Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Spirituality or Politics?

The world of spirituality recognizes the presence of  divine spirit in all living things. That world leads to equality, justice and peace.

The world of politics recognizes that one side, one opinion, one set of values and one perspective is right. Any other is wrong. That world leads to divisiveness, degredation, sectarianism and segregation.

Pick in which world you choose to live. Then live in it.

Monday, September 19, 2016

Spirituality and Privilege

It was aired on NPR sometime on Sunday, but I cannot be sure of the time or the place that I heard it. I think that I was in the car with my wife, Lisa, driving down to Shiloh's 7:00 p.m. worship service on Sunday evening. It may have been after worship, however. I just can't remember.

I remember the comment, though. It was something like this, "The level of vitriolic anger and rhetorical divisiveness in our culture can be traced to one source. It's white power and privilege being stripped of its hegemony."

Wow! The speaker equates all the anger and divisiveness in our culture with whites who sense that they are losing their advantage over others. What had been taken for granted, claimed as a 'natural' position of privilege, is diminishing. As the culture grows more and more accepting of diversity of every sort, the 'natural' advantage of some over others diminishes and, eventually, disappears. The speaker claimed that this direction is frightening to those who have always held the advantage.

The concept is not new. We have seen the tendency throughout history, even during many of our own lifetimes. As cultures change, there are always factions of the population who see the change as a threat to their privileged position. In my own lifetime, I have seen the religious right (of every religion, by the way) respond negatively to the rise of diversity, acceptance and affirmation of those who differ from the privileged class. Theologies of privilege have grown around the fear of lost position, and culture has been demonized for the diminishing advantage of the former privileged class.

The culture in which we live is changing in ways that alter the foundations upon which some have built position and power. Of course, the changes also affect those who had been victimized by the systems under which we have lived. The course of the developing culture seems to be toward acceptance of diverse races, clans, creeds, religions, sizes, looks, practices and lives. If there had ever been a 'normal' person of power and privilege, that position is now no longer safely grounded in any particular description. The hegemony of certain types, kinds, clans, colors, races, origins, sexual preferences, opinions, values or traditions is disappearing.

The NPR speaker noticed that those who had been privileged are reacting with anger, hatred and violence. The sounds mark the death knell of white privilege and the rise of genuine diversity. It seems to me that this is not far afield of something that the spirituality of Christianity could easily embrace. I think of it as something that we might applaud. This is a positive cultural evolution. The vitriolic anger and rhetorical divisiveness call for cultural reversal. Those voices want the old privilege, position and power back.

Cultural evolution will not be deterred, however. This is becoming a diverse culture, wherein all persons are radically equal in nature. There is no more 'natural' advantage. There is no type, kind, clan or ilk that naturally deserved privileged position.

I believe that we could be celebrating this great good news instead of calling persons names, claiming political correctness run amok, diminishing persons for their opinions or values, or rejecting persons out of hand for their social and political stances. Maybe it has been counter to the presence of God's Spirit all along. Maybe culture is leading our spiritual evolution.  

Monday, September 12, 2016

Mini-Golf Outing

Several times over the past few years, people have asked about an event that runs alongside the Annual Shiloh Church Golf Outing that offers other than golfers an opportunity to participate. My response to these questions has always been the same: Go ahead and plan something. This year, thanks to the leadership of Karyn Sleppy and Casey Sierschula, Shiloh went ahead and did something new, and it was a huge success.

Shiloh's Annual Golf Outing was held in August, raising just over $13,000. Those funds will be used to meet the needs of local families through the upcoming holiday season. In a process that runs through the month of November, families from the community will apply for, be interviewed for, and be awarded funds. Last year, when we raised $10,000, we helped around 80 families. This year, we hope to help somewhere in the neighborhood of 100 families. The business community, personal and family sponsorships, direct contributions, and golfer participation made this kind of support possible.

Karyn and Casey thought that an alternative golf-related activity might allow others to take part in this important community service. Things began to take shape on a Sunday evening, when someone suggested that we do a mini-golf outing. The ladies picked up on the notion and began to make concrete plans. A sign-up sheet was put out, simply to see if people might be interested in participating. More than 50 people registered an interest in such an event. A date was set. Plans were made. Contacts took place. On Saturday, September 10, Shiloh Church held its first annual Mini-Golf Outing.

