Why doesn’t God stop us?

The question of “why doesn’t God act?” has been in existence since people were scared enough to ask rather than act.

That’s the difficult question we will be pondering in this Podcast. But before we dive in, let’s set some ground rules for this discussion:

  1. This discussion is not for everyone. So, if you are rigidly fixed in your personal religious beliefs then you might want to skip this episode as it contains a few of my ponderings on God which some people might find to be offensively wrong.
  2. My thoughts expressed on this subject are obviously incomplete and will continue to evolve as we experience the human societal response to the breadth & depth of the Climate Crisis.
  3. Spoiler alert going into this podcast is: God expects more mature behavior from us than what we’ve exhibited so far.
  4. The takeaway question from this podcast will be: At what price comes our path to maturity? How much pain must be experienced before we act?

OK, with all of those ground rules established, lets get started.

From lightning strikes to lava flows, from periods of floods and droughts; plagues and war; overwhelming tragedies that strike us both large and small; people have been staring at the skies and asking: “why God did you allow this?”

For some people on the religious right, their bottom line on the climate crisis is that it doesn’t require human intervention because God won’t let it happen.

God simply won’t let us destroy God’s Good creation. This they claim is evident by God’s promise to Noah (Genesis 9) that “never again shall there be a flood to destroy the Earth”.

But it’s not just people on the “Religious Right” is it? No, we don’t get off that easy.

Some of us occasionally dip into the dubious theology of thanking God for traffic lights turning green, open parking spots being convenient or even avoiding the flu.

Many of us were raised with the promise of “TRUST IN GOD”. In fact, since the 1950’s, it’s printed on our money.

But what if “trust in God to act” is not God’s intention for how her Good Creation should work?

What if God’s grand design for his Good creation is that we would be the ones to act and God’s role was to guide, to inspire, to awaken, to CALL?

Now-that’s a disturbing understanding isn’t it?

The question of “why doesn’t God act?” has been in existence probably as long as humans have wondered about God. For a biblical example, we don’t have to look any further than the Book of Job. Some biblical scholars believe that Job is the very first book of the Bible and written to seek an answer to the age-old question: why does evil exist and why doesn’t God just stop it?

(Job 1:6-12)

Now there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan also came among them.  The Lord said to Satan, “From where have you come?” Satan answered the Lord and said, “From going to and fro on the earth, and from walking up and down on it.”  And the Lord said to Satan, “Have you considered my servant Job, that there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, who fears God and turns away from evil?”  Then Satan answered the Lord and said, “Does Job fear God for no reason?  Have you not put a hedge around him and his house and all that he has, on every side? You have blessed the work of his hands, and his possessions have increased in the land.  But stretch out your hand and touch all that he has, and he will curse you to your face.”  And the Lord said to Satan, “Behold, all that he has is in your hand. Only against him do not stretch out your hand.” So Satan went out from the presence of the Lord.

That passage from Job is a familiar approach which suggests that bad things happen because God is “testing us”. This understanding is frequently followed with the admonition that God doesn’t give us more than what we can bear.

In more modern Times, this question of “why does God permit evil to exist” is raised in the context of huge tragedy and incomprehensible suffering such as the Holocaust of WWII.

There is a play that explores this to a disturbing level. It was called “GOD ON TRIAL” and its setting was a crowded prisoner hut in a NAZI concentration camp. The Jewish prisoners could not comprehend the great evil that they were experiencing and so they conducted a trial with charging God with violating their understanding of God’s particular covenant with the Jewish people.

After all, in their understanding, God had a special relationship with Jews then how could God possibly allow annihilation of his people through the unspeakable horror of the death camps?

Some historians have argued that many Jews went peacefully into the camps under the belief that God would protect them.

So why didn’t God act?

Why didn’t God strike the concentration camp guards dead at very first instance of the slaughtering of innocents? Or at the thousandth instance?

Why didn’t God plug up the Gas Chambers?

Why didn’t God crush the incinerators? Why didn’t God stop the medical experiments or the slaughtering of babies? Why didn’t God act?

Ultimately the play ends with the jury of prisoners finding God guilty of violating God’s covenant with the Jews.

One could expand this haunting question to include the multitude of human destruction that we blithely name simply as the consequences of war.

If not under these circumstances, just when or how will God act to stop human destructiveness?

Let’s fast forward this question of “Why doesn’t God stop evil” to the context of today.

