This week in San Marcos, Texas our entire city is mourning the loss of our own Captain Paul Pena who was killed while serving in Afghanistan last week. This was his fourth tour to a war zone…and he was only 27-years old.
As a minister who ministered to military soldiers for 20 years as a USAF chaplain (after I served 11 years as an enlisted airman, I decided to go to seminary and into ministry full-time and later served as a chaplain to military soldiers), and as a representative of a mainline American church which prays for Peace weekly in church and who preaches Peace and Justice in the world weekly from the pulpit, I join the entire city of San Marcos in mourning the death of Captain Paul Pena who was killed in Afghanistan last week.
Yes, this is a religious issue. Like Isaac up on the mountain looking to his father Abraham and wondering what was going on, our children in uniform trust us adults who vote and shape policies through our voices.
Each Sunday we pray for World Peace and light a candle on the altar to symbolize praying for all soldiers and military members stationed around the world and separated from their home churches. We pray for wisdom for our national leaders as they deal with the threats against Peace in our world. We pray for all leaders around the world and we pray for all soldiers of all nations. All soldiers are children.
As a chaplain and minister, I am one of many Americans who are deeply concerned about the practicalities and the impracticality of our soldiers continuing to rotate indefinitely over to war zones. Even in Viet Nam we soldiers went over for one year and those who survived did not go back. Other soldiers rotated over there. We had a draft and a large pool of soldiers (children) to sustain that war.
Whether or not you agree with the War against Terror (as it is called), please be aware of how precarious a situation we are creating for our current soldiers and for our future military defense system and our nation (and for our world) by continuing a policy of somehow supporting a world-wide defensive war against terror (which appears to have no end — historically this would be true based on centuries-old ongoing wars between religious groups and sects in other parts of the world) and fighting this war with only a small number of volunteer active duty and reserve soldiers. Continue reading Mourning a Fallen Soldier
It’s been such a rough week on the national scene that I can’t bear to think about politics for one more minute. Instead, I’ve been thinking about just what I’m doing here on a blog, of all places. And about what I’m doing in the United Methodist Church, which often seems at odds with my deeply-held political leanings.
These days, the Bible verse that I find myself repeating most often – and it’s been with me for a couple of years now – is Paul’s question in his letter to the Romans: “What, then, are we to say about these things?” It certainly fits here and now, on a blog for progressive United Methodists.
I stumbled across Paul’s question when I was called upon to read some Bible verses at the funeral of one of my family’s oldest and dearest friends. Joe was a retired railroad mechanic and a recovering alcoholic who had remained sober for nearly 30 years. Through AA and the Shriners, in his neighborhood and everywhere he went, he reached out to anyone who needed a hand. He touched hundreds of lives, even as his health failed. Joe never stepped foot inside a church except for weddings and funerals, but he lived as Christian a life, in the sense of following Christ’s example, as anyone I ever knew.
Joe had waited for years to be eligible for a lung transplant operation. In the spring of 2007, near death and in constant pain, nearly housebound, he and his wife Sharon got the call – a set of lungs was available. They were told to leave the Ozarks immediately and drive to St. Louis for the surgery. Lots of folks don’t survive a double lung transplant, but Joe did. With Sharon constantly by his side, he made it through the rehabilitation process much faster than any of the doctors predicted. He and Sharon returned to the Ozarks and life returned to normal. Then, just a few months later, the new lungs developed an infection and Joe was gone
As I looked for some verses to read at his funeral, I turned to the eighth chapter of Romans to pull out the traditional passage about neither life nor death separating us from the love of God in Christ. But the verse that hit me, that seemed most . . . right, was verse 31: “What, then, are we to say about these things?” Sometimes, there really is nothing to say, no easy explanation, no tidy comfort. Joe’s death certainly was one of those times. So was this week in national politics, at least for me. Continue reading What, Then, Are We To Say About These Things?
Jim Wallis of the Sojourners suggests in an interview that our economic crisis reveals a crisis in values as well, and for an economic recovery, we will need a moral recovery.
The Daily Show With Jon Stewart Jim Wallis www.thedailyshow.com Daily Show Full Episodes Health Care [...]
In the onslaught of news coverage coming out of Haiti, it is understandable that most Americans missed word of a significant proclamation by President Obama declaring January 16, “Religious Freedom Day”. The president proclaimed
Long before our Nation’s independence, weary settlers sought refuge on our shores to escape religious persecution on other continents. Recognizing their strife and toil, it was the genius of America’s forefathers to protect our freedom of religion, including the freedom to practice none at all. Many faiths are now practiced in our Nation’s houses of worship, and that diversity is built upon a rich tradition of religious tolerance. On this day, we commemorate an early realization of our Nation’s founding ideals: Virginia’s 1786 Statute for Religious Freedom.
