Blog

July 16, 2021

What is Truth?

Is the best way to create the future by looking back for answers?

July 16, 2021

Becoming Italian

On February 2nd, 1878, my great-grandfather, Antonino D’Amico, was born.  Nine years later, my great-grandmother, Antonina Runza was born.  Little is known now of either of their families of origin.  We know that both were born in Pachino, Sicily, Italy, and when we attempted to find gravestones for their parents, the only one listed in the graveyard records had been abandoned and the plot was reused.  In October 1902, Antonino took a ship from Palermo to Ellis Island, New York.  He arrived with little money in his wallet, and we believe he may have settled initially with relatives.  Throughout my research, I was never able to find a record of how Antonina came to America.  On June 2, 1907, Antonino and Antonina were married.  My grandfather was born almost 11 years later on March 12, 1918.  The early 1900s was a hard time for Italians in America.  Like other poor immigrants throughout American history, they were despised and rejected, in part because so many had come from poverty to find a new life in America.  Family legend has it that when my great-aunt took my grandfather to pre-school, she renamed him from Salvatore D’Amico to Samuel Robert D’Amico to anglicize his name, to reduce the discrimination. 

Unfortunately, my ancestors still faced discrimination and demeaning name calling.  Nonetheless, my grandfather and great aunts grew up in America, went to top American universities (my grandfather graduated from Harvard), and contributed extensively to their new home.  My grandfather was a distinguished member of clergy in the Los Angeles diesis of the Episcopal church.  My great aunts became teachers.  As each of their children had children and grandchildren, the legacy of Antonino and Antonina grew to include teachers, social workers, pastors, military, and businesspeople…each contributing in their own way to the fabric of America.

I was born on February 29, 1988.  By this time, the Italian aspect of our family had been largely relegated to family stories, Italian restaurants, and a last name no one could spell or pronounce, and that generally broke computer software.  No one in my family spoke Italian or Sicilian anymore, my uncle still made the family recipe “S Cookies” at Christmas, but otherwise, we had become in large part a typical American melting pot family with little racial identity.  However, from a young age, something always drew me back to my Italian heritage.  I always wanted to learn the language, and I loved my last name.  Italian food was my favorite, and Italy was the country I always wanted to visit, but never was able to.

When I was a young teenager, my dad received a fluke phone call from an attorney, during which he found out about an Italian citizenship program called “jure sanguinus” through which we could regain Italian citizenship.  None of us had heard of this before, but this launched me on a quest to learn about my Italian great-grandparents, specific crucial details about when my family became American citizens, and how they’d come to the United States.  Gradually I worked my way through the paperwork, learning that I would qualify for citizenship, but facing a variety of hurdles due to poor documentation in American vital records and a variety of name changes.  Through this time my dad, aunt, uncle, and great aunt helped to amend records, research, and remember the stories that proved invaluable to reassembling our history.

In summer of 2017, now a husband and father myself, I finally made my first trip to Italy.  As I prepared to board the flight from London, I looked around at my fellow passengers and remarked to my wife, “Charity, they all look like me!”  While I mark “white” on demographics forms, I have Mediterranean skin that tans easily with wavy dark brown hair and dark brown eyes.  Never had I seen a group of so many people that looked like me.  In Italy, we found a people who were extremely friendly, and between my last name and appearance, they were all very confused when I couldn’t speak Italian.  Our trip was a 48-hour whirlwind.  Charity and I landed in Catania, drove around the south side of Sicily, and flew out of Palermo.  We left, assuming this would be a one-time adventure, but that eventually we would complete the paperwork for dual citizenship.  For what…we didn’t know yet.

In Spring of 2020, COVID-19 struck the world.  In Summer of 2020, following the murder of George Floyd, BLM protests took over America.  By Fall, I needed a break, and said to Charity one night, “I have a crazy idea.”  I suggested that we take a trip to Italy for several months to complete our dual citizenship.  My primary job was remote, our children were doing school remote, and rehabbing rental properties (our other business) was not very feasible with things shutdown for COVID.  Initially this was just a crazy idea, but a week later I brought it up again.  What if we could actually do it?  What would it mean?  What started as a crazy idea, rapidly turned into a reality when only a couple months later we boarded a flight to London to begin our two-week COVID isolation before going to Palermo, Sicily, Italy to start the citizenship process.

