Obligatory New Year’s Resolution Sermons

obligatory-new-years-resolution-sermons

In fundieland, new years’ resolution sermons are as predictable as a new calendar itself. But in some cases, calendar reading will be more inspiring.

Since IFBs follow no acknowledged liturgy, and since next Lord’s Day is also New Years’ Day, in addition to prayers that Emperor-elect Caligula will make Babylon great again, I expect more than a few IFB New Years’ Resolutions sermons of varying quality will be heard. To my knowledge, there is no exegetical basis for linking calls to deeper commitment to God with the secular calendar. This doesn’t mean that IFBs won’t ‘find’ them.

No IFB pastor I know says that we can be perfect. But I’d guess that more than a few secretly believe we should be striving for it anyway. And as there is always room for progress, so there is always room for ‘guilt’ because we’re less than perfect. So you have a basis for a resolution! And if not for the new year — when? Can you think of a better time?

New years’ resolutions sermons needn’t name specific sins. Hearing the MoG say ‘YOU know…’ is enough to free the imagination to embrace all kinds of resolutions. And if you don’t adopt at least a few, you clearly lack any sense of resolve. So again, And you have a perfectly fine resolution!

A standard Pauline list of vices also gives plenty of material to coax or direct the law/guilt ridden member. And with youths just entering puberty, there is always:

How can a young man keep his way pure? By keeping it according to Your word. With all my heart I have sought You; Do not let me wander from Your commandments. Your word I have treasured in my heart, That I may not sin against You’ [Ps 119:9-11].

YOU know…

Oh, and don’t leave out the women either. Some of them can be desperate sinners! Then there are the ghosts of failed New Years past resolutions. Thankfully, IFB pastors will never lack abundant issues about which to make the dirty feel dirtier and the guilty, guiltier.

Friday Challenge:

Since IFB pastors are so good at dishing out new years’ resolutions, they should have some fortitude to hear a few of their own. And since local IFB preachers are often inclined to ‘guide’ you to find the resolutions which must suit you, YOU get to design some resolutions for your fundie pastor.

This can concern professional issues such as how he uses his time, how he practices accountability in the congregation, how he serves God in calling, doing general pastoral work, calling on the sick and dying, ministering to the bereaved, relates to the community, etc. Or address his relationship to his wife and family and/or young women in the faith community.

Also fair game is how gracefully pastor accepts criticism, or whether he accepts criticism, how he responds if challenged on a point of theology or practice or politics. It can even be on how pastor represents Christ to the community, including how he addresses identity issues such as gender, race, origins or employment status.

This year, pastor should resolve …

Let him have it … er … have at it!

No Unapproved Good Samaritans

homelessmemorialday

To my shame, I missed it. Only yesterday did I learn of the Homeless Persons Memorial Day. And while I knew Houston regulated food sharing with homeless people, I was taken back to learn that some 70 other cities similarly ban unapproved acts of charity.

political-crime-in-actionA Christmas Eve article by Antimedia claims that Houston Police descended on homeless advocates and coerced homeless people to throw out ‘hot food, blankets and other supplies’ given to the homeless. One advocate claims that the police were good enough to provide a large, waste management truck to dispose of donated food stuffs and items.

Houston requires registration to distribute food to more than five people. Local government denies curtailing food distribution. Its website insists that ‘the city is trying to improve the quality, quantity and distribution of food for the homeless.’ The registration page provides further information and additional links.

The stated rationale may be good, but the National Coalition for the Homeless questions city motives.

‘Cities tend to claim that they are acting in concern for the well-being of its homeless residents. In most cases, they believe these restrictions will ensure that they are receiving safe food in an area where they can be connected with social services. These are fine ambitions, but so rarely the reality.’

‘Most often, there is an objection to having groups of homeless people congregate in public spaces, where the ‘quality of life’ of housed citizens may be affected. In major tourist destinations, especially, cities fear the impacts of visible homelessness on their economic viability. By criminalizing food-sharing in public spaces, they are able to push the homeless out of sight, much like similar efforts to criminalize panhandling and/or lying down in public places.’

Houston Ordinance No. 2012-269 gives the city power to do exactly that.

houstons-approved-samaritans

The City of Houston ordinance was strongly supported by District I rep. James Rodriguez.

“What this ordinance is trying to do is treat our homeless with dignity, to be able to be more efficient and to protect public property,” Rodriguez said. “We’re not saying you can’t feed them, but let’s just work together to help clean up the trash.”

