LifeWalk

______________________ LIFE, FAITH, ETCETERA

Beyond The Burden July 28, 2017

I’m going to take a huge hit on my taxes for this year.
Why?
In a word: Obamacare.

This past February I lost the insurance that I had had through my employer do to a change in employment status.  I failed to find/afford health care within the allowed 3-month period following.
Now I’m gonna owe.
The Affordable Care Act has not yet been of personal benefit.
It’s actually a bit of a burden.

This morning, after 7 years of railing against Obamacare, the Republicans again failed to repeal and replace.
And guess what.
I rejoiced!
I have actively done my part by sending emails, making phone calls and sharing info on social media.
Obamacare is going to cost me, and I still rejoice in its continued success (and much-needed fixes).

Why?
Because I know this isn’t just about me!

Good-Samaritan-croppedThe Christian Bible says
“Do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others.” – Philippians 2:4 (NASB)
The Dalai Lama is quoted as saying
“Our prime purpose in this life is to help others, and if you can’t help them, at least don’t hurt them.”

I know millions would have lost their coverage if this repeal and falsely touted “replace” would have gone through.  I know of those who would not have received coverage without the ACA.  There are those who know they likely would have died without Obamacare.
I rejoiced in this morning’s decision because it’s the right thing to do whether I, at this point, am benefited by it or not.

It was already clear for those willing to see, but now is pretty much undeniable:  The Republicans never intended on the “replace” part.  Only the repeal.  That’s why, after all these years, they still don’t have a workable plan.  Because, as they’ve proven, they don’t care about health care as much as they care about destroying the legacy of America’s 1st African-American President.
I believe this with every fiber of my being.

So yes.  For me right now, the ACA is a burden.  It’s going to cost me.
That’s OK.
I also pay taxes to support the school system while having no school-age children.  I pay for roads on which I’ll never travel.  The list goes on.
Yes, it’s a burden.  But I’m looking beyond the burden in the hopes that we can move forward and improve health care.
Not just destroy it.

 

[Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. – Galatians 6:2]

[“The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.” – Mahatma Gandhi]

[“Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, ‘What are you doing for others?'” – MLK]

 

AL FRANKEN, GIANT of the SENATE July 10, 2017





Intelligent and knowledgeable, funny and insightful, and still a pretty good looking guy.

But enough about me.
Let’s talk about Al Franken and his latest book.

This is my 4th read by Franken.  It does not disappoint.  In fact, there’s something in its tone that, to me, seems to make it more accessible than his previous books.
It’s a memoir.  It’s humorous.  It’s a scathing expose. It’s an explanation of the mechanics of government. And, ultimately, a book of hope.

We shown portions of Al’s childhood, we go through the years of his SNL involvement, and are brought up to date with his experience as a Senator from Minnesota.
And there are a lot of cool photographs.
One of his previous book titles can really be applied to all of his books: “The Truth (with Jokes).”  All of his books are filled with researched, notated, verifiable facts.  They also have many laughs (and some occasional groans). It’s hard to find reading that both entertains and educates as much as a book by Al Franken

[Although many of them are short, there are 47 chapters here.  So I won’t be doing a chapter-by-chapter review (as I have for some books).]

Early on Franken tells us “Why I’m a Democrat.”  “Civil rights, our parents taught us, are about basic justice.  And when the news would be full of southern shefiffs truning firehoses, dogs, and nightsticks on demonstrators, my dad would point to the TV and [say] ‘No Jew can be for that!’ Opportunity is supposed to be for everyone.  And that’s why I’m a Democrat.”

Later, of course, we get into Al’s run for Senate.  An excruciating election that resulted in a 8-month (plus) recount!
Then we gain a whole lot of information about the inner workings of our government.

“My Republican Friends” is an interesting chapter.  Al actually has many friends who are Republicans. And he has some positive things to say about Republicans in general. Part of his job is “looking for opportunities to find common ground.”  But, being a Senator means having to make friends with people you’re fighting against, and fighting “with every fiber of your being” against people you are friends with.

