“(The Dalai Lama) is someone who's been in exile for over 50 years. How should he really be? I mean, he's missing his beloved Tibet. He's missing his people. He's been made to live a life that he wouldn't really want to live. By rights, I mean, when you meet him you expect somebody who is bitter, who, if you mention the Chinese, will wish the worst possible to happen to them. But you meet him; he's actually quite mischievous. I mean, he's fun. He's laughing. And people flock to hear him.
Do you really think that God would say, ‘Dalai Lama, you really are a great guy, man. What a shame you're not a Christian.’? (Laughs)I somehow don't think so. I think God is just thrilled because no faith, not even the Christian faith, can ever encompass God or even be able to communicate who God is. Only God can do that.”
Tuesday, May 25, 2010
Saturday, May 22, 2010
Thursday, May 20, 2010
The Oil Spill: Not Obama's "Katrinia," but it may be his "9/11"
I was drawn to it by some headlines on MSN (which was actually a link to the New York Times) that the scientific community is faulting Obama and his administration. Reading the whole article suggested that there are things that the government has clearly done right, and the rate of response has generally been good, but there are some issues.
Of course, there have been some that has said that Obama has reacted (or, not reacted) just has Bush did with Hurricane Katrina.
So, I went looking for more commentary, and found Friedman's, and was surprised by these words:
President Obama’s handling of the gulf oil spill has been disappointing. I say that not because I endorse the dishonest conservative critique that the gulf oil spill is somehow Obama’s Katrina and that he is displaying the same kind of incompetence that George W. Bush did after that hurricane. To the contrary, Obama’s team has done a good job coordinating the cleanup so far. The president has been on top of it from the start.
No, the gulf oil spill is not Obama’s Katrina. It’s his 9/11 — and it is disappointing to see him making the same mistake George W. Bush made with his 9/11. (my bolding)
That surprised me, and hooked me into reading the rest of the article. Friedman's first analysed why Bush failed:
President Bush’s greatest failure was not Iraq, Afghanistan or Katrina. It was his failure of imagination after 9/11 to mobilize the country to get behind a really big initiative for nation-building in America. I suggested a $1-a-gallon “Patriot Tax” on gasoline that could have simultaneously reduced our deficit, funded basic science research, diminished our dependence on oil imported from the very countries whose citizens carried out 9/11, strengthened the dollar, stimulated energy efficiency and renewable power and slowed climate change. It was the Texas oilman’s Nixon-to-China moment — and Bush blew it.
Had we done that on the morning of 9/12 — when gasoline averaged $1.66 a gallon — the majority of Americans would have signed on. They wanted to do something to strengthen the country they love. Instead, Bush told a few of us to go to war and the rest of us to go shopping. So today, gasoline costs twice as much at the pump, with most of that increase going to countries hostile to our values, while China is rapidly becoming the world’s leader in wind, solar, electric cars and high-speed rail.
I would have added something about building relationship with our world allies, who already too well know the realities of terrorism, but overall I agree with Friedman's point. So, how is what Obama is doing like this?
So far, the Obama policy is: “Think small and carry a big stick.” He is rightly hammering the oil company executives. But he is offering no big strategy to end our oil addiction. Senators John Kerry and Joe Lieberman have unveiled their new energy bill, which the president has endorsed but only in a very tepid way. Why tepid? Because Kerry-Lieberman embraces vitally important fees on carbon emissions that the White House is afraid will be exploited by Republicans in the midterm elections. The G.O.P., they fear, will scream carbon “tax” at every Democrat who would support this bill, and Obama, having already asked Democrats to make a hard vote on health care, feels he can’t ask them for another.
Friedman feels that this is the wrong strategy. He points out that there are conservatives who would embrace a carbon or gasoline tax if it was offset by a cut in payroll taxes or corporate taxes, so we could foster new jobs and clean air at the same time. He also suggest that the reply to those who would cry "taxers" come election time could be countered with “Conservatives for OPEC” or “Friends of BP.” (Some smart politician should try and get Friedman on the payroll.)
Ultimately, Friedman is pleading for presidential leadership:
Obama is not just our super-disaster-coordinator. “He is our leader,” noted Tim Shriver, the chairman of Special Olympics. “And being a leader means telling the rest of us what’s our job, what do we need to do to make this a transformative moment.”
Please don’t tell us that our role is just to hate BP or shop in Mississippi or wait for a commission to investigate. We know the problem, and Americans are ready to be enlisted for a solution. Of course we can’t eliminate oil exploration or dependence overnight, but can we finally start? Mr. President, your advisers are wrong: Americans are craving your leadership on this issue. Are you going to channel their good will into something that strengthens our country — “The Obama End to Oil Addiction Act” — or are you going squander your 9/11, too?