2020 was one of the worst years for international travel in modern history.  National, regional, state, and provincial entry and exit rules were changing on a weekly basis; borders were tight; COVID tests, isolation, and/or quarantining were required for most travel; and even going between cities sometimes required justification.  As we prepared to leave London for Palermo, I said to my wife and kids that if we even made it to Palermo, it would be a miracle.  We did make it though, and quickly settled into our AirBNB.  The host, Sergio, was incredible and went out of his way time and again to not only make sure we were comfortable in the apartment but repeatedly used his connections to help us with the citizenship process.  Within a couple days, our family began to wonder whether Sicily would be our new home.  We loved it.  The food was incredible, everyone seemed to understand that COVID was real and precautions needed to be taken, there was fascinating history at every turn, and beauty both natural and constructed.  Did I mention the food was incredible?  Time after time, I’d say, “I had no idea…[fill in basically any type of food]…was supposed to taste like this!”  We gradually decided that if possible, we wanted to stay in Italy.  Unfortunately, between the generally beauracratic processes of Italy, and COVID removing one of the government officials from her job for many weeks, we found ourselves stuck and running out of time and facing the prospect of having to go back to the United States and try again another time.

However, at this point we met Jennifer Gray, another person of Italian descent attempting to get dual citizenship.  She told me about a different town, Ventimiglia di Sicilia, where she was going and where she had friends who knew the local government officials and were moving her paperwork through quickly.  After a few weeks, we were off again, this time moving from a city of 600,000 to a town of 1,800.  Ciro Grillo quickly arranged for our transit, housing, tours, and meeting with Nino Manzella, the local official who would handle our paperwork.  Since arriving, the people of Ventimiglia have been wonderful.  As predicted, Nino was fast, efficient, and tireless, working rapidly to finish what had already taken months in Palermo.  Throughout the town, people welcomed us, using what English they knew and patiently letting us practice our Italian.  Our children became town favorites and often now I see a parade of children coming to play in front of our apartment.  Regardless of whether the communication was in English, Italian, or a combination through Google Translate, the message was clear: we are welcome and we are Italian.

As I write this, we are finishing our permanent transition to Sicily and getting ready to fly home.  Our American house, most of our belongings, and cars are sold and we’ll continue running our businesses remotely.  Probably not so unlike my great grandfather coming to America, I had no idea when I set off for Italy what I would find, but also like my great grandfather, I found home.  Perhaps unlike my great grandfather, I found home in a nation with a giant welcome sign!

February 2, 2021

God=Love

What if the evangelical understanding of the Gospel got it all wrong?

January 14, 2021

Can We Have A Different Discussion About Abortion?

“But… Abortion”

Few words in the American lexicon evoke more emotion and more gentle kicks under the table at polite dinner parties than the word ‘abortion.’ I believe we must risk that kick, however, and march bravely into a different type of abortion discussion; a more nuanced one, because abortion is the lynchpin issue of our ailing, divided culture. How often do we hear something like this:

“Yeah, I don’t like the president’s tweets, but… abortion.”

“Yeah, I know that Democrat might be a good candidate, but… abortion.”

Nothing has more given Christians a pass to use divisive rhetoric, to demonize others, and to put aside normal, caring empathy than the issue of abortion. I think it’s worth asking questions we’re not often willing to consider: Is God’s demand that Christians be part of an all-out political war to force a law onto the country, even if that war negatively impacts our ability to share the gospel? Is it possible our desire to win the battle blinds us to a better plan God has had all along?

First, let me be clear. As a Christian and Evangelical minister, I personally believe abortion is not God’s best plan for humanity. I also believe most pro-choice and pro-life proponents are good people who believe they’re fighting for vulnerable people. I dream of what could be if both sides were willing to lay down their animus in order to strategize towards the common goal of preventing unwanted pregnancies.

That being said, my challenge today is for my people – the Evangelical, largely pro-life crowd – to consider a Romans 12:2 testing of our belief system. Are we willing to hold our identity as single issue voters up to the light to determine if it’s truly God’s command for us, or if it’s actually an outgrowth of a manmade political mindset?

Could a heart-shift towards prevention of unwanted pregnancies more powerfully impact the mindset of culture more than a divisive battle over laws? It’s happened before.

“BABY MURDERERS”

In my novel, Joseph Comes to Town, a pastor seemingly wins an abortion argument with a young woman only to hear that woman gasp “if he’s right, then I’m a murderer.”

