Sunday, May 8, 2016

Milepost 100 comments

If you arrived here via the page on sermon help, and want to leave a comment, please feel free. Depending on demand, I'll open additional threads. Use the "Lectionary" keyword on the right side to find related posts.

Sunday, May 1, 2016

God's Not Dead 2

This movie finally came around to my little town. Not much left to be said about that hasn't been said, but I'll try.

Two key scenes destroy the premise of the movie. One, the victim, the school teacher (who said something about Jesus in answer to a question while they were studying King and Ghandi, IN HISTORY CLASS) and her lawyer, classic public defender guy, realizes that the defense they need is that Jesus is a historical figure. Two, is the big dramatic close the lawyer does where he pretends to turn on his client, the school teacher, and says, “let's convict her”, but points out that would take anyone's right to talk about religion in any way. He's right of course, which is why the scenario in the movie would never happen. Those precedents are already set.

But this movie wants there to be victims. If this were a documentary, it would get to the point where the school disciplined the teacher. A group like the ACLU or FFRF would find out about it. They would write a letter to that school board telling them she was perfectly within her rights. If the school board was smart, as has actually happened in the real world, they would realize their mistake, and the teacher would be back to work. 

But this movie wants to see hate. It shows a group of angry protestors, yelling at a bunch of young Christians with signs saying “God's Not Dead”. The signs of the yellers are obscured, and their words are not heard at all, just their angry faces, shouting something. The kids hold hands against this mob. How about a movie where all of those people calm the fuck down and just talk and hold hands with each other.

One other scene I'll mention, a less central one. The cool pastor from the first movie meets up with the kid from Japan who is looking into Christianity, but has a lot of questions. He asks about the Sermon on the Mount. He explains how it seems impossible to reconcile it and to apply those principles in his life and live them every day. The pastor takes a deep breath, says, “okay”, and sits down with him. The scene ends. After catching up with other characters, we return to the cool pastor who is now at the end of his day, tired, and his cool pastor friend comes by to ask him how he is. He explains how he spent the day explaining the Bible to this kid.

This is how Christianity works. We hear a story about someone having questions, then someone talked to them, then they become Christian. But we never get to hear the part where Christianity is explained. You have to do that work on your own. And it didn't work for me. It doesn't work for a lot of people. It doesn't work for about 80% of the world. Any time I've asked questions that are too hard, I have been referred to some other answerer. You eventually get to the top, Augustine, Aquinas, Van Til, Bolf, Bultmann. I can find short essays on any one of those that shows where they fail. But Christianity has that part about not questioning it, so most people don't go looking at all. Or, I can go to their own words, and I can hear the same impossible logic that the kid found in the Bible. That's where it always ends. It's time to move on from movies like this.

The movie shows the Japanese kid's father disowning him because of his new belief in Christianity. It uses language about how he would “forsake everything” for this new god he has found. Some Christian love that. And that's what I don't get. If you can't explain it, if you have make up characters that aren't real and say things about American law that aren't real to make your point, is it something worth leaving your family for? When they say “forsake everything”, that includes their own ability to reason, to question, to engage others in dialog. Why trap yourself in that? How about a trap where you commit to always leaving open the possibility that you are wrong? How about trapping yourself into a world where, no matter what, no matter how crazy someone sounds, you'll listen to them? In a world like that, you forsake nothing and keep everything.  

Friday, April 29, 2016

Republican Constitution

So, I've done this thing with a couple people where I agree to read whatever stupid book they are pushing on me, but only if they agree to a book I suggest. And they have to actually show me they read it and tried to understand it, refute it if they want, but refer to the content of the book. I only did it with a few people, and none of them took me up on it. Which is what I really wanted anyway. Then, someone whodidn't know I was doing this, made the offer to me. If I read “Our Republican Constitution: Securing the Liberty and Sovereignty of We the People” then I get to pick a book. I haven't picked one yet. It's pretty dismal so far, I'm considering Dostoevsky.

