Saturday, October 20, 2018

The Growing Tinge of the Sinister

I believe everybody has told a lie at some point (I admit that’s a generalization) and some of us have told more than our share.  Some of our lies have been big whoppers and some have been what we like to call little white lies or fibs.  But let’s be clear and honest—there are few of us, if any, who have not lied on occasion. Nearly everybody will tell you that lying is wrong, but nearly everybody has lied. Deception is rampant among us in every area of life.  A polygraph expert says, “Lying has long been a part of everyday life.  We couldn’t get through a day without being deceptive.”  Friedrich Nietzche wrote that “the lie” is a condition of life.

If the above is true, then we can just naturally expect all presidents to lie.  And they do and they have!  Richard Nixon lied about being a crook.  Ronald Reagan lied about not being aware of the Iran-Contra deal (evidence indicates that he was).  Bill Clinton lied about his relationship with a White House intern.  Lying in politics transcends political affiliation.  Republicans and Democrats lie (both those who are in political leadership positions and those who are not)! Seventy percent of Trump’s statements (checked by PolitiFact) during his 2016 campaign were false (lies) and only 4% were completely true.  Twenty-six percent of Trump’s “Crooked” Hillary’s statements during the same campaign were deemed false.  

Tony Swartz was the ghostwriter for Trump’s  memoir, The Art of the Deal.  But Donald Trump, as a presidential candidate, apparently convinced himself that he had written the book.  Schwartz said, “If he could lie about that on Day One (of his campaign)—when it was so easily refuted—he is likely to lie about anything.”  And Trump does lie about anything and almost everything!  I know there are those who just can’t believe this is so—but it is so and it is a fact!

Lying has consequences—serious consequences.  When Trump praised Rep. Greg Gianforte for body slamming a reporter and continues to slam the media as “the enemy of the people” (this is a lie) he elicited cheers and applause from the crowd.  The U.S. editor of The Guardian’s response says it all:  “To celebrate an attack on a journalist who was simply doing his job is an attack on the First Amendment by someone who has taken an oath to defend it.….In the aftermath of the murder of Jamal Khashoggi, it runs the risk of inviting other assaults on journalists both here and across the world where they often face far greater threats.”  Lying has far-reaching consequences—and we all know it!  The president’s lying can no longer be classed as simply “mischievious” or “un-politically correct.”  It is a bullying spirit.

"A lie can travel half way around the world while
the truth is putting on its shoes" (Mark Twain)

Friday, October 19, 2018

The God of Prison, Foxhole, and Crisis

Our human motivations are never completely pure.  We are called to love God.  “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment" (Matthew 22:37-38).  Many of us say we do love God, but do we?  We may want to love God with heart, soul and mind,  but our attempt  gets all tangled up in our situations and problems.  The truth is that our theology, our religious understanding about God, gets in the way of our loving God as God with all our heart, soul and mind.

Jailhouse religion happens.  It is the term used for the sudden and desperate turning to God of those who are “caught” and  sent to jail or prison.  They suddenly “find God” and claim that their lives have been “turned around.” Such an experience is scriptural.  The parable of the Prodigal Son is the story of a form of jailhouse religion.  The son, lost in the far country, suddenly comes to his senses and returns “home” to his Father.  We should never use the term “jailhouse religion” in a pejorative way, for those who are “uncaught” often experience the same phenomena as those who are “caught.”

It is said, for example, “There are no atheists in foxholes.”  This aphorism has been used to suggest that in times of extreme stress or fear, especially in combat (“in foxholes’), all people will believe in, or hope for, God.  How many of us (who are not in prison), the “uncaught, ” have, in our moments of crisis—with a critical illness, or in an earthquake—had our “come to Jesus” moment?  In my years of ministry in parish, military and prisons, I have witnessed this religious phenomenon, among the “caught” and the “uncaught,”  among the military and the civilian.   

There is nothing wrong with seeing God as savior.  In fact, there is much in Christian theology which proclaims this as being the very basis of our relationship with God!  This  is the God of prison, foxhole and crisis—the God of despair, the God whose only purpose is to rescue us.  But I sense God is and wants to be so much more than this kind of God.  Can we love the Lord our God with all our heart, and with all our soul, and with all our mind, if we only see our God as a savior and rescuer?  

Thursday, October 18, 2018

A Disastrous Myth

Myths abound in our world and there seem to me to be a growing number of myths being promulgated in our society and government these days.  One kind of myth is a traditional story concerning the early history of a people or a tale explaining some natural or social phenomenon, which typically involves supernatural beings or events.  The story of the Tower of Babel in the Bible is a myth of this type.  The dividing of the Red Sea allowing the escaping Hebrew slaves to walk across on dry land is such a myth.  Such myths are not necessarily untruths (as often categorized) but are real stories, historical stories, factual stories, to which greater (often supernatural) meaning has been attached. 

Another form of myth is a person or thing having only an imaginary or unverifiable existence.  Examples abound in our American history and culture.  Superman is such a myth.  Paul Bunyan and Babe the Blue Ox and  Bigfoot  fit this category of myth.

There is also,  a third form of myth, defined as “a widely held but false belief or idea, an unfounded or false notion.”  An example of this kind of myth would be the American myth of individualism or the myth of racial superiority.  

There is a cultural myth that fits into this third definition that we have swallowed hook, line and sinker.  That cultural myth is the one that says, “If you are well adjusted, and if you are living your life properly, you will feel fulfilled, satisfied, content, and serene (happy).”  Conversely this myth says, “If you are not satisfied and fulfilled, there is something wrong with you (unhappy).”  Most of us accept this myth without question and it pervades every aspect of our society.  Popular religion promotes it by promising peace of mind if only we believe rightly.  If  we are not happy, this false religion says, it is because we are somehow not right with God.   Popular psychology promotes this myth, too.  This myth of fulfillment or myth of happiness is “a widely held but false belief…a false notion.”  At least I think so, especially since I have never felt total fulfillment and seldom if ever can I say I am “happy.”  So many settle for an anesthetized serenity or happiness which makes for dullness.  So many prefer a false fulfillment rather than dealing with the dis-ease of truth.  So many prefer a religion of comfort rather than the discomforting and radical message of the gospel of Jesus Christ. This myth of fulfillment and happiness, promulgated by every aspect of our culture, is the “opium of the people,” and dehumanizes us.

Our belief in this myth of fulfillment and/or happiness  and our attempts to make it real or true, causes us to miss the most beautiful and awesome aspect of our humanness—our yearning for a more authentic and meaningful love, our own incompleteness, our radical inner desire to be more than what we are.  We were never meant to be fulfilled, we are not made to be “happy!”  As Gerald May put it, “we were meant to taste it, to long for it, and to grow toward it.”  

Wednesday, October 17, 2018


The first known use of the word “addlepated” was in 1641.  It meant stupid or confused.  Other definitions came along:  mixed up, disjointed, mentally uncertain, garbled, illogical, scattered, opaque, flustered, befuddled, unable to think with clarity or act intelligently, confounded and perplexed. Addlepated goes along with words like addlebrained, muddleheaded, and puddingheaded. 

In old English an adel eye was a putrid or rotten egg. The stench of a rotten egg caused some witty minds to hatch up a comparison between “the diminished, unsound quality of adel (rotten) egg and an empty, confused head or pate.” Thus, a new word was born: addlepated.  “Your owne imagination, which was no lesse Idle, then your head was addle all that day,” wrote a 17th century wit playing with the words idle and addle.  Addled has come to mean unable to think clearly, but once simply meant a rotten egg.

My mind becomes more and more addled the more I listen to Mr. Trump.  When he says one thing and it is recorded on video for all to see and hear and then says he never said such a thing, my mind is addled.  Or could it be that he is addlepated? I’m not sure what is what or which is which. 

Sometimes I wonder if making citizens addlepated is the modus operandi of the present administration.  For example, it was just reported that the federal deficit jumped 17%  as the new tax cuts eat into government revenue—and this under a Republican majority whose goal has always been (so it was said) to reduce the deficit.  Mulvaney blames Congress for irresponsible and unnecessary spending.  Mitch McConnell called the “growing deficit” under his watch “very disturbing.”  He claims the problem isn’t tax cuts nor the increase in military spending, but rather the big three entitlement programs:  Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.  I think I smell addled (rotten) eggs.  Maybe not?  Maybe I’m addlepated?  Maybe the politicians want us to be addlepated?  Or maybe, they, themselves are addlepated?  Your guess is as good as mine.  

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Maligned and Persecuted?

Yesterday I made mention of Mr. Trump and his penchant about being maligned and persecuted, particularly by the press and the Democrats, when in fact, he is the one who seems to malign and persecute others.  The claim that he is the most criticized or victimized of any other president in history is a false one, but it might be argued that he, as President of the United States, has maligned, denigrated and persecuted more leaders, nations and persons than any other president in history!

It was Donald Trump who long challenged the legitimacy of Barack Obama’s presidency by questioning whether Obama, the first African American president, was, in fact, born in America.  Trump, along with others, carried on a campaign of spurious rumors and bogus claims throughout the eight years of the Obama presidency. The “birther” movement was just one of these.

One bogus claim was that Obama was an anti-Christian Muslim.  Eighty percent of Americans, in spite of Trump’s persistent innuendos,  correctly believed that the 44th President of the United States was born in the U.S.  Only 39 percent, however, believed he was a Christian; 30 percent believed he was a Muslim.  Even though Obama talked about his Christian faith over and over again—none of that seemed to sway those who believed that with a middle name like “Hussein” he had to be a Muslim.  

Another bogus claim was made that Obama was sworn in as a U.S. senator using a Koran.  Not true! He used his own personal Bible for his swearing in.   For all of the eight years of Obama’s presidency the claim was made that he canceled the National Day of Prayer.  Not true!  It was claimed that he allowed a Muslim prayer event on the grounds of the U.S. Capitol.  Not true! It was claimed that Obama issued a policy in 2009 preventing an Army veteran from speaking a t a faith-based event.  Wrong!  It was a fund-raiser and had nothing to do with religion.  A policy already existed which prevented the veteran from participating in the fundraiser in an official capacity.  He was accused of funding Mosques overseas.  Not true.  Some claimed that he exempted Muslims from having to purchase health insurance required by the Affordable Care Act.  Not true!  He was accused of banning the Pledge of Allegiance in public schools and that he refused to recite the pledge.  Not true!  This is just a small sampling of the rumors and the victimization of another U.S. president. And I could go on an on and on with hundreds of other bogus claims and spurious rumors.  But, just one last thing needs to be mentioned.  The Obama White House always referred to the “White House Christmas Tree” as just that.  The claim that it was called the White House “holiday tree” was disproved in 2009, but it continues to circulate annually during the holiday season and Mr. Trump fed the rumor then and continues to feed it now.  

Monday, October 15, 2018

We Will Not Be Trumped

I watched the “60 Minutes” interview of Donald Trump by Lesley Stahl last night in between the football games.  Did you?   It was interesting.  The interview ranged from climate change to the healing of the nation.  The president responded to climate change by saying it wasn’t a hoax…but we don’t know the cause.  Stahl suggested that scientists’ know the change is man-made—but the president said, “You’d have to show me the scientists because they have a very big political agenda, Lesley.”  As for the healing of the nation, Mr. Trump said, “I don’t think they (Democrats) want to heal yet, I’ll be honest.”  But I don’t believe he was being honest here.  It is Mr. Trump who has failed to reach out since his inaugural to bring the country together and who continues to divide it further apart with every political rally he holds!

The one thing that the president always brings up in any interview and at every opportunity is his penchant about the media treating him unfairly.  This is a mantra his supporters use constantly.  I’ve read and heard their claim over and over again.  They claim that the 45th president is the most maligned of any president ever.  The claim is a falsehood. The hypocrisy of this claim is absolutely ludicrous!  Both Mr. Trump and his followers have expressed an open hostility toward anyone who is at all critical of him and to those who are opposed to him.  They pay little attention to their own denigration of everyone and everything that does not fit into their political bent.  They cannot abide criticism of themselves, but they sure can and do dish it out.  

With me,” Trump said during his campaign, “they’re [the Press] not protected.”  He was referring specifically to the First Amendment freedoms given to the press and the people (whom he and his supporters now call the “mobs.”)  He also meant anyone else who is critical of him as he has openly demonstrated over and over again.  “With me, they’re not protected,” he said, because I’m not like other people…”   Well, Mr. President, this is precisely the problem.  The United States Constitution says you are exactly like other people, because under that Constitution, we are all equal before the law.  As one writer put it, “There is no Donald Trump Exception clause anywhere to be found.”  Every president from our earliest days  has received harsh criticism, but none have assumed that as president they have the power to simply negate parts of the Constitution (like the First Amendment) because they don’t want to be criticized.  

No, Mr. Trump,  the people, the press, not even America is under your thumb, nor is our Constitution.  You do not trump all just because you think you’re “not like other people.”  

Sunday, October 14, 2018

The Validity of Prayer

Will Pastor Brunson’s prayer in the Oval Office be answered?  He prayed for Donald Trump and for Donald Trump alone.  [Religion which is individualistic or exclusionary is inherently fraudulent].  He did not praise God very much.  He did not pray for the world at all, nor did he pray for America (except an America under a Trump presidency), or for enemies, or the poor, or the persecuted.   He prayed that God might provide the president with “supernatural wisdom to accomplish all the plans you [God] have for this country and for him.”  [It is the essence of human sin for man to boast of the power to discern what is good and what is evil, and thus be like God. (Genesis 3:5]. What are God’s plans for this nation?  Do you know? Does Pastor Brunson know? Does Mr. Trump know? Do you know what supernatural means? What are God’s plans for Donald Trump?   The pastor prayed that God would give Mr. Trump “perseverance and endurance and courage to stand for truth.”  I would much rather he prayed that Mr. Trump might tell the truth.   He prayed that God might “protect” Mr. Trump, “from  slander, from enemies, from those who would undermine.”  Undermine what?  Mr. Trump’s agenda, or God’s?  That divide between God and Mr. Trump isn’t made very clear in the prayer, but the division that exists in America just now is made very clear.  Are the “enemies” those who simply undermine Mr. Trump?   Does this imply that to oppose Mr. Trump is to oppose God?

Mr. Brunson’s prayer: “Lord God, I ask that you pour out your Holy Spirit on President Trump, that you give him supernatural wisdom to accomplish all of the plans you have for this country and for him. I ask that you give him wisdom in how to lead this country into righteousness. I ask that you give him perseverance and endurance and courage to stand for truth. I ask that you protect him: from slander, from enemies, from those who would undermine. I ask that you make him a great blessing to this country. Fill him with your wisdom and strength and perseverance. And we bless him. May he be a great blessing to our country. In Jesus’ name, we bless you. Amen.”

I’m being far too critical of Mr. Brunson’s prayer, I know, and of Mr. Trump as well.  But we must be careful what we pray (if we believe in the validity of prayer).  With the Apostle Paul we must pray as we are inspired to pray (our emotions, enthusiasms, hopes, dreams, etc.) but we must also pray intelligently; we must sing hymns as we are inspired to sing, but we must sing intelligently too (I Corinthians 14:15).

There is nothing wrong with praying for the President of the United States or for our nation.  I pray every morning, being careful not to construe the Christian faith as an American, or as a Democrat or a Republican.  You do know, do you not, that Christianity exists elsewhere and is not the sole property of America? How we pray, what we pray, and to Whom we pray is important.