In the Bible, Jesus told a group of God-followers “You’ve heard it said ‘don’t murder,’ but I say if you call your brother a fool you’re bound for hell fire.” Jesus wasn’t nearly as impressed with the staunch religious rules of the day as he was concerned about the lack of empathy for people. I’ve often heard Christian friends declare that supporters of pro-choice candidates and pro-choice legislation support the ‘murder’ of babies. To justify such incendiary language, would it not behoove us to make sure that if Jesus were to say today “you’ve heard it said ‘abortion is murder’” there wouldn’t be a “but I say…” twist after it?

WHAT DOES THE BIBLE ACTUALLY SAY?

Is the Bible clearly behind the staunch, Pro-Life position? Well, there’s no direct reference to abortion in the New Testament. Jesus never uttered a word about it, despite the common practice of infanticide by the Romans occupiers of Jesus’ homeland. A Roman father could legally abandon an unwanted newborn on the roadside to die of ‘exposure’ (the name of the practice) or be picked up by another family or an animal predator.

It must have been horrifying to hear these babies cry out, yet Jesus is never recorded alluding to it. Nor are his close followers who also ministered in the Roman Empire: Paul, Peter or John, the main authors of the New Testament. It seems odd to me that the issue we believe to be seminal on God’s list doesn’t warrant a mention from his representative on earth.

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Christians demand ‘scripture’ to be the final confirmation of all Christian beliefs and often use a saying “the main thing (in the Bible) is the plain thing.” Yet, when it comes to the abortion issue, it can only be supported by linking a number of bible passages, none of which are direct references to abortion. Jeremiah 1:5 speaks of God knowing a person in the womb and Luke 1:41-44 attributes human activity and gender to a fetus. However, the Bible also tells us, in passages such as Romans 8:29 and Ephesians 1:4, that God knew every human before the creation of the world. If Jeremiah 1:5 is a command to ban abortion, then wouldn’t Ephesians 1:4 forbid contraceptives or demand punishment for married couples who don’t procreate? Each of these passages can be interpreted as poetic descriptions of God’s love for humanity and while that can point to the value of life before birth, none of these texts are a direct command to criminalize the act of ending a pregnancy.

Jewish law and tradition, the religious roots of Christianity, provide more provision for allowing abortion than for outlawing it. Adam was fully formed but was not considered “living” (or having a soul) until filled with the breath of God. The Jewish Talmud provides an option for a woman with “great need” to terminate her pregnancy and the Old Testament book of Numbers commands a poisonous concoction be given to any woman accused of adultery. If a pregnancy is miraculously saved from miscarriage, then the woman is declared virtuous. Today, most Jews trend Pro-Choice in no small part because of their scriptures allow for it.

ABORTION IN POLITICS

It’s incorrect to believe Evangelical furor over abortion began with the 1973 Supreme Court ruling on Roe v. Wade. In 1979, Paul Weyrich, a Republican political operative, chose abortion as a political tool for motivating Christians to vote against Jimmy Carter, ironically, a dedicated Evangelical president. Weyrich opposed Carter’s edict that private schools, like Bob Jones University and Jerry Falwell’s Liberty University, lose their tax benefits if they continued to refuse racial integration of their student bodies. Understanding that the underpinnings of the abortion battle were political and racial, rather than moral, could cause us to squirm a bit in our pews.

CAN CHRISTIANS BE MORE ‘PRO-LIFE’ AND LESS ‘ANTI-ABORTION?’

Does Christian responsibility for ‘life’ span only from conception to the baby’s exit from the birth canal? Abortion totals have taken a dramatic downturn in the U.S. over the past two decades and statistics point to contraceptive access and education as major drivers for that decrease, yet many Christians still oppose these tools. Those same Christians often oppose community funding for health care, food or day care costs for parents, despite these financial burdens often serving as major factors in abortion decisions. Could there be solutions to the abortion issue we haven’t been able to consider due to a sharp focus on laws? Particularly when abortion bans have not proven effective at stopping women from choosing abortive options – even at the risk of their health and their lives.

South Korea has had an abortion ban in place for more than sixty-five years, yet, it’s estimated there are more abortions per capita performed in South Korea than in the United States. When Alabama and Missouri recently passed the most restrictive abortion laws in American history polls showed that support for abortion skyrocketed in our country and support for late term abortions reached its highest level ever. Laws don’t change hearts. Good laws are downstream of cultural change. Could a heart-shift towards prevention of unwanted pregnancies more powerfully impact the mindset of culture more than a divisive battle over laws? It’s happened before.

