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Monday Miscellany: Hedges, Sabbath, Oil Spill and Rapture

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Scattershooting, while wondering if the Rockies just got themselves back a vintage Jeff Francis, even though he’s not old enough to conjure the notion of “vintage” yet…………*

Two blog buddies both recently referenced a recent Chris Hedges column, found with different headlines on AlterNet and Truthdig.  Hedges isn’t just your average outside-looking-in church critic.  He knows of what he speaks; he’s a PK who attended a mainline seminary before his movement toward atheism.  His column reveals what I’ve found in his other writings, that he’s a somewhat reluctant atheist, and without the sort of bombastic, egocentric rhetoric of  atheistic contemporaries like Chris Hitchens and Bill Maher.  His theological training shines through this article, in which he wrestles with the conjoined issues of organized religion’s apparent demise and the troubling void its deconstruction is creating.  On the one hand, the insidious, perfidious rot that has fully set in throughout the institutional church is bringing about a very justifiable end to the institution.  On the other hand, once it’s gone where does civilization find a moral ethic rooted in the awareness that individual responsibility is to be fused with compassion?   As I noted in a previous Holy Week post, it wasn’t institutional religion that created and then dropped the atomic bomb, nor did Joe Stalin or Mao Zedong bother even to pay lip service to religion in their mass exterminations of people back in the late, great 20th century (perhaps the most barbarous century in recorded history).   Go here for a good take on Hedges’ piece by another progressive pastor.   Like him, I find it interesting that my defense of organized religion has made me a contrarian……………………………………….

This contrarian finds himself in a bit of a sabbatical these days, in large part due to the issues just mentioned.  It’s been a good time away and a time I didn’t know I needed until it was thrust upon me.  I’ve already found myself–put myself, actually–in places where I’ve had an opportunity to reconsider those classic Lutheran notions like simul justus et peccator (both saint and sinner),  and the many ways this condition plays out for good and for ill in our relationships.   Then there’s Grace–our need to receive it and then also to give it–and again, how this plays out most powerfully in the midst of our relationships.  I also recently had the opportunity to sit at table with a group of folks who all work at one of those superstores where the boxes are stacked high and deep, and where customers are promised the lowest possible prices.  I was intrigued to hear them talk of all the mean-spirited backbiting and conniving behaviors found in their workplace, and left the experience feeling a whole lot better about the culture of the church……it was a good reminder that despite criticism to the contrary, it’s not like the church cornered the market on such behaviors………………………….

Consider that one barrel of oil contains 42 gallons.  Then consider the government’s original estimate of the BP spill was roughly 5000 barrels a day.  Hang with me as I do the math………….210,000 gallons per day, and this is day 28.   Hang on, more math…………5,880,000 gallons by day’s end.  Now the New York Times reports that the government may well have underestimated the spill–it may be 4 or 5 times bigger than these numbers.

While most of us are appropriately horrified, there is that one segment of the populace that is no doubt doing some gleeful hand wringing–the rapture folks.  They no doubt look to that part of the Biblical book, Revelation, where the sea is poisoned by the second bowl of divine wrath.   They of course miss the key issue in the spill, the reality that we don’t need God or God’s angels to kill off and destroy all the life in the sea or on the earth; we’re very, very capable of doing this ourselves.   They also miss the key issue regarding Revelation, that this book which reads like a bad acid trip was actually carefully crafted to read like a bad acid trip.  I often find myself in agreement with Young Martin Luther, that this book should have been cut out of the canon a long time ago, mainly because of all the addle-brained mischief that comes from the careless and bone-headed ways this book is read and interpreted….mainline seminaries do a good job of steering people away from such lunacy, btw….but then I encounter Revelation’s enduring words of hope for a New Creation brought about by the Creator, where there is good life for the multitudes throughout the world; where the triumphant symbol isn’t some warlike or violent creature, but the Lamb whose love has conquered all hatred and fear.  I’m drawn into a vision where the pain and fear of death and disease is no more, and where the tree of life offers leaves of healing for all the nations of the world.  That’s the vision that wraps up John the Seer’s book, and that’s the vision that can help a person get up and out the door in the morning, in the awareness that our history may just have a direction toward a future that isn’t wholly dependent on us and our abilities–or lack thereof.

*Scattershooting is the style employed by the late, great sportswriter, Blackie Sherrod.


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