many emotions regarding a controversial figure such as Phelps, I also read about how some of his family have been cut off and not allowed to say goodbye. Every person is a son or daughter to someone, maybe a dad or mom, a cousin, uncle or aunt. Our sins, no matter how grievous we judge them don't dilute our humanity but reinforce it.