Thursday, October 31, 2013

Part #2: Not Soon...Why So Long?

Almost 2,000 years have passed since Jesus, the Son of Man, said, “You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” Matthew 5:48

What a wonderful ethical command, (though so seemingly impossible to live).

But since Jesus told us to become perfect, tragically, the opposite has happened! Down through history, many Christian leaders have so perverted and twisted what Jesus said and how he lived.

They act contrary to Jesus' words of compassion, mercy, and peacemaking, often even claim God calls them to slaughter, enslave, persecute, torture, lie and steal!

From the Crusades, through the wars of religion of the 16th century, to the “Christian” 30 Years War, and downward to this present day, Christians continue to go forth to war in Jesus' name.

In response to many Muslims claiming Allah is on their side, many American soldiers are claiming the Christian God is on our side; some Americans even use weapons engraved with Bible verses to kill Muslims in Afghanistan.

Is this praying or preying?!

Where is this so-called arc of the moral universe?! Where is the realm of God that Jesus promised?

Even if we manage to close out the human world’s dark night of destructive action, there’s always the suffering of natural evil everywhere and endless through the centuries--famine, natural disaster, and disease.

Thousands of little children die daily right now for want of nourishment and vaccination. These innocent children could easily be saved with only a tiny portion of the billion-dollar'd weapons budget of the United States alone!

Where is the arc of the moral universe?

But notice the quote again--the famous statement emphasizes that “the arc of the moral universe is LONG…”

Evil hasn't been defeated quickly. Its horrendous dominance has lasted for many thousands of years.

The great quote comes originally from a speech by the Christian leader Theodore Parker in the mid 19th century:

“I do not pretend to understand the moral universe, the arc is a long one, my eye reaches but little ways. I cannot calculate the curve and complete the figure by the experience of sight; I can divine it by conscience.”
Theodore Parker, 1853, “Of Justice and the Conscience”

Parker wrote this during the tragic time leading up to the horrific slaughter of the American War Between the States, where nearly a million humans died, and millions more suffered for a generation!

The arc of the moral universe is very LONG…

Tragically, the situation of most people, especially Negroes, was often worse after the American war than before!*
Think about that.

True, “legal slavery,” had ended, but the actual living conditions for most Negroes after the war grew worse during Reconstruction and on into the new century. Discrimination, oppression, persecution, even lynchings occurred regularly.

Don't forget so-called "sundown towns."

On the outskirts of Hawthorne, California in 1930s stood a sign:
"Nigger, Don't Let The Sun Set On YOU In Hawthorne.”

There were hundreds of such racist towns throughout the United States, both north and south.

And this only speaks of the evil of racial prejudice.
Think of all the other evils including the slaughter of over 10 million humans in the Great War, then over 50 million in World War 2, and the Holocaust.

What a great demonic ocean of darkness…

Where is God? Where is the Chosen One?

Where is this improving “moral arc”?

To Be Continued

Daniel Wilcox

Monday, October 28, 2013

"The Arc of the Moral Universe is LONG...."

Is there an arc to the moral universe like spiritual leaders such as Martin Luther King Jr. have stated*?

Growing up in the 1950’s and the early 1960’s, it seemed—
at least for us in a tiny Nebraska village—
that great hope lay in the future,
that we would all grow up to make
a strong moral and spiritual difference in the world.

Like our Sunday School teacher said and all the sermons we heard proclaimed,
God would use us to right the wrong in the world,
would guide us to give out the Good News
and see the lost saved,
the hungry fed,
and the destitute clothed.

We followers of Jesus would be a beacon
of light to the nations.

Unlike most of those religious delinquents and hypocrites of the past...

Of course, we “knew” also that evil was going to increase and wouldn’t be completely
defeated until Christ came again, but we held these 2 opposite truths in tension
(both that the future would get better and that it would get worse), believing both fervently.

Perhaps, we were more idealistic than your average kids. But since we were convinced of the infinite love of God in Jesus, we had great hope.

For instance, in my own family, nightly, my Baptist-pastor father and energetic mother, younger sister and I saw Blacks and Whites on our black and white TV, repeatedly marching nonviolently for integration in the segregated South and--despite millions opposing them--those idealist Blacks won!

God through his followers was moving against racism, against evil, against oppression.
We watched these brave witnesses—we were so starry-eyed--
bring very strong change, real moral development
for the good and the right,
the true and the brave!

We saw freedom win and justice move forward.

True, evil still rampaged--there were the horrific murders of 4 young girls in the 16th Street Baptist Church bombing. And then just 2 months later, President Kennedy was assassinated.

