Inhumanity, pt.2.

Inhumanity in the Church, pt. 2 of 3.

<–Inhumanity, pt.1.                                                              Inhumanity, pt.3.–>

pt.2 : Natural Selection?

What people value is often demonstrated through what gets them upset. And here we mean, upset enough not only to take to social media to offer their commentary, but also to do something.

We can take Synod 2016 as the snapshot of what people in the CRC, or at least, those whose activities and opinions matter, care about. Someone has already helpfully encapsulated the discussion of the three most, shall we say, controversial, issues on the floor. These are the so-called ‘Doctrine of Discovery,’ the Belhar confession, and gay marriage (to be more specific, the majority & minority reports from the Committee to Provide Pastoral Guidance re Same-sex Marriage).

These are what people are talking about—repudiating past pre-modern notions about settlement, colonization, and the church’s side of Manifest Destiny in North America, encompassing insensitive methods of mission (we should perhaps later revisit the use of the word ‘genocide’ in this context); trying, yet again, to promote the Belhar to the level of the Forms of Unity; and finally, needing a bureaucratic approach to address a matter which should be so straightforward, but which has been complicated by the secular culture, and by Christians whose commitment to the authority of scripture has been compromised.  And, while the reports from the Pastoral Guidance committee are actually biblically oriented, and while Synod voted to adopt the more conservative minority report, in a flagrant and cheeky nose-thumbing to Synod, Classis GR East decided, against the mandate given the Synodically appointed committee not to revisit the issue of homosexuality in scripture, decided to do it themselves, publishing a troubling ‘study’.

I am not going to evaluate the importance or validity of these three issues here and now. I will instead direct the reader to these articles on the first (especially the February 8, 2013 comment by Mr. Vande Griend) and on the second, and also to this piece on the application of the 9th commandment in the PCA’s own racial reconciliation overture presented at their 2016 GA.

I will include one excursus: to build on the 2013 comment from the esteemed Dutchman about ‘responding’ to the Discovery Doctrine, and the associated issues (about which I admit I know VERY little!), I want to think for a moment about our obligation to our brothers and sisters dead and gone. If we are not careful, we may end up vilifying fellow believers who, though flawed, were nevertheless products of their own times. Renaissance missionaries (here I’m talking about those from Europe) not only to the Americas but to all parts of the world risked life and limb venturing into unknown territory, with no guarantee of provisions, perhaps insufficient protection against the elements, wild animals, and the native peoples themselves, and in an age where humanity had no defense against disease, some of which many Westerners nowadays have never heard of.  And where would I be if Augustine the Lesser and others like him hadn’t similarly taken the Gospel to my ancestors in endarkened Britain in the Anglo-Saxon period?

All this to fulfill the Great Commission to make disciples of all nations. And we must remember that the evils perpetrated by people (or even the machine of the Roman Catholic church itself) in the Middle Ages up through the present who were/are self-styled Christians, are not representative of the whole, either the church universal or even political christendom. No doubt many, in spite of pre-Reformation darkness, and in spite of their now-scorned pre-modern worldview, were true disciples of Christ, bearing fruit in keeping with repentance. Some of those missionaries to the Americas, Catholic first, and later Protestant, heeded the call to witness to Native Americans.  And for many of them, how important was the Doctrine of Discovery to their individual ministries?  We may fault them for politically incorrect, pre-modern, and sometimes wrong and unbiblical thinking about race, colonialism, and equality, but one thing they had right: everyone needs to hear the Gospel, and they left behind all they knew to seek people they’d never seen, whose languages they didn’t speak, to tell them about the love of Christ. It’s too easy to condemn people of the past for what they did or failed to do, and especially for what they didn’t or wouldn’t understand, and too easy to move from that to character assassination or thorough disparagement of sincere efforts in service to the Lord. They are not here to defend themselves, and it is a dishonor to the dead saints of the invisible church to be careless in our criticism.  Some of those cited in the Banner report on the DD discussion express similar sentiments–that actually, not enough emphasis was placed on the testimony of those of Native American descent who experienced tremendous blessing in CRC boarding and other Christian schools in question. (I will here insert a disclaimer that, as a classicist, I recognize the value in preserving cultural memory and distinctiveness; cultures are, however, judged by God’s law, and when a pagan people come to know Christ, their culture ought to and will be transformed– and not conformed to that of other peoples, but according to the moral standards revealed in both the Old and New Testaments.)