So, here's a layman's analysis of a constitutional lawyer:

Although I agree that the country is currently divided over this idea of what the Constitution is, with some putting rights first and others putting government powers first, the arguments as laid out so far are poorly arranged. I'm not that far in, so maybe it gets better. Making it more difficult is that I'm seeing shades of arguments from the days when “Obamacare” was being argued in the Supreme Court. I can now see where my family members got their ideas. That's one of the worst things about a book like this. It's cherry picking history to begin with, then it lends itself to further cherry picking by people who read it, or read reviews of it or hear a headline on talk radio about it.

A sign of a good argument is that even someone who is not well versed in the details can grasp it and repeat it and have enough understanding to drill down into those details. It the argument flows logically, it is easy to remember. If the premises and facts relate to real things in the real world, you can track them down and easily find the points and counterpoints, the subtleties.

The author, Barnett, sets up a straw man argument early. After telling us a story about how he argued with people through his blog, which okay, he's a fancy lawyer, so it's a widely read blog, he starts in on defining this dichotomy of a Democratic Constitution vs a Republican Constitution. He repeats a few times that labels are limiting and he understands that not everyone can neatly fit into one or the other category, but then he goes back to those two categories as if they are truly separate. He says, "Under a Democratic Constitution, the only individual rights that are legally enforceable are a product of majoritarian will..." and "So, ... first comes government and come rights." I don't know anyone who thinks that way, and I didn't catch any specific examples, but he says it is “pervasive”.

He fails to point out during this part of the analysis that the Constitution includes the Supreme Court and a Bill of Rights. A right can't be changed by a simple majority. Barnett doesn't mention that. A law can be considered unconstitutional by 9 un-elected officials. Barnett keeps harping on the SCOTUS decision to support Obamacare. Anyone who has this view he describes as the Democratic Constitution is clearly wrong. He seems to be settingup for an attempt to create some view of the Constitution where the SCOTUS does what libertarians want, but not what liberals want.

He smuggles in his anti-Democratic bias in paragraphs like this:

The chickens of the conservative commitment to judicial restraint had thus come home to roost. Ironically, conservatives had inherited their commitment to judicial restraint from the progressive supporters of the New Deal, who had opposed the Supreme Court holding Congress to its enumerated power. Just as judicial restraint was invoked by progressive justices to expand the scope of the federal government by Roosevelt appointees, now a conservative chief justice invoked judicial restraint to uphold a federal takeover of the health care system.”

If you didn't notice the weaknesses in the case he had just made in the preceding pages for this “takeover”, you'd think he just made the case that the Supreme Court was not doing its job of “holding Congress to its enumerated power.” He hasn't made the case for what those powers are either, so this is premature anyway. But, that explanation is coming soon, so let's give him some benefit of the doubt.

I've skipped the parts where he provides his definition of “Democratic Constitution”. I'll just point out that there is a case to be made that important founding fathers, Madison in particular, made good arguments for restricting the will of the majority. A simply democracy, where a 51% majority can make any law has many pitfalls. Barnett lays this out well. He also uses Edmund Randolph the first attorney general, if you'd like to look up more on that.

Then he turns to his side, and says this will be what the book makes a case for, a “Republican Constitution.”

An important factor for the Republican Constitution is “popular sovereignty”. Barnett introduces this as something ultimately resting with God, according to our founders, and stemming from the divine right of monarchs. But we rejected monarchs, the people were to become the sovereigns. Sounds nice, but poses a few problems. When he starts to talk about the Republican Constitution he starts saying things like the small subset of people in government are servants of the people. Flowery language that every politician on either side of the aisle uses, but we didn't hear that when he was describing the Democratic Constitution.

I should mention, a little later, he says we have a different view of “God” now, but he doesn't do a very good job of describing how that should affect our view of these principles.

He goes to say the Republican Constitution is there to limit the powers of the government. A feature of any Constitution, but he claims it only for his side. He returns to “sovereignty” and claims a list of powers that come with it that we don't actually have, like jurisdiction over your private property, and our right to use force just like a monarch. This is starting to get a little scary. He ends with a statement about the judicial branches job to restrict Congress from restricting this “just powers”.

So, after a bit of priming you with these ideas that we aren't a democracy and some one-sided quote mining of the founding fathers, not mention some plain old name calling, he goes back to the Revolutionary war to start his case. The Declaration of Independence is what we celebrate as the birth of the nation, and it pretty clearly lays out a “first come rights then comes government” framework. It was written during war and was an act of treason against England. It also justified that revolution on the basis of criminal behavior by that government. This justification gets back to the “popular sovereignty” and how that rests upon the “Laws of Nature”.

