The Dementape Letters: Five

Posts in the The Dementape Letters series

  1. The Dementape Letters: One
  2. The Dementape Letters: Two
  3. The Dementape Letters: Three
  4. The Dementape Letters: Four
  5. The Dementape Letters: Five
  6. The Dementape Letters: Six

[It's been some time since Dementape's last correspondence with her niece and novice tempter, Gutrot. The Head of the Department of Kingdom Thwartation got a better firewall, but she has, alas, grown lax with security once again, and this missive appeared last evening in the storage area under our stairs where we keep the catbox. You can read Dementape's previous letters starting here.]

My dear niece Gutrot,

I must admit that your most recent attempt at high-level temptation has paid off…this once. It pains me a little to do so, considering the monumental failure of your previous “creativity” (the aftershocks of which we are still feeling), but no foul deed must go unrewarded. So — well done. You may expect an increase to your Soul Ration after the Demon Resources payroll paperwork has been approved by the Head of DR and Our Father Below.

I had my doubts about you, Gutrot, but you have proved yourself in the area that matters most: instinct. All the education that Hell affords can never teach you that tingling feeling you get when you sense an opening and worm your way in. And worm you did! If we are lucky, your work will bear rotten fruit in the Emerging Church for years to come.

They didn’t even see it coming! I’m not even sure they see it now your work is done. Keep them blinded, Gutrot, and they may never know how this seemingly subtle shift in course has fundamentally changed their Kingdom Values. When they began this Emerging Church venture only two years ago, your Subjects pledged to keep the impoverished and marginalized at the center of their Community…yet now, thanks to your undermining handiwork, the poor are marginalized more than ever. Again, I say: Well done.

It was truly breathtaking how you managed it: When the time came to appoint new Elders who would guide the Church in Her spiritual undertakings, you saw the confusion and questions surrounding what qualifies a Person for such a position. (Confusion is a tempter’s best friend — it so easily disintegrates into Chaos. Delicious!) The danger for the Emerging Church’s dedication to live embedded in their surrounding Culture is that they can swallow so many of those Culture’s Values without even noticing. Instead of drawing together to Pray and seek guidance from The Enemy’s infernal Word, you nudged them to look outward to learn what qualifications their Culture counts as worthy. You saw the opening, and wormed your way in.

Honestly, I can barely believe the spectacle of your success. They have appointed five Men who know how to do only one thing well: make money. Of course, I am thrilled at the prospect that these moguls will make decisions that are based solely on the Church’s best financial interest (though we must never underestimate the Changing Power of the Holy Spirit, even in the most hardened Subjects); but I am most excited by the seismic shift this indicates in the Values of the Emerging Church Herself. How marvelous that they now equate fiscal success with spiritual maturity and health! Their reasoning makes perfect sense from a Worldly perspective: who better to guide the young Community than Men who have guided businesses through the murky waters of today’s uncertain economic climate? But from a Kingdom perspective, they have missed the mark entirely. They don’t suspect that they’ve bought into the Lie we’ve been telling for millennia: “God helps those who help themselves.”

If luck and Evil are with us, this shifting Value will burgeon into a conviction that the poor — who clearly do not “help themselves” — should be viewed with mistrust and ridicule, since The Enemy is obviously not on their side. At the very least, the wisdom of the marginalized will stay where it belongs: on the margins. You must continue your work, Gutrot, to ensure this opportunity goes our way.

Your mother sends her worst. We are both proud of you, and look forward to the tasty Souls you will undoubtedly bring in droves to the Table of Our Father Below.

Your vile and affectionate aunt,

Dementape

Previous in series: The Dementape Letters: Four

Next in series: The Dementape Letters: Six

38 thoughts on “The Dementape Letters: Five

  1. aly hawkins Post author

    Just a number I pulled out of my, ah…hat. Nothing monumental happened to inspire this piece…it comes out of a long conversation Ash & I had on a road trip a few weeks ago about eldership and the qualifications for leading a church to “success,” as well as David Ruis’s new book (which I’m editing right now – I hope I don’t get in trouble for using his ideas) in which he writes about the centrality of the poor in Christian community. I think there are also implications for gender issues and leadership, but I didn’t get into that. Only so much pot I can stir in one sitting.

  2. Morphea

    Well done. It resonated with me since two issues concerning the poor have come to my attention lately:

    1. Los Angeles area hospitals are being investigated for having allegedly put homeless people into taxis (some still in their hospital gown and slippers) headed for Skid Row post-treatment – complete with video. They said that they did it when the patient had nowhere else to go and they hoped to deliver them somewhere near the missions.

    2. Seattle area homeless shelters are losing funding from the city if they don’t begin keeping mandatory records of everyone who walks in their door for aid: name, birth date, SS # (sexual orientation notation optional). The city is saying that there’s no other way to make sure their funding is going to “the right people”. All part of the multi-city “End Homelessness by 2010″ program. My question is: what if you want to be homeless? What if you remain homeless because you cherish total freedom and anonymity?

  3. harmonicminer

    Well, I’m a well known right-winger… shoot, I voted for that fascist, Ronald Reagan! So, the obvious answer: if you CHOOSE to be homeless, because you cherish total freedom and anonymity, what are doing at a homeless shelter, taking resources meant for people who feel they have very little choice? And if you CHOOSE to be homeless, by what right do you claim the efforts of others to provide what you won’t provide for yourself?

  4. aly hawkins Post author

    Before this comments section becomes a rally [or brawl], I want to point out that the original post is about THE POOR IN CHRISTIAN COMMUNITY…not about “what to do with the homeless” political policies. The question is not what do we do with the poor in society, but are we WITH THEM in kingdom community? I trust one can be politically left OR right and still have Jesus’ heart for the marginalized: “The poor will always be WITH YOU…”

    HMiner, if you feel your response is apropos to a conversation about Christian community, I’m good to go there. (But I don’t want to get all crazy if your comment doesn’t stand!) Let me know…

    Morph, the L.A. Skid Row thing blew my mind! Why didn’t they at least CALL a shelter before they just dumped them off?? On the city of Seattle issue, I’m a little more ambivalent: I tend to agree with HMiner about the unfairness of demanding the city pay for your freedom and anonymity. That’s not what public money is for. But I also don’t like the idea of private missions or shelters having to submit records to the city…if the city did its homework and gave money to reputable and effective shelters, they should be content with the accounting of that money and not demand “human accounting” as well, especially if that kind of information-gathering is contrary to the shelter’s mission and philosophy.

