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Help Me Clear Up Some Confusion

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Okay.  I admit.  I am confused.

Who is paying the people who get so much press to tell us all that we need to fear one another?  Who profits from our becoming a nation of siloed homesteads?  Whose yacht, country club membership, or facelift is being financed by calling us into tribes that know only how to war with one another?

Who are these people who could not be elected to any office by any but an ignorant, riled up mob?

Tell me again, why are we taking our marching orders from them?  Why are we reading and reacting to their propaganda?  When are we going to stop being roosters in a cock fight for a small group of folk who pay huge sums to be entertained by the bruising of spirits, the shredding of confidence and the shedding of blood?

What happened to a government of the people, by the people and for the people – all people?  When did the FOR SALE sign go up on our children’s future?

What are we going to do about that?

Small steps.  We all can take small steps.  This is not rocket science . . . well it is, kinda.  But when a million people conspired to put a few of their own on the moon with less computer power than most of us carry in our cell phones, even re-taking our global community’s future and handing it off in better shape to new generations doesn’t seem all that daunting to me.  Is it really too hard, or, are we just not really committed to doing what we know is right?

Last week I and about 70 others in the greater KC Metro got to be in a workshop with Dr. Willam Barber II, a fresh voice.  Calling on people of good will to become informed, act on hope, and lift up basic moral values that truly once made this nation a land of the free and home of the brave instead of a country that seems to be pre-occupied and fearful.

He doesn’t confuse me.  He inspires me.  And I wonder, God, will my living ever inspire others to hope, too?

Clarify my confusion, O God.  Strengthen my resolve.  Let me pursue justice and peace with my neighbors.  Transform us. Unite us. Amen.

 

 

WE ARE CONNECTED

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Already much has been written and spoken about the tragic events in Orlando last weekend.  There is much to grieve, much cause for anger, and no small amount of grace-filled outpouring of care and support for victims, families and first responders who had to secure the scene and provide first aid.

This is personal to me as there are members of my own family who feel as if they must continue to live as walking targets for acts of discrimination and violence.  They know some of the victims.

There is no comfort in “Well, it wouldn’t happen here.”    Scripture bids me as a disciple of Jesus to expand my definition of “Here.”  “. . . in Jerusalem, Samaria and to the ends of the earth.” (Acts 1:8)

I confess to times where I have tried to shrink my definition of “here” to something more manageable, less taxing, “good enough.”  What often happens is that over time my spirit starts to suffocate in that too small space.  Fortunately for me I am part of a faith community that knows and cares about me – enough to call me out of my self-imposed confinement with words from Christ, spoken with forgiveness and encouragement.  The Church reminds me that isolation and self-centeredness are not protectors but destroyers of the only kind of security and safety I truly seek.

Have you seen this dynamic in the Church?  Have there been times when we have tried to shrink our sense of what it means to be the people whom Christ has called to the confines of a congregational campus on a weekend (or if we are part of the 10% who do 90% of the volunteer work – several days and nights a week)?

The primary reason that some of us and some of our congregations fail to enjoy the fullness of salvation in Christ is not the popular culture, it is not the fault of young adults who don’t attend church and it is not some mythical conspiracy.

Some of us have just ceased wanting to be inspiring.  We do not effectively challenge evil.  We are getting good at making excuses for all that is wrong and, worse, accommodate it as the new normal.  We place our trust in “superhuman” leaders and institutions and polarizing groups who over promise and under-deliver time after time. I can even learn to relish the role of sanctified “victim” and my “membership” in a co-dependent form of Christianity.

From faith communities and individuals who are thriving spiritually we see viral videos and Facebook posts about deep, loving and high impact engagement with the community, meeting needs and sharing stories of life-changing faith with those who have too little in the moment.  We hear of those strong, humble and wise saints whose very presence in the sanctuary, home or marketplace is a tangible blessing – walking gospels, old and young.  What if we would be less concerned about being a better role model for our “brand” of church member and open up to become more Christ-like; not overnight, but certainly in time as we allow the Spirit of God to lead and guide our living every day of the week?

How many in Orlando took the opportunity to do just that?  Taking to the street as Jesus did in his time.  They lined up in the heat to donate blood and plasma for the victims still being treated.  Congregations offered free funeral services for victims.  Small church groups deployed to share support for grieving families and for first responders who scrambled to save those still alive.  We shared with you on the Christian Church of Greater Kansas City Facebook page the letter that Regional Minister Juan Rodriguez sent to Florida Disciples listing the ways they were responding.  Take a look, too, at the video response from our General Minister and President Sharon Watkins at: http://disciples.org/ and the letter now circulating from other leaders in the Church.

As my wife Donna and I were talking about the responses to recent violence, she held up a paper name tag that she has begun wearing starting yesterday.  It reads “We Are Connected” I could not help but to think what it might mean if we Greater Kansas City Disciples would adopt that as one of our distinctive missions – to proclaim softly but plainly something for which Jesus himself passionately prayed.  Not a noisy protest but a silent statement of fact, a humble hope, and a fervent prayer. WE ARE CONNECTED.

Grateful to be connected with you in our shared “Movement for wholeness in a fragmented world.  As part of the one body of Christ we welcome all to the Table of the Lord as God has welcomed us.” (Disciples of Christ Identity Statement)

No More Contributions

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Okay, call me cranky.