To help clarify this, he turns to a sermon by Reverend Elizur Goodrich at the Congregational Church of Durham, Connecticut. Having ministers give such speeches was more common then, but that doesn't mitigate the fact that the speech is not of much use to us today. We know a lot more about what constitutes “moral” and do not need a minister telling us it is the Protestant version of God. Barnett spends several pages talking about the idea of “fixed” laws, but provides nothing to support the idea that our founders had correctly discerned that their sense of morals was fixed or what it was fixed by. Language was used to allow slavery to continue for example. Eventually that same language was used against the South, but that was a long time later.

That's part 1. I'll read on and maybe have to amend what I'm saying hear. We'll see. 


Part 2. The majority caused slavery. 

Barnett spends quite a bit of time in the middle showing how the “Republican” Constitution helped to end slavery. He makes no mention of abolition beginning in England or any or the European contributions to the philosophy of freedom or the science of showing Africans are just as human as the rest of us. He speaks solely to the maneuvering by American politicians. He can't avoid, but does not point out the significance of the 13th and 14th amendments being ratified by a United States that had no Southern members of Congress, because they had seceded. His theme is that the Republican viewpoint led to freedom of the slaves.

Barnett completely loses all of my respect when he finishes that bit of rewriting of history, then paints the progress movement that followed with a broad brush. He titles this section “The Progressive Attack on the Republican Constitution.” He says the “Democrats in the South got busy reestablishing their old order of racial subordination”, as if it was their values of majority rule that prompted that. Then lists a litany of changes made, such as “direct election of senators”, “struck at the excessive power of corporate wealth by regulating railroads”, “restricting lobbying, limiting monopoly”, “child labor laws, minimum wage” and several more. No mention that this was the time of “robber barrons”, when people with power in the railroads were literally committing murder and getting away with it. And no mention of what is wrong with not letting people make children work 12 hour days in factories.

He continues, “While progressivism is today remembered for its advocacy of economic legislation, it also favored the use of legal coercion to achieve other types of social improvements. Most modern “moral” laws aimed at sex, intoxicants, and gambling trace, not to the founding, but to the Progressive Era. These “vice” laws—going so far as to ban masturbation—were often advocated as “public health” measures and justified by what today would be considered pseudoscience. Likewise, policies of eugenics were also supposedly based on settled science. Of course, central to the northern progressive cause was the promotion of labor unions, which in those days were almost exclusively composed of whites and males. Blacks were left to form their own. And as we shall see, progressives supported laws that benefited white male workers by “protecting” women in the labor force on the basis of their inherent weakness.”

I include this last bit of hogwash because it shows that law making by Democrats or Republicans or conservatives or progressives, or whatever label you want to use, has nothing to do with the label. Moral laws promoted by pseudoscience are the stuff of conservatives today. Conservatives who would say they are upholding “natural laws”. That Barnett has found founding fathers and Supreme Court Justices who have claimed their agenda du jour is supported by some principle that is rooted in some universal sense of “right” is shown here to mean nothing. It was nothing more than rhetoric then and it is nothing more than rhetoric from him now. The way he sneaks in the racist and misogynist accusations is beneath a scholar.

His off hand use of the term “settled science” uncovers a bias that puts him in the category of internet crank. There is no such thing as “settled science”. A principle of science is that after you gather data, make a conclusion, and refine a theory, you immediately question everything you just did and start on the next experiment. Science is never settled. Lay people might think it is, or the politicians they elect might think or say it is, but if a scientist says it is, they aren't a very good scientist. In science, the best you can achieve is “well established theory”.

I'm just a little beyond the half way point, but I don't see a recovery from this as remote possibility. I can't imagine he will elaborate on that charge of “legal coercion”, since he didn't label it that when he talked about the politicking done by Lincoln to free the slaves. I suspect he will continue to use hot button issues like those darn unions and blame them on those darn Democrats.  