And the next summer, racists murdered 3 civil rights workers in Philadelphia, Mississippi
(Isn’t that town's name—“brotherly love”--a gross misnomer?)

But even these very evil actions helped lead to the Civil Rights Act of 1964. And, eventually, even an African-American was elected mayor of Philadelphia, Mississippi!

But then quickly after the dramatic changes for good through the Civil Right Movement,
injustice and destruction, suddenly got worse, much worse...

Many Blacks turned from non-violence to gun play, intimidation, and riots.
Stokely Carmichael leader of SNCC (the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee)
changed to violent rhetoric and made inflamatory statements such as,
"I have never admired a white man,
but the greatest of them, to my mind, was Hitler."

And he admired ruthless revolutionaries including Che Guevara. Of the latter,
Carmichael said in 1967,
"The death of Che Guevara places a responsibility on all revolutionaries
of the World to redouble their decision to fight on to the final defeat
of Imperialism.
That is why in essence Che Guevara is not dead, his ideas are with us."

Then he was recognized as the Honorary Prime Minister of the violent Black Panthers.

And around the world wars roared forth in destruction including Arabs against Jews in
the Middle East.

And other evils never slowed, but worsened.

The increasing slaughter of Vietnam burst onto the TV screen with nightly body counts;
at least 2 million Vietnamese were killed and 58,000 Americans.

Then leaders Martin Luther King and Bobby Kennedy were assassinated,
and Nixon and other government leaders were caught in criminal actions;
Nixon was impeached,
and the social activist movement turned violent and deadly.

The Students for a Democratic Society
(of which I was an early member at the University of Nebraska),
changed into a negative revolutionary movement, some of its members
even advocating attacks and bombings!

After Roe versus Wade, over 56 million pre-born infants were legally murdered.

Let's not even try and enumerate all the other ethical horrors taking place
around the whole world, the one which John 3:16 claims God loves.

Is there really hope for the future?

Is there really an "arc to the moral universe" like spiritual leaders have stated?

Does God truly care?

“Evil may so shape events that Caesar will occupy a palace and Christ a cross,
but that same Christ arose and split history into A.D. and B.C., so that even
the life of Caesar must be dated by his name. Yes,
‘the arc of the moral universe is long,
but it bends toward justice.’

There is something in the universe which justifies William Cullen Bryant in saying,
‘Truth crushed to earth will rise again.’”

Martin Luther King, Jr.
in The Gospel Messenger, 1958


In the Light,

Daniel Wilcox

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

How Many of Us in the West Are Robbing the Poor?

The Quaker William Penn wrote a striking line on social justice that reaches to the very depths of our conscience, does it not?

"If thou art clean and warm, it is sufficient, for more doth rob the poor."

William Penn, from Some Fruits of Solitude

Think of how many of our luxuries and our weapons and our expenses in the United States could totally eradicate all poverty.

Several years ago, one leader emphasized that only a small portion of what U.S. citizens spend on non-basic items could eliminate all the hunger in the world!

And consider that the many billions spent on weapons
could easily eradicate disease,
and hunger,
and inequality
in the

In the Light,

Daniel Wilcox

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

The Divine Right of Human Rights*

Human Rights? What are they?

Though Thomas Jefferson, (revolutionary, legislator, liberator, enslaver), lived a hypocritical, contradictory life, his clarion words still ring out and illuminate the nature of human rights.

“…All men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

Those rights were the essence of the Enlightenment.

If human rights are truly grounded in the very Nature of Being and Becoming, in the Eternal Essence of Existence, then they are rights which can’t be taken away, except wrongly by force, deception, and intolerance.

Rights are the truism of objective ethics. Yes, humans rights are grounded in Right in the absolute sense. Where ever there are conscious, rational, ethical living species anywhere in the universe, rights will exist.

Listen to Martin Luther King Jr. on this topic: “The first is this—the first principle of value that we need to rediscover is this: that all reality hinges on moral foundations. In other words, that this is a moral universe, and that there are moral laws of the universe just as abiding as the physical laws…some things are right and some things are wrong.
Eternally so, absolutely so...Some things are right and some things are wrong, no matter if everybody is doing the contrary. Some things in this universe are absolute.”

But because of many factors, some leaders now, instead, try and base human rights on only finite sources. Shaky at best.

Grounding “human rights’ in anything finite whether evolutionary change, certain forms of government, various books, even good united statements such as the UN Declaration of Human Rights is wrong. That’s right. While all of these finite sources are understandable, they are all fraught with problems because they form very insecure foundations.

What human authority can give, it can take away. As it often does.

There’s always a “reason” to deny someone his or her rights. And according to millions of people, it’s always “we” who have the good reasons, and “them” who have the bad reasons.

As far back as Abraham Lincoln (with his denial of legal rights, etc. to pro- Southern legislators and citizens) and even further to John Adams (with the Alien and Sedition Acts), the U.S. government has, repeatedly, managed to justify the denial of human rights.

Indeed, try and think of any U.S. president who didn’t take away rights from citizens illegally and unfairly. I doubt one can find one!

Then think of how this denial of human rights has gone on through the centuries in all other countries as well, often to a very destructive degree. So unwell, so morally sick.

Hell (intentional double entendre), even grounding human rights in the Divine, doesn’t safeguard humans. Just look at some religious human rights defenders who often deny rights to “others.”

But at least starting with “human rights” as an irrevocable fact/ought/truth based in the very essential nature of ultimate reality is a start.

In the Light of Human Rights,

Daniel Wilcox

*Blog Action Day: “Every year since 2007, thousands of bloggers come together for one day to talk about one important issue.”

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Friends and Lovers: Part 2

What is our relationship to God ‘s Word, Jesus the Mashiach (“Anointed--Chosen”), who came to all of us with the Good News of God for every single human who will ever live and who has ever lived (john 3:16)?

Certainly not the horrific news we’ve heard declared by modern Evangelical leaders, tragic descriptions that leave most of humankind with NO hope:-(

To counter these false claims, let’s continue our look at comparisons and terms from Scripture, especially from Jesus himself (“Eashoa” in Aramaic).

In the first part of this reflection, I pointed out why the use of the “slave” analogy from Scripture grossly mis-communicates to most of us because “slave” is such a degrading, inherently evil term (though we glanced at why Peter used it in a hyperbolic sense).

In many ways the ideal word for us followers of Jesus
is the literal term he chose--

Let’s listen to his own words again: 12“This is my commandment, that you love one another, just as I have loved you. 13 “Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends. 14 You are my friends if you do what I command you. 15 No longer do I call you slaves, for the slave does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you.” John 15: 14-15 NASB

“Friend” synonyms: companion, soul mate, intimate, confidant…

Think of the wonder of that—God, the Creator of the whole cosmos, desires to live in communion with all humans through an intimate friendship with Eashsoa! Yes, as incredible as it sounds, God’s ultimate will and desire is to be our friends! Even though we are sinners, brief finite beings, ones who often fail and act contrary to what is good, just, and loving, God still loves us with an infinite love.

Consider this other passage from Jesus: “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. John 14:23 ESV

And many of us do seek to keep his word, to live Christ-like lives. I’ve sought to be a friend of Jesus for almost 60 years.

But the glorious wonder of this—-is that God through his Word first loved all of us! Jesus, the Word of God, loves us, everyone of us, each one of us!

The words spoken by Jesus, the truths in the Good News Book of John, still astound and mystify. The incredible truth is beyond comprehension. Joy unspeakable!

However, other terms in the NT keep crowding in on this key understanding. Often very odd metaphors and strange allegories and mysterious spiritual explanations!

“…since I betrothed you to one husband, to present you as a pure virgin to the Chosen One.” II Corinthians 11:2b

The Apostle Paul is comparing us followers to a bride! I don’t know of any men who have ever thought of themselves as a “bride.”! Yet here is the biblical analogy of us men (and women) followers of the Messiah, as a group, being compared to a bride who is going to marry Chosen One!

But think on this; maybe the analogy isn’t as strange as it first sounds. Don’t you men consider your wife as your best friend? Aren't the words of most wedding ceremonies one of cherishing, communing, loving? Then the analogy works—if we are friends of the Chosen One, then in an ultimate sense—probably playing on an allusion to the Song of Songs in the Hebrew Bible as well as references in the HB prophets—we are his “virgin bride.”

God chooses Christ, and in him, we become the chosen.

The prophet Isaiah says, “Your maker is your husband.” (Isaiah 54:5) And “As the bridegroom rejoices over the bride, so shall your God rejoice over you.” (Isaiah 62:5)

Jesus, referring to himself as the Anointed One by God his father, says of his followers in Matthew 9:15, “Can the wedding guests mourn as long as the bridegroom is with them? The days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast.”

The Son of Man, a Hebraic idiom meaning both “an ordinary human” as well as the prophetic “Son of Man,” from the book of Daniel, chapter 7, is a leader who comes to God in Heaven and is given “dominion, glory, and a kingdom.”

And the writer of Revelation says of Jesus and his followers: "Let us rejoice and be glad and give the glory to Him, for the marriage of the Lamb has come and His bride has made herself ready. It was given her to clothe herself in fine linen, bright and pure; for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the ‘set apart’ ones." Revelation 19:7-8

And in Ephesians, the writer emphasizes this picture, going beyond metaphor and even allegory, seeming to be declaring a spiritual mystery: 5:22 “Wives, be subject to your own husbands, as to the Lord. 23 For the husband is the head of the wife, as Christ also is the head of the church, He Himself being the Savior of the body. 24 But as the church is subject to Christ, so also the wives ought to be to their husbands in everything.

25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her, 26 so that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, 27 that He might present to Himself the church in all her glory, having no spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that she would be holy and blameless. 28 So husbands ought also to love their own wives as their own bodies.

He who loves his own wife loves himself; 29 for no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ also does the church, 30 because we are members of His body. 31 FOR THIS REASON A MAN SHALL LEAVE HIS FATHER AND MOTHER AND SHALL BE JOINED TO HIS WIFE, AND THE TWO SHALL BECOME ONE FLESH. 32 This mystery is great; but I am speaking with reference to Christ and the church.”

This extended metaphor is very odd and confusing to most people in the 21st century. A Brethren church I used to be a member of back in the 1980’s was called Lamb’s Bride Fellowship. However, though we liked the name a lot especially the spiritual implications of "Lamb's Bride," we finally had to change our church sign, because most people had no idea what we were talking about—thought we were some kind of esoteric, twisted cult!

But the image would have resonated with people in the 1st century, the 50’s of our Common Era. In the case of Jewish people, they would have immediately remembered how their Hebrew Bible often compares them as the Chosen people to be married to God. In the case of non-Jewish people, they may have been aware of the negative, contrary image in Paganism where the gods allegedly descended and committed fornication with human females. In dynamic contrast, thankfully, the God of Eashoa isn't like that, not at all.

The One True God is a faithful husband, not a lecher.

There are problems though even with this glorious metaphor. Because of the patriarchal implications of the Ephesians passage, for 2000 years, tragically, these household code verses have been used to subjugate and oppress women. (More on this problem later.*)

But despite the literalized misuse of the analogy by so many church leaders and husbands, the extended metaphor/symbol/image is still very powerful if understood in a spiritual sense as referring to God’s love for every human.

Christ, the Chosen One of God, like a husband wants/wills/chooses to relate to us as his beloved bride—the ultimate friendship/communion/intimacy. Indeed like Genesis says, “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.”

Thus the meaning is that the Chosen One, the Word of God, left his Father, God, and chose us to become ONE with us (his bride, his dearest friends)—that we might have a “profound mysterious” relationship with him and thereby with the Infinite Creator of All.

Amazing, incomprehensible, wondrous!

In the Light,

Daniel Wilcox

*Paul’s literal endorsement of the unequal nature of human male and female is troubling, one where the husband is compared to the Lord, the Chosen One, while the wife is compared to a human follower! The husband is the “head”—meaning the mind, while a woman is the lowly “body” who must be controlled, redeemed, etc. Hint: Remember, this is also related to Paul’s view of slavery as the passage demonstrates a few verses later.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Being Friends and Followers of Jesus, the Chosen One

First, consider a discussion of terms, a few opening thoughts, and a beginning reflection on the mystery of human existence.

Some of the ancient idioms, metaphors, symbols, and analogies of the Bible appear strange to the modern mind.

And why not?

Think how much differently we now view so many issues of life and existence including the very nature of sickness,
the natural world, our evolutionary origins, etc.

Indeed, 2,000 years is a lot of swirled moments of time gone down/up that river of no return.
(I can’t resist a ridiculous analogy: We are like salmon jumping the historical falls;-)

The mystery of homo sapiens, especially why we exist, is at the very heart of philosophy and ethics.

So about biblical terms, especially negative ones such as slave---

It is understandable why some of the NT writers such as Peter described themselves as “slaves” of Jesus the Messiah,
(in Aramaic, Eashoa, the Chosen One).

The analogy of “slave” is to emphasize how devoted one is to the Truth—
totally sold to the Good, not a mere observer or nominal participant.

Some followers of Jesus since, including the Roman Catholic women’s order, Slaves of the Sacred Heart,
have done this—compared themselves to "sold ones"--sold to love, to compassion, to mercy.

But there is always a danger that metaphoric language will be severely misunderstood, that it will be literalized and idolized.
“Slave” may be a vivid analogy but what a horrid one, since we know slavery is inherently evil,
a terrible destruction even in the most "kindly" of enslavements.

Slavery is the turning of a human being into a thing, an object, a tool--it's a denial that a human being is created in the image of God!

Too often slaves have been used, abused, and then discarded, or killed. See the terrible verses in Exodus 21:20-21 “If a man strikes his male or female slave with a rod and he dies at his hand, he shall be punished. 21 “If, however, he survives a day or two, no vengeance shall be taken; for he is his property." NASB

A human being is "property"? No way!

However slavery at the time of the Hebrew Bible and the New Testament was an accepted and valued institution by nearly all humans—Jews, Greeks, Romans, Pagans, even Christ’s followers, etc.—and had been an accepted institution for thousands of years.

At that period in history, slaves made up a huge number of the population in most, if not all, large cities. Slavery wasn’t known to be evil. The Apostle Paul justifies enslavement, warns Christian slaves to obey their masters like their masters must obey the Master, God.

How horrifically wrong, Paul was!

Even worse, the Apostle Peter gives not only strict orders for slaves to obey their masters, but that they should obey masters who are abusive! “Household slaves, submit with all fear to your masters, not only to the good and gentle but also to the cruel.” I Peter 2:18

As an historian and thinker, I understand what Peter was focusing on, trying to emphasize, but that statement and other ones like it in Scripture and Christian history have caused an obscene level of evil--led to persecution, abuse, and destruction to so many millions of humans through out history.

If in doubt, read a few scholarly tomes about the many Christians who owned slaves in the past. Consider that R. L. Dabney the famous Calvinist theologian, who many admire at present, wrote a book AFTER the American Civil War that still defended slavery as a Christ-like institution,
based on the pro-slavery passages in the New Testament!

After 2,000 years of horrendous enslavement, and our historically recent discovery of how inherently evil slavery is, it surely is clear that we followers of the Jewish son of man shouldn’t use such a negative metaphor.

For God has condemned slavery from Eternity.

No, slavery shouldn't even any longer be used as a metaphor. It's too ethically confusing.

In contrast, consider the word “friend.” It is a very powerful positive term, one that all humans can relate to and understand. Probably, that is one reason, besides the theological and experiential ones, why George Fox and the early Quakers referred to themselves as Friends of God.

According to the author of the book of John in the NT, Jesus said “friend” best describes how he feels toward us.
"No longer do I call you slaves, for the slave does not know what his master is doing;
but I have called you friends, for all things that I have heard from My Father I have made known to you.
John 15:15 NASB


In the Light,

Daniel Wilcox

Monday, October 7, 2013

Who Is Jesus?

[Someone might look at] “scholarly research and say, ‘That’s all very interesting about Jesus’ itinerancy, his challenge to conventional lifestyle, his open meals…but nothing I want to organize my life around.’"

"It’s possible to accept the historical facts but to conclude that Jesus was utopian, or mistaken, or flaky, or whatever."

John Dominic Crossan, biblical scholar

And, historically, there are about as many interpretations of "who Jesus is" as there are versions of what a human is.

Many have dismissed Jesus as wrong even though they knew historical facts about Jesus. Consider Marxist revolutionary Che Guevera's infamous statement: "I am all the contrary of a Christ...I fight for the things I believe in, with all the weapons at my disposal and try to leave the other man dead so that I don't get nailed to a cross...In fact, if Christ himself stood in my way, I like Nietzche, would not hesitate to squish him like a worm."

In contrast to many such modern views, Crossan continues:
"So faith goes beyond the historical facts to wrestle with their meanings. But faith cannot ignore or bypass the historical facts. What we believe in by faith is the ultimate meaning of what we know by history."

"Christian faith means finding in the picture of the historical Jesus the power and wisdom of God—and then getting serious about its implications for our lives, now.”

John Dominic Crossan & Richard G. Watts, from Crossan’s short book Who Is Jesus?

Crossan, a brilliant scholar, has been considered controversial because of some of his more speculative statements regarding the origins of the Bible.

But Crossan's quotes about the historical Jesus and Jesus' relationship to us are gold. They get so clearly to the heart of what being a follower of Jesus means. One's life depends on whom one sets one's focus and goal toward.

Who or what do you follow?

In the words of Scripture: Jesus asked them, "But who do you say that I am?"

Peter answered, "You are the Mashiah!" Mashiah is a Jewish term meaning "the anointed," a reference in the Hebrew Bible referring to one who is chosen as a leader, an expected deliverer, a liberator.

Who is Jesus according to you?

In the Light,

Daniel Wilcox