Act Now and Get Your Officially Licensed NFL Team Flag that Literally Violates the US Flag Code!

The NFL licenses one of these for every single team, in direct violation of the US Flag Code’s standards regarding respect for the US Flag.

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If they can make money literally disrespecting the flag, they’re all for it.

I’m not the first to note this:

The so-called anthem protests happening in professional sports are not about disrespecting the flag or the anthem. The flag and the anthem are abstract ideas, symbols. They represent the ideal of a nation where innocent people aren’t gunned down in the street because they happen to be black. As long as this keeps happening, kneeling in mournful protest seems appropriate. Mourning for victims, and mourning for the fact that we aren’t living up to the standards to which we say this nation — this nation that we love — holds itself.

To me, that’s what this is about.

It’s only about the flag or the anthem in so far as the flag and the anthem are truly desecrated every time an innocent person dies in the street.

The NFL very may well be corrupt to its core, but not because its players are engaging in the most American of acts.

Where is God in Hurricane Season?

God did not send Irma, Harvey, Jose, and Maria. I hope you know that.

Why didn’t God prevent Irma, Harvey, Jose, and Maria? Larry King asked a variation of this question on Twitter last night. If God is omnipotent, why doesn’t he prevent natural disasters like hurricanes and earthquakes? King noted that no religious leader has ever been able to answer that for him. The tone of the tweet was not antagonistic. It felt like an honest question mulled over a lifetime. It’s a question we’re all asking. And it’s not just about natural (or human-made) disasters. It’s about all kinds of tragedy and injustice and loss. It’s the cry of Jesus from the cross.

Before going further, let’s ask ourselves what we actually lose if start to allow for the possibility that God might not be omnipotent in the way we traditionally mean.

In philosophic and theological studies, the question of why terrible things happen to good or innocent people is known as “The Problem of Evil.”  Millions of attempts continue to be made to solve the conundrum as classically presented:  if God is all-good, all-powerful, and all-knowing, why does evil persist?”  Some answers are more satisfying than others, but none seem entirely sufficient in the moments they feel most needed.

Martin Luther said that we know God best through God’s love and compassion, not God’s power.  There’s something to that, but we’re still left asking “but if God has the power to prevent X,Y,Z, why won’t he?”

Luther also wrote at length about the suffering of Jesus on the cross as real spiritual trauma for God.  On the cross, Jesus (God in time and space and flesh and blood) experiences the quintessential human question: “God, why have you forsaken me?” On the cross, God experiences the human condition in totally, because on the cross, God experiences the feeling of being Godforsaken.  God experiences what we experience. God knows the pain we know.

We lose nothing, really, if we allow ourselves to consider the idea that God, who is mighty to save, may not be omnipotent in the way we generally think we mean.

My response to Larry King’s tweet was “maybe God isn’t omnipotent. but I do believe God is in the suffering and mourning and struggle. That’s why I follow the Crucified.”

It took the cross for God to know Godforsakenness. And God stayed on the cross. Christians follow a murdered God.  I think that tells us something.

If God isn’t omnipotent in the way we’ve traditionally said, how can we say God is mighty to save?

I think the answer to this part of the question lies in the call to take up our own crosses and follow Jesus.  To sacrifice confidence and trust in anything besides the love and compassion of God as the grounding of our being and the source of our identity.  The cross frees us from seeking our personhood or salvation in systems of politics, economics, and empire.  Naked and crucified, the God born in the poverty of the manger completes his final to move to total solidarity with us.  The life and death of Jesus are no quaint pantomime:  God knew hunger, tragedy, temptation, weakness, and loss.  God felt utterly abandoned by God.  We know and feel all of those experiences on the ebbs and tides of life.

In the person of Jesus, God found the fullness of God’s identity: the God who relies on the care of others for survival, the God who struggles within complex family systems, the God who celebrates at weddings and mourns the loss of friends.  The God who rejoices in our triumphs and the God who suffers the way we suffer.

Where is God in Harvey, Irma, and Maria?

God is in the shelters.  God is in the living rooms of family and friends where displaced people are finding hospitality and healing.  God is in the suffering and loss. God is in the hope of resurrection, in the kindness and compassion of strangers becoming friends. God is in the clean-up crews and buckets.

I don’t know what God is able to do about preventing human suffering.  I pray as if God can do every single thing.  But I do know what God is able to do in the wake of devastation.  Christians follow a crucified God, yes, but also one of Resurrection.  On the cross, God felt the horror of feeling Godforsaken.  In the Resurrection, proof of God’s attendant care breaks forth as Easter Morning.  Jesus was not forsaken or forgotten.  The power of God, mighty to save, manifests in healing after horror. We feel Godforsaken, but we aren’t ever really.  God’s attendant care is there in healing after horror. That’s another way God saves us.

I’m okay with the idea that the God who heals us might not have the power to prevent everything that hurts us.  Come what may, I always seem to find God in the aftermath.  None of this is to say with certainty that God’s not omnipotent in the classical sense.  But if God is, it seems God may have more to answer for than what the cross itself sets right. While it’s true that the frequency of extreme weather events rises with pollution, and while it’s true that so much of what we call evil or unjust is the accretion of broken people living broken lives, and while it’s true that none of that is God’s fault, a classically omnipotent God ought to be able to find a way around the human noise we throw up to heaven.  A classically omnipotent God, we hope, would say “regardless of your free will and brokenness, I have abolished evil, entropy, and want.”

That’s not the reality we seem to experience.  But that doesn’t mean God isn’t here, isn’t moving, isn’t active, isn’t real.  Jesus was killed by systemic injustice and the evil choices of his enemies.  Jesus was raised to glory by the God whose attendant care is there, healing after horror.


What “Chopped” Tells Us About Healthcare

As a food trucker and a pastor, I know this to be true.

The healthcare system (or lack of one) is bankrupting people all over the country. It’s bankrupting both the working poor and the working middle-class who have become the working poor.

The ACA (Obamacare) helped some people and hurt others. That’s something I also know from experience as a pastor and a food trucker.

The ACA has had a punitive effect on many families. The Republican attempts to replace it so far only seem to punish other sets of people.

Medicare For All seems like a good next step. By 2020, all Democrats running for President will embrace it, and a good portion of the Republican field will offer their own versions of it.

I pray for all who can’t wait that long.

Happy Birthday, Leonard Cohen. Ring the Bells that Still Can Ring.

I wrote this a year ago.  When I saw his name trending on this day last year, I was afraid that he had passed. He hadn’t.

Later in the year, he did.

Happy Birthday, Leonard Cohen. Ringing all the bells.

Source: Happy Birthday, Leonard Cohen. Ring the Bells that Still Can Ring.

Bible Study After Show: the Bible as Literature, Exodus as Founding, Jesus as the Word of God

Filmed this after last night’s Bible study. We’re exploring the Bible as literature (because the Bible is literature), and learning some really interesting things about what makes Scripture important here and now.

The Rapture Is Not Happening On Saturday, September 23

There are no hidden codes in the Bible.  That’s not what the Bible is.  That’s not how the Bible works.  That’s not how any of this works.

That said, here’s a video playlist of some songs that either directly or indirectly call to mind the end of days.

First, because I can’t shut up about it: “Sign of the Times” by Harry Styles

“Come Pick Me Up” by Ryan Adams.  This is the “I wrote this song today. It probably sucks” version.  Which is also the best version.  “When they call your name, will you walk right up, with a smile on your face?  Will you cower in fear in your favorite sweater with an old love letter?”

“I Wish We’d All Been Ready,” by Larry Norman, covered by DC Talk.  You don’t have to agree with the theology to behold the beauty of these vocals or the sadness of the prospect that this vision might be true.

“The Man Comes Around” by Johnny Cash.

“The Wanderer” by U2 and Johnny Cash.