Remembering Edson Taft ‘Bill’ Lewis Jr.

I have lost a dear, dear friend, colleague and brother.

A thousand, thousand thanks!

‘He was known at home and in the community as a man who loved mercy, sought justice and walked humbly with God. He was with Martin Luther King, Jr. at the “I Have A Dream” speech and the Selma-Montgomery March. He had a passion for bringing people together from all walks of life to make the world a better place.’

I remember him as one who helped me know myself simply by saying, ‘when you are cut, you bleed justice…’

I remember him as one who offered acceptance in Christ however radical my thinking turned.

I remember him as one with whom I confided things I have said to no other living person.

I remember him as one who could hear and bear graciously the accumulated frustration of a lifetime of living among Christians.

I remember him as one who answered complex dilemmas with clear, solid and gracious council.

I remember his ability to bring grace and perspective to salvage seemingly irredeemable situations.

I remember him swaying church bodies with sheer force of mind, knowledge of history and good order, and powers of vision and oration.

I remember the instant flash of his eyes and smile whenever I walked into a peer group meeting, and his arms outstretched to embrace me.

I remember him asking ‘what have you been reading lately,’ and being amazed to learn that he’d been there and suggesting further reading.

I remember his work with Pastors for Peace and his willingness to defy offical policies because they are unjust.

I remember his persistent insistence on justice, and his ability to retain hope for a world of peace and justice even as injustice seemed to prevail.

I remember his willingness to share heartbreak from his own family, and seeing how the loss of a brother shaped and deepened his love of justice.

Although I will miss Bill’s presence and titanic intellect, I find that his perspective and love of justice so informs my own spirit, it is as though he is still here and always will be. Knowing Bill as I have, and sharing our love of justice, I feel that his departure enriches and makes more real to me something that we call, ‘communion of the saints.’

The Season of Giving

Gift box in female hands

The Meaning of Giving

This is the season of gift buying and giving.

Set aside the grotesque marketing campaigns that co-opt the Christmas narrative to expand profit and remember that this season should celebrate God’s gift of his Son. Churches might consider reminding us of this.

I say that because I googled ‘church giving gifts.’ I expecting hits about church gift giving programs, special collections for relieving the needy, church quilting/blanket-making guilds and the like. Why did I expect that? I expected that because this is the season of gift buying and giving. And I expected it because churches should celebrate the gift of God’s Son.

Giving Practices

It seems that my focus was off-target. When I submitted my church giving gifts query, Google understood something else entirely. My expectations collided with reality when I discovered that the top hits were as follows:

church-giving-gifts-google-search

Public Giving, Public Justice

Speaking of giving, President-elect Donald Trump gave the Directorate of the Office of Management Budget to Mick Mulvaney [R-SC]. Who is he?

In 2011, Representative Mick Mulvaney wanted to force the US Treasury to default rather than raising the debt ceiling. In 2013, he was active on the ‘House Freedom Caucus,’ which advocated shutting down the federal government to force the repeal of Obamacare. Mr. Mulvaney is committed to slash such programs as Medicare and Social Security. In fact, Mulvaney is an opponent of federal disaster relief. He tried to block passage of the $50.7 billion emergency relief bill for Hurricane Sandy.

Mr. Trump says that he will help create policies ‘friendly to American workers and businesses.’ This is political lingo for butchering federal social spending. Trump has pledged to cut the corporate tax rate from 35% to 15%. In other words, tens of millions of elderly and disabled working people will fund the windfall for this massive gift to the wealthy and big businesses.

Since this is the season of gift buying and giving, perhaps churches should reconsider their focus and offer a witness to public justice and mercy. If that happens, indications are that it won’t begin with your IFB sects. By in large, they supported this insanity to make Babylon great again.

trump-make-america-great-again-072016home

One can only wonder what Fundamentalism’s take on ‘giving means for its theology of grace.

Operation Clean Sweep

T-Party Church Persecution

Meet Jospeh Farah

Joseph Farah was an early a cheerleader for the Bush administration’s discretionary war on Iraq. April 10, 2003, Farah wrote:

‘I’ve been saying for years that all people yearn to be free. It’s a universal feeling. The Iraqi people were brutalized into submission. They could not have achieved their freedom without U.S. intervention…That’s the way it always works…Remember how we were told Iraqis would resist? The only demonstrations I saw yesterday were jubilant rallies by Arabs in the streets of Baghdad and by Arab-Americans in the streets of the USA.’

Farah’s article, ‘Liberation’ closes saying:

‘Celebrate! Praise God! This is a great day in our history and a great day in the history of the people of the Middle East and the people of the world. It’s a day reminiscent of the fall of the Berlin Wall. It’s a day reminiscent of the liberation of Paris. It’s a day reminiscent of the toppling of the Taliban.’

One year less four days later, Farah wrote:

‘The temptation of Americans is to be too cautious…in the next few days – the U.S. should pound Fallujah like it has never been pounded before.’

He adds:

‘…we may need to flatten Fallujah. We may need to destroy it. We may need to grind it, pulverize it and salt the soil, as the Romans did with troublesome enemies.’

Astonishingly, he continues with:

‘Quite frankly, we need to make an example out of Fallujah. Here’s a chance for justice. Here’s an opportunity to show the people of the Middle East it doesn’t pay to resort to barbarism and terrorism.’

How a scorched earth policy and barbarism differ is not explained. Collective punishment is a recognized war crime.

Meet World News Daily

Joseph Francis Farah owns and operates World News Daily. WND is said to be ‘one of the most unhinged far-right “news” sites on the Internet.’ WND [Whirled News Daily?] acts as a permanent political operation to disorient and confuse the most backward and regressive layers of society. ‘And what might that mean,’ you may ask?

Have you ever wondered from where those bizarre political operations that replace rational discussion of serious issues come? Say — the birther nonsense of intellectual leprechaun, Donald Trump, who now realizes that it was really Hillary Clinton’s idea all along. Try checking WND first.

Before Mr. Trump boarded the birther bandwagon, WND knew that President Obama was hiding something. Why do you suppose he paid his ‘eligibility lawyer‘ the big bucks? Mind, birther theories were discredited all along. That didn’t stop WND from attempting to torpedo the Obama campaign. After all, having written the book on swift-boating John Kerry, why not go after Obama also?

Is There A Pattern

Whether it is Iraq, John Kerry or Senator Obama, Joseph Farah’s playbook is the same. Start a campaign. Lay the consequences at an opponents’ feet. A political pyromaniac, WND is at its best when it is starting ideological fires, fanning the flames, and watching Rome burn. Or Iraq. Or the USA.

So when the Tea Party runs an article, ‘Holy War: Government Tries to Control Church Sermons’ first published by WND, it’s difficult NOT to suspect chicanery. This is especially so when the Tea Party inserts into the WND screed its own declaration of a ‘clean sweep of all corrupt officials, no matter who wins in November…’

T-Potty Pledge

  • A political operation targets churches with the intent of acquiring them as assets for a partisan agenda.
  • When a church bites and adopts the agenda, repercussions follow. The state must respond.
  • Awake America or similar groups get involved. A lawsuit results. The church is now at the center of controversy.
  • Other churches and confessing Christians are canvassed and rallied to the cause, building ever more political momentum.

The issue is different. So is the theater. And regardless of the outcome, Mr. Farah and his World News Daily will continue to profit by stoking the fires of extremism. Face it–WND is good at it. The article on Fort Des Moines Church of Christ Congregation begins so innocuously.

‘An Iowa church just wants to be free to preach the gospel…’

Who could object to that!

‘…but the state’s so-called nondiscrimination requirements could block the house of worship from doing just that.’

Just that easily, many evangelical/fundamentalist Christians will fall for this devilishness instead of recognizing and renouncing it as the very epitome of worldliness that it is. But more on that later.

A World Fit for Prayer II

Angels and Demons

Some classical artwork portrays strange worlds where angels and demons pull people toward their destiny. But at the time, that wasn’t strange at all. We are more affected by the scientific worldview than we suspect.

Generations ago, we believed that spiritual forces caused crises. If crops failed, there was a spiritual reason for it. Suppose an extraordinarily cold winter froze a lake solid. In spring, the lake liquefied. Dead fish rotted everywhere. But blame the fish for polluted waters? Nope! Fish don’t curse waters; those fish died because those waters were cursed already!

Challenge those ideas and you might well hear Paul’s word on ‘earthly powers’ and ‘world forces of this darkness’ and ‘spiritual wickedness’ [Ep 6:12]. Or you could get a reference to the four horsemen of the apocalypse — war, famine, pestilence and death [Re 6:2-8].

Rubens, The_Consequences_of_War
The Consequences of War [1638] by Peter Paul Rubens depicted the horrors of the Thirty Year War. Marked also by pestilence and famine, this protracted conflict drew most European states into its orbit between 1618 and 1648. It was concluded by the Peace of Westphalia.
The previous post saw 1Co 15:3-4 used to sum the Gospel in terms of Jesus’ life, death and resurrection. Peter harmonizes kingdom action with Jesus’ life, death and resurrection. So does Paul, but his strategy differs. Paul relates Jesus’ resurrection to our own; this in turn leads toward the kingdom consummation [1Co 15:24-28]. Then, Jesus will:

  • Deliver the kingdom to his Father
  • Bring all rule/power/authority to an end
  • Reign to the extent of subduing his enemies
  • Abolish death itself.

Or as 1 John 3:8 puts it:

‘The Son of God appeared for this purpose, to destroy the works of the devil.’

Gospel word and kingdom life serve together and interpret each other. Word explains life; and life reveals the power of the word. Whenever Jesus appears, illness, demonic oppression [Ac 10:38] and demonic powers [1Co 15:24-28] must fall. For if the devil’s power and works are not broken and destroyed, then there is no deliverance from sin.

“Pray, then, in this way …’And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. ‘And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from evil.’ [Mt 6:9, 12-13].

Pray for the World

Welcome to Grand-Synthe Camp

Grand-Synthe camp, Dunkirk, France.

Some 2,500 people now live at Grand-Synthe, France. They are refugees from Syria, Iraq and the Middle East. About 50 more arrive daily. Often, these are families with children, elderly, and pregnant women. Daily, some try to leave for Belgium or England. These people have no prospects in France.

Grand-Synthe camp at Dunkirk, France

Notice the careful provisions to ensure hygienic conditions in order to ward off disease. Also, see the solid construction which protects the population from temperatures that often slide below freezing at night.

Maintaining 'order,' whatever the 'orders' are.
French Gendarmerie, presumably maintaining ‘order,’ whatever that ‘order’ is.

‘The Lord protects the strangers; he supports the fatherless and the widow’ [Ps 146:9].

5 year old Iranian boy
A well-protected, 5 year old Iranian boy.

‘Yahweh loves righteousness and justice; the earth is full of his lovingkindness’ [Ps. 33:5]. ‘Vindicate the weak and fatherless; do justice to the afflicted and destitute’ [Psa 82:3].

A young girl from Kurdistan leaves her tent in a muddy field called the Grande-Synthe jungle.
A young girl from Kurdistan leaves her tent in a muddy field called the Grande-Synthe jungle.

The Lord will maintain the cause of the afflicted and justice for the poor’ [Ps 140:12].

Many a missions conference and/or prayer meeting has spoken to the need to send missionaries to convert the heathen. Today, peoples of the world beat on our doorstep. And our response to a crisis embracing some 60 million people? Or the response of our Presidential hopefuls?

Where are those who are separated unto the Lord in all this? Do they intercede for refugees? Speak for them in their plight? Are the separated truly ‘separate,’ or do they too often mirror the interests of our dominant culture? What is it to ‘maintain the cause of the afflicted’ anyway?