Monthly Archives: September 2014

Governor Sam, the Values Man

The ads on TV are continuous now as election time nears.   Governor Sam Brownback’s favorite, it appears,  is one where a group of people are gathered around him on lawn chairs in the back yard..   The men  are all wearing their best blue jeans and brand new cowboy straw hats and the women don’t look like they’ve ever set foot on a farm.  Sam is telling them that he grew up on a farm in eastern Kansas and that his parents still operate it and from time to time he visits—but his dad still won’t let him operate a combine or plant (much laughter here).    But—he continues—the important things he learned from his parents in growing up on that family farm are his values and his character…..

I think perhaps, Sam, you need to go home more often and ask for a refresher course in these two areas of values and character..   Obviously you either weren’t listening, are a slow learner, or are forgetful.   You just don’t seem to be operating on any values except “winning at all costs” and “maintaining your power at all costs.    I hope when you take that refresher course that you will ask Mom and Pop Brownback to emphasize some of the Biblical values especially.   For example:

The value of not bearing false witness against your neighbor—also known as truthfulness and honesty.    Look at the half-truths and the outright lies in your political ads about the state of the Kansas economy as well as your political mudslinging toward your opponent.

The value of compassion for the vulnerable, the poor, the sick and children..  This compassion was what Jesus, whom you profess to follow, demonstrated time after time during his ministry.   I see it in very few of your actions as governor the last four years.   You have refused to extend Medicaid coverage for a large number of Kansans who can’t afford health insurance but don’t now qualify for Medicaid, including lots of children.  Should they not  have health coverage?   No, you said in spite of overwhelming recommendations by Kansas doctors and hospitals that you do so.   Why?  Because that might cause problems with your political supporters who hate Obamacare for some reason and will stop backing you if you do so?     I don’t find any compassion at all here.   Even Republican governors in other states have expanded Medicaid out of concern for the poor in their state who did not have medical coverage.   You made  cuts in social programs and education in Kansas  so that the rich can get even richer through the abolition of the state income tax on “small business.” The resulting downturn of income for the state has caused and will cause further cuts in the programs for the poor and the sick and the mentally challenged, and for schools.    Where is your compassion?  —-how unlike the compassion that Jesus portrayed this all is!!

Are winning at all costs, even by shading the truth, and the character assassination of your political adversaries  the values that you learned at your parents’ knee?   I hope not.

How does misrepresenting the true facts of what is happening in Kansas  and saying “The sun is shining on Kansas and don’t let anyone tell you different” represent your values that you learned at your parents knee? Independent analysts, economic experts, all warn that Kansas is in trouble financially even if we do not spend more because of the tax cuts and resultant decreasing income for the state.  Two very reputable credit agencies downgraded Kansas’ credit rating this year because their economists warned of the financial trouble.   Does this sound like sunshine?   Are you being honest with Kansas about the sunshine or are you only saying it to get re-elected. Do you value honesty or a power?   When the two are in conflict, power seems to win.

How does making the rich more rich through your policies and the  laws you have signed, then blaming the poor for being poor because they won’t work fit into your value system?  How are the poor to find jobs if they are living on the street?   The jobs that are available are mostly ones that do not pay a living wage—-often below the minimum wage.   How are they to lift themselves out of poverty.   What did Jesus ever do that advocated blaming the poor for being poor? 

How about attacking the character of your opponent in the election and lying about his motives?    Where did you learn that particular value?    Even the ancient Greeks had a name for this— Argumentum ad Hominem”—and it described a spurious argument that attacks the person when you are not able to attack the person’s ideas.

Winning at any costs, the end justifies the means, is not a value that Jesus taught or practiced.    In fact Jesus said “the last shall be first and the first shall be last“.   He also said:   “he who is the master shall be the servant of all.”  Greed and power never were a part of the values that Jesus taught.  These two values ((greed and power) seem to dominate your value system and the actions that spring from it.  

