Monday, April 14, 2014

Deja Vu

Yesterday, our pastor (Bill Hybels of Willowcreek Community Church) preached for week three of Willow's annual Celebration of Hope series about helping the poor. It was the first sermon I've ever heard by Bill in which I didn't notice him mentioning either God or sin. (I could have missed something. Listen for yourself here:

It was a surprising omission to me because Bill's first question was "Why are the poor poor?" Bill offered several possibilities. He did not, however, offer the obvious Willow answer - because we live in a fallen world.

I was glad to see Bill then note the plight of the extreme poor has improved in recent decades. But I was surprised to see no credit given for that to the era of freedom beginning with the fall of the Berlin wall, nor to the resulting wave of free enterprise.

Next, Bill mentioned how he and Willow evolved from only offering compassionate help to the poor, to also supporting justice, and recently becoming involved in politics.

The example Bill offered was of recently writing editorials, meeting politicians, and attending demonstrations to solve the problem of illegal immigration. As usual, nothing was said on behalf of applicants for legal immigration, who wait years for a decision.

The new focus on justice and lobbying over compassion is a huge switch for Bill and Willow, but deja vu for a retired United Methodist pastor. Forty years ago, we in the UMC tried the same thing. For example, Bread for the World ( told us we could raise more money to feed the poor with one vote in Congress than from any number of individual charitable gifts. Theoretically true -- but not magic. Unless a majority of voters agree, members of Congress seeking re-election won't long support any idea.

When I first attended (in 1990), Willow had a different approach, called "Life by life." Rather than lobbying politicians, Willow built individual relationships. This resulted in such sights as Congressman Bobby Rush attending a Willowcreek Leadership Summit, and Bill's monthly visits with then-President Bill Clinton.

There is value in both approaches, but hearing the UMC argument coming from Bill's mouth left me wondering who now reaches people life by life..

Like many reaching the end of a career, Bill has recently become more willing to express controversial sentiments, coming out as a Democrat, much as I came out as a Libertarian on many issues after retirement. But part of me would like to return to the days when pastors were more careful not to drive off half a congregation by too fervently supporting only one side of a controversial issue in which major parties disagree and Biblical truth is elusive.

Monday, October 28, 2013


I hit my Facebook "Unfriend" button for the first time today, and have been reflecting about it since.

Previously, I edited the settings of Facebook friends, to control how many and which types of posts appear on my News Feed. But today's problem was from the other end - a contact requesting I no longer post in a way they dislike.

It's an interesting problem. If something appears on my news feed about which I have a strong opinion, I usually respond, as it is after all on my feed - visible to all my friends, thus leaving it uncommented upon gives the appearance of agreement. Having friends of widely varied views, I keep comments cheerful and polite, and avoid goring oxen in such a public setting.

Today, that wasn't enough. Accused of something I hadn't done, and not knowing what I could do to please while still respecting myself, I hit "Unfriend."

Matthew 18:16-18 suggests when someone offends us, we should first go to them in private. That didn't happen today, which raises the interesting question of whether I in turn should go first in private. Several articles I read today advised not to - just hit the "Unfriend" button; don't rub anyone's nose in it and don't tell them why unless asked. On the other hand, if my action is ever noticed, I'll be happy to accept a new Friend request, and we can then discuss how they too can prune posts they don't want to see.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Paid to Lose

John Stauber has an interesting new article in Counterpunch: Paid to Lose - The Progressive Movement is a PR Front for Rich Democrats
"There is good news in the Boston Globe today for the managers, development directors, visionaries, political hacks and propaganda flacks who run 'the Progressive Movement.'   More easy-to-earn and easy-to-hide soft money, millions of dollars,  will be flowing to them from super rich Democrats and business corporations.  It will come clean, pressed and laundered through Organizing for Action, the latest incarnation of the Obama Money Machine which has recently morphed into a 'nonpartisan non-profit corporation' that will  ‘strengthen the progressive movement and train our next generation of leaders.’

