Lamenting to God, or Whomever

“prayers of the discontented, the disturbed, the distraught”

On November 14, our church held a day of lament. It reminded me, in case I had forgotten, that lamenting to God, or Whomever or whatever you believe in, is OK. More than OK, actually.

One pastor lead the Adult Education class and spoke about the book of Lamentations and, of course, Job, but also the Psalms. Over 40% of the Psalms in the Bible are psalms of lament.

Then the other pastor gave a great sermon on the topic. “What was going on in the lives of those psalmists. Life is not as they expected it to be. They call out to God for an account asking how long? and where are you? They are lamenting. They speak out of their experience, their reality – nothing seems to be off-limits. Thankfully we have this witness as part of our Bible. We have these lament psalms.”

This took place at a fortuitous time. I had been recently talking to a devout Christian, a hard-working person who was feeling a loss of faith because of a situation in life. And the situation WAS certainly unfair and debilitating and frustrating and worthy of lament.

My pastor quoted Old Testament scholar Kathleen O’Connor. “Laments are prayers of the discontented, the disturbed, the distraught. They protest God’s rule of the world, bemoan the speakers’ physical condition and whine about enemies. But remarkably, in the process of harsh complaint and resistance, they also express faith in God in the midst of chaos, doubt, and confusion.”

My own distress

I suppose it also gave ME a sense of comfort when I’ve complained, sometimes on these pages, of feeling distraught. Recently, it was about COVID-19, and the country’s resistance, to my perception, of ending the damn thing. Some people of faith have suggested that, if I had REALLY believed, I wouldn’t be distressed.

Now, I KNEW, instinctively, that this was… crap. But the class and the sermon that week created the framework for a more specific response. “We need these psalms – we need to lament. Lament psalms provide us a blueprint for how to lament – and how to lament well. We live in a society that doesn’t lament, at least not to God. To lament is to cry out, to express our despair.”

Psalm 13

How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever?
How long will you hide your face from me?
How long must I bear pain in my soul,
and have sorrow in my heart all day long?
How long shall my enemy be exalted over me?

At least that Psalm ends with an upbeat thanks to God. Compare with the other scripture of the day, Psalm 88, which has no happy ending.

But yes, it’s all right to rail against God, or the heavens. “The psalmists aren’t afraid to do that.” Why shouldn’t we?

In fact, the First Church of Albany, along with the FOCUS churches, is offering a Blue Christmas service on Thursday, December 16 at 6:30 pm in person and on Zoom. It is for those who approach the coming holidays with heavy hearts due to loss or other reasons. You’re not alone.

Aug. rambling: BS asymmetry principle

RIP, Don Everly, Nanci Griffith, Charlie Watts

asymetry principle
Also known as Brandolini’s Law, this is the simple observation that it’s far easier to produce and spread BS, misinformation, and nonsense than it is to refute it. https://sketchplanations.com/the-bs-asymmetry-principle. The original images and associated explanatory text on this website are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License

Is Religion a Force for Good or Evil?

Amid calls to #TaxTheChurches – what and how much do US religious organizations not pay the taxman?

A Harvard professor predicted COVID disinformation on the web. Here’s what may be coming next

FDA grants full approval to Covid-19 vaccine developed by Pfizer, BioNTech

Jordan Klepper  debates anti-vaxxers and Recounts His Wild Experiences at Trump Rallies

This Physicist Discovered an Escape From Hawking’s Black Hole Paradox and Hubble captures an ‘Einstein Ring’

Malware Camouflaged As Code

Last Week Tonight with John Oliver – Ransomware and Opioids III:
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For the First Time on Record, Rainfall Observed at Peak of Greenland Ice Sheet

How We Fix the Climate

The Southwest’s most important river is drying up

Census growth data for every city, county, district, and  state

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That afternoon in 1978.

The Dresden Job jewel heist

White Ohio woman gets probation for $250K theft, while Black woman jailed for stealing $40K

A history of the Segway

My Physicalmental Illness – John Green

 Why People Who Brush Still Get Cavities

Gene Roddenberry would have been 100 years old

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Marvel and DC face backlash over pay: ‘They sent a thank you note and $5,000 – the movie made $1bn

How Extortion Scams and Review Bombing Trolls Turned Goodreads Into Many Authors’ Worst Nightmare

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Now I Know: A Back-Alley Way To Create a Successful Board Game and  You Actually Win Friends With Dirty Salad? and Maybe Adults Shouldn’t Play Kickball and Why Spaceships Need a Foot Bath and  When The Robber Hits the Road and How Horses Created Firehouse Poles

