Tag Archives: chuck colson

A Loss for the Country and the World: A War Hero and Prophet of Peace George McGovern Dead at 90

George McGovern in 2012 (AP File Photo)

The United States of America and the world lost a champion of peace and humanity this weekend when former Senator George McGovern died at the age of 90. If you had asked me if I would have written this article 10 or 15 years ago, I probably would not have, but war has a way of changing ones perspective about those that consistently labored for peace and justice.

The son of a Wesleyan Methodist Minister McGovern grew up in the South Dakota during the Great Depression and the Dust Bowl. He volunteered in the Second World War and flew 35 combat missions as the pilot of a B-24 Liberator bomber during which his aircraft was heavily damaged on a number of occasions and his skill as a pilot helped save the aircraft and crew.  For his service he was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross and four awards of the Air Medal and his memories of being under fire from German FLAK and having his plane set afire during a mission caused him nightmares for years after the war.

McGovern and his Aircrew (above) and with his Co-pilot and Navigator (below)

His experiences during the Depression and with the victims of war that he encountered in Italy made him a champion of people that suffer. He spent one year in seminary before switching to graduate studies in American History earning a Masters and Ph.D. in History. He served as a Congressman and Senator and represented the liberal wing of the Democratic Party. He served as the director of President Kennedy’s Food for Peace program. He was the first Senator to openly speak out against U.S. Military involvement in Vietnam when President Kennedy began to expand the mission. As a historian who actually studied what was going on in Vietnam for years he warned the Senate in September 1963 that:

“The current dilemma in Vietnam is a clear demonstration of the limitations of military power … [Current U.S. involvement] is a policy of moral debacle and political defeat … The trap we have fallen into there will haunt us in every corner of this revolutionary world if we do not properly appraise its lessons.”

After lending his vote to the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution which gave President Johnson a blank check to expand military involvement in Vietnam he realized that he had made a mistake. After and on January 15th 1965 as the U.S. forces entered into heavy combat against the North Vietnamese Army and the Viet Cong McGovern warned:

“We are fighting a determined army of guerrillas that seems to enjoy the cooperation of the countryside and that grow[s] stronger in the face of foreign intervention… We are further away from victory over the guerrilla forces in Vietnam today than we were a decade ago.” 

McGovern visiting Vietnam in 1965

He continued his outspoken opposition as the war continued and in November 1965 he spent three weeks in country carefully visiting and studying the situation with US military  and diplomatic officials as well as visiting the wounded. His visits to the hospitals in country made a huge impression on him causing him to become even more anti-war, though he voted for appropriations bills in order not to deprive the troops of what they needed.  In September 1969 with President Nixon looking to expand the war into Cambodia he deliberately offended his fellow Senators when fighting for the passage of the McGovern-Hatfield Amendment which would have forced the Administration to begin to end the war:

“Every Senator in this chamber is partly responsible for sending 50,000 young Americans to an early grave. This chamber reeks of blood. Every Senator here is partly responsible for that human wreckage at Walter Reed and Bethesda Naval and all across our land—young men without legs, or arms, or genitals, or faces or hopes. There are not very many of these blasted and broken boys who think this war is a glorious adventure. Do not talk to them about bugging out, or national honor or courage. It does not take any courage at all for a congressman, or a senator, or a president to wrap himself in the flag and say we are staying in Vietnam, because it is not our blood that is being shed. But we are responsible for those young men and their lives and their hopes. And if we do not end this damnable war those young men will some day curse us for our pitiful willingness to let the Executive carry the burden that the Constitution places on us.” 

He ran for President in 1972 and ran what was probably one of the worst campaigns ever. The Democratic party was deeply divided and in disarray and the Nixon campaign took advantage of both his “dovish” stance on the war as well as more progressive stances to demonize him as a person. The late columnist Robert Novak was a vicious critic working hand in hand with Nixon’s Chief of Staff Chuck Colson.

McGovern lost in the most lopsided defeat in modern American history only winning Massachusetts and losing 49 states and only garnering 38% of the vote. Following the defeat he won on more Senate campaign in 1974 and remained in the Senate until 1980 when he was defeated on the coattails of Ronald Reagan’s defeat of Jimmy Carter. He was demoted in the Democratic Party Senate hierarchy and never regained the power he had in the Senate that he had before the 1972 campaign.

In 1972 his campaign was a disaster and some of his policies not well thought out, Nixon and his cohort used everything against him, including some of the most dishonest campaign tactics, culminating in the Watergate break-in.

He remained an active voice in American politics until this year when age, illness and accidents finally caught up with him. He suffered the loss of his wife and two of his children before he died.

He was a voice for the powerless and for the common military man. He was anti-war but never anti-military or anti-troop. He had a great compassion for those that serve in uniform and was a critic of those that would send men and women into battle without taking the risk themselves. He was guided by his Christian faith in is beliefs especially about peace and the care of the poor. He was a Prophet of Peace.

Back in 1972 I was 12 years old and my dad was in Vietnam. Military personnel were frequently treated shamefully by anti-war activists who could not distinguish in their zealotry the difference between the policies of the government and the Soldiers, Marines, Sailors and Airmen that served in that unpopular war. I had a Sunday School Teacher tell me that my dad was a “baby killer.” For years I harbored much resentment for George McGovern. For years I did not appreciate the depth of his integrity and personal courage. In college I savored his loss of his Senate seat in 1980. When he came out against the invasion of Iraq in 2003 I figured that it was more of the same. However my views about him changed after my tour in Iraq and I now appreciate his honesty and foresight regarding both Vietnam and Iraq.

One does not have to agree with all of his policies to admire his personal courage and integrity as well as foresight about the tragedy that would unfold in Vietnam and Iraq. The man was a hero who served is country and the world and I hope someday that we will really come to appreciate him. I wish I had come to such an appreciation of him earlier in life.

Rest in peace,

Padre Steve+

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Filed under History, News and current events, Political Commentary

Talking Without Listening or Understanding: American Christianity 2012

“Christians, especially ministers, so often think they must always contribute something when they are in the company of others, that this is the one service they have to render. They forget that listening can be a greater service than speaking.” Dietrich Bonhoeffer

I think that “Christian” television, radio and entertainment is perhaps the among the most destructive forces in our society. In them a complete insulated subculture of demigods living in their own self made cloud-coo-coo land of make believe attempt to give answers for society’s ills, protect the faithful from the evil of non-Christian thought and for that matter of non-Christian people and to influence politics in ways that Jesus would never countenance.

I know this. I actually worked for a ministry of one of the current leading “Pastors” of the Christian political right back in the 1990s. The mindset inside the television and radio ministries of Evangelical Christianity is almost as insular, make believe, paranoid and power hungry as was the Papal Curia in 1517. Actually for someone who is a historian with a pretty in depth knowledge of the Reformation, particularly that of Martin Luther in Germany it is a frightening thing to see.

It seems today that preachers, in particular those in high profile mega-churches and ministries want to say something about everything under the sun and then throw in a “In Jesus Name” here and there to make their opinion sound Christian. Now that is not a problem limited to big name evangelists or even Evangelical Christianity. It exists in mainline churches, the Catholic Church and even other religions, can I get a Fatwah on that?

But because the leaders of the multi-billion corporate empires of the modern Evangelical movement have a vested interest in keeping the money flowing into their tax exempt institutions they must be relevant. Thus even if they no nothing about a subject they must write books and preach sermons on what God thinks of well you name the topic, everything from economics to foreign policy and even who God says you should vote for or against certainly not for the black guy in the White House, but I digress.

While beating their gums into a fervor and frothing at the mouth at evils real and imagined to keep their followers money coming they to use the Old Testament example of Esau “sell their birthright for a cup of soup.”

Bonhoeffer saw preachers of his era do the same thing and he was a critic of them with good reason. In their fear and hatred of the change that occurred when Imperial Germany went under and “Jews and Bolsheviks” threatened their position they ended up helping to create a climate where Hitler not only came to power but had the open support of many Christians and the tacit approval of the vast majority of German Christians of all denominations.

In the midst of crisis and uncertainty they gin up fear against “the non-Christian other.” The big problem for the German Christians of the 1920s and 1930s as well as our current crop of American church leaders is that they stopped listening and instead decided that they had the answers to all of society’s problems. In Germany after the Nazis were crushed by the Allies the Churches suffered major losses of credibility. Young people who had experienced the war, or who grew up in the desolation of post-war Europe left the churches in droves because of the terrible witness of supposedly Christian leaders and churches.

I would dare say that the vast majority of Evangelical leaders have simply stopped listening to anyone that would disagree with them. The evidence is manifold in our current political crisis in the United States where Christian leaders often are the most base and vile of all political pundits and politicians.

It is no wonder that the fastest growing religious preference in the country is called “the Nones.” In other words those with no-religious preference who have dissociated themselves from any Christian church. It is not because they have a problem with God or Jesus per say, it is because of the pompous asses that only care about them for the market share. Chuck Colson once noted that the Pastor of a large mega-Church told him that he was “paid to keep them coming in the door” not to preach any real truth, but to keep the empire afloat. Believe me the mega-churches and media empires of Evangelicalism require vast amounts of money just to keep their mortgages, air time and pastors well paid.

Moral lapses and corruption in these empires is rampant. Time after time the leaders of these “ministries” are exposed as money grubbing hypocrites who lash out at whatever group that they need in order to create straw men to keep their ministries alive.

Basically the leaders of Evangelicalism have stopped listening and even worse stopped caring about people. The empires must be maintained by “tithing units” as the son of a Bishop once called parishioners. It is the ultimate devaluing of people that Jesus died to save. Think about it. People only matter for the capital that they contribute to maintain the institution. I cannot think of anything more blasphemous and it will be the cause of the fall of contemporary American Evangelical Christianity.

Peace

Padre Steve+

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Filed under christian life, faith, Pastoral Care, philosophy, Political Commentary, Religion

Clergy Burnout and Suicide: A Growing Problem

Father Mulcahy: What an ordeal. 72 hours straight. I’m prayed out – absolutely prayed out.
Hawkeye: Don’t forget, Father, God was on six days straight.
Father Mulcahy: He was a lot younger then
.

It doesn’t matter whether you feel useful or not when you’re moving from one disaster to another. The trick, I guess, is to just keep moving. Father Mulcahy, William Christopher M*A*S*H

Note: This is a modification and update to an article that I wrote last summer based on the death of the Reverend David Wilkerson and his writings of the past few months.

A while back I read an article in the New York Times ( the link is here:http://www.nytimes.com/2010/08/02/nyregion/02burnout.html?_r=1&hp&adxnnl=1&adxnnlx=1280746899-Fj4AG+SysGvlJ/xdTT+ZZg ) about the large number of civilian clergy experiencing burnout, discouragement, disillusionment to the point that they end up developing chronic physical illnesses, psychological or psychiatric conditions, experience marriage or family difficulties or are so beaten down that they leave the ministry entirely.   Many clergy now suffer from high rates of obesity, hypertension and depression more so than most Americans. In the last decade, the use of antidepressants by clergy has risen and their life expectancy has fallen. Job satisfaction is down and many clergy would leave the ministry if they felt that they could. The issue cuts across denominational and even religious lines and is not bound by the depth of faith or the fervency of the minister in his or her pursuit of “doing good ministry” in whatever venue they are in.  It also impacts those of all sides of the theological spectrum from fundamentalists and Pentecostals to progressives or in old time parlance “liberals” and everything in between. The pressure is incredible. I should know I have been in ministry over 20 years mostly as a Priest and Chaplain serving in the military and in hospital critical care environments.

Likewise there have been articles about ministers and pastors that commit suicide one of the more prominent about a North Carolina pastor who committed suicide in 2009 published in the USA Today: http://www.usatoday.com/news/religion/2009-10-28-pastor_suicides_N.htm

Actually I am not surprised by the studies or the conclusions of the article or the situation described in the USA Today article.  This came to mind this week with the death of David Wilkerson which I suggest could have been suicide based on the struggle with faith and perceived failure shown in his recent blog posts, his and his family’s ordeal of cancer and the circumstances of the wreck in which he died. I suggested this as a possibility as well the other possibilities of inattentive driving or sudden medical impairment. https://padresteve.wordpress.com/2011/04/28/the-unexplained-and-tragic-death-of-david-wilkerson/ Of course I have been blasted by a number of people for even daring to suggest such a thing and I really hope that it was not suicide but if it was his death serves as a reminder of loneliness and even frailty of great pastors who go through long periods of darkness.  If his death was other than suicide we still have to look realistically at the incredible spiritual and emotional pain that he was in over the past few months. Of course I meant no offense to those that condemned me for suggesting this but the reactions drew me back to the unrealistic expectations that many people place on those that serve in ministry and I would hate to be their pastor.  The expectation is that we are somehow closer to God and don’t experience doubts, temptations or even depression and despair. The more popular and beloved the minster the taller the pedestal that people place them on in fashioning them as their idol.  Most don’t ask for this and resist it even though some embrace it and become spiritual train wrecks because of their narcissistic behavior.

When I was in seminary back in the late 1980s and early 1990s the school that I attended was filled with pastors either those in ministry or those recovering from nasty church splits, or being fired for often trivial reasons. These were by and large good men, I say men because the Southern Baptist Convention then and now has few women in parish ministry.  Many of the men that I knew were broken; they had come back to school as a way to see if there was some way to find a safe place of ministry.  In the last years of seminary and the year prior to entering my clinical pastoral education residency I worked for a nationwide ministry and was assigned the task of assisting clergy that came to us for help or counsel.  One of the interesting things to note was that during this time the average longevity of a Southern Baptist pastor in his church was a dismal 18 months. Later I had a friend in another Baptist denomination accept a call to a church that had been through 33 pastors in 30 years.  He thought that he would be the exception, less than 8 months later a time that he and his new wife were harassed, abused and hounded by the congregation he quit. He ended up in my denomination as he was moving in a more liturgical and sacramental way of life and is now in the process of becoming a married Roman Catholic priest.

When I left the active duty Army to go to seminary I was under the impression that most clergy were relatively satisfied with life but the men that I met in seminary and those that I dealt with later showed me that all was not well for many good men and women doing their best to serve Christ and the people of God committed to their charge.  I never will forget men saying to me that they struggled with depression, alcoholism, sexual addiction, were being divorced by their wives or considering either leaving the ministry or changing the type of ministry that they served or even their denominational home.  Nearly all reported the stress that they experienced in their ministry, the unmanageable tasks of trying to compete for numbers, and in many churches it is all about numbers, see Chuck Colson’s book “The Body” cater to the nearly insatiable “needs” of parishioners who demanded more time, and investment in programs to keep them in the church, pressures resulting from the financial costs of trying to manage building programs, special ministries and programs and an every growing desire for more excitement and “thrills” in the church program.  Add to this the unrealistic expectation of parishioners, local and denominational leaders and the constant upbraiding to be more like Reverend so and so on television or the guy that wrote the latest book on church growth, spiritual warfare or whatever as the list goes on ad infinitum. Add to this the intrusiveness brought about by cell phones, texting, the internet which place clergy in a place where they have no place to go when they need a rest because there is always one more need to satisfy many of  which cannot be satisfied. One minister of a well-known Mega-Church when confronted by Colson about not preaching on more controversial moral topics told Colson that “they pay me to get them in the door and keep them coming.”

The pastor of our age must become a teacher, preacher, counselor, evangelist, financer, program director, personnel manager, marketing executive and most of all be able to reinvent himself at a whim in order to remain relevant and in tune with the current “move of God.”  Those that don’t keep pace with whatever the latest “move of God” (read marketing ploy) is finds that they are out of a job faster than a Mob hit-man with bad aim. It is a recipe for disaster, not only for clergy and their families but for congregation when their pastors experience burn out, marital problems or divorce or those become compromised sex, alcohol or money problems and then suffer the consequences.  The congregations suffer because many parishioners lose faith in God, the church or ministers because the person that they had made their idol failed.

The pressures are immense and not just for married or single Protestant pastors but for Catholic Priests, Jewish Rabbis and even Moslem Imam’s all under some kind of unreasonable pressure.  It does not matter of it is trying to balance the competing theological factions present in their faith tradition from fundamentalists to progressives and everything in between, trying to meet unattainable goals set by congregational or denominational leaders or just to attempt to be all things to all people just to survive it is amazing that that any survive at all.  This is not the life of clergy even a generation ago, a generation that reported high job satisfaction, good health and congregations that would if possible strive to serve their pastor as much as he served them.

The world has changed and clergy are not doing well.  When a big name pastor, evangelist or leader of a church or denomination screws up perfectly the good men and women serving in ministry that don’t do those things are lumped in with those that commit various crimes or ethically challenged behavior.

In my chosen vocation within the vocation of being a priest and minister, that of a military Chaplain the pressures of service often exceed those that our civilian counterparts face. In a time where we have been at war almost 10 years with many chaplains making multiple deployments to the various combat zones the pressures are immense. The pressures on chaplains, their families as well as the men and women that they serve are unparalleled in civilian ministry, which as I describe above is no picnic, unless perchance you serve the fabulously well to do.

While I do not know statistics on Chaplains and burnout I can assure you that it is a concern of mine based on some of the men and women that I have met who have suffered spiritual crisis, depression, failed marriages, become embroiled in extramarital affairs or engaged in behaviors that were detrimental to their physical, spiritual and psychological health.  I have even known some that committed suicide.

In my service, the Navy we have battled shortages of Chaplains and the increasing demands necessitated by the war.  Likewise Chaplains in the Navy and Air Force face personnel cuts or elimination of billets due to cuts in their services personnel and more cuts are coming, at least to the billets that at one time offered chaplains the chance to recover from deployments and still serve God’s people. Most of the billet cuts are in shore commands, the places that at one time were the places that one could serve and recuperate after having done multiple operational tours.  As the force gets smaller and mission requirements increase these chaplains are deployed more often to combat zones and stress and family separation take their toll of chaplains.  Chaplains serving at bases and hospitals now serve large numbers of men and women traumatized by war and their families but have seen their own numbers shrink.  I work in a major medical center like all of the chaplains that serve in similar billets are caring for our wounded (in body, mind or spirit) warriors, their families those deploying or returning from deployment, are subject to deployment during our shore tours as Individual Augments to the operating forces all while dealing with life and death on a daily basis. In my last posting at a major Naval Medical Center it was not uncommon for me to come home from work at 5:30 PM after going to work at 6 AM the previous day, nearly 36 hours on duty in which time I was often involved in multiple crisis situations, baptizing dying babies, to people being removed from life support and care of patients their families and our staff in every imaginable setting. In my current assignment it is not uncommon to be called in as I was in the middle of the night on Wednesday to ministry to a dying patient and his family.  This is not uncommon for those of us that serve in health care ministry. What I described for me is typical of many Chaplains of all our military services serving in health care institutions.  It requires a tremendous sense of discipline to manage all of these competing demands and maintain ones physical, emotional and spiritual balance.

In fact when I came to my first Naval Medical Center assignment assignment I was suffering from PTSD from my tour in Iraq. I was in an emotional and spiritual nosedive and in trying to meet the demands of the job I did not take care of me and I fell apart physically, spiritually and emotionally.  It took a year and a half to begin to recover and I am now moving forward on all counts but I know others don’t recover. I was fortunate, my boss knew well enough to shield me and let me recover and get the help that I needed to do so. I did not come out of the experienced unscathed as my old denomination asked me to leave because I had become “too liberal.” Nonetheless it was not and is not easy to recover and I still have work that I need to do sleep is problematic and I am still in therapy and on medication and my longsuffering wife has to deal with this.  I was recently interviewed by our local paper in Jacksonville North Carolina about my struggles. http://www.jdnews.com/articles/cmdr-89433-stephen-military.html

Add to this the pressure to perform and get promoted to stay in the military chaplain ministry.  Chaplains like all officers have to get promoted to stay in the military.  The promotion rate from the Captain/Navy Lieutenant rank to Major / Lieutenant Commander has been consistently in the 50-60% range for those being looked at the first time.  This basically means that 40-50% will not be retained on active duty long enough to qualify for retirement unless they had prior active service before becoming a Chaplain. Even if they have this the stigma of not being selected is something that is incredibly hard on chaplains just as it is for other officers.  Non-selection is considered failure even for those that have great ministries and are awesome ministers. Sometimes failure to select has nothing to do with how well you care for God’s people but simply comes down to numbers. When a military service contracts as all of our Armed Services did following Vietnam, the Cold War and today as personnel numbers are cut the respective Chaplain Corps or Services take their share of the cuts and this often means that men and women worthy of promotion are not selected and are eventually let go.  I have been fortunate during the cutbacks following the Cold War I was selected for Major in the Army Reserve and though I reduced in rank in 1999 to enter the Navy was promoted to Lieutenant Commander and recently selected for Commander and I am very grateful for the opportunity of both increased responsibility as well as the chance to care for God’s people in the Navy and Marine Corps.  Not everyone gets that chance.

Being a minister is no easy way of life if you are seeking to love and serve God and God’s people. Burnout, discouragement and depression are not uncommon.  Health problems for many are increasing and at younger ages. Many no longer have safe places that they can go for counsel and care because doing so might hurt their ministry.  I have seen much of this, good men and women doing their best to serve God and God’s people broken, depressed and sometimes addicted to behaviors that ultimately are destructive to their lives, families, congregations and ministries.

It is my opinion that while those that take on military ministry sort of ask for this because we know going in that we may be deployed to combat zones or separated from family for extended periods of time when we sign up. However many on the civilian side have no idea of the pressures that they will face and the tasks that will become theirs when they begin to work at a parish.  It is a tough life and I am not surprised to see so many broken, discouraged and disillusioned ministers just trying to survive instead of thriving in the field that God called them to serve.  I am blessed. Despite the hard work, separations from my wife and family and even the PTSD that I came back from Iraq with I am doing well. I get to serve people in a community that I love and in which I was born into.  I get to do what I believed that I am called to do in a venue that I am very comfortable in serving.  No everyone is so lucky or blessed. As Lou Gehrig said “I am the luckiest man alive.”

Please pray for your ministers and support them. Give them grace to serve knowing that they will not always make the right decisions, preach the best sermons or compete with the minister with the “hot hand” and latest “word from God” down the street or on television.  Ministers are certainly not perfect, some of us are pretty earthy. Don’t impose the culture of corporate America into the local church.  The vast majority of clergy really do care about the people that they serve even when they make mistakes and screw up. Give them the grace that you wish that your boss would give to you.  Of course there are exceptions, men and women with few people skills, with their own agendas and even with their own dark-side which shows up in how they abuse God’s people. However these people are the exception.  Don’t let the foibles or crimes of such people lead you to turn you back on good men and women that make mistakes common with the rest of humanity.

Peace

Padre Steve+

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Filed under christian life, faith, healthcare, Military, Pastoral Care, philosophy, PTSD, Religion

Flickering Flames: Clergy Burnout in America in 2010

Father Mulcahy: What an ordeal. 72 hours straight. I’m prayed out – absolutely prayed out.
Hawkeye: Don’t forget, Father, God was on six days straight.
Father Mulcahy: He was a lot younger then
.

It doesn’t matter whether you feel useful or not when you’re moving from one disaster to another. The trick, I guess, is to just keep moving. Father Mulcahy, William Christopher M*A*S*H

A few days ago I read an article in the New York Times ( the link is here: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/08/02/nyregion/02burnout.html?_r=1&hp&adxnnl=1&adxnnlx=1280746899-Fj4AG+SysGvlJ/xdTT+ZZg ) about the large number of civilian clergy experiencing burnout, discouragement, disillusionment to the point that they end up developing chronic physical illnesses, psychological or psychiatric conditions, experience marriage or family difficulties or are so beaten down that they leave the ministry entirely.   Many clergy now suffer from high rates of obesity, hypertension and depression more so than most Americans. In the last decade, the use of antidepressants by clergy has risen and their life expectancy has fallen. Job satisfaction is down and many clergy would leave the ministry if they felt that they could. The issue cuts across denominational and even religious lines and is not bound by the depth of faith or the fervency of the minister in his or her pursuit of “doing good ministry” in whatever venue they are in.  It also impacts those of all sides of the theological spectrum from fundamentalists to progressives or in old time parlance “liberals” and everything in between.

Actually I am not surprised by the studies or the conclusions of the article. When I was in seminary back in the late 1980s and early 1990s the school that I attended was filled with pastors either those in ministry or those recovering from nasty church splits, or being fired for often trivial reasons. These were by and large good men, I say men because the Southern Baptist Convention then and now has few women in parish ministry.  Many of the men that I knew were broken; they had come back to school as a way to see if there was some way to find a safe place of ministry.  In the last years of seminary and the year prior to entering my clinical pastoral education residency I worked for a nationwide ministry and was assigned the task of assisting clergy that came to us for help or counsel.  One of the interesting things to note was that during this time the average longevity of a Southern Baptist pastor in his church was a dismal 18 months. Later I had a friend in another Baptist denomination accept a call to a church that had been through 33 pastors in 30 years.  He thought that he would be the exception, less than 8 months later a time that he and his new wife were harassed, abused and hounded by the congregation he quit. He ended up in my denomination as he was moving in a more liturgical and sacramental way of life and is now in the process of becoming a married Roman Catholic priest.

When I left the active duty Army to go to seminary I was under the impression that most clergy were relatively satisfied with life but the men that I met in seminary and those that I dealt with later showed me that all was not well for many good men and women doing their best to serve Christ and the people of God committed to their charge.  I never will forget men saying to me that they struggled with depression, alcoholism, sexual addiction, were being divorced by their wives or considering either leaving the ministry or changing the type of ministry that they served or even their denominational home.  Nearly all reported the stress that they experienced in their ministry, the unmanageable tasks of trying to compete for numbers, and in many churches it is all about numbers, see Chuck Colson’s book “The Body” cater to the nearly insatiable “needs” of parishioners who demanded more time, and investment in programs to keep them in the church, pressures resulting from the financial costs of trying to manage building programs, special ministries and programs and an every growing desire for more excitement and “thrills” in the church program.  Add to this the unrealistic expectation of parishioners, local and denominational leaders and the constant upbraiding to be more like Reverend so and so on television or the guy that wrote the latest book on church growth, spiritual warfare or whatever as the list goes on ad infinitum. Add to this the intrusiveness brought about by cell phones, texting, the internet which place clergy in a place where they have no place to go when they need a rest because there is always one more need to satisfy many of  which cannot be satisfied. One minister of a wel-known Mega-Church when confronted by Colson about not preaching on more controversial moral topics told Colson that “they pay me to get them in the door and keep them coming.”

The pastor of our age must become a teacher, preacher, counselor, evangelist, financer, program director, personnel manager, marketing executive and most of all be able to reinvent himself at a whim in order to remain relevant and in tune with the current “move of God.”  Those that don’t keep pace with whatever the latest “move of God” (read marketing ploy) is finds that they are out of a job faster than a Mob hit-man with ad aim. It is a recipe for disaster, not only for clergy and their families but for congregations which when their pastors burn out, divorce or become compromised do to sex, alcohol or money suffer the consequences of their own making  often losing members and sometimes even collapsing.

The pressures are immense and not just for married or single Protestant pastors but for Catholic Priests, Jewish Rabbis and even Moslem Imam’s all under some kind of unreasonable pressure.  It does not matter of it is trying to balance the competing theological factions present in their faith tradition from fundamentalists to progressives and everything in between, trying to meet unattainable goals set by congregational or denominational leaders or just to attempt to be all things to all people just to survive it is amazing that that any survive at all.  This is not the life of clergy even a generation ago, a generation that reported high job satisfaction, good health and congregations that would if possible strive to serve their pastor as much as he served them.

The world has changed and clergy are not doing well.  When a big name pastor, evangelist or leader of a church or denomination screws up perfectly the good men and women serving in ministry that don’t do those things are lumped in with those that commit various crimes or ethically challenged behavior.

In my chosen vocation within the vocation of being a priest and minister, that of a military Chaplain the pressures of service often exceed those that our civilian counterparts face. In a time where we have been at war almost 10 years with many chaplains making multiple deployments to the various combat zones the pressures are immense. The pressures on chaplains, their families as well as the men and women that they serve are unparalleled in civilian ministry, which as I describe above is no picnic, unless perchance you serve the fabulously well to do.

While I do not know statistics on Chaplains and burnout I can assure you that it is a concern of mine based on some that I have met.

In my service, the Navy we have battled shortages of Chaplains and the increasing demands necessitated by the war.  Likewise Chaplains in the Navy and Air Force face personnel cuts or elimination of billets due to cuts in their services personnel and more cuts are coming, at least to the billets that at one time offered chaplains the chance to recover from deployments and still serve God’s people. Most of the billet cuts are in shore commands, the places that at one time were the places that one could serve and recuperate after having done multiple operational tours.  As the force gets smaller and mission requirements increase these chaplains are deployed more often to combat zones and stress and family separation take their toll of chaplains.  Chaplains serving at bases and hospitals now serve large numbers of men and women traumatized by war and their families but have seen their own numbers shrink.  I work in a major medical center like all of the chaplains that serve in similar billets are caring for our wounded (in body, mind or spirit) warriors, their families those deploying or returning from deployment, are subject to deployment during our shore tours as Individual Augments to the operating forces all while dealing with life and death on a daily basis. In fact yesterday I came home from work at 5:30 PM after going to work at 6 AM Tuesday nearly 36 hours on duty in which time I was involved in multiple crisis situations, baptized a baby that was to removed from life support and care of patients their families and our staff.  This is not uncommon. What I described for me is typical of many Chaplains of all our military services serving in health care institutions.  It requires a tremendous sense of discipline to manage all of these competing demands and maintain ones physical, emotional and spiritual balance.

In fact when I came to my assignment I was suffering from PTSD and in an emotional and spiritual nosedive and in trying to meet the demands of the job did not take care of me and I fell apart physically, spiritually and emotionally.  It took a year and a half to start the recovery and I am now moving forward on all counts but some others don’t recover. I was fortunate, my boss knew well enough to shield me and let me recover and get the help that I needed to do so. Nonetheless it was not and is not easy to recover.

Add to this the pressure to perform and get promoted to stay in the military chaplain ministry.  Chaplains like all officers have to get promoted to stay in the military.  The promotion rate from the Captain/Navy Lieutenant rank to Major / Lieutenant Commander has been consistently in the 50-60% range for those being looked at the first time.  This basically means that 40-50% will not be retained on active duty long enough to qualify for retirement unless they had prior active service before becoming a Chaplain. Even if they have this the stigma of not being selected is something that is incredibly hard on chaplains just as it is for other officers.  Non-selection is considered failure even for those that have great ministries and are awesome ministers. Sometimes failure to select has nothing to do with how well you care for God’s people but simply comes down to numbers. When a military service contracts as all of our Armed Services did following Vietnam, the Cold War and today as personnel numbers are cut the respective Chaplain Corps or Services take their share of the cuts and this often means that men and women worthy of promotion are not selected and are eventually let go.  I have been fortunate during the cutbacks following the Cold War I was selected for Major in the Army Reserve and though I reduced in rank in 1999 to enter the Navy was promoted to Lieutenant Commander and recently selected for Commander and I am very grateful for the opportunity of both increased responsibility as well as the chance to care for God’s people in the Navy and Marine Corps.  Not everyone gets that chance.

Being a minister is no easy way of life if you are seeking to love and serve God and God’s people. Burnout, discouragement and depression are not uncommon.  Health problems for many are increasing and at younger ages. Many no longer have safe places that they can go for counsel and care because doing so might hurt their ministry.  I have seen much of this, good men and women doing their best to serve God and God’s people broken, depressed and sometimes addicted to behaviors that ultimately are destructive to their lives, families, congregations and ministries.

It is my opinion that while those that take on military ministry sort of ask for this because we know going in that we may be deployed to combat zones or separated from family for extended periods of time when we sign up. However many on the civilian side have no idea of the pressures that they will face and the tasks that will become theirs when they begin to work at a parish.  It is a tough life and I am not surprised to see so many broken, discouraged and disillusioned ministers just trying to survive instead of thriving in the field that God called them to serve.  I am blessed. Despite the hard work, separations from my wife and family and even the PTSD that I came back from Iraq with I am doing well. I get to serve people in a community that I love and in which I was born into.  I get to do what I believed that I am called to do in a venue that I am very comfortable in serving.  No everyone is so lucky or blessed. As Lou Gehrig said “I am the luckiest man alive.”

Please pray for your ministers and support them. Give them grace to serve knowing that they will not always make the right decisions, preach the best sermons or compete with the minister with the “hot hand” and latest “word from God” down the street or on television.  Ministers are certainly not perfect, some of us are pretty earthy. Don’t impose the culture of corporate America into the local church.  The vast majority of clergy really do care about the people that they serve even when they make mistakes and screw up. Give them the grace that you wish that your boss would give to you.  Of course there are exceptions, men and women with few people skills, with their own agendas and even with their own dark-side which shows up in how they abuse God’s people. However these people are the exception.  Don’t let the foibles or crimes of such people lead you to turn you back on good men and women that make mistakes common with the rest of humanity.

Peace

Padre Steve+

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Necessity and Reality…Lessons on Life

“One’s task is not to turn the world upside down, but to do what is necessary at the given place and with a due consideration of reality.” Dietrich Bonhoeffer

“A mans got to know his limitations” Harry Callahan

Tonight will be busy and fun for me as I get to go to our Medical Center Intern Class Dining Out.  The Dining out is a traditional Military occasion where the Officers of the Mess and their guests are together for a time of ceremony, camaraderie and good times.  Last year I attended this and if you want to know more you can go to the following article: The Dining Out

In light of that my post will be short. Coming back from surgery and being out of action for nearly a month I want to jump into everything.  However jumping into everything simply because I feel better and fitter than I have in probably two years does not mean that everything that I think that I can do be it vocational, spiritual or physical. Instead I am learning to work within my own limitations to be the best at what I do without over committing and end up having some kind of crash be it related to PTSD or physical issues.  It is something that I am learning to do and it is not always easy because I want to make a big impact.

However as both Bonhoeffer and Callahan (Clint Eastwood-Dirty Harry) remind us not everything is my job and that in order to be effective I and probably most of us need “to do what is necessary at the given place and with a due consideration of reality.” In other words be at the right place at the right time doing the mission that we are called to do with a sense of the reality of the situation, both our own as well as the situation in life that we find ourselves.

A lot of people now want to gain instant fame without the hard work that traditionally is required. Thus the massive number of “reality” shows where the only requirement is to act like an idiot and do things that you should be ashamed of doing, that profit nothing and while they give a person a brief amount of “fame” or notoriety which is seldom remembered by anyone unless it was incredibly stupid.

Workaholics like me want to do everything and fall into the temptation and trap of committing ourselves and sometimes our organizations to things that ultimately even if we can do them well are bad in the long term.  Such things can divert us from what we really need to be doing into ventures which may be exciting but divert us from what is truly necessary and possible.

This is frequently seen in the ranks of the over-achievers who want to “change the world.” This can take on all sorts of faces, political, educational, religious or scientific but the effect is often the same.  “World changers” sometimes become unrestrained zealots. In the quest to fulfill the agenda push so hard that they lose sight of the world around them and sometimes become willing like Chuck Colson when he worked for President Nixon “run over their own grandmother” to see the agenda fulfilled. This happens in business, politics, foreign affairs, science and even religion.  The desire to “change the world” often becomes a trap ready to ensnare even the most sincere person.  Trapped in the emotion of the “vision” those who lose sight of what is necessary and what is reality sometimes stop at nothing to see it fulfilled even if others are hurt in the process.

This is also seen in military history where the commander of an army or fleet makes a decision, usually rash and made in the passion of the moment to commit to something that while it looks to be beneficial leads to their defeat.  Military history is replete with examples.  Somehow the leader overestimates his own capabilities or underestimates those of his opponent with the end result of disaster.

Organizations including businesses and churches are frequently their own worst enemy when it comes to things like this.  Individuals who become obsessed can become like Don Quixote and run off  attacking windmills.  Christians often fall for this thinking that only they can win the salvation of the world or have a “new” message, teaching or “word” for the Church and world and end up broken, disillusioned and wondering if God let them down when they simply followed their own devices thinking that it was God.   Organizations can cause their own downfall as was seen in the banking crisis where business whose names were associated with thrift, trust and honesty destroyed themselves, injured their employees, stockholders and customers and cost the nation hundreds of billions of dollars. Custer charged into the Little Big Horn and Hitler attacked the Soviet Union.  Great success stories huh? Anyway, that being said I must close for the night.

Peace,

Padre Steve+

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The Manhattan Transfer: Why I Cannot Sign the Manhattan Declaration

“It behooves every man who values liberty of conscience for himself, to resist invasions of it in the case of others: or their case may, by change of circumstances, become his own.” Thomas Jefferson

Note: I do not expect that everyone will agree with my views on this subject.  Thus it is good that I am neither the Pope nor even a bishop.  I fully support the rights of all who have signed this declaration to do so and have the utmost respect for Chuck Colson as well as the Bishops of my Church who have signed this declaration.  I would never impugn the earnest beliefs or motives of these men and women.  However I do not believe that the Manhattan Declaration is fully reflective of the preponderance of the Gospel being that it does not address any traditional theological distinctive of the Christian faith.  It addresses instead moral, social and political issues that are used as wedge issues in contemporary American society.  While I believe that every Church has a right to comment on such issues to use them in their own realm that in a democracy or constitutional republic that such statements serve little purpose other than to rally the troops who already are convinced of them and do little to change the hearts and minds of those who do not.

Recently a fairly sizable number of Christian Leaders from Evangelical Protestant, Roman Catholic and Orthodox Churches have drafted and signed a document called the Manhattan Declaration.  It is a statement of four basic sociological and political issues with significant religious and theological overtones.  Let me provide a brief synopsis of the major points of the declaration:

1. The sanctity of human life.
2. The sanctity of marriage.
3. The protection of religious liberty.
4. The rejection of unjust laws.

To be honest these are all worthwhile goals and I can agree with them.  In fact I agree that the right to life of the unborn as well as the born must be protected.  I believe in sanctity of Christian marriage but recognize that the institution of marriage pre-dates the Christian Church and that descriptions of “traditional marriage” in the Old Testament do not reflect a Christian understanding of marriage but rather a ancient Near Eastern Culture of marriage that is more reflective of Islam than Christianity.  I believe in the protection of religious liberty as defined by the founders of the United States in our Constitution.  While I am a Christian every citizen in the United States has a Constitutional right that protects their religious liberty even if offends and is in contradiction to the Christian faith.  The United States was the first nation of the Enlightenment and the drafters of the Constitution would not allow any denomination to impose its interpretation of the Christian faith on any citizen.  Finally there is the rejection of unjust laws; who can be against that?  At the same time who determines what law is unjust? Or is it a matter of political dogma and not the faith that defines what is or is not an unjust law?

By definition Christians should strive to protect life as a matter of course.  Defending the rights of the innocent both the unborn and the born are essential if one truly is pro-life.  As such simply being anti-abortion is not enough to call oneself pro-life.  Unfortunately the vast majority of those who have signed the Manhattan Declaration would limit it to that and pay lip service to everything else that would make one pro-life including the provision of adequate health to those of inadequate means or access to healthcare, the use of the death penalty and the proper application of the Christian understanding of the “Just War” which prohibits preemptive wars or attacks against nations that have not attacked us. Pro-life would also include the implicit command for the Church to be leading the way in caring for the poor, indigent and the foreigner among us.  Likewise such would assume that the government would also have some responsibility to care for its citizens as the institution that God has raised up to maintain public order and maintain a just society.

Likewise it is within the context of the Church define marriage recognizing that while the vast majority of Christians would define marriage as the union of one man and one woman, that is the understanding of the vast majority of people who have signed this document.  No church or religious body should be required to perform rites that are in contravention to their beliefs. At the same time they cannot under the laws of the land impose those beliefs on others or force the government to do so.  The understanding of religious liberty as defined by the Constitution does not allow this.  One of the good things about going to a Southern Baptist Seminary before the Fundamentalist takeover of the denomination was the deep understanding of religious liberty and the freedom of conscience that is given to all citizens.

Likewise defending religious liberty, both to practice one’s religion as well as respect the rights of others to practice theirs is a sacrosanct principle of being an American.  This is especially true for those who serve as Chaplains in the Federal government.  To use a Star Trek metaphor, such is our “Prime Directive.”  Religious liberty is essential and protected in the First Amendment to the Constitution which also guards the rights of free speech and association.  It is my hope that what I model to others in word and deed, and definitely helped by the Holy Spirit, will allow people, even those hostile to the Church or the Christian faith to maybe reconsider, especially if they have rejected the faith because of the intolerance of other Christians or our sometimes sordid history in regard to the treatment of people.

Finally the rejection of “unjust laws” is a bit of a Red Herring.  An unjust law is in the eye of the beholder. The founders of the country believed that a African American only counted as 3/5ths of a person. Which 3/5ths I don’t know, but certainly this cannot be considered a “just law” however it was supported by many Churches including those that resisted anti-slavery provisions adopted by their denominations and left those denominations in the years preceding the Civil War.

However it is not the theological principles of the sanctity of human life, the sanctity of marriage, freedom of religious expression and resistance of unjust laws that is the problem.  Rather it is the tacit political emphasis of the document in spite of the comments by major supporters such as the President and CEO of Focus on the Family:

“It is important, first off, to note that the Manhattan Declaration is not a partisan or political statement…Instead, it addresses and elevates four specific areas of universal consensus. Some have referred to these as “threshold issues,” meaning they represent the foundation of our faith and the pivot point from which everything else flows. This is the bedrock. If we can’t agree on these areas of doctrine, everything else will be of reduced value.” Jim Daly, President and CEO of Focus on the Family

As a Christian of the Anglo-Catholic tradition the bedrock of the faith resides in the Bible and the testimony of the Church in the Creeds and the first seven Ecumenical Councils of the Church. These are not areas that “represent the foundation of our faith and the pivot point from which everything else flows.” I dare anyone to show me this in scripture or church tradition.  While there are places that one can draw inferences of these issues to be scriptural one can claim that the Scripture at no point forbids abortion. In fact the one place where these is even an inference of this is in Exodus 21:22-25 where a man injures a woman to cause a miscarriage is fined and not treated as a murderer.  Likewise the “imprecatory prayers” in the Psalms calm for dashing infants against stones.  If one looks at marriage it is obvious that Israel, like all Middle Eastern cultures of the day and many of the Moslems condemned by many supporters of the Manhattan Declaration practice was more of a property transfer than a true union of husband and wife as we now understand it to be. As far as freedom of religion one can cite numerous examples in the Old Testament where there is no religious freedom or rights given to non-Jews.   So to claim any of these as universal and foundational is inaccurate, even if they are worthy goals.

The drafters of the document refer to the Barmen Declaration of the Confessing Church during the Nazi era as a precedent for their work.  This is a bad analogy and bad history.  The Barmen Declaration was a statement of faith. The bulk of the declaration dealt with historic Lutheran and Reformed beliefs in the context of bearing witness and being faithful as members of a State Church which was falling in line and becoming a political instrument of the Nazis sacrificing its actual Christian faith and adopting a Nazi-Aryan faith.  This was viewed as heresy and apostasy by the members of the Confessing Church.  These men had no political party to support them, they were alone.  This is not the case with those who sign the Manhattan Declaration.  It is not a statement of orthodox Christianity against the apostasy of a church but a statement of political and social beliefs that have a religious component.

The partisan nature of the document is shown in the timing.  It now occurs with a President who is a liberal Democrat.  It well could have been issued during the Bush administration where little than political speeches were made in support of pro-life or anti-abortion causes.  In fact the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court in his confirmation hearings referred to Roe v. Wade as “settled law.” Likewise the Bush administration adopted the policy of pre-emptive warfare as a matter of doctrine.  This is blatantly in contravention of both international law as well as the Christian understanding of the Just War.  One has to remember that the United States prosecuted the Nazis for wars of aggression; wars that the Nazis believed were justified.  Likewise the open support of Gay marriage by the former Republican Vice President was never criticized by many of these people.  It seems that such a document would have had much more credibility has the writers published it during the past administration.

The point of this article is to reaffirm actual Christian doctrine defined by the Creeds, Councils and Scriptures as the standard of the Christian faith and not a list which is not and has never been the central component of the Christian faith.  It is my belief that the Manhattan Declaration is well meaning but ill-conceived and can and is being construed as the litmus test of what it means to be a faithful Christian.  I have seen two friends this weekend, who are totally orthodox in their denomination’s understanding of the Christian faith, theological conservatives who have difficulty with such declarations attacked as liberals and unbelievers.  I expect that some will do this with me.  It is my belief that this statement will serve to ghettoize Christians into a particular wing of the Republican Party providing their critics with the opportunity to simple count them as a subgroup of that party.  That is a real and present danger.

I do find that the preamble to the declaration has much that I can agree with, however it is the focus on a narrow band of issues that concerns me, issues that have been for the past 30-40 years hot button political issues where both major political parties play upon religious groups to further their agendas.

Again, I am totally pro-life and orthodox in my faith as a Christian.  I just believe that such declarations serve only to reaffirm the previously held positions of those who support them and have little effect on the vast majority of people and almost none on the government.

My friends Joel and Jared have made some interesting observations on their own sites.  Joel is at

http://thechurchofjesuschrist.us/ and Jared at

http://jzholloway.wordpress.com/

The text of the Manhattan Declaration is here:

http://www.manhattandeclaration.org/images/content/ManhattanDeclaration.pdf

Peace,

Padre Steve+

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Filed under marriage and relationships, philosophy, Political Commentary, pro-life anti-abortion, Religion

Give me that Old Time Religion: Book & Bible Burnings that Warm Your Heart…Can We Make Smores? Witch Children…Shall we Duck Them? And Can VDOT ever Clear the Crap off the Road?

I’m a Scripture, Tradition and Reason kind of Christian, pretty moderate in about everything and maybe a bit cynical about some things, however nothing warms my heart more than a good old fashioned book burning.  There is something about this tradition that makes for good fellowship on a crisp fall night. Everyone is gathered round the fire and the grand master of the congregation, sometimes referred as the “Pastor” or in some cases “Preacher Boy” exhorts his otherwise illiterate congregation to burn books which they have never read and for which in many cases cannot pronounce the author’s name, much less know anything about the books being burned.

The cool thing for the folks doing this at Amazing Grace Baptist Church in Canton North Carolina near Ashville is that they not only are burning “heretical” books, but Bibles too, I think over 10 different translations to boot…now that really adds “fuel to the fire” if you ask me.  The “Pastor” of the 14 member congregation a Marc Grizzard who seemingly appropriately is wearing bib overalls in his interview with a local television station, which coincidently is of the Devil too.  That link is here and they have a nice little video too: http://www.kbmt12.com/news/local/63968712.html

The church has a pretty good list of Bibles and authors and even musicians, of course everyone knows that musicians are all Satanists so why shouldn’t they get their stuff burned too?  Some of the Bible translations which are called by Grand Master Marc “Satan’s Bibles” include the New International Version.  Now I admit I’ve never been a fan of what I consider a pretty bland and unexciting translation, but can’t see burning them.  Likewise the New American Standard Bible, the Good News for Modern Man and a bunch of others make the list.  I’m sure that my two preferred translations have to be in the mix somewhere, the Revised Standard Version and the New Revised Standard Version.  Since these too have to be the Devil’s handiwork I will guard them with my life just in case Grand Master Marc comes up my way at 666 Lake of Fire Way.