We currently are facing the devastating human destruction potential of:

  • Terrorists
  • Never ending wars & constant threats of further wars
  • Forest Fires beyond all understanding
  • Pollution that kills us fast and pollution that kills us slowly
  • Hurricanes and storms of a ferocity never witnessed before
  • Floods and Droughts that are so severe the weather people had to come up with additional colors because nothing in our history measures up to the current situations
  • Diseases that quickly spread around the world
  • Mass Starvation
  • Violence everywhere we look
  • Refugees fleeing this destruction and finding walls to keep them out
  • Mass extinctions of species
  • Hate & Fear throughout our societies
  • Political corruption on a global scale

and now, on top of that extensive list and making every one of these problems worse, we have the Global Climate Crisis.

So why doesn’t God act to stop our destruction?

Why doesn’t God just stop us before we destroy all of God’s Good Creation on this Earth, our common home?

It should be simple enough task for God to do, right?

That’s our hope isn’t it?

Many of us in our modern western societies, who really ought to know better, are avoiding responding to the Climate Crisis.

Some of us are counting on God to step in before it’s too late.

We’re hoping without concrete basis that God will choose to act before our loved ones are hurt.

I know that this is a deeply uncomfortable topic, but it is a very necessary topic to explore. So why doesn’t God stop us?

After lots of reflection, my understanding of the answer to this troubling question lies in the gift of “FREE WILL”.

FREE WILL is the backbone of our ability to make life choices.

I would argue it is the greatest gift that God could bestow on any of God’s creatures & she decided to give it to human beings.

That’s a gift with many problems as human beings also possess the capability as well as the inclination to do great good but also to do great evil.

God gave Free will to the very creatures who can destroy all of creation just by making the wrong life choices.

I can’t fathom why God would risk this. But yet God did.

That might be true for you also.

We just can’t imagine that God would idly stand by and let us puny creatures destroy what God has wrought.

The problem Is we simply don’t know, do we? Hundreds of millions of lives were destroyed in the 20th century due to war and other human caused tragedies and it’s really hard for me to point to an event where it is obvious that God said “ENOUGH!” and stopped WWII.

Returning to the Book of Job, which was written to understand evil in this world. If you read it entirely, you will not be satisfied with it as God never answers the question of why God allows evil to exist.

Instead we’re left with unsettling response of “who are you to question me?”

It’s been my experience, that there are two vastly different perspectives that people bring with them as they read scripture:

  1. They read to learn “What God will do” or
  2. They read to learn “What God expects us to do”.

I tend to read scripture as well as ponder the existential questions of life from the perspective of #2.

What does God expect of us? Or stated another way: How does God call us to live?

Let’s turn for a moment to the wisdom of John 16:12

“I still have many things to say to you, but you can not bear them now. When the Sprint of Truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth…”

In my faith traditions, that passage is what we mean when we say:

 “God is still speaking”.

The essential truth of the Gospel to me is that first and foremost it is a Call to Action (in the gospel we hear messages of: come follow me; go and tell; be fishers of men; tend my sheep; clothe the naked; free the captives; you feed them…) My approach to faith is that arising from the journey along the Gospel pathway, belief in God will be found and enriched.

Robin R. Meyers expresses it this way: “Jesus never says “Go and believe likewise.”” The measure of an authentic spiritual life is the way a follower acts in the world.

A better question for this time is “why don’t we stop our destruction?”

But then how do we know what to do?

Elijah, the old testament prophet pondered the same question as he sought God’s answer.

“a great and strong wind tore the mountains and broke in pieces the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. And after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. And after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire the sound of a low whisper. And when Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his cloak and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave. And behold, there came a voice to him and said, “What are you doing here, Elijah?”

Elijah’s experience of unexpectedly hearing God in the whisper is similar to what I’ve experienced in my faith journey. I have best understood God’s guidance for my life path in the stillness of nature, in the disturbed voices of the poor and oppressed as well as in music that penetrates the barriers I’ve erected.

Mother Teresa said it this way:

“I used to pray that God would feed the hungry, or do this or that, but now I pray that he will guide me to do whatever I’m supposed to do, what I can do. I used to pray for answers, but now I’m praying for strength.”

My favorite theologian, John Dominic Crossan says it this way:

“You have been waiting for God, Jesus said, while God has been waiting for you. No wonder nothing is happening. You want God’s intervention, he said, while God wants your collaboration. God’s kingdom is here, but only insofar as you accept it, enter it, live it & thereby establish it.”

We are facing the greatest crisis ever encountered by human civilization and it’s rooted in our behavior. We are causing the devastation of the life systems of our earth and it’s already reached the point of immense suffering. We just have to be willing to open our eyes to see and our ears to hear.

God’s direction on how we should live is often quiet as a whisper but stunningly clear just the same: if our actions are rooted in sacrifice, compassion and justice then we’re on the right path.