We also learn of Al’s relationship to addiction.  Al managed to never become an addict. “There but for the grace of God go I” he says. But he had to deal with his wife’s alcohol addiction, his best friend’s chemical addiction, as well addictions of celebrity friends like Belushi and Farley.  “Addiction can take an unimaginable toll on the people who love addicts.”

The 3 chapters about SNL also discuss Comedy Central, Jon Stewart, Stephen Colbert and a show Al did called “Indecision ’92.”  And were brought to face the fact that “comedy broadcasts” are often one of the most reliable sources for truth in news.  This is also the time-frame where “Rush Limbaugh Is a Big Fat Idiot and Other Observations” is written, and “shot to number one on the New York Times bestseller list.”

There’s a chapter on healthcare.  The lies, misinformation and obstruction from the Republicans on this issue is amazing.  They fought and fought to stop it.  Once it became law they’ve fought and fought to repeal it.  Sadly, it’s looking like they may have a chance now.  “Republicans have voted more than sixty times to repeal the law.  They had offered zero plans to replace it.”  And of course the “plans” they have offered recently haven’t even met with approval from their own party.  That’s because, for all their talk, they’ve never been interested in the “replace” part.  Just repealing any progress made by President Obama.

Another chapter discusses education.  Which, with DeVos running the department, our children are in genuine trouble.  But before Betsy, once again, “Even as we were finding ourselves in agreement on what we needed to do, Republican leadere were working to prevent us from actually doing it.  McConnell’s goal was almost always to stop Obama and Senate Democrats from getting thing done, to prevent us from having achievements we could point to.”

In addition to health care and education, there’s a discussion on climate change. “Virtually everyone in the world believes that climate change is real and is caused by human beings, except Republicans. [They] know that if they concede that global warming is real, the Koch brothers will spend money against them.

“The Angel and the Devil” looks at the very important topic of discrimination. “Growing up, my kids read in history books about a time in our country when it was perfectly legal to fire somebody or refuse to hire somebody because they were black or a woman.  For them it was a concept they couldn’t understand.  I hope that my future grandkids will only read about when it was legal to fire someone because they’re gay or transgender.”

Ted Cruz gets an entire chapter devoted to him.  “Here’s the thing you have to understand about Ted Cruz.  I like Ted Cruz more than most of my other colleagues like Ted Cruz.  And I hate Ted Cruz.”

On Trump: [He] quickly showed that he had no knowledge about the details of public policy… no interest in learning the details of public policy… [and] actively scornful of learning.  “I know more that the generals,” he would say.  No, idiot – you don’t.

We have insights and stories about McConnell, President Obama, Hillary Clinton, George W. Bush, The horribly insanely greedy and uncaring Koch brothers, Perry Mason (?!?) and more.
Franken has a lot of stories about learning how to be a Senator and about how important all his staff are: The research, the guidance and critiques they offer.  Switching careers from comedy writer (excuse me, “satire” writer) to serving as a Senator had a huge learning curve.  He allowed his staff to gently let him know if he was crossing the line, such as the time when one staffer slipped him a subtle note: “You’re being an asshole.”  So, Al’s humor often takes aim at Al, as well as others.  And he give his wife, Franni, credit for saving his campaign.  “There is no question that I would have lost the election if Franni had not [did what she did].”

As humorous and entertaining as this book is, the seriousness of the issues is intense.
This is information every American needs to have. The future of your children and grandchildren is literally in jeopardy right now!
If you vote, you need to read this book!  (And if you don’t vote, well…)

 

 

Buy the book.  Click HERE.

Some Quotes:

  • Between 25 to 40 percent of Americans have a severely distorted view of how government and politics are supposed to work.
  • We all do better when we all do better
  • My wife and I have a division of labor.  Basically it’s this: Franni’s in charge.
  • McConnell and his friends constantly blamed Obama for the partisanship of the Obama years, managing to suppress their giggles all the while.

Buy the book.  Click HERE.

  • Until John Belushi’s death, we at SNL didn’t really understand that drugs can kill you.  But by the time Chris Farley got in trouble, we at the show understood all too well.
  • Abortion services make up (only!) 3 percent of what Planned Parenthood does. [Planned Parenthood, through many of their services, does more to prevent abortions than anything those against it have ever come up with!!!  Just sayin’.]
  • Half of all bankruptcies in America were tied to a medical problem.
  • Under Trump, we should probably prepare for the worst.  This is going to suck for a while.  But not forever.
  • Just because we’re out of power doesn’t mean we abdicate our responsibility to try to improve people’s lives.  That’s what makes us Democrats.  It’s what makes us worth electing in the 1st place.

