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Omaha, Nebraska, United States
I am more and more convinced that most congregations die from a staggering lack of imagination. Let's change that. Drop me a line on email or leave a comment if you have thoughts on God, Jesus, congregations, the church or whatever.... I look forward to our conversations.

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Do Not Succumb to bigotry and fear

It is tempting to let our fear, bigotry, prejudice, and anger rule our judgement about what is going on these days in the world. For one thing, we're not used to all the confusion, chaos, and rapid change. We had it pretty well in this country for about 50 years, and we lost the collective consciousness of what life is all about. I mean, we purposefully built housing developments designed to make us forget about reality for a while. The great media critic Neal Postman called this "amusing ourselves to death," in the 1970s.

But now the world has caught up to us, and our little suburban enclaves have become festering cesspools of racism and hatred. The very places we built to keep out all the problems of the world have just become another venue for the problems of the world to play out, often in their extremism. For me, when the Sikh temple and some of its adherents were attacked in Brookfield, WI ( a suburb of Milwaukee), I knew everything I had growing up was over for good.

Of course, over 30 years ago my roommate in college told me a story about when he was 6. (That would have been 1969). His dad had to talk him out of the fear that he was never going to be able to have a house and home like this, and it made him sad. (My roommate is an exceptionally intuitive person, and this is not his most profound things he's shared with me. He has more.) But if Brookfield, WI can start harboring the violence and frustration that is so much a part of today's world, it's safe to say the "American Dream" is over. Get used to it.

For me, it all started with Columbine. Climbing into the pulpit that Sunday morning after the shooting at Columbine high school was the toughest day of preaching I ever had. A few years later, after 9/11, I was much more prepared to preach, even the the tragedy was on such a larger scale. The neighborhood stories I tell are just memories of a time we can never have back. Grandparents with pensions and healthcare, parents with decent jobs, and kids who actually learned about life in school, are family stories for the fairy tales of our future. Those days aren't coming back.

Of course, now that we know that so much of those days were built on repression, degradation of the environment, willful hatred of others, and bloated self-aggrandizement, who'd really want to go back? We can't let our fears and depressions cause our to lose our souls. Jesus once said, "What does it profit you to gain the whole world, if you lose your soul?" (Our current presidential candidates, especially in the GOP, have truly ignored this advice. Don't vote for any of them unless they repent of such hatred, greed, and fraud. Why vote for someone who only wants to steal from you?)

I, as much as anybody, have lost a lot in this world. As the world has caught up to me, my white, male, middle-class upbringing has been seen as the problem, not the solution--and I have to agree. And it's no fun being turned down for scholarships so that women or people of color get an equal opportunity. But that's okay for me, as I want to live in a world where everyone has a chance. I don't want to live in a world where I succeed based not on who I am, but rather what I am. I am more than the circumstances of my birth...and so is everyone else.

And that is what our current chaos seems to have forgotten. We are ALL children of God, and people of color, women, those differently-abled, those of non-traditional genders and sexuality, everyone basks in the light of God's grace and glory. And perhaps I've had to move aside so that others have room, but one thing I have learned is that it is more fun when we are all together. I'm glad to be part of the universe...and I hope to keep my soul as I'm in it.

May your tables be full, and your conversations be true.

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