Beyond Words Reconsidered – Take 1

Gary, Davis, needinc, amherst, christian, books, At the same time the BEYOND WORDS BOOKSHOP opened in Amherst, Massachusetts, I was developing a training course for Christians on the nature of the gospel, titled, coincidentally, BEYOND WORDS. Since they were about as humanistic as they come I took my course into them and asked if they would display my brochures. When they found out what it was about we all had a good laugh and the brochures were set up on the checkout counter by the register. Let’s just say that the first time we held the course it was, er, fascinating.

That was 25 years ago. Today the course has morphed into something far more expansive, fun, and exciting. But the thrust still concerns the nature and offering of our Christian message to the normal people of this culture. I use the phrase normal people because “Christian” no longer describes nor defines the majority of individuals in Western culture.

The next few installments of EMPulse will re-address our understanding, expression, and communication of the Christian message, the Gospel. This Take 1 concerns itself with the problems we face as our society loses its Christian memory and assumptions.

For the last ½ century we have boiled down “the gospel” to what we believe a person needs to know in order to become a Christian. Knowledge can no longer be the extent of our message to them. We are now engaged in a battle to verify what we say we believe through our involvement with peoples’ hurts, needs, and failures.

We dwell in a society that no longer holds to an agreed concept about the existence and nature of God, an understanding of a definition of sin (other thangetting caught), a knowledge of the life of Jesus Christ, and the ramifications of belief on/in Him. Nor do we dare assume they sense a need for any kind of God in their lives. The thought of needing an external reference point to guide their life-principles sounds weird to them. We need an expression of the gospel that goes beyond words, that challenges minds and touches hearts.

Asking people to “believe on Jesus and you will be saved” is loaded with so many subcultural assumptions that it has become a non-content phrase.

It’s time we reassessed the nature and content of the Christian message for this antiChristian world. To ignore the misgivings in our culture toward Christian cluelessness would be a grave disservice to our Lord Jesus.

For what it’s worth,

Gary

Wrong Assumptions

Assumptions not to make in our culture

Gordon Tarpley

Don’t to assume that the gospel is just Words.

 

Don’t assume that the gospel explained logically will get a response.

 

Don’t assume that people have the same understanding and experiences of God that we do.

 

Don’t assume that people understand what sin is, or even that it is bad.

 

Don’t assume that people Feel a Need for God in their lives.

 

Don’t assume that all people are seekers.

Pope Francis in America

Pope Francis, Gary Davis, 365Christianity, Christians, Clueless, Culture, Alfredo BorbaAs only the fourth Pope to set foot on American soil, Pope Francis has sparked an interest in not only the Christian faith, but in all religion across this land. Questions like, What do I believe? Do I really believe what I say I believe? What parts of those beliefs affect my life on a daily basis? And on a larger scale, What is our responsibility to the poor, the displaced, the strangers in our midst, and those of other faiths? Or, yet again, What is our responsibility to climate change? How can we handle the economic inequity across the globe?

 On September 23rd, in his speech before a joint session of Congress (http://time.com/4048176/pope-francis-us-visit-congress-transcript/), Francis graciously summarized & tackled two major areas of concern we need to address— CULTURAL ENGAGEMENT and CULTURAL WASTE.

 On the matter of Cultural Engagement, he encouraged all Christians, everyone in the United States, and everywhere, to solve the world crises in immigration, of refugees in the Middle East and Europe, to seek solutions to seemingly unending regional conflicts, and to learn that differing cultural perspectives can actually serve to improve the human race rather than to further divide it. We all must engage people who are different from us, for our own sake. Otherwise our differences will lead to misunderstanding and misunderstanding to mistreatment and war. We must end our isolationism.

