Our Blessed Hope

I most certainly do want to wish all of you a most happy and blessed Easter today.

I don’t have to tell you that our joyous celebration is the second consecutive Easter taking place while COVID-19 is drastically effecting how we gather together.

And even though much progress is being made on returning our lives and our spiritual practices back to some semblance of normal, it’s true that for most Christians, the virus is still blunting the Joy of Eastertime and the ways we have always come together to celebrate it.

But even in these troubling times, this we know: the hope and transcendent glory of Christ’s resurrection was a stunning, singular event on that first Easter morning and we can feel and appropriate that glory, that blessed hope today just as surely as Jesus’s followers and grief-wracked mother did nearly two millennia ago.

May that blessed hope be yours today.

Ben Basile

© 2021 The Fellowship of St Francis, Inc.

Church Membership Continues to Fall

As you most likely know, Church membership in the US has been declining for many years. As the line on the graph continues its steep drop, a milestone has been reached.

Americans who do belong to a church are now in the minority.

The stark truth that so many in positions of leadership in the institutional Church don’t want to admit is simply this: the downward trend will continue — and will actually accelerate — as long as many denominations and congregations continue to treat Christianity as merely a ticket to heavenly bliss and as a club to be used to beat unbelievers, doubters and heretics over their collective head.

Yes, members will keep heading for the exit. Many will number themselves among the millions who choose the “spiritual but not religious” tag. And many will simply turn away and feel an unending sadness and sense of alienation. So many feel as though they are falling into a deep well of anger and bewilderment. For many spiritual orphans, those feelings will persist as long as they draw breath.

It may be true that this was bound to happen regardless of how Church leadership and those engaged in Pastoral Ministry went about their business. There are many, many factors at work here and many of them are beyond anyone’s control.

But the trend has been made much worse by the way so much of the leadership in so many church bodies and congregations have been chasing after the two false gods which have blunted the witness of the Church, alienated millions of believers and created scandal after scandal: a heretical and hyped Prosperity Gospel and the unchecked lust for political power by denominational leadership.

It’s not the Devil. It’s not the liberals. It’s not the godless, evil Apostles of Atheism. It is the Ken Copelands, the Paula Whites and the Jerry Falwells, those who hold the reigns of power, those who are leading God’s flock.

It did not have to be this way.

Ben Basile

© 2021 The Fellowship of St Francis, Inc.

A Christmas Morning Wish for Everyone

 I wish all of you a wonderful Christmas. This piece of mine was originally posted on Christmas Day, 2007 on another site. 

This has been a challenging year for me in a lot of ways, yet I find myself feeling even more than the usual holiday spirit right now as I sit at the keyboard, waiting for Santa to come down my chimney. Wait! I don’t have a chimney! Oh well, I still believe! Well, the part about Santa, who can say? The rest of it, I’m still pretty big on all the good stuff that we think about when the holidays roll around each year. No doubt a lot of you feel the same.

The Christmas story does hold a lot of meaning for me. I’m not quite sure if I still believe all of it, all the nuances and consequences and so on; not quite like one “believes it” when the assembled faithful say the Apostles Creed together at Midnight Mass. Some will be doing exactly that in just a few hours, perhaps some of you.

Yet it doesn’t seem at all “funny” to me that God comes to us whenever it suits his/her purpose. Not entirely sure if “he” did in that particular, historical way. Being raised in a Christian family and having gone part-way through seminary a few years ago, I do lean in that direction. But I’ve come to see some things in a different light now that I’ve spent a little better than a half-century on this planet. This planet where almost a billion people believe that God became incarnate, was born of a young woman who had never “known” her betrothed. And that his coming among us in that way was the beginning of a Divine plan to make it possible for all of his creatures to enjoy unending fellowship with him and with one another! In this life and in the next! Now that’s a story! One we humans have been telling one another for a very long time, and I’m quite sure we’ll be telling it for a long time to come.

I’ve been struggling for so many years now about exactly how much of the story still “works” for me and all of that. But what I’ve never doubted is that God, or the Divine, does come to us and among us all the time. And I’m finally in that phase of life where I’ve learned to look for it, to expect it and to embrace it. And I know that the other really big thing about Christmastime is to get a bit closer to my brothers and sisters who also bear the image of the Divine One in their souls and on their beaming faces. Some of them were raised on the same stories I was; this one about God being born of a virgin, and many others.

Some, of course, have heard and embraced and celebrated different stories. I’m not very inclined to quibble about the particulars at this point in my life. I’m quite sure that God would love to see us move a little closer together at this time of year, and to go on telling those stories; especially that one about God robed in human flesh, living and dying as one of us. And I’m quite sure that the heart of the Divine is pleased when we carry forward “his” mission to strip away that illusion that our sins, imperfections, and much less, our differences, should separate us from one another or from his Divine Heart.

Well, Christmas Eve has progressed, as it will, into Christmas morning as I’m wrapping up this little holiday message. And I’m sitting here, luminous and expectant, like a six year old waiting for Santa to appear. Like Simeon in the temple, waiting to bless the infant Jesus, knowing then that he has seen and embraced, quite literally, the Divine plan to end our sinful and deadly illusions of separateness. I’m expectant, waiting in earnest to see and to embrace the next manifestation of the Divine. In you, in her, in us. Perhaps–and wouldn’t this be a great story–perhaps in and across many countries and cultures, in four billion human hearts at once!

A wish, a dream, a fervent hope… Perhaps that’s all it is. But a hope to hold close to one’s heart on Christmas morning. God bless each of you today and throughout the year to come. May you be blessed to see the image of the Divine, of the Christ-child in yourself–and in one another.

Ben Lawrence Basile
Christmas morning, 2020

© 2007 Benjamin Lawrence Basile

The Leader’s Dark Picture

As the 2020 Elections get closer, we can see conflicts raging in a few of our country’s communities.

In most of our cities, there are no protests marked by violence or any unrest causing serious disturbances.

In a few of our communities–a very few, truth be told–there are serious problems and it’s not certain when the unrest may abate or what a successful strategy for a resolution might look like.

The President is using fear in an attempt to frighten voters into giving him another term to quell the violence that has happened on his watch, the violence which has been worsened by his failure to address long-ignored issues of social justice and of equal treatment for all citizens.

The dark picture of America that he’s trying to paint for his supporters does not reflect the true reality.

The irony is that if he is re-elected, the dark hues we can see around the picture’s edges will intensify, spread and despoil the fragile image.

We must not allow anyone to wield fear as a weapon and convince the American people that the entire nation is wracked by explosive, uncontrolled mob violence from Portland all the way to D.C.. It’s simply not true.

Furthermore, we must reject the proposition that the protests and unrest–in the few communities where there has been actual violence–calls for Federal shock troops outfitted with military-grade weaponry cracking the skulls of citizens who are looking to their elected officials to respond to their grievances.

The unrest will be eased and moved toward better outcomes when all communities believe that our elected leaders and those in law enforcement, in particular, are serious about reform.

Unless and until that happens, there will be tension, unrest and, it must be said, actual violence.

Two things that will never ease, much less resolve, the problem of violence in our streets: first, ignoring the urgent calls to address long-ignored issues of social justice.

And secondly, trying to quell the unrest at the point of a gun.

Brother Ben


© 2020 The Fellowship of St Francis, Inc.

Mr Falwell is out at Liberty

August has been a really tough month for Jerry Falwell Jr. That’s putting it mildly.

And things got worse in the last 24 hours. Much worse.

He just resigned as the President of Liberty University, the Virginia school founded by his Father.

As you know if you’ve looking around here on this blog lately, I have been following this matter. My time in seminary was at a well-known University which was also led by a charismatic leader who garnered headlines on a daily basis.

Sadly, we often discover that ministers, evangelists and University Presidents in powerful positions lead lives that are not consistent with what they preach.

When that’s the case, they’re rarely successful at keeping the secrets secret.

I don’t wish Mr Falwell ill. But it’s a good thing that the charade is over.

Rev. Falwell has a myriad of tasks ahead of him. It will be a difficult, arduous process. A lot of sorrow, some humiliation, no doubt, and–most of all–a lot of work. That’s true for the University community as well.

I’m hopeful that it will make possible some measure of healing for everyone whose lives are touched by all of this.

I wish him, his family and the University well.

Brother Ben

© 2020 The Fellowship of St Francis, Inc.

What will happen next in the Falwell scandal?

By now you may have seen the photo of Jerry Falwell Jr that has been widely circulated on social media.

It’s certainly not my place to chastise Rev Falwell. I’ll merely say that I fully expect others associated with the University and the ministry on which it was built to give him a pass here.

It brings to mind the scandal that engulfed Evangelist Jimmy Swaggart back in 1991.

Some are leaping to Falwell’s defense. Others–as you might well imagine–believe this is a very big deal and that he should be held to account.

For me, there’s an irony at play here that is a bigger deal than what actually happened.

For many people–and I am one of them–Falwell is now most closely associated with Donald Trump. It’s impossible not to think of how he’s embraced Trump from day one in spite of Trump’s seemingly endless deplorable and cruel actions.

He has failed to call out trump for anything; anything at all.

He said nothing about trump’s outright cruel treatment of brown children whose “crime” was being brought to our southern border by their desperate parents fleeing danger in their homeland.

Falwell stood idly by while Mr Trump sullied his office in a myriad of ways. Sullied it over and over and over again for the last three years and nine months.

Here, I’m sad to say, is where I think this situation stands: unless the University and the ministry possess more discernment and integrity than I think they do, they will enable Falwell and give him the same unmerited kid-glove treatment that their leader has been giving our president.

That’s where I think this is heading. I certainly hope I’m proven wrong.

Brother Ben

© 2020 The Fellowship of St Francis, Inc.