I really like what Friedman says. It seems that Obama is following a time honored church leadership technique (a bad one) to try and not rock the boat and hold on tighter to our previous positions (we can't be wrong, we just have to do what we do better), instead of doing what is right, which often requires change.
Monday, May 17, 2010
Lydia: A Surprising Woman of the Bible
Friday, May 14, 2010
LeBron's new drama all about him
LeBron trades one drama for another, by Adrian Wojnarowski
Me? I'm moving back to not caring about the NBA...
Thursday, May 13, 2010
LeBron's moment of truth awaits
Somewhere, the whispers of the game’s greatest talents became a murmur louder and louder: James still doesn’t understand part of the price of greatness is inviting the burden on yourself and sparing those around you. He missed 11 of 14 shots. James didn’t score a basket until the third quarter. He was terrible, just terrible, and yet James couldn’t bring himself to say the worst home playoff loss in franchise history began and ended with him. For all of James’ unselfishness on the floor, he can still be so selfish off it. They could’ve lined up the greatest players in the game’s history Tuesday night in the primes of their championship lives, and there isn’t one of them who would’ve deflected and deferred like the self-proclaimed King James. They would’ve been livid and they would’ve put it on themselves. Magic Johnson and Larry Bird. Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant, Tim Duncan, and, yes, Shaquille O’NealThey had titles, and they would’ve mutilated themselves for public consumption. James is too cool, too stubborn and maybe too self-unaware. This is on me, they would’ve told you, and, I’ll get us out of this. They would’ve made sure teammates and opponents, fans and enemies understood. They would’ve made sure the whole world understood: This isn’t how an MVP plays in the playoffs. This isn’t how he lets a legacy linger in limbo. What you heard out of James was self-righteous: “I put a lot of pressure on myself to go out and be great and the best player on the court. When I don’t, I feel bad for myself.”This wasn’t the night to feel bad for himself.
Winning everything takes a single-minded, obsessive devotion. Michael Jordan had it. Kobe Bryant does, too. They didn’t want to win championships, they had to win them. They needed them for validation and identity and, later, they became moguls. LeBron James is running around recruiting college kids to his marketing company. He picks up the phone, tells them, “This is the King,” and makes his pitch to be represented in his stable. Think Kobe would ever bother with this? Or Michael? Not a chance when they were on the climb, not when they still had a fist free of rings. LeBron James is on the clock now, and Game 6 in Boston could be for his legacy in Cleveland. He has been prancing around the edges for too long now, angling for a transcendent existence he believed his brand could bring him. Only, it’s all a mirage. It’s all vapor until he does the heavy lifting that comes now, that comes in the shadows of Magic and Larry, Michael and Kobe. This isn’t about selling an image to Madison Avenue, about pushing product through all those dazzling plays across the winter months. This is an MVP’s time, his calling, and there was LeBron James standing in the middle of the Cavaliers’ locker room at 11:25 p.m., staring in a long mirror, fixing his shirt before the long walk down the corridor to the interview room.James stood there for five seconds and 10 and maybe now 20, just staring into the mirror, just taking a long, long look at himself. For the first time in his career, the first time when it’s all truly on him, maybe the sport stood and stared with him. All hell breaking loose, all on the line now. Forget everything in his life, all the make-believe nonsense, Game 6 and maybe Game 7 will promise to serve as the most honest hours of his basketball life.
Okay LeBron: we're ready to witness, one way or another...
U2’s Zooropa – exile and restoration
Sunday, May 9, 2010
Love, Suffering, and Story
(A sermon preached at All Saints' Episcopal Church. Littleton, NH, on the Fifth Sunday of Easter, 5/2/2010)
Two weeks ago, I passed over the great story of the Conversion of Paul (Acts 9:1-21) in order to talk about that weird epilogue of the Gospel of John. You remember: no fish, lots of fish, naked Peter who puts on clothes in order to swim to shore, and so on into the strange and stranger. (John 21:1-19)
I now wish to go back to Paul’s conversion story. After Paul, or as he is known at the moment, Saul, encounters the Lord Jesus and is blinded, a man named Ananias gets a vision of the Lord about going to Paul and laying hands on him to restore his sight. Ananias, rather boldly, says to the Lord “I have heard from many about this man, how much evil he has done to your saints in Jerusalem; and here he has authority from the chief priests to bind all who invoke your name.”