The event was attended by persons who ranged in age from 4 to over 80. Eleven teams of four persons each played 18 holes of miniature golf at Putter's Par-adise, in Englewood, while others enjoyed chips, dip and pizza on the Patio at T.J. Chumps. Alongside the mini-golf, Karyn and Casey planned a fifty/fifty "guess the number of tees" fund-raiser and an additional opportunity for direct support. The funds raised would join those of our other golf outing to support needy families through the upcoming holidays.

Our winning team, "The Bald and the Beautiful," was made up of Jay, Dawn and Makenzie McMillen, along with the 'uncomfortably coiffed' Todd Fisher. Jay also tied with Bob Schultz for individual medalist honors, completing the course in 45 strokes. Our highest scoring team was "Rawr!" That team featured 4 year old Ora Sherwood, who finished with the greatest individual score. Ora named the team as well.

The success of the event was multi-layered. Everyone had fun in what was a genuinely inter-generational event. A server at Chumps won the fifty/fifty "guess the number of tees" event, and people came to just watch. We actually raised some money. The mini-golf outing will join its $400 plus dollars to the $13,000 from the other golf outing to support needy families, who are the real winners in our outings.

Thanks to the leadership of Karyn and Casey, Shiloh had a great deal of fun and raised funds to support needy families. If you have an idea for a program, project, event or activity at, through or from Shiloh Church, simply float the idea and start planning it. Great things happen when persons answer the call to action by taking initiative for innovative ministries, missions, activities, programs or projects. Let the community help you in answering that call to action.  

Tuesday, September 06, 2016

Language Problems

I received a complaint that followed Sunday's 10:25 message, one that I had heard in a completely unrelated context recently. It seems that some of my language left some people confused and frustrated. I apologized, of course, and tried to explain my use of the terms. But the person who complained was having none of it. She turned and stormed away.

The terms in question were 'discipleship" and "apostleship." The complaint was, "Why do you use terms that no one understands and that, for all anyone knows, mean exactly the same thing?" The other recent complaint was voiced over my use of the term "evangelism" to refer to everything the church does beyond its own doors. I used the term in a proposed judicatory organizational structure. One of my colleagues suggested that the term was too "churchy" and did not carry any connotation of mission or outreach.

Wait. What? Since when does "evangelism" fail to refer to mission or outreach? And since when do "discipleship" and "apostleship" mean the same thing? I work hard to use words carefully, to which even the most ardent protectors of the language can attest. In each case, I believe that I used the terms correctly and with distinct purpose.

Evangelism is everything that those who are called and equipped by God's Holy Spirit do to share the "good news" of Jesus Christ. It includes mission ministries, foreign and domestic, work for justice and peace, prophetic declarations, simple acts of service and assistance, even advertising and marketing. The Church's evangelical work is simply to articulate Christ Jesus in whatever context one finds one's self.

Discipleship is the act of sitting, figuratively at least, at the feet of Jesus, learning, listening, adhering to his teachings. It is letting Jesus care for and about us. It is to be an object of his sacrifice, understanding ourselves as saved by him, led by him, and ever faithful to his example. Through faithful discipleship, we tie ourselves to the mission and ministry of Jesus Christ. It is the Christian indicative. We are disciples of Jesus Christ.

Apostleship is distinct from discipleship. Whereas discipleship is indicative to the Christian identity, apostleship is its imperative. With discipleship, we sit at the feet of Jesus and learn. In our faithful apostleship, we are compelled outward, through the power of God's Holy Spirit, to represent Jesus Christ in what we say and do. We are sent ones, empowered ones, equipped ones, called ones. As communities of called and equipped persons, we represent Jesus Christ in the world.

There is a deeper issue here, however. Religious language, even in its proper and concise usage, is a tremendous problem. The language has been usurped by those who have used the terms as bludgeons or bayonets, to divide the good from the bad, those who are going to Heaven from those who are going to Hell. To use the terms today is risky and open to pretty wide misunderstanding. I find this both sad and challenging. It is sad because we, meaning the alternative Church movement, have allowed some to use our language as weapons against others. It is a challenge because we, again the Progressive Church of Jesus Christ, need to locate and use new terms, in new ways, for very old purposes.