Does this information concern you?  If not, you need to get out of the propaganda bubble of your Progressive Movement echo chamber and think.  Think hard.  Think about fundamental, radical, democratic, social and economic change, who might bring it about and how?  Ask yourself if the rich elite, the 1%, are going to fund that?   Leave The Nation and Mother Jones on the shelf;  turn off Ed Schultz, Rachel Madow and Chris Hayes;  don’t open that barrage of email missives from Alternet, Media Matters, MoveOn, and the other think tanks;  and get your head out of the liberal blogosphere for a couple days.  Clear your mind and consider this:

The self-labeled Progressive Movement that has arisen over the past decade is primarily one big propaganda campaign serving the political interests of the the Democratic Party’s richest one-percent who created it."

I've been thinking this for a while; nice to see someone else noticing.

For me the interesting thing about all the calls from radical Democratic party-associated groups to punish the fat cats of Wall Street is that it never actually happens, no matter how many Democrats are elected, or how much noise they make about justice.

I can't think of even one person who's actually been indicted, let alone gone to jail for any of the actions that led to the crash of 2008. Instead, most of the 1%ers who did that were bailed out by two successive administrations, leaving all the pain to be borne by the 99%. Progressive friend Paul talks a lot about growing injustice in America. Well, here's our smoking gun of how that keeps happening.

Might be time for the 99% to look more seriously at third parties. Sure they'll lose, at least at first, but how is that different for them from what's happened under both current major parties' 1%ers?

HT Top the News

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Please focus on debt and deficits and getting the Senate to finally pass a budget, rather than trying to take away our new target pistol

I read a rumor yesterday that our state's only Republican Senator is going wobbly on the issue of gun control, so decided to send him a note, as follows:

"First, welcome back to the Senate! I'm sure it's been a long hard road
back, so congratulations! My sister had a stroke too a few years back, in
the best possible place - in her doctor's office, while being examined.
Even so, she too has had a tough road back.

I'm one of your precinct committeemen, and looking forward to supporting
you again in your next election.

Meanwhile, now that you are back, I hope you will focus on what matters,
rather than on each new distraction our opponents dangle before us.

I'm disgusted, but not surprised, that after four years of not even trying
to pass a budget as required by the Constitution, leaders of the other
party would still rather talk about anything and everything other than how
our nation and its future are going rapidly bankrupt. If there is to be a
free and prosperous America for our grandchildren, that's the topic the
Senate needs to discuss.

Instead, this week it seems they'd rather discuss all the useless
meaningless ways they can act in the name of preventing mass murders
without actually having even a tiny effect on their already-decreasing
numbers. And to do this, our opposition would be happy to completely
render meaningless the Second Amendment by outlawing, regulating and
registering pretty much anything citizens currently use to deter either
criminals or a potentially-despotic government.

Although the secret ballot is our most precious civil right, the right to
keep and bear arms is almost as sacred because it helps guarantee all the
other civil rights.

There's a reason pistols in the last century had names like "the
Peacemaker" and "the Equalizer," because they did indeed defend both peace
and equality for groups that would otherwise not have known either,
including Martin Luther King, Jr, a proud gun owner as a deterrent against
the Klan.

When trouble erupts, there's a tendency for politicians to feel they have
to do something, no matter how useless. But Pogo was wiser in the old
cartoon, when he said "Don't just do something. Stand there!"

Focus on the big issue - making sure there is still a free and
non-bankrupt America for our grandchildren to inherit. And never mind what
the media and the opposition say. They hate us both already, and nothing
we do or say will change that. If you're going to be blamed regardless of
what you do, you may as well do the right thing.

My wife and I are thoroughly enjoying practicing with our new 10 shot
.22LR target pistol. Please don't cooperate in making them any harder to
buy or use legally than the already-difficult and time-consuming process
it took to buy them and find ammo for them.

I've always thought the NRA was a bit over-the-top, but not after the last
two months of constant attacks on our Second Amendment rights. I'm now a
paid-up member, and have their bumper sticker on our car. That might get
it keyed by the other side, but sometimes you have to have the courage to
speak up in spite of such threats.