The Lord responds “Go, for he is an instrument whom I have chosen to bring my name before Gentiles and kings and before the people of Israel.” That’s pretty straightforward. The Lord, however, continues to say: “I myself will show him how much he must suffer for the sake of my name.”
Every time I hear those words, I do a double take. I’m not sure how comfortable I am with ever hearing what sounds like punishment proclaimed by a vision voice from God. This is especially true when the speaker is the Risen Christ.
Now, we know some things about Paul. He self confesses that he violently persecuted those proclaiming Jesus as Lord before his conversion. Since he was a Roman citizen, he was living a pretty comfortable life, and had more than a little power. One could say that after this conversion, he suffered personally with things ranging from persecution, imprisonment, and his eventual execution in Rome.
I guess that it’s not unreasonable to assume that this is what the Risen Lord meant in saying “I myself will show him how much he must suffer for the sake of my name.”
However, I think that there is a better explanation that is voiced by today’s Gospel.
Jesus says: I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.’ (John 13:34-35)
I have to wonder what is really new about this commandment. “Love your neighbor as yourself” does not originate with Jesus. Remember, we heard Jesus quote this Jewish commandment earlier in Luke’s Gospel, along with loving God, when a lawyer asks about inheriting eternal life (Luke 10:25-28). In Mark’s Gospel, the same answer is given by Jesus to the scribe’s question over which commandment is greatest (Mark 12:28-33).
The command to love one another is clearly not new. Perhaps, then, it is the degree of loving that Jesus lived out, and is drawing his disciples into.
I think this is in part a command to respond out of love in all things.
I want to talk about this connection by first insisting that I’m not suggesting that love is about taking abuse from people. The church has taught this at times, and it is a poor understanding that has led to people staying in abusive relationships of all sorts. That’s not what I mean by suffering.
Now that I’ve made this point, I want to insist that it’s still a reality that having love for one another opens us up to suffering of all kinds. Loving means being vulnerable to hurt feelings and disappointment. Loving means caring about what others think, feel, and encounter. Loving means experiencing pain when others are struggling, or ill, or dying. Loving means caring when tragedy strikes...our heart breaking...whether it’s happening here, or halfway around the world.
Loving as Jesus also means that we may have to face trials, or scorn, or persecution; because loving this way means standing up for what is right.
Having love for one another risks suffering.
Paul becomes committed to loving as Jesus has loved. Doing so exposes him to suffering that he had, before, closed himself off from. This isn’t punishment. Instead, this gives him a way forward...a way to live in love.
There is an additional point I wish to make this morning, and to do so I must refocus on the account from the Book of Acts of Peter and the early Jewish Christians. (Acts 11:1-18)
Peter’s remarkable vision from God, and the following encounter with the Gentiles from Caesarea, is a story that is told in its entirety twice, in back to back chapters. It is critical to the early Christian community, and for us today.
What we have this morning is the second telling, and the context is a storm cloud of criticism from the Jewish Christians. “Why did you go to uncircumcised men and eat with them?”
Their revulsion at this change from the accepted norm could cause a serious divide in the early community.
It’s interesting to note that Peter does not use theological debate to persuade them to change their thinking. Instead, Peter simply tells them his story, and what he experienced.
The text says, “When they heard this, they were silenced. And then they praised God!”
The revulsion over particular Gentile practices is no longer what holds ultimate importance. Instead, they have listened to Peter’s story...an experience that changed his heart...and recognized what God was doing within these people’s lives. They saw that this was cause for celebration, and not a cause for hardening of hearts.
Professor of Theology Lewis Mudge writes that “revulsion, in the ancient world or now, does not respond to theological argument. A change of heart comes when one sees the Spirit at work in the stories of strangers, recognizing in them the same Spirit that is working in one’s own life. People need first to see God at God’s surprising work. Theological reflection comes afterward, either to bring what has been seen into coherence with past thinking, or to make a reasoned break with that thinking.... An important lesson to be learned from this episode and its consequences is that, while conversion changes the convert, the convert also brings a new perspective to the message. Bringing people of a new culture into the faith community calls for restatement of the gospel in terms that speak to that new culture, and so it has been throughout church history. It is extremely significant that an authorization of such cultural restatement lies here, within the New Testament narrative.” (Feasting on the Word, Year C, Vol. 2, Ed. David Bartlett & Barbara Brown Taylor, eds., p.452)
This echoes again the Gospel of John, and a new way of loving each other: love amidst change. Change is a necessity in the Christian life, because our understanding of what God is doing is forever widening.
Thanks be to God.