“The Status Quo Means Change”

Yes, yes, I know that the meaning of “status quo” is to essentially keep things as they are but I think there is a problem with that particular idea. The Greek philosopher Heraclitus said, “No man ever steps in the same river twice, for it’s not the same river and he is not the same man.”

There is a feeling in this country today that we need to maintain the status quo. It is clearly an unstated feeling but it seems to permeate almost everything we do, whether what we do is good or bad. It is almost as if we fear change and are unwilling to seek change. In a world and a society in which we willing and boldly went over the horizon and peeked around the corner, we are now reluctant to do so. We now longer wish to venture into the unknown, preferring to stay where we are, thinking that in doing so, we will be safe and secure.

And yet, people came to this country, not knowing what was here because they wanted (and still want) to start a new life. The American Revolution was begun because our ancestors were unwilling to live in society that denied them freedom and they were willing to try a form of government that expressed ideas never before considered.

The exploration of this globe, though driven at times by more ulterior motives, required that we go over the horizon and look around the corner, even when the maps said “Terra Incognita” (or “unknown land”). In when President John Kennedy spoke about going to the moon at Rice University in May of 1962, he noted that it would a difficult task and that it would require metal alloys that had not been invented yet and without knowing what benefits we would receive from the effort.

And he acknowledged that it would not be easy and it would not be cheap. But new hopes for peace and knowledge were to be found by going to not just to the moon but to the planets and stars beyond. So we began the great exploration.

But today, we remain literally earth-bound. No one has stepped on the surface of the moon since Gene Cernan stepped back into the LEM on December 14, 1972, and we are seemingly content to let other countries send individuals into outer space. And our plans for future exploration keep getting pushed back as we consider other activities more important.

But I am afraid that those other activities are the same activities that began to take away the resources of the Apollo program. It was first the war in Viet Nam and now it is the wars and military excursions in the Middle East. And it is not just the military operations but also the mind-set that says we build weapons of war but we forget the people.

How long can we continue to focus on destruction and death rather that construction and life? How long can we continue to send our young off to die or come home injured and then forgotten?

What benefits do we reap today from sending individuals off to war? Perhaps it is the enjoyment that General Robert E. Lee so feared when he wrote to his wife, “It is well that war is so terrible – otherwise we would grow fond of it.” And what parent does not want to bury their child, remember the Herodotus’ quote, “In peace, children bury their parents; war violates the order of nature and causes parents to bury their children.”

If maintaining the status quo means keeping things the same, then we must face the fact that we are doomed. Because what we are doing today takes away our life and our future.

But if the status quo means to seek change, then we have a future. IT is future not only for ourselves but for our children and this planet.

Should we not be sending our young and all the able people to find new worlds or seek new things? It is quite easy to see the benefits that we gained from going to the moon in the 1960s. Our smart phones, our computers, and most of the technology of our lives were developed from the efforts to send people into space and return them safely. What benefits shall we reap tomorrow from what we do today?

We have a choice today. We can hold onto what we have right now, which isn’t much, and see our future disappear, much like water evaporating. It won’t be obvious but then one moment we see there is no water in the container. We try valiantly to hold onto to what we have and then we find that it is all gone.

Or we can seek change, not sure if it will work or not but knowing that if we do not seek change, if we do not see what is around the corner or over the horizon, we will fail.

Yes, there might be a cliff over the horizon but how will we know if we don’t go and look; at least we will know that is not the way to go. Yes, it will cost something to do this but consider what we are spending today and what we are spending it on and tell me that we have better ways to spend our funds.

To seek change is the only way to maintain who we are and what we are to be.

“What Are We Supposed To Remember?”

This is one of those unique weekends where Memorial Day and Pentecost Sunday are celebrated on the same weekend. On Pentecost Sunday, we remember the birth of the church and on Memorial Day we remember, though honor is perhaps a better term, those who have served this country in the past.

And yet while one of these occurrences is supposed to celebrate life and the other celebrate death, I am not entirely sure today which one is doing which. On this Pentecost Sunday, we hear not of the birth of the church but rather its death and on a day when we are suppose to honor and remember those who have died in service for this country, we seem to be more concern about having another war or continuing the wars in place.

If anything, this weekend should celebrate life. We need to remember those who have died so that others may live and, then, we need to work on ways to make sure that we do not use wars as a way to ensure peace and freedom. I do not think that those who have died believed they died in vain but I also believe that they felt the world would be safer because of what they did.

We need to remember what those gathered together in Jerusalem on that first Pentecost were doing then and find ways to keep doing it today. It is noted in the Book of Acts that they shared all they had, without exception, and they made sure those who had no resources, including those who might be called non-believers, were included. They gathered together in love and their numbers grew because of that.

But today, the money that society spends on destruction and death is far more than what is spent on construction and life. And when I think back to the way life was 100 years ago and 50 years ago and see that not much has changed – we worship war and inequality, the rich seem to get richer and the poor remained oppressed, I have what it is we are supposed to remember this weekend.

I hope that what we remember this weekend pushes us to ensure a better world and not one where war and inequality are the way. What I fear is that unless we resolve to make Pentecost an ongoing expression of our faith, of people living together and sharing all their resources, then we will have more burials of young people who died to ensure that peace and freedom continue will continue.

“Some Contrarian Christian Ideas On Taxes”

I know that these are not necessarily associated with the 7th Sunday of Easter or Ascension Sunday but reflect some thoughts about some ideas related to the Bible and Christianity. This is part one of a two part piece and deals with the notion of taxes. The second part (“Some Contrarian Christian Ideas on Science”) deals with ideas of science.

At least one Presidential candidate is bring back the idea of a flat tax and using the Bible as justification for the idea. Of course, a flat tax is a very regressive tax, meaning that it impacts more on those who have less income. But there is precedence for a Biblical-based tax and I have written about it on a number of occasions.

Message presented on 31 August 2003 – “Do As I Say? Or Do As I Do?” (posted on 28 May 2008). The following messages and posts refer to this particular message as the primary source.

Message presented on 21 March 2004 – “Which Side Are You On? (2004) (posted on 27 May 2008)

Who Shall Enter The Promised Land?” (posted on 25 October 2008)

Message presented on 14 June 2009 – “The State of Faith” (posted on 27 June 2009)

To Finish The Journey” (posted on 25 October 2011)

The original reference for a Biblical tax system is found in the first of the five posts (“Do As I Say? Or Do As I Do?”) and describes the work of Susan Hamill, a professor of law at the University of Alabama, whose Master’s thesis was entitled “An Argument for Tax Reform Based on Judeo-Christian Ethics”. In it, she states it states that “Alabama’s tax structure fails to meet any reasonable definition of fairness and violates the moral principles of Judeo-Christian ethics.” (My notes say that I got this information concerning the proposal for reforming the Alabama tax code came from an article written by Bob Allen and posted to Ethics.com on 4/14/03; I cannot confirm this link, though there are several links to the original document out there).

As I originally wrote, many of the churches in Alabama came out for this proposal. However, the Christian Coalition in Alabama, backed by the state’s timber industry, worked against it, probably because it would have increased the taxes on higher incomes and businesses. The Christian Coalition could not defeat the logical of the argument she presented so they attacked her personally.

So, there is a Biblical way to tax everyone that is fair and equitable; it just not the plan being proposed by present Presidential candidates.

“A Day Of Two Anniversaries”

There are two important anniversaries to note for today which are perhaps linked together in how we move into the future.  Today marks the 100th anniversary of the introduction of chemical weapons into modern warfare. It also marks the 45th anniversary of Earth Day.

This juxtaposition of events speaks to the challenges that we has citizens of this planet face. Shall we use the knowledge that we have to create a better world or destroy the world that we have?

Fritz Haber, the noted German chemist and co-developer of the Haber-Bosch process (the conversion of nitrogen into ammonia), worked on the development of chemical weapons such as chlorine, phosgene, and mustard gas.

Regarding war and peace, Haber once said,

“During peace time a scientist belongs to the World, but during war time he belongs to his country.”

This was an example of the ethical dilemmas facing chemists at that time. (Novak, Igor (2011). Science: a many-splendored thing. Singapore: World Scientific. pp.247–316. ISBN 9814304743. Retrieved 16 September 2014 – from Wikipedia)

Haber would rationalize the use of such weapons by saying death was death, by whatever means it was obtained. By then I remember what Robert E. Lee once wrote,

It is well that war is so terrible, otherwise we should grow too fond of it.”

He would also state (revering, I think, to the Civil War but which can be applied to many other wars,

The war… was an unnecessary condition of affairs, and might have been avoided if forbearance and wisdom had been practiced on both sides.”

A note from my grandfather’s diary

October 5, 1918 – Received 3 letters from Elsie, 1 from my mother. First that I had received in some time. Gas is no stranger to us now.

This is the only reference he ever made. In a report I heard on NPR yesterday, they said that French and Belgium farmers are still digging up unexploded chemical shells from their fields.

Later, my father would make some comments about the impact of the use of atomic weapons on Japan and what it meant in terms of World War II ending.

Today is also the 45th anniversary of Earth Day. There are those today who rather this day be ignored; they show it in their callous attitudes about climate change, water usage, and water and air pollution. I have even hear some take the words of Genesis to mean that we can do whatever we want to this planet.

But the words of Genesis task us with taking care of the planet, not destorying it or misusing. This is the day we say to the people of this planet, you have a chance to make this a better world.

This is a day of two anniversaries; one that takes to death and one that takes us to life, which shall you choose.

“The Meaning Of This Day”

Today is April 4th. It is that day between Good Friday and Easter. Some call it “Black Saturday”, others don’t call it anything at all. I have never understood why, from at least a liturgical standpoint, we don’t do anything on this day. I wrote a piece entitled “The Missing Day” a few years ago that tried to put into words what I thought took place that day (I have since tried to turn it into a play and if you are interested, let me know).