Burning books is one thing, I would actually start with most Christian fiction, especially the Left Buttocks series if I were to start burning books, but even then I figure that maybe the Deity Herself would not approve.  Of course the Grand Master Marc being a good Scripture only kind of guy, screw that demonic tradition reason too, does find scriptural precedent for this in Acts 19: 18-20 which I quote from one of Satan’s Bibles, the New Living Translation or the NLT:

“Many who became believers confessed their sinful practices. A number of them who had been practicing sorcery brought their incantation books and burned them at a public bonfire. The value of the books was several million dollars. So the message about the Lord spread…”

Of course the passage in questions refers to recent converts who had been into sorcery in a place where this was big business and not to Bible translations, or works of popular Christian writers of their day such as Peter, Paul and Mary…wait sorry, Peter, Paul and John my bad.  Likewise the “Amazing Grace” church has identified a number of heretical authors whose works will be burned including such known betrayers of the faith as the Pope, Mother Teresa, Billy Graham and Rick Warren.  Now I wouldn’t read Rick Warren if you paid me too, well maybe I’d prostitute myself if the money was right, but still I can’t recommend burning his books.  I like the way that Billy Graham preached but was bored by his books, but still burning?  I don’t know…and Mother Teresa’s books are too small to be more than kindling.  As to burning the Pope’s books, which Pope, all of the Popes with a number after their name, or maybe those with a Latin or Italian name?  Nope, must be all of them.  Add to the mix others such as conservative stalwart James Dobson, award winning Chuck Colson, John, “no I’m not having fun” MacArthur and a host of others you get a pretty good pile of books to burn.

The church website: http://amazinggracebaptistchurchkjv.com/Download99.html is hard to reach right now because it has exceeded its bandwidth however they plan a good time including serving food for those who attend.  Since there is food can I make Smores?

The interesting thing about the good folks at Amazing Grace Baptist Church which I think is a pretty uninspired name for a church which is to say the least a bit intolerant and has been used in a really popular song that I heard Willie Nelson sing is that the are KJOVers .  In English that means King James Only Version people.  For them there is no other version in English that is the true, inspired, inerrant Bible, the King James Version 1611, or 1611 for short. I knew a Army National Guard Chaplain in Texas who once visited one of his church “shut-ins” at her home. He asked her if she would like him to read something out of the Bible to her.  She told him that only if he would read from the original language.  He was dumbfounded, he didn’t have his Greek New Testament available nor anything in Hebrew, so he said that he didn’t have it with him. The lady said “Oh I have it in my drawer.” She reached to her bedside nightstand and pulled out; you guessed it the KJV 1611.

Now I have nothing against the KJV, I even have one or two in my collection.  However it is not my language, I’m an American of the late 20th and early 21st Century.  All the doests, don’tist, thousist and shallists really killeth me.  Even in the liturgy I’m a 1979 Book of Common Prayer Rite Two kind of guy.  Rite One is a lot like the KJV and while nice I find myself stumbling all over it like I was trying to celebrate the Mass in Urdu or Pashto. It just doesn’t work for me.  If that makes me a heretic or worse I’m sorry.

However there is something I find perplexing about the KJOV crowd.  The King James Bible as it was originally published in 1611was a little different than that called the 1611 today.  First, it was translated by a bunch of Anglican scholars from the Greek and Hebrew assisted by the Latin Vulgate and Luther’s German translation.  Second, it included the books commonly referred to as the Deuterocanonicals, sometimes known as the Apocrypha.  Third the King James Version was “Authorized” not necessarily by God, but rather the Good King James of England, defender of the Faith who happened to believe that the “Faith” was that prescribed by the Church of England, not Catholics, nor Puritans and especially not Baptists was the faith to defend.  In fact the Good King James despised the forefathers and foremothers of the Grand Master Marc and the stalwart Amazing Grace Baptist Church persecuting them, jailing them and even executing them.  Of course the Defender of the Faith happened to be a flaming homosexual, not that there’s anything wrong with that.  Somehow I wonder why they wouldn’t pick a Bible that was more Baptist friendly.  Oh well, I love irony but will take my shirts to the cleaners.

Moving on to Africa where some rather extremist type Christians are trying to go back to the times of the Round Table up to the 1600s in England and Her Colonies in the “New World” aka Virginia and the Massachusetts Bay Colony by deciding children are witches and deciding the exorcise them.  I said “exorcise” and not “exercise.”  Unfortunately these folks have updated the exorcism manuals to include forcing acid down their throats.  The story is heart rending:

The nine-year-old boy lay on a bloodstained hospital sheet crawling with ants, staring blindly at the wall.

His family pastor had accused him of being a witch, and his father then tried to force acid down his throat as an exorcism. It spilled as he struggled, burning away his face and eyes. The emaciated boy barely had strength left to whisper the name of the church that had denounced him – Mount Zion Lighthouse.

A month later, he died.

Nwanaokwo Edet was one of an increasing number of children in Africa accused of witchcraft by pastors and then tortured or killed, often by family members. Pastors were involved in half of 200 cases of “witch children” reviewed by the AP, and 13 churches were named in the case files.

Some of the churches involved are renegade local branches of international franchises. Their parishioners take literally the Biblical exhortation, “Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live.” http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/wire/sns-ap-af-nigeria-child-witches,0,5276725.story

There is little humor in this story, it is tragic.  The fact that anyone anywhere would abuse and kill children in such a manner is abhorrent and unfortunately happens far too often.  I live about a mile from “Witchduck” road in Virginia Beach Virginia.  If you have seen Monty Python and the Holy Grail you will understand what I am talking about.  I think that if anyone is going to accuse someone of witchcraft they should be tried by the ancient tradition of the witch ducking.  I will not go as far as some to deny incidents of demonic possession but think that we need to be careful when we deal with the subject.

And lastly, is it wrong of me to think ill of the Virginia Department of Transportation, better known as VDOT? I have a number of beefs with the kind folks who manage our Interstate and State Highways.  In the nearly 6 years that I have lived here I have had to replace two windshields and 8 tires due to debris that has littered I-64 and I-264 in the Hampton Roads area.  Tonight as I pulled tire number eight off of my trusty 2001 Honda CR-V this afternoon to find a piece of metal imbedded in it I muttered a few epitaphs concerning the agency of ill-repute and leadership of questionable parentage and oedipal tendencies.  I am tempted to send Governor Tim “Eyebrows” Kaine a bill for the money that I have had to spend to buy windshields or tires.

Tomorrow I have duty and the Abbess will take my tire back to the place that I bought it to see if it is still salvageable or if I need to get a new one with a bit of credit on my road hazard warranty.

Peace,

Padre Steve+

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