After Jesus’ crucifixion, Christians began a routine of collecting ‘exposed’ Roman babies from the roadside, even while suffering persecution and having limited resources. This sacrificial routine caused exposure to become frowned upon and then completely outlawed in A.D. 374. Angry protests didn’t change the law, demonstrating a higher way to live did.

THE ABORTION BATTLE’S IMPACT ON THE GOSPEL

More Millennials now declare themselves to be “Nones” (people who don’t attend any church) or “Dones” (those who have left their church) than those who declare themselves regular attenders of Evangelical Churches. They point to the right-wing stances of the Church as the number one reason for leaving. If our command is to share the message that “God so loved the world…” is it a good strategy to position ourselves as a divisive political machine? In the first century, the Pharisees and Zealots wanted to overthrow the government for God’s sake, but Jesus said it would be a humble Christian people, willing to lay down their lives and desires for their enemies who would truly change culture.

What if our abortion beliefs compelled us to ensure there were no unwanted pregnancies, no unwanted babies and no unwanted people? What if we were more concerned about the root causes of abortion (poverty, income inequality, shame, hopelessness) than we were of the sin of it? Could the heart of our culture simply turn against the practice of abortion because the need no longer exists?

I believe most Christians are very sincere in their abortion beliefs, yet the ‘fruit’ of that battle can still be sincerely wrong. We love to preach self-control yet the Bible lists love, joy, patience, peace, and kindness before dealing with our actions. Perhaps a shift in Christian thinking to challenging our mindset on abortion and being known for what we’re for – more than for what we’re against – might be exactly what God would have us do to not only see abortion numbers decrease but for the peace of God to come to our cities, regions, and to our entire country in this generation. Maybe laying down our political weaponry will bring a never-ending increase of that shalom.

It’s at least worth a try, isn’t it?

January 3, 2021

Christian Conspiracies: Our Track Record is NOT Good

Let your reasonableness be known to everyone, don’t be anxious about anything.

January 2, 2021

Evangelicals, Nobody’s Listening Anymore

It’s time for evangelical voices to own our mistakes, admit we got it wrong – and MAYBE, we can win back the trust of our culture.

January 1, 2021

When We Call Our Protests “Worship”

Being a Christian leader does not protect someone from turning into an opportunist that preys on people’s fears in order to boost their own career, on the contrary it makes them even more susceptible to i

December 28, 2020

Healed of a Rush Limbaugh Addiction

Conservative media can be hazardous to your health.

October 30, 2020

Not Voting Against Trump: I’m Voting for the Healing of our Country’s Heart

“…Someone may argue, ‘Some people have faith; others have good deeds.’ But I say, ‘How can you show me your faith if you don’t have good deeds? I will show you my faith by my good deeds.’ – James 2:18

“…their houses are full of deceit; therefore they have become great and rich; they have grown fat and sleek. They know no bounds in deeds of evil; they judge not with justice the cause of the fatherless, to make it prosper, and they do not defend the rights of the needy. Shall I not punish them for these things?” declares the Lord, “and shall I not avenge myself on a nation such as this?” – Jeremiah 5:27b-29

I’m a Christian, a lifelong evangelical and Reagan Republican and I’m NOT voting for Donald Trump in the 2020 presidential election. Why? I believe my relationship with God and how I interpret the teachings of the Bible compel me to vote against the president from having another term.

In a recent blog I explained that I’m not against Trump, but am against the mindset that got him elected in the first place. I am greatly grieved by that mindset – our country’s corporate heart condition – that I see represented in Trump’s leadership. The healing of that corporate heart means much more to me than any “Christian” policy used to justify evangelical support of this ill-fitting leader.

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WE CHOOSE OUR LEADERS AND OUR LEADERS REFLECT OUR HEART

Many of my Christian friends believe God sovereignly puts leaders into positions of authority and there’s a biblical case to be made for that idea. However, I believe the Bible tells us the chosen leader of God-followers is a reflection of the corporate heart of that people. That choice is a fulfillment of their deepest heart-desires.