It isn’t clear whether ‘trash’ references packaging containers or ‘them’ Rodriguez says ‘you can’t feed.’

For ten years, I attended a church with a very active pantry. And it hosted community meals. At those meals, I made it my job to greet and spend time with every guest. I heard stories. As necessary, I made referrals. I learned that even tracking where meals are offered is extremely taxing. And walking long distances between meals [often with children] takes a heavy toll. Energy must be allocated carefully between essential tasks.

For two thousand years, Christians have practiced Jesus’ example in Jesus’ name by feeding the poor hungry. As hunger increases and programs on which the needy rely dwindle, Jesus’ teaching matters all the more. Kate Randall provides essential perspective on the 500,000 homeless people in the United States. This matter requires more exposure.

This was taken about halfway up the block on the east side of Broadway, between 79th and 80th Street. It's at the north end of the "Filene's Basement" store on the corner, and it's a place where I've often seen homeless people holding up a sign that asks for assistance... With very rare exceptions, I haven't photographed these homeless people; it seems to me that they're in a very defensive situation, and I don't want to take advantage of their situation. But something unusual was happening here: the two women (who were actually cooperating, and acting in tandem, despite the rather negative demeanor of the woman on the left) were giving several parcels of food to the young homeless man on the right. I don't know if the women were bringing food from their own kitchen, or whether they had brought it from a nearby restaurant. But it was obviously a conscious, deliberate activity, and one they had thousght about for some time... What was particularly interesting was that they didn't dwell, didn't try to have a conversation with the young man;they gave him they food they had brought, and promptly walked away. As they left, I noticed the young man peering into his bag (the one you see on the ground beside him in this picture) to get a better sense of the delicious meal these two kind women had brought him... ********************** This is part of an evolving photo-project, which will probably continue throughout the summer of 2008, and perhaps beyond: a random collection of "interesting" people in a broad stretch of the Upper West Side of Manhattan -- between 72nd Street and 104th Street, especially along Broadway and Amsterdam Avenue. I don't like to intrude on people's privacy, so I normally use a telephoto lens in order to photograph them while they're still 50-100 feet away from me; but that means I have to continue focusing my attention on the people and activities half a block away, rather than on what's right in front of me. I've also learned that, in many cases, the opportunities for an interesting picture are very fleeting -- literally a matter of a couple of seconds, before the person(s) in question move on, turn away, or stop doing whatever was interesting. So I've learned to keep the camera switched on (which contradicts my traditional urge to conserve battery power), and not worry so much about zooming in for a perfectly-framed picture ... after all, once the digital image is uploaded to my computer, it's pretty trivial to crop out the parts unrelated to the main subject. For the most part, I've deliberately avoided photographing bums, drunks, drunks, and crazy people. There are a few of them around, and they would certainly create some dramatic pictures; but they generally don't want to be photographed, and I don't want to feel like I'm taking advantage of them. I'm still looking for opportunities to take some "sympathetic" pictures of such people, which might inspire others to reach out and help them. We'll see how it goes ... The only other thing I've noticed, thus far, is that while there are lots of interesting people to photograph, there are far, far, *far* more people who are *not* so interesting. They're probably fine people, and they might even be more interesting than the ones I've photographed ... but there was just nothing memorable about them.

Standardizing the Narrative of Violence

liberty-university-gun-range. There's no violence here, I can assure you.
Real Liberty students, real guns! What could be better?

So Liberty University will let students pack heat on campus. As ‘The Blaze’ reports:

“As Liberty built more residence halls, our residents were having to park further from their rooms,” David Corry, Liberty’s general counsel, told Yahoo, adding that students said they “would feel safer if they didn’t have to leave their weapons locked in their glove compartments when walking from their cars to the residence halls, especially at night.”

It makes perfect sense that fundie students should pack heat, especially if they feel less than safe in the dark. The Washington Post adds:

Falwell said that one of the reasons for the university’s aggressive posture on carrying firearms is so that the campus will be prepared in the event of an “active shooter” scenario.

Thinking This Through

A shot rings out and twenty people simultaneously draw a sidearm, how do you know who was the original shooter? Maybe the first shooter a good guy who meant to stop someone [s]he thought was a real mass shooter. It seems to me that the split-second outcome such situations depends on whatever heat-packing person in the vicinity is least stable.

However ‘safe’ this makes some feel, I’d not want my daughter or son there. Still, Falwell reports strong support for LU’s Second Amendment direction. If this seems weird, remember that this is Liberty University.