Part 3 *****************************************

I've pretty much given up on this. He is repeating "progressive agenda" like a mantra. He still has not defined right and wrong. He applies his analysis one way when talking about conservatives and another way when talking about liberals. He defended a couple in California because they were growing marijuana for personal medicinal use, according to State law, but it was illegal by Federal law. I'm sure he's sincere about that. But only ever barely mentions the actual "natural laws" that progressives defend, using political maneuvering and legal trickery just like conservatives do. He barely mentions sweatshops or worker safety and the specific wrongs that they are, but spends a great deal of time on the legal details of how in general the New Deal laws came to be. 

Here he goes after Obama for taking executive action.

"Very recently he issued sweeping executive orders to do even more to implement immigration policies he formerly had conceded required congressional action. President Obama negotiated an important and highly controversial agreement with a foreign power that he refused to submit to the Senate for its advice and consent, but is implementing unilaterally. 

These actions by the president constitute an end run around our Republican Constitution’s separation of legislative and executive power. Although it may be fictitious to claim that Congress represents the “will of the people,” the fact that Congress is elected does provide a potentially important check on the abuse of government power by the president. The electorate cannot remove a president from office until his or her term expires."

No argument, he did an end run. Barnett doesn't mention the years of debate that preceded that end run. And he completely avoids the discussion he began the book with about natural laws. What natural law prohibits people from walking from an area on a map we call "Mexico" to one we call "Texas" to go to work? I can go to Mexico and work or play if I want, with relative impunity. What class of person am I, according to nature, that I can do that and others can't? Barnett just drills you with these examples, pointing out the Constitutional rule a progressive broke, while ignoring they were defending human rights. Worse, he ignores his own earlier analysis of how defenders of the Republican Constitution did the same.

He even ignores how we vote in the above quote. He says "the electorate cannot remove a president". In the next sentence, not shown, he says we can remove members congress during a President's term. I don't see much point in even engaging someone this irrational.

Monday, April 25, 2016

New Jim Crow

This week on On Being, the guest is Professor MichelleAlexander. One of the authors of the book, “The New Jim Crow”. I may have mentioned it. It was recommended to me by a lawyer in the justice department in the County where I worked. Then, this year, I bumped into someone I hadn’t seen in years and she handed it to me. It is an amazing story, that I’ve been witnessing for 30 years, but never really understood.

I’ve been hearing about a “drug problem in the inner city”, “The War on Drugs”, “Racial Profiling”, “Deadbeat Dads”, over policing and over arming the police, and a massive rise in imprisonment.  This breakthrough work puts all of that together into a coherent narrative that touches all of us. The interview starts out pointing out that there is no connection between incarceration rates and crime rates. Putting more people in jail doesn’t reduce crime and we don’t need more prisons because of an increase in crime. Crime has been under control for decades. Who we arrest and who we imprison and who gets their rights reduced is more political than logical.

The On Being website is award winning, I don’t need to add a lot to this conversation. You can hear the produced show, or read it, and you can get the unedited version. They usually add extras too. I’d rather let Michelle’s words stand on their own.

PROF. ALEXANDER: Vincent Harding was such an important figure in my life. He passed too soon. But I think what’s he pointing at there is kind of what I was trying to get at before, which is that this whole idea of every person mattering, this is a radical, revolutionary project that we’re embarking upon.

PROF. ALEXANDER: I think the first step is saying I’m willing to be awake, that I’m not going to tell myself the same old stories. I am willing to wake up to our current racial reality, our current political and economic realities. I’m willing to wake up, and I’m also willing to acknowledge my own complicity in the systems. 

She includes her own story. She didn’t grow up believing people in her community were being treated unfairly and then became a lawyer as some sort of vendetta against that corrupt system. She grew up seeing progress. She was a young lawyer when Obama won the Presidency for the first time. As she walked home from that celebration, she saw a different young black man face down in the gutter with his hands cuffed behind his back. She later talks of how, if Obama had grown up in the same neighborhood as that kid, our now President could be someone who didn’t have the right to vote due to a felony conviction.