At any rate, apparently some contemporary reformed Christians (again, we see it in the PCA as well as in the CRC) are very concerned (like other groups are obsessed) with confessing and repenting of past wrongs—on their [our?] behalf?  Or on behalf of the sometimes long dead perpetrators? If it includes the latter, this is condescending—or patronizing? Dare we say, insensitive? As a student of history, I am often reminded how easy it is to judge people who aren’t here, who didn’t have the advantages of modernity, of technology, of whatever it is we [think we] have that they didn’t, and whose motives are difficult to discern (especially in their fulness). On the race issue, one recent internet event (links here and here) demonstrates that race relations in the church, let alone in America at large, are incredibly complex, and a unilateral repenting of–especially generic—past acts of racism (even those that took place in another country!) by one ‘side’ (whatever or whoever that is) is not sufficient to effect ‘reconciliation.’

Any one of us could dig deep into our familial and ethnic past and find a wrong perpetrated on our ancestors and peoples by others, or on others by them. For the first, we could demand an apology from their descendants; for the second, we could excoriate our progenitors and ‘lament’ (a word that appears in more than one recent bit of CRC news ‘literature’) and confess and repent and regret on their behalf (regret is one thing–what does it mean to ‘repent’ on behalf of a sinner who no longer exists?  There is a biblical precedent for communal confession and repentance, but which contexts require, shape, and validate such acts?).  The memory of the Highland Clearances is still alive in Scotland: while driving past the statue of the First Duke of Sutherland, en route to Wick in summer 2011, we looked at it from the car through narrowed eyes, and my husband’s mother remarked on the fact that it was still standing, in spite of what the duke had done to the crofters not so long ago. If one does a Google images search for the statue, one result is a recent photo of youths urinating on its base…  Old animosities between the Scots and the English are being dredged up by the SNP, exacerbated by political tensions surrounding Brexit and the EU. Aren’t we all supposed to be advanced and post-modern, having left the useless-to-us past behind us, along with all tradition? People are now turning backward, but picking up out of the rubble all that is damaging, and little that is worthwhile.

Once we’ve started ‘repenting’ on behalf of ourselves and others long dead, where does it end? Does it actually serve a purpose to resuscitate the spectres (Bernard Woolley would object to mixed imagery like that!) of ancient injuries, a purpose that outweighs all the potential harm done by triggering what may be an endless of cycle of ‘Your clan did this to mine in 1720!’. Why isn’t it enough to say, ‘This was wrong, these people shouldn’t have done it; God, help us not to do it’?

And then there is the issue of same-sex marriage. I would direct the reader to the colossally significant book by Dr. Gagnon. In the media, argument-free publicity was showered on one quarter of the CRC—those baking rainbow cupcakes. One wonders if there was any demonstration of solidarity for those in the black church killed by the crackpot kid with a confederate flag on his jacket (that fact received WAY too much publicity, in my opinion). In spite of all the race rhetoric in the public square now, I’d argue that one gets more social media mileage out of rainbows than shows of support for black fellow Christians gunned down in their place of worship.

The patrons murdered in the Orlando nightclub were human beings who were endangering no one and breaking no laws.  The man who murdered them was depraved (and apparently, if we believe his ex-wife, an equal-opportunity abuser).

But he wasn’t a conservative Christian who held to traditional biblical teaching on marriage. To tie in ‘lament’ over Orlando to the Synod’s approval of the minority report is a bit odd, perhaps even irresponsible. And I doubt the patrons frequented Reformation Project seminars. That’s where buying into the terminology of the ‘LGBTQ community‘ gets us into trouble, because it leads to sloppy thinking and doesn’t allow for differentiation between someone like Matthew Vines, a self-professed ‘gay Christian’ (with his resultant position on monogamy, for example), and someone like Dan Savage, who is, cough, certainly not.