Colloquial Translations

Others have their thoughts on allowing guns on campus and in residents. this also. These may or may not reflect student attitudes:

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liberty-university-locked-and-loaded-shooting-range

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Liberty’s Counter-Kingdom Perspective

Mr. Falwell may see himself as an informed expert on Islamic terrorism and how to end it, but not everyone wants to return to the Wild West. And I for one certainly do not want overlaid on the Gospel the sick narratives shapong the direction of LU. Some of us fail to see how the weaponization of society in any way resembles the teachings of Amos and Micah. Some don’t even see how the elevation of Emperor-elect Caligula in any way enhances the Glory/Presence of Jesus Christ in the world.

All around us, weaponry/conflict/militarism/redemptive_violence are normalized and standardized as the central narrative of the life, heart and soul of American civil religion. This all looks much more like conformity to the Rev 13 beastly powers and principalities of this age, than it does the kingdom of God in Christ. I question the wisdom of Liberty’s decision as a means of keeping the campus community safe. And given the poverty that can be found in the region, this seems a poor use of money.

The Heart of It

But my real problem with the Liberty decision is that it offers no challenge to what I see as the rise of beastly powers, and no challenge to overlaying a very backward, reactionary and divisive social-economic political agenda on top of the Gospel message. This obscures the Glory of Christ. What I see is rank conformity to the powers of this age even as the beast/Christ brand is sold as faithful Christian practice under the banner of fundamentalism.

In the apocalypse of Jesus Christ, Saint John the Theologian places the Spirit’s Seal [which is baptism – Ep 1:13, 4:30] and the Mark of the Beast in parody. So it is one or the other. To concur with the existing earthly order of demonic powers bears that mark on the forehead. To labor for the existing earthly order of demonic powers bears that mark on the hand.

Separation that Isn’t Separation

From where I sit, what is often passed off as fundamental faithfulness means paying lip-service to evangelical christology while the incarnation negligibly shapes Christian faith or practice. This is not fidelity to Christ; it is a Gnosticized and therefore blasphemous [per]version of it.

Liberty and the broader culture of which it is a part are tied far too closely to the principalities and powers of this age to make a credible profession of faithfulness to the Gospel of Jesus Christ however their ‘orthodox’ their paraded christology and soteriology otherwise claim to be.

An Un-Fundamentalist Christmas Reading

magnificat

And Mary said: “My soul exalts the Lord,
And my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior.
“For He has had regard for the humble state of His bondslave; For behold, from this time on all generations will count me blessed.
“For the Mighty One has done great things for me; And holy is His name.
“AND HIS MERCY IS UPON GENERATION AFTER GENERATION TOWARD THOSE WHO FEAR HIM.
“He has done mighty deeds with His arm; He has scattered those who were proud in the thoughts of their heart.
“He has brought down rulers from their thrones, And has exalted those who were humble.
“HE HAS FILLED THE HUNGRY WITH GOOD THINGS; And sent away the rich empty-handed.
“He has given help to Israel His servant, In remembrance of His mercy,
As He spoke to our fathers, To Abraham and his descendants forever”
[Luke 1:46-55].

It isn’t known as broadly as it ought to be, but some countries banned the above passage. Can you see why that is so?

It’s the reference to bringing down rulers and exalting the humble.

And it’s the filling the hungry while dismissing the rich with nothing.

Christmas is important in fundieland. But it isn’t important for reasons presented in this Song of Mary. With the implication of toppled thrones and liberated peoples, this text cuts very much against Fundie preaching. Never-the-less, it’s there. You can read it in your own Bible if you want.

Thankfully, Roman Catholics make much of this passage. That becomes another reason why no fundie should make too much of Lu 1:46ff.

Even so, Stuff Fundies Like wishes God’s best to you and yours now and always. A blessed Christmas to you all!

Friday Challenge — IFB Honky Tonk

Yesterday’s post resurrected the oft-heard complaint that worldly music is ruining churches. But if drum sets and saxophones are taboo in IFB sects, where CAN we find musical genres that will honor God with holy worship?

I propose that Honky Tonk is one such source of Godly music. Ignore the lyrics and the fact that women have legs, and you get good, God honoring music style performed as special music by many an IFB member, visiting evangelists, fundie school/university outreach teams, and more.

Friday Challenge

Today’s Friday Challenge is to find and post your own example of ‘God-honoring’ fundie music to show the rest of us how God really expects and wants us to worship.

Have fun!