NEIGHBORS THAT “DAMN” US

One of the most troubling aspects of visiting Dachau is the realization that it was right there all along.

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I mean really, Evil has built a Concentration Camp located in middle of your small City, right there in your neighborhood, right on the other side of a simple damn wall that you drive by/walk by every single damn day and you are going to insist that you didn’t see it?
That you didn’t know?
That you didn’t suspect?
41,000+ is the officially recorded death count but since not every victim was worthy of making an official note of their demise there is a very real possibility that it was 3X that much.
So, you didn’t know?
Yeah, the wall was too high to glance over, but what about the smell? I mean really that many corpses had to stink, right? That many bodies crammed together under abysmal conditions had to have created quite a stink, no?

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No, didn’t notice the stink huh?
Well what about the incinerator’s chimney black smoke when the fat from all the bodies drove the fuel mixture so rich that the sky turned black? Oh, you thought it was just bad coal huh?

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Well then what about the sounds? Weren’t there screams? You know when they tortured and beat and shot and performed those terrible medical experiments, weren’t there awful sounds that disturbed your comfort level? Kept your windows shut, huh?
Well then what about all those prisoners that were marched from the rail station right in the middle of town to get to this Camp? Didn’t that make you wonder why so many go in & nobody comes out? Oh, right, as a simple everyday ordinary citizen, prisoners were not your responsibility to ask about.

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What’s that? You are asking about our Concentration Camps? Well that was after Pearl Harbor was attacked and everybody was scared to death of Japanese spies and so it’s perfectly understandable what WE did way back then.
What do you mean not those camps of 80 years ago but the concentration camps that we’re building right now?
We are not building Concentration Camps.

We as the world’s most advanced nation are simply constructing temporary holding shelters for some of “those people” who have mistaken us for being a soft touch.
Why we even call them “Tender Shelters” for our special handling of infants and toddlers.
You know, you really should stop laughing & rolling your eyes at our answer.
No, your crying over the suffering of children isn’t helpful either.

“A voice was heard in Ramah,
wailing and loud lamentation,
Rachel weeping for her children;
she refused to be consoled, because they are no more.” Matthew 2:18

 

I suppose “It” just happens

I suppose “it” just happens.

“It” happens and by the time everyone woke, it was too late to do anything about “it”. Well other than simply going along with “it” being the way things are now.

Even when “it” is unspeakable evil somehow “it” becomes simply the way things are now.

I’m wrapping up a visit to in-laws in Germany. Beautiful warm hearted caring people living in a beautiful country with an amazing culture and once again, the question pops into my head as it has so often over my nearly 7 decades on this earth, how could these caring people have allowed “it” to happen?

Kind of a difficult pondering to undertake while sitting in a charming city named Dachau.

In a couple days, I’ll be back home in my beautiful warm hearted city with its amazing culture and among our beautiful warm hearted caring people while asking the same question of us.

How are we allowing “it” to happen?

Seriously now, how are we allowing “it” to happen yet again in the sometimes terrible history of human civilization?

Destroying Creation?

Ripping kids from their Mother’s breast?

Mass incarceration for profit?

Condemning people to forever poverty cuz they by chance got sick?

Being led by a dictator who makes your skin crawl?

Are there any boundaries to the evil this new version of “it” will inflict on God’s children?

I suppose “it” is just simply happening to us now. In the sneaky pernicious manner that evil always enters this world.

“It” is happening and by the time we wake will it be too late to do anything about “it”. Well other than simply going along with “it” being the way things are now.

Not for me, “it” won’t.

If you’re not going to jail this summer while rising up against “it” then perhaps you’re not yet woke.

BRIDGING THE SCIENCE DIVIDE

-A FAITH & TECHNOLOGY DEVOTIONAL

Talk no more so very proudly, let not arrogance come from your mouth; for the Lord is a God of knowledge, and by him actions are weighed. (1Sam 2:3)

One of the most critical questions of our age is “How do we engage people with the process of accepting science?” In this current era of “populism” wherein feelings are given priority over scientific knowledge, how do we engage people in the difficult task of exploring scientific fact? This is particularly challenging in the case of Climate Science as it may well mean we have to change how we live. How do we do this?
Well perhaps we use the Church’s historically most effective tool at engaging people with difficult truth, we wrap it in a story.

PBS broadcasting is offering Churches a unique opportunity to do just that by hosting a free sneak-preview screening of PBS documentary Bill Nye: Science Guy.

Bill Nye is a man on a mission: to stop the spread of what he calls “anti-scientific” thinking. The former star of the popular kid’s show: “Bill Nye The Science Guy” has become an outspoken science advocate, engaging with those who deny climate change, evolution, and other evidence-based scientific findings. The film raises important questions about the role of science research and education in public life, and about how to engage productively with people across ideological divides.