Also read: “Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them.”


NOTE: If you are a right-wing friend or family member, and would be willing to read this book, even if it’s to “find fault,” let me know and I will (as finances allow) try to get a copy to you!

 

What Is The Bible (Book Review) June 9, 2017

what
I’ve read the Bible cover to cover.
More than once.
I’ve read much of it dozens of times, and some of it hundreds of times.
I’ve studied it.  Meditated on it. Dissected it.  Taught it.  Preached it.
Made it much the focus of my life.
Eventually, to some degree, I discarded it.  Dismissed it.
I’ve considered that it may be a book to be banned.
(OK.  Not really. The book shouldn’t be banned.  But many people should be banned from owning a copy until they learn some responsibility.)

How I wish I had had the eyes to see, and the ears to hear the kinds of wisdom, insight, approach, and understanding that is represented in Rob Bell’s profound book “What Is The Bible?

 

A lot of the basic understanding here is understanding I’ve had for awhile now.  Some of this was addressed in Brian McLaren’s “A New Kind of Christianity.” But, the specific perception of various individual passages that are discussed here are really, really eye-opening.
You’ll revisit stories with which you thought you were well acquainted.
Noah and the flood.
Abraham and his son.
Jonah and the big fish.
The parable of The Good Samaritan.
The “take-away” on these stories has (at least in my tradition) almost always strayed from the real point. But, they will take on a breath of fresh air as you understand them the way the original audience would have understood them.  And we find out why Americans often miss the major themes of the Bible!

There are stories we look at and think, “How backwards and barbaric!” And a lot of it was backwards and barbaric!  But, looking closer, in the midst of this we can see actual steps forward in the evolving understanding of God.
We go through lots of passages, Old Testament and New.   We get into all the violence that causes some to pronounce “There is no God,” and others to just accept it (or even appropriate it, so to speak) and use it as a justification for their own hate.  There’s a chapter titled “What’s the Worst Question to Ask When You’re Reading the Bible?”
It’s a question that believers and atheists both ask!

One portion discusses the word and concept of “sin.”  It’s become, for many of us, a cringe-worthy word.  Here you’ll find what may be the best material on the subject I’ve ever seen.
Rob also addresses many of the standard questions he gets, like “Did Jesus have to die?” “What about all that wrath?” and (concerning Abraham) “What kind of God would ask a man to sacrifice his son?”  I LOVED the answer to that one!
The last chapter, “A Note on Growing and Changing,” has some great advise for those of us with family and friends that dont see things the way we do.  (And who doesn’t fit that catagory?!?!)

I once suggested a book to someone thinking he might enjoy the unique perspective.   He didn’t read it (which is fine) But, what he did do was “analyze” the book based solely on it’s title, and then arrogantly proclaim “Book solved!”  I remember thinking, “WTF?”

This is not a book to be solved.  This is a book to be eaten.
Chewed slowly.  Swished about like a fine wine.
Will you agree with everything in it?  Not likely.  Can you find (or make up) reasons to tear it apart?  Of course you can.
Can you be inspired, encouraged, educated and entertained?
I sure was.  There is just so much here!

I wish every atheist and fundamentalist evangelical would read this book (and, well, everyone else).
It’s been my experience that both tend to approach the Bible in the exact same way.  But, as is often the case, many who could benefit the most will shun this book as either heresy or fantasy.  Religion has a long history of calling truth heresy, and intellectuals have a long history of dismissing anything “spiritual.”
Still, for those who let it, it can be another compelling part of their journey.  With lots of “ah-ha” moments.

I suppose once you’ve read “What Is The Bible”, that you can leave the experience unchanged.
But I can’t see how.

 

(Buy the book.  Click HERE.)

