The Least, First

Monte Asbury's blog

Archive for September 2007

Say, Senator, how ’bout real reform?

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Written by Monte

September 29, 2007 at 8:44 pm

Am I “for us or against us”?

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It’s a troubling question for we who’ve long breathed the mix of nationalism and faith that so influences American outlooks. These quotes have challenged me:

Are you for us or for our enemies?” “Neither, he replied, “but as commander of the army of the LORD I have now come.” –Joshua and “a man,” apparently an angel, sent to represent God to the Hebrew army; Joshua 5:13 (NIV)

“Christians are geographic, cultural, national and ethnic egalitarians; for them there is no geographic center of the world, but only a constellation of points equidistant from the heart of God. … Christian global vision asks that you care as much about any and every country and its people as you do your own. … This implies that your politics become reoriented, non-aligned, and unpredictable by normal canons.” –Daniel Clendennin, The Journey with Jesus: The divided loyalties of resident aliens (quoted in a sermon posted as Citizens of Another Nation).

“[followers of Christ] dwell in their own countries, but simply as sojourners. As citizens, they share in all things with others, and yet endure all things as if foreigners. Every foreign land is to them as their native country, and every land of their birth as a land of strangers.” –Letter to Diognetus (2nd century C.E., quoted by Clendennin, and in Citizens of Another Nation).

He who surrenders himself without reservation to the temporal claims of a nation, or a party, or a class is rendering to Caesar that which, of all things, most emphatically belongs to God: himself…” – C.S. Lewis (quoted in the iGoogle gadget C.S. Lewis quotes)

And you?


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Written by Monte

September 26, 2007 at 12:28 pm

Barbara Ehrenreich: Reform is over, Insurance Industry has won

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I hope you’ve read Barbara Ehrenreich’s important book Nickel and Dimed: On not getting by in America. She signs-on at minimum-wage jobs, sets her own assets aside, and chronicles just how possible it really is for poor Americans who “get a job!” to get on. We middle-class Americans do need to learn a few things, and these are lessons of critical importance.

Ehrenreich’s most recent blog post describes the state of healthcare reform. Here are some excerpts (but I do encourage you to read the whole thing). The emphases are mine, along with some comments at the end:

Barbara EhrenreichWe Have Seen the Enemy — And Surrendered

Bow your heads and raise the white flags. After facing down the Third Reich, the Japanese Empire, the U.S.S.R., Manuel Noriega and Saddam Hussein, the United States has met an enemy it dares not confront – the American private health insurance industry.

With the courageous exception of Dennis Kucinich, the Democratic candidates have all rolled out health “reform” plans that represent total, Chamberlain-like, appeasement. Edwards and Obama propose universal health insurance plans that would in no way ease the death grip of Aetna, Unicare, MetLife, and the rest of the evil-doers. Clinton – why are we not surprised? – has gone even further, borrowing the Republican idea of actually feeding the private insurers by making it mandatory to buy their product. Will I be arrested if I resist paying $10,000 a year for a private policy laden with killer co-pays and deductibles? […] Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Monte

September 26, 2007 at 4:00 am

Is Jesus enough? (readings for Sep. 30, 2007)

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Rich man and LazarusIf you’ve been reading my sermons for a while (may a thousand blessings fall upon you), you know that I started following the lectionary’s Scripture sequence a few years ago. I did it in the hope of more accurately reflecting the priorities of Jesus. The theory went like this: If he spoke about something a lot (as recorded in the gospels), I’d end up speaking about it a lot. If he rarely spoke of a certain theme, it wouldn’t show up much in my preaching, either.

I am astonished— truly—at where this has led. For I found chapter after chapter (thus, for me, week after week) of repetition of a very few themes, especially in Luke’s gospel. Two seemed to tower over everything else: I see him on page after page befriending and serving despised, rejected people; and I hear him talking again and again about standing with the poor and powerless against the wealthy and powerful.

The congregation I serve absorbs this with great seriousness. I would be tempted to say, were I in their shoes, “Our pastor has gone radical.” Years ago, I might have said, “This is the ‘social gospel.’ When’s he going to get back to getting people saved?”

Which reminds me of a question a friend asked once: Is Jesus enough?

Is it OK to focus on the things Jesus focuses on? Do his topics need theological-izing in order to guarantee their orthodoxy? Would we be wise to mix things up a bit when Jesus leans on an issue over and over?

Or is Jesus good enough? I’m finding, it seems, that the my unfamiliarity with what matters most to him has left me rather comfortably unchallenged about what matters most to me. And that seems like a rather hopeful discovery.

I mention all that for this reason: Here he goes again. You’ll see what I mean:

Proper 21 (26) September 30, 2007
Luke 16:19-31;1 Timothy 6:6-19;Jeremiah 32:1-3a, 6-15;Psalm 91:1-6,14-16
To read these passages in another language (not a machine translation) or another English version,
click: Bible Gateway and select your choice from the drop-down menu.

Luke 16:19-31
The Rich Man and Lazarus
19-21″There once was a rich man, expensively dressed in the latest fashions, wasting his days in conspicuous consumption. A poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores, had been dumped on his doorstep. Read the rest of this entry »

Iran demands UN nuclear Inspectors in Israel

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clipped from www.haaretz.com
For the first time, Iran directly confronts Israel on nuclear arms …
Iran demanded that United Nations inspectors visit Israel to investigate its nuclear capability … at an assembly of the UN atomic watchdog in Vienna on Friday …
United Nations officials at a 149-nation meeting of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in Vienna said they had no memory of the two rival nations ever engaging each other directly at previous meetings …
Israel is widely assumed to have the Middle East’s only atomic arsenal, though it has never confirmed or denied this …
It is also one of just three states to shun the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, along with India and Pakistan. …
Arab countries and Iran railed at “persistent international double standards and silence” over Israeli nuclear exclusivity in the Middle East. …
  blog it

Does Iran have a point here?


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Written by Monte

September 23, 2007 at 9:41 am

Posted in Iran, Israel, Politics, Terrorism

Listen to Obama five years ago

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ObamaI have no idea what Republicans and Democrats will be doing come caucus time in Iowa next January (or what I’ll be doing). But I came across this speech of Barak Obama given five years ago (courtesy of meditatio), and found it remarkable. Given the hopeless swamp that Iraq has become, he appears to have hit the nail on the head then.

That ought to count. The much-touted “experience” of others is surely less significant than the quality of judgment such experience reveals. And what a different place the world would be if the others had responded like this:

I don’t oppose all wars. And I know that in this crowd today, there is no shortage of patriots, or of patriotism.

What I am opposed to is a dumb war. What I am opposed to is a rash war. What I am opposed to is the cynical attempt by Richard Perle and Paul Wolfowitz and other armchair, weekend warriors in this administration to shove their own ideological agendas down our throats, irrespective of the costs in lives lost and in hardships borne. Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Monte

September 22, 2007 at 8:17 pm

Posted in Iran, Iraq, Politics, Terrorism

Rachel Corrie and the defense of Palestinians’ homes

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Here’s a moving video that visits the site of the death of Rachel Corrie, an American who died trying to prevent the Israeli Army from demolishing the homes and life savings of helpless Palestinian families.
Thank you, Rachel, for “defending the defenseless.” I am sorry it cost you so much.


With thanks to Righthand
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Written by Monte

September 22, 2007 at 12:53 pm

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