That’s what the Gospel means when it says the greatest commandment is to “love one another.”

Where do we start?

You might find it beneficial to spend some alone time with God. Asking God what you are being called to do.

For some, this may best be found in contemplation of scripture.

For others a quiet time in nature or with music or with poetry or in the sounds of children discovering the wonders of life.

Perhaps like me, you might need to undertake immersion experiences to hear voices of truth that you normally don’t hear and see suffering that you’ve too often turned away from.

Whatever is necessary to move you to take action in response to this crisis, please do it.

When you’re ready to act, if you want some suggestions, check out the 48 action steps towards a sustainable life found on my website.

When Our Stories Collide (podcast transcript)

Podcast 10/21/19 When our stories collide
Intro: My apologies for the extended break between podcasts but I’ve been pondering a new format as I attempt to expand the reach of this series. I do this because if I’m not engaging people in this process of figuring out how best to respond to the Climate Crisis then it’s simply a waste of our God given talents at a time when the need for our effective participation has never been greater.

So, beginning with this podcast episode “Sustaining Creation Now!” will change to a much shorter time length and a much more focused engagement with you.
Each episode going forward will contain a story focusing on 1 element of the news and then an outright challenge for you to engage in the solution. If I’m successful in my efforts to concentrate the message into a tightly packed episode then the sub-title of this new format will “10 with Terry” as a reminder to us all that it’s a changed format.

Ready set & here we go.

Story: When Our Stories Collide
The background for today’s podcast is 2 different & yet related news items:

• Daily now, 16-year climate activist Greta Thunberg is being subject to vicious verbal attacks both in the media and at her demonstrations mostly by white males both young & old. This news item particularly raises my concern level for our society because I’ve granddaughters at that age and picturing them on the receiving end of such verbal abuse turns my stomach and increases my blood pressure.

• Recent reports of protest actions by a group known as the Extinction Rebellion movement include large numbers being arrested amid intensifying police response and that also individual participants are physically assaulted as well. They are being assaulted by other people frustrated with the disruptions to their daily routines caused by these protests in their communities.

Recently I was giving a public workshop hosted by 4 churches on the 3 urgent tasks for people of faith to undertake in response to the climate crisis. The tasks being to:
1. Confront our society with the reality of the Climate Crisis
2. Guide our society through the grief that results from understanding this new reality
3. Connect our society to hope so that rather than staying mired in the depression of grief, they will be inspired to take positive action in response to the Climate Crisis.

This is an involved workshop, some 3 hours long, and the first session focused on understanding the reality of the Climate Crisis is longer than the other two. Consequently, by the end of session 1, participants have viewed a couple hundred slides along with hearing my detailed comments. They really need a break, not just to meet physical body needs but also to relieve their overloaded cognitive functions with the common response of “Oh My God, I did not realize it was this bad!”

During this first break a gentleman sitting in the front row doesn’t go anywhere but immediately attempts to engage me in an argument. It’s readily apparent, that he doesn’t need a break because he hasn’t listened to anything I’ve said other than to grab a couple comments to pull out of context and then to attempt to use them to win an argument with me over the non-reality of the Climate Crisis. After all, as he tells me, “It’s all just an elaborate hoax, don’t you know”.

This gentleman was a Climate Denier. His purpose of coming to my workshop was not to participate but to show me the errors of my way. It’s not the first time this has happened in one of my presentations and in truth I should have been expecting a denier to show up since there was a local newspaper article on this workshop published in advance.

When you advertise a Climate Crisis presentation, the deniers come out of the woodwork. Some are paid actors, but most are simply zealot’s intent on preserving their current way of life at any costs. This is done with similar motivations as those actions being taken in the news items I referred to at the start of this podcast.

The gentleman tried several of the typical denier arguments on me, but they don’t go anywhere because as I tell him, I’m too old to waste any time or energy arguing the physical laws of the universe. The physical laws of the universe are not subject to debate, they don’t need our approval or change because of our disapproval they simply are what they are. If you trap more energy because we’ve polluted the atmosphere then you heat up the earth and bad things happen, end of story.

Failing this attempt, he then tried to challenge my terminology as being slanderous to good people who disagree with me. Specifically, his objection was to my use of the term: “Climate Denier”. He said that people take offense because it means I’m comparing them as being like people who are “Holocaust Deniers”.

I told him that I understand his concern but as terrible an event as the Holocaust was, and it was indeed horrendous, but the innocent victims of the Climate Crisis is going to vastly exceed the Holocaust by several orders of magnitude if we continue on our current path. So, my use of the term “Climate Denier” is in fact my considered opinion and I will not cease to use it.
In the history of human civilization, we have frequently denied the reality of our causing the suffering of others and it isn’t until we recognize it and own it that we begin to change. So, I will continue to embrace the use of this terminology even if it causes discomfort or embarrassment to some individuals.