MUSIC

Bad Wolves: Rebecca Jade featuring Jason Mraz, Miki Vale and Veronica May, which won a San Diego Music Award

Mighty Quinn – Manfred Mann

RIP, Charlie Watts:  Paint It, Black – Rolling Stones; Honky Tonk Women – Rolling Stones; Slow Turning – John Hiatt (namecheck)

The Hymn of Jesus by Gustav Holst

RIP, Nancy GriffithFrom A DistanceDrive-In Movies and Dashboard LightsHeaven 

Coverville 1369: Cover Stories for The The and Tears For Fears and 1370: Tributes to The Everly Brothers and Nanci Griffith

Human -The Killers

Er Huang by Qigang Chen.

Novorossiysk Chimes (Flame of Eternal Glory) by Dimitri Shostakovich

Amy Biancolli writes about  The Tale of the Bow

America is losing its religion

the unchurched

LOSING-OUR-RELIGIONAmanda Marcotte at Salon explains why America’s losing its religion. “Church membership is in a freefall, and the Christian right has only themselves to blame.” And “fewer than half of Americans now belong to a church, and the trend of pew abandonment isn’t slowing down.”

What’s fascinating to me is the acceleration in the unchurched. “In 1937, 73% of Americans belong to a church. And in 1975, it was 71%. In 1999, it was 70%. But since then, the church membership rate has fallen by a whopping 23 percentage points.” Why is that?

Marcotte notes, “The drop in religious affiliation starts right around the time George W. Bush was elected president, publicly and dramatically associating himself with the white evangelical movement. The early Aughts saw the rise of megachurches with flashily dressed ministers who appeared more interested in money and sermonizing about people’s sex lives than modeling values of charity and humility.”

“Not only were these religious figures and the institutions they led hyper-political, but the outward mission also seemed to be almost exclusively in service of oppressing others. The religious right isn’t nearly as interested in feeding the hungry and sheltering the homeless as much as using religion as an all-purpose excuse to abuse women and LGBTQ people.” And that was before 45.

Begets power

The conclusion: “Christian leaders, driven by their hunger for power and cultural dominance, become so grasping and hypocritical that it backfires and they lose their cultural relevance.”

The Atlantic had noted an increase in the religious non-affiliated earlier. “By the early 2000s, the share of Americans who said they didn’t associate with any established religion (also known as ‘nones’) had doubled. By the 2010s, this grab bag of atheists, agnostics, and spiritual dabblers had tripled in size.”

But the atheists are only about 5% of the total population by most measures, suggesting many people consider themselves “spiritual, but not religious.”

The Black Church

The recent PBS series The Black Church: This Is Our Story, This Is Our Song, the four-hour series from Henry Louis Gates, Jr., touches on this. Henry Louis Gates Jr. notes “The [black] church is the oldest, the most continuous and most important institution ever created by the African American people. In the final hour, in particular, the push-and-pull between social justice and the Gospels was examined.

Jeffrey Brown, interviewing Gates, notes that “as many young people move away from organized religion and protesters again demand justice, the church faces a new challenge of relevance and vitality.

“There was a very moving moment in there to me when Reverend Traci Blackmon is telling [Gates] about going into the streets in Ferguson during the protests, and she talks about holding a prayer vigil. And she says that, halfway through, some of the young people said, ‘That’s enough praying.'”

Of course, Black People in America are not a demographic monolith. The Pew Forum has scads of information about the intersection of race, religion, and justice. Some of a higher economic class may gravitate towards a megachurch, such as the one T.D. Jakes runs in Houston. Others may cheer on William Barber of the Poor People’s Campaign. I relate more to the latter.

Per this link, Black Americans “tend to think [black] churches have declined in influence over the years,” but feel they “should have a greater role today than they do.”

As they say, “God” – or how you experience a higher power if at all – “is in the details.”

Why people reject Christianity, part 38

an abomination

forked tongueAs a Christian, I know that there are a lot of understandable reasons why people reject Christianity. Pedophile priests, homophobic preachers… do I need to haul out the litany? That said, a couple of recent examples have distressed me more than usual.

ITEM: “Believe in Divine Immunity”: Trump-Supporting Megachurch Pastor Tells Congregation NOT To Take COVID Vaccine

“Guillermo Maldonado, the Florida megachurch pastor, and self-declared apostle… told his congregation not to take the soon-to-be-available vaccine for the COVID-19 virus because it is part of a plan to prepare people to accept the biblical Mark of the Beast.

“Maldonado, who mocked members of his own congregation for staying away from church in the early days of the pandemic, used his Sunday sermon to warn that the COVID-19 vaccine will ‘alter your DNA’ as globalists set about ‘preparing the structure for the Antichrist.'”

I’ve long found the obsession with the apocalypse to be theologically obscene. This one mixes in absurd technological blather.

That’s why they allow firing squads?

ITEM: Trumpkin pastor calls for Democrats and journalists to be executed 

“On the day before Thanksgiving, [Rick Wiles] called for Trump to have Democrats and journalists lined up and shot [because] they are secretly in bed with Beijing.

“The Christian [sic] pastor made the remarks during an episode of his TruNews program… as he discussed Trump’s baseless claims of widespread voter fraud. Wiles also pointed out that the Justice Department has created a new rule allowing for firing squads to be used in federal executions…

“We already knew that Wiles is nothing more than a Nazi masquerading as a pastor… This is domestic terrorism, straight up.”

ITEM: An Ohio group called We the People Convention took out a full-page ad in the Washington Times (a flagship conservative newspaper).

They are asking Trump “to immediately declare a limited form of Martial Law, and temporarily suspend the Constitution and civilian control of these federal elections, for the sole purpose of having the military oversee a national re-vote.

“OK, any crazy group can publish an ad in any paper that will take their money. But recently pardoned felon Michael Flynn retweeted the ad with the comment ‘Freedom never kneels except for God.'” The fact that they don’t have a prayer of a chance of reversing the outcome of the election doesn’t seem to stop them from trying anyway.

For those of you who think everything will change come 20 Jan 2021, I’m afraid not. We’re dealing with an extensive toxic mindset. And when it’s conflated with a sense of “God’s will”, we’re in deep trouble. This  Newspeak is an abomination. The definition of abomination is “a thing that causes disgust or hatred.”

These purported men of God are disgusting purveyors of hate. If their goal is to “bring people to the Kingdom”, they are failing miserably.

The theology of physical distancing

a false witness who pours out lies

physical distancingSomeone wondered what I thought of those churches that violate physical distancing by gathering. The folks tick me off. Not only do they put the congregants at risk, they put the greater community in peril as well.

The Pentecostal preacher in Louisiana, Tony Spell, said, “The Bible teaches us to be absent from our bodies as to be present with the Lord.” “Like any zealot or like any pure religious person, death looks to them like a welcome friend. True Christians do not mind dying. They fear living in fear.”

Conversely, the rejection of social distancing is far from mainstream among religious leaders. “‘That’s dumb, unbiblical and it doesn’t make sense,’ Rick Warren, pastor of the Saddleback Church in California, said. Warren and his wife, Kay, started the Saddleback Church about 40 years ago, and it now has 30,000 Sunday congregants around the world. They have moved their ministry online.”

Yup, I’m agreeing with Rick Warren.

“‘God gave you a brain,’ Warren said. ‘And much of what God wants to do with your life, he’s not going to write in the sky. He gave you a brain, and he expects you to use the intelligence that you were given.” These other people obviously never heard the famous God Will Save Me story, which I’ve known for a half-century.

Quoting Scripture

The fine artist Mr. Brunelle cited Leviticus 14:43-45 Modern English Version (MEV) on his Facebook page:
If the disease comes again and breaks out in the house after he has taken away the stones and after he has scraped the house and after it is plastered, then the priest shall come and examine and see if the disease has spread in the house. If the disease has spread in the house, it is a persistent leprosy in the house; it is unclean. He shall break down the house, the stones and the timber, and all the plaster of the house, and he shall carry them out of the city into an unclean place.

I’m rather fond of Proverbs 6:16-19 (NIV), directed not just for those addled pastors but for certain nimrods as well:
There are six things the Lord hates,
seven that are detestable to him:
haughty eyes,
a lying tongue,
hands that shed innocent blood,
a heart that devises wicked schemes,
feet that are quick to rush into evil,
a false witness who pours out lies
and a person who stirs up conflict in the community.

The Gospel lesson

When Jesus was in the wilderness, starving and parched, this from Matthew 4:5-7 (NIV)
Then the devil took him to the holy city and had him stand on the highest point of the temple. “If you are the Son of God,” he said, “throw yourself down. For it is written:

“‘He will command his angels concerning you,
and they will lift you up in their hands,
so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.’”

Jesus answered him, “It is also written: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’”

It’s my opinion that Tony Spell and pastors of his ilk are trying to put God to the test. It is an arrogant thelogy that, as Rick Warren said, is unbiblical and makes no sense.