Character is the result of our values.   And our values need to be weighed against the moral standard of the Great Commandment:   “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength—-and love your neighbor as you love yourself.   How do your values measure up to this Great Commandment, Sam?    I’m sure you love God and that you love yourself, it’s the love of neighbor that gives me a problem.    I think your neighbor is not considered to be the robbed and beaten and dying man on the side of the road who the Good Samaritan gave aid to.  That’s how Jesus defined who our neighbors were   I think your neighbors are  limited to your political allies and those who contribute vast sums of money to your political campaigns.  Your actions speak so loudly that I can’t believe most of your words!

Come on, Sam—-you really need that refresher course!!

 

 

 

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Kansas Governor Solves Problem of Poverty???

 

The governor of my home  state of Kansas has gratuitously solved the problem of poverty in one of his political campaign ads for re-election.    He is telling a group of obviously well-heeled people gathered in a worshipful audience around him, nodding their heads sagely at his words,  that “what we need is not checks from the government, but to go back to the values he was taught by his parents and go to work.   He proudly explains:   “This is the answer to poverty.    Go to work”.   

This is either a case of extreme naivete or a case of existential blindness.  If it is the latter, which I expect it is, then he really should see his moral optometrist right away and get glasses that aren’t completely rose-colored!    What his words are really saying is that he doesn’t have a clue about the causes of poverty—or that he really doesn’t care to inform himself about it as it might then become a political problem to deal with and he might have to recognizes himself and our state legislature as a part of the problem.   No health care?   Get a job!  Unable to work because of health problems?   Get a job!    Disabled in an accident?   Get a job.   Mentally challenged?   Get a job?   Bankrupt because of medical bills caused by no insurance due to lack of Medicaid extention?    Get a job!

But I’m sure our governor and the legislature made up of so-called Christians, does not care.   After all,  the  poor will not be a problem in the election so why should they really care—-they’ve been disenfranchised by the governor and legislature in Kansas  and most are unable to vote because they don’t have the documentation necessary to register.   It’s the wealthy people who support him that our governor worries about, and who vote for him,  so  why care about those in poverty?   And after all, being elected is the most important thing isn’t it?

Why care about the poor and needy?    Because they are God’s children.  Jesus wasn’t sent to the “political fat cats”  Rather, those who were the most vulnerable were always given the highest priority by  the Jesus, who our governor claims to follow.    Jesus didn’t tell the leper to go get a job!    He healed him so he could get a job—-as a leper he was untouchable.   Jesus didn’t tell blind Bartimeous to go get a job!   He healed him so he could do so and not have to beg for a living.    Governor Brownback, if you would follow the One you claim as your Lord—-“GO THOU AND DO LIKEWISE!!”

Being Both Here and There

It’s hard to be two places at the same time—-we would probably agree that it is impossible!!  It’s a paradox!   And paradoxes aren’t rational.  We have to be one place or the other according to our dualistic minds!     Sometimes we are here and sometimes we are there.   If you are sitting in church  you  can’t be at the golf-course!   If you have something pressing to attend to elsewhere, you must leave “here” and go “there”.   When you do go “there”, what was once “there” becomes“here.” for you.   Everybody knows that you can’t be in two places at the same time.

Now we can fantasize about what it would be like if we could do so.  For example, I often dreamed that I could be in my dorm room sleeping while also sitting in my 8 a.m. class at college.   While I tried to master the art of sleeping in class with my eyes open, I must admit that it didn’t work well for me!   I think everyone here would agree that it would be nice to be at work and also lounging on the beach at Malibu.   However,  we know it’s not going to happen!

But according to the Book of Revelation that was what happened to John, the writer of Revelation—-he was in two places at the same time.

John wrote that he was on the island of Patmos.   That is a tiny island in the Aegean Sea.   It’s a beautiful little place now, it is said, but in the time that John lived it was a Roman prison colony—similar to the place we call Alcatraz.    When you went to Patmos during  John’s time you only needed a one-way ticket—-you hardly ever came back from Patmos!!   And that was where John was—on Patmos, and yet he was not only there, he was also in God’s Kingdom as  he wrote:   “I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s Day.  And he wrote of seeing God’s throne and a vision of Jesus  “on the clouds” and of the coming completion of God’ Kingdom  as he was  “caught up” and transported to another place  He was at two places at the same time!!

            Although John is in a difficult place on Patmos and probably awaiting a sad fate—he was also in a blessed place in his life—in the Kingdom of God.   

I would suggest to you this morning that Patmos is not only a place, a geographical location, but a frame of mind.  We all can be on our Patmos islands because Patmos is wherever and whenever we find  ourselves trapped and imprisoned by our actions and  our life.   There are many people who feel they are trapped on their  islands of Patmos.   Somehow life has given us a one-way ticket  and we feel as though we are trapped in a prison of our own making or someone else’s making—-but nevertheless  we are “trapped.”

            The reasons for our being on Patmos are as many and as unique as each of us are unique and individual human beings.   We may be there because of bad decisions that we made.   Or we may be there because of bad decisions others made that have affected us.

We may be imprisoned by a disease that is slowly taking our energy and eventually our life.   We may be imprisoned by habits that dominate and ruin our lives and that we have not been able to overcome.  We may feel life has “done us dirty” and that we shouldn’t be on Patmos—-but all of us spend some time on our  “islands of Patmos”.

            The great psychotherapist, Victor Frankl, writes of his “Patmos” in his book “Man’s Search for Meaning”.    Frankl was arrested by the Nazis in W.W. II Germany and sent to a Nazi prison camp.   It was a horrible prison camp and most of his fellow prisoners soon died under the terrible conditions, the brutality, the starvation and the resulting hopelessness.   But Frankl survived.   How?    He describes how he survived by recounting that on his way out to the work site every morning, he would be composing a book, all in his mind.   He would go over the book, chapter by chapter.   He would form each page in his brain, imagining in great detail the grand book that he was going to write once he got out of the Nazi prison.   And that kept him going.   In his body he was a slave in a horrible prison camp—-his Patmos—but in his soul he was free .   He was in two places at the same time!!

Part of the human condition is that we don’t have control over everything that affects our lives.   The one thing we have control of is how we cope with the things affecting our lives—-such as was the case with Victor Frankl.

John on the island of Patmos, was in the same circumstances as Frankl.   He had been imprisoned by the emperor—-probably because he was a Christian.   There he was languishing on the island of Patmos, right?   Wrong!   That is not what John says about himself.   Rather he wrote that he “was in the Spirit on the Lord’s Day”.   John was in prison, in exile, far from home and loved ones, but he managed to “be in the Spirit on the Lord’s day.   In other words, he was in a quite different place and a long way from the island of Patmost.   He was with God through the Holy Spirit on the Lord’s Day and God was showing him about wonderful things to come in God’s Kingdom.

 John was in two different places at the same time—-and so can you be.   You can always be with God, no matter what your life’s circumstances may be.  

  Think about it!  

 

             

 

Seeing God in our Mirror

Look at yourself in your mirror?    Do you see God there?   You are made in the image of God.   That’s God you see!!   But you say, “That’s not God, it is just meThe same old me with warts and all.   I have all these problems and faults and bad habits, and on top of it I’m having a bad hair day.  Just last night I went on a hateful tirade about politicians!    I swear at times!   I am critical and analytic  and unloving and scared and  weak willed and fat—-and how can you say that you see God in me?”

True—-all of the above are faults and problems most of us exhibit at one time or another and that’s just a few of the many—but there is one thing that we are forgetting!!  That is that God, with unconditional love for us as his children, has forgiven us and we can thus stand before our mirrors and see God in ourselves.   It’s not because we have done anything to merit this—-it is due to God’s grace and love for us.

Now look at a homeless person.   That person is also God’s child.   He is made in the image of God.   The mirror he looks in reflects God also!   Despite  the dirty clothes, the unwashed smell, the unshaven face and the unkempt hair.   As he wearily makes his way along the street with a backpack and a black plastic bag holding all of his worldly possession—- can you see God in this person?   He is the recipient of the same unconditional love  and forgiveness of God just as much as you are.    We are all in the same position—-loved and forgiven by God through no efforts or merit of our own.

So—who are  we to  judge this homeless person or to judge each other?   As Jesus said:   “Judge not, that you be not judged, for the same judgment that you give will be meted out to you.”  What wonderful things might happen in all of our lives if we could just manage to see God in all of the people around us—-and in ourselves!    Amen.