The gentleman then left the workshop not staying for parts 2 & 3 as he didn’t really want to ponder any new reality. I suspect so also did the critics of Greta Thunberg and the assaulters of the Extinction Rebellion protestor.

I’ve been pondering these escalating clashes and conflicts as to what might be the root cause and I’m more & more convinced it resides in an inherent conflict between our core stories.

For you see, I believe that our lives are grounded in stories.

Some stories are large & some small.
Some arise from our particular families, neighborhoods and cultures.
Some stories are superficial to our lives and some are embedded so deep as to inform & guide the core of our being whether we are conscious of them or not.

One of my favorite writers is Rebecca Solnit and in her book: The Far Away Nearby, she describes the power of stories:
We tell ourselves stories in order to live, or to justify taking lives, even our own, by violence or by numbness and the failure to live; tell ourselves stories that save us and stories that are quicksand in which we thrash and the well in which we drown, stories of justification, of accursedness, of luck and star-crossed love, or versions clad in the cynicism that is at times a very elegant garment
We think we tell stories, but stories often tell us, tell us to love or to hate, to see or be blind.
Often, too often, stories saddle us, ride us, whip us onward, tell us what to do, and we do it without questioning.
The task of learning to be free requires learning to hear them, to pause and hear silence, to name them, and then to become the storyteller.

I have reached the conclusion that our stories collide whenever my understanding of how human society should conduct itself threatens your understanding.

With our current focus on hyper individualism as a core value in our society then the outcome of this story collision is conflict. It might begin as simple criticism or dismissal of ideas; it can grow to include verbal abuse and alienation but there’s also the very real potential for it to escalate to outright violence if an individual or group feels threatened as a result of this conflict.
I’ve been pondering these clashes and conflicts as to what is the root cause and I’m more & more convinced it lies in the significant perceived conflict between the polar extremes of “community Vs individualism” as grounded in our core stories.

How big is the conflict over the Climate Crisis? The closest historical conflict of this magnitude is the dispute over whether people of color are fully human which can even be found in our constitution’s original language assigning a 3/5’s value to some people. This of course led to a civil war plus other great evils and is still an issue largely unresolved to this day.

What might change this conflict over the Climate Crisis? Engagement & respect of the other.
How do we get there? Now that’s the critical question of this age and it’s terribly important that we find a way forward soon as possible as people are already dying from the Climate Crisis and it’s only going to get worse the longer, we delay.

We will spend the next several podcasts exploring elements of this conflict of values between “rights of the community” and the “rights of the individual”. But my time constraint for this podcast has already been exceeded so let’s wrap up with a bit of wisdom and an action for you to take in advance of the next session of “When Our Stories Collide”.

Wisdom Quotes
Jimmy Carter-I have one life and one chance to make it count for something… My faith demands that I do whatever I can, wherever I am, whenever I can, for as long as I can with whatever I have to try to make a difference.

Ecclesiastes 3:1 For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven 

The Talmud – You are not obligated to complete the work, but neither are you free to abandon it. 

Action: In next several podcasts of the “When Our Stories Collide” series, we will explore topics of:
• Hyper Individualism
• Freedom Vs Responsibility
• $$$= Free Speech
• Corporations = people

We’ll also explore some potential pathways to engagement and mutual respect of each other as we seek solutions to the Climate Crisis.
• Building community even if you are an introvert
• Fighting your own blindness
• Listening to understand instead of hearing to argue

In anticipation, as you go about your daily routines over the next week, think about to what extent you participate in community.
Has that changed over the years? In what direction?
Towards more participation or towards more isolation?
Is this a concern to you?

The Uncommon Commons

So for some strange reason this past year, I took on the role of Board President of our condominium association which, by all commonly accepted standards of our modern society, indicates that I either enjoy pain or I am slightly deranged or some combination of both. There have been some days in this role filled with experiences where I would not disagree with this assessment.

Seriously why would I voluntarily accept this non-financially compensated role of dealing with the multiple issues of a 2 building residential and commercial complex and the criticisms and complaints that arise from nearly 100 different and disconnected households? Well, quite frankly I did it simply because it’s our future or at least a microcosm example of our future.

What? We’re all going to live in Condo’s? Well yes & no. It’s rather obvious that our current American societal model of suburban McMansion living is unsustainable but that doesn’t mean that we all have to live in Condo’s. But then again in a sustainable future world -many more of us will. So we need to get it right. Hence my willingness to see if I can help grow a viable community.

