Sunday, November 19, 2017

Thanksgiving and the Longing for Special Providence




When I was a little boy my mother taught us a bed-time prayer which my sister and I said every night:

Now I lay me down to sleep,
I pray the Lord my soul to keep.
The Lord go with me through the night,
And keep me safe till morning light.

In the more common, older and much scarier version of that prayer, the last two lines are:

If I should die before I wake,
I pray the Lord my soul to take.

I’m glad Mom gave us the revised version. I can’t imagine teaching a child to say the original.

The scarier version dates from a time when little children did sometimes die in the night from a host of deadly childhood diseases which have mostly been eliminated over the last century. Today our children are safe from those deadly diseases because scientists have discovered vaccinations and medicines that are truly miraculous. Our medical and scientific progress is (I believe) part of what God is doing in the world. It is part of God’s continuing creation

Today we have come to expect that for our children, safety is the norm. And death and disease are rare. At least they are rare among the developed nations of the world. It is easy for us to forget that in other parts of the world children continue to die of disease and malnutrition at an alarming rate.

We expect our children to be safe, and there is nothing wrong with that. All children ought to be safe. And safety is what every parent wants for his or her child.

But the biblical promise is not safety. The promise is that God will not leave us. Or to put it differently, in the context of my bed-time prayer, “safe” meant “safe in God’s care.”

One of the most cherished misunderstandings of biblical faith is the doctrine of “Special Providence.” We want to believe that God loves us more and protects us more than others. Special Providence promises that God cares for me, and for my family and loved ones, in a special and unique way. Of course, that is true in the sense that each of us has a unique experience of God’s care. But as Jesus said, the sun shines and the rain falls, on the just and the unjust, and God’s love is there for everyone.

In a radio sermon preached in 1952, Reinhold Niebuhr said that for many people, believing in God means “that that we have found a way to the ultimate source and end of life that gives us, against all the chances and changes of life, some special security and some special favor.” As an example, he speaks of the prayers “that many a mother with a boy in Korea must pray, ‘A thousand at thy side and 10,000 at thy right hand, let no evil come to my boy.’”

For the mother or father with a child in danger, that is the most natural prayer in the world and it is the deepest desire of our hearts. Yet in the end it is impossible. As Niebuhr explains, “The Christian faith believes that beyond, within and beyond, the tragedies and the contradictions of history we have laid hold upon a loving heart, and the proof of whose love, on the one hand, is the impartiality toward all of his children and, secondly, a mercy which transcends good and evil.”


On Thanksgiving we give thanks for the Providence of God and the blessings that sustain our life on this fragile planet. The promise of Christian faith is not that God will grant us a special exemption from life’s hardships, or give us a special reward for our virtue, but that at the center of life there is a loving heart, which will be with us now and forever.



Wednesday, November 1, 2017

An Eighteenth Century Worldview and Our Theological Task


Such is the confidence that we have through Christ toward God. Not that we are competent of ourselves to claim anything as coming from us; our competence is from God, who has made us competent to be ministers of a new covenant, not of letter but of spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.
II Corinthians 3:4-6

The United Methodist Church is on the brink of schism because of disagreements about the nature of human sexuality.

The practical issue that divides us is the question of whether our LGBTQ siblings are to be included in, or excluded from, full participation in the life of the church. 

Within and beneath those highly contentious issues there is a foundational question about who we are as a church.

John Scott Lomperis, the United Methodist Director for the Institute on Religion and Democracy posted an essay on the Juicy Ecumenism blog of the IRD titled, “Case Closed: Affirming Homosexual Practice is Irreconcilably Contrary to Core United Methodist Doctrine.”

His contention is that “within the specific context of United Methodism, our denomination’s core doctrine leaves no room for directly and explicitly affirming homosexual practice.” And for emphasis he asserts that “Acknowledging this is not a matter of opinion or faction, but rather of basic intellectual honesty.”

Before I give you the link to his essay I need to warn you that it is long and ponderous, and as you read it you may find yourself losing the will to live. So be careful. But here is the link: Case Closed.

Lomperis observes that John Wesley’s sermons and his notes on the New Testament are part of our “Doctrinal Standards.” And he cites several instances in the sermons and in the notes where Wesley condemns “sodomites” as proof of his thesis that the condemnation of “homosexual practice” is part of our core doctrine.

He cites a passage from Sermon #38, “A Caution Against Bigotry” as an example:
“In Section I.11 of this part of our Doctrinal Standards, Wesley classifies ‘sodomites’ as part of a list of different types of sinners, listing ‘sodomites’ immediately after robbers and immediately before murderers! Specifically, Wesley judged that the fact that ‘common swearers, drunkards, whoremongers, adulterers, thieves, robbers, sodomites, murderers, are still found in every part of our land’ to be proof of the devil’s power.”
“I am uncomfortable with the word ‘sodomite.’”, writes Lomperis, “But we have no power to change eighteenth-century English language usage.  The fact remains that in Wesley’s day this was a very negative term applied to individuals who engaged in homosexual practice.” 

Note the exact wording he uses. It is instructive.

Lomperis speaks of “eighteenth-century English language usage.” He notes that this language usage was common “in Wesley’s day,” and that the language conveyed a very negative perception of same sex relationships.

Wesley used the language of his day to convey the viewpoint of his day.

It should not surprise us that an eighteenth century man, even a well-educated and enlightened eighteenth century man, would not have a twenty-first century view of human sexuality.

John Wesley was a brilliant man, but he was still a man of his times.

Our Book of Discipline speaks of “Doctrinal Standards and Our Theological Task.” The Doctrinal Standards are part of our history and they shape our present, but Our Theological Task calls us into the future.

The Doctrinal Standards are meant to be a foundation, not a ceiling. 

Our Theological Task is not limited to looking for quotations from the writings of John Wesley and applying them to the twenty-first century.

We are not called to be religious archaeologists excavating an historical crypt, or curators of a Methodist museum. Our task is to use the wisdom of the past to guide us into the future.

As Paul told the Christians in Corinth, we are called “to be ministers of a new covenant, not of letter but of spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.”



Thank you for reading. Your thoughts and comments are always welcome. Please feel free to share on social media as you wish.

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Blatantly Disregarding the Gospel

Wedding of Rev. David Meredith and James Schlachter
Then Jesus said to those who had believed in him, “If you continue in my word, you are truly my disciples; and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.”
John 8:31-32

The current edition of the online magazine of the ironically named “Good News” movement is headlined by an essay written by Good News Vice-President and United Methodist clergy person Thomas Lambrecht.

The article which is provocatively titled “Blatantly Disregarding Truth,” is about the case of the Rev. David Meredith.

Rev. Meredith is a pastor in the West Ohio annual conference who was charged with three violations of his clergy orders:

1. “Immorality including but not limited to, not being celibate in singleness or not faithful in a heterosexual marriage”

2. “Practices declared by The United Methodist Church to be incompatible with Christian teachings, including but not limited to: being a self-avowed practicing homosexual”

3. “Disobedience to the order and discipline of The United Methodist Church”

The committee responsible for investigating those offenses dismissed all but the third one and this, according to Rev. Lambrecht, is evidence of “the current crisis” in the United Methodist Church, which revolves around “a critical lack of accountability.”

“The committee has effectively ignored the Discipline,” says Lambrecht, “and decided to impose its own standard of morality, essentially declaring that there is nothing wrong with a clergyperson being in a same-sex marriage or being a self-avowed practicing homosexual.”



If that were really what they had done, then it would be a good thing.

Actually, what the West Ohio Conference has done is to go back to the understanding of church law that existed before the Judicial Council rewrote the Discipline to rule that a clergy person in a same sex marriage was therefore “a self-avowed practicing homosexual.”

(I pause now briefly because I cannot write that phrase about “self-avowed practicing” without feeling ashamed, embarrassed, and amused. It is hard to think of a more effective demonstration of the irrelevance of the church in the twenty-first century than a focus on rooting out “self-avowed practicing” homosexuals.)

Rev. Lambrecht calls the West Ohio decision an “egregious violation of the church’s law and accountability process.” And he offers the hope of the Good News movement that the decision might be overturned on appeal. This, he argues, “would lead to a restored process that demonstrates that the church is able to hold its clergy accountable.”

And then he concludes:

“If an appeal fails, this committee’s decision will demonstrate that our church is no longer governable. We will no longer be governed by laws, but by people who reserve the right to undermine or ignore requirements that they disagree with. Such an outcome would demonstrate our ever-deepening schism and could only reinforce the movement toward anarchy and the reliance on raw power in our church-values that hardly comport with being disciples of Jesus Christ, let alone leading to the (positive) transformation of the world.”
When Rev. Lambrecht writes about “Blatantly Disregarding Truth,” the truth to which he is referring is the Book of Discipline as it has been interpreted by the committees and councils and conferences that agree with Rev. Lambrecht.

Our Book of Discipline is a collection of resolutions and affirmations intended to guide our life together as a denomination, but it is not The Truth.

The truth of the Gospel is a higher calling. That is the truth by which we judge our faithfulness.

When Jesus told his disciples that they would know the truth and that the truth would set them free, I don’t think he was talking about chasing after LGBTQ folks and throwing them out of the ministry.




Thank you for reading. Your thoughts and comments are always welcome. Please feel free to share on social media as you wish. 


Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Happy United Nations Day

Let Us Beat Swords into Plowshares
by Yevgeny Vuchetlich, 1959
In days to come the mountain of the Lord’s house shall be established as the highest of the mountains, and shall be raised above the hills; all the nations shall stream to it. Many peoples shall come and say, “Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob; that he may teach us his ways and that we may walk in his paths.” For out of Zion shall go forth instruction, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem. He shall judge between the nations, and shall arbitrate for many peoples; they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more. O house of Jacob, come, let us walk in the light of the Lord!

Isaiah 2:2-5


At the United Nations building in New York City there is a statue of a man beating a giant sword into a plowshare. The sculpture, titled, “Let Us Beat Swords into Plowshares,” was created by Evgeniv Vuchetich and given as a gift by the Soviet Union in 1959.

When President Reagan addressed the United Nations General Assembly in 1987, he began by describing the journey that brought the delegates and the nations together as a kind of pilgrimage, and then he said, “We come from every continent, every race, and most religions to this great hall of hope . . .” 

Near the conclusion of his address, speaking specifically to the Soviet Union as well as to the whole assembly, he asked, 
“Cannot swords be turned to plowshares? Can we and all nations not live in peace? In our obsession with antagonisms of the moment, we often forget how much unites all the members of humanity. Perhaps we need some outside, universal threat to make us recognize this common bond. I occasionally think how quickly our differences world-wide would vanish if we were facing an alien threat from outside this world. And yet, I ask you, is not an alien force already among us? What could be more alien than war and the threat of war?”

In tone and in substance, President Reagan's speech stands in sharp contrast to the speech recently given by our current president in which he vowed to "totally destroy" North Korea if the United State had to defend itself.

"Rocket Man is on a suicide mission for himself and for his regime," Mr. Trump declared. "The United States is ready, willing and able, but hopefully this will not be necessary. That's what the United Nations is all about; that's what the United Nations is for. Let's see how they do."

The United Nations Charter was ratified on October 24, 1945. Today is United Nations Day. When I was a boy we celebrated United Nations Sunday in church every year.

My guess is that most people don’t know that today is United Nations Day. And we do not have many political leaders who would speak of the U.N. assembly room as “this great hall of hope.”

Over the years the United Nations has been relentlessly vilified and marginalized by politicians. Some see it as simply ineffective and others see it as a threat to our sovereignty. In a book called “The Black Helicopters Are Coming!” political commentator Dick Morris’ claimed that President Obama was plotting to have the United States invaded by the United Nations. Morris admitted that “it sounds crazy,” but insisted that it was really going to happen.

It doesn’t just sound crazy. It really and truly is crazy. But this is where we are.

The truth is that the United Nations has not lived up to our highest hopes, but its achievements have still been significant.

Over the last seventy-two years small wars have been constant and the resulting deaths and injuries have been staggering. On the other hand, we have avoided massive world wars, and that is no small achievement. The second half of the twentieth century was much more peaceful than the first half. And the United Nations must take some share of the credit for that.

In spite of its obvious limitations, the world is a better place because of the United Nations, and on United Nations Day I want to touch briefly on a few of the U.N. organizations that have fostered international progress and understanding.

The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) is organized to reduce hunger worldwide through improving agricultural productivity and raising levels of nutrition. The International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) is similarly targeted to reduce rural poverty in developing nations by funding relief efforts.

The International Maritime Organization (IMO) promotes global cooperation to improve maritime safety and decrease marine pollution.

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) acts as a forum for discussing global financial issues and provides loans to developing countries.

The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) promotes world peace and security by fostering international cooperation in education, science and culture. They promote the fundamental freedoms endorsed in the UN Charter.

And then there are some UN organizations that require no further description: the World Health Organization (WHO), the World Trade Organization (WHO), the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), and the World Bank Group (WBG) which includes five sub-groups focused on promoting development and reconstruction.

It is an impressive list. Together they promote an international strategy for beating swords into plowshares. 


Thank you for reading. Your thoughts and comments are always welcome. Please feel free to share on social media as you wish. 

*An earlier version of this post was published on October 24, 2012.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

John McCain's Vision for America


On Monday Senator John McCain was awarded the Liberty Medal by the National Constitution Center. The award is given annually to mean and women who have demonstrated courage and conviction in working to secure the blessings of liberty to people around the world. Past winners have included Nelson Mandela, Sandra Day O’Connor, Kofi Annan, Shimon Peres, and Colin Powell.

McCain was introduced by former Vice President Joe Biden with whom he served in the United States Senate for twenty years. And they share a friendship that goes back over forty years.

Biden and McCain are old school.

They come from a time when legislators saw themselves as colleagues who might disagree vigorously on how the country should be governed while sharing a common sacred commitment to the ideals on which it was founded. McCain was clearly moved when he thanked Biden for his introduction and recalled their friendship over the decades.
“We didn’t always agree on the issues. We often argued – sometimes passionately. But we believed in each other’s patriotism and the sincerity of each other’s convictions. We believed in the institution we were privileged to serve in. We believed in our mutual responsibility to help make the place work and to cooperate in finding solutions to our country’s problems. We believed in our country and in our country’s indispensability to international peace and stability and to the progress of humanity. And through it all, whether we argued or agreed, Joe was good company. Thank you, old friend, for your company and your service to America.”
McCain talked about what a gift it was to serve the country he loves. Quoting a phrase used by President George H. W. Bush, given in 1991 at a Pearl Harbor remembrance, he called America “the most wondrous land on earth.”

He talked about America as a place where with all of its flaws. we are blessed by immigrant dreams, where we share a storied past and rush toward an imagined future. He noted wryly that America was a place where “a person can escape the consequences of a self-centered youth and know the satisfaction of sacrificing for an ideal, the land where you can go from aimless rebellion to a noble cause, and from the bottom of your class to your party’s nomination for president.”

“We are blessed,” he said, “and we have been a blessing to humanity in turn.”
“The international order we helped build from the ashes of world war, and that we defend to this day, has liberated more people from tyranny and poverty than ever before in history. This wondrous land has shared its treasures and ideals and shed the blood of its finest patriots to help make another, better world. And as we did so, we made our own civilization more just, freer, more accomplished and prosperous than the America that existed when I watched my father go off to war on December 7, 1941.”
And then he contrasted his understanding of the ideals of American with Mr. Trump’s retreat from international leadership:
“To fear the world we have organized and led for three-quarters of a century, to abandon the ideals we have advanced around the globe, to refuse the obligations of international leadership and our duty to remain ‘the last best hope of earth’ for the sake of some half-baked, spurious nationalism cooked up by people who would rather find scapegoats than solve problems is as unpatriotic as an attachment to any other tired dogma of the past that Americans consigned to the ash heap of history.”
Before concluding with a personal appreciation of what it has meant to him to serve this “most wondrous land,” McCain focused directly on the new nationalism of the “alt-right.” He addressed the shouts of “Blood and Soil” heard from white supremacists at the Charlottesville rally, a phrase they took directly from Nazi Germany:
“We live in a land made of ideals, not blood and soil. We are the custodians of those ideals at home, and their champion abroad. We have done great good in the world. That leadership has had its costs, but we have become incomparably powerful and wealthy as we did. We have a moral obligation to continue in our just cause, and we would bring more than shame on ourselves if we don’t. We will not thrive in a world where our leadership and ideals are absent. We wouldn’t deserve to.”
It was a stinging indictment of the current White House, delivered clearly and concisely, without personal venom or insults.

It was old school.

In our current political climate it was almost quaint.

Thank you, John McCain, for reminding us what it means to serve your country.




Thank you for reading. Your thoughts and comments are always welcome. Please feel free to share on social media as you wish. 


Here is the prepared version of McCain’s speech, as released by his Senate office:

Thank you, Joe, my old, dear friend, for those mostly undeserved kind words. Vice President Biden and I have known each other for a lot of years now, more than forty, if you’re counting. We knew each other back when we were young and handsome and smarter than everyone else but were too modest to say so.

Joe was already a senator, and I was the Navy’s liaison to the Senate. My duties included escorting senate delegations on overseas trips, and in that capacity, I supervised the disposition of the delegation’s luggage, which could require – now and again – when no one of lower rank was available for the job – that I carry someone worthy’s bag. Once or twice that worthy turned out to be the young senator from Delaware. I’ve resented it ever since.

Joe has heard me joke about that before. I hope he has heard, too, my profession of gratitude for his friendship these many years. It has meant a lot to me. We served in the Senate together for over twenty years, during some eventful times, as we passed from young men to the fossils who appear before you this evening.

We didn’t always agree on the issues. We often argued – sometimes passionately. But we believed in each other’s patriotism and the sincerity of each other’s convictions. We believed in the institution we were privileged to serve in. We believed in our mutual responsibility to help make the place work and to cooperate in finding solutions to our country’s problems. We believed in our country and in our country’s indispensability to international peace and stability and to the progress of humanity. And through it all, whether we argued or agreed, Joe was good company. Thank you, old friend, for your company and your service to America.

Thank you, too, to the National Constitution Center, and everyone associated with it for this award. Thank you for that video, and for the all too generous compliments paid to me this evening. I’m aware of the prestigious company the Liberty Medal places me in. I’m humbled by it, and I’ll try my best not to prove too unworthy of it.

Some years ago, I was present at an event where an earlier Liberty Medal recipient spoke about America’s values and the sacrifices made for them. It was 1991, and I was attending the ceremony commemorating the 50th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor. The World War II veteran, estimable patriot and good man, President George H.W. Bush, gave a moving speech at the USS Arizona memorial. I remember it very well. His voice was thick with emotion as he neared the end of his address. I imagine he was thinking not only of the brave Americans who lost their lives on December 7, 1941, but of the friends he had served with and lost in the Pacific where he had been the Navy’s youngest aviator.

‘Look at the water here, clear and quiet …’ he directed, ‘One day, in what now seems another lifetime, it wrapped its arms around the finest sons any nation could ever have, and it carried them to a better world.’

He could barely get out the last line, ‘May God bless them, and may God bless America, the most wondrous land on earth.’

The most wondrous land on earth, indeed. I’ve had the good fortune to spend sixty years in service to this wondrous land. It has not been perfect service, to be sure, and there were probably times when the country might have benefited from a little less of my help. But I’ve tried to deserve the privilege as best I can, and I’ve been repaid a thousand times over with adventures, with good company, and with the satisfaction of serving something more important than myself, of being a bit player in the extraordinary story of America. And I am so very grateful.

What a privilege it is to serve this big, boisterous, brawling, intemperate, striving, daring, beautiful, bountiful, brave, magnificent country. With all our flaws, all our mistakes, with all the frailties of human nature as much on display as our virtues, with all the rancor and anger of our politics, we are blessed.

We are living in the land of the free, the land where anything is possible, the land of the immigrant’s dream, the land with the storied past forgotten in the rush to the imagined future, the land that repairs and reinvents itself, the land where a person can escape the consequences of a self-centered youth and know the satisfaction of sacrificing for an ideal, the land where you can go from aimless rebellion to a noble cause, and from the bottom of your class to your party’s nomination for president.

We are blessed, and we have been a blessing to humanity in turn. The international order we helped build from the ashes of world war, and that we defend to this day, has liberated more people from tyranny and poverty than ever before in history. This wondrous land has shared its treasures and ideals and shed the blood of its finest patriots to help make another, better world. And as we did so, we made our own civilization more just, freer, more accomplished and prosperous than the America that existed when I watched my father go off to war on December 7, 1941.

To fear the world we have organized and led for three-quarters of a century, to abandon the ideals we have advanced around the globe, to refuse the obligations of international leadership and our duty to remain ‘the last best hope of earth’ for the sake of some half-baked, spurious nationalism cooked up by people who would rather find scapegoats than solve problems is as unpatriotic as an attachment to any other tired dogma of the past that Americans consigned to the ash heap of history.

We live in a land made of ideals, not blood and soil. We are the custodians of those ideals at home, and their champion abroad. We have done great good in the world. That leadership has had its costs, but we have become incomparably powerful and wealthy as we did. We have a moral obligation to continue in our just cause, and we would bring more than shame on ourselves if we don’t. We will not thrive in a world where our leadership and ideals are absent. We wouldn’t deserve to.

I am the luckiest guy on earth. I have served America’s cause – the cause of our security and the security of our friends, the cause of freedom and equal justice – all my adult life. I haven’t always served it well. I haven’t even always appreciated what I was serving. But among the few compensations of old age is the acuity of hindsight. I see now that I was part of something important that drew me along in its wake even when I was diverted by other interests. I was, knowingly or not, along for the ride as America made the future better than the past.

And I have enjoyed it, every single day of it, the good ones and the not so good ones. I’ve been inspired by the service of better patriots than me. I’ve seen Americans make sacrifices for our country and her causes and for people who were strangers to them but for our common humanity, sacrifices that were much harder than the service asked of me. And I’ve seen the good they have done, the lives they freed from tyranny and injustice, the hope they encouraged, the dreams they made achievable.

May God bless them. May God bless America, and give us the strength and wisdom, the generosity and compassion, to do our duty for this wondrous land, and for the world that counts on us. With all its suffering and dangers, the world still looks to the example and leadership of America to become, another, better place. What greater cause could anyone ever serve.
Thank you again for this honor. I’ll treasure it.

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Our Greatest Moment

President Truman signs the Marshall Plan
Is not this the fast that I choose: 
to loose the bonds of injustice, 
to undo the thongs of the yoke, 
to let the oppressed go free, 
and to break every yoke? 
Is it not to share your bread with the hungry, 
and bring the homeless poor into your house; 
when you see the naked, to cover them, 
and not to hide yourself from your own kin? 
Then your light shall break forth like the dawn, 
and your healing shall spring up quickly; 
your vindicator shall go before you, 
the glory of the LORD shall be your rear guard. 
Then you shall call, and the LORD will answer; 
you shall cry for help, 
and he will say, Here I am. 
Isaiah 58:6-9

Seventy years ago today, on October 5, 1947, President Harry S. Truman delivered the first presidential address ever broadcast on live television.

And that first address may also be the greatest.

His address followed a presentation by the Citizens Food Committee concerning the starvation in Europe and the need for Americans to sacrifice in order to save their European sisters and brothers.

After the Second World War the United States embarked on one of the greatest achievements of world history, the rebuilding of Europe and Japan after the devastation. The Marshall Plan prevented economic collapse and led to a world-wide economic expansion and shared prosperity.

But when President Truman addressed the nation, the rebuilding of Europe was faltering. “The situation in Europe is grim and forbidding as winter approaches,” he said. “Despite the vigorous efforts of the European people, their crops have suffered so badly from droughts, floods, and cold that the tragedy of hunger is a stark reality. The nations of Western Europe will soon be scraping the bottom of the food barrel. They cannot get through the coming winter and spring without help--generous help-from the United States and from other countries which have food to spare.” If we do not act, said the President, all of the rebuilding efforts may be wasted. “I know every American feels in his heart that we must help to prevent starvation and distress among our fellow men in other countries.”

Truman called on the nation to give up meat on Tuesdays, to give up poultry and eggs on Thursdays, and to give up one slice of bread per day. He also called on distillers to save grain by stopping the production of alcoholic beverages for 60 days. And he called on the Commodities Exchange Commission to tighten regulations and reduce the “gambling” in grain futures which resulted in even higher prices.

He told the country that Mrs. Truman had directed the White House staff to follow the food conservation measures. And he said that the same policy would be followed in all government restaurants and cafeterias throughout the country. “As Commander in Chief,” he said, “I have ordered that the Army, the Navy, and the Air Force shall also comply with this program.”

This morning, as I read Harry Truman’s address, I reflected on the present state of the world, from the hurricane devastation in Puerto Rico, to the tensions with North Korea, and the global refugee crisis. It is hard to imagine any leader in our country calling for the level of shared sacrifice that President Truman called for after World War Two.

And we need to remember, that was after the great sacrifices required by the war itself.

If we want to understand what American greatness should look like, it is hard to imagine anything surpassing the Marshall plan. President Truman was putting American interests and American economic power at the service of the world. 

The food measures did not last long. With increased American help, the European recovery soon made such radical conservation unnecessary. Europe and Japan were rebuilt and America entered a time of unprecedented prosperity.


Thank you for reading. Your thoughts and comments are always welcome. Please feel free to share on social media as you wish.

*The original version of this post was first published on October 5, 2011.

Thursday, September 28, 2017

"Like a Flag Flown at Half-Mast to Mark a Tragedy"

Eric Reid and Colin Kaepernick kneeling during the National Anthem last season
He emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness. And being found in human form, he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death— even death on a cross. Therefore God also highly exalted him and gave him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bend, in heaven and on earth and under the earth.
Philippians 2:7-10

In a Tuesday morning tweet, theologian Diana Butler Bass wrote:

Preaching on Sun & just checked assigned lectionary text:  "At the name of Jesus, every knee should bend."

I kid you not.

Apparently even the Apostle Paul has something to say about NFL players “taking a knee during the National Anthem on Sunday.

The protest began in the 2016 preseason when Eric Reid and Colin Kaepernick chose to sit on the bench rather than stand during the national anthem to protest racial injustice and police brutality. A week later they decided that they should kneel rather than sit in order to make clear that their protest was meant to be respectful of the anthem and the flag.

In an op-ed piece in the New York Times, Reid writes:
“After hours of careful consideration, and even a visit from Nate Boyer, a retired Green Beret and former NFL player, we came to the conclusion that we should kneel, rather than sit, the next day during the anthem as a peaceful protest. We chose to kneel because it’s a respectful gesture. I remember thinking our posture was like a flag flown at half-mast to mark a tragedy.”
Like a flag flown at half-mast to mark a tragedy. 

Hardly a sign of disrespect.

“It baffles me that our protest is still being misconstrued as disrespectful to the country, flag, and military personnel,” Reid wrote. “We chose it because it’s exactly the opposite. It has always been my understanding that the brave men and women who fought and died for our country did so to ensure that we could live in a fair and free society, which includes the right to speak out in protest.”

Other players around the league joined Reid and Kaepernick in their silent protest, but it did not gain widespread attention until the President put it front and center in a speech on behalf of Senator Luther Strange in Huntsville, Alabama. He asked the crowd if they would “love to see one of these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, to say, ‘Get that son of a bitch off the field right now, he’s fired’?”

He also called for fans to boycott the league until the protest was stopped.

Which resulted in many more players choosing to take a knee during the anthem, and many of Mr. Trump’s fans reacting with anger toward the players.

We might pause for a minute to think about the language Mr. Trump used. The Nazis and White Supremacists in Charlottesville were carefully described with the generalization that there were good people on both sides. But (mostly) black football players taking part in a peaceful protest are called “sons of bitches.”

When the “Black Lives Matter” protests began, a major part of the criticism was that the protests were not sufficiently peaceful. But it is hard to think of anything more peaceful than kneeling.

In his “Minority of One” column in the Chicago Tribune, Steve Chapman writes:
“. . . if you don’t like how Black Lives Matter pursues its agenda, you should welcome the NFL players’ approach. It’s silent; it’s not disruptive; and it’s entirely nonviolent. It doesn’t block traffic, occupy police or frighten bystanders. . . That the display evokes so much fury and disgust among whites, from the president on down, confirms what was evident 50 years ago. The problem is not how blacks raise their complaints about American society; it’s that they raise them.”


  
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