But the significance of this day is not just in its place on the liturgical calendar. Next year, because of the uniqueness of the Easter calendar, this missing day will March 26. It will still be the day between Good Friday and Easter but it will not have the same significance as today, April 4th, might have to some, myself included.

On this day in 1969 I would have been either on my way from Kirksville, Missouri, to Memphis, Tennessee, or already in Memphis for Easter/spring break. I would have in my possession two books, Letters of a C. O. from Prison (Timothy W. L. Zimmer, The Judson Press, Valley Forge, 1969) and Faith In A Secular Age (Colin Williams, First Harper ChapelBook, Harper & Row, 1966).

These books were given to me by Reverend Marvin Fortel, my pastor at the 1st United Methodist Church of Kirksville, after our meeting and communion the day before I left for Memphis. I have read and used the Faith book so much that is has fallen apart and is held together by a strong paper clip. Reverend Fortel gave these books to me to help me understand some questions I had about the role of faith in society and what path I might take. ((I first published my account of this conversation and what happened on that spring break trip home in That First Baptism”; the details of the conversation itself were first published in Our Father’s House”.)

But the meaning of this day goes back one more year, to April 4, 1968, when I was a senior at Bartlett High School in Memphis, Tennessee. It was on this day that Martin Luther King, Jr., was shot, shot for speaking out for the sanitation workers on strike in Memphis and for speaking out for equality, both racial and economic. As I have written elsewhere, I have no doubt that Dr. King would have also spoken out for gender equality as well. (My thoughts on this day are posted on “Where Were You On April 4, 1968?” and “On This Day”).

The meaning of this day in 2015 is perhaps an understanding that we haven’t moved towards the goals that were so clearly envisioned that spring in 1968, both in what took place in Memphis, and on the political trails with Robert Kennedy and Eugene McCarthy. Sadly, the political vision that Robert Kennedy offered this country that spring will also be cut down by an assassin’s bullet some two months after Dr. King was assassinated.

We live in a society where the rich demand favors and politicians are so quick to give. We live in a society where many people think that the rich will share the wealth with them so that they too can be rich. We have accepted as economic truth that the wealth of the view will somehow trickle down to the masses but we fail to see the flow of money only goes one way and that is to the rich and not the poor.

We live in a society where you are not allowed to be who you are and often times assumed to be less than others because of the color of your skin or the nature of your relationships with others. We are quickly finding out that bigotry, racism, and inequality are the norms of society and not the outliers.

We live in a society where many people see religion and faith as either superstitious or antiquated thinking and others do everything in their power to ensure that view remains. I am not sure where we are going when faith and what one believes does more to harm than it does for good.

In 1968, we were just beginning to understand the role humans played in the care and upkeep of the environment. In 1969, the Cuyahoga River would once again catch fire and while as damaging as an earlier fire in 1952 (it turns out that the Cuyahoga River has had a history of catching on fire, dating back to 1868), would help us to understand, what it was that we were doing to the environment.

And yet today, there are those who would refute the evidence that shows what mankind is doing to its home planet, for to accept the evidence would mean a change in how we live.

As 1968 ended and 1969 began, we were on the verge of walking on the moon. There were those who envisioned the possibilities of moving beyond the moon and to the planets and perhaps the stars. But we stopped going to the moon and the vision of traveling to the stars is often only seen on television and in the movies.

We seem unwilling to create schools that produce thinkers and visionaries because such processes open the eyes of the youth to the truths of society. Education was once the means by which we could move forward; I am not sure what it has become today.

How long can we continue to live in a world where ignorance and greed dominate our thinking and, in the end, destroy not only mankind but the world on which we live?

What is the meaning of this day in 2015? For some, this day is the beginning of Passover and marks the beginning of the path to freedom. For some, myself included, this day is the day before Christ’s Resurrection and the triumph over sin and death. It too is the beginning of the path to freedom.

I hope that you will pause this day and begin to think about how it is that you can work for freedom and justice. This is not a day to keep the past as the present but to work so that the future can be reached.

“How Will I Know?”

Laws have been passed that say that I don’t have to serve someone in my place of business if in doing so it goes against my religious beliefs.

But how will I know if that person or persons is doing something that goes against my religious beliefs? Will I now have to ask everyone who comes to my place of business if their activities in the past or present or even in the future will somehow go against what I believe?

I know that Jesus often told those He met during the course of His ministry to go and sin no more but I don’t recall Him ever asking anyone what it was that caused them to be a sinner. I don’t recall Him questioning the individual who hung next to Him on Golgotha as to the reason why he and the other individual were hanging there with Him. All He did was forgive him and allow him to enter into Heaven.

In fact, the only ones who seemed upset when Jesus even so much as talked to the sinners of the community were the religious and political leaders.

So how will I know who to serve and who not to serve? Wouldn’t it just be better if I did as my Lord and Savior did and treat everyone the same, with equal love and concern for the well-being, even if they do not return the love?