Some Quotes:

  • It’s possible to resist the very growth and change and expanding consciousness that God desires for you by appealing to your religious convictions.  (Read the story of Peter in Acts, chapter 10!)
  • You can’t take people where they don’t want to go.
  • The deepest forces of the universe are on the side of the oppressed, the underdog, and the powerless.
  • I’ve heard people say that they read it literally.  As if that’s the best way to understand the Bible.  It’s not.  We read it literately.

(Buy the book.  Click HERE.)

  • [In the story of Jonah] the dude who sees himself as us is furious because of how chummy God and them have become.  He’s so furious he’d rather die than live with the tension.
  • I would often hear people say, We need to get back to how they did it in the early church.  But reading the Bible, you learn that it’s not about trying to be something you’re not.   We open our eyes to the divine invitation right here, right now in this [world].
  • When people debate faith vs. science they’ve already missed the point.  Faith is about embracing truth wherever it’s found, and that of course includes science.

(Buy the book.  Click HERE.)

  • To make broad dismissals of the scriptures as having nothing to say to the modern world about what it means to be human is absurd and naïve.  These are radical, progressive, open, expansive, extraordinary stories… told from the perspective of actual people living in space and time.
  • The divine is always at work.

And, a few golden oldies:
“The moment God is figured out with nice neat lines and definitions, we are no longer dealing with God.”
― Rob Bell, Velvet Elvis: Repainting the Christian Faith

“Most of the Bible is a history told by people living in lands occupied by conquering superpowers. It is a book written from the underside of power. It’s an oppression narrative. The majority of the Bible was written by a minority people living under the rule and reign of massive, mighty empires, from the Egyptian Empire to the Babylonian Empire to the Persian Empire to the Assyrian Empire to the Roman Empire.
This can make the Bible a very difficult book to understand if you are reading it as a citizen of the the most powerful empire the world has ever seen. Without careful study and reflection, and humility, it may even be possible to miss central themes of the Scriptures.”
― Rob Bell, Jesus Wants to Save Christians

“Eternal life is less about a kind of time that starts when we die, and more about a quality and vitality of life now in connection to God.
Eternal life doesn’t start when we die; it starts now. It’s not about a life that begins at death; it’s about experiencing the kind of life now that can endure and survive even death.”
― Rob Bell, Love Wins


Critical Praise for “What Is The Bible”

“Rob Bell is at it again. Love him or loathe him, the theological provacateur says it’s time to rethink the Bible.”  — Relevant

“With pastoral prodding, Rob Bell helps us see that scripture is a masterpiece of penetrating subtleties crafted by ancient authors with a transformative vision for humanity. Bell reminds us that the Bible is neither simple nor mundane, but worthy of our full attention.” — Peter Enns, author of The Sin of Certainty

“To my ear, Rob Bell is a preacher, a poet, and a scholar, drawing from a wide range of disciplines without ever making me feel like I’m reading a textbook. The style and format are poetic, moving, and almost breezy at times.” — Robert

(Buy the book.  Click HERE.)

 

Tired Of All The Negativity February 20, 2017

So, I keep seeing social media posts from people talking about how tired they are of hearing all the political rhetoric and negativity concerning our current administration.  Here’s the thing: Most of these posts, not all but most, are from older white Protestant males.  I, too, am an older white Protestant male. So I have no problem talking about this group. [Most of the younger ones are white males, as well.  And many of the ones from females are still also white Protestant.]

Now, there’s nothing inherently wrong with being white, or Protestant, or male.  BUT, this is the group of people that are the least negatively affected by our “Nightmare  on Pennsylvania Avenue.”  It’s like when I hear white folks say “Yes, racism is an issue, but now we’ve gone too far the other way.”
Really?  After years, decades, centuries of being the oppressor; of being the privileged class, we’ve gone too far the other way because other people are finally standing up for themselves?  They’ve endured all these many many years, and you can stand the heat for barely a second.  Even when “the heat” is not being able to discriminate against others.

It’s so damn easy to say “move on” when you’re not the one whose marriage is being threatened. When you’re not the one who’s being told what to do with their body. When you’re not the one whose families are being torn apart because of deportation!

Instead of being tired of the political posts and so-called negativity, you should be a part of it!  Because, it’s not negativity.  It’s social justice activism!
If you have a decent bone in your body, you should be standing with total outrage against all the insanity that is currently going on in the White House. Vocally, actively  standing!

By now you’ve probably seen the post that goes something like this:
“People  say, ‘If I was alive back then I would have…’
Well, you’re alive now. And what you’re doing is what you would have done!”

I’m especially tired of the group that most vocally claims to speak for God also being the group that is the least like Jesus. They’ve pretty much lost all claim to credibility or godliness.

So, yeah, you’re tired of this. You’d like us all to just get over it.
It’s nice to have that luxury, isn’t it?

 

I’m Too Old For That November 11, 2016

My wife recently expressed concern for my safety and well-being.
You see, I’ve decided (for a while at least) to leave my “Hillary” magnet on my vehicle.
Kathleen believes that in this time of Trump-sanctioned acts of violence, I may be inviting hate-crimes against myself or my property.
She’s right, of course.
And I have considered removing it for just that reason.  Seriously, I really don’t want to get beaten up or spat on.  In my younger days I did take a number of beatings (many from my younger brother. 🙂 ).  But my bones weren’t nearly as brittle then.  Now, I don’t know that I could survive such an incident.  I’m too old for that shit.

Still, I’m leaving the magnet on my truck.  Yes, I have a little fear in doing so, but I will not be ruled by that.  Now is not the time to go into hiding.  Now is certainly not the time for anyone to stay in their closet (unless they’re praying).
No, now is the time to stand.
To stand tall, vigilant and proud.
I will display my support for social justice on my vehicle, my clothing, and any other way I can.  I will be more bold than ever.
Hate-crimes are increasing by those who believe they have the government’s blessings.
We need to stand up for ourselves, and whenever possible, intercede on behalf of anyone we see being harassed, belittled or abused.
We’ll all have to give more to the causes of social justice.  Time, or money.  Both when possible.  We need to keep our camera phones ready to record when needed.  We must be unafraid to speak out against discrimination and hate.  Especially hate that comes from those claiming to stand for God.  Yes, that’s hard to do if you fear for your safety.  It’s been hard in every civil rights movement of the past, and it will often be hard now.

We may not be using swords, rifled-muskets or breech loaders, but we are in a civil war. Hillary won the popular vote (by quite a lot, really), but Donald won the electoral college.  Either way, This was a tight race. We are living in the Divided States of America, and we can’t just all get along.  The opposition will often use physical violence.  We MUST use what author and activist Mel White calls “The Practice of Relentless Nonviolent Resistance.”  Love still trumps hate.  It sounds trite.  It’s not what I want to hear or say right now.  But it has to be.  It just has to.

Yes.  Hate won.
Hate won this battle, but the war for justice and equality goes on.
And by the grace of God, I will stand.
As of yet, I’m not too old for that.

– dave


I don’t know who put this together, but I like it:

if-you

 

Cult Of Ignorance: Take 2 June 20, 2016

 

kierkegaard

 

I recently read a really great, and very important article by Ray Williams titled,
The cult of ignorance in the United States: Anti-intellectualism and the ‘dumbing down’ of America.”
You really should make it required reading for yourself, and then spread it around as much as possible.

One statement the author makes is
“There has been a long tradition of anti-intellectualism in America.”
He gives various reasons, statistics and (sadly) continuing trends that contribute to this “dumbing down.”
There are a couple of items (prompted by a friend’s response)  I’d like to briefly expound on here.

 

1st, there’s the Hate and Fear Factor.
Misogyny, homophobia, xenophobia, etc. rely on willful ignorance.  They insist on broad stereotypes, and a very strong “us vs. them” mentality.  This mentality must remain immune to facts, understanding or any friendly, intentional interaction with the “other.”  You
can’t get to know “them” as people.  They must remain a concept. An evil, “they will destroy me” idea, rather than human beings.
Hate and fear are powerful motivators that must suppress reasonable thought.
They are great tools of manipulation, frequently employed by politicians and religious leaders.

Which brings me to my second point: Religion.
Let me start with something positive.  There have been many, many people who, because of their “faith,” have stood on the right side of history.  They have stood for social justice, equality and freedom.  But, these voices have almost always been opposed by the power structures of their very own religion.
Heretics, tortured for believing that the earth revolves around the sun.  Innocents, burned as witches.  Slaves, deemed to be animals, rather than people.  Women, considered “lesser” than men.  LGBT people, labeled as “hated by God.”  Each and every case, backed up by the Bible and the bold declaration, “It’s not me.  It’s God!”
That, of course, continues to be the case today.
I, myself, used to promote willful ignorance.  I remember I used to be taught (and taught others) “If science disagrees with the Bible, then the science is wrong.”  Which, of course, is why people were killed for saying the earth revolves around the sun.
In essence, we were saying,
“Look.  I don’t care what facts you put in my face.  If it doesn’t match my limited understanding and interpretation of some cherished ancient text, then I’m going to willfully ignore those facts in favor of maintaining my “belief system.”

And, in case you’re thinking I’m just picking on Christianity, I’m not.  The same goes for most religions and “sacred” texts.


Some turn to Atheism in order to maintain intellectual integrity.  That’s a valid choice, but it is not mine.  I wish to be a part of the long, but often suppressed, tradition of voices that state, “I believe in God, and I believe in reason.”  I know some who do not believe that is possible, but I do.
But here’s the thing; I must never allow my belief in God to justify any of the ills previously mentioned.  I must never allow my belief to suppress other beliefs, unless those  beliefs cause harm to others, or seek to keep them from the same rights I enjoy.  
You can certainly believe as you wish.  Ultimately, it’s your actions that matter to me.  
If following your God requires you to keep women from voting, African Americans from freedom, gay people from getting married, or foreigners from entering our Country, then your god isn’t worth following.  And to repeat my intentionally controversial statement, “That god can go to hell!”
If your first response to scientific facts or basic human rights is “No, because my Bible says…” you are choosing willful ignorance.   Please stop thinking that could somehow be pleasing to any Creator.

NOW, mix the political “hate and fear” with the “religion” element. Well, history has repeatedly shown us how that plays out. Unless, of course, we choose willful ignorance.

 

 

Dear God (The Good Wife) October 8, 2014

good wife logo

If you watch “The Good Wife” you already know why the show and cast have won so many awards. It’s just a very well written, very well acted show.
The most recent episode “Dear God” (air date 10/05/2014), is no exception. (If you’ve not seen it, you can watch it on CBS.com or stream it via Amazon.)

There were a number of great turns by lots of guest stars (Linda Lavin, Michael Cerveris, Richard Thomas, Robert Sean Leonard and Gloria Steinem), as well as the top notch performances by the regulars including the always interesting Alan Cumming.

In this episode, there was a lot about God, religion and Christianity.
Some scenes exposed a few of the fallacies of Christianity, and some showed the good.
Pretty balanced, all in all.
I quite enjoyed “secular” lawyers employing the bad, bad practice of proof-texting the Bible in exactly the same way many Christians do. You really can spend hours spouting opposing scripture quotes at each other trying to prove your point.
It’s odd how so many people use “Well, you can make the Bible say anything” when they disagree with you, never realizing they themselves are, in that moment, doing that very thing. It’s always “someone else” who’s using it wrongly.

One of the moments I enjoyed most this outing was between our Atheist lead, Alicia Florrick (Portrayed by the amazing Julianna Margulies), and her Christian daughter, Grace (Makenzie Vega).
When Alicia asks Grace if she really believes all the stuff in the Bible, Grace responds beautifully:

“I don’t know if it’s all historically accurate, but I think it can be true in another way.
You know, like poetry; it can still be true even if it’s not accurate.
Look, if I wanted you to remember that God created everything, I’d probably tell you a story about it happening in seven days.
But that doesn’t mean it actually happened in seven days.
It just means that I wanted you to remember that God created everything.”


An intelligent response by a person of faith.
You don’t frequently see that on prime-time television.

Knowing, of course, that the opening of Genesis is, in fact, a poem helps Grace’s point sink in.
I could be wrong, but I think there’s a pretty good chance that if you look in Grace Florrick’s library, you’ll find copies of “A New Kind of Christianity,” “The Orthodox Heretic,” and most likely, “Velvet Elvis.”

 

 
%d bloggers like this: