Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Two Standars - Tim Cook vs. Colin Kaepernick

Colin Kaepernick has chosen to kneel instead of stand for the National Anthem. Tim Cook and Apple made an illegal agreement not to pay taxes of $14.5 billion dollars.
Apple has chosen not to to pay its fair share of taxes to the European Union for its ability to conduct commerce in this region, use its infrastructure, and incur massive profits.
Kaepernick has chosen to kneel to protest the continual racism of institutions of power within our nation. He wants Americans to realize this nation that claims of liberty and freedom are not really either for vast swaths of Americans.
The intentions of Kaepernick have been towards justice. The intentions of Apple and Tim Cook have been to keep profits above honoring the nations in which they do business.
The actions of Apple are intentional deception and have no pure motive; yet who is receiving the wrath of red meat America? May justice roll down from the hillsides -- or perhaps is called out from the sidelines.  

Saturday, April 02, 2016

It's National Poetry Writing Month

So I have these amazing friends who write really good stuff. On occasion I can write decent prose. But poetry. Why even bother.

Tonight I threw caution to the wind... 'What the heck. Why not try.'

So my friends write poetry
Freaking amazing stuff
When I was 8 and 10 and 15 I thought poetry sucked
Then these amazing friends
First with their prose
And now with their poetry
An entirely different genre
You can slam on the brake
Hit the gas
Break all rules or type real fast
But there is rhythm
Not so much rhymes like people often think
But rhythm like real life
And sometimes not rhythm  
Freaking amazing writing all jumbled together
And yet it makes sense but not quite
And in this mess is a depth of breath
That does not happen with prose so much
It can
Sure it can
But is seems more rare
Now to get my 13 year old to love this stuff

Yeah right

Saturday, March 26, 2016

Sometimes my voice quivers in the presence of power...


Sometimes I hear my voice quiver in the presence of powerful people. It bothers me, and then sometime I become quiet, begin to lose sight of my values, or simply stop thinking clearly. This is a great reminder to speak truth. 

Thursday, February 25, 2016

So much for decency. We don't even dare.

I'm too tired to write. I am too tired to not write. My brain hurts. It may be my head. It still hurts. I need sleep. My teenager is sick on the couch. She still wants me to sit up and be dad.

A few days ago Max Lucado, the highly respected evangelical writer titled a piece, 'Decency for the President.' You can imagine his thoughts. These are not too hard. He asks for the American people to expect decency of our leaders.

But here is the problem with decency. When President Obama gave an passionate speech in the wake of the Charleston shooing last June, complete with his rendition of Amazing Grace, plenty of Americans questioned his faith. Someone even suggested the speech writer of President Obama was behind everything our President said at that service.

Fast forward nine months. We now have candidates who claim to be Christians. One of them can not even pronounce Two Corinthians correctly. Another claims to be a committed follower of Jesus. He fails to realize twelve million immigrants are his neighbors. Apparently he failed to read at least half of the Bible. Another wants to bomb the world into American submission. So much for Jesus call for peacemakers.  

The irony. We have no problem believing our current list of candidates are Christian. Yet. We still have issues with the black guy, our President, being Christian. 

Maybe... just maybe he has struggled to be faithful to what he believes. Maybe following the ways of Jesus while being the most powerful person on the planet is really difficult. 

And maybe we as white America do not believe President Obama because he is black. 
Maybe we are still far more racist than we want to admit. And we refuse to look into the mirror. Do we even dare. So much for decency.

Monday, February 01, 2016

Their politics are not what they claim to believe...

Justin Amash and Bill Huizenga both held town hall meetings in our community on Tuesday. As an advocate for issues of social justice, I decided to attend both meetings. I did not speak but observed much during these meetings.

Justin Amash attracted about 90 people, about fifteen were women, and I believe two were people of color. The crowd was largely welcoming. Attendees asked questions including veteran benefits, VA accountability, immigration reform, the Paris agreement, and global warming among other topics. Rep. Amash tried to answer the questions as best as he could. He was willing to get into specifics, and he came across as warm in nature.

Bill Huizenga had about 25 people in attendance, five or six who were women, two who were immigrants, with the rest being white males. Without the group who was present advocating for immigration reform, along with staff, the number of attendees would have been closer to a dozen people. Holding a town hall meeting at 3:30 pm on a Tuesday perhaps is problematic.  