A very intelligent, probably overworked telephone solicitor for a certain Senatorial Campaign called to check on why I had not yet sent in my “generous pledge of $230” ostensibly made back in April.  I guess that “I don’t make pledges over the phone, and, in any large amounts my wife and I prefer to consult before committing.  Can you send material by mail and we’ll talk it over?” could be confused for making a pledge.

The caller was patient when I objected and even listened to my complaint that campaign contributions tend to buy ads that are based more on contention and demonizing opponents than on anything that persuades otherwise confirmed political silo campers to vote differently.  I told him that I would prefer a different approach.

He asked, “What would you recommend?  I have a section on my screen for suggestions.”  Always a sucker for an invitation, I shared an idea that my wife and I have had for years.  Let the candidate take a significant portion of campaign money and with it organize a very substantive community improvement project that meets an unmet need.  Let this project utilize volunteers from across most of the political spectrum, demonstrating commitment to measurable outcomes and ability to bring the community together in efforts that matter.  And forget buying attack ads. Just tell us your better ideas and your plans to help colleagues on both sides of the aisle to crank out truly useful legislation and repeal what no longer serves well.

After an, “I know what you mean . . .” which fooled me momentarily thinking that he was actually listening with empathy, the solicitor launched into this breathless explanation from what had to be a well rehearsed Plan C script about how important it was to keep the crazies on the ___ side of the aisle from dominating the Senate and ostensibly destroying Democracy as we know it.

I felt sorry for the guy but not sorry enough to fork over more cash for the conquest.  “All you will do is to continue the rhetorical tennis match in the media and it will do little to incline one to make a more reasoned choice at the polls.”  I know this first hand as a member of a city council where a recent and well researched initiative was just defeated by local voters  2:1 thanks to an aggressive negative campaign.

So when do we stop supporting the political campaign addictions that plague so much of politics; well funded, professionally produced diatribes and misinformation that feed gridlock, fear, segregation and frustrate what little political progress is possible? To keep doing what we are doing and expect different results?

When Trust Takes A Vacation

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We are fortunate to live in a democratic republic where free speech is guaranteed. Anyone can raise any question or make any comment about what government officials do or neglect to do, what they say or what they fail to say. A little skepticism is useful. Albert Einstein is said to have remarked: “Blind belief in authority is the greatest enemy of truth.”

Skepticism is one thing. Distrust as a political philosophy, however, is another. What are we to make of growing distrust between some citizens and the people they elect – even when demonstrable progress is being made?

We are told that there is not enough to go around so we must conserve what we have. Prudent use of taxpayer dollars is a must in any government, however, much of the criticism of how governments spend or will in the future spend money is often more the result of scarcity thinking than hard evidence of fiduciary irresponsibility as the norm. Scarcity mentality is a path to the slow and excruciating death of a community. It crops up in every era and eventually collapses for want of supporting evidence.

The people whom governments serve may from time to time be indeed be stretched financially if improvements in public services and infrastructure are to occur regularly. That does not preclude citizens – even those financially challenged – from making sacrifices today that have the potential to benefit generations to come. Ironically it is the very poor who, when the need is clear, are among the most generous, while some indifferent or apathetic members of the economic middle class seem to scream the loudest when asked to give their fair share. They find it easier to publicly chip away at good faith efforts than to chip in with substantial commitment.

Just as dangerous is the notion that the competent neighbors whom the governed elect are incapable or unwilling to be wise stewards of tax dollars. We forget that before elected officials were elected, they were persons who lived next door, shopped in the community, and volunteered to coach the kid’s soccer team. Following elections they are still our neighbors. Political office does not poison their ability to use common sense or to make reasonably good choices.

Unless every taxpayer desires to become an expert in the operation of a municipality, county, state or federal government in the 21st Century they must either elect good leaders and trust them enough to let them work or accept councils and congresses that accomplish little and slow progress at great taxpayer expense.

Earned faith, a hopeful public and a courageous press have historically made for more good government than a highly cautious, distrusting public ever has.

Fortunately for us in Cameron, trust is earned locally and no elected official wants to lose it by ignoring tax payers’ credible challenges to assumptions behind ordinances or resolutions. We manage to agree to disagree without becoming disagreeable and to continue to seek every opportunity to work together. Rather than trust taking a vacation, it seems to work long hours and even a little overtime in this city.

On Ending Homelessness

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There is no reason why any community cannot succeed in ending homelessness.  http://www.economist.com/blogs/democracyinamerica/2015/01/data-and-homelessness

and this video:  http://100khomes.org/blog/ending-homelessness-is-possible-now-lets-get-it-done

Invest in Infrastructure!

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Funny thing about infrastructure; it benefits the public and business, rich and poor, black, red, yellow, brown, and white.  Good roads?  City busses need them; so do limosines and eighteen wheelers.  Inexpensive broad band internet benefits the business that provides 400 jobs and the kid who is fact checking her science homework.

There could not be a better time.  Check out the brief video by Larry Summers: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T3FDxkGzprI.  

Engaging Young Adults in Political Leadership

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We say that we want young adults to participate in the political process. What does that mean? One important piece of a political future that includes the robust creativity and energy of the two youngest generations means paying attention to the changing world of communication and the power of networking.

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