 On the matter of Cultural Waste, Pope Francis’ deep concern was not only what we all are doing to our environment through national industrial pollution and waste byproducts, his concern was primarily with our attitude toward the humanity of humans. He called for an end to treating illegal immigrants as numbers, and called for an attitude where they are simply people, seeking a better life. He called for governments worldwide to find a solution to the massive migration of people from the Middle East and Northern Africa fleeing for their lives and for safety to European and Western borders. We dare not turn our backs on them because of their massive considerable numbers; they are people.

 His admonitions should move all of us to contact our Congressmen and Representatives to STOP ignoring these tragedies as if time will simply take care of them. It will not. WE must take care of them as if God is demanding that we do it. I couldn’t agree more.

What are you being called on to do to make a difference?

Tolerance, Not what you think it means

Gary, davis, reverberation, wilhelm, friedrich, hamlet, thesis, antithesis, tolerance


Georg W
ilhelm Friedrich Hegel was a German born 19th Century philosopher who speculated on the nature of Being and Nothingness (“To Be or Not To Be…? Hamlet?). He concluded that for every thesis, a statement about some idea, there is an opposing antithesis, an opposing idea. These two opposing positions would battle it out and result, most of the time, in a synthesis of the two. Hegel used this formulation only once, but it formed the basis for many of his subsequent hypotheses.

So today, 200 years on, what does this have to do with anything?!?

In these last few weeks/months/years our society has become so reactionary that people are neglecting the common courtesy of thinking before they act. Too many of us are jus’ letting” it all hang out, blowing up, accusing each other, not even listening to the other group’s full thesis. Thus do tempers Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel  1770 - 1831  flare, stereotypes flourish, and a kind of seething hatred takes over, further widening the gap between people and positions. Winning is all that matters. Being right. It’s always tit for tat: thesis vs. antithesis. We never seem to grow into a synthesis beyond all our posturing.

The recent Supreme Court rulings for gay-marriages, Bruce Jenner becoming Caitlyn Jenner, and our President striking a nuclear pact with Iran, Confederate Flag waving, have all contributed to the further polarization of the Left & the Right, Conservative vs. Liberal, Bible Belt/Wheat Belt vs. East/West Coasts & our larger cities. E pluribus unum still means Out of many, One; but we are hardly definable by that precept any longer

It would be more accurate to admit that we are a nation of individualists, of special interest groups, of political parties & sub-parties, of religious and non-religious groups all seeking dominance in the dance of democracy. One group wins over another, then another group triumphs: thesis- anti-thesis; we never arrive at a synthesis for the common good.

It’s time we brought divergent groups, parties, & whoever to the table of human decency and admitted we live in a pluralistic society. We are bound together not to fight only for our own rights, but to fight for each other’s right to exist and to have a voice. We owe it to one another to learn NOT to tolerate one another, but to defend each other, to care about the prosperity and happiness of people who are not like us. We may not be “under God” any longer (probably never were), but at the very least we owe it to ourselves and to our children to work on a resolution to all the brawling for self-aggrandizing superiority.

IF we do not, this reactionary positioning will have reverberations well into many future generations.

Synthesis.

God help us all

  Gary

winning

Gary, Davis, Gandhi, Winning,

First they ignore you,

then they laugh at you,

then they fight you,

then you win.

~ Mahatma Gandhi

1869 – 1948

I’ve never won much in life. Well, that is, if you consider, kewpie-dolls at the county fair, the first prize in a match-box car race, or a Monopoly game, or certain sports events worth winning; I just don’t seem to be cut out for winning: not, at least, at this level. I’d rather put my time and energy into winning the battle for the souls of men & women, for justice, for clearer communication between peoples who don’t even want to talk with each other, let alone consider loving each other. I’d like to bring peace where there is very little of it: that’s worth winning.

Winning is different for everybody. For some of us, every human exchange is a competitive event:  someone has to win, someone has to lose. These people play their game with every ounce of their strength and will power (in sports, business, simple conversations, or relationships) to win. For three years during college I was on our Debate Team; I never lost even one debate. As I grew in life, after college, a couple graduate programs, & a doctorate, I had to learn how NOT to win. Why? Because I lost too many relationships always trying to win, to be right, to wind up Number ONE. It wasn’t worth it to me.