She also had a great story about speaking at churches:

PROF. ALEXANDER: I really believe that this notion of us-versus-them, drawing lines and labeling one another all turns on this notion that we can define who the bad guys are, and rest assured that they’re not us. I believe if we’re going to achieve the shift in consciousness that is necessary, we are going to have to be able to say, and mean, we’re all criminals. We have to acknowledge that all of us have done wrong in our lives. That criminals are not them, over there. They’re us. They’re all of us. All of us have done wrong.
All of us have broken the law at some point in our lives. I often say, even if you haven’t experimented with drugs, even if you didn’t drink underage, if the worst thing you’ve done in your life is speed ten miles over the speed limit on the freeway, well, you’ve put yourself and others at more risk of harm than someone smoking marijuana in the privacy of their living room. But who do we shame and who do we blame? I’ve spoken in churches and I’ll say to a large congregation, “We’re all sinners.” And everyone will nod their head, oh, yes, we’re all sinners. And then I’ll say, “And we’re all criminals.” And everyone just stares at me kind of bug eyed, like, what? You’re calling me a criminal?
And it was interesting. A young man came up to me after I spoke in one church and he said, “Isn’t it interesting how eager we are all to admit that we violated God’s law, but how reluctant we are to admit that we’ve violated man’s law?” And I think that there is a way in which we kind of give lip service to this idea that we’re all sinners, or we all make mistakes. But we have a difficult time acknowledging, oh, we’re all criminals. Those people that have been shamed and blamed and stigmatized, actually, we are on so many levels not really better than them. We may be luckier than them.
Her ideas are not new. The ways we marginalize are not new. They have just been applied in new ways.

PROF. ALEXANDER: Yeah, it’s funny, because I just recently read a quote by James Baldwin, and I wish I had it memorized perfectly. I don’t. But it had something to do with — along the lines of, “You think that I need to be forgiven, but it’s you who must be forgiven.”
Krista Tippett doesn’t need to work too hard in this interview. Michelle does not need to be drawn out or have her thoughts disentangled. But Krista is a master of what she does, as in these question:

MS. TIPPETT:How do you think this shapes — I want to say this calling of yours, this knowledge, but also this calling — how do you think it shapes your presence in minute ways, in the course of your days? What do you see that you didn’t see before? How do you move through the world differently? I realize that’s a huge question, so maybe just talk about yesterday or today.

PROF. ALEXANDER: Yeah. I don’t know. I talk a little a bit at the beginning of the book that once my own eyes were opened, there was no way I could unsee. There was no way that I could be blind anymore to what I had been in denial about for so long. And I think on many levels there are days when I think, oh, life might have been easier if I’d never woken up. And I think that’s one of the reasons why many of us stay asleep, because we sense that if we really woke up to the full reality and opened ourselves to seeing and witnessing and being present for the unnecessary suffering that exists, and that we’re complicit with, that our life won’t be as easy. More might be required of us, and we’re having a hard enough time making it through the day as it is.

But I have to say that waking up and seeing things as they are has also led me to just the most rewarding relationships and work that I could imagine. And I’m grateful to be awake and consciously committed to trying to birth a new America, and no longer lost in this fantasy, this American dream world that if you just get the two-car garage and keep plodding along this path, that somehow we’re going to make it to where we all want to go. So I have to say that I’m grateful. The relationships that I now have, and the work that I’m now involved in is much more rich and meaningful than the path that I had been on before.

MS. TIPPETT: And how do you think all of this has shaped, evolved your sense of what it means to be human?

PROF. ALEXANDER: I’ve been thinking a lot lately about this notion of “revolutionary love” and what that means. And it’s something that I spoke with Vincent Harding quite a bit about. And I think for me what it means to be fully human is to open ourselves to fully loving one another in an unsentimental way. I’m not talking about the romantic love, or the idealized version of love, but that the simple act of caring for one another, and being aware of our connectedness as human beings, and also the reality of our suffering, and the reality that we make a lot of mistakes, and we struggle and we fail.

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Milepost 100 is up and running

If you have any comments on the sermon helper at Milepost 100, feel free to leave them here. I'm online often.

I had planned to start the site on June 12, but writing has been going well and web development turned out pretty good. Then I started working back to get closer to the current date and I wrote the May 22nd entry. It seemed like a good place to start, both in where it comes in the liturgy and the opportunity to talk about where this journey began for me.

If you don't like that one, please read a couple more. I tried to mix my commentary so almost anyone will find something that appeals to them if they read more than one or two entries.

I have some "rules of engagement" from earlier blog posts, but I'm going to hold off linking to those just yet. See how it goes.