  5. harmonicminer

    Hmm… Aly, I thought the thrust of your post was not THE POOR IN CHRISTIAN COMMUNITY. I thought the thrust was THE POOR IN LEADERSHIP ROLES IN CHRISTIAN COMMUNITY, quite a different thing. I suppose I’m reacting to the (it seems to me) politically correct notion that “the poor” are going to be equally valid choices for leadership in Christian communities as (no, I won’t say the rich) “the non-poor”. There are some basic social observations that it’s hard to avoid.

    In our culture, ON AVERAGE, “the poor” are:

    less educated (not just institutionally degreed, but knowledgable about the Bible, religious tradition, cultural context for those traditions, etc.)

    less informed about what is happening in our society, and “how things work” so help that is offered is wisely given for maximum effect, not just to make the giver feel good

    less responsible for themselves and others (do you doubt this?)

    more succeptible to persuasion by irrational appeals, etc.

    none of which are characteristics useful in leaders.

    Sure, God may select a leader who is “poor”, and hopefully we’ll have the wit to recognize that exceptional case when it arises (not that I’m especially optimisitic about our track record on this point). But make no mistake, it WILL be the exceptional case… which is God’s stock in trade, of course. Please re-read carefully above, and note that I said ON AVERAGE.

    Yes, “the poor” are WITH US (indeed, US includes ALL of US). That’s a matter of choice for both “the poor” and “the non-poor”. The “non-poor” can’t choose for the “poor”, though they can (wrongly!) choose to exclude them.

    If you’re responding to a knee-jerk assumption that our leaders should always be RICH (as opposed to merely “non-poor”), I’d have to agree that’s a bad idea. (In fact, I have some particularly bitter experience on this point: HINT… I wasn’t the rich guy.) But if you look at early church history (before the institutional church was captured by government in the form of Constantine), you won’t find many leaders who could not/would not/did not behave responsibly and take care of themselves and those in their charge (the 21st century definition of “the poor” in the USA). Please note that this definition of “the poor” works well to describe “multigenerational poverty” in the USA, and isn’t meant to describe those who have fallen temporarily on hard times.

    One last point: “the poor” may be among those hardest to convince that “the poor” will lead as well as “the non-poor” (you know… what does SHE know that I don’t know, and why should SHE be boss).

  6. aly hawkins Post author

    HMiner,

    [WARNING: I'm feeling both righteously indignant and unhelpfully hyperbolic. Be prepared for Ultimate. Statements. With. Lots. Of. Periods.]

    It’s your equation of poverty with irresponsibility with which I cannot agree, and most of your social observations flow from this equation. The vast majority of poor people are not the free-spirited homeless people that Morphea so admires (sorry, ‘rise), they are people trying to figure out how to live fairly and responsibly, just like the rest of us. Indicting their inability to pull up their own boot straps is not politically incorrect, it is grossly unjust.

    Yes, many poor people are less educated than the “non-poor.” But why? And when did we agree to equate education with wisdom? Or even intelligence?

    Yes, many poor people may be less informed than the “non-poor.” But why? And does it necessarily follow that a church’s resources will not be faithfully and thoughtfully administered on the local level, where local needs are apparent to everyone? And could a lack of information indicate that information is not as readily accessible to everyone as it should be?

    I cannot agree with your next two observations. I know responsible and intelligent poor people who would be justly insulted by the notion that they are gullible slackers who do not take care of themselves, their families, or their communities.

    I wrote: “How marvelous that they now equate fiscal success with spiritual maturity and health!” You are equating it with responsibility and intelligence; worse, you are attributing lack of fiscal success to laziness and ignorance. I can’t buy that, Shack. IF a poor person is lacking in responsibility and intelligence, they should not be considered for leadership, for the good of the church as well as themselves. But assuming a lack of responsibility and intelligence BECAUSE of poverty is both prejudicial and contrary to the gospel. “Blessed are the poor” isn’t some namby-pamby, yellow-dog Democrat slogan, chanted at an affirmative-action rally.

    To my knowledge, there is no secret spiritual nobility in being poor. I’m NOT romanticizing the “little poor people” with some condescending liberal clap-trap. I’m suggesting that if we take Jesus at his word, we ALL have access to his grace and guidance, and financial struggle or success DOES NOT indicate the absence or presence of his Spirit. Since the latter is the quality which should be most in demand among leaders in the church, the “poor” are still in the running. And should be, for all our sakes.

    What say you? [And can we still be friends?]

  7. harmonicminer

    Hey Aly… we’ll ALWAYS be friends. But right now I’m taking my son off to martial arts class so he can learn to beat me up even better. Howsomever…. if you read my post very carefully, I think you may see that I did not say many of the things against which you just spoke.

    Example: “Multigenerational poverty in the USA” is a highly specific phrase, and is not code. It means exactly what it says. And to the extent it exists, it IS a problem of values on the part of the sufferers from it. There is exactly one solution to it: for the current generation of sufferers in poverty to knock it off and get with the program. “Multigenerational poverty in the USA” results from behavior and attitudes not appropriate in a leader of anything, let alone a church. PLEASE read carefully: I didn’t say this was ALWAYS true in the USA!!! But it’s true NOW, and that’s what we’re talking about, isn’t it?

    You implied I said, think and feel several things I did and do not. Read the qualifiers… I tend to be as precise in statements as possible.

    More later, if I can still walk after Yoda gets done showing my son how to beat me up.

  8. aly hawkins Post author

    I know. I got a little crazy. It happens when I haven’t eaten. I sincerely apologize if I have misunderstood you. And thanks for being my friend! Only friends should have conversations like this.
    Is this or this the idea of multigenerational poverty to which you are referring? Or can you point me to some info so I can make sure we’re talking about the same thing when we say “the poor”?

  9. harmonicminer

    Aly, you know I’m always looking for an invigorating discussion! I think you’re a tremendously gifted and creative person. So it’s OK! Go ahead and bite back. Friends for life!

    Those links you gave are both related to the notion of “multigenerational poverty in the USA”. But.. while I tend to agree with the notion of a “culture of poverty” in the USA, there is no true “cycle of poverty” in the USA (though there certainly is in many other places).

    The “cycle of poverty” notion is about literal inability of people to “rise above” their circumstances due to limited opportunity and access to capital. That’s true in many poverty stricken places in the world, but not in the USA. There are plenty of other places where people literally have no good choices, due to abuse of power by the politically powerful class (often indistinguishable from “the rich”).

    There is a distinct “culture of poverty” in the USA. These are people who DO have opportunities and options, but do not take them. Please note: I didn’t say people who HAD opportunities and blew them, because I think virtually everyone in our culture actually HAS opportunities (assuming normal abilities, no unrecoverable problems, etc.). If all that’s wrong in your life is that you’re poor, you can do something about it.

    I don’t have the statistical references handy, but if you want to dispute the following, I can find them. It boils down to this: to avoid poverty, do the following:

    Graduate from high school.
    Don’t make babies till you get married.
    Don’t get divorced.
    Stay out of jail.
    Don’t get addicted.

    If you can manage these things, you will probably not be poor yourself, at least not for life. But more to the point of our discussion, if you do these things, YOUR CHILDREN will almost certainly not be poor. The root of multigenerational poverty in the USA in the 21st century is failure to follow those five rules, though not always in the latest generation to be poor right now (children under 16 or so).

    I don’t think there is statistical evidence for my next assertion, but I’ll make it anyway: you’ll tend to stay poor if you think it’s someone else’s job to lift you out of poverty. And people who create their “leadership role” out of pandering to that attitude are disqualified even if THEY aren’t poor, and have never broken the “rules” above.

    Finally, please note that it’s possible to break one or more of the rules above, and still not be poor, or not for life. Nevertheless, they are determinative in the opposite direction. Follow them, and you’ll need some seriously bad luck to stay poor for life.

    So, that’s the background of my assertion that while a few “poor” people may make good leaders in Christian community, that will be the exception. They may tend to be those few people who have gotten their lives together AFTER coming out on the wrong side of some of those behaviors above. And if their leadership is inspired by Christ, it will be about leading the “poor” to responsibility (including their responsibility for other “poor”).

    Christ did not tell the widow to take back her mite, nor to create a local poltical presence to demand more help from the rich. He simply blessed her (scripture doesn’t actually say that… but I believe it anyway). He did have specific comments to make about the responsibilities of the rich. Other scripture tells us to care for widows and orphans. It doesn’t really mention the chronically self-destructive. The fundamental tenets of the social gospel run headlong into reality right there, where spiritual change is required before external circumstances can improve (usually, anyway).

    Last observation for the moment: I know of no evidence in scripture that Jesus’ particularly called “the poor” into leadership roles. Not sure there is much scholarship on this point, and maybe I missed a reference somewhere. What we DO know: Paul was probably pretty well off before the Damascus road. There is no evidence of which I’m aware that any of the disciples or apostles were “poor”, unemployed, starving, unusually needy, whatever.

    BTW, as it happens, I’m a big believer in local leadership making more decisions about lots of things, and not just in churches… but there, too. I strongly suspect most national and international organizations precisely because they tend to be led by people who wouldn’t recongnize “non-institutional” behavior if it bit them in the checkbook. I think that probably churches should ALL be small, and occasionally pool resources for particular things. Going against the grain, I know. The “eye of the needle” is an arresting comment to be sure.

    Enough rambling… gotta go turn some perfectly good music into kindling. (It’s called hack arranging.)

  10. aly hawkins Post author

    Now we’re getting somewhere! And I need a drink.

    I am deeply skeptical about a culture of poverty in the USA. (I can hear that gasp of shock, Professor.) I don’t feel I have a good grasp of both sides of the argument, so I want to do some more research to find out what’s up (and to have something besides B.S. to offer by way of debate).

    IF it exists, I agree that proponents and prolongers — if I can create a word — of such a culture would not be good leaders for the church. However, I think the suggestion that “virtually everyone in our culture actually HAS opportunities” is optimistic and underestimates the impact of systemic social problems that have nothing to do with finishing high school, preventing extra-marital babies, etc. I agree that your five rules are a strong headstart in the race to escape poverty, but I think their ultimate efficacy in the face of monumental social collapse (Hyperbole Girl to the Rescue!) is somewhat overrated. A determination to graduate does little to guarantee a living wage, or for that matter, a decent education with possibilities of college, since public schooling in economically-depressed areas is notoriously lacking.

    Aside from my suspicion that the five guidelines are a less-than-surefire ticket out of hell, I’m more worried about the (excuse the buzzword) morality of the economically-privileged — who, IF a culture of poverty exists, are not innocent bystanders — delivering the solution to the underprivileged in a box with a bow on top. “If only you would…” “Can’t you just…” I’m aware there’s tightrope to walk here: Err too far on the side of “informing” and “educating” and one falls into elitism and classism; err too far on the side of “pandering” and “enabling” and one falls into condescension and goo-goo smarminess that couldn’t solve a Rubik’s Cube with three hands.

    And that’s my point: I believe the Kingdom of God is the mystical, magical Third Way, the perfectly-balanced pole that can keep us walking without fear of falling into either chasm. It is the Way of hope for a culture of poverty (IF, etc.), and it is the Way of change for us, “the un-poor.” But the balancing pole of the Kingdom must be carried by us all, and that means standing really, really close together. That’s what I meant by “The poor will always be WITH YOU.” Proximity. Closeness. Friendship. Truly cataclysmic, world-shifting Kingdom change (vastly different than mere social change, and infinitely more valuable) will come only when we’re in it together.

    And that has profound implications for leadership: Who should lead?… the privileged?… the poor? I don’t know. But I DO know we must figure it out together, not huddled in our separate camps, trying to figure out what to do with and to each other.

    Am I avoiding the culture of poverty thing a litte? Yeah. But it’s still not the point.

  11. harmonicminer

    We’re gradually creeping up on understanding.

    What I did not say: engaging in the five positive behaviors will keep YOU out of poverty. Read it again. It gives you a big start, though.

    What I did say: engaging in the five positive behaviors probably will keep your children out of poverty. (again, the qualifier… they probably won’t be poor for life, even if they’re poor when born, if YOU follow those behaviors)

    A high school education WILL get you a living wage in our culture, IF you live within your means. It won’t let you buy a house on your own, but you can get together with some friends and rent an apartment and buy food. You seem to be assuming that a “living wage” is something that allows you to live like your (apparently too rich for their own good) neighbors. I dunno… I thought a living wage was something you could LIVE on, not luxuriate in.

    Even so, that’s not my main point. People who engage in those five behaviors tend to get more education, and/or experience, and/or training at something that makes them more employable. They do it because they haven’t made mistakes that got them in a hole, and because they have motivation and opportunity to do so.

    Embedded in the discussion seems to be the notion that “we non-poor” are responsible for seeking out “the poor” so we can have some “I’m OK, You’re OK” moments in community. Can we reverse this? Why don’t they seek me out? I really don’t know all that many “poor” people. Is it more my responsibility to seek them out than it is theirs to seek me out? Lotsa implications there… But it would be flat amazing if a “poor person” sought me out and said, “I don’t want anything from you, and will never ask. Can we just hang out? You can learn about my life, and I’ll learn about yours? We can be brothers.”

    Of course, any person who did that would probably be showered in gifts before long, if he seemed sincere. But it doesn’t often happen that way, I think.

