Thursday, May 31, 2012

Truth or Tolerance?

I am currently reading Bonhoeffer:Pastor, Prophet, Martyr, Spy by Eric Metaxes.  I find the book riveting, but I often put it down and take a break because it is not easy to read.  The theme and events of the book give details of the Nazi destruction and violence in Germany during the 30s and 40s.  Mostly, reading the book gives me the feeling of watching a man pursue the way of Christ to his own death.  It is difficult to see how he could have done anything but follow his conscience and be obedient to the call he felt on his life.  

Another problem with reading this book is the pressure it puts on me to be obedient and faithful to Christ, too.  This week I was asked to teach Sunday school in the church I attend with my daughter.  I was a member there about 30 years ago, and I don't think I would be uneasy teaching the class, but I feel some level of commitment and loyalty in teaching that doesn't confront me when I accompany Carol.

One thing Bonhoeffer said has been worrying my mind.  When he came to the United States in 1939, he said that Americans are very tolerant.  He believed that we had valued tolerance over truth.  I am confronted with this choice now:  Can I just coast along taking what pleases me and not take a stand?  The decision to choose a place to be counted is not easy.  I loved my church family in the church where I am still a member, but I am not nourishing my faith there. I need to be consistent and be a member when I attend.  It has become, for me, a question of tolerance or truth.  I can't continue to be divided in my loyalty and service. On Sunday, I'll make that plain to my new congregation.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

The First Thing a Christian Shouldn't Say

Phrases I Think Christians Shouldn't Say
This was the title of a post I read that was recommended by someone I respected on Facebook.  It was written by a preacher and he gave examples of the kinds of things he thought people shouldn't say who claim to be Christians.  He introduced his arguments against these thoughtless phrases by saying that sometimes he cursed.  Maybe not often, but he felt it was acceptable when he couldn't do anything else. to let slip a curse or two.  He gave very human reasons why this was OK.  You can read his article by clicking this link Phrases I Think Christians Shouldn't Say.

I agree with him about most of the thoughtless, empty phrases, but I don't agree that cursing is a recourse a Christian should take.  Cursing  does not do anything to mitigate the damage caused by a wreck or a storm.  Cursing may vent the anger of the one who is cursing, but it does not restore the heart or life of those who  suffered damage.

He cited the example of devastation so complete that the results went beyond human ability to remedy.  In that kind of case, he felt a curse might slip out.  Indeed, you might hear curses in that scenario, but it is not helpful and it is still sin.  The Gospel of Mark 3:28-29 says that all sins will be forgiven, even blasphemy against God the Father and the Son, but not against the Holy Spirit, so those who choose to blaspheme need to be careful whom they offend.  Just a minute, even Mark still calls it a sin in need of repentance.  But in the face of a tsunami or a hurricane or a plane crash, maybe it's OK.  NOT!!!

God calls us to use words of blessing, not curses, to attack the pain and disaster in the world.  Psalms 19:14--Let the words of my mouth and the medications of my heart be acceptable in thy sight, O Lord my strength and my redeemer--is often quoted before a speaker or a preacher begins to speak, but I don't believe that is the only place our words should be examined.  I don't think Christians, preachers or laymen, are called to curse in the face of need or evil.

Christians are called to live as an example of love and care and exhibit a standard of behavior that is in line with our example--Jesus.  If, indeed, we find a curse or other language that is unworthy of Christian demeanor in our mouths, we don't have to justify it or give excuses for it.  We just need to repent it.  We must view that slip as a sin.  We need to do more than ask God to forgive the words; we need to ask him to cleanse our minds and hearts, as well.  James 3:10 Out of the mouth come praise and cursing.  My brothers and sisters, this should not be.
Our praises are corrupted by the curses as the fresh water would be corrupted by the tainted water in the spring if they flowed together.

Bottom line--The first thing a Christian shouldn't say is a curse.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

The Political Scandal Next Door

I have posted some comments on the sad decline of human morals based on the political scandals in the US.  I did a little research and found that countries all over the world are subject to the same kind of behavior that I have seen in the States.  This crime against righteousness and conscience is not limited or confined.  It is worldwide!  

Guess what?  It accompanies all human endeavors.  Selfishness is a global problem.  Men and women of all nationalities and races and beliefs fall to the temptation of money and power and sex.  And we also seem to universally condemn the flaw in the character of those who seek high office when they succumb.

One of the big stories in the US at the present is the trial of John Edwards because of funds contributed to him that were used for his mistress's expenses.  There is a great deal more to this sordid affair if you want to research it.

Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi paid Karima el-Mahroug a night club dancer who performs under the name Ruby Heart-stealer for sex.  According to the charges she was underage when the relationship began.

Russia--The State Duma is the lower house of the Russian Parliament.  It was accused of being a rubber stamp for Dimitry Medvedev's initiatives.  In May of 2010 a new law against drunk driving passed by a vote of 440 out of 450.  The problem arose when it was revealed that only 88 deputies showed up for work that day.  There was a video of people running from desk to desk to press the "Yes" button.

Silvio Berlusconi , the Prime Minister of Italy, a former cruise ship lounge singer, and no stranger to the legal system, was charged many times with fraud, bribery, and corruption, but those allegations were overshadowed by his sex scandals.  Patrizia D'Addario claimed that Berlusconi had been her client on three occasions.  He was also linked with Noemi Letizia who was a minor at the time.