I’ve wandered far from my main point, which is this: people are talking heatedly about issues they can summarize in a word or two on Twitter with a hashtag. I would argue, with the ‘group repentance for historical wrongs’, the push to treat Belhar like it’s Holy Writ, and the push for the denomination to do an about-face on God’s intention for human sexuality, that folk are all for self-flagellation—when the confession and repentance is fashionable, and especially when it’s outward-directed and wholly impersonal. This then begs the question: if it’s a fad now to ‘repent’ as well as to ‘repudiate’ in/on certain issues, how can we be sure that repentance is genuine, and not just a jumping on the bandwagon in the emotional heat of the moment—a bit of churched Groupthink? Or worse—how much of it is self-righteousness dressed up as self-deprecation? See this on the self-aggrandizing theatrics and inconsistency of ‘social justice’ advocates. Though not the most perfect in terms of articulation of his ideas, the author makes some important points. I will note here that just yesterday, during a catch-up in a cafe, a Nigerian friend of mine called the ‘Black Lives Matter’ movement a ‘joke,’ peopled with rabble-rousers gathered from the ether via social media who, when interviewed, can’t even explain why their group exists. I won’t comment further.

I repeat this: ‘It’s too easy to condemn people of the past for what they did or failed to do, and especially for what they didn’t or wouldn’t understand…’ It’s also too easy to demand repentance on the group plan, with no real introspection of our personal, secret, perhaps shameful, not-so-‘trendy’ sins.  More on this in the next instalment.

I leave you with a couple of excerpts, both from the Banner article on the DD study:

‘Women adviser Melissa Van Dyk said that she was familiar with the effects of residential schools on Canadian First Nations people. “[Synod is not going] far enough in acknowledging our personal and community response. We do need to acknowledge the cultural genocide that we have been part of and continue to be a part of.”

Gina Taylor, Classis Hamilton, said she had read the report and wondered what, specifically, are alleged to be the CRC’s sins. “What are we apologizing for in Canada?” The CRC did not run any boarding schools in Canada. Hogeterp responded that we also own the corporate sins of the nation.

Synod delegates asked next year’s synod to consider setting a Day of Justice in the CRC in order to lament racial injustices. Afterward, synod delegates formed a large circle and prayed, honoring the Native tradition of holding a sharing circle. Delegates then recited Lord’s Day 40 of the Heidelberg Catechism, addressing the sixth commandment, murder.’


The last paragraph is replete with eyebrow-raising phrases.  We’re talking McCoy-level.  But I’ll ask just one question: can we get a definition of ‘cultural genocide’?

and…

‘Synod recognized and gave thanks for “the love and grace extended over many years by missionaries sent out by the CRCNA,” but also acknowledged the pain of those who suffered from experiences in boarding schools in the U.S. and Canada, including Rehoboth Christian School.’

My sister suffered painful experiences via thought discrimination at a Christian school under a Calvin College-educated Bible teacher.  Probably no one would care because it can’t be classified under a publicity-drawing category headline.

In closing, these are the things that get our age, famous for its short attention span and apathy, agitating for change: ‘social’ justice issues, topics you see on the scrolling ticker-tape on the major news networks. In part 3, we’ll look at what people evidently don’t care about.

<–Inhumanity, pt.1.                                                                    Inhumanity, pt.3.–>

 

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What would YOU do? pt. 1

What would you do…for a straight answer?

Reflections on the Oversight Committee ‘Process’

Defecta in primis.