Some say President Trump was chosen because he is a leader like King David, a man ‘after God’s own heart’ even though a bit ‘rough around the edges.’ I see Trump as a direct parallel to less able leaders, like King Saul and King Herod – pragmatic. amoral kings who molded themselves into whatever was needed to maintain power. Of Saul’s ascension, the prophet Samuel said this about the people of Israel:

“…(W)hen you saw that Nahash the king of the Ammonites came against you, you said to me, ‘No, but a king shall reign over us,’ when the LORD your God was your king. And now behold the king whom you have chosen, for whom you have asked; behold, the LORD has set a king over you.” – 1 Samuel 12:13-13 (italics added by me.)

Twice Samuel tells the people that Saul was THEIR choice of leader, not God’s. Out of their fear for safety and comfort, the people of Israel unwisely chose a king they believed would be their “strongman” to save them. They had lost trust in God’s ability to do so. Saul was corrupt. He was small & petty; attacking anyone who tried to hold him accountable or whom he viewed as a threat. He played to the crowds because he needed their adulation, even taking it upon himself to lead the religious, pre-battle ceremony of the sacrifice to keep the people happy and liking him. Sound like any other leader you know?

Because the heart of the people was self-focused, and out of alignment with God’s model of a loving, self-sacrificing life that would lead to peace, they choose an unjust and unfit king. It cost them dearly. Today, I believe Trump is that same supposed strongman unwisely chosen by a people to save them, as they’ve lost their trust in God’s ways to bring justice and shalom to their land. In my estimation, that choice is also costing us dearly.

GOD CARES A GREAT DEAL ABOUT JUSTICE & THE CORPORATE HEART OF A NATION

I hear many evangelical Christians say “I’m not voting for the man, I’m voting policy.” I don’t see such pragmatism endorsed in the Bible.

In Jesus’ day there was a leader named King Herod the Great. Though not a Jew, and certainly not a man of the religious integrity, he was trusted by the Jewish leaders to save their religion and their nationalistic heritage from an evil government. Due to this loyalty, Herod was able to live a lascivious life, free from accountability.

Similarly, President Trump, though never displaying a bent towards Christianity in his lifetime, has attracted the fealty of religious leaders and, in exchange, he pragmatically meets their desires in order to maintain power. He gives them conservative judges, an unchecked support of modern day Israel and some ‘religious freedom’ that appeals to the evangelical desire to believe they’re ‘persecuted.’

POLICIES GOD CARES ABOUT IN A GOVERNMENT

Throughout the Bible we see God’s command for people groups – cities and nations. I quoted Jeremiah 5 above. In that passage, the accusation of God towards the nation is that its people desire to be wealthy and comfortable, while no longer caring about justice for the needy. Never mentioned: the location of embassies, income tax percentages, stock market levels or unemployment rates. God’s judgment is always based around the corporate heart of the people. When that heart is to be financially comfortable versus taking care of the poor, the marginalized, and the foreigner; God’s reckoning will eventually come. Evangelical support for Trump is not, today, simply moral issues like abortion. It now is an ever intertwining religious/political/economic belief system. It’s anchored as much in the belief that Trump will make us wealthier, less taxed and safe from any prophetic charge of hard-heartedness to God’s command for justice and welfare in a nation.

Shall I not avenge myself against people such as this” is God’s biblical response to such a belief system. I believe those words should cause a shudder to go through our corporate spine.

Jesus, while on earth, spoke judgments against people groups: “Oh Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets.” He was accusing the people of having such a desire for freedom from accusation of ignoring God’s commands that they were willing to kill any religious leader who brought such an accusation against them. Do we, likewise, “kill” these voices today? We call “fake” or “sheep” anyone with a differing viewpoint than the going partisan, right-wing evangelical mindset.

“Capernaum, on judgment day Sodom will have a better day than you,” Jesus said. In the people of Capernaum he saw a people with access to detailed knowledge of God’s commands and goodness, yet still refused to repent of hard-heartedness. Thus their judgment day fate was slated to be worse than a city famously known to have been destroyed for its overt sexual appetites. Could our desire to use political power to impose laws be seen by God as more hard-hearted than the “sins” we hope to ban?

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I’m convinced our corporate heart matters a great deal to God (not just our individual salvation) and when our corporate heart says “make me fat and sleek” (make me financially prosperous,) then Christians should expect to come face to face with God’s demand for the presence of “welfare” in a city.

THE IDEA OF A CHRISTIAN NATION

I’m not convinced God is nearly as concerned about our “Christian-ness” as a nation as Christians are. However, if Christian MAGA beliefs mean going back to a 50’s-style of America with a veneer of being a “Christian Nation,” is Donald Trump a good embodiment of such a nation? Trump may be a Christian, as men like Franklin Graham tell us he is, but shouldn’t that faith show up as “good deeds” in Trump’s life? If Trump, as our government leader, is the primary display of our national corporate heart, shouldn’t those James 2 ‘good deeds’ show up in our policy?

I think more than being a Christian nation, God would like to see “Christlike-ness” in us. Evidence of such, says the Bible, are the attributes of “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.” How many of these attributes can we see displayed by our president on a daily basis? When a leader is willing to use the Bible to justify cruelty to foreigners coming across our borders. When that cruelty is celebrated and used to justifying the separation of children from families in order to attempt deterring future families from coming – is that a corporate heart of kindness and gentleness? Aren’t we supposed to be the ones who “focus on the family?”
Jesus said there were two commands for a Christian: “Love God and love your neighbor as yourself.” Then he went on to explain that our ‘neighbor’ is the person we don’t like – our enemy, the foreigner, the person who follows a different religion. When our leader regularly excoriates anyone who disagrees with him and denigrates women, members of the opposite party, those of a different heritage and different religions, is our soul being revealed to be “great?”
The biblical sermon on the mount says “Blessed (happy) are the poor in spirit, the meek, those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, the peacemakers, and those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake…” Does that sound like the heart being displayed by a leader who claims “winning” is the only desired goal and that anyone displaying a self-sacrificial love or empathy for others is weak and a “sucker?”

MY HEART FOR THIS ELECTION

I know many of my friends will claim I’m a victim of the mainstream media or am suffering from the right-wing media created malady of “Trump Derangement Syndrome.” My view of Donald Trump, however, isn’t ultimately about the president at all. My vote is against the spirit that got him elected and the heart of our country he represents.

I’ve been calling out this sickened corporate heart of the right-wing Church for many years, even as far back as the first GW Bush administration – long before Donald Trump ever called Barack Obama a Muslim or made his glitzy entrance down the golden escalator.

I’m voting against another four years of our corporate heart being twisted to justify a constant stream of falsehoods and to endorse constant cruelty towards human beings. I’m voting against a leader that endorses our desire for riches, safety and comfort at the cost of our care for the vulnerable and needy. I’m voting against a leader that gives us permission to kill any “prophet” who may ask us to sacrifice in the journey for justice for the minority and the marginalized.

For me, I see our corporate heart positioned just as those people who over and over were told by God “shall I not avenge myself against these people?”

Our country is divided, it’s hurting, it’s coming apart at the seams and, unfortunately, our Christians seem happy to have a leader that feeds, rather than attempts to heal, those ills.

After choosing to vote neither candidate for president in 2016, I’m voting for Joe Biden in 2020. But I’m not so much voting for Biden, I’d likely pick someone else if I had another choice; but I’m voting for the last hope I see in making us “good” again, as a nation – to display good deeds that manifest our belief in our Christian nation status. That we can once again come together as one people. To pray that my evangelical church can repent of a heart condition that would cause us to choose race-baiting over healing and “other-ism” over loving those who look and believe differently than us.

To my friends who say Trump is the “chosen one” to save a “Christian” America, I finish this piece with another passage from the biblical book of Jeremiah – a tome written in another time when a country was coming apart at the seams:

“(The prophets) have spoken falsely of the Lord and have said, ‘He will do nothing; no disaster will come upon us, nor shall we see sword or famine… An appalling and horrible thing has happened in the land: the prophets prophesy falsely, and the priests rule at their direction; my people love to have it so, but what will you do when the end comes?” – Jeremiah 5:12; 30-31

Perhaps its too late to heal our land. God does have a big heart to heal when we repent, but these past four years, perhaps, have already ruptured our corporate heart beyond repair. I am certainly convinced that four more years of Donald Trump’s presidency will do irreparable damage to our corporate heart. And I believe that corporate heart matters to God a great deal.

This is why, in 2020, I have already voted against Donald Trump for president of the United States.

September 27, 2020

Modern Day Parable: All Trees Matter

Jesus often taught spiritual concepts with stories. NPE shares “Modern Day Parables” to teach biblical concepts with stories that get past our intellectual defenses and challenge our hearts.


Person 1: Hey, this tree is burning, let?s put out the fire!

Person 2: Why the concern about this tree? It?s not a tree in our grove.