When our children were in their formative years I used to tell them— If you put yourself on Top, there’s only one direction you can go. If you put yourself on the Bottom, there’s only one direction you can go. ‘Nough said.

So, my question to you is this— What’s worth winning? Is it scoring that winning point in a game? Being summa cum laude at graduation? Becoming Senior Vice-President by age thirty? Or simply driving the coolest car? To be sure there are some things in life worth winning; and, there are some things in life not really worth fighting for. We all need to pick our battles carefully. C a r e f u l l y.

For me, I just want to make a difference in this world before I check out. How about you?

For what it’s worth,

  Gary

We the People…

Gary, Davis, Charleston, America, IndividualismThe Charleston murders last night are reflective of an America that has fallen deeply into the abyss of the rights of the individual to shape the core beliefs & common respect due us all. “We the people…, in order to form a more perfect union.” Has degenerated into “I will assert my rights, my values, my individual dominance, and my anger against anyone I chose…, screw you.”

 Following World War II (1945) America was so tired of war we simply withdrew from Korea and allowed the country to divide. (1952) We know how well that worked out. Through our war in Vietnam (‘60s-70s) we grew weary and skeptical that any war was worth entering. Then came the Gulf War followed by the War in Iraq, and finally our world-wide war against Terrorists and ISIS. According to my son-in-law, a military strategist, that is a Stage 1 war that can never be won, and will never be over.

The effect of this history has been that American individualism has focused on our own individual rights and a return to isolationism. We don’t want to get involved.

 It took almost 100 years following our Civil War for African Americans to be recognized as decent human beings. Our LGBTQ Americans fared much better in a mere 40 year struggle to gain national recognition.

 Why should we be surprised that a white supremacist attends a Wednesday Bible Study and murders nine African-Americans!?! His goal? “To reignite the race wars.” American individualism has supplanted any core value with the values of whatever fringe activist group seeks to assert over the common good. This is wrong on any moral, civil, and human decency level you can find throughout history.

 Which groups will face eradication next? My guess is any semblance of the Judean-Christian religious tradition. Religious types are a threat because they believe in an external reference point on which all human dignity and morality is based. They threaten those fringe philosophies that challenge the common core’s right to exist. Judaism, Christianity, Islam, are a threat to our nation and must be kept in check. There is no common decency, there is no moral code, there is no respect for “WE the people.. .”. There is only I.

 Thus, the murders in Charleston last night.

 And yes, I am mad that we have come to this.

 Dr. Gary Davis

Bench Players

GuillaumeG

There are a lot of bench players out there. You know the ones; they are on the team, but they are never quite in the game. Oh, they will cheer the players on the field with great gusto, but they never seem ready to enter the game as much as others.

We find them in all walks of life— sports teams, churches, business departments, etc. Some “players” would rather sit/stand on the sidelines and cheer rather than getting into the game. They never quite measure up.

In my line of work I find many bench players who cheer the team on; they just don’t want to play. What they settle into is a critical spirit that rains down on their fellow team members who are giving it all they’ve got. These bench players know how to get things done, of course, even better than those embroiled in the game, even better. They just never do it. And if they do have a better solution, we’ll never know it. Ah, if only they would play.

So, what kind of player are you? It’s easy to tell. If you are in the game, you are battered, bruised, dirty; discouraged one minute, elated the next. If you sit on the side and merely criticize those in the game, your uniform is spankin’ clean; you may have a great perspective on the overall game, but you are just not invested in it enough to get roughed up by the other team.

Real life needs players who play. Churches need players who play; and who are not afraid of getting beaten down every now & then. We need genuine Christians who are invested in the game. They are invested in their church and its goals. We already have too many bench players as it is.

Which kind of player do you think you are? Hint— look for wounds, cuts & abrasions.

Bleeding a little here,

  Gary

Vermicompost

Dr, Gary, Davis, Clueless, Christian, Worms, Compost, Vermicompost                 Vermicompost is the product or process of composting using various worms, usually red wigglers, white worms, and other earthworms to create a heterogeneous mixture of decomposing vegetable or food waste, bedding materials, and vermicast. Vermicast, commonly known as worm poop, is the end product (pun intended) of the breakdown of organic material by an earthworm. -Wikipedia

We had a cute little depressing nursery rhyme when I grew up— “Nobody loves me, everybody hates me; I’m gonna go eat worms.” ‘Turns out that might not be a bad idea. Worms seem to have a way of turning organic materials into a super-rich fertilizer. Eventually, they will even turn you and me into fertilizer. Doesn’t that just make your day!?! So the next time you feel like $#*%, enjoy it! You’re finally on your way to making a difference in this world. Worm poop at last!

You can find a ray of hope in everything. In pain, in prison; in terrible poverty or in facing death, there is always a hope that beams within us just below the surface of what everyone else sees. Why is that? Where does it come from? I believe it is a remnant of the glory of creation, where the entire Universe came into Being. Birds have it, I know dogs do, and children…, they have it. WE have it too; it’s just that we’ve allowed it to be buried deep within the dark void of our souls, unable to break through to the surface.

I’ve had my share of pain and horror in life, betrayal and judgment: somehow I’ve always been able to feel that glowing ember of hope, burning deep within, underneath the anguish of the moment, or month, or year. I truly believe that it was placed there by our Creator; it’s there to remind us that we are not alone. That leftover spark from the first millisecond of time is what still connects us to the Universe and to the God who made us. If I did not believe that, I would be no more than a speck of dust— a compilation of atoms that even the worms wouldn’t want. That connection is the real “god-particle.”

So the next time you feel like worm-poop, try to feel that tiny glowing spark of Creation still glowing with you. It’s there. Go digging. [Note- You might have to dig through a lot of worm poop to get to it.]

For what it’s worth, poopy-head,

  Gary

Mostly Pure

Clueless, Pure, Garrison, Keilor, Mostly, Pure, Christian, Dr, Gary, Davis, NeedincIf you’ve ever driven ‘cross country on Saturday night you might have tuned-in to PBS’s PRAIRE HOME COMPANION, a weekly broadcast of Garrison Keilor, onetime resident of the ill-fitted Lake Wobegone, and modern satirical comedian.

The show is “sponsored” by the fictitious product “Powdermilk Biscuits,” whose slogan is “Made from whole wheat raised in the rich bottomlands of the Lake Wobegon river valley by Norwegian bachelor farmers; so you know they’re not only good for you, but pure … mostly,” which “give shy people the strength to get up and do what needs to be done. Heavens they’re tasty and expeditious.” Powdermilk Biscuits has its own theme song, sung by Keillor every week. And NO, I’m not going to sing it for you.

It has always been fascinating to me how something can be “mostly pure.” I question this every time I read the ingredients listed on our food products. “Mostly pure?!?”  I think. What does that mean? I also think of it at funerals when people speak of the deceased as “a good man.” It’s the reflection in their voice that gives me pause— like they’re trying to convince themselves of it.

Defining anything as mostly pure causes me to wonder if we even know what pure actually is anymore. A girl who is a virgin is defined as pure as she approaches marital status. “Pure 100% Virgin Olive Oil” makes me curious about what the other olive oils are. Are they like Dove Soap— “99.99% pure. It’s almost as if being described as pure is derogatory, especially if you are a young lass. I mean, who wants to marry someone who is still a virgin!?! Really.

Our culture doesn’t seem concerned with being pure in any way whatsoever, whether it be sexually, morally, politically, or in family and business priorities and commitments. Why is that?

Here are just four causes for our loss of concern for purity

1.      We’ve become jaded. Thanks to modern media we can learn everything about anybody. It’s on the Internet, in the Tabloids, and on Headline News. We’ve grown accustomed to our public figures, be