Wednesday, March 30, 2016


I'm still plugging away on the lectionary. Here's some samples from the dozen or so I have not yet published:

Proper 16

I think the 21st century speaker can repeat these themes of community building without the language of worship or “delighting in the Lord” or stopping to explain who the ancestor Jacob is. Our rituals can involve more direct symbolism of where our attentions should turn. Whether those attentions turn on a certain day at a certain time, is not always that important. And there doesn't need to be lot of promises about springs of water or our needs being satisfied. It doesn't hurt to talk about how investing in your community has a tangible return, but the work itself should be its own reward. You may not see a direct payoff to serving up a free meal, but someone in that line will undoubtedly go on to contribute in a way that benefits others. That's how it's supposed to work.

The book of Jeremiah may have actually been written by Jeremiah, a prophet in the time of King Josiah. As we get further along in the Bible we know more about the people discussed. Jeremiah probably also wrote Deuteronomy. This "second law" of Deuteronomy was intended to fix the problems of Israel being exiled by the Babylonians. Here he's proclaiming his authority by saying God literally put words in his mouth. And he gets to destroy and overthrow. This is why we have secular governments and democracy now.

  Proper 14, on the Hosea text 

For Old Testament help, I frequently turn to John C. Holbert. This week, he lays it out pretty clearly. After discussing the odd behaviors of other prophets, he says, “…, but the use of a woman of the evening for an object lesson is quite something else. For those of us who are feminists—and I hope all you readers consider yourselves feminists, too—it is deeply offensive to use a woman as a metaphor for human idolatry. Such literary effects do nothing but demean women and hold men up for the crude and misogynist beasts that they too often are.”


Rather than try to understand the mind of a 1st century Palestinian who couldn't have heard of the word “science” since it hadn't been invented yet, I'll just make an observation. While Protestants and Catholics were killing each other for the right to worship differently, while thousands of new denominations were being created because new information about the Bible was coming to light and as people began to understand how the brain worked and that mental illness was not demon possession, we were also discovering that we are a small planet on the edge of a vast galaxy with galactic neighbors and all that took billions of years to come into being. We are gaining this knowledge so fast, the language is not keeping up. We are going to have to come up with a new word for “universe”. It's supposed to mean all that exists, but we are finding there is something before time and outside the boundaries of everything we know.

Proper 11

Amos then tells us what the punishment is going to be. Besides the terrible acts of nature, God will stop speaking to us. If we continue to act this way, this is what will be passed on to our children. If we teach them to be profitable business owners and managers, but don't teach them that the economy is built by people doing work then earning wages then buying the goods from those very businesses, then those businesses will fail. The lessons of how to create a prosperous country through a healthy working class will be lost. The ideas of educating your populous and providing a healthy environment will be ridiculed. This is what was happening when the Kingdom of Israel was crumbling. It has happened throughout history.

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Palm Sunday, 2019

This one won't come around for three years, but I really wanted to get it out there. At best, I'm an Easter and Christmas Christian, so I went to church today. It was also a chance to catch up with a couple old friends.

Link to this week's text
Explanation of this series

Isaiah 50:4-9a, Luke 19:28-40
Palm Sunday, Last Sunday of Lent

The most important influence in my theological life has been Roger Lynn. I heard his Easter message in 1993 and it turned my head around on the meaning of the New Testament. In a way, that sermon was just doing what Paul did. He turned the cross, a symbol of torture and oppression, into a symbol of love and forgiveness and community. Roger also brought that message into the modern world and breathed new life into it. In 2016, I visited him in a small church where he is semi-retired and his message was just as powerful. He used the Luke passage from the liturgy of the Palms, and the Isaiah and Philipians passages from the liturgy of the passion.

He started by pointing out something that is easy to do, to see these stories as our memories of the stories handed down to us from Sunday School or TV specials. In those, Palm Sunday is a big parade and celebration and everyone is singing “Hosanna in the highest” as the King arrives. But we read the words in the Bible and it doesn't sound so ostentatious.

This story has palm fronds, and as far as I know, the history of why they were used is sketchy. It also has a donkey, not a great stallion. This symbolizes the opposite of self-aggrandizement. Instead of setting up shop and having others bring people to see his miracles, Jesus sends his disciples out to heal. He's saying we just need to open ourselves up to what we all already know. We don't need a big stick to prove we are powerful.