Definition: the ‘process’ here has not yet been articulated–it actually requires more thought.  I will revise ASAP.

a. The committee is populated with people who approved the dismissal of the person (Simon Templar) whom they are then supposed to help.*

b. The fact of (a.) is bad enough; complicating it is the fact that so much was said about ST, critical and slanderous, in his absence at the Classis meeting of December 8, 2015. What was said has necessarily affected the committee members’ perception of ST.

c. There are two aspects of (b.) worth expounding. It was a moral wrong for defamatory things to be said in ST’s absence before all in the Classis meeting, without his having opportunity to hear them and then to counter them if he was able (there is injustice in one being permitted neither to know the accusations against him nor to face his accuser). Also, the nature of the communication and meetings, and consequential awkwardness between the parties, precludes ST from directly asking the committee members what they heard about him in December, and therefore ascertaining how what they heard has affected their dispositions toward him and his case. He continues to be prevented from countering any allegations against him or trying to recover his reputation in the eyes of the men in the committee.

d. *Returning to the use of the term ‘help’ in (a.). What is the purpose of the Oversight Committee? What are they to do? Is it clearly defined in writing somewhere, such as in the Church Order? Is there also a procedure they are to follow in terms of how they conduct committee business? What is their authority, and to whom do they answer for their part in the process? What is this ‘process’? Is it anywhere defined? I’m sure it must be, as at least the ‘evaluation’ was established as the necessary first step, by someone…

e. I ask (d.) because the ‘process’ has seemed somewhat convoluted.  Someone was supposed to contact Pastor-Church Relations at the end of December 2015 for guidance on where to begin. ST offered to do this; a committee member said he would do it instead. By the time the Oversight Committee met in late April 2016, it appeared that the member hadn’t actually made contact with PCR until the morning of the meeting itself—four months later. Per that convo with PCR, apparently the two months of back-and-forth to arrange that April meeting was a total waste of time. Why? Because it was in the PCR phone call that the committee, through its member, discovered that there was nothing they could do in the ‘process’ until after ST had had a psych eval conducted by a CRC-affiliated professional or group of… Two questions: why wasn’t this known before the first of January? And, where was Cadet Porky when we needed him?

f. As it is ‘church business,’ do the members of the committee have a moral duty to ST in this process, as well as a business one? More on both aspects in the next installment.

g. How many clues does one need to conclude that the committee members are not particularly interested in their candidate? Such clues could consist of: specific examples of failure to listen; not following through on previously agreed-upon steps; refusing to answer questions from ST, with no acknowledgement that they are doing so, due to which it is hard to determine whether this is a deliberate withholding of information [in which case, why, and is that right?], or simply a lack of courtesy in ignoring ST’s concerns. Neither of those is a good thing.

h. One particular question put to the committee was an inquiry about the origin of the idea for a new course of action (contacting members from ST’s previous church). The email reply (in which none of a total of six questions was answered), said only that this process was ‘on going’. This, along with other vagueries, strongly evoked a classic Indiana Jones moment.

To be Continued…

<–Return to Table of Contents.

Inhumanity, pt. 1.

Inhumanity in the Church, 1 of 3

<–Return to Table of Contents.                                        Inhumanity, pt.2.–>

pt. 1: Moral Obligation

In high school lit. courses we read several books, of which one of the themes was ‘man’s inhumanity to man.’ Or, as reformed students, we could think of some of these as explorations of original sin and even total depravity. As I cogitate, trying to produce examples, several very different works come to mind: William Golding’s Lord of the Flies; George Orwell’s 1984; Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness (in my opinion, this should always be read in conjunction with Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Crime of the Congo); books about the Nazi movement and the Holocaust, an example of which it is now very timely to mention Elie Wiesel’s Night; others on the degrading and maddening effect of—particularly the Vietnam—war on those in combat, such as Myers’ Fallen Angels and Tim O’Brien’s The Things They Carried; then of course there are the books by political prisoners of Soviet gulags, which we didn’t read in high school, and books about past religious persecution under the USSR (e.g., Richard Wurmbrand’s Tortured for Christ), and that yet ongoing in North Korea (e.g., Soon Ok Lee’s Eyes of the Tailless Animals).

All of these examples were written after 1900, and those books inspired by or based on events of the last century’s major political movements or wars will necessarily resonate as quite contemporary; many people are still alive who survived Nazi concentration camps; many are still alive, though old, who as Allied soldiers walked through those newly liberated camps and saw what so many refused to believe was true; in the scope of human history the Iron Curtain came down but yesterday; and today, people in nations the world over are persecuted for their professed faith.  It is most timely to reference the literature by Holocaust survivors, the world having just recently lost Elie Wiesel, from whose pen came incisive observations on responsibility and powerful admonitions to act against injustice.

Positive moral examples can be found in fiction as well as in history.  I guess I grew up inculcated with an idealizing set of entertainment forms. The TV shows I grew up watching feature characters regularly putting themselves to inconvenience or at risk for the sake of another person or people—often strangers to them—who are being questionably or badly used. In such stories the character as well as the moral conviction of these players are unequivocally demonstrated. I will cite one episode from several different shows as examples: ‘The Fear Merchants’ (Bonanza) finds the Cartwright men standing shoulder to shoulder with Chinese friends and neighbors against a surge of local and recent—but violent—racism, risking both relationships with old friends, and great bodily harm, over an issue of right and wrong (clearly asserted by the episode’s script).


Several members of the Enterprise crew, Captain Kirk in particular, put their lives on the line trying to prevent the destruction of the pacifist civilization of the Halkans by the hostile Empire of the parallel universe in ‘Mirror, Mirror’ (Star Trek: TOS). This was in addition to that fact that they are more than busy trying to find a way home before their true identities are discovered. Chloe O’Brian of 24 again and again puts her friends before her career and before her personal safety, often choosing with them to serve the truth rather than political advantage (see for example season 8–spoilers in the Wikipedia page!).

One story deserves a particularly long moment in the limelight. Jarrod Barkley in ‘Hazard’ (The Big Valley) makes a trek to a town to get to the bottom of a warrant which has driven a stranger—Anders—to the Barkley ranch. The man has been shot by duly-appointed deputies by the authority of a ‘Wanted: Dead or Alive’ poster. They claim Anders is wanted for murder, and seem very anxious to carry out the mandate by killing him. Further aspersions are cast on Anders when Heath—whom Anders came to Stockton seeking—declares he knows Anders, and was almost killed by him a few years before: travelling in the desert and short on water, Anders fled in the night with the sole canteen among the trio, leaving Heath and their third companion to fend for themselves. The young man remaining with Heath died as a result.

The Barkleys are nevertheless suspicious both of the deputies’ attitude and their hurry to take charge of Anders. Jarrod heads to Coreyville, the place of the crime, which is run by a local despot who owns the marshall, and everyone else. The marshall had jailed Anders on the charge of murder, and upon his escape, issued the ‘dead or alive’ order—without so much as a witness to the crime. This is among the series’ best: Victoria drinks a straight whisky while challenging Heath to have some pity; Jarrod on his quest for the truth inspires a weak and corrupt lawman to stand up to the tyrant, wearing his badge in the cause of justice; the murder victim’s friend at last takes heart and a stand, testifying to what really happened (Anders is not the perp); Heath hears Anders out, putting grace before his grudge; Anders finds redemption when Heath believes that Anders would give his life to go back and change what he had done three years before.

*

I close with a different sort of example: in ‘Magnificat’ (Law & Order: Criminal Intent), Detective Goren is determined to hold the husband of a woman responsible for her predicament after he discovers that the man was well aware of his wife’s depression-driven downward spiral, at the end of which she killed three of their four children in a murder-suicide attempt with a car bomb: “All she wanted to be was a good mother. But you designed a trap for her—that she was bound to fail. And when she was at the edge of that precipice, you did nothing. You let her fall.”

He and his partner Eames have an exchange with District Attorney Carver over the legal nature of the situation:

Goren: “You heard him admit that he knew she was a threat to herself. You heard him say that he didn’t care.”

Carver: “But he didn’t aid or cause her suicide attempt.”

Goren: “He made her—he made her feel guilty about her son’s learning disability.’

Carver: “That does not constitute a crime.”

Eames: “No, but it makes me wish he was driving that car!”

Goren: “He could have prevented this crime, but he won’t take responsibility for that! Mr. Carver!” (Goren holds up a copy of Penal Law & Criminal Procedure Law NYS) “Isn’t there something in this book that can make him take responsibility for that?”

