Monday, March 24, 2014

some thoughts on current news

I've been troubled by the existence of a particular Kansas-based group that claims to be a "church" since I first heard about them. For one thing, it seems to me that they make the job of other Christians harder - people looking for a reason to dislike or dismiss or snark on that faith can bring up this so-called "Baptist" group as an example.

When they really aren't. When they are really pretty much the opposite pole of what a lot of Christians believe and want to do.

It also bothers me that they seem to want to exploit people in deep grief for....what? Their own agenda, their own attention, to get on the evening news? What good does it do anyone to throw salt in the wounds someone is suffering because their son, or their husband, or their brother (or their daughter, wife, sister) was killed while in military service?

I prefer not to add to the burden of sadness that already exists in the world.

And yes, there are bright lights: the Patriot Guard, for example (one semester I had a student who was a biker, and he volunteered with them when he cold. I was proud of him for that). Or the other people who form a human screen between the protestors and the family and try to protect the family from the ugliness.

But of course the group in question is back in the news because their founder (who was also apparently "excommunicated" at some point) died last week.

I'm hoping he found grace and mercy far exceeding what he seems to have shown here on Earth. And if it's not too awful of me, that he now regrets the way he behaved.

But I also found myself thinking this morning, in that sort of half-awake state when you first get up, of the parable of the rich man and Lazarus. A recap: there was a very wealthy man, in a time and a place where there was really no social safety net, so the disabled or indigent had to rely on family or on the kindness of people in their town to survive. Lazarus was such a man; he apparently had a skin condition that made it impossible for him to work (he was probably ritually unclean, was the implication, I guess). The dogs would come and lick his sores (ugh). He would sit outside the rich man's gate and beg. The rich man could have helped Lazarus by letting him have the scraps from his table - but even that was too much for the rich man to do.

Eventually, as happens to all humans, Lazarus died. As the text states, he was taken to the bosom of his father Abraham - because he suffered here in this life (and also, in some commentaries, he was someone who trusted and relied upon God), he wound up in a pretty nice afterlife.

Then the rich man died. And he wound up going to "the other place" (as we used to call it when I was a kid). He's suffering. He calls upon Abraham and asks him to send Lazarus (not only is this rich man uncaring towards others; he retains a giant sense of entitlement even past the grave - considering he expects the former beggar outside his gates to bring him water) with a drop of water to cool the rich man's burning tongue. Nope, is Abraham's reply. Can't be done.

So then the rich man begs Abraham to send Lazarus to the rich man's remaining family, to warn them to change their ways, lest they suffer the same fate as the rich man. Again, Abraham says no, it can't be done. And besides, Abraham adds, they have the Law and the Prophets; do they not read them? And the rich man explains that just as he didn't regard the Law or Prophets when he was alive, they do not. And Abraham argues that if they won't listen to the existing scripture, they will not be convinced by Lazarus....

And I find myself wondering if that founder is now casting about, wishing someone could be sent to his family, to tell them that they're going about it wrong, that they will not help anyone by telling everyone they're doomed and sinful and going to Hell, and instead they need to do something differently.

I don't know. It just frustrates me, how that group behaves.

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