Wednesday, September 30, 2020

Presidential Debates 2020

Both parties have polarized into their oppositional positions.

Donald Trump attacked and defended himself. He broke the rules and bullied his opposition.  He came across as arrogant and lacked a positive thought out planned stance towards issues.

He needs a Fenelon in his life if he is to have a credible faith in Christ. Fenelon, a Roman Catholic French Archbishop, discipled princes in the 17th and 18th centuries, and led them into taking up their own crosses as an act of devotion and service first to Christ. His discipleship of leaders off set the temptation to abuse power, which was great in the life of any monarch.

Joe Bidden came across as a little less reactive than Trump but at times was using name calling to reach his one up position.  “I’m better I deserve to win,” which both parties use in this systemic evil that politics employs. Bidden takes the position that religion is privatized and wants things like family and faith to be out of bounds. So, he attacks morally on issues like systemic racism, but wants a boundary in terms of his son’s addiction and greed and his pro-choice stance, even though he is a Catholic.  He claims his private and public moral views should be separate. If Bidden is to have credibility for his faith it cannot be privatized and certainly only focused on party loyalty, rather than loyalty to his King.

Both parties seek alliances for getting elected. “We are the good guys they are the bad guys, vote for us.” So, religion is often there to validate their political views rather than to be subject to God and His will. I believe that the debates so far should bring us shame in America for the lack of civility and character of both candidates. Is there any other political system we could use to validate public servants? J God still rules even in the midst of a broken world. Both of the parties and candidates need prayer and God’s grace for the forgiveness of their sins, which I believe are obvious to all who watched the debate. We as Americans need prayer and God’s grace for us as a country and for our political leaders.  Please pray!

Thank you for listening!

Tuesday, January 22, 2019

Government Shutdown

In the last article I wrote about the Republican and Democratic party’s conflicts I asked for prayer.  Guess we need to pray more.  As a pastor and counselor it is clear to me that this is a dysfunctional system and they need help and do not recognize it.  That is called denial.  In most systems whether marital or business when an impasse is reached people call for a counselor, consultant or a neutral third party.  The problem with our government is it does not recognize its need for help.  It believes it has the answers but the results prove it wrong. Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results is one definition of insanity.  Do governments lose their mental health?  

This government shutdown, the longest in our history, is a conflict that is a win-lose or lose- lose and those losing are the government workers who are not being paid.  This is unacceptable collateral damage in a war where there needs to be cooperation by public servants that are not doing the jobs they were hired for. Sanctions against our own people only hurt us. This is not about who is right and who is wrong but from a Biblical perspective about arrogance and self- righteousness.  When too much power is granted there is usually abuse of power or ugly power struggles. In our country we are to be governed by the “rule of law.” However, the founders believed that we needed a culture of virtue in order to have a successful republic that creates and maintains a healthy functional government.  So virtues like humility, and respect are required to create a functional republic. 

As believers in Christ we are also called to speak out against evil and this system is becoming more and more evil.  We are to call on those in power to confess their sins and repent.  Both the Democrats and Republicans are creating hardship for others without doing anything corrective about their wrong doing.  In our country government is to be called into accountability by the people they serve. 

The arguing invites people to side with one group or another, polarization.  Sometimes taking sides blinds us to the wrongs of the people we side with and then we fail to be salt and light in situations that need moral and spiritual discernment. We become emotionally reactive rather than led by virtue and faith. Can you see the evil of this system?  Are you becoming a part of the problem or a part of the solution?  Have you withdrawn from the conflict and are not a part of the solution?

Many politicians are enmeshed in their own political party and believe they have to be loyal to their party by winning against the other party or they will not be reelected. They do not know that many of us want ethical and godly politicians in office. You can write letters to your congressmen and ask for a resolve of this conflict.  That working across party lines is not disloyalty to many in America. We want public servants to resolve problems not fight each other. Tell them to stop victimizing the innocent and work together on immigration reform in a way that solves the problem rather than creates more chaos.

Christians are called to overcome evil by doing good and serving the needy.  Many across the nation are organizing to help those who are not being paid in this government shutdown.  We can do this in our home towns and cities.  We can overcome evil by providing resources for those not receiving their pay checks.  We can start with ministering in our own congregations and neighborhoods.  Do you know a federal employee who is not receiving a pay check?  Is your church helping?