    The operative phrase above in my earlier post: “If all that’s wrong in your life is that you’re poor, you can do something about it.” I do believe this. Now, if you want to start listing all the things that may stop someone from “doing something about being poor”, you’re going to be listing the other things “wrong in their life”. Most often, the items on THAT list will match up with the golden five behaviors listed previously.

    It boils down to this, for me. I don’t know how to be “in community with the poor”, because they only poor people I know are the ones I send money to on the other side of the world, or the ones helped by our local shelter and community service organization, also supported by our local church (and some of us directly). I don’t know the financial status of everyone in our church. Perhaps some of them are “poor”. If so, the church offers various programs they can use, while maintaining some privacy about that use.

    It would be utterly fake for me to get in my car and drive to some downtrodden neighborhood and lurk around seeking poor people with whom I can be “in community”. Yet this very approach is often encouraged by the “global studies” academic crowd, and the “social work” crowd isn’t much better… the ultimate dunce cap of silliness going to the “social gospel” and (horrors) “social justice” types who are one inch short of being next year’s dictators, believing as they do in confiscation and redistribution.

    I like your dream of the Kingdom Third Way, and the pole analogy is great. It is very idealistic. Past idealism, however, is the reality of choices and policies. Sometimes it comes down to this: my actions in trying to alleviate what I consider to be poverty, now, have repercussions down the decades on the future generations. The only anti-poverty program I know of that has ever worked generationally in this way is to create a system where people can benefit from their own work and choices, and pass it on to their children.

    When people are rewarded for negative behavior, they’ll continue it, and maybe do more of it.

    The church I go to is so small that they actually want me to sing in the choir. ME, famously ugly in vocal production. In a small way, they NEED me. They are dear, dear people, some of whom are theologically confused (judging from my own olympian attainments), but would do anything for you. I even played piano once, just to help in worship. There’s a special offering plate in the back for “general relief”… and it appears to me to have a goodly sum in it each week. The church facility is simple, small and spartan. It does three services per sunday instead of building a bigger place… and the money it would cost goes to missions and local outreach (defined here as meeting physical needs first, then spreading the gospel).

    I trust these people to seek God’s will, and try to do it. Some of them are sexists… we have only male deacons (what a silly thing). Oy vey, they’ll grow out of it. In the meantime, those deacons are the leaders in getting people to contribute to the local outreach programs. So they aren’t so bad.

  12. aly hawkins Post author

    I think our main bone of contention here is “reality” vs. “idealism.” I think I get where you’re coming from: your observations reflect what you see as the practical reality on the ground, and your suggestions reflect what might be some solutions for that reality. And man, I’m all for practicality… in fact, your ideas make sense on many levels.

    Idealism and Good News may look alike on the surface, but they are not the same thing. Idealism says that if we do something different or better, it will start to feel like God is here; Good News says “GOD IS HERE… what does that mean for us?” Idealism says that if we all start acting like we’re in relationship, we’ll feel better about ourselves; Good News says “GOD IS LOVE… what does that mean for us?” Idealism says that if we can just find the magic word, we’ll all live happily ever after; Good News says, “The Word became flesh and lived WITH US… what does that mean for us?” Idealism is easy; Good News is hard. I am not an idealist. I just really dig Good News. (OMG, I am a bad CCM song waiting to happen. Major self-loathing right now.)

    I think we are answering the question, “What does this mean for us (in relationship to the poor)?” in different ways. Your answer is “a system where people can benefit from their own work and choices, and pass it on to their children.” While my answer does not preclude such a system, it demands the inclusion of relationship that goes beyond system and process, which is Good News (not idealism) for everyone, both inside and outside “the system.”

    Why would it be “utterly fake” for you to seek out some friends among the poor? I agree, lurking is probably not the best way to go about it… but making friends is only fake if don’t really want friendship, but something else instead.

    You asked, “Is it more my responsibility to seek them out than it is theirs to seek me out?” I feel awkward about answering this question, Phil (Should I call you Phil?), mostly because I think I cashed in all my scolding chips in my diatribe yesterday. But fools rush in… Your question reminds me a little of the time I got in trouble for not doing my homework and I pointed at my brother and said, “Well, Tim didn’t do his, either!” Pointing out his irresponsibility didn’t change anything, least of all the fact that I hadn’t completed my task. We’re all responsible for our own work, and refusing to complete ours because so-and-so skipped class is “the ultimate dunce cap of silliness,” to borrow your excellent phrase. (Now I’m in the hole — who’s gonna front me for the ante? I’m good for it…)

    Please understand me: I’m really not cloaking unrealistic, pie-in-the-sky idealism in pseudo-spiritual gospel language. Mother Teresa (a practical mystic) said, “We think sometimes that poverty is only being hungry, naked and homeless. The poverty of being unwanted, unloved and uncared for is the greatest poverty.” This kind of poverty cannot be alleviated by a system or process — the only answer to it is love, demonstrated in friendship. It’s not idealism. It’s Good News.

  13. Chad

    May I make a suggestion that you guys stop dancing around the surface and really dig in deep on this issue? Thus far the commentary has been shamefully shallow.

  14. harmonicminer

    Hey Aly, call me whatever appeals at the moment. Everyone else does…. including some things I won’t commit to print in this particular venue.

    You said and/or implied several things, but I’ll try to get to the core of it as quickly may be. I have to destroy some more music today… purely therapeutically, of course.

    My answer to the problem of poverty is not merely “a system where people can benefit from their own work and choices, and pass it on to their children.” We have that, right now, in the USA, or at least as close to it as has ever existed in human history (largely because of a view of human persons at the nation’s founding that was religiously based on the value of individuals, even though imperfectly practiced). It is a necessary condition, but not sufficient. What we DON’T have enough of is:

    1) Spiritual will on the part of people to celebrate their good fortune in living here by making good choices. That’s partly because we don’t have enough of

    2) Spriritual leadership that teaches the correct conclusions from scripture and tradition regarding the role of individual choice vs. social/group solutions to problems stemming from poor individual choice. That’s partly because be don’t have enough of

    3) Recognition that issues of sin and salvation (in this life and the next) are individual, not corporate.

    Symptom: It’s really common to tell “the rich” to “reach out” to “the poor”. The rich do it. The poor do it. The “middle class” does it. I pointed out that no one ever talks of the responsibility of “the poor” to reach out (or to use your phrase, “act like we’re in relationship”) to “the rich”.

    Your response: “Pointing out his irresponsibility didn’t change anything, least of all the fact that I hadn’t completed my task.”

    Outside the fact that some tasks are NEVER completed because they’re lifelong processes, you seem to assume that I haven’t completed my particular task of “being in relationship” with the poor. I think you have no particular knowledge about that, and take as evidence my expressed discomfort with self-consciously hunting out poor people to “get in relationship” with them.

    I wonder: if you counted up all that you’ve written extolling the rich to act better, and all you’ve written extolling the poor to act better, how would the accounts balance? Assuming the accounts are even in your work, what do you think a Lexus-Nexus search on the topic will turn up in the work of others? You wanna pay for it, or should I? (Careful: that’s a loaded question.)

    You speak of “relationship that goes beyond system and process”. I know you explicitly deny “cloaking unrealistic, pie-in-the-sky idealism in pseudo-spiritual gospel language”, but I just don’t know what kind of relationship that would be. How will you define it, or recognize it when you see it? One possible answer: you’ll look for behavior and attitudes that transcend typical patterns and responses. Those behaviors and attitudes MUST exist on both sides of the relationship, though, or the relationship will have the lifespan of an unspun quark. If one side sees it all through the lense of “system and process”, and the other is feeling all lovey-dovey and open and everything, it deteriorates very quickly.

    My assertion: the “side” that DOES see everything through the lense of system/process is “the poor”, those who use the language of the social gospel, those whose mantle of leadership is the language of victimization and “social change”, and those who speak constantly of the responsibility of “the rich” for “the poor”. There isn’t a single transformative attitude in any of that. It is exactly what you’d expect “the poor” to say.

    Sidebar: Gutrot’s concern with the leadership of Christian organization (surely a system and process issue, no?) is a perfect example. Gutrot should really be celebrating success in convincing poor people that it’s all the fault of rich people, so they don’t have to check their own hearts, attitudes and behaviors. BTW… RICH leaders are often the most successful at reinforcing that particular stereotype. Let me know if you want examples.

    What do you think would happen if a bus left a church in South LA and went to typical middle class neighborhoods and asked to be allowed to do yardwork for free, as ministry? What if they literally turned down the money that would inevitably be offered by some? THAT would be transformative, if meant genuinely. It would be abused, sure. Some fools wouldn’t want “that element” in their neighborhood. Get over it. Read Bonhoeffer.

    APU sends all kinds of resources to Mexicali every year. What has Mexicali done for us lately? Oh, they don’t have resources? They can’t get here to do anything useful? Don’t open that particular door….

    The language of “relationship” is very difficult to comprehend without “system and process” thinking. It’s like trying to define affirmative action without using the concept of “quota”, or “guest worker program” without having amnesty, stated or unstated. It has usually meant (in my experience) knowing what you want, but not being really willing to just say it, and hoping the other side will give it to you anyway.

    Now I can answer your question to me: “Why would it be “utterly fake” for you to seek out some friends among the poor?” I’ll answer it very simply: it would be as utterly fake as for poor people to seek “friends” from the among the rich, because they’re rich.

    I HAVE friends. Some few are poor, by some standards (VERY few in the USA are REALLY poor, by global standards). My life is as full as it can be with responsibilities to all kinds of people, for all kinds of things. Can’t take on one more thing. Sorry. But if I HAD a little extra time, money or energy, I wouldn’t go hang around in unfamiliar neighborhoods and pretend I had something special to offer. I’m proud and self-serving… but not quite THAT bad.

    Mother Teresa is a sterling example of many things, but she needed rich people to support her work (NOTE: not people who gave it all away and now had nothing left to give HER). If living in “community” means anything at all, it means accepting that there are lots of different, equally valid life-paths consistent with Christianity.

    So, a simple challenge. Take all the common statements you make about rich and poor, and turn them on their heads, by switching the words “rich” and “poor” in the sentence. See if any meaning is left. Where there IS any meaning left, there is a chance for “relationship”. Where there isn’t, you can draw your own conclusions.

  15. aly hawkins Post author

    If we go on too much longer here, Michael may ask us to take our ball and trample someone else’s yard. I trust he’ll let us know when that time comes…

    Many thoughts are swirling in response to your response to my response, but here are the two biggies:

    - I can’t concur with your assertion that “sin and salvation (in this life and the next) are individual, not corporate,” which may be why we do not and may not see eye to eye on this topic. I don’t believe this is a biblical view of sin, and I don’t believe it’s a kingdom view of salvation. Christianity has much to learn about communal sin from her older sister, Judaism, about which I have written previously. We are not monads; we live in a Creation that is woven together in a web of intricacy and interdependence, and a biblical view of sin and salvation sees the affects of the Fall and the possibility of Redemption as global and communal, not isolated and personal. Salvation is not about saving individual souls (though that gets done, too), it is about redeeming the mess we’ve made of the Creator’s handiwork by being reconciled to Him and each other. (I can proof-text all these wild claims, but it’s something I try to avoid whenever possible.) If one subscribes to this view of sin and salvation, it is impossible to ignore the people and places still cursed by “our” sin and urgent as all get-out to repent and be reconciled so we may all be saved.

    - The people with whom I am friends through this blog are (to my knowledge) not poor. Any challenge I issue here (i.e., “Go make friends with poor people.”) is in this context. In my friendships with poor people, any challenge I issue (i.e., “Go make friends with rich people.”) is for that context. If I issue a challenge to the rich for the poor (i.e., “The poor should make friends with the rich.”) or vice versa, the right people are not listening and an “us vs. them” mentality is perpetuated. I’m coming out, right now, strongly in favor of poor people making friends with rich people… but they’re probably not listening here, so I will save that challenge for a venue (or friendship) where the people for whom the challenge is intended are listening. On this blog, I’ll continue to be the canker on the flesh of the rich (including myself).

    And in answer to your question “What has Mexicali done for us lately?”: Fish tacos, dude.

  16. michael lee

    Just to put everyone’s concerns to rest, I think this is fantastic. It’s exactly what the site was meant to be: a place for lively, thoughtful and informed discussion, with the occasional nerd joke thrown in for good measure. As long as everyone emerges as friends at the end, I see no good reason to slow the roll on this thread. I know I’m interested in seeing both lines of thinking continue to develop.

    And Aly, just to allay some of your fears about tangling it up with a former teacher (who was recently elevated to Full Professor, congrats Shack), I know Phil to be one of those people who can distinguish between a spirited disagreement with his ideas and a personal attack. You won’t offend him by stating why you think he’s wrong.

    I, for example, diagree with his crazy ideas that “students” should “learn things” in the classroom, or that “grading” should be “objective, and not based on cash tips”, but he’s not really offended that I disagree with him.

    And with that said, carry on. I’ll jump back later when I decide if I want to lose a friend or a boss.

  17. harmonicminer

    Hmm… I don’t think I said anything that disagrees with the notion that we are to try to be reconciled with each other and the Creator. But I take the Fall very seriously. We can’t fix it. And God doesn’t plan to fix it “corporately” in this plenum.

    RE: your offer to proof-text (I’ll take that in a positive sense for which it usually is not meant), you’ll have to show me, I guess. The only GROUP thing I know of is the occasional “as for me and my house” comment… mostly said by patriarchal males who would explicitly deny your right to even participate in the conversation… or so the feminist critique goes, anyway. There’re a coupla comments about parents and children, also not taken normatively by most theologians. Perhaps you disagree… and maybe you’re right… I tend to have a low opinion of theologians, come to think of it.

    What IS fairly ambiguous is the free will/determinism conundrum. Don’t worry: I’m not about to say the poor were pre-destined to be so… quite the opposite.

    Wanna take the Lexus/Nexus dare? Search for entries that include the words “rich”, “poor”, “minister” or “ministry”, “community” and “responsibility”. See what you get. I think you’ll see that you’re squarely in the middle of the (hateful as it may be) mainstream understanding of all this… which itself should be grounds for suspicion, since the mainstream is rarely correct on spiritual matters…. historically speaking.

    Did I say something about ignoring someplace or someone as a matter of policy for everyone? I am finite, however…. and I have enough to do.

    I’ll be happy to send you postcards in the Sudan… or wherever you wind up. From which remove, of course, you’ll be ignoring ME and my needs, which, as you’ve pointed out, are sprititually at least as great as “the poor”. I feel neglected already.

    Be very no-kidding honest with me for a moment: do YOU recall hearing any significant discussion from anyone concerning the failure of “the poor” to minister to “the rich”? And does the dialog about the whole topic work when reversed as I suggested previously?

    “The rich” are NOT in a priveleged spiritual position just because they’re “rich”. Their spiritual need is just as great…. or greater, if you listen to some folks. Who speaks seriously of ministering to them spiritually? ALL they get is some pretty clear exhortation to give more… and that is hardly spiritual advice, since it is given equally freely by secular humanists and certain “religious” leaders. Who seeks community with “the rich” in a way intended to gently lead them to the higher path FIRST (assuming you think they aren’t on it yet)…. and THEN get their money?

    I’m arranging a song for a children’s musical about Spies. I’ve stolen every James Bond lick I can think of here… and I can’t bring myself to rip off Austin Powers music for a Christian children’s musical.

    Help!

    BTW… I already emailed MIKE to see if he wants us to knock it off here… but it’s been fun!

  18. aly hawkins Post author

    Whatever the proportion of exhortation to the rich vs the poor on the Lexus-Nexus search (and if you really insist, we can do it… but it still misses my point), it’s probably about the same as the Bible. According to scripture, YES! the rich are in dire spiritual straits — but its remedy is to get off our duffs and serve people. My suspicion is that scripture’s emphasis on “feeding the hungry,” “clothing the naked,” “giving a drink to the thirsty,” etc. is JUST AS MUCH ABOUT the spiritual health of those DOING the feeding, clothing, giving, etc. as it is about the beneficiaries of such kindness.

    I’m at work this morning, so I can’t write a new Epistle… but more later.

  19. Phil Shackleton

    Hmm.. I think you may be insufficiently sympathetic with the spiritual plight of “the rich”…. assuming you literally mean “the rich are in dire spiritual straits”.

    Scripture’s emphasis is NOT simply, or even mainly, on “doing good”. We don’t need to recapitulate the entire discussion of faith and works, but it applies here. The GOOD NEWS is that we CAN’T do good, mostly, but it’s OK, and we should try where we can. In other words: the giving comes from the spiritual health, not the reverse. The concern for everyone should be the spiritual health of everyone, in faith that “doing good” will proceed from it.

    I’ve always been fascinated that people will demand “the rich” give more, today, right now… WITHOUT “getting in relationship” with them first. But if the same demand is made of “the poor” to engage in behaviors for their own good that will improve their situation, and stop propagating it (their “poor” situation.. meant in a variety of ways) down the generations, that demand will be characterized as racist, or sexist, or elitist, or (fill in the blank here)ist.

    We “rich” can’t stand over in our safe little neighborhoods and demand behavior change…. but those “poor” can stay in theirs and demand that we send money. We “rich” are told we don’t understand, that we must “get in relationship” with the “poor” in order to have standing in their lives to say anything about them or to them… Do you see the reverse practiced, or advised, or preached? I don’t… except for a very few. Maybe Jesse Peterson… a couple others.

    I’ve heard the suggestion that we “rich” can “get in relationship” with the “poor” by giving more… then we’ll have standing to talk about other things. So… how do the “poor” get “in relationship” with the “rich”?

    OK… you see where all this is going.

    I guess my point: what currently masquerades (in my judgment) as a sense of the duties of Christian community is largely warmed over 19th century economic theory minus (some of) the atheism. This is (erroneously) supported by a misreading of the Acts reports of “holding everything in common”.

    The meaning of “the poor” in scripture has almost no relation to anyone currently living in the USA who is not simply a victim of crime (for which remedies exist, and I include in that child victims of neglect by “responsible” persons), a deliberate dropout, or a mentally ill person. If you’re starving, naked or thirsty here, you’re probably in one of the categories above. Here, “the poor” have TVs and dress better than i do (don’t say it, Chad…. I’m warning you!). The poor in Scripture were literally starving. Imprisonment was frequently capricious punishment by implacable authority. People regularly died of thirst or hunger in bad conditions, drought, etc. There are plenty of places in the world that are still like that… the USA isn’t one of them.

    Final question for now: What are your feelings about compelling “the rich” to care for “the poor”. And why? With what penalty for failure to comply?

  20. Phil

    Hah!!! The mask is off now!!! Now EVERYONE will know who the evil harmonicminer really IS!!!

    Actually… I just sent the last post from a school computer, which doesn’t automatically know of my secret identity.

    Back to augmented seconds…. and diminished fifths, when I can’t find whole ones.

  21. aly hawkins Post author

    1. “The GOOD NEWS is that we CAN’T do good, mostly, but it’s OK, and we should try where we can. In other words: the giving comes from the spiritual health, not the reverse.” This interpretation of GOOD NEWS is just not how I read the words of Jesus, who yammered on and on about the kingdom of God being “near” and “with you” and “at hand” in the same sentence as “good news.” (You can search both “good news” and “gospel” at Biblegateway.com to see what I mean.) It’s HIS use of “good news” that must inform how we read Paul’s usage. (That is, read Romans through the lens of the Gospels – which is the lens thru which Paul wrote it. Makes a big, BIG difference.) And in and around those same “kingdom of God” statements, Jesus says how one can recognize this kingdom: hungry being fed, thirsty being given something to drink, incarcerated being visited, naked being clothed, strangers getting invited over for dinner. These are indicators of the kingdom, and if they’re not being DONE BY (not just PAID FOR BY) people who claim to be the subjects of this kingdom, maybe they are mistaken about their address.

    2. I, too, take the Fall seriously. But I also take Creation seriously, as that is where we can find out about God’s intentions and dreams for His Creation (the statute of limitations having expired on neither).

    3. I affirm the “rich’s” right to stand in their safe neighborhoods and demand behavior change, though I believe acting on that right is neither helpful nor the point of this discussion. (Just as I believe the “poor’s” right to the same is irrelevant.) Since you keep coming back around to it, I’m guessing it must be very important to you… so please, demand away. But if none of the people with the behaviors you wish to change are close enough to listen, it’s a waste of breath.

    4. I’m having a hard time buying the “Well, we don’t have to take Jesus seriously because we don’t have REALLY poor people like they did in olden times” argument. That’s like, “We don’t have to pay taxes because our government isn’t Caesar.”

    5. I’m not interested in compelling anybody to do anything, especially not by making care for the poor compulsory and the failure to do so felonious. NONE of what I’ve said in this forum has anything to do with legistlation I am proposing or would applaud. This is kingdom business, not politics, and as such it applies only to those in the kingdom.

  22. aly hawkins Post author

    Okay, re-reading my earlier comment, I realize that I was a bit brusque and insensitive. (My only excuse is I was still at work and trying to write really fast and covertly.) I’m sorry for any nastiness – I definitely didn’t intend it that way! I’m really nice. Honest.

  23. harmonicminer

    Hah! I’ll bet you’re stalking me, just to read my house number and give it to poor people! On the other hand, not to worry… I live in a sufficiently remote location in the high desert hills that if the proverbial South LA church bus of people showed up to show love to me buy mowing my lawn, about all they could do is sweep dirt… which would blow back in 60 seconds later… I suppose they could trim juniper bushes…. if the darn things would stop chasing the rabbits and scaring my dogs…. who are exceptionally timid.

    In fact… it’s so far out here that if you Google EARTH on my house, you can’t find it… Oh, shut up, Chad.

    Aly, RELAX… we’re just talking. You get a little excited. I get a little excited. It’s OK. If I wasn’t enjoying the conversation (and YOU!) I wouldn’t be here. Not only do I have an inordinate fondness for former APU students, and not only are you creative and clever (you’re writing is especially twisty and turny… and I mean that in the nicest possible way), his inestimable nibs, the grand poobah of sidereal technical coherence, ML himself vouches for you. He only vouches for me when I slip him money under the table. Unless you’re considerably richer than ME (in which case why aren’t you sending ME money?!??!?, hmm…?), his reference for you is unimpeachable. Or maybe not quite THAT fruity.

  24. harmonicminer

    “Jesus, who yammered on and on”

    Aly, see what I mean? I’ve just never read those words in a row. You go, girl.

    I’m pretty sure that the GOOD NEWS was the person and work of the Christ Himself. What I called the GOOD NEWS above is one of the corollarys to that.

    It’s pretty clear (you can check this with the grand poobah.. he’s the one with the theology degree) that Romans predates the gospels, though doubtless some of the stories and sayings were known to Paul.

    “Jesus says how one can recognize this kingdom: hungry being fed, thirsty being given something to drink, incarcerated being visited, naked being clothed, strangers getting invited over for dinner. These are indicators of the kingdom”

    YES! Absolutely. But the behavior FOLLOWS the spiritual renewal. The behavior isn’t the POINT, nor even is the service done by believers. The sprititual renewal is the point… and the rest follows.

    And, I have to say: in the USA, those indicators ARE met even in the absence of the Kingdom, because we’re such a wealthy nation, and have just enough concern mixed with squeamishness not to tolerate abject poverty in our midst. With the possible exception of visiting the prisoners… and even THEY get enormous amounts of attention from prison ministries, in comparison to anything in Jesus’ day. And the previous caveat applies: THEN, imprisonment was almost always capricious, and frequently essentially political. Criminals (even relatively petty ones) were often KILLED. The notion of imprisonment then and now as being equivalent is just laughable.

    “and if they’re not being DONE BY (not just PAID FOR BY) people who claim to be the subjects of this kingdom, maybe they are mistaken about their address.”

    I’m sorry, I just can’t track this one. You mean that if I’m not serving the soup myself, it doesn’t count? Do you really mean this?

    I doubt that either of us knows much about God’s intentions or dreams re: the Creation or anything else. The J-C tradition gives us some idea about what God’s intentions for us are now, post-Fall. But no one would have been taking care of the poor, etc., sans Fall, because there wouldn’t have been any…

    I think you’re missing the point I’m trying make about “rich” and “poor” making demands of each other. This whole thread started over your assertion that “poor” people would make equally valid (or better!) leaders for “Christian community”. Hmm.. Maybe sometimes. Such a leader’s main job (remember: this is someone who is ALREADY “in relationship” to the “poor”) will be, in our particular culture (which has few actually POOR) to exhort and lead her OWN community out of dependence OR expectation OR demand from “the rich”. That is very rarely the model of leadership seen in the “Christian community” these days.

    I apologize for quoting all of the following, but I want to be clear. You said:

    [I’m having a hard time buying the “Well, we don’t have to take Jesus seriously because we don’t have REALLY poor people like they did in olden times” argument. That’s like, “We don’t have to pay taxes because our government isn’t Caesar.”]

    That just isn’t a serious comparison.

    I didn’t say “we don’t have to take Jesus seriously”! That’s maybe just a touch hyperbolic… The POOR people in this world just aren’t mostly in our communities, that’s all. We have responsibility to do what we can to alleviate poverty in other places, where it’s very real, and the “cycle of poverty” you mentioned earlier is entrenched. But we really can’t fix it for them, though we should do what we can with wisdom and discernment (which doesn’t mean climbing on the bandwagon for every new notion that makes us feel good for trying!). There are just too many people who DON’T have Kingdom perspectives who affect the situation more than we can, because they live there, and control the political power there. So we do what we can, as God leads, because every individual is precious, but it’s useless for you to mail money to a dictator, the approximate situation with many popular notions of international aid.

    And just to make a note: as I read history (Genesis on out) it is ENTIRELY possible for the USA to again become a nation with truly POOR people. Our current prosperity is not guaranteed… FAR from it. You already know what I’m going to say is necessary to avoid that grim fate, I expect. Hint: it isn’t giving more money to “poor” people, USA 21st century style. But it does involve spiritual leadership and renewal. Take a look at Europe, and see the future of the welfare state.

    The poorest person in LA (short of those victims of crime, mental illness, deliberate dropouts, etc) is richer than MOST people at the time of Jesus. She has more to eat, is more protected from the elements, has better healthcare, works less and has more freedom of all kinds, you name it. She’ll live lots longer, on average.

    FASTFORWARD: It’s now the year 3000. There are some crushingly “poor” people in whatever remains of LA that year, by standards current then. They live just about like upper-middle class people now. There are also “rich” people, who vacation on other planets. Will “Christian community” demand that believers of that era alleviate the poverty of “the poor”? This may seem ridiculous to you as a comparison: but see the present through the lense of 2000 years ago. The change between then and now is FAR greater than the one I just outlined.

    Are you a literalist, or a contexualist? Do you cling to certain phrases and ideas that appear in the scripture even when they clearly were meant for situations different than your own? Do you refuse to cut your hair, and keep silent in church, too? I suspect there are some things in scripture that you think do not apply to you, because times are different now, and the writers of scripture couldn’t help seeing things through the world they knew. The real point, after all, is Jesus and his work on earth, and that work is primarily spiritual, and demands each generation to discover what spiritual insight and “Christian community” means in that time and place.

    I take it from your last comment that you’re in favor of abolishing taxation for the purpose of redistribution? Or did you mean to say “not interested in changing the current law”, which makes it a felony to avoid taxes that will be used in this way? An enormous amount of verbiage has been wasted on the possible meanings of “paying Ceasar”. Maybe Jesus was just being practical? As in, stay out of jail by obeying the laws you can… save your jail time for things that matter more… exactly as the apostles did! But that doesn’t rule out working for useful change on the political level…. though I’m guessing (just guessing, mind you!) that we may not see totally eye to eye on just what that may be.

  25. aly hawkins Post author

    Whew. This conversation is taking over my life. (I’m a slow writer and an even slower thinker.) If we keep going, we should consider publication. If only I knew a publisher…

    We’ve got so many strands of disagreement that (being a slow thinker) I’m starting to get overwhelmed. To keep my brain from short-circuiting, I’ll take each of your points one at a time:

    - I believe the Good News is the ongoing redemptive work of God throughout history. Yes, that work was and is incarnated in the person and work of Jesus as its ultimate revelation, but it was not and is not bound by it. (Michael, would you like to chime in here?)

    - I mean to say (sorry, precision is not my gift… overstatement is) that the EVENTS and SAYINGS OF JESUS recorded in the Gospels would have informed Paul’s understanding of “Good News.”

    - I think the divide between spiritual belief (renewal) and spiritual practice (service, etc.) is a relatively new one, an over-correction of the Reformation against Roman Catholicism. Yes, we are saved by faith. But saved to what? The kingdom of God, where good works confirm a true “change of address.”

    - In 2004, “4.4 million [households] suffered from food insecurity that was so severe that USDA’s very conservative measure classified them as ‘hungry.’” Still hungry people in the USA, according a US Census Bureau / USDA report. You may continue to argue that we don’t have poor people, since the poor aren’t as poor as the poor in 1st century Palestine. We will have to agree to disagree.

    - Money is important. I’m not dissing money. I happen to like money, especially when I have enough of it to pay bills, eat, and give some away. But I don’t think giving money can replace service as a spiritual practice. My gift of overstatement was shining as a beacon for this dark world when I wrote “maybe they are mistaken about their address.” What I should have written is “maybe they don’t realize that service is as much for their benefit as that of those who are served.”

    - God’s intentions and dreams for Creation (and humanity as part of that Creation) were the same before the Fall as they are now. Do you believe that sin subverted God’s intentions and He had to scramble and switch to Plan B, which was “try to save as many of them as I can before it all burns”? I think He’s a bit bigger than that.

    - I definitely agree that a spiritual leader will challenge her community to greater and greater responsibility. This goes back to my question “saved to what“? Only a vision of the interdependence of the kingdom of God will galvanize “the poor” to care for each other AND “the rich” as part of their spiritual practice.

    - There are still poor people in the USA, as well as the rest of the world. When kids no longer go to bed hungry, we can talk about whether or not they should have free rides to the rings of Saturn.

    - I am a contextualist who prays never to contextualize the literal kingdom of God right out of the picture. Jesus was convinced (and he was in a position to know) that aligning oneself with the kingdom would make a literal difference in the way people related to each other, here and now. Aligning oneself with the kingdom was not just a change in one’s belief, but a change in one’s way of life. I don’t know what “that work is primarily spiritual” means. I guess I’m all frou-frou and new-agey and holistic, but I just don’t see how “spiritual work” stands apart from the rest of life.

    - I didn’t say anything about my views regarding current US law. My suggestions throughout this conversation have been with regard to relationship-building for the kingdom’s sake, and I’m not idealist enough to believe that friendship should or could be legislated.

  26. Phil

    it’s Ok Aly… i think it’s probably time to put “paid” to this particular thread, unless someone else wants to chime in. I think we inhabit quite different theological and practical worlds, and use words in very different ways, to different ends. My “internal” evidence for this: i agree with very much of what you just said (not all)… and I suspect you think most of it was disagreeing with me…. which, from my perspective and as I understand the rules of English and rhetoric, it was not, mostly. Or just a little.

    So: take a break from my endless harassment of your charming post. Spend your time creating more food for thought in the form of Dementape letters. I’ll try to chew quietly… though occasionally I may burp.

    I’ll try to remember to say, “Excuse me.”

  27. aly hawkins

    Burps are welcomed, as are hiccups (Chad). Phil, I SO appreciate your willingness to light a fire under my ass and challenge me. And (to be honest) I feel honored that you would take time to cross swords with li’l old me. I’m still growing up, and I’m thankful for anyone who helps me grow in the right direction.

  28. harmonicminer

    Hah, don’t kid yourself. I’m not helping ANYBODY grow up… I’m a teenager (emotional age around 13) with gray hair and pretensions. I merely express them with great elegance and polysyllabic discourse. eek, now I’m not sure if it’s “gray” or “grey”… or is this a case of either is OK?

    I’ll be interested to read the book you’re editing.

  29. harmonicminer

    Well… I’ve done it again. It isn’t Lexus-Nexus. It’s Lexis-Nexis.

    Yeesh.

    A Lexus is a car.

    A Nexus is a meeting place.

    Lexis.

    Nexis.

    Lexis.

    Nexis.

    Lexis.

    Nexis.

    .
    .
    .

    Hey, this is lot’s easier than writing it on the board a thousand times… Love that cut and paste.

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