Thanks much for considering these thoughts, and once again, welcome back!"

What I didn't say in the note, is that if he does decide to go wobbly on this issue, I won't be supporting him again. Why bother? If I wanted my life micromanaged, we already have a party for that. If all that his being a Republican meant was that he'd drive a bit slower on the road to perdition, then voting for or working for his election would be worse than wasting a vote on a currently-unelectable but more principled alternative candidate. Just as it makes no sense for blacks to let their votes always be taken for granted by the Democratic Party, it makes no sense to let the Illinois Republican Party to think their path back to power is over the dead bodies of conservatives, libertarians and TEA partiers -- the only people still supporting them at all, so far as I can see.

Update: Looks like Senator Kirk has decided not only to go wobbly on the Second Amendment, but to act as though it doesn't exist. He's sponsoring not one but two anti-gun bills in the U.S. Senate (S. 179, and S, 480), neither of which would have prevented any of the recent tragedies in which guns were used, but will be another layer of cost and trouble for ordinary law-abiding citizens. And as usual, the poor and weak will be harmed the most, no longer as able to legally defend themselves.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Bobby Jindal leads the way

Here is the text of Bobby Jindal's recent speech to the Republican National Committee:

Ideas that impressed me:
"We must not become the party of austerity. We must become the party of growth."

"first you must win the argument, then you can win the elections." (quoting Margaret Thatcher)

"we will not win elections by simply pointing out the failures of the other side."

"solving problems closer to home should always be our first, not last, option."

"Get rid of the loopholes"

"reject identity politics"

"quit 'big.'"

"focus on real people outside of Washington"

We also need to stop funding media, companies and institutions that always and only support our opposition. Not a single ad or subscription or tuition or purchase dollar, ever again. Put that money to better use buying and supporting new media, institutions and products.

We can never out-promise or out-demonize those willing to say and do anything to win. All we can do is ignore their latest distraction and stand up for Truth and Freedom, knowing we'll be hated and attacked even if we say and do nothing.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Anything I can do, short of a loan

Excellent summary by Rev. Donald Sensing, on why cash is rarely the right way to help strangers in need, even for a Christian. I long ago learned that if a stranger approaches me downtown with a need that can apparently only be met with cash, that is the one thing I must never give if I truly care. This is really sad too, as a dear friend once found herself downtown without CTA fare home, and had to beg for hours, because professional panhandlers so often abuse the generosity of strangers.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Armed Pastor?

I just read this interesting blog entry by fellow United Methodist pastor Donald Sensing on why he recently bought a small pistol to carry on walks:
"I am not really worried about a human attacker but I am legitimately concerned about the four-legged kind."
That seems right to me. I love to hike, but not in areas where I share the path with creatures capable of killing humans that I may not be able to avoid. Fortunately, that isn't an issue locally yet.

Sensing also makes interesting related points:
"1. I carry a pistol to defend myself and my loved ones, not to defend you. A carry permit does not make me the Fist of Justice. It does not give me police powers. If I face criminal danger in public, my number one choice will be to flee, not fight. Having no other choice, I will draw or use my pistol to save my children, my wife, myself. Not you. (Relevant: See my posts on why permit holders could not have saved the day in the movie theater murders in Aurora, Colo., last summer.)

2. I will not put my life at risk to protect property. Nothing I own is worth risking death for. Nor is it worth killing for. So I will not shoot someone just to protect property. But if someone attempts to rob me or invade my home, my default setting is that they also mean to do me and/or my family harm.

As an Illinois resident, where carrying a pistol by ordinary citizens is never allowed, I was particularly interested in this comment:
" If you are an adult, no one is more responsible for defending you than you. If you find yourself unarmed and needing defending, it is because you decided to be. Bluntly put, I am not going to put my life at risk to subsidize your stupid decision. I might be morally justified in defending you with lethal force, but I am not morally obligated to do so."
I've never owned a gun, other than a BB pistol once, but Sensing makes a good point. My only counter-argument is that perhaps he might consider also defending poor tourists from the only state stupid enough to still forbid carrying a pistol either openly or concealed. Oh, and he also might want to defend widows and orphans. God seems pretty cool with that throughout the Bible.