The Community Food bank and DES are both trying to be of service. 

To reach your US representatives call (202) 225-3121. To reach US Senators call (202) 224-3121

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Pray for Our Political System

Letter #1 by Randy Reynolds
Years ago I got a call after the Gabrielle Giffords' shooting and was asked to do a Sunday morning service at the Court House in honor of those who were shot.  The interesting theme from the media who came to film the service was, this was caused by the significant on- going political conflict in our state.  I however challenged this view because I knew of the mental health issues of the shooter.  In a systemic view of life everyone has responsibility for their part. The complexity of the issue however was that the political conflict in my opinion did not cause the shooting but systemic tension does usually engage the more marginalized in our community and increases their pathology, including their acting out.
Within a short time several politicians apologized for being critical of opposing party members and there was an initiative to create “civility” in political discourse.  So as a pastor I saw confession of sin and repentance taking place through God’s providence. As we have just experienced that repentance did not last very long.
The political climate has reached a peak and everyone I talked with has worn out their mute button trying to cut out the mud slinging that has dirtied their TV sets.  This systemic evil is contributing to the deterioration of our culture and does promote evil from both sides of the aisle.
The Book of James says, “In the same way, the tongue is a small thing that makes grand speeches.  But a tiny spark can set a great forest on fire.  And the tongue is a flame of fire.  It is a whole world of wickedness, corrupting your entire body (the political body in America).  It can set your whole life on fire, for it is set on fire by hell itself.” James 3:5-6
So what do we do as Christians when confronted by systemic evil in our culture?  Are we to run and hide or react in anger or fear?  Are we to be passive? God has first called us to pray.  I believe we need to pray that God will forgive those perpetrating evil and bring them to repentance. Please pray for our politicians, those behind the scenes like the Democratic National Committee or the Republican National Committee or the super PACs.  That they may come to a place of confession and repentance and come to know Christ or if people of faith that they submit to the King of the Kingdom of God.  Some of you may feel that this list may have an enemy on it, but we are to pray for our enemies as believers.  Also one leader said, “I have never met a person as evil as the system they were involved in.”  We all need God’s grace to help us find our way.
Please pray for an out pouring of God’s Spirit on our country and this city.  Please pray that the evil we experience will be uprooted as Christ has already defeated the devil.  Thank you for praying for our political system and that God will bring healing.  I’m asking that we pray for several months and then I will send another letter to do a follow up on this topic.  Included is a letter written by several men directly involved in this political process.
Thank you and you can pass this on to other believers
Randy Reynolds
Letter #2 by Ethan and Steve
During the 51st Arizona Legislature, we served Tucson’s 9th District at the state capitol. Ethan is a Republican. Steve is a Democrat. We shared a commitment to find ways of working together to serve the constituents we represented, despite our differing views on a range of issues.
That is the heart of what has made American democracy so resilient and admired around the world — the commitment of elected officials to find common ground across the partisan divide.  

This commitment and resiliency are being sorely tested during the political season in which we find ourselves.
Our countrys hard-won freedom is under threat — by a rising tide of tribalism, demonization of those with different views and backgrounds, and political violence.  

But there is a way forward. Our nation can be strengthened if we each recommit ourselves to the essential American values of empathy, welcome, and respect for ourselves and others. 
Even today, what unites us as Americans is greater than what divides us. 
In Arizona, our state’s greatest accomplishments were achieved when people with differing viewpoints, parties, and ideals found a way to reach beyond political differences to serve a greater good. They humanized and empathized with other people, even where they had significant differences.  

Economic development, transportation, education, public safety, public health, and water policy are not partisan issues. They are central to our quality of life, regardless of our ideological underpinnings. We all benefit when our elected officials work together to assure these basic services are well-managed so that we can take them for granted.
That’s why Democrats Carl Hayden and Mo Udall united with Republicans Barry Goldwater and Paul Fannin to support and build the Central Arizona Project, without which we would be in economic and existential crisis today.  These leaders disagreed on many issues but they all wanted to make Arizona a better place. 
We don’t and never will agree on every issue, including some important political and social ones.  But our common hope for a better future for Arizona and a respect for other people and the political process gives us a context in which we can debate and discuss our differences respectfully. 

