Tuesday, June 24, 2008

To Love One's Country....

Let me say first that I am neither an Obamamaniac or a McCrazy. And while I still have a conscience, I may not vote it, and therefore my vote may very possibly be up for sale. Email me with offers. You can pay up via PayPal.

I have exerpted most of this, and you can read this entire post from John McCollum's blog: Ears To The Track.

The very thoughtful follow-up post to this article can be read here at Ears To The Track.

To Love One’s Country
(Also entitled “The Post That Erased Any Chance I Ever Had At Being Elected To Public Office.”)

...I’ve noted with interest and not a small amount of consternation this election cycle’s focus on “loving America,” and I’m interested in exploring what it means to love one’s country, and whether or not it’s important to do so.

Michelle Obama said something like, “For the first time in my adult life, I’m really proud of my country,” and the pundits and bloggers reacted as if she said, “For the first time in my adult life, I survived a 24 hour period without sacrificing a toddler on the altar of Baal.”*....

...First, I just want to say that I really do think that there is a double standard when it comes to evaluating what constitutes anti-American perceptions or actions. The far right in our country (and probably in every other country) has very effectively crafted the perception that support for nationalistic militarism and ethnocentric exceptionalism are the primary means for demonstrating one’s love for the Fatherland.

Thus, a (black) pastor who says “God is judging this country because of its economic and military injustices” is immediately and effectively labeled “an America-hater,” but a white pastor who says, “God is judging this country because of its sexual immorality” is regarded — at worst — as being moralistic and outdated. In both cases, the pastor “hates” the nation’s moral record. In only one case does the accusation that the man “hates America” stick. Likewise, people who oppose the country’s drift toward secularism at sexual tolerance may still be considered “good, patriotic Americans,” but those who oppose the nation’s march toward imperialism are somehow seen as exhibiting civic deficiencies.

My friends on the far right would probably acknowledge that this double standard exists, but they would probably see it less as a misjudgment and more as a confirmation that liberals do indeed hate America.

...Double-standard aside, I’m not really sure I see “loving my country” as being particularly high on my list of moral imperatives. Don’t get me wrong — I do love my country — I just don’t think that patriotism is necessarily one of the higher virtues, or that lack of willingness to go to great deals to demonstrate one’s patriotism is an indication of one’s suitability for good citizenship, or even good leadership.

I could make my argument from a secular standpoint, but I’m more interested in exploring the scriptural aspects, since “God and Country” are so often linked in this discourse, particularly among us evangelicals.

In the scriptures, I’m commanded to love a lot of things: my God, my neighbor, my wife, my enemy…I’m never commanded to love my country. In fact, if “loving my country” means that I demonstrate preference to someone based on their ethnicity, their nationality or, for instance, their loyalty to America’s foreign policies, I think I’ve pretty much undermined a very important aspect of Jesus’ mission on this earth — to make his temple a “house of prayer for all nations” and ours, to “make disciples of all nations.” And when I’m willing to value American lives over, say, Iranian lives or when I’m willing to promote America’s economic interests over the interests of the world’s poor simply because I’m American I may actually demonstrate my infidelity to the only Kingdom worthy of my allegiance.

I guess I’m grappling with what it means to “love my country.” I do recognize that being born American, much like being born white, has afforded me many opportunities that I didn’t earn, and that I don’t deserve. I am grateful to God for all of those opportunities. But I also am deeply conflicted about what those opportunities and privileges require of me, and what blind spots they provoke, and I think that promises of allegiance and demonstrations of fealty to any temporary, earthly kingdom creates an untenable level of moral debt to a creditor by whose terms I cannot abide....

Again, you can read this entire post on John McCollum's Blog: Ears To The Track.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Gift -- for Father's Day

Hi Dad. See you soon.

Gift by Brooks Haxton

All our righteousnesses are as filthy rags;
and we all do fade as a leaf
—Isaiah 64:6

After my mother's father died,
she gave me his morocco Bible.
I took it from her hand, and saw
the gold was worn away, the binding
scuffed and ragged, split below the spine,
and inside, smudges where her father's
right hand gripped the bottom corner
page by page, an old man waiting, not quite
reading the words he had known by heart
for sixty years: our parents in the garden,
naked, free from shame; the bitterness of labor;
blood in the ground, still calling for God's
curse—his thumbprints fading after the flood,
to darken again where God bids Moses smite
the rock, and then again in Psalms, in Matthew
every page. And where Paul speaks of things
God hath prepared, things promised them who wait,
things not yet entered into the loving heart,
below the margin of the verse, the paper
is translucent with the oil and dark
still with the dirt of his right hand.

Friday, June 13, 2008

God never comes into the calculations....

"If My people, who are called by My Name, will humble themselves and pray and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land." 2 Chronicles 7:14


Scientists warn "We are living in the last century for our species."

Funny how God never comes into it...

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

"Real Men of Genius"....

I was on espn.com, checking into whether Tiger's knee was "organized" enough to make the US Open, when I saw an idea contest for the Budweiser "Real Men of Genius" ads.

I couldn't help myself. Here's my entry letter:

This is a little rough. You Genius Beer Ad Guys may have to fluff it a bit.

Real Men of Genius: The Incredibly Intelligent Beer Ad Guy.

Voiceover: You’ve always been a genius - from that first year of pre-school in East Hampton, through that BA in BS at Columbia, on through to Honors at Haaaavaad School of Bizniss and your currently very gainful employment for whoever is lucky enough to have Budweiser’s advertising contract.

Sure, it’s not Geico, with that funny little green Aussie, but this ain't Aussie beer. You're throwing ad ideas for America's #1 mass-produced weak-ass-Kool-Aid of a beer around a table full of other incredibly intelligent ad-persons while drinking expensive mineral water from France.

You’re nothing like the people you work the pitch for. And when you throw that pitch at them, they know it, 'cause you throw like a girl. You're sailing off Montauk, weekends. You’ve never eaten a hotdog. You recycle Kitty Delight Tuna - not beer - cans. You had beer once, and it made you sick. You PLAY Polo, but wouldn't be caught dead in the shirts or the cheap cologne. You know what to do with an Ascot. Heck, you are an Ascot. And you still confuse that funny look they're giving you with admiration.

Life is good.

So here’s to YOU, Mr. Incredibly Intelligent Beer Ad Guy.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Final Passage -- Bruce "Utah" Phillips....

Bruce "Utah" Phillips

Final Passage by Linda E. Cable

This last painful journey

is all so wide and green,
a maze of sharp stalks,
the persistent echo of ravens
crying out so many names.

Cooler, softer meadows
once promised to me
lay beyond the razor cut
of all the lies grown ripe,
and crushed along my path.

I have reached the hard pack
of my travels through this
final field of remedies,
stumbling breathless,
striving toward the clover.

Soon I will lay bloody cheeks
upon the healing dew,
crown my head with feverfew,
crush lavender in my palms
and offer myself to the sun.

"Bruce Utah Phillips died at home, in bed, in his sleep, next to his wife."

What a way to go....

Monday, June 2, 2008

Everybody's an expert -- even when they're not....

I am finding myself finding ever deeper enjoyment in simple things:

Mowing the lawn. Looking at my sweetie for extended periods of time while she doesn't know I'm watching. Reworking old compositions on guitar. Counting the shades of green. Sitting cat-in-lap on couch. Having extended conversations with our older dog.

And there are the things that aren't as good. Grownup things:

Feeling that ache of wanting to take care of everybody and everything by somehow keeping all pain away. Worrying about pain I know is going to be coming, and how to keep that pain away for as long as possible. How to get people you love to believe that you really know what you say you know. Bouts of sobriety.

I think the "old soul" term may come to fit many of us, but in my case I think that I am finding some of what is really important at this late date. For a large portion of my life I have been simply an over-opinionated idiot with nothing to back it up. Here is hoping that at least most of that stops here. I realize that to some, overzealous opinionating is what a blog is for. So here are some intentionally vague points:

There a few things that I am very certain of, many things that I am not -- and not certain of....

I come from the educated side of an Independent Baptist background. The "Independent" is there for a reason, as they are an opinionated bunch, with a dead-certainty on a lot of subjects that cannot be conclusively proven. But there aren't many churches where the Pastor regularly uses multiple translations and compares them to the Greek and Hebrew, and publicly challenges his congregation to further their education and question authority, either. So that's a plus. Which leads to this:

I am alternately perplexed and amused by people who seem so dead-certain-right on subjects that that have multitudes of experts lining up on a multiplicity of sides. Not that I don't think you can arrive at certainty on many things (Relativism is escapism through denial of personal responsibility, IMHO.), but the particular brand of pseudo-intellectual certainty that seems to pervade the blog-O-sphere just ends up confusing me. I read extensive posts full of just-has-to-be-this-way opinions, and then I have to check it somewhere. And then I often end up confused, because even the "real world" reality experts can't agree, but somehow there is this person on a blog that "really knows".

So here's the kicker: I’m going to look for footnotes. I'm going to make it a point to read people who don't claim expertise, and who keep their lecturing to a minimum, and who don't let their readers drag them down the track of Blog-O-sphere Expert.

And maybe I'll just sit here with either a guitar or cat on my lap.

Have I made myself clear?

Probably not.