Friday, October 11, 2013

Thinking Clearly

In my opinion, there are three main problems driving our current political gridlock. All are based on poor thinking skills.

Americans should be willing to learn from other societies and other groups. For example, too many of us arrogantly assume Europe has nothing good to teach us.  They assume higher taxes for the rich and safety nets for the poor hinder economic progress.  But in fact, the European Union with a total of 500 million people has the world’s largest economy and the most Fortune 500 companies. They produce an economy almost as large as the United States and China combined.

When you look at the data, several European nations consistently do better than us in most socio-economic categories, including less infant mortality, less chronic disease, less poverty, less violent crime, less drug addiction and less suicide. They live longer and spend far less on healthcare.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

The Wave

I love the ocean. It symbolizes so many things. I love to watch and ride the waves early in the evening when the beach is almost empty. Here are my thoughts...

I watch the waves slowly rise, then peak, crash and fade.
Where do they come from? Where do they go?
Why do they appear at all?
They arise out of the great sea that is always and everywhere.
They return to that same great sea,
Only to rise again, in another place and another time.
They arise to play…with the surfers, the gulls, the wind
And me, as I lose myself in their beauty, their wetness and their mystery.
They humbly and gratefully fill the space
Between the eternal depths and the ever changing world above.
As I wade further and further from the shore to catch my ride,
I finally lose myself in its moment,
And realize I am that wave.

Alan Shope

Friday, August 23, 2013

Life and Death

As I think of loved ones who have died and are dying, I've tried to express my own thoughts about death in the words below...

Famine, war, death and pain - you're born and then you die.
Is this life all there is? You spread your wings - but never fly?
Many will suffer, a few will dance, most will march in line.
Life on earth is mainly chance, but is heaven by design?

Could there be a happy ending to this life of trials and tears?
Could such a cruel beginning grow sweeter through the years?
Are there sufficient flowers blooming among the weeds -
That in your darkest hour, you can still somehow believe?

Monday, August 12, 2013

Poverty and Crime

There is lot of talk lately about violent crime among young blacks. I keep hearing people say it all comes down to individual choice. Are they suggesting young black men simply make far more bad choices than young white men?

When large groups of people commit more crimes than other groups, we look at common factors to explain the cause. In the case of violence among young black men, four obvious factors that distinguish them from other young men are race, poverty, limited education and lack of good adult role models. I reject race as a cause. That leaves poverty, education and role models, all of which revolve around poverty.

Friday, August 9, 2013

How to Find Peace and Meaning in the Bible

Don't worship it, or defend it, or make it more than it needs to be.
It's not perfect in the way many claim… because it doesn't need to be.

Simply read it prayerfully, and allow the Spirit within you to speak through it.

Accept that some things in the Bible are not accurate. Here are 3 examples:

  • The claim that Jesus is the "only way" to God. This contradicts the all-inclusive and universal nature of God's love for all humanity. It contradicts the humble and inclusive spirit of Jesus who would never make such a self promoting claim. The Bible criticizes those who say, "I follow Paul” or “I follow Apollos” or “I follow Peter” or “I follow Christ.” It says that "through Abraham all nations of the earth will be blessed." Jesus pointed people to an all loving God - only later did Christians change the focus to a divisive image of Jesus as "the only way to heaven." Unfortunately, it’s easier to worship Jesus and believe certain things about him, than it is to just follow him...and too many people choose the easier path. Jesus never asked to be worshiped - only to be followed.

  • The traditional concept of hell. This idea contradicts too many other truths in the Bible, especially its major teachings about God's love and God’s grace. If eternal life is a gift and God is love - as the Bible clearly teaches - how can a God of love withhold that gift from anyone?  The Bible says, "For it is for this we labor and strive, because we have fixed our hope on the living God, who is the Savior of all men." (1 Timothy 4:10). In another place, "just as one trespass resulted in condemnation for all people, so also one righteous act resulted in justification and life for all people" (Romans 5:18). The Bible is not afraid of the word all. Jesus said, "If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!" Would you send any of your children to hell? Do you honestly think God loves you less than you love your children?

"Unless you become like a little child..."


Children want to grow up too fast.
They become impatient.
They want to understand things before their time,
So they imagine, pretend, assume, fear -
Rather than enjoy their childhood - trust the world around them, do their chores.

We are all children in God's grand evolutionary scheme.
We are just beginning the journey of life on earth.


Wise men came from the east, a carpenter to meet.
They talked of love and freedom, as he sat at their feet.
"Thou art that," they said to him, "such oneness removes all hate,
Don't resist the one who strikes - let love decide your fate."
"Detach yourself from all desire; your deepest needs are few.
Free yourself from all that's not. Forget what you thought you knew."

An Ode to Darwin and St. Francis

You and I disagree, we don't see eye to eye;
What can I do to bridge the gap? Should I even try?

If I were strong, I might use force, to make you bend your knee.
I'd get my way for a little while - until someone sets you free.

If I were smart, we might debate, until I won my case.
I'd get my way for a little while - until smarter words, my words erase.

If I were many, I'd call for a vote; and if I were the majority,
I'd get my way for a little while - until I became the minority.

Friday, February 8, 2013

Inspired Does Not Mean Without Error

In response to a recent letter saying the Bible has no errors, please consider the following.  Saint Paul wrote, “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness.”
Notice there is no mention of “inerrancy” or “without error”. The key word is “useful”, a far softer and more humble word than “inerrant” or even “infallible”.  

The other key word used by Paul is “God-breathed”, sometimes translated “inspired”. This word is important because it gives scripture an authority and uniqueness beyond ordinary writings and books. Still, there is nothing in the word “God-breathed” or “inspired” that implies complete freedom from error.