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Inoculated Against Fear

We live, as Augustine wrote, in a culture that is in love with death. Endless war. Unceasing, really. And yet, there is no sign that the American people are tired of pouring their wealth into the production of more and more weapons.  Endless violence.  Unceasing, actually.  Every day we have to read headlines (who reads articles in full now unless the acts of violence committed are so heinous and to such an outrageous degree that we’ll actually pause and ponder the magnitude of our gun-fixated culture?) and listen to news about people gunning one another down and children picking up guns and killing siblings and parents accidentally.  And don’t forget suicides.

Last week I trekked to New York to go to the wake and funeral of the radical priest and peacemaker, Father Daniel Berrigan.  I saw him in his shroud of white with red embroidered crosses, a small and nearly weightless man.   He wore simple, black shoes.  He owned little, if anything.  Except this:  his soul.  And as Christ taught, a person could gain all the wealth in the world and lose their own soul.  It is more than fair I would say to conclude that the heir apparent of the Republican Party is a soulless, wealthy man.  Anyway, seeing Father Berrigan reminded me of seeing the sculpture of John Donne in his death shroud there in a corner of St. Paul’s Cathedral in London. Except I was not looking at stone but a corpse and not merely the corpse of a once great and saintly man but the corpse of the 1960s when people sang songs about peace and wrote that word on large banners. All of that is blowin’ in the wind.

Back to now.  As you likely were, I was appalled by the auctioning of the murder gun of George Zimmerman who killed Treyvon Martin.  Not only appalled by the wickedness like puss oozing from this man, but the complicity of those involved in actually conducting an auction.  Shame, Shame, Shame!

Here’s the point I’m headed toward though.  In the narrative of the life, crucifixion and resurrection of Christ, we are inoculated against fear, wickedness and death. All of these elements are at play in that narrative.  When we receive this pathogen, as it were, from the narrative of Christ’s life, we are inoculated from these pathogens in our present age.  Let me put it yet another way.  This month we dedicated a child who was adopted by his mothers, we baptized a special needs child dearly loved by his mother and father and we did all of that in a congregation and holy place that is so filled with hope and joy, that we are empowered to return to the world and heal it, repair it, and redeem it.  I’m not sure why folks do not step into a sanctuary of peace.  But some of us do and we invite you to join us.

In the world you have tribulation, Christ said.  But take courage, I have overcome the worldFearless.  Joyful.  ~See you Sunday

swords to plowshares

Shame on President Jerry Falwell, Jr.

When I was a student at Southern Seminary in the 1980s, I was engaged with others in calling on that institution to join the efforts aimed at sanctions against the apartheid government of South Africa.  Rev. Jerry Falwell was an outspoken critic of sanctions and defender of that regime.

When I pastored First Baptist Church in Columbus, Ohio, in 1988 and the AIDS epidemic was raging, Jerry Falwell was fundraising by fear-mongering against homosexuals.

This week, his son, Jerry Falwell, Jr., told a convocation of his students  in his role as President of Liberty University that they should get a conceal and carry permit for arming themselves so they could take out Muslims.  He later qualified his statement to say only terrorist Muslims.  No matter, he has singlehandedly made his university a very dangerous place, not because he will provoke terrorists but because he cannot see how students that are carrying guns might use them against roommates, other students, paramours or pizza deliverymen who refuse to make change.

He’s a chip off the block, for certain.  What he is not is a representative of Christ the Peacemaker who urged his followers to make peace, telling them they would be called children of God for doing so.  If Americans are going to ask Muslims to speak up and denounce terrorists then surely this call for accountability can and should be extended to Christians and especially Baptists who are maligned by such irresponsible rhetoric from a man who purports to be both a Christian and a Baptist.  Shame on President Falwell and the board of trustees of Liberty University who sanction his dangerous, unChrist-like speech.  You are, sir, an embarrassment to Christ and owe your students, their parents and guardians; Baptists and Christians; and Muslims an apology.  We won’t hold our breaths.