Sensing enjoys sport shooting, as do I. Taking an NRA class recently was great fun, as was another recent civilian police academy class. For now, I can rent guns when I visit a range, but the selection is limited enough that I'd prefer to just buy a .22 pistol (cheap to operate) and learn to use it well, as soon as I'm comfortable with getting it legally to and from the range, and have friends with whom to shoot often enough to maintain skills. (If that's you, let me know please.)

Fortunately, a U.S. appellate court decided yesterday that the Illinois total ban on concealed carry is unconstitutional, and gave the legislature six months to pass a more reasonable law. Here's hoping they do!

Update: I was delighted to meet a Catholic brother in vestments at the range yesterday. He mentioned serving in a tough neighborhood. There IS precedent - Peter carried a sword, at Jesus' request.

I was less happy to read a letter from fellow retired United Methodist pastors in Central Illinois in our conference newspaper yesterday, basically asking for lots of guns and stuff to be banned and for whatever isn't banned to be registered and regulated by the Federal government and the U.N.

Ironically, the very next page featured stories about churches being closed because folks are no longer giving as much to U.M. churches. If I'd read such a letter from the pulpit of any of the churches I served there, I'd have been lucky if anyone even showed up the next week, let alone put anything in the offering.

(I was once dumb enough the preach against eating too much meat, and had to let the head of the local Farm Bureau preach an opposing view the following week. Fortunately, that church saw breaking the rough edges off new pastors as part of their job.)

My advice to anyone sympathetic to the idea of any additional regulation of guns or ammo to first go spend an hour at a range. (If you know me, consider yourself invited.)

And fellow Methodists, before trying to ban anything else dearly loved by fellow adults, patriots and Christians, ponder deeply the consequences of your previous attempts to ban something millions of Americans didn't want banned (alcohol.)

Update#2: Rev. Sensing has posted another entry about specific four-legged pit bull attackers that have now inspired him to carry a 9mm pistol on his walks. Details here.

Update#3: The retired UM pastors whose views on gun control so bothered me above have apparently also gotten an earful from others, as they put a more sensible letter in this week's conference newspaper.
This time they note (correctly and relevantly) that "99 of the 102 counties are not reporting persons to the [National Criminal Background Check System] database, and out of 130,000 clinicians, only 83 of them make reports to the database."

They also correctly note that "There was a time in the 1970s and 1980s when Illinois had one of the finest mental health systems in the nation and then it began to be dismantled," though I find myself suspecting they were in favor of that at the time as a way of respecting the rights of mental patients.

I chuckled as I read of one of the writers saying "Pastorally, I do have to tell you that the level of your anger causes me to be concerned for your soul because anger will eventually destroy you."

Sadly, they also repeated such inaccuracies as that "30,000 Americans are killed each year by gun violence," either not knowing or not caring that most of those deaths are suicides, and most of the rest criminal-on-criminal violence using illegally-obtained guns.

Update #4: Another pastor, John Linneham, just supported the second amendment by wearing a Ruger 9mm as he preached:, saying “I don’t normally pack a gun. I don’t usually do it, but today I wanted to take a stand so there’s no misunderstanding as to where we stand.” Picture and more here.

Update #5:  An area church responded to the recent outrage of a boy suspended for chewing a Pop Tart into what he said was a mountain but a teacher thought looked like a gun, by having a Pop Tart gun-making contest in Sunday School as part of Second Amendment Sunday. What got my attention most was this:
"The reason this country is in this condition is not because sinners act like sinners, it’s because Christians don’t act at all.  And pastors?  They’re notorious cowards … anything that will come between a filled pew and a filled collection plate … the hirelings scamper away.  Having said that, I have been contacted by three other pastors each from a different state who want to know more and asked me to send them material.”  The pastor went on to say, “There will always be a remnant …"