Leadership Then and Now

The story of how David became King of Israel can be found in the sixteenth chapter of 1 Samuel.

God, as the story goes, found Saul to no longer be worthy of leading the people of Israel and had chosen David, a humble shepherd, instead.

This is the passage from the Old Testament that contains the well-known and oft-quoted verse:

“The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”

From 1 Samuel 16:7

We can all be happy that we no longer have Kings who wield unfettered power over the people. But it is nevertheless true that in order for a leader to be effective, they must be worthy of leading, they must not merely have a surplus of political ambition or a lust for power.

They must care about the people they’re entrusted to lead and do so impartially, with the well-being of every citizen in mind and with an eye towards the common good.

David, for all his faults, was such a man.

Today, no one is surprised when our so-called leaders put on full display their pettiness, naked ambition and disdain for the citizens they’re supposed to be leading.

It’s no surprise at all. 

And it’s time to chose leaders who, like David, care more about the people whose lives and livelihoods are entrusted to their care than the results of their next campaign for re-election.

Brother Ben

© 2019 The Fellowship of St Francis, Inc.

Live in the Light

Anyone who claims to be in the light but hates a brother or sister[b] is still in the darkness. 10 Anyone who loves their brother and sister[c] lives in the light, and there is nothing in them to make them stumble. 

11 But anyone who hates a brother or sister is in the darkness and walks around in the darkness. They do not know where they are going, because the darkness has blinded them.

1 John 2: 9-11

Live in the Light, friends.

In this epistle from John the Apostle, he plainly states that we walk around in darkness when we hold hate in our hearts.

For anyone. Any brother or sister.

Do we want to walk around in the darkness?

There’s nothing for me there.

I choose Love.

Brother Ben

© 2019 The Fellowship of St Francis, Inc.

Friday Funny for June 28th

A kindergarten teacher was walking around observing her classroom while the children were drawing pictures. She got to one girl who was hard at work and asked her what she was drawing.


      Came the answer, “I’m drawing God.”
      The teacher paused for a moment and said,
“But darling, no one knows what God looks like.”
      Without looking up from her drawing, the girl replied,
“They will in a minute.”

Brother Ben

In Their Own Angry Image

If you keep an eye on what’s happening in the Church here in the U.S., you’ve no doubt noticed that huge sections of the Church–including the vast majority of those who call themselves Evangelical Christians–have given enthusiastic support to the current administration and most of its policies.

I see this as being diametrically opposed to the teachings of Jesus and a very, very troubling thing.

The other major criticism of the way the modern Evangelical movement has clearly gone astray concerns its indifference to the plight of the Earth as she continues to suffer at the hands of rapacious and uncaring humans.

The near-total failure of Evangelicals to take any action to save our planet–or to even mitigate the damage–is a tragedy of the highest order and is one more reason why so many Evangelical Christians are running for the exits.

Trying to do something about these two tragic trends lies at the very heart of what the FSF is all about.

In one of our founding documents, I wrote:

“These two unfortunate trends–the abrogation of the clear teachings of Jesus to follow in his footsteps and live in a compassionate way and our failings to care for the Earth and all her inhabitants–must be resisted and must be countered with clear teachings and committed actions.”

from Why the FSF was created

The embrace of extreme right-wing views and practices by so many in the modern Evangelical movement bodes ill for them, for the American Church generally and for our Faith.

Their remaking of Jesus in their own angry, strident image is the greatest tragedy to befall the Church in America since the South’s embrace of slavery in the early and mid 19th Century.

John Pavlovitz is an activist Minister and blogger who’s been speaking out fiercely about how right-wing elements within the American Church have perverted Scripture to their own ends. And something he wrote in his blog posting for today is spot-on and deserves the widest possible dissemination:

We have read and extensively studied the Bible, and we know when someone is twisting it to their advantage; when they’re distorting it to oppress and discriminate, when they are making God in their own angry image—and we believe this is happening more egregiously than ever in America in the highest levels of Government and Church leadership.

from We Are the Christian Left

It is so urgent that the segment of the Church that has not embraced these two tragic errors to be continually engaged in speaking the truth and tirelessly calling the Church back to an authentic practice of Jesus’s teachings.

This we must do.

Brother Ben

© 2019 The Fellowship of St Francis, Inc.

Even Better Than You Thought!

I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.