Our founders have blessed us with freedom and democracy and a way of life that is fragile and must be protected.  To be a part of the American experiment is a rare privilege and our cherished freedoms must be earned by every generation, not only with battles against external enemies but by building internal cohesion that is more powerful than the seduction of petty tribalism that sets us against each other. 

There is no one correct answer for how society can progress, whether from the left or the right. Anyone who believes this is toying with the corrosive and essentially un-American forces of autocracy. Mutual understanding of differing views is the central tool that allows us to make our way forward. Together.

Now that the 2018 elections are over, we must focus on fostering unity amongst all our citizens, regardless of political beliefs and backgrounds.  Whoever you are, wherever you came from, however you voted, and whatever brought you to those votes, we are all Americans.

We are bound together by our belief that tomorrow will be a better place than today, a respect for our Constitution to settle our disputes, and a deep understanding that America can still be that shining city on a hill, an inspiration for all those who seek life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

We hope you will join us. 

Friday, May 18, 2018

Circularity and Justice

We get very upset when we hear stories of injustice and the unrighteous acts that create this pain and hardship.  Almost nobody likes to hear about bullies picking on the weak. In my life the predatory lending practices of payday loans and title loans have been where I have heard many stories of abuse.  I sat with a store manager of a payday loan office and heard him tell stories of how they were told to violate the harassment laws in order to intimidate people to pay their 400% loans.  They would threaten clients by saying if they did not pay they were going to prison, which was a lie.  The one who borrowed usually did not know the law and was threatened. I even heard stories of how the borrower embezzled money from their employer so they would not go to jail.  However they got caught embezzling and went to jail anyway.  Harassment laws were not enforced against these lenders and the predatory lending was perpetuating great injustices with the vulnerable. The bullies were hurting the little guys! Everyone was caught in a web of evil.  These stores target the desperate and illiterate and find a market that is profitable but exploitive.

In the discussion of justice some will say that those taking the loans are responsible for their own lives and should know better.  In a relationship each person has a part to play and the borrower does have responsibility for their part.  However in justice issues those with the most power are usually seen from an ethical point of view as having the greater responsibility.  So abusive power is unjust and the violation of human rights comes into play in these discussions.  God grants each person certain rights and these need protection from tyrants who exploit others for personal gain.  In third world countries political tyrants rule unjustly and property rights are denied and so economies often fail to develop because of this exploitation by rulers, more bullying.  The rule of law, that no ruler, whether king, bishop, business leader or military leader is above the law, protects the rights of the vulnerable.  This is one of the main views of justice.  It also sets boundaries on human depravity and the systems tyrants rule.  America set up its government based on a constitution, a government structure and the covenant of its people to respect and implement this rule of law.  So our rights and freedoms would flourish.  However when people are selfish and abuse their power injustice reigns rather than a just and righteous society.  Each person in a relationship is required to be responsible and virtuous for a healthy and just society. Proverbs 11:10 says “... that the city rejoices when the righteous prosper…” Why? Because the righteous are those who value justice and righteousness more than personal gain, so everyone benefits when they prosper.  We all need to grow in our value of justice and righteousness. The second half of the verse is also important, “They shout for joy when the wicked die.” Why? Injustice, evil, and wickedness is oppressive! Boundaries have to be set against evil. Madison when framing the constitution said, “There is a degree of depravity in mankind which requires a certain degree of circumspection and distrust.” (Godly Republic pg 36) So the godly need to face their own sin as well as not be na├»ve about the wickedness of others or the systems that perpetuate evil and oppression. God has paid a big price to restore us to healthy relationships. Therefore the victim needs to learn the snares externally as well as internally, so they make right choices and the predator has to not set them, both have a righteous part to play and evil to shun.