If our future of humanity is ever to be sustainable then somehow we have to learn how to co-exist as a community of shared concerns rather than as isolated disconnected  individuals focused solely on fulfilling our individual wants, needs & desires.

The Crisis Of The Commons:

Currently our society has embraced hyper-individualism as it’s core life value. We can see this played out in the media, in our political system, in our economic models and in our everyday life experiences. The intense focus of our society is on individual rights and on the immediacy of today’s needs/wants/fears & desires.  But this approach to life fails to consider the future of the commons. It also flies in the face of the Gospel imperative to Love God & Neighbor but we will leave the discussion of that significant dimension to another day.

So what is the Crisis of the Commons? Simply put, its the uncomfortable fact that even though we are individuals, we share things in common. Some of things that we share are incredibly important and also ultimately limited. Somewhere along the range of possible actions in sharing the commons, our intense focus on individuality becomes a severe and ultimately fatal detriment to the whole. Perhaps a brief illustration from the Middle Ages will help to clarify our modern dilemma.

A few hundred years ago, the middle class was essentially non-existent. Our ancestors might have been serfs working on some Noble’s land. We could eat what scraps the Noble set aside for us to consume but if we wanted something more than scraps (or even not to starve when the Noble’s interests dictated a lack of concern for our plight) then we would need to pool our resources. Perhaps we might raise a few sheep in the town’s common area that could tide us over when times were tight. But if you or I decided to get ahead by raising some additional sheep for our own purposes at some point we would exceed the grass available in the common area and all the sheep would die out. It might be hard to determine whose additional sheep caused this “tipping point” to be exceeded but the result would be the same. All of the community would pay the price of our individual desire for more. Starvation would hit everyone, from those who tried for more and even those who were innocent. The only way to survive was to live in community that recognized the boundaries of what the commons could sustain.

If you look at the history of ancient civilizations, you will see this “crisis of the commons” played out in one form or another again and again and again. Civilizations that died out never could accept the limits of the commons. Perhaps they thought that they could invent new methods where natural limits wouldn’t apply to them or perhaps they simply thought that God would provide no matter what they did. But die out they did and all we have left from their walk in this life is some pottery remnants or perhaps some broken stone statues.

So what does the “crisis of the commons” have to do with a sustainable future? Perhaps because it directly affects everything that matters.

When I was a youth, as hard as it is to believe now, we used to practice how to survive nuclear annihilation by ducking under our school desks. I grew up in a time when humankind’s great technological achievement was to master the ability to destroy the world through nuclear war. Looking back, it is still is an amazement that somehow our leaders didn’t push those launch buttons but its scary to contemplate how close we got to this point at various crisis moments in the past 50 years.  But that was then, we moved on to new capabilities now. We have managed to expand our technological capability in our insatiable desire for consuming more such that all that is required to destroy intelligent life on this Earth is simply to continue to follow our current life path.

That’s the “crisis of the commons” for our time.

In my lifetime, the world’s human population has tripled and our pollution rate has increased six-fold. Those are staggering statistics to comprehend. But it’s not simply the head count of humans that matters. It’s also how much each human consumes. Scientists tell us that we passed the point of where the Earth was able to sustain our level of consumption sometime in the late 1970’s or early 1980’s. Right now the scientific consensus is that we are consuming at a level which requires 1.5 worlds. If all 7.6 billion current human inhabitants consumed what the average American consumes then we would need more than 4 worlds. The problem of course is that we only have the one.  I can tell you from my world travels that our commercial global advertising outreach has got everyone wanting to consume at the level Americans take for granted. The natural laws of the universe will not permit this much longer. We are over heating the Climate, depleting the biosphere, destroying the oceans & the soils that sustain life and in doing so we are also hitting so many more natural limits that we can’t even predict which tipping point will come first.

In short we are facing on a global basis for the first time in our history the “Crisis Of The Commons”.  Life as we know it will simply cease to exist if we continue on our current life path. To be sure, I and my fellow grey hairs currently residing in western modern society are probably immune to this crisis. I am not so confident that my kids will be immune from this crisis and I am fairly sure that my grandkids and their peers around the globe will end up cursing our legacy with their dying breathes.

So what do we do in response to this modern day global “Crisis Of The Commons”?

Perhaps, we start on a personal basis by choosing the road less traveled. The seldom used road where our life path embraces the value of the rights of future communities to live over my perceived right as an individual to consume without limits in the here and now.

Perhaps we take the first initial even hesitant steps down this fork in our road of life by informing our daily decisions by the consideration of what is the best decision that I can make to the benefit of my grandchildren and their grandchildren. Perhaps we change from the concept that a “good life is measured by what I have accumulated” to the legacy of life that we enable future generations to experience.