This past Sunday, I attempted to equate discipleship with belief. It remains vital to the practice of the Christian faith. Apostleship, I attempted to say, is the set of actions to which we are called and for which we are empowered. Ironically, perhaps, one can perform faithful apostleship without ever having been a faithful disciples. Discipleship that takes place without an accompanying apostleship is simply philosophy or metaphysics, and accomplishes nothing in the world.

So, what are we called to do in the world? Evangelism, of course.

Rats! There I go again.

We are called to represent Jesus Christ in all that we say and do. I am sorry that the language was confusing. I will continue to work at stating the faith in a more concrete and secular set of terms.    


Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Sitting for the Anthem

So, Colin Kaepernick, quaterback of the San Fransisco 49ers, refuses to stand for the playing of the National Anthem, until such a time that the systems under which we live in this country reflect equal protections and securities for people of color. Since refusing to stand, and explaining his actions to the media, Kaepernick has been under brutal attack. People have burned his jersey in a public act of repulsion. He has been called every name in the book - and some that aren't - on social media outlets. Team ownership has been called upon to fire him. Companies have been asked to remove him as an endorsement of their products. Fingers have been pointed at him. Shouts have rung out. Let's all hate Colin Kaepernick.

First things first. I do not agree with Mr. Kaepernick's actions. I do not embrace the act of refusing to stand for the playing of the National Anthem. While I firmly hold that he has a point about racial discrimination as a deeply seeded problem in this country, and while I believe that problem is articulated in nearly every facet of our communal life, I do not believe that Mr. Kaepernick's act will do anything toward resolution. In fact, it has simply driven a wedge.

While I do not believe that Mr. Kaepernick's act will bring positive resolution, and while I see the act as divisive, I defend Mr. Kaepernick's right to make this statement. After all, in that very anthem that Colin Kaepernick decries, we sing "...land of the free and the home of the brave." Firstly, it takes considerable courage for Mr. Keapernick to take this radical stance, or lack of stance, as the case may be. It is a courageous act of social dissidence, whether or not we agree. Secondly, Mr. Kaepernick is well within his rights to respond to the playing of the National Anthem in any way that he sees fit. He is free to do so. He is not free to force anyone else to do as he chooses, of course. Neither, certainly, are we free to demand that he act as we see fit. I have a right to stand in response to the National Anthem, even to place my hand over my heart, if I wish (see previous blog post on Gabby Douglas), but I have no right to demand that others do as I see fit.

I have seen recordings of Colin Kaepernick's act of civil defiance. As I watched him sit through the National Anthem, I took note of his important point. I am convinced that the level of vitriol pointed at Colin Kaepernick reflects a much deeper problem than his simple act of civil demonstration. Racism is a major issue in this country, one with which we must deal openly and frankly. As importantly, however, I think, is the fact that people feel the right and obligation to criticize - even reject - those whose choices differ from their own. If this is the "land of the free," then we have the right to act in the ways that we see fit, but not the right to mandate our ways in the lives of others.

It is ironic, I think, that such hoopla is created in the world of sports. Sports have no intrinsic social or civic value. If we believe that sports teach us team approaches, fairness, honesty,  and corporate values and virtues, I would suggest that history has shown as powerfully the exact opposite. The world of sports has taught us privilege, arrogance, dishonesty and lack of virtue as much as it has shown us any positive benefit. Listen to fans of competing teams interact. Be a witness to the way that the world of sports creates a different social stratum, one all-too-often devoid of social responsibility or civic duty. I am aware that there are positive examples as well. It is funny to me, though, that the loudest social statements can be made in the course of an arena so devoid of intrinsic value.

So, before we demand that the 49ers fire Colin Kaepernick, before we demand that his sponsors remove him from endorsing their products, before we burn his jersey in effigy, before we call him names, let's all consider the point(s) that he is making. Let us not extend our own freedoms onto his actions. Let us, instead, put his act of social dissidence into proper perspective, walking a mile in his cleats, watching and listening, even when we might disagree. Perhaps his witness might lead to some new attention being paid to the racial climate in America, the rights of persons to make such bold statements, and the proper place of sports in the national dialogue.  

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!