Tuesday, July 22, 2008

False shepherds damning believers

I was furious.
Way. Beyond. Furious.

Remember that old Peter Paul & Mary song, "If I Had A Hammer?" Today my version would be

If I had a rocket-launcher, I'd launch it in the mornin'
Launch it in the evenin' - all over this land...

And the source of my ire? A local congregation of The Institutional Church. (Big surprise there, eh?) Yet another "faithful servant of the Gospel," spreading pain, suffering, and spiritual death - bayoneting the spiritually-wounded at every chance...

My brother-in-law has been raised in the Lutheran Church, Missouri Synod. Since he and my sister have been married, they have gone long periods without attending church. When he's working, every other Sunday is a work day (starting at 4-5 AM), and for the last year and a half, my sister has been working Sundays until 7 AM, and coming home to sleep.

So yes, they could have attended more - but they are not without reasons.

And especially since the current pastor has come to The Church That Must Not Be Named (TCTMNBN), neither one of them have been especially comfortable attending that church. But Bro's sister is a church leader, and his family has been there for four generations. So they remain on the roster at TCTMNBN, and they go back periodically.

(This church, by the way, was the source of my ire at the "Free coffee - eternal life - Yes, membership DOES have its benefits" sign mentioned here...and here. But let's skip that, and get on to the source of my latest ire, shall we?)

Last Friday, Bro-in-Law stopped in to see his sister at The Church (she's principal at TCTMNBN School), and was collared by The Pastor. Once in The Pastor's office, TP began to tell Bro how he was going to burn in hell for not attending church.

(Yes, you heard me right.)

Repeatedly. And he continued to belittle my brother-in-law, saying that if he wasn't going to be attending church 75% of the time, The Pastor was going to yank his name from the membership roster, and he could burn in hell by himself.

Now, my brother-in-law is a believer. Admittedly, I'd bet most of his theology has come from Max Lucado and reading the Bible for himself (neither of which are bad things!), but I believe that he's a believer in Jesus Christ. But he's also "a traditional church-goer," which means that he believes in the power and the authority of the local pastor or minister.

Even when The Pastor's contradicting Scripture.
Even when he's being led astray by lies, from a supposedly-compassionate minister of the grace and love of Jesus Christ.

You see (just in case you were wondering...)
Salvation does not come from your church.
Or from attending services at that church, or any other.
It does not come from a pastor.
Or a tithing pledge.

It comes from belief in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. Just to make sure, shall we open our pew bibles?...
Mark 16:15-16, NIV
He said to them, "Go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned.

Romans 10:9-10, NIV
That if you confess with your mouth, "Jesus is Lord," and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved.

Romans 8:1-2, NIV
Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death.
Just wanted to get that out in the open, so we're singin' off the same sheet of music, folks...

Now, my brother-in-law wasn't doin' so hot to begin with, folks. He has tried to find new work for two years, on and off, with no success. His job (which he's faithfully shown up and given them his best for 30 years) booted him from full-time status to seasonal two years ago. As a result of that, and my sister's disability and loss of earnings potential, they are now seriously considering having to walk away from their condo - where they had hoped to retire or die. They are not, to put it mildly, firing on all cylinders - financially, emotionally, or spiritually.

And when this supposed shepherd of souls, this minister of the Gospel sees my brother-in-law for the first time in a while, all Pastor False-Teaching has to hand him is fire, brimstone, and burn-in-hell. Thanks a lot, Pastor.

Hemlock, anyone?
Which of you, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? (Matthew 7:9-10, NIV)

1 Timothy 1:7, NIV
They want to be teachers of the law, but they do not know what they are talking about or what they so confidently affirm.

Matthew 7:15-18 (New International Version)
"Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thorn bushes, or figs from thistles? Likewise every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit."

They will know we are Christians by our love. (from the song of the same name)
Thank God, I know better than what this moron has been saying to my brother-in-law. I know that my salvation is not dependent on the institutions of man, or the judgment of any one man, but on my justification by grace through faith in Jesus.

But my brother-in-law is so crushed, so ego-deflated at depth, that he's not talking. Not to my sister. Or me. Or his sister, or anyone. He's taking this judgment full-in-the-face - and it's eating him alive.

I want to drive to The Church, walk in to The Pastor's study, and grab that illegitimate child of God by the shoulders. I want to shake him until his damn head falls off, while screaming "WHAT THE HELL WERE YOU THINKING, YOU STUPID SONOFABITCH?"

(you know, a calm, level-headed, turn-the-other-cheek Christian response....)

The fact is, I know what I should do - and I'll do it. But trust me - if you mess with one of mine, you have cut down more hay than you can put up in a month of Sundays. (Thank you, Tex Sample, for that wonderful line...)

Yes, I know - "vengeance is mine," sayeth the Lord. I know that. But I am also thinking of Abraham Lincoln, who was speaking to the mother of an only son, convicted of treason and scheduled to be hanged. President Lincoln recognized the need for mercy, and commuted the sentence. And yet he said, "...but I wish we could give him just a little bit o' hangin'..."

Me too, Abe. Me too.
This was our course: We realized that the people who wronged us were perhaps spiritually sick. Though we did not like their symptoms and the way these disturbed us, they, like ourselves, were sick too. We asked God to help us show them the same tolerance, pity, and patience that we would cheerfully grant a sick friend. When a person offended we said to ourselves, "This is a sick man. How can I be helpful to him? God save me from being angry. Thy will be done."

We avoid retaliation or argument. We wouldn't treat sick people that way. If we do, we destroy our chance of being helpful. We cannot be helpful to all people, but at least God will show us how to take a kindly and tolerant view of each and every one.
(Alcoholics Anonymous, page 65-66)
This is what I heard from some friends tonight, and this is what I'm workin' on. It's a lot better than the plan I could come up with...

If you're the praying type, prayers for healing, restoration and endurance for Jeff and Sue would be a blessing...

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Changes are in the wind

Things could get interesting, boys and girls....

So, my sister and brother-in-law (more my sister, actually) have come to the conclusion that there's a very slim chance they will be able to hold onto their condo. For some reason, lending institutions would rather have them walk away from their condo and their mortgage than negotiate down to an interest rates and terms that they would be able to meet, and keep the place. They keep getting information on this kind of loan and that kind of loan - but you either need $12-20K of equity (they have none) or cash (ditto) to refinance. They have not been able to find anyone willing to simply renegotiate the interest rate to something that they could live with.

(Interestingly enough, once they turn the deed over to the mortgage holder, there is a market for buying distressed mortgages, at 70-80 cents on the dollar - but so far, no one we've found is interested in offering that same principal reduction to the current mortgagee.... another blessing of our capitalist system.)

So, they are starting to look at rental property that they could afford and get into before their credit goes way south. And we are once again looking at winnowing down the stuff of our lives into something that they can deal with moving. Not what I would choose to be doing, to be honest.

It's so freakin' sad, and yet it's no different than a million other stories, across this broken land of ours. "Going to hell, on easy credit terms" is what one old grand-dad used to call it. Well, the devil seems to want his due.

At almost the same time, Chris has gotten word that there may be an opening at his dream job, working product support for Horizon Hobby in Champaign, IL (central Illinois). Horizon has been supplier to the hobby stores Chris has worked at, and one of his favorite vendors for RC airplane and RC car parts and accessories. There is nothing so firm as a job offer at this point, but it's sufficiently positive that Chris and I will be journeying to the Champaign/Urbana area over Labor Day weekend. Since my work can be done from anywhere I have a solid Internet connection (Caribou Coffee, for instance), I should be able to transition there fairly easily. It's a college town (a lot like Bowling Green, from what I can tell) surrounded by a lot of corn. But that's not so different than things out here in Ohio - except the economic image seems somewhat better.

So it seems there could be another scattering of the family in the weeks or months to come. Chris' lease is up December 31st, but the temptation would be to be out of here before then, or perhaps not until March. (We'd really prefer NOT to be moving over year-end, as we were last year!) Still, it is possible that a job at Horizon could make life a lot more pleasant for Chris, who is now working 2nd shift at a mid-sized hotel about 10 miles from here. My sister and her husband really need to make a decision in the next month or two, while he's still working and has a job for a rental reference.

So - my favorite state of mind - uncertainty, anticipating change, and disrupting the status quo. Just what I would have picked... But, at least, we are doing the right things, and trying to do what we can. So for now, it's the Serenity Prayer that is at the center of life, and we will work toward the best.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Looking for truth

The American government lied to the native Americans for many, maannny years. And then President Clinton lied about a relationship - and everyone was surprised.... A little naive, I feel?...

...So, perjury, yeah...if you commit perjury, I don't care. I don't give a shit, and I don't think that you should. Because you "grade" murder - you have murder 1, murder 2 - you realize that there can be a difference in the level of murder. So there MUST be a difference in the level of perjury! Perjury-one is when you say there was no Holocaust, when ten million people have died in it; and perjury-nine is when you say you didn't shag someone when you really did.

(Comedian Eddie Izzard, from his Dressed to Kill video)

So here we are. We've finally heard in the press in the last several weeks what we kind-of knew, but hoped we were wrong about...

  1. Yes, Virginia, the Iraq war really was all about oil. And that itsy, bitsy little article about no-bid contracts in Iraq for Exxon Mobil, Shell, Total, BP and the rest of the rapists and pillagers multi-national oil companies? Thanks to our free and independent sold-out-to-special-interests national media, that's all you'll hear about it. More than four thousand American lives, paid without a second thought, by a lying Executive Branch, to ensure that oil companies could get a sweetheart deal apiece in Iraq.
  2. Yes, hunny-bunny, The Tyrant Who Would Pretend to Lead a Democracy does want to send you, your younger brother, younger sister, and all your friends to die in Iran, once your older brothers and sisters and their friends finish dying in Iraq and Afganistan. The nuclear war which will almost certainly follow any such attack won't last for more than a week or so, and will almost certainly be the end of the world as we know it. But don't worry, the National War Powers Commission is proposing rule changes that will mean that once King George announces that we've attacked Iran, there will be a whole list of Congress-critters on whom he'll be able to dump the blame, as he declares us in yet another undeclared war. Except only the cockroaches and crabgrass will be there to read the news...
  3. And yes, my dear, people actually laughed at Dennis Kucinich when he introduced resolutions of impeachment against King George and the regent, Tricky Dicky the Second. And no, dearie, I don't understand what they found so funny, either. It sounded pretty damn sensible to me, too.
I'm sorry, but all kinds of apocalyptic images have been racing in my head. It's at times like this that I hate the fact of being fractionally well-read. I wish I could erase the image of the Apollo/Soyuz astronauts watching the progress of the final nuclear war in Lucifer's Hammer. Or the image of scientists on an orbiting asteroid watching total destruction raining down in Greg Bear's classic Eon. Or, perhaps the scariest image, that of the librarian Monks of St. Leibowitz climbing into a starship, headed to start a new world (and a new Church) on Alpha Centauri as nuclear destruction ends life on Earth in A Canticle for Leibowitz. Never mind that not-nearly-realistic-enough little bit of film called The Day After... set very near my former hometown, in Lawrence, Kansas...

There's so many similarities, it's scary beyond description.

What the hell is it going to take to get people of good heart to stand up and say, "I'm mad as hell, and I'm not going to take it anymore!" ? When will people look beyond religious-knee-jerking and "us-versus-them" scare politics to realize that we are edging closer and closer to the brink?

I have always been a hopeful, optimistic man - believing that things can always get better. But recently, listening to the BBC and NPR programs like "On Point" have made me wonder whether believing as I have is nothing but self-delusion...

That's why I'm glad that Chris made me sit down and watch Second-Hand Lions, a classic feel-good movie that I'd never encountered before. This scene was worth the cost of the whole movie:

Call me a sap; call me a hopeless optimist; but I still believe like that, even though half-a-century of experience tells me otherwise, so much of the time. But I also know that the only thing necessary for Evil to triumph is for Good to do nothing.

So listen; read; protest; vote; do whatever you can. Do what it takes to let the world know that the Tyrant At 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue and the various right-wing prophets do not speak for all of us. That America is better than that.

That we, as Americans, are better than that.

(Late edit: had to get some of my facts straight about which companies were involved in those wee little no-bid contracts...)