Perhaps we start small: we reduce the amount of fossil fuels that we burn, change our diets in small and meaningful ways and restrain our urges to consume.  Perhaps we step further on this new life path to insist that laws are enacted which put a price on carbon and reign in the wanton excesses of Global Vulture Capitalism. Perhaps we even risk criticism by inviting others to join us on this new life path also such that a tipping point might be reached where the “Road Less Traveled” of caring for the future of God’s Good Creation becomes the norm.

I know for sure that “tipping points” are coming.

Whether they are the “tipping points” which carry us over the cliff into the total destruction of life or instead they are the “tipping points” of sufficient people demanding a different life path remains to be seen.

As a Public Theologian, I know which path is the one God calls us to take. (“Jesus looked upon him with love and said that you lack one thing, go sell…give.. and come follow me.”)

All this blog’s discussion to this point is to lead us to the need to envision the need to change human society on a global scale. To envision a radical concept that I have dubbed the “Uncommon Commons“.

The Uncommon Commons as proposed this day is perhaps best being debated in our society as the current “hot topic” known as the Green New Deal. It is the singular current aspiration of the scale necessary to solve our deep seated problems by tackling both economic injustice & environmental injustice via solving the Climate Crisis.

It arises from the basic understanding that Physics doesn’t compromise which makes the Climate Crisis with its recent tip over into being an “acute threat” unable to be successfully resolved using conventional political approaches. Some 30-40 years ago while it was still a “chronic threat”, the issue of Global Warming might have possible for our typical political approaches to have worked if all parties had bargained in good faith. But nothing was done then other than pretending that the problem didn’t exist.

That conscious intentional decision on the part of Fossil Fuel interests to deny that we needed to stop our polluting ways has caused this global crisis to escalate to the point where only a WWII level of response will prove sufficient. The level of investment of time, talent & resources necessary are staggering to comprehend. If not appropriately controlled, greed based interests will steal from these necessary global scale efforts. If done appropriately, the right expenditures of these resources can lift billions out of poverty.

Hence the need for the movement towards aspirational Green New Deal. Which would be a major step in human evolution to sustaining Creation rather than destroying it.

The Green New Deal could become a path leading us towards the Uncommon Commons that we first read about in the book of Acts 2:43

And all who believed were together and had all things in common. And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.

As I ponder each day anew the many terrible things happening across the globe on our mad march towards extinction, I have come to the radical conclusion that Billionaires ain’t going to Heaven because to obtain “their” billions they are making our Earth into Hell. That’s the radical truth of the Gospel reduced to a single sentence. If humans ever evolve to living in a sustainable relationship with Earth’s life systems then the concept of billionaires will have ceased to exist.

That’s what scares the “bejesus” out of the billionaires.

Tearing down boundaries, barriers and walls

Exploring critical challenges to our presumptions on life

Recently a friend sent me a message asking for my comments regarding an article that made the radical assertion that Jesus isn’t the only way to heaven.

Instead of simply forming a singular response to my friend, I think this subject is worthy of pondering and sharing widely. It’s worth pondering if for no other reason than this claim of “Jesus is the only way” is the fundamental assertion of Christian supremacy for hundreds of millions of people.

Believe in Jesus? Yes? Then OK you get to go to heaven. No? Well then hellfire and brimstone for you my dear friend. Sorry about that eternal suffering stuff but what are you going to do since the good book clearly says so.

Or does it?

The assumption that Jesus is the only way to heaven arises primarily from a singular verse in the Gospel of John which proclaims: “Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6).

If you have spent anytime exploring other religions, then you probably know that Christianity isn’t alone in this bold interpretation of its sacred scriptures that they have the only true path to God.

Yep, pert near every expression of faith has followers that can point to a verse in their sacred scriptures asserting that they alone have the one true way to God.

Again, the most generous of those holding this position will be sorry that you going burn in hell, but hey what can you do? After all its right there in the BOOK!

But how does that assertion’s claim resonate with the understanding that God is love? I just don’t see it.

In my advanced years after lots and lots of theological wrestling with concepts, creeds and traditions, I’ve come to the conclusion that this practice of drawing barriers & boundaries around the access to God is pretty much like drawing barriers and boundaries on the Globe. Yeah, I’ve concluded it’s a human trait to draw barriers & boundaries not a Godly trait.

The poet that wrote the book of Genesis made a very bold assertion very early on in this amazing book that attempts to convey how Creation came to be: “God saw everything that he had made, and indeed, it was very good” (Genesis 1:31). Now that verse resonates for me with the concept that God is love.