The documentary Bill Nye: Science Guy will premiere on April 18 on PBS’ POV, American television’s longest-running independent documentary series. Through POV’s free DVD Lending Library, organizations can host sneak-preview screenings of the film. Interested in hosting a screening? Join the POV Community Network and access our free companion materials (discussion guide, lesson plan and reading list) in the Partner Toolkit.

I’ve used the POV resources with other subjects and found them to be worthwhile and easy to use.
So why would a Church want to host such an event which attempts to bridge the science divide on the most critical issue of our time? Well perhaps because we are uniquely qualified to help people with the follow-up question: How would God have us respond to this crisis?”

Prayer: God of us all, help us to walk humbly with you to do justice with loving kindness in the saving of your Creation. Help us to do this soon Dear God, while there’s yet still time, Amen.

 

The Reluctant Radical

-A FAITH & TECHNOLOGY DEVOTIONAL
Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening.” 1 Sam 3:9

I had the opportunity this week to preview the documentary “The Reluctant Radical” and then to write this reflection/review.

The movie follows the life path of Kenneth Ward, a long-time environmentalist & activist as he wrestles with what life choices should he make and what direct actions should he take in response to the greatest crisis that human civilization has ever faced: Climate Change. As Kenneth expresses his struggle: in response to the potential “end of conditions that make civilization possible” then I’m “obligated to do what I can”.

During the documentary, we witness his participation in a series of non-violent civil disobedience direct actions, some small and some huge, comfortable & uncomfortable, ranging from minimum risk to major risk. He does these actions as an individual and occasionally as part of a larger group action. As he hesitates/reflects prior to one action, Kenneth observes that he always asks, “Should I really be doing this?” which is then followed by another question “As compared to what?” and then he acts. Because of his actions, he’s gotten lots of experience within our legal system of criminal justice. As he observes: “When my life ends, I want to be able to say that I did all that I could”.

The film will disturb you which isn’t all bad. As sometimes we need to be shaken from our complacency to ponder anew what should be our response to the greatest crisis that human civilization has ever faced. Several questions came to mind while watching this documentary:

What is the role of the Church in this crisis?
At what cost am I willing to “do what I can”?
What are the limits to non-violent civil disobedience direct actions? At what point can these actions tip over into violence? What are the risks/rewards of participation?
How literally should we take the Gospel call to justice?

With the recent news that despite the Paris Agreement, carbon pollution continues to increase amidst signs of escalating global devastation & human suffering, perhaps it’s time for us, The Church, to wrestle with similar decisions.

Viewing the “The Reluctant Radical” in our Faith Communities may just create that opportunity. As Kenneth observes: “Direct Action creates opportunities of moral clarity”.

Prayer: God of us all, help us to walk humbly with you to do justice with loving kindness in the saving of your Creation. Help us to do this soon Dear God, while there’s yet still time, Amen.

 

PERISISTING FROM THE ASH HEAP

-A FAITH & TECHNOLOGY DEVOTIONAL

Job took a potsherd with which to scrape himself, and sat among the ashes. Then his wife said to him, “Do you still persist in your integrity? Curse God, and die.” Job 2:7-9

My heart aches, my soul is weary, my tears are exhausted, and my prayers go unanswered. I just can no longer run the good race. It is time to give up.

School slaughters are commonplace, stealing from the poor to stuff the rich is the way of our nation, budgeted greed is lifted by the highest office in our land as the universal value for us to embrace and the assault on the environment condemns my grandchildren to a life of endless struggle.

In short, I feel like every Psalmist has ever felt.

In the midst of my utter despair, there’s a quiet-quiet voice that comes to me in the darkest of hours and without words tugs at my heart and urges my soul to Arise and PERSIST insisting there is yet reason for hope.

Look, the voice without words says: There are signs all around you that this age of greed & violence is ending if you but persist in your efforts for justice.

Look at all the States & Communities (& Kids!) suing Big Oil & the Federal Government demanding action to stop the destruction of God’s Good Creation. Look at the huge Wind Farms being built around the Globe. Look at the escalating number of communities & countries declaring the end of polluting vehicles by 2030. Look at amazing gains in harvesting energy from the Sun. Just open your eyes and look at the hope arising when Faith guides our use of Technology rather than our greed.

Look, the voice insists, at all the people of ethics who are arising to insist that wanton violence against people & Creation is not Gospel. Look at the “Poor Peoples Campaign”, “End the Fossil Fuels”, “Immigration Justice”, “Women’s Movement” and the countless other movements who are insisting another way is possible.

Look, the voice without words insists, at all the signs both great & small, that the Spirit is alive and at work in the world calling us forth.

“Do you still persist in your integrity?” Then praise God, arise and live.

Prayer: God of us all, help us to walk humbly with you to do justice with loving kindness in the saving of your Creation. Help us to do this soon Dear God, while there’s yet still time, Amen

HUMBLE? BAH, HUMBUG!

-A FAITH & TECHNOLOGY DEVOTIONAL
He leads the humble in what is right, and teaches the humble his way. (Psalm 25:9)

Humble? If there ever was an attribute more at odds with this time, we be hard pressed to name it.

Humble? Presidents & Premiers? Congress & Parliaments? Defense Departments & Border Patrols?

Humble? CEO’s & Hedge Fund Managers? Plunderers of this Earth’s Resources? Billionaires?

Humble? Cathedrals & Mega Churches? Corporate Charities?

Humble? Me & Mine? Whoops, that’s hitting a bit too close to home now, isn’t it?

In truth, I’m not very far along the path towards humility. It’s only been the last decade or so where I’ve begun to understand being humble as a necessary critical step in discerning how God would have us live. So, I’m still at the “toe dipping” stage where I upon a rare occasion will consciously attempt to quell my other attributes and embrace humility in short grasps at the path of a life well lived.

Humble? I’m writing this reflection on Christmas Eve which really ought to be a time wherein the need to be humble is fully recognized in the stories we tell of the particularly unique time when the Creator of the universe chose to be humble in order that we might see the way & the truth of this life. But in fact, we have managed to make “humble” the least recognized attribute in this “holy” season.

Humble? No, we be hubris!

In our hubris, we have embraced technologies that can annihilate God’s Good Creation in a moment or two if the powers & principalities get anymore cranky with each other. But certainly, in our hubris, we will destroy God’s Good Creation, in a generation or two simply by the way our modern society has chosen to live by all the insatiable burning & the wanton pollution thereof.

But here’s the thing. Like the Dickens’ tale of old or the Gospel story yet to be understood, there’s is still time. Time to turn away from a nuclear holocaust and save Creation in the next week or year and yes there is still Time to embrace new technologies that heal rather than hurt and save Creation for the coming generations.

We are fond of retelling the birth narratives of Matthew & Luke on this Eve. Perhaps, just perhaps, we might recognize the utterly shocking truth hidden in these stories that it not’s those beloved characters of ancient tales but rather us who needs to embrace the terribly difficult attribute of being humble.

Humble enough to hear our God calling us to a different way of life.

Prayer: God of us all, help us to walk humbly with you to do justice with loving kindness in the saving of your Creation. Help us to do this soon Dear God, while there’s yet still time, Amen.

 

WASTE NOT, WANT NOT

-A FAITH & TECHNOLOGY DEVOTIONAL

When you enter the land that I am giving you, the land shall observe a Sabbath for the Lord. Six years you shall sow your field, and six years you shall prune your vineyard, and gather in their yield; but in the seventh year there shall be a Sabbath of complete rest for the land, a Sabbath for the Lord: you shall not sow your field or prune your vineyard. You shall not reap the after growth of your harvest or gather the grapes of your unpruned vine: it shall be a year of complete rest for the land. You may eat what the land yields during its Sabbath—you, your male and female slaves, your hired and your bound laborers who live with you; for your livestock also, and for the wild animals in your land all its yield shall be for food. (Leviticus 25:2-7)

If I’m reading that scripture correctly, God is essentially saying that every 7 years we’ve got to radically let go of our need to control & manipulate and turn instead to a life of simplicity by well simply living off what the land produces for us. Don’t know exactly what the people told Moses back then, but I can envision the magnitude of the shock waves that the people of today would emit in response to such a directive.

There’s a lot of truth in the Sabbath economic rules of balance & rest & restoration that we find in these writings. Ultimately, the recognition, development & application by our generation of some form of these ancient rules being applied to modern life may be what saves the future of generations yet unborn. But that topic is way too big for a devotional. So, let’s limit today’s ponderings to just a singular but significant obstacle to be overcome on our journey to sustainable living in harmony with God’s Good Creation. Let’s talk about the critical issue of Food Waste.

1/3 of the food raised or prepared does not make it from farm or factory to fork.

In the developing world, this is primarily due to lack of refrigeration, transportation & appropriate storage systems. It’s also due to lack of coordination between supply & demand. Between what the farmers are growing and what the people at any given moment are needing. All of this is solvable by the developed world assisting the developing world with finances & technology. These efforts should be contained in both the programs of the UN’s sustainable development goals as well as the Global Green Climate Fund.

But Food Waste is not just “them” problem, it’s also “us”. For our modern society also wastes 1/3 of the food supply as we spurn imperfect vegetables, overestimate how many meals we will cook, toss out milk that has not gone bad and of course even forget about leftover food in the back of the fridge. Kitchen efficiency has indeed become a lost art. All of which is solvable simply by behavioral changes and yes, we can throw a little smarter technology into the mix to assist our efforts to make much needed progress on this sustainable path also.

Producing uneaten food squanders, a whole host of resources: seeds, water, energy, land, fertilizer, hours of labor, and generates greenhouse gases at every stage— including methane when organic matter lands in the global rubbish bin.

Prayer: God of all, keep speaking those radical words of balance, rest & restoration to us. Perhaps someday, we will hear sufficiently to embrace a new way of living and our kids along with the rest of your Good Creation will rejoice.