If we look into the historical context, we know that the people who would have been part of the community that is depicted in this story would have been people with no opportunities, no security about where their next meal was coming from. The people who owned the vineyards were not providing jobs, they were using the banking systems to confiscate more land from those who could barely make it to selling the next bushel. The people in this story are not middle class folks going to an Easter parade, they are protesters, staging a demonstration.

The other thing the TV shows depict is a world where no one has thought of these ideas of working together to build a just and peaceful world. However, in the Isaiah passage for today, we hear about turning the other cheek. The message of the New Testament is not unique in history. This is why it says if people were silenced, the stones themselves would talk. The message is that this is the nature of things.

Roger and I parted company a bit at this point. He differentiated people from stones and eventually led to the conclusion that we “need more Jesus”. That may not mean anything to you, but remember we are looking in to what it means to have stones sing Hosanna. If that can have meaning, then “more Jesus” can too.

We came from minerals and we return to dust, but that is not an end. We are not just our component parts. We are born of love and survive because we are loved. We endure the pain of child birth and the risk of raising children because we don't see ourselves as simply existing. We know there were many who came before us who made this a better place and we want to build on that foundation.

We want this even if we see the reality of pain all around us and see more people bent on destruction than working on creation. Even the feeling of loneliness tells us that we desire others, and from that feeling we infer that others desire us. If all of the beautiful poetry and music that speaks of friendship and togetherness were destroyed, we would still know this. If we were prisoners being beaten to work all day and barely given enough to eat or time to rest, we would still know this. We know that people who have endured such suffering did not give up hope. Some did, but not all.

Children do not intuitively know to hate people with different color skin or different abilities or different clothes or according to how much stuff they own. That has to be taught. Love on the other hand, comes completely naturally.

If you only look at the biology and theories of how we evolved into animals that have the ability to reflect on the past and consider the future, you miss part of the story, whether it is this Biblical story or the story from science. Even if you accept the theory that we are completely lacking free-will, that everything we do is a product of some chemical reaction, that does not lead to the conclusion that you should stop thinking and stop planning. Those chemical reactions are giving you the desires that call you to a brighter future. If you once thought there was some bearded man in the sky out there doing the calling, but now you think not, that doesn't change that the call is still coming in.

If you are someone who looks at all the facts, calculates the risks, and determines it is unlikely you will succeed, but then goes ahead and does it anyway, you have an evolutionary advantage over the one who is stopped by those calculations. Some people call overcoming the odds a miracle. If you understand probability, it's just overcoming the odds, but I kinda like giving it that another name.

According to probabilities, you don't really overcome the odds, it's just that some people make it and some don't. But if we knew exactly why some do and some don't, we wouldn't need probabilities, we would have certainty. Certainty is a good thing to have when you are thinking about jumping off from a high place. When you are a poor person speaking up against a powerful empire, expecting to be heard, we call that crazy, but fortunately, a few keep doing it. If you are living in a free society, where you can speak your mind with minimal consequences, it is because someone did that.

Philippians 2:5-11

In the Philipians passage, Roger said there is a feeling of it being a hymn, and it might have been, but was then incorporated into this letter. He said the Greeks had a sense of words forming from the essence of what was being said like the bouillon of a soup. I'll leave it up to you to look into that.

The feeling of it is included in the above. It draws on the symbolism we all know. That symbolism draws on Old Testament ideas of the messiah and from classic mythologies of dying and rising gods. I think this passage differentiates itself from those simple “corn gods”, the ones who arrived in spring, helped the crops grow, then died in the fall as a symbol of decay to be later reborn again. This is a son of a god that does not exploit his equality with his father god. A humble god who wants the poor to be fed and women to be recognized, who wants to see an end to war.

By the end of the passage, we've switched to him being exalted and bending our knees and confessing his glory, but I wonder how well that translation has held up. I wonder if we have lost the sense of the bouillon those words were simmered in. Certainly, in America, it seems we pay more heed to the one whose name is above every name and have forgotten that part about being a humble servant. People go to church to get to heaven, not to hear about the example set by the one who came from there. Well, some do, fortunately not all.