John Major was the British Prime Minister when it was discovered that British Ministry of Defense employees had coached the Saddam Hussein regime on how to get export licenses to transport weapons components made by Matrix Churchill to Iraq. Findings of the investigation damaged the Conservative Party and Major lost the election.

Valentin Kovalev, the Russian Minister of Justice was forced to step down when videos of him cavorting with women in a night club bathhouse surfaced. The films substantiated rumors of his links to one of Russia's organized crime rings.

Chin Shui-bian was elected president of Taiwan in 2000.  It was his son-in-law who first brought scandal to his office, but by the time all was said and done, his son, his daughter-in-law and his wife all were included.  He and his family members were first assessed a life sentence for embezzlement and insider trading, but it was commuted to 20 years.

Iris Robinson was a member of the Northern Ireland Parliament and her husband Peter Robinson was the leader of the government.  Mrs. Robinson had an extramarital affair with a 19 year old for whom she secured government funds of $80,000 for him to open a restaurant.  Her husband's career was damaged in the fallout over this event and hers was ended.

Am I just being judgmental?  Pointing fingers at those in power?Do we hold them to a higher standard?  I guess I believe we all should stand firm on that higher standard.  To make a better nation or a better world, we need to live up to our claims of honesty and righteousness.  It's not just the poor and down-trodden that should be honest and forthright.  It's everybody.

If you want to review the slides and get more information about these and other scandals, click here.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Why Did the Chicken Cross the Road?

I love humor.  I love to view life with humor and find the value of humor in dealing with stressful and painful situations.  It is refreshing and strengthening.  If I can find humor in a situation or event, it reduces the stress and makes it more tolerable.  I have been studying the way humor is expressed in cultures other than my own.  I have written posts on this blog that indicate my disgust with the Secret Service mess created by agents in Columbia, so I think maybe that is too serious right now for me to find humor in it.  

Sometimes people in the most dire situations find humor helps them survive.  When my husband was dying, he had a respirator and could not speak.  He was awake and alert, and he had things he wanted us to do.  He made hand gestures that my daughters and I tried to decipher.  We guessed wrong and he got frustrated, but eventually we got it right.  We laughed and he even smiled as he saw how ridiculous it all was.  The memory makes his passing less painful.

In most jokes the humor rests in the misunderstanding or change in some expected behavior.
For instance a frog called the Psychic Hotline and he was told, "You are going to meet a beautiful young girl who will want to know everything about you."
The frog says, "This is great!  Will I meet her at a party?"
"No," says the psychic.  "Next semester in her biology lab."

Old one-liners provide a twist to get a laugh.  This is a standard from my childhood.
Q. Why did the chicken cross the road?
A. To get to the other side.

Q. Why did the chicken cross the road?
A. To show the armadillo it was possible.
This one is good in Texas or the Southwest.

Q. Why did the chicken cross the road?
A. To get away from Colonel Sanders.
This one goes over great in Fast Food venues and Kentucky.

Q. Why did the chicken cross the road twice?
A. He was a double crosser.
This one is as old as I am.

Q. Why did the chicken cross the playground?
A. To get to the other slide.
In this one the rhyme provides the twist.

Q. Why did the Iraqi chicken cross the road?
A. To take over the other side.
Political humor crosses the road, too.

Q. Why did the chicken cross the beach?
A. To get to the other tide.
Let your imagination run wild.

Q. Why did the dinosaur cross the road?
A. Chickens hadn't evolved yet.
Very scientific chicken.

Q: Why did chicken cross road?

A: I have not seen chicken since I was very young, on my parents' farm. This is before the Cossacks slaughtered them. I can still hear screams of sister as soldiers rape her. But back to question, where did you see chicken? I am very, very hungry.
This is a joke I found on the net that was attributed to Latvia.  Historical events may become a setting for jokes.  Sometimes, as I said before, the joke may reduce the pain of the true situation so that you can at least talk about it.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

The Ugly American--Again!

WASHINGTON, DC - APRIL 28:   Comedian Jimmy Ki...
WASHINGTON, DC - APRIL 28: Comedian Jimmy Kimmel delivers remarks at the 2012 White House Correspondents' Association Dinner held at the Washington Hilton on April 28, 2012 in Washington, DC. This was the 98th annual dinner and was hosted by Jimmy Kimmel. (Image credit: Getty Images via @daylife)
The Secret Service debacle was the subject of teasing and fun at the White House Correspondents Dinner on Saturday, April 28.  Both the president and speaker Jimmy Kimmel referred to the   juvenile   exploits of these top of the line national security forces.  I guess you have to be more sophisticated than I am to find this behavior funny.  For the men in the black suits, I guess it is just business as usual.  I was personally insulted that they represented our country in the international arena with such poor taste.

I wonder how the people of Columbia look at us now.  Were they as insulted as I was that government employees of a visiting nation would involve their citizens in such a disreputable event?  One woman stated in an interview that her efforts were directed toward reducing the exploitation of underage girls through prostitution.  Some newspaper reports implied that Columbia was well known for the quality of its prostitution.  For the people who are struggling to change their international reputation, this kind of behavior from government representatives is a severe affront.

It seems that all the Secret Service officials have done is assure the public that there was no breech of security and hastily cover up the whole mess.  The president accepted no responsibility and I am insulted by that.  I would like to announce to the people of Columbia that the people I know find this very bad behavior a reason for an apology--I am sorry citizens of my country displayed such poor manners in your presence and held your country up to ridicule. 

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