Justice also has to do with the way we are rewarded or punished in life.  What we deserve is not only about entitlements or rights but about what we have earned.  What is rightly coming to us because of the effort, competencies and risk we have taken.  Most social systems have a reward system and a punitive system that is implemented according to our behaviors.  A just reward is to be granted for our work and accomplishments.  A just punishment is given when we violate others, like in taking a life, abusing or stealing from others.  In the story of Branch Richey and Jackie Robison the issue of injustice is based on racism.  Jackie Robison is excluded from white baseball because of the color of his skin, however he is given the chance to prove that he deserves to be in professional white baseball if he can demonstrate competency.  He does not trade evil for evil when he crosses the color line but focuses on his performance and is supported by a white Branch Richey a man of power and position.  He gains a position in white baseball by performing well and earns himself, rookie of the year.  However, the resistance to inclusion, because of the injustices of racism, were pronounced and costly to both Jackie and Branch. The racist system is confronted through this alliance between Branch and Jackie. If Jackie had acted out with vengeance he probably would have been punished and excluded from white baseball.  Jackie turned the other cheek as Branch told him to do and outperformed many white baseball players earning himself a hard fought for position of dignity and reward in white baseball.

Evil and abuse whether in a family or a social system, like baseball, can become a vicious cycle of people hurting people and it does not matter whether it is perpetrated by a system or individual.

The justice argument can quickly polarize into justice that is about rights or justice that is about a person’s responsibility.  If the emphasis goes too far towards rights and entitlements a perspective may develop where human effort and personal responsibility gets over looked.  If the emphasis goes too far towards personal responsibility, the person abusing power or the systemic evils may be ignored.  Justice almost always has a relational context that is circular in nature and everyone is called by God to be just, humble and merciful, as well as face their own sin.  Micah 6:8

A closing story just happened.  This morning a 78 year old woman was to bring in her last interest free payment on a micro-loan that we had given her.  She lives in government housing and was in debt.  When she came in she informed us that she had gone to a new car dealer and leased a new car. The sales man tells her, according to her version of the story that they are going to make her a deal that will work for her. The salesman’s job is to get her a car. She has about $30 to $50 dollars extra a month in her budget.  We have been working with her for a year to get her debts paid off.  The car dealer leased her a new car and required her to pay car insurance and a lease, which put her way beyond her budget.  She signed a contract so she felt personally responsible for the monthly payments, which she cannot afford.  The car dealer never looked at her budget to see if she could afford this lease.  It was not his responsibility or was it?  He as a sales person was to lease her a car, which he did.  Was he abusing his power and trapping her in a contract that exploited this 78 year old woman?  When we went and talked with him about his part ethically he said, “We did nothing wrong.” Was he one of the wicked that she should have been distrustful of? Was she guilty of stepping into this trap? He said, “It is all her responsibility.” Was he guilty of setting a trap?  She believed it was all her fault. Isn’t there the issue of each person doing what is right and just in this relational transaction?  How could they treat each other with respect? 

Ezekiel says, “Today even common people oppress the poor and rob the needy…” (Ezekiel 22:29)  Injustice may come from evil social systems and the irresponsibility of people at the same time.

We really do affect each other and need to know and care how we affect others to break the cycles of injustice.

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Vegas Evil

How do we respond to the horrors of a shooting like the Vegas shooting?  Do we have compassion and care for those injured and the families in grief?  Do we spiritualize this event as a warning of the evil to come when a nation turns from God and opens its doors to evil?  Does not Vegas advertise as sin city and “what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas”?  Well this is not staying in Vegas this is the worst mass murder in the history of America!

Jesus’ response to pain and suffering was compassion and provision.  He demonstrated that God cares for those who suffer.  Well then why did He let this happen?  Is there another story perhaps that a nation that does not revere God invites evil and perpetuates it?  Could it be that the Kingdom of God, the love of Jesus comes through faith and without faith evil reigns?

Stephen Paddock did not seem to be allied with a religious group, a political philosophy, or have a history of mental illness.  He did have a father that was a criminal and self-absorbed in his criminal pathology.  Stephen was a wealthy professional who was accomplished from the stories we heard.  So what if he had become a Christian and confessed the sins of his father and been aware of the spiritual warfare behind the scenes that bind people to evil and its purposes, would this story be different?  Scripture says that the devil blinds the eyes of the unbelieving. (2 Corinthians 4:3-4)  Could there be spiritual answers to very real problems that we see and experience in this life?

 When we secularize our view of the world we deny spiritual realities.  Everyone has a grid for defining problems and answers that go with their definitions.  For example some may say the problem here was liberal gun laws and the solution more restriction.  For others if the first report of radical Muslims claiming credit would have been true or real would have felt this was the problem and stricter immigration laws the solution.  We look through our own lenses and define problems, but spiritual things are unseen.

In the book of Ezekiel there is a warning that evil will come and destroy when people turn from God and that those called to be prophetic are required to warn that something bad is coming. (Ezekiel 34:1-9)  The warning is stern and it is a call to turn back to God and repent, but it also communicates that God does not want people to suffer.  However they will if they do not turn to Him and someone has to warn them.

Jesus calls disaster birth pains.  They are to warn us of coming disaster and draw us to the One who loves us.  They hurt and get our attention.  Jesus wept over death and the consequences of a nation that had abandoned its God.  When evil reigns lots of good people are hurt because the evil one takes pleasure in bringing destruction and stealing people’s lives. (John 10:10)  He as evil incarnate invites people to do his will and as we can see it is done.

We need healing, compassion, and a revival.  Please work and pray for peace in our nation!

Monday, September 18, 2017

PEACE IN OUR COMMUNITY - who is responsible for the peace of the community?

Years ago I came across a documentary about animals being killed in South Africa.  No one knew why this strange phenomenon was happening until they discovered that young bull elephants were using their new found adolescent energy to kill other animals.  Why?  These bulls had no communitarian restraints on them and they were violent.  These young bulls had been separated from the herd.

So biologists brought in a number of old bull elephants and the testosterone of the young bulls dried up and they stopped killing other animals.  Once the young bulls were in proper relationship with the old bulls that had more power and strength they began to behave themselves. Independence from our communities can be a bad thing.

Who is responsible in our communities to keep the peace?  Who is called to restrain the violent ones of our communities?

In restorative justice, crimes are not done against the state but against the victims of the crime and the community.  So restoring relationships - community becomes a part of the equation in the context of the community.    The community is responsible for bringing healing and peace when there has been conflict.  The perpetrators are required to own their offenses and apologize and make their wrongs right.  So the elephants are to be dealt with by the elephant community, it is their problem, but it affects the safety and well being of everyone in the community.  Conflict is a community issue and perpetrators are not marginalized to be only dealt with by the State-the criminal justice system or wild life biologists! The experts can help but they are not the only ones to solve this problem everyone must do their parts for peace to be established and safety maintained in the community. 

In Jeremiah 29:4-7 the Israelites are exhorted to pray and work for peace.  They are captives in a foreign land but they are to work towards bringing welfare, prosperity, and peace to their community.  This is a mission given by God.  “And work for the peace and prosperity of Babylon.  Pray to the Lord for that city where you are held captive for if Babylon has peace, so will you.”  Jeremiah 29:7  This was a violent time and those who conquered others in battle were so very cruel, abusive and domineering.  Yet Israel is called to work and pray for the peace in this enemy culture. They live in this city where there was a connection between everyone who lived there and peace would benefit all in the context in which they lived.

Some of our city leaders got together for a press conference to put forth a united front on peace in our city.  As one of the leaders spoke they put the focus on the media being the problem and how they amplified the violence of a fringe element who are harmful to others.  As I thought about their response I thought it is their young elephants that are doing a lot of damage and violence and they need to step up and not deflect their responsibility in holding them accountable.

At the same time a woman I know from a white suburban church talked with her pastor and said, “We as white people need to declare the violence done by white racists is wrong.”  He agreed so the next Sunday they defined these behaviors as wrong in front of the congregation, prayed for the victims and wrote letters of apology to black pastors.  I thought it took a lot of grace and courage to do this.  Who wants to identify with badly behaving people of any people group and this Presbyterian Church followed their Savior who identified with sinners even though He was not a sinner and they were white but not racists.   It is often easier to identify with the victims than the perpetrators.  However all true believers know they are sinners or perpetrators and therefore need God’s grace.  These believers stepped up and did the work.  Is it our responsibility to identify with our tribe and correct them when they misbehave even when we don’t naturally relate or identify?  Old elephants are still elephants even if they do not act like young elephants.
Peace only comes in our communities when we make peace and solve conflict by working towards the welfare of our communities.  Where are the bull elephants that can correct their own kind and establish a healthy, peaceful community?

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Politics – How do we deal with the judgmentalism of our political system?

God is not worried about the conflict down here on earth!  He is not wringing His hands over who gets in as president!  He has a plan and our job is to trust Him in that plan.  Psalm 37 is a great psalm for this election.
 There are different words in scripture that are translated into the English word judgment. The main theme of the New Testament is love and how can love have anything to do with judgment?  Well judgment can mean to evaluate, like taking a personal inventory and judging ourselves correctly. “But if we examine ourselves, we will not be examined by God and judged… 1 Corinthians 11:31  We are also called to judge the church, those who are falling short so they can be corrected.  “It isn’t my responsibility to judge outsiders, but it certainly is your job to judge those inside the church who are sinning in these ways.” 1 Corinthians 5:12  No one wants to have others standing over their shoulder ready to criticize their every move, but we appreciate those who care about us, know us, and love us enough to be honest with us and protect us from harm. “Dear brothers and sisters, if another Christian is overcome by sin, you should gently and humbly help that person back onto the right path.” Galatians 6:1  (loving correction vs criticism)  So believers are to hold themselves accountable and the church accountable in love but what about those outside the church?  This is where the prophets like Jonah would warn of God’s judgment to those outside the faith because God cares. “God did not send his son into the world to condemn it, but to save it.” John 3:17 However, Jesus consistently warned of the coming judgment.  Ezekiel spent five chapters writing about the surrounding nations being held accountable by God and bringing this warning to light.  We all will be called to give account.  A failure to warn was a serious moral failure.  I have that in my ethical code as a counselor, the obligation to warn of impending danger.  Warning others is a part of caring and loving them! In the first nine verses of Ezekiel 33 the imperative to warn is given seven times. “But if you warn them to repent and they don’t repent, they will die in their sins, but you will not be held responsible.” Ezekiel 33:9 Where is the prophetic call today from those who judge themselves rightly, evaluate their church rightly, and humbly and gently warn the powers that be that they are accountable to God?   
 In the Old Testament the kings or rulers were held accountable by the prophets.  When David sinned in committing adultery with Bathsheba and tried to cover it up by killing her husband it was Nathan the prophet who called him into account.  For society to be healthy there has to be people who call us to be godly and ethical.  “If the church does not recapture its prophetic zeal, it will become an irrelevant social club without moral or spiritual authority.” Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
In the Old Testament sins were defined and also the consequences of sin were defined.  The prophets prayed for forgiveness of sins and for the restoration of blessing-shalom because of the curses-consequences that sin brought with it. (Daniel 9) The predominate sins of these elections are arrogance and judgmentalism – “Do not judge lest you be judged.” (Mathew 7:1-5) (Romans 2:1-3) The consequence is the undermining of public trust in our leaders, creating fear, resentment and more judgment.  It seems to be nominated, you have to be mean spirited and a pit bull ready to fight. (You can write in Thor my pit bull for president!) Attack and defend, attack back and defend is the political loop that is required to be a candidate. Reactive campaigns do not allow for the complexity of issues to even be exposed; it becomes more about who is right and who is wrong. Trading evil for evil is normalized and celebrated rather than confessed and repented. Is this system evil and used by the evil one to rob, steal and destroy? Has the system become too corrupt to bring righteous and godly leaders into power? 
Lord, we ask that You would forgive our nation for being arrogant and judgmental.  For becoming entangled in judgment, resentments and fear.  Restore and bring Your peace to us as we turn to You as the answer to our problems. You are our savior and the shepherd of our souls.  Thank You, Lord, for being the one who rules over the kingdoms of the earth and that You appoint whoever You want to rule. (Daniel 3-5)  Please guide us in this election and help us to trust You as we do our part.  Give us the wisdom to vote for that which is right, just and true and help us not to be too distracted or enmeshed in the conflict.  May Your Kingdom come and Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven!