Monday, August 22, 2016

Annual Shiloh Golf Outing

It's in the books! Another tremendously successful Golf Outing was held this past Saturday, August 20, at Cassel Hills Golf Club in Vandalia. Despite rains throughout and a 45 minute storm delay, the outing, with a record number of players, was completed before 6:00 p.m. The dinner and auction were held thereafter and were, like the outing itself, a huge success.

Shiloh needs to express its appreciation for the Miami Valley business community, which donated around $5,000 to sponsorships, to members of Shiloh Church, who provided about $4,500 in sponsorships and another $1,500 in direct contributions, for those who attended and took part in the auction, that raised around $1,800, to those who donated, made, or arranged for auction items, and for all who supported the Annual Shiloh Church Golf Outing. Because of your generosity and hard work, more than $13,000 will be dispersed to local needy families through the upcoming holidays. Last year, we raised just over $10,000 and helped about 80 families. This year, we will be able to do even more, maybe providing a holiday blessing to as many as 100 local Miami Valley families.

This is important ministry. It is more important to the families Shiloh assists than it is even to us. The success of the event can be measured by the extent to which we touch the lives of those around us. That is a different measure than money or people or participation. Shiloh directly touches lives through the Shiloh Golf Outing. Each of you touches lives. Your ministry is important to the people who benefit from the Outing.

To ensure the ongoing impact of the Shiloh Golf Outing, your work is just beginning, however. You can continue to lend a hand and increase support for the Outing throughout the year. Here is how. Visit the businesses who support the Shiloh Outing. Tell them that you appreciate their support and that you are there because of their assistance. (A list of supporting businesses appears below.) Thank those who contribute. Let them know that their assistance goes a long way toward the success of the Outing, and is a direct way that Shiloh touches lives. (A list of individual contributors also appears below.)

The mini-golf outing has now been organized as well. On Saturday, September 10, starting at 1:00 p.m. we will gather on the patio at T.J. Chumps in Englewood. From there, teams of four persons will be called to Putter's Par-A-Dise, located behind Chumps, for your tee time. Lowest aggregate team score wins. Pizza and appetizers will be provided. Drinks and other food is at additional cost. Cost of the event is $15.00 per person. All proceeds join those of the Shiloh Golf Outing in support of needy families through the upcoming holidays. We anticipate being done around 4:00 p.m. Sign up now on the Green Table, in teams of four persons. Choose a team name. Then join us on September 10.

A list of those companies that supported the Shiloh Golf Outing:

Johnson Investment                                                      Roth and Company
Market Match                                                               Dillard Electric
Tony's Italian Kitchen                                                  Meijer Englewood
Super Tech Automotive                                               TJ Chumps - Englewood
Diversite' Salon                                                            Superior Mechanical
Tobe Lawn Care                                                           Copp Integrated Systems
Boord-Henne Insurance                                               Kindred Funeral Home
Architectural Group                                                      Sandi's Clothes Encounters
Baker, Hazel & Snider Funeral Home                         Requarth Lumber
Joseph Airport Toyota                                                  Uptown Hair Salon
Beau Townsend Ford                                                   The Kid's Institute
Titan Flooring                                                              Wings Sports Bar and Grill
Abracadabra Hair Salon                                               Ben Rupp Insurance
TJ Chumps                                                                   Beavercreek Golf Course
Roosters                                                                       TGI Fridays
Texas Roadhouse                                                         Buffalo Wild Wings - Englewood
Mantra Salon                                                                La Fiesta - Clayton
Kroger Marketplace - Englewood                               Heidelberg Distribution
Outback Steakhouse - Miller Lane                              BD Mongolian Grill
Republic Services                                                        Frickers
Brio Tuscan Grille                                                       McCormick & Schmidt's Seafood
Company 7 Barbecue                                                  Cincinnati Reds
Old Towne Books                                                        Dayton Dragons
Victoria Theater Association                                       Chick-fil-A
Miami Valley Golf Club                                              City of Clayton - Meadowbrook
Pipestone Golf Course                                                 Kroger State Liquor Store
North Main Dental

Persons who donated:
Terry Neff and Family                                                 Shiloh Church Women's Board
Shelby and Tom Parnell                                               Linda Peterson and Family
Wayne and Bari Bowser                                              Tammy Greenberg & Routson Family
Lou and Dave Tiley Family                                         Women of Shiloh
Tia Smith and Family                                                   Kim Hannahan and Family
Connie Neef                                                                 Randy Zuercher and Family
Carl and Lisa Robinson                                                Laurie Moore
Doris and Tom Murph                                                  Lisa and Brian Salata Family
Dale and Jerry Engel                                                    Kim and Gary Wachter
Dr. Bob and Zoe Hitner and Family                             Sue and Roger Cox
Jayne Townsley                                                            Ila Ward
Bobbi Harbach                                                             Maureen Aukerman
Jeanette and Jim Patton                                                Patti Hines
Judy Peck                                                                     Casey Sierschula
Ashley Pack                                                                  Lisa Neff
Marilyn Jones and Family                                            Tom Homes and Family
Jay and Dawn McMillen                                              Matt Weaver and Family
Carl Bomboy                                                                Anonymous

A special thanks to Jay McMillen, who did much of the leg work, planning and running of the Annual Shiloh Church Golf Outing. It takes hundreds of small and large investments to make the Outing such a huge success. Thanks to those who golfed. This year's teams scored within nine strokes, ranging from a winning score of 63 and a high number of strokes at 72. Well done, everyone! Shiloh is Living the Word by Serving the World!

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Olympic Bullying

Gabby Douglas represented the United States as a gymnast in the 2012 Summer Olympics. She was accomplished, of course, but, more than that, she was a genuine team player. She appreciated and applauded the accomplishments of every gymnast who competed as a part of her team. Much to the surprise of some who know the gymnastics world, it was something of a shock when Gabby was selected to represent the United States on the 2016 women's gymnastic's team. Her scores were borderline. The determination was made on her attitude, her team approach to gymnastics, and her ability to stand by and support her teammates. To put it bluntly, Gabby Douglas was good for the team.

It is a shame, therefore, that social media critics have recently bullied her. I saw three criticisms. First, after the "Final Five" won the team gold medal, as the National Anthem of the United States was being played, Gabby did not hold her hand over her heart. Her second offense occured while her teammates were competing in all-around and individual event compititions. Apparently, Gabby was not demonstrative enough for her critics. While she applauded her teammates, and while each one claims to have felt her support, people online pitched a fit. The third criticism is simply ridiculous. I mention it here because I saw it on social media. Apparently, Gabby's hair is too straight to please persons in certain communities, yet too "nappy" (their word, not mine) to please others.

For crying out loud. What is wrong with people? Gabby Douglas deserves our respect. Who cares if she placed her hand over her heart during the playing of the National Anthem. This is a free country, folks, and persons can stand and respond however they see fit. It turns out that Gabby comes from a military family, where she had been taught to stand at attention during the playing of the Anthem. She reflected the respect that she had been taught in the way that she had been taught.

Gabby was in the stands and with her team during individual all-around and apparatus competition. Every team member who competed in those events has stated that they received Gabby's support. They knew that she was there and applauding their efforts. I have played team sports and individual ones. Contexts differ and means of support vary. Unless we are in the situation, it is next to impossible to understand its dynamics. I trust that Gabby Douglas, who was on the team, at least in part, because of her ability to compete from a team perspective, supported her teammates in the most appropriate possible manner.

Her hair? Really? The Final Five consisted of two African Americans, a Jewish woman, a woman of Hispanic origin, and a blond, blue-eyed caucasian. The team reflected beautifully what it means to be American. Yet, some will criticize Gabby's hair? Have we not grown up? Can we not accept people for whoever and however they are, especially when they are national heroes? Can we not put aside our biases, judgments, criticisms and negativity even long enough for us to celebrate with all of our gymnastic gold-medal winning team?

While I make these statements in support of Gabby Douglas, I find that they have a far wider scope for application. When given the opportunity to say or write something snarky, choose to refrain from doing so. When gvien the opportunity to tear someone down, in order to support our own opinions, biases, background or prejudices, choose to refrain from doing so. Keep your opinions to yourself. Grow beyond them.

Gabby's mother said in an interview that, in many ways, these attacks have ruined Gabby's Olympic experience. That is shameful! But it is part and parcel of our tendency to criticize, gripe, judge, and tear down other people. I wish we would stop doing that! I apologize to Gabby Douglas, and to all who have had otherwise wonderful experiences destroyed by unreasonable atttitudes and need to write and speak negatively about others. I am embarassed. I am so sorry! 

Tuesday, August 09, 2016

Evolution of the Kingdom

During the time of the Deuteronomic Old Testament prophets, the people who heard them had been blinded and deafened to God's presence in affluent and comfortable lives. Those people despised the word of God. It attacked their way of life, assaulted their comfort level, and afflicted their compliance with the ways of the world. They did not accept God's will as their way of life. Instead, they clung to empty religious practices that accomplished nothing for those in need but justified their own isolation and insulation from the suffering around them. The people rejected the prophets.

Jesus taught an awakening from the religious practices of his day. Jesus invited followers and authorities to move beyond simple adherence to laws, rules and regulations and invited them to embrace, instead, a new ethic for life. This ethic consisted of intentionally sacrificing one's own advantages and benefits in order that everything a person had may be used to exalt others, particularly those who struggled and suffered. The religious authorities of Jesus' day saw his teachings as attack on their long-held traditions and historical religious identity. Those who sought emancipation from the way life worked, by which they were victimized and because of which they suffered, understood Jesus as a source of liberation. But the typical religious practitioner of Jesus' day hated him and everything for which he stood. The people rejected Jesus.

In the Great Reformation, Luther and others led those who now had the Holy Bible translated into the vernacular to read and study for themselves, and to question the religious authority of their day. The permission created an alternative to authoritarian religious organizations and law-based Christian identity. That authority excluded many. The theology of grace, that Luther and others recovered in the Reformation, seemed like an attack on those who practiced religion from the moral perspective. They hated everything about the Reformation. They were told that it was a threat to their way of life. Those who had a stake in the authoritarian religious traditions rejected the Reformation. Even those who appreciated the theology of grace and the new attitudes toward acceptance and openness carried the Reformation spirit only as far as their organizational roots allowed. They fell beck into denominalism and offered only an alternative brand of orthodox practice. The people rejected the Reformation.

The great societal machine of post-WWII America chugged along fine. Most had a position to fill, a job to do, and roles to play. The roles were sometimes unjust, providing advantage to some while excluding others from its benefits. Then came a stream of literature than seemed to attack life as mid-century America had known it. Books like Brave New World, 1984, Fahrenheit 451, A Clockwork Orange, etc., articulated dissatisfaction with the depersonalizing and unfairness of the great machine. The literature urged readers to dare to step outside of the control and authority, to question and demand the kind of equality and justice that challenged societal structure. Many saw the literature, and the resulting movements, as an attack on "right and proper" ways of living. We are just discovering the lengths to which protectors of 'the establishment' went in defending the systems from those who would dare challenge, question or reject them. Those in power or positions of authority, or those who had a stake in the system, rejected social change.

Since the 1960's, America has joined the rest of the world in what looked like a new cultural evolution. Culture began to move in the direction of acceptance, tolerance, grace, diversity and the rejection of systems and institutions that belonged to the antiquated notions of privilege and sectarian benefit. The world began to change. Black Americans, and others, found their civil rights protected, at least on paper. Equal rights for women have begun to be practiced and protected. Persons who love persons of the same gender were allowed to ratify their relationships in legal marriage. The culture began to work for the benefit of those who had been excluded, rejected or ignored. It began to focus attention on those who had been victimized, disadvantaged or invisible.

The shift has been seen as an attack on people's lives and the 'moral' existence that 'we used to live.' Pockets within religious culture have certainly seen the wider cultural evolutions as attack upon those religious cultures. So much so, in fact, that right wing religious culture, of whatever faith tradition, has tried to pull culture back into a previous articulation. Sometimes, those attempts have been subtle. Sometimes, they have been anything but subtle. Ask the teenage girl who was shot in the head for pursuing education for young girls, or those victimized by extremists. The acts of religious protectionism have been brutal, violent, angry and increasingly wide-spread. There is an increase in name-calling, hatred, and vitriol of every fashion, fueled by attempts to turn culture from the course of its current evolutionary process.

The fact is, we would be better off if we would listen to the Dueteronomic prophets. We would benefit from fully embracing Jesus. Our world would be a different place if we were to seek out the Reformation theology of grace. We would be wise to heed literature that assesses the depersonalization of the great societal machines. We would protect the well being of every person if we could give up the old segregationist practices of the past and press on to the greater virtues of acceptance, toleration, affirmation, compassion and love. If it all seems like an attack on our lives, then maybe we need to spend some time assessing how it is that we fit into the inevitability of cultural evolution, as we move toward the fulfillment of the promise of Jesus Christ as a way of life.

Change is never painless or easy. It is inevitable and positive, however. We are moving toward that kingdom. Let's 'keep on truckin'.'        

Monday, August 01, 2016

The Interface of Persons of Faith and Politics

I whole-heartedly embrace the Constitutional stance on the separation of Church and State. I also believe, however, that the concept may mean something other than how we have applied it to the interface of faith and politics.

As I understand it, the separation of Church and State in the United States Constitution guarantees that there shall be no establishment of an official United States religion, and that no person should be coerced by the government into any particular religion's practices. The American system was founded on religious liberties. Coming, as it had, from a system of religious hegemony, where a particular religion was required by the government, the statement of religious liberty was key to those who formed the American governmental system.

Frankly, I would not want to live in a system that required the practice of any particular religion, even mine. Unfortunately, this is not the way that many have practiced the American separation of Church and State. Some practitioners of my own religious heritage have demanded that the system was created by "Christian men, according to Christian principles." This designation is intended, in its application, to claim that the American Constitutional system favors those who practice Christianity.

Honestly, I do not know the religious status of each of those who might lat claim to being a "founding father." I do know that the system was founded on the philosophies of John Locke, and are intended to remain non-religious in both inception and application. The founding principle was, instead, the ownership and protection of property. Our Constitutional system is economic instead of religious. The American system was founded in such a way that no religion could impact ownership of property and the conduct of authority that accompanied it.

The American system is therefore not Christian. The Constitution guarantees that no such distinction could possibly be intended or inferred. Religious liberty formed the foundation of the separation of Church and State in America. That does not mean, however, that there is no dialogue between persons of faith and the government. Quite the contrary, in fact. The promise of religious liberty, guaranteed by the Constitution, allows every person the right and obligation to apply her or his liberties to the demands and expectations that he or she places on the government that represents her or him. Each persons has the right and obligation to ask that the government reflect the ethics of whatever faith that person practices.

While there is a clear separation of Church and State, guaranteed in the United States Constitution, there is also a protected exercise of the religious liberties that form the ethical basis of interaction between the government and those same religious liberties. Faithful men and women, of whatever faith, are obligated to exercise their religious liberties in interaction with the government. Every faith has equal access and equal voice. No religion has more power or authority than any other. This does not free Americans from the exercise of their religious liberties, however. Each person votes her or his conscience. Each person is permitted to act from the foundations of whatever religious principles drive them.

This is good. While some may consider it an attack on Christian principles, I see it, instead, as permission to act from the religious principles of Christianity in relationship with the government, politics, and the systems under which we live as Americans. Instead of arguing the point of Constitutional Christian hegemony, perhaps we could spend our time asking what ethical principles we might demand of our government, our representatives, our systems and ourselves. Since the ethical core of most, if not all, of the world's religious traditions rests in the sacrifice of the self in service to others, then our government, politics and systems benefit from the interaction, as do those who have previously suffered and struggled against them.

The interface between persons of faith, of whatever faith, and the government, politics and systems under which we live is crucial for those who have been victimized, excluded, rejected, even advantaged, by those same systems. That is what is guaranteed by The United States Constitution, as I understand it. That is what is better for all and each of us in the conduct of the religious liberties, so granted and guaranteed.      

Monday, July 25, 2016

Here is What I Don't Get

Here is what I do not get.

Why is the posting of a statement that supports "Black Lives Matter," and a call for eliminating racial bias on our streets, seen as an attack on the lives and safety of first responders? I do not understand the flip-side of that coin either. Why is a statement that supports first responders seen as an attack on black Americans?

I happen to support both those movements. I believe that Black Lives Matter. American culture has shamefully treated black Americans. It had been an historically broken relationship. As a friend of mine recently posted on Facebook: When one goes to a doctor for a broken ulna, it is irrelevant to that situation that all bones are important. It is the ulna that is broken. It alone requires special attention. The treatment of black Americans in our culture currently requires special attention. Black Lives Matter!

That statement does not mean that the lives and safety of first responders, police officers, paramedics, or other care-givers should be imperiled. As a society, we have got to honor those who put their lives on the line to protect us and act to save us from tragedy. Every man or woman who puts him or herself on the line for others is to be honored, respected and highly valued. As a society, we should pay them better and protect them more fully for what they do for us.

I respect and honor first responders. I believe that we can all embrace Black Lives Matter. I do not see one at the exclusion of the other. Interestingly, I think that the divisive and exclusionary emotion is fueled by media, hyperbole, destructive political and economic rhetoric, that is inteded to drive a wedge between the two communities.

Driving a wedge between those who support and protect the lives and safety of first responders and those who claim Black Lives Matter seems like an intentional act of hatred and violence. It is intentionally divisive, destructive, exclusionary and segregationist. To pit one of these statements against the other is unfair, narrow-minded and dogmatic. To pit people who makes these statements against one another is judgmental, critical and destructive.

Who is so passionate about destroying our health as a nation that they divide those who stand for the safety of first responders from those who demand that Black Lives Matter? I, for one, hold that both of those statements are worthy of our attention and dedication. One statement is not made to the exclusion of the other. Why are we being told that they do? Why can we not stand up for both the safety and respect due those who endanger themselves for our communal sake and those who have been historically victimized in our culture?

I stand for the safety and respect of our first responders. I also stand for Black Lives Matter. Do not tell me that I do not support both camps. I do. Those who engage in violence, whether in act or in rhetoric divide, destroy, segregate, and exclude. Why can we not stand for both those truths? Why can we not support both statements? What is wrong with a unified approach that fixes society's wrongs, while upholding those who work hardest to protect us?

The only solution to our societal ills is to be unified in their healing. It does not help the situation to divide ourselves into one camp or the other. In fact, division only begs the violence that further destoys us.

Stop it!        

Monday, July 18, 2016

Representational Incarnation

The concept of 'representational incarnation,' as the cornerstone of progressive church theology, escapes most of us. It is a pretty fancy term, though its underlying conception is sinple. Let me see if I can't put it into more directly applicable terms.

Shiloh's theme for the season after Pentecost this cycle has been "Christian vocation is representational incarnation." Put more bluntly, we are the body of Christ. We are his physical representatives on earth, and our responsibility to him is to represent his faithful sacrifice with our own. We embody him.

The theme immediately begs two questions. Firstly, if we are the body of Christ, responsible for representing Christ in the world. who, then, is "we?"The answer is provided, as most every theological answer we face is, in the Crucifixion and Resurrection of Christ Jesus. Since Christ's sacrifice is effective and applicable for every person, then Christian vocation belongs to every person as well.Every person is part of the body of Christ, responsible for representing him on earth. Before we run too far afield, wondering if Muslims or Jews or Buddhists are included in the Christian vocation, I suppose that we need to better define that vocation. Christian vocation is to represent what Christ did in our own actions. Now, what Christ did is sacrifice himself for the benefit of every other. I firmly believe this act to be at the core of every world religion. The act of Christ unifies us all, despite the differences in words, practice and applications of our religious heritages. Therefore, the "we" of representational incarnation belongs to each of us. We are all called upon to sacrifice for the benefit of the other.

Secondly, if Christian vocation is representational incarnation, how is it that we come to represent Christ in sacrificing self for the sake of the other? Who would do that? Does not doing so fly in the face of everything that culture teaches us about individuality and personhood? Exactly the point! Working for ourselves has led to divisiveness, segregation, targeted and limited responsibility and sectarian violence, where 'we' protect what is 'ours' from 'those' and 'them,' who seek to make 'ours' theirs.' The only means of correcting the destructive paths of human culture is to embody the self-sacrificial Christ that lies at the core of everything that good spirituality, of whatever religious tradition, might call virtuous.Humanity practices that virtue in the power and presence of God's Spirit. The Spirit empowers, equips and enables us to live according to divine will. The Spirit compels us in self-sacrifice that benefits the other...all others.

Christian vocation is representational incarnation. Every person in empowered, equipped and enabled by God's Holy Spirit to reflect Christ's self-sacrifice in relationship to every other person. It is precisely in this universal vocation that we are unified. It is by it that humanity lives divine will on earth. Two things are necessary: 1. Discovering Christ and discerning opportunities for application of his ethic and, 2. Doing the work by which Christ's self-sacrifice is embodied. It does no one any good whatsoever to accomplish the first without engaging intentionally in the second. It makes as little sense to attempt the second without taking seriously the first. The two tasks must be held in balance, in a constant and continual process of learning and application.

Killings will continue to take place. Violence will continue to be reported. Hate will continue to spread, until we learn to live according to Christ's simple ethic, one that is reflected at the core of every religious tradition. The cure to our societal ills is simple, really, except in application. We, and that is every we, can practice the self-sacrifing vocation shown us in Christ, embodying acts that intentionally benefit every other.

Representational incarnation flies in the face of societal norms. But those norms have led to divisiveness, segregation, sectarian violence, and pocketed hatred, where we have learned to label, exclude, reject, criticize, and judge. It is time for us to embrace our vocation, repairing the damage done by embodying Christ's self-sacrifice. Two steps: 1. Discover Christ and 2. Do Christ's work.      

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

What Can We Do?

I have been asked recently, more times than I can count, in response to police violence against black persons, the killing of police officers in Dallas and elsewhere, and the growing racial tensions in our society, "What can we do?" The answer, much to the disappointment of some of my colleagues and friends, is NOT JUST prayer.

Note, please, that I write that the answer lies NOT JUST in prayer. Prayer is important, especially if we ask in it for God's guidance and wisdom, seeking direction and purpose, and shutting up long enough to listen for a divine response. The Spirit in us will direct us, if we are willing to put it to work in accomplishing God's will. So, prayer is important. But it alone will not solve the problems of racial injustice or social discord. In order to impact those social ills, we will have to do far more than just prayer.

When I make this response to the question,"What can we do?" I see disappointment and frustration on the face and body language of those who dare to ask. The truth is that there is no magic elixir, no magical liturgy, no articulate prayer, no hymn, no incantation, no belief system that puts and end to racially motivated social injustice. The only practical response to the social problems that we face are the active practice of their opposites.

Here is the assumption that I make. I assume that much of the violence and hatred that we are experiencing is an unconscious attempt to pull the cultural evolution that has been moving toward acceptance, tolerance, and embrace of diversity, taking place since 1968, or so, back into the prior segregationist, divisive, stratified culture of 1950's America. Fear of the other is disappearing in the developing cultural ethos. Acceptance of persons who live differently is expanding and deepening. Personal and social responsibility for a vast array of persons is becoming commonplace. We are learning to tolerate, affirm, love and accept those who are unlike whatever "us" we claim.

That challenge has proven too large for some who cling to previous models of exclusivity, on both ends of the social spetrum. For some who have been privileged, it has proven to threaten that privilege. For some who have been victimized, it has removed justification for orienting one's self as deserving special treatment or special attention. The response of those few has been hate-filled and violent. They are protecting the way of life that they have come to accept and appreciate.

Notice, please, that I did not claim that all persons of privilege feel or react with hate and violence. Notice also, please, that I did not write that all persons who are victimized have responded with hatred and violence. In both cases, it has been a relatively small population. But the hate-fueled, violent, responses have been so powerful, that they must not be ignored. They must not be justified.

The only real option is for the vast majority of persons to act in such a way that hastens the evolutionary process toward acceptance, toleration, diversity, and mutual responsibility. To put the answer to the question, "What can we do?" more succinctly, we can borrow from recent Common Lectionary scriptures to say "Love your neighbor as yourself." If the vast majority of Americans lived according to this seemingly simple ethic, then the cultural evolution toward peace, compassion, and unity would be promoted. We would hasten the evolutionary process, putting an end to the violence and hate that seek to pull American culture backward.

So, what can we do? We can act according to the core ethic of every world religion and every spiritual principle. We can go out of our way for one another, sacrifing our own claims to "us," and accepting that every person is potentially our neighbor, our brother, our sister, our friend. By doing so, we quite literally and practically change the world in which we live. We engage in transformative ministry. We change lives.

"Do that." Jesus said to the lawyer who had challenged him, "and you will really, truly, completely live."