The difference between the two representatives was stark even apart from the attendance. Rep. Justin Amash tends to answer questions in detail. Rep. Bill Huizenga speaks in generalities with most answers. Amash rarely deviates from his strict interpretation of the Constitution; Huizenga rarely deviates from the current party line.

My frustration with both, however, lies in their willingness to put aside their claimed convictions, in favor of continual support for their political positions.

Rep. Amash believes in a unadulterated free market. Yet he forsakes the Orthodox commitment to the marginalized of our society. With his perspective, eventually we will have only two classes of people, those with much wealth and those who are the poor. This is our trajectory. Anything else defies reality. To do such is self-deception for the sake of holding to his libertarian view of the Constitution, which also happens to be the same position his primary financial backers hold.

Rep. Huizenga, a graduate of Calvin College and a member of the Christian Reformed Church, holds a view that politics can be done apart from a deep longing for justice and mercy, both of which are central to his denomination’s theology. The Christian Reformed Church has recently supported the Paris Agreement on climate change. Calling for Immigration reform for our 12 million immigrants who are undocumented are also high priorities for the denomination. Yet, Rep. Huizenga has adopted political positions on these issues that are in complete opposition with his faith affiliation.

For a community that holds integrity as a high value, our two representatives hold moral convictions apart from their political convictions. Among our previous esteemed West Michigan representatives, most notably Vern Ehlers and Paul Henry, this was not the case. Their personal convictions and political convictions went hand it hand. Why we are not expecting the same today is baffling. 

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

I Need to Write - Even if Only for Myself.

It seems that about once or twice a year I write about how I want to write more. I once thought it was for others to read about what I had to say... maybe this is still my reality.

Yet, I increasingly believe that in a fragmented world, writing helps me think better, more clearly. It forces me to put thoughts on a white surface. It requires more than a single response or brief social media post. It requires thoughtfulness, editing, questioning one's own ideas, and then figuring out if their is a reasonable response to those ideas. 

It's time to write a couple of times a week. Now I just need to figure out the discipline that makes it so that I have the time and space to do so... more later this week I hope. Here's to hoping.

Friday, August 28, 2015

Choosing a different Christian way... as a post-evangelical

"So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets."  ~ Jesus 

As a follower of Jesus, the real question for me is this: How do I daily care for people who live and move and have their existence that cross my life? 

If this is my question, then I do not have an option to accuse them of their broken relationships as a basis of our friendship. A hug or thoughtful question may serve a purpose, but how do I treat them well, on a daily basis, is the reality that I need to chase.

For my vocally loud friend with mental disabilities, this means I overlook her sometimes harsh voice and saliva that seems to be more apparent than mine, which also seems a bit excessive at times. For my teenage children who can be excessively cranky, it means I am at my best when I recognize their bodies, minds, and emotions are growing so fast that I need to extend lots of grace. 

For my immigrant friends, regardless if we have labeled them illegal or legal, they have families for whom they are trying to feed, give shelter, and provide education. Their hopes and dreams are no different than other people except they have the fear of being harassed or deported on a daily basis. 

For my gay friends, be they married, in relationship or single, it means I accept their sexuality even when I don't fully understand it. Sometimes my feelings are of uneasiness, but I stare those feelings in the face and say, "I won't be controlled by my own fears." 

Becoming fully human means I can be bigger than my past fears. Today I choose to love. 

Monday, August 24, 2015

Musings of a former evangelical...

I am no longer an evangelical. Or at least, I am no longer an evangelical as much of the evangelical church in America continues to define itself in ways that have estranged me. 

This summer I hiked Glacier National Park, arguably one of the most beautiful places in our country. By 2030, all the million year old glaciers will likely be melted away. Our climate change has led to their demise. Yet, when do we hear the church take serious stands for the beauty of creation? What public official in D.C. who claim to follow Jesus actually take pollution, climate change, and drilling on public lands seriously? It's always about job and creating wealth for those in power... almost always.

Yesterday I officiated a beautiful wedding. I was so honored to be there, to have been asked to make the day happen. During the course of the weekend I met several gay people with partners, people who were beautiful and full of life. I tried to imagine how these good people would mess up my marriage or the marriage of my kids someday? There is no real answer except to condemn for the sake of accolades by the Creator perhaps. But even that idea is incredibly misguided. 

I hear Jesus calling those who follow to really follow, to care for creation, to care for people, to find harmony between business and the earth's resources. I hear the Apostle Paul saying, 'Follow me as I follow Christ" and the call by the prophet Micah to, "Do justice and seek mercy." 

And I certainly do not see the evangelical American church of today having a voice that sounds like music to anyone -- except those on the inside. If the church is ever to reclaim it's mission of the ways of Jesus, leaders need to realize the reflection of their churches is more noise than music to those outside its walls on Sunday morning. 

The Apostle Paul stated boldly that all things in life revolve around love. The Apostle John went so far as to say that without love, we do not love God. Rather than protecting traditions that live in the past, that are not going to be in the future, I strain forward. On my best of days, I hope I give goodness, kindness, and genuine love to both friends and strangers. 

Jesus disciples actually proclaimed good news. They were not jerks. They spoke against the powers of the day, and they often died for it. If you have no interest in church, God, or Jesus, it's OK with me. Be my friend. I love you just for who you are. This is what I've learned from following Jesus. 

Sunday, April 05, 2015

On this Easter Sunday, I want to share a piece written by a friend about 10-15 years ago. It sums up my thoughts every Easter morning.


We believe in the resurrection.

We believe in the Resurrection of Jesus. We don't just believe that the resurrection happened. We don't just believe things about the resurrection of Jesus. We believe in the Resurrection of Jesus. 

In a world where it appears that death wins, where violence, murder, disease, and terrorists might cause us to fear and lose heart, we say that we believe in the Resurrection of Jesus. We say that there is a power beyond our understanding that is able to give life back to those who've lost it. And not metaphorical life, but real, actual, fish-eating, hand-touching, word-speaking, bread-breaking, sitting down at the table life.

We believe in the Resurrection of Jesus. In a world that teaches and trains us to protect and secure ourselves, we say there is a power at work now in this world that exposes the fragility and short-sightedness of such so-called securities, and offers, no, promises and has proven the ability to deliver us through, not merely from, danger and death.

We believe in the Resurrection of Jesus. And so we refuse to accommodate ourselves to the fear, despair, and cynicism all around us. We choose, instead, to give words and expression to the groaning of the creation. We say that a new day has begun, and the darkness all around us will find no more safe quarter, for the light of life has dawned. Death's teeth have been pulled; it holds no threat any longer.

So we live our lives with abandon. We stand up for and alongside those who are most at risk, and we say in word and in action that we believe in the Resurrection of Jesus. God has begun His good revolution, and change is on the way. Oppression, violence, deception, rejection, selfishness, apathy, brutality, manipulation, malice, murder, hatred and all their kind are living on borrowed time. 

We believe in the Resurrection of Jesus. So we refuse to be seduced or coerced into sharing in the behavior of that which will be removed and replaced. Instead, we love rather than hate, we share rather than steal, we give rather than take, we show kindness rather than brutality, we tell the truth rather than deceive, we hope rather than despair, we believe rather than doubt, we help rather than oppress, we heal rather than destroy, we embrace rather than strike, we lose rather than win at any cost. Because we believe in the Resurrection of Jesus.

-- Joel McClure 

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

thought for food?

Reading today about the proposed cuts to the safety nets here in America including Medicaid, Medicare, Social Security, and the Affordable Care Act while increasing funding for our nation's war games, and I posted a question on my Facebook account.

Time and time again I hear from evangelical Christians how it is the duty of the country to protect us and the duty of the church to feed the poor, care for the elderly, and help virtually all of the marginalized. We could argue to infinity about the merits of the church doing its duty and why it has failed.

My thoughts tonight are along these lines: "What do people do who don't love the church but want to support the poor?" Or what do people do who want to help the marginalized but have issues with God or gods?" 

Have we thought of the absurdity that only 'the church' should take care of the marginalized? What about the non-believers who are hoping our nation finds a pulse and declares that life matters? Yet 'church people' are saying only the church should be doing this?

Jesus declares that when you care of 'the least of these' meaning people along the margins, you love him. Yet, we as Jesus people have fallen into the idea that only the church (and perhaps some non-profits) should care for the marginalized

Anyone else think we have this messed up? 

Monday, March 02, 2015

Hoping for more...

In West Michigan, the issue of immigration reform is paramount to so many sectors of people. Business leaders, education experts, pastors, and government all recognize the need for real change.

Yet, we have not put the effort into creating a voice that can be sustainably heard. The time is now to create a prolonged voice that speaks for justice, mercy, and goodness. A world that opposes these things is no place that I want to live and move and have my being... nor do you.

So how do we move from a polarized discussion to a conversation that will be about more than creating fear or collecting votes at the ballot box? It is time for people with voices to daringly step forward to create a reality where we really want to live.