The president and the Bible Photo Op

Because this regrettable and surreal scene played itself out on Monday, I’m thinking that many of you are well-aware of what happened by now. And here — for what it’s worth — is my take on this disturbing event.

It’s clear now that America’s Divider-in-Chief thinks he can use faith for his own purposes. Just like he has been using so many other things, people and events.

He uses people and things to try to improve his terrible image; he uses things and events to sow confusion and deflect blame; he uses people and things — way too often — to punish and wreck revenge on his political enemies or merely on people he doesn’t like.

All of this is — it hardly need be said — to the Nation’s detriment. So now we can add Faith to the things this selfish and spiritually-dead man believes he can use to further his own ends.

Brother Ben

Postscript: for a more detailed look at some of the fallout from Monday’s events — the reactions of Faith leaders, in particular — follow this link.


© 2020 The Fellowship of St Francis, Inc.

Love Covers All

When we read this passage from the 10th Chapter of Proverbs, it may at first seem unremarkable.

Whoever walks in integrity walks securely,
    but whoever takes crooked paths will be found out.

11 The mouth of the righteous is a fountain of life,
    but the mouth of the wicked conceals violence.

12 Hatred stirs up conflict,
    but love covers over all wrongs.

from Proverbs, Chapter 10

Those wise, clear exhortations to treat our fellows with courtesy and respect are timeless. The exhortations to let love be our guiding principle in all things.

These words of wisdom are common to all cultures and all religions. All spiritual paths.

As verse 12 wraps up, the clear emphasis is on love and how love can cover over all wrongs.

Just in case a reader may think that Solomon had been imbibing too much of the fruit of the vine and had gone all hippy on us, there are, of course, hundreds–if not thousands–of passages from the Bible that put over that very same idea.

And from the literature and sacred books of a thousand religions and cultures.

The common folk saying found below is an almost word-for-word paraphrase of the familiar Wisdom we read in Matthew chapter 7, verse 12:

Do unto others as you would have done unto you.

Common folk saying

It is hard, at times, to understand why so many of us are in such great need of being reminded of these things.

The reminders, the exhortations, come from a thousand voices, heard at every turn as we walk along life’s path.

And often we aren’t listening.

I’m not. You’re not. He’s not. She’s not. They’re not.

Listen to those voices.

Heed them.

Let love be your touchstone, your all-in-all.

Brother Ben

© The Fellowship of St Francis, Inc.

Our Blessed Hope

I most certainly do want to wish all of you a most happy and blessed Easter today.

I don’t have to tell you that our joyous celebration is taking place this year in a most unusual set of circumstances.

Most of us could not gather with fellow Christians in the usual way to celebrate.

The spectre of a deadly and virulent virus stalking our world and our communities has cast a pall over what is typically the most joy-filled time of the entire Church year.

But even in these troubling times, this we know: the hope and transcendent glory of Christ’s resurrection was a stunning, singular event on that first Easter morning and we can feel and appropriate that glory, that blessed hope today just as surely as Jesus’s followers and grief-wracked mother did nearly two millennia ago.

May that blessed hope be yours today.

Brother Ben

© 2020 The Fellowship of St Francis, Inc.

A Week of Destiny

Today is Palm Sunday and Churches in every corner of the globe will be full of worshipers thinking about Jesus riding into Jerusalem on the back of that colt and being heralded and praised by a multitude of followers.

Churches here in the Eastern Time Zone are starting to fill with folks of all ages, with families dressed in their “Sunday best”, ready to commemorate and relive that ride and that day.

When this celebration comes each year, we see ourselves as a follower of the Master, as one who may have been there for the actual event.

This is as it should be.

But what was it like for Jesus?

What thoughts were going through his mind as that day unfolded?

None of us knows the particulars, of course, but there’s little doubt in my mind that destiny — or his thoughts around it — cast a long shadow over the events of that day, over what has been known for centuries as the Triumphal Entry.

As we go through all the events of Holy Week, it’s a good thing to keep in mind that the thanks and accolades that others may bestow on us from time to time can be wonderful.

But for most of us — as was true for Jesus — those accolades don’t always last and our lives will most likely not be a joyous and unending festival of gratitude and praise.

For some, a darker destiny may await.

Jesus said that no servant is greater than his master and when one makes a conscious choice to follow in Jesus’s footsteps — to live a life of service for others — there will most certainly be a cross to bear.

It’s certainly true that most people go through life acting mostly on instinct. Mostly doing what furthers their own interests and — at the end of the day — maximizes the chance that they’ll live, thrive and survive, as that saying goes.

Jesus, of course, is our ultimate example of a person who saw himself in a very different way. And he knew that his destiny was a life lived for others.

May we follow his example. May we always remember that, first and foremost, we choose a life lived — not for selfish reasons alone — but for others.

And may that be our focus throughout the events of Holy Week. And always.

Brother Ben

© 2019 The Fellowship of St Francis, Inc.

This homily was originally published on April 14, 2019