Person 1:?Whaddya mean? This tree matters. We’re Christians, we’re commanded to care about what happens to trees. And, if we don?t put out the fire with this tree, it will spread to the trees around it and maybe even threaten our grove.

Person 2: You say this tree matters? I’m offended – ALL trees matter!

Person 1:?Of course all trees matter, but this tree is in distress now. Let?s tend to it before it?s too late. In fact, look – other trees are catching fire around it.

Person 2:?I don’t understand why you continue to focus on these trees? Our own trees need to be tended, too, and if we save these trees, their roots might reach into the groves of our trees. That’s why moved our groves away from here in the first place.

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Person 1: We have to focus on these trees, right now. Their roots are already intertwined with ?our? trees and even if they weren’t, we’re commanded to take care of poor, hurting and marginalized trees.

Person 2: Perhaps if these trees had taken better care of themselves, they wouldn?t be on fire right now!

Person 1: These trees are on fire because of a spark that came to this grove. They’re good trees, just like our trees. Come on, the fire is spreading fast while we’re arguing over this. It’s going to get out of control if we don?t do something.

Person 2: Are you calling me a ?tree-ist?? You’re the one favoring these trees over ours. We passed laws in the 60?s to make sure these trees have the same opportunities to survive as all other trees.

Person 1: These trees grew up in conditions that make it more difficult for them to grow healthy as the trees in our grove. But, despite those disadvantages, they’re beautiful trees – created by God and loved by God.

Person 2: That?s ?fake news.? My favorite cable new station said there’s no reason these trees have it more difficult than other trees. In fact, our laws make grove growth easier for them as we keep pouring money into this grove. They don’t have to work to grow like our trees do.

Person 1: Well, you live near our grove and have your back turned right now to these trees and refuse to look at them. How can you know what they’re really like??

Person 2: I can tell you these trees are setting each other on fire. Why aren’t you talking about tree-on-tree crime right now?

Person 1: These fires have been brewing for a long time and we’ve known, if our systems weren’t continually looked at and improved, a bad fire was coming. It’s beginning to spread. We can always have discussions of how our collective money can be spent, but right now we need to care about these burning trees.

Person 2: We’ll get the authorities to cut down these trees so they don’t affect our grove anymore and put anymore of our firefighters in danger. Firefighter lives matter!

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Person 1: Firefighter lives do matter and their goal must be to help all trees be safe. Look, the wind is spreading these flames and the firefighters aren’t going to be able to contain it.

Person 2: You say the wind is fanning the flames? Fake news! I heard it was leftist groups making the flames spread. My favorite internet chat board says one of the world?s richest men has been paying trees to catch fire for years.

Person 1: That?s crazy. There was a spark, and now the fire?s spreading, we must do something!

Person 2: I don?t have to do anything, My family has never owned trees so how can you hold me responsible for this fire?

Person 1: Because if you don?t pay attention to what’s happening, this fire is going to spread and destroy other groves as well as this one – maybe even our grove.

Person 2: There you go again. You?re like those spoiled athletes who have ?These Trees Matter? on their jerseys. If rich celebrities would stop talking about fires spreading we wouldn?t have these problem.

Person 1: Athletes have been trying to make us aware these fires were possible if we didn’t pay attention to the inequality in our forest culture. Come on, man, the fires are coming down the street towards our grove. Won’t you even turn around and help me fill these buckets with water to combat the flames?

Person 2: The trouble’s in ?those” tree groves with those trees that don?t know how to act as decently as our trees do. This is their problem. I believe we are to love the trees, but hate their fire.

Person 1: No, our grove is on fire now. Look, it’s going to burn everything that belongs to all of us. We must do something.

Person 2: I am doing something, I’m voting. The president says he?ll stop all fires in our tree grove if he?s re-elected.

Person 1: By then, our entire grove will be burning and maybe in trouble of being destroyed. At very least it will never be the same. And, shouldn’t we care about other tree groves as much as our own?

Person 2: I do care. I told you, ALL trees matter. If the other party had raked the forest better we wouldn’t have these fires. The problems are all in the groves they lead anyways.

Person 1: No, the problem is now right here in our grove. The fire has spread and our trees are on fire because we’ve not been caring for these trees well.

Person 2: That’s OK with me. I don’t even want to have a tree in a world where we have mercy on “those” trees.


For reference, read the book of Jonah, particularly chapters 3 & 4 as well as many other Bible passages. Perhaps God asks us to care about people (and trees) that we believe unworthy of our care.

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