Carver: “There wasn’t when I checked this morning. I’m sorry, detective. Please send Mr. Whitlock home.”

*

There may not exist charges to be filed against such a person, but his moral culpability is clear, as is that of all people who hear a cry for help and refuse to act, who choose to look the other way.

In Christianity, we know what our obligations are from Scripture; they needn’t be written in our home state’s legal code for us to hold one another, or indeed ourselves, accountable.

Exodus 22:21; Matt. 5:43-48, 22:39; Luke 10:25-37; Gal.6:10. See also Appendix iv., and the excerpt from My Lady Ludlow, in Exhibit Z.

Next installment: Inhumanity, pt.2: Natural Selection?

<–Return to Table of Contents.

Anonymity Update & Definitions of Terms.

[Return to Table of Contents.]

I had originally meant to protect the Christian denomination in which all this occurred by keeping it as well as all individual parties nameless. Since my disappointing (non)interactions (some of which are catalogued here, for example) with some of the higher-ups in the denominational leadership, I have decided that anonymity in this case will only reward the apathy, the deliberate attempts to excuse, deny or cover up the ‘crime,’ and the shocking disrespect shown me as a young Christian woman. At present, I plan to do my best to keep individuals and congregations anonymous.

The denomination in question is the CRCNA, the Christian Reformed Church in North America. Its churches range in size from very small to very large, vary in composition by ethnicity (more on that below) and age (though it seems that in many areas it is aging), and can be found in both rural areas and in large cities.  My impression is that, economically speaking, the denomination has been predominantly upper middle class.  Doctrinally it has much in common with presbyterianism, but has its roots in the continental rather than the insular (i.e. British) reformed tradition. It has historically enjoyed a reputation for theological conservatism and intellectual vigor, placing great emphasis on the importance of sending one’s kids to ‘Christian’ school (see the About page). Per the Better Together Project Report, some in the CRC believe the intellectual vigor, and indeed rigor, still characterizes the denomination: “[w]e’re very good at carefully building highly cohesive and articulate studies of issues” (5). Whether that is the case remains to be seen. Ethnically, it remains predominantly Dutch, but is growing more diverse and has a considerable Korean contingent. Its strongholds are in the American Midwest, especially Michigan, where the denominational headquarters are located, and in Eastern Canada.

Because I had been preserving the anonymity of the denomination, I did not think it necessary to explain in detail what these components are or how they relate to one another. Now that all know it is the CRC, it is worth briefly describing the different levels of leadership and how they work. More information can be found on the denomination’s website. Further background on this situation can be found at Exhibit A., and more definitions of denominational/situational particulars (e.g., ‘classical deputies’) are included where relevant throughout the blog.  Because it is a good-sized group of churches and people, disclaimers about generalizations stated in the Introduction apply.

At the local church level, leadership is composed of the pastor(s) and a council, made up of elders and deacons, typically lay members. These elders and deacons are generally elected to office by their congregations, and hold office for two years.  In my experience, some churches have office elections every year for half of the seats; there is thus some continuity year to year (e.g., a church has 3 elders and 3 deacons total; one year there will be elected 2 new elders and 1 new deacon, while the other positions are filled by those who were ‘new’ the year before; in the next cycle those 2 deacons and 1 elder will step down, and so on). The council is meant to be a representative leadership, ideally peopled by Christians qualified to lead according the standards set out in the pastoral epistles. They along with the pastor are responsible for leading the congregation and overseeing the church’s affairs, from spiritual to financial.   Interested readers can check out the particulars in the church order.  The denomination’s website offers this brief overview of church governance.  In practice, I have learned that councils need their congregations’ approval before calling pastors to their churches; they do not need to even inform congregations of their intent to terminate pastors before they do it (see, for starters, Exhibits L, M, & R).