So, if everything and everyone of God’s creatures (yes including you & I and even those that don’t remotely resemble you & I) is deemed by God to be “Very Good” then where do we get the warped idea that we can create boundaries and barriers when God has not? On what basis do we get to judge and exclude others from God?

This concept of desiring to exclude others from being a member of God’s Good Creation is an ancient sin. I’m confident that archeologists can point to cave drawings which convey this very same concept: I’m on the inside and you are on the outside so just go ahead and die. It’s like we never outgrew the childhood cruelties practiced in the school yard except now we do it with weapons of economic deprivation or environmental degradation or mass destruction or at least erecting walls isolating us from “them others”.

This argument is played out exceeding well in chapters 10 & 11 of the Book of Acts where Peter is castigated by his fellow early disciples for having the audacity to go to Gentiles with the Good News. His response is one that guides much of my current understanding on a faith filled life: “who was I that I could hinder God?” (Acts 11:17)

There’s a basic human failing which is to attempt to be God or direct God or limit who God can love.

Who am I to think that I can limit God? Yeah, that’s a really tough question which if we are honest enough to raise it then it should knock us back to reality when we get tempted to be supreme over others or any of God’s good creation.

In full confession, I’m hopelessly Christian but for me that simply and totally means being a follower of Jesus not human dogma and creeds. So as to the common assertion that God is limited to reaching humans with the message to live a life rooted in love only through Christianity, who are we to hinder God?

So, returning to our opening verse of John 14:6. I find it helpful to my life faith journey to re-phrase it this way:

Jesus came to show me the truth about the way I am to live.

The way is first and forevermore rooted in the practice of sacrificial compassionate love seeking justice for all of God’s Good Creation.

As to boundaries and barriers? On my better days, I know that God would say tear them down.

Walls and barriers are of human origin

Tearing down boundaries, barriers and walls

Exploring critical challenges to our presumptions on life

Recently a friend sent me a message asking for my comments regarding an article that made the radical assertion that Jesus isn’t the only way to heaven.

Instead of simply forming a singular response to my friend, I think this subject is worthy of pondering and sharing widely. It’s worth pondering if for no other reason than this claim of “Jesus is the only way” is the fundamental assertion of Christian supremacy for hundreds of millions of people.

Believe in Jesus? Yes? Then OK you get to go to heaven. No? Well then hellfire and brimstone for you my dear friend. Sorry about that eternal suffering stuff but what are you going to do since the good book clearly says so.

Or does it?

The assumption that Jesus is the only way to heaven arises primarily from a singular verse in the Gospel of John which proclaims: “Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6).

If you have spent anytime exploring other religions, then you probably know that Christianity isn’t alone in this bold interpretation of its sacred scriptures that they have the only true path to God.

Yep, pert near every expression of faith has followers that can point to a verse in their sacred scriptures asserting that they alone have the one true way to God.

Again, the most generous of those holding this position will be sorry that you going burn in hell, but hey what can you do? After all its right there in the BOOK!

But how does that assertion’s claim resonate with the understanding that God is love? I just don’t see it.

In my advanced years after lots and lots of theological wrestling with concepts, creeds and traditions, I’ve come to the conclusion that this practice of drawing barriers & boundaries around the access to God is pretty much like drawing barriers and boundaries on the Globe. Yeah, I’ve concluded it’s a human trait to draw barriers & boundaries not a Godly trait.

The poet that wrote the book of Genesis made a very bold assertion very early on in this amazing book that attempts to convey how Creation came to be: “God saw everything that he had made, and indeed, it was very good” (Genesis 1:31). Now that verse resonates for me with the concept that God is love.

So, if everything and everyone of God’s creatures (yes including you & I and even those that don’t remotely resemble you & I) is deemed by God to be “Very Good” then where do we get the warped idea that we can create boundaries and barriers when God has not? On what basis do we get to judge and exclude others from God?

This concept of desiring to exclude others from being a member of God’s Good Creation is an ancient sin. I’m confident that archeologists can point to cave drawings which convey this very same concept: I’m on the inside and you are on the outside so just go ahead and die. It’s like we never outgrew the childhood cruelties practiced in the school yard except now we do it with weapons of economic deprivation or environmental degradation or mass destruction or at least erecting walls isolating us from “them others”.

This argument is played out exceeding well in chapters 10 & 11 of the Book of Acts where Peter is castigated by his fellow early disciples for having the audacity to go to Gentiles with the Good News. His response is one that guides much of my current understanding on a faith filled life: “who was I that I could hinder God?” (Acts 11:17)

There’s a basic human failing which is to attempt to be God or direct God or limit who God can love.

Who am I to think that I can limit God? Yeah, that’s a really tough question which if we are honest enough to raise it then it should knock us back to reality when we get tempted to be supreme over others or any of God’s good creation.

In full confession, I’m hopelessly Christian but for me that simply and totally means being a follower of Jesus not human dogma and creeds. So as to the common assertion that God is limited to reaching humans with the message to live a life rooted in love only through Christianity, who are we to hinder God?

So, returning to our opening verse of John 14:6. I find it helpful to my life faith journey to re-phrase it this way:

Jesus came to show me the truth about the way I am to live.

The way is first and forevermore rooted in the practice of sacrificial compassionate love seeking justice for all of God’s Good Creation.

As to boundaries and barriers? On my better days, I know that God would say tear them down.

Walls and barriers are of human origin

New Year Resolutions

Telling It Forward – A Progressive Faith Journey

New Year’s Resolutions

So, it’s that time of the year yet again.

Yep, time to resolve to do better in the coming year. Well at least to begin the New Year with the intent of doing better in some way, shape or manner.

But like usual, we’ve procrastinated and so we are “under the gun” and need to come up with an appropriate life changing resolution in the next 72 hours or so. You can almost hear the classic “Jeopardy” countdown theme playing in the background. Oh, the tension builds! What to do, what to do?!

Perhaps a bit of Gospel wisdom for a time such as this?

“Strive to enter through the narrow door; for many, I tell you, will try to enter and will not be able.” (Luke 13:24)

Strive…hmmm. The core truth of New Year’s resolutions may well be in the striving to be better.

But better at what?

Back to the Gospel:

“to love one’s neighbor as oneself,’—this is much more important than all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices.” When Jesus saw that he answered wisely, he said to him, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.” (Mark 12:35)

Resolve to be better at loving others with compassion and justice at its core.

2019 really-really needs resolutions such as this.

But then you knew this truth already, didn’t you?

Using Scripture to promote evil? Oh human what have you wrought?

And the Word became flesh -Using scripture to promote evil, oh humankind what have you wrought?Terry in robe I have been truly ineffectual, as of late. Well ineffectual at least in the realm of my ministry as a public theologian tasked with awakening people to hear God’s call to turn away from our current destructive paths in order to live another way. Due to changing family dynamics, I’ve been deeply engaged in a grandparenting on an active daily basis, but truth be told I still have time in my weekly schedule for ministry. In full confession, I’ve been woefully neglectful of my ministry to you because quite simply I don’t yet understand how to be an effective communicator of truth in this dystopian “Age of Trump”. Trump lies nearly 10 times a day. His followers are being quoted as knowing this but despite the lies or perhaps because of his unorthodox behavior, somehow still trust him. Recently individuals who claim to follow him have performed acts of great evil and in response to the evil perpetuated in his name, his inflammatory rhetoric has only escalated. In turn, the rhetoric of his monetary sponsors has also escalated. One might say its because they are afraid that our society is finally awakening to their particular form of evil and they fear the results of this election going against them. I pray that it might be so. This past week, his monetary sponsors have published racist advertisements and to prove there are truly no boundaries to this obscene movement, took out billboard advertisements which essentially proclaim that Trump is the Messiah by employing the words from the beginning of John’s Gospel “And The Word Became Flesh”. This is nothing new, as in the troubled history of humankind, Evil has often misused the Christian Holy Scripture to promote or even to sanctify evil acts. This of course has also been done with the Holy Scriptures of every other world religion. Scriptures misused to promote every kind of evil act. This type of Evil movement only stops when we stop it. In human history, good and faithful have opposed Evil at the cost of their lives. Today, we can do it at the ballot box. I hope you do it. I know for some, it will be a far greater hardship than it was for me. For some, your registration will be challenged, I hope you persist. For some, your voting place has been moved, I hope you persist. For some, your voting place has restrictions which will make it physically challenging for you, I hope you persist. For some, perhaps like me, you will need to throw off the deep despair you currently suffer in order to act, I hope you persist. But act we must. For you see to oppose this modern evil human empire and all evil human enterprises throughout history is exactly why the word became flesh as John so eloquently expressed it the opening 14 verses of his gospel. Vote and then spend some time with this Gospel passage today and again on the tomorrows yet to be. May they help guide our life paths to be centered in compassionate justice for all God’s good Creation. In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it. There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. He came as a witness to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him. He himself was not the light, but he came to testify to the light. The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world. He was in the world, and the world came into being through him; yet the world did not know him. He came to what was his own, and his own people did not accept him. But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God, who were born, not of blood or of the will of the flesh or of the will of man, but of God.    And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth (John 1:1-14)