It is worth noting that the Religious Freedom Day was started by George Bush 41. Each year since its inception, the president has made a proclamation to establish and draw attention to this significant component of our nation’s core. While we all take it for granted to some degree, we are constantly reminded the this freedom is not always a given, both at home and abroad. Continue reading Almost Overlooked: Religious Freedom
The Rev. Dr. Sam Dixon, head of the humanitarian relief agency of The United Methodist Church (UMCOR) died before he could be rescued from the rubble of the Hotel Montana in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. Four others had been trapped in the rubble for nearly 55 hours.
The head of the Roman Catholic Church in Haiti was killed [...]
In a pathetic but unsurprising moment, so-called evangelist Pat Robertston once again condemned Christianity and Christians while commenting on the horrific earthquake in Haiti. Pat suggested that the tragedy was brought about by Haitian’s “pact with the devil” in 1791 to free them from enslavement under the French. At least we’ve now got an approximate age on Pat, – I’m assuming he was there in line with the Haitians to offer his own soul up for personal riches, fame, and longevity.
The photos tell the story, one of the most impoverished nations in this hemisphere experiences a natural disaster which leaves an estimated 50,000 dead and hundreds of thousands injured, homeless, and orphaned. Poor, sick, starving, and pitiful. And a man who represents himself as a Christian leader suggests that their ancestors from nearly 3 centuries ago were responsible by making a deal with the devil. Assuming that you’ve read at least one of the Gospels, take a moment to imagine Christ walking among the destitute of Haiti. What kind of image do you come up with, what kind of dialogue would He have with the population? Blessed are the poor? Or damned are the poor?
Even Jon Stewart of the Comedy Channel threw the Bible at Pat, and didn’t play it for laughs.
Stewart also mentioned the remarks that drug user Rush Limbaugh made on his radio network. Rush made it a partisan tragedy, lambasting the Obama White House:
“This will play right into Obama’s hands — humanitarian, compassionate. They’ll use this to burnish their, uh, shall we say, credibility with the black community, both the light-skinned and black community in the country. That’s why he couldn’t wait to get out there; could not wait to get out there.”
While inexcusable, we know that Rush earns his millions through sensational, extremist, and often hateful partisan rhetoric. When he sits in the center ring of his circus, we expect an untamed show. If you buy the ticket, you want to see the wild beasts and the wire walkers working without a net. He boldly tells us that he’s the Greatest Show On Earth. Continue reading Pat Robertson Condemns Christianity: A Preachable Moment
The poorest nation in the Western hemisphere is once again hit with a trauma beyond belief. Haiti’s mountains are bare and eroding thanks to decades of mismanagement. Its people are lost and forgotten. Now, in the most hideous twist of fate, the insufficient infrastructure they had is now destroyed. Here in America, will this crisis reveal the poverty of our own souls?
My own experience with Haiti is limited, but revelatory. I’ll never forget landing at the airport in Port-au-Prince in April of 2002. Our wide-body jet from Miami landed, and once it had come to a stop, rotated 180 degrees in the middle of the runway. There were no taxiways to take the jet to the terminal. Our plane simply pulled over and let us out at a terminal teeming with humanity. It appeared as something out of a movie, a third-world concrete fortress without windows. A tropical breeze blew freely through it.
The crowd milling around the terminal was punctuated with groups of white visitors wearing matching T-shirts that proudly proclaimed their desire to bring help to the people of Haiti. I came to recognize that I was not the only person there interested in missions, ready to lend a hand somehow. Leaving the terminal and entering the city, it seemed that an entire economy was being run by American Methodists, Baptists, Presbyterians, and Episcopalians, doing their best to prop up this hodge-podge of a city. The mission economy of Haiti was thriving. Well, sort of.
There’s a certain beauty to parts of the city. As the peeling pastel-colored paint on the buildings of Havana point to both the destitution and the aspirations of the Cubans, the edifices of Port-au-Prince show a Haitian culture that is struggling but vibrant. One is struck by the ongoing influence of Voodoo religion, Christian schools, and the hope that is both fueled and cynically exploited by thousands of establishments inviting citizens to play the lottery. Continue reading The Failure of Charity
Welcome to the JohnWesleyClub! We are a group of United Methodist lay people, clergy, volunteers, and staff members. We love our Christian heritage as brought to us by John Wesley. We are passionate about preserving that heritage.
Before you get too deeply into this, you might look at the above tab “about this site” and its related pages to see what this blog is all about. I hope that this too will provide some explanation.
John Wesley brought us his famous “quadrilateral”approach to Christianity: our faith as revealed in scripture, tradition, our life experience, and reason. In the very recent past, many have sought to redefine Wesley on their own personal terms, often tearing at the heart of Methodism. The rich tradition of the church as our grandparents and parents grew up with was the church of a loving and compassionate God. The church has been a cross section of America, living, praying, and working together. The Methodist church, since John Wesley has been on the forefront of social justice issues. In Wesley’s time it was prison reform and working to provide health care to the poor, he was also an abolitionist. He worked constantly in relief for the poor and orphaned. His charitable nature was such that he died nearly broke. Continue reading Welcome to JohnWesleyClub!