Loosely speaking, a group of local churches in a geographical area make up a classis. Classes are then grouped into regions. These regions vary in size, as seen in the classis page map. These classes meet regularly, with a minimal number of council members and pastors from every congregation in the classis required to attend. For more information on the classes and what they do, see the above-linked page. Classes are the bodies to which local churches and their councils are accountable. In an Article 17 case like that described in this blog, the termination of a pastor by his council must be presented to the pastor’s classis and ‘approved’ by it. Weirdly, the same classis is then responsible to aid the pastor in ‘getting back in the saddle.’

At the top is the denominational Synod, which meets every year (similar to the Presbyterians’ General Assemblies). For more information on Synod, see here. For our purposes, it suffices to say that issues—from theology to morality—discussed and ruled on by Synod are generally binding on all churches in the CRC. Synod is also the place to appeal decisions such as Classical approval of an Article 17. Classes are ostensibly ‘accountable’ to Synods.

Denominational publications include the CRC’s magazine, The Banner, mentioned in a few places in the blog. I am not interested here in discussing what has ‘gone on’ in The Banner over the past several years, but its features, columns, and expressed sympathies have not been without controversy. The CRC also puts out a daily devotional called Today, relevant in the upcoming post on inhumanity and hypocrisy.

12 July 2016.

<–Return to Table of Contents.                                      Exhibit A.–>

My Mistake.

I’ve dialled you because

It must be told, and you’ll want to know!

What that’s you say?

You can’t hear, bad connection–

I’ll say it slowly, spell it out.

Ah, there you are, we’re back.

Shall I say it again?

You’ve heard his story already?

I hear something in the background,

What are those prayers?

Wishes of Midas, Croesus and Xerxes–

Do I have the right place?

You have been listening, haven’t you? But–

you tell me mine is vanity?

Bad connection indeed,

must be a wrong number–

I thought this was Truth’s line.

**

I’ve caught up at last!

Surely you know why I’m here.

I am here for—what are you doing?

You’ve broken your staff,

and you do it again?

How will you carry on going?

I don’t understand.

More? You certainly have more

break that in half, you’ll have more still.

Yes, many of them are even,

but at six inches long—well…

A very pretty row of twigs,

but now you’ve no walking stick!

And now you want mine?

A ‘collection’? No, that’s all right.

My mistake, wrong turn at the fork–

I thought this was Wisdom’s road–

and now I see Vice not far off!

**

I’ve arrived early, I didn’t want to miss you.

I was afraid no one would be here!

But good, the place isn’t shut,

Though I admit I’m surprised to see your eyes.

And your hands are empty–

save for that whip?

I come with a claim…

Yet you smile at me with rather sharp

but rather weak teeth—and cloudy cataracts.

That laugh I’ve grown used to, but I didn’t expect it here.

I thought this was—but there are a lot of dogs, aren’t there?

Quite shaggy, a bit thin, and, a cracking of more whips?

Pardon me if I scurry—you won’t hear my case anyway.

My mistake, wrong door.

I thought this was address of Justice.

**

At least one knew where one stood with the pagans.

Hermes and Ares I know by sight,

and he with his kithara, she with her girdle and

the one with the aegis.

Jove with his anger and his smile and his scales and Fates hotline,

his children, his loves; the grudges of them all:

their histories, their families, their favorites, their peeves;

the heroes and gods and spinners of yarns, birds, and stars.

They make sense.

Now I see the accoutrements in your midst from of old,

the fish and the cross, mission and vision and committees

and offices and seminars and synods and preaching and posturing.

And yet—who you are,

What this is—how the hell should I know?

My mistake—I thought this was the church.

 

‘I need the people that I really love / to only give me Truth.’ —Angels on My Side, Rick Astley.

<–Return to Table of Contents.

 

Anniversary Message

Because I/we have to worry about retaliation, I can’t send the text with which I would love to hassle 13 today (5 July 2016):

“Happy Anniversary from the UK!  It’s been 1 year since you gave my dad your list of ‘suggestions’.  Celebrate with a beer!  We’re having apple pie.”

But alas!  I can’t really send it (at least, not this year!), so I will revel in the idea by posting it here.  It’s been one year to the day that the Note was proferred.  I offer something more smile-worthy in honor of the 4th:

joab Amer flag

<–Return to Table of Contents.