Current musing

(Originally in response to a Facebook quote of Dietrich Bonhoeffer's Letters and Papers from Prison)

I'm beginning to have my doubts about the theologians of the early 20th century... statements like "Evil always carried within itself a germ of its own subversion in what it leaves behind in human beings at least a sense of unease." (Bonhoeffer) seem to not play out in the modern world... Did they take for granted a definition of Evil that we don't share, or have we become seared in our consciences against those artifacts of unease?

I've been working on this recently - I'm leaning toward "wickedness" - taking delight in the misfortune of others, "Evil" - actively planning or causing the misfortune of others... I think they stand apart from "sin" especially in their biblical context (think Psalm 1:1) could we in fact have lots of evangelicals who have "sin avoidance/mitigation" down to a science while actively participating in wickedness and evil.

Politburo

We all have our very own demons to fight very often we face those demons at night when we, all alone, struggle in darkness there is no weapon no friend nor solace to ease the treacherous battle that wages in our aching hearts we write empty pages we live in a poem that attempts to express what we have to offer the world it’s our best which isn’t good enough to earn a days pay Says some lucky fool who counts beans all day We find the need to escape. “The world owes a living” they say is not true, but what God freely gave to me and to you is fair game to deprive from the hungering masses how John Locke defined sin, suddenly passes for the basis of law, economic devotion stirring have-nots overcome with emotion It’s not just Jihadis come from abroad killing themselves to protest this strange God our very own sons, and the fruit of the poppy a strange addiction that is too often copied Not even a Boxer can stop Vote if you want to see change affected they say as they promote the discord suggested and invisible masters pull on the strings your vote gives them power, the very same thing they say is your freedom, which nobody needs a rifle or sword, this machine feeds on fear and division, on drugs hate and lies some very nice people one comes to despise how they act when they see that their Lucre is threatened and doubt the intentions of everyone mentioned Lets build a giant wall! We blame all our troubles it seems on outsiders which is simpler to swallow than facing the fires that burden our heart, (must be something we ate) and so we build community on hating the hate No different than when we persecuted witches real people that we simply thought were just bitches or obstacles in the way of our progress toward more and we sacrifice a few to the way of the whore or the pederast church, our ethics be damned know thyself, change thyself, if you call yourself “man” These go by other names today. I’m not superstitious, but my mind can’t escape the idea that I’m left with a bill for mistakes and sins committed by those long ago: “let my children reap the seeds that I sow” and “its none of their business what jollity I’ve had” thus whole generations are lost or gone mad be it ISIS or pot-heads, the church or your job Everyone feels that they have been robbed We long for the zombie apocalypse horde (which we’ll fight with our video game skills of course) glued to a screen we’re numb to the worst of everything that is real. Those screens numb our conscience - feed our soul on a diet that leads to eventual starvation, not riot for which we give thanks when we probably should flee but we have lost our innate sense of irony for Facebook is full of social media critics their message: they use social media to spread it and the manager enforcing the rule that he hates or a stock portfolio unequally spreading the weight our money to work for others we put it their sudden misfortune is our sudden profit Someday we’ll comfortably retire. But the deepest of sins with age more abounds “I had to go through it … with no-one around” in self-congratulation we heap up the burden on those who would follow, for we must be certain of things we know not of ourselves, lest we ask but we don’t and we can’t we’re not up to the task Seniority, Wisdom, Experience we claim while limiting your right to do the same Protectionism in the guise of a certificate or license the competent are summarily excluded, and thence we cannot find a leader The blind carry on boldly with their walking adventures and vistas they paint with their talking but little they know for they chose to forget the other senses which they’ve not lost yet I’ve heard it myself; write him off: “He’s no good.” do drugs and get murdered they’ll help shed your blood she deserved it, he got what was coming his way to assuage the guilt of the part that we play for sin is not things that we do, it’s a place and we quite like the custom of the rat-race As long as we think we can win But give of yourself so to others be kind (they preach it but try it and soon you will find) Put yourself first is what truly is meant and with a turn of the wheel another future is spent Will people live up to the image inside seems doubtful so long as the devils astride and so the way that seems all too treacherous: to not sear our conscience and too become lecherous This of our life, is the goal in large part not to manage our actions but instead guard our heart I think I am failing All of creation it groans as in birth expecting to see something else “good” spring forth As long as we keep looking out for ourselves we’ll all be alone as a sheep among wolves If we could just see that in caring for others we gain the strength of millions of brothers the world would be saved, redeemed if you will God if he’s there is a humanist still and that there though ridiculous it seem, though it die like an ember, my very last dream that good still exists.

Gollum

(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

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.