Philippians 4:13

There’s no doubt that Philippians 4:13 is one of the most familiar, most loved and most quoted verses from the New Testament.

And I’ve got to put this out there: I’m just as certain that it’s one of the most misunderstood.

We often take St Paul’s meaning to be something along this line: “I can accomplish great exploits through Christ who gives me strength!”

And yet, when we take a step back and read the verse in context, it seems very, very different:

10 I rejoiced greatly in the Lord that at last you renewed your concern for me. Indeed, you were concerned, but you had no opportunity to show it.11 I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. 12 I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. 13 I can do all this through him who gives me strength.

Philippians 4:10-13 NIV

If you begin at verse 10 and then read at least to verse 14, the true meaning of Paul’s words becomes clear. He is saying that he’s seen plenty of life’s ups and downs–and has, in fact, known what it’s like to not even have enough to eat–and that he knows he can do all this or endure all this through Christ who gives him strength.

Yes, reading it in context certainly does shed a whole new light on the subject.

Sometimes we might see our faith as a tool to do great things, to help us in our rise to the top or to slay all of our temporal and spiritual enemies.

But that’s not what Paul was saying.

There’s not a doubt in my mind that the real message is much better than the one we may have thought we were reading.

And it’s much better suited to real life. To the life most of us live day after day.

Are you–like St Paul before you–struggling from time to time with all kinds of troubles and hardships?

Such things are simply a part of our everyday lives. Whether we like to acknowledge it or not.

We are no better, no different from St Paul. Or from the Master.

And we most certainly do need spiritual strength to endure all of the things that come our way.

The good stuff. The bad stuff. The highs and the lows.

Believing that Christ gives strength to those who need it–especially to those who need it most–is a good thing indeed.

If you’re up against long odds and it’s time to step up and accomplish some great feat of faith, Paul’s letter may well strengthen you to pull off some great exploit!

And if you’re like most of us–most of us who know and experience troubles, sorrows and plenty of fits and starts–this passage is for you, too.

Especially for you.

Brother Ben

© 2019 The Fellowship of St Francis

Divinity and Gender

Introductory note: if you’ve read more than one or two posts on this site, you may have noticed that female pronouns–she and her–are sometimes used when describing God and not male pronouns only. If you’ve been wondering why this is so, this post will go a long way towards explaining it.

If you were raised in the Church–as I was–you grew up with a definite idea that God was a dude.

You know what I mean. I think we all imaged “him” as a grandfather-type. A man, say in his 70’s, with a long gray beard and wearing a pretty spiffy robe.

A robe that looked like a cross between the one worn by your favorite priest and that awesome one that Charlton Heston was sporting when they shot The Ten Commandments.

It took a full thirty years or so for me to realize that the way I imaged God was just that and it didn’t affect the actual nature of the Divine One at all.

It took even longer–and completing a year of Seminary–to see clearly that the ways any of us think of God are colored by a thousand different variables, including what our early religious training was like, cultural biases and so much more and vary greatly from one person, one believer to another.

And it’s worth saying, once again, that none of our images or conceptions of God affect God’s true nature in any way! The map is not the territory!

The writings we have embraced and believe contain God’s revelation were written by mortal, fallible men and were the product of the times in which they were written.

The men–and they were all men–who produced the many books of our Bible were immersed in cultures that were thoroughly Patriarchal and saw little-to-no value in the contributions of women to their cultures and their literature.

I’m thinking it would be more accurate to say that none of the men driving the bus in that time had the slightest idea about what womens’ thoughts about the nature of God might have been.

And the writings we see as being sacred and containing the revelations of the Divine One sprang from a culture that was Patriarchal, completely male-driven and that is still influencing the ways we think about God today.

If you are embracing a concept of God as a wise, bearded old dude, let me invite you to take a step back and see this in a new light. It can be truly transformative.

Whatever else we may opine about God’s nature, I think we have general agreement that he/she is transcendent, is wholly-other and that the ways we describe or image “him” tell only part of the story.

When the story we tell about God’s nature and being reflect the whole of humanity and not only the male half, it’s a more complete and more accurate depiction and can help to end the systemic bias against women.

This bias is real, it’s very easy to see and it’s been a stain on religious communities and on the Church since day one.

God’s a man, you say?! Really?

Brother Ben

© 2019 The Fellowship of St Francis, Inc.