Lose the Election/Win the War

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I've been watching Ken Burns' The Vietnam War on PBS. Last night I heard our president during the beginning stages of the war say, "We can't win this war, but if I pull out I can't win the next election." And so it goes (to quote Kurt Vonnegut). I know leaders from both sides of the aisle have made these kinds of decisions before, and will no doubt make them again. It was just a shock to actually hear our president say, out loud, that his strategy to win an election was to sacrifice young people in a war he knew we're going to lose!

Sixty years later we are still feeling the effect. 

Contrast this to my president... Jesus. His approach was the opposite. In effect, He said, "I'm going to lay my life down, and wind up losing this election, but we're going to win the war." The people voted with hammer, nail, and cross, but somehow death and grave lost!

Two thousand years later and we're still feeling the effect! 

What Young People are Looking For

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It’s an acute kind of sickness that would cause those who rally around love to use the message in a way that would be unloving. I speculate it’s one of the largest contributing factors with young Americans currently moving to religions outside of Christianity. Young people have rightly deduced that America’s version of Christianity hasn't increased love in our world.

Consider our recent past. America, dehumanizing black people by way of mobs, lynchings, and scapegoating, sent young people across seas to fight and die over the way Nazis were dehumanizing Jews by way of… mobs, lynchings, and scapegoating. Am I suggesting it was wrong for us to defend the Jews? No. Though I am deeply conflicted about wars, in the end, I cannot make myself say it's wrong to fight on behalf of the oppressed. The actions and attitudes, in this case, of those in power in Germany were absurd and demonic. But, the point isn't to defend war but to name hypocrisy. While the actions and attitudes of those in power in Germany where absurd and demonic, so were the actions and attitudes of those in power in America. When you consider our collective religious conscious was informed by our interpretation of the Bible that has, as its central figure, Jesus, and, that our civil conscious was informed by the belief in “certain unalienable rights for all men” it may make our actions even more objectionable! We, who espouse grace, freedom, and inequality shipped our sons across seas for others, but back home we wouldn't walk them across tracks for others. In light of this, would it have been justifiable for the Allied forces to have invaded us to free black America?  

You may, if you've taken the time to read this far, be thinking that this is an overreaction, that what happened in WWII was a long time ago, that things are different now. Sigh. I don’t think so. I think the same kinds of comments and questions can be applied to Korea, Vietnam, Iraq, Nicaragua, or all the wars going on in the Middle-East, and on and on. Those who call themselves Christians, in America, continue to misinterpret Biblical messages and themes. Blatantly.

The words of the Bible were never meant to be “weaponized.” 
The words of the Bible were meant to point to the Word: Jesus. 

Jesus is what the world needs. And not necessarily the Jesus the denomination, or Protestant, or Catholic, or Eastern Orthodox pushes. And certainly not the American, or Russian, or African, or fill the blank in, ______,  national Jesus. How about simply a brown-skinned, under resourced, humble, non-sanctioned Jesus? The one who lived for all people in such a way that led him to die for all people.

The kinds of things I am talking about here are the kinds of things I hear young people in my circle, and in the circles I travel in, talk about all of the time. In fact, I think this whole post may have been inspired by the image of the college age kids I saw talking, laughing, and posting pictures at church yesterday. I'm encouraged by these young adults. I pray for them. I'm thankful for them. They're open, optimistic, and willing to work for a better future. I think young people in America are looking for the same kinds of things young people have always looked for, which isn’t necessarily a radical reason to fight, but rather, a radical reason to live. Jesus embodies that reason. He embraces all. He gives up power. He challenges assumptions. He's infinitely interesting. He is love. He is life. 

The Antidote is Love

Hate is a virus activated by accusation. The more we respond to hate with accusation, the more the virus grows. 

The antidote is love. 

I've read a lot of posts lately that would leave me to believe what the world needs is for me to denounce evil. Here's the problem... in my rush to denounce evil I'm good at missing my own selfish tendencies. 

The antidote is love. 

The world probably won't be saved by another social media post (ha, not even this one). And it definitely won't be saved by posts that recycle hate. We cannot scapegoat all of our problems onto the neo-nazis anymore than they can scapegoat all of their problems onto people of darker skin color. All of us have issues. These issues have existed for a very long time. 

The antidote is love. 

So, yes, by all means, name and uproot the evil! But for every one uprooting, there must be two plantings, because putting something in is harder than taking something out. Reconstruction is harder than deconstruction. Love is harder than accusation. Yes, let's name the evil, but be sure to name ourselves first. 

The antidote is love. 

The Trump in Me, the Me in Trump

I hated the way the president responded last week. Good Lord… fire, violence, and fury? It reflects little or no diplomacy, aversion to war, or interest in peace. 

Sigh… I loved the way the president responded last week because it reflects my own interest, my own desire, my own tendency to want to protect, to defend, to stand up for what I think is right. 

I think this president, more than any other I’ve experienced, stresses us at all of our pre-existing fault lines. The fault lines were there before he arrived on the scene, right? He didn’t create them. He just reveals them. 

And in doing so, he is revealing who we are. 

I think it’s possible he honestly cares about doing the right thing, and I think it’s possible he may be his own worst enemy. Is he not a bag of mixed motives? Am I not the same? Is humanity not the same? 

God save me from the little president trump that lives within me.

God save President Trump from the little me that lives within him. 

My Love Went to the Sea

My love went to the sea.
I could not go.
It left without me.

Weighed down
I sat, 
Then lay back.
The sand formed
The heaviness of my heart.

Long I watched
The seagulls
While listening to ghosts
Crash on the beach,
Rolling up

There, like a ruptured castle
Salt water still escaping,
I lay broken.
My kingdom lost.

It left without me.
I could not go.
My love went to the sea.

photo cred: marknagel.com


The Way We Get a Life

Before we were parents, in order to help us know how much our lives were about to change, you could have given us objective facts about biology, or psychology, or the physiology of baby girls. But life wasn’t really altered until we experienced the subjective reality of love, that is, until our daughter arrived. The objective information was good, but it was the subjective reality that made all the difference to us. Her being born into our lives caused an explosion of risk, and love, and wildness, and living. There were difficult times, of course, but in retrospect, we name all of it good. Because it’s obvious now, that setbacks along the way weren’t setbacks at all. They were invitations to enjoy the subjective reality of love. Pain, and failures, and confusion, and problems didn’t really minimize our lives. They only created opportunity for the two of us, with her, to talk to each other, to hold each other, and to simply be together. It was, in fact, the time we spent in relationship with each other, and her, which wound up actually giving us a life. 

And some people have a lot of objective facts about Jesus, and the Bible. They know about dates, times, science, genealogies, and theology. But, none of it really matters unless Jesus becomes a subjective reality for them. The objective is not bad, but it’s the subjective that makes all the difference. If they would allow Jesus to be born into their life it would cause an explosion of risk, and love, and wildness, and living. And for all who do, one day, they’ll look back and realize how obvious it was that nothing else really mattered. They’ll understand setbacks were just invitations to enjoy the subjective reality of love. They’ll think, “You know, the confusion, and credibility gaps, and doubt, and problems didn’t really minimize my life. They only created opportunity for me to talk to the Father, to be held by the Spirit, and simply to be together with Jesus.” And then it will dawn on them that it was, in fact, the time they spent in relationship with God, which wound up actually giving them a life.  

La Navidad, the Intersection that Wrecked the World

The view from La Navidad Beach, Haiti. It’s here, in the place where Africans were once made to arrive involuntarily, that I hoped the voluntary presence of my black friends would, in some small way, help bring healing. 

When Christopher Columbus wrecked at La Navidad Beach, on Christmas Eve, 1492, on the Northern shores of Hispaniola, now referred to as Haiti, it effectively wrecked all of us. 

It was the beginning of the end of the indigenous people of Hispaniola. 
It was the beginning of the end of some 12,000,000 Africans. 
It was the beginning of the end of the last vestiges of our innocence. 

La Navidad, the intersection that wrecked the world. 

When the Santa Maria ran aground on these shallow Caribbean waters 525 years ago, it revealed the shallowness of our intentions. See us march up the royal-palmed-mountain, our conquering disguised as exploration. Hear us talk up the king of bronze and henna, our manipulation disguised as evangelism. Feel us mount up the queen of beige and sienna, our entitlement disguised… with no disguise at all. 

La Navidad, the intersection that wrecked the world. 

It was here, in the violent collision of wave upon sand, of new world upon old, of wealth upon poverty that the white man was exposed for what he was: a slave to power. For what do you think drove us to make slaves of the powerless, if not our own enslavement to power? Am I looking for an excuse? No, of course not. What we did was inexcusable. Am I trying to lessen the effect? Absolutely not. The repercussions of our actions cannot be diminished. I’m simply pointing out the insanity... only slaves make slaves. And La Navidad is where once and forever, the truth of the white man’s slavery has been brought to light.   

La Navidad, the intersection that wrecked the world. 
Ah, Christopher Columbus’s La Navidad Beach. So named because ship-wrecking here on Christmas Eve, he lacked the creativity to call it anything other than Christmas. But, the contrast between his Christmas and the real Christmas, couldn't have been sharper. One landed with swords; the other in peace. One funded by kings and queens; the other in poverty. One exercised complete sovereignty; the other arrived in complete vulnerability. One grabbed all it could; the other let go of everything. One represented a specific people group; the other represented all people. One acted presumptuously; the other acted in humility. 

Oh, that our European ancestors could have arrived as humbly as Jesus. But they did not. They would not. They arrived deceiving. They told us new land was discovered, but in retrospect, we realize new land was stolen. They told us order was established, but in hindsight, we realize it was only ordered for those in power. It was, for the powerless, a legalized system of oppression. It’s true, thievery, and oppression, existed in other places, and in other times, and within tribes devoid of Caucasians, but it’s at La Navidad, where the sins of the modern day white man seem most infamous. This place, this water, this ground. Abused.

La Navidad, the intersection that wrecked the world. 

I could have sought forgiveness anywhere, I guess, but there is something about this place, the abuse, the echoes of exploitation… that called me, that invited me to invite my black friends and visit. I cannot imagine a more appropriate geographical location to seek reconciliation. The whole idea probably appears foolish, dramatic, expensive, and maybe a bit naïve to others. I freely admit I felt all of those things a hundred times or more leading up to, and even during our trip. More than once I thought, “What in the world am I doing? How does this help anything? I am only one man. I cannot speak for others. I am not an official mouthpiece. By what authority would I even attempt to address such atrocities?” 

But, the ghost of La Navidad wouldn’t let up. 

To attempt to instill a measure of humility and sanity now, at the very spot where so much arrogance and insanity once poured out then, is, I admit, ridiculous. But, if it’s completely ridiculous, I’m not sure why I feel so honored. If it’s so foolish, I’m not sure why I have felt authority. Maybe it lies in the upside down approach of Jesus. Maybe it’s in the laying down of authority that one gains authority. Maybe the foolishness of God truly is wiser than the wisdom of man. Maybe it’s the letting go of power that one gains a platform of love. I imagine this must be. I think, by faith, that ultimately, the voices nagging me about how preposterous this was will be silenced by the authority of love. Yes, love is the authority by which I speak. For I no longer speak as one driven and enslaved to power. Ironically, I speak as one freely enslaved to love. 

Slavery to power has had its day, but the new day belongs to those enslaved to love.
Slavery to power has wounded, but healing comes through those enslaved to love.
Slavery to power has spoken, but the last words belong to those enslaved to love. 

Ha! Yes, this is it! If I’m a fool for answering the call then so be it.

May love enslave me.
May love conquer me.
May love chain me up.
May love break me down. 
May love freely take all of me.
So that, in all things, we all may freely love. 

May the oppressors repent, and may the oppressed forgive. Yes, La Navidad is the intersection that wrecked the world. But, the cross is the intersection that wrecked the world too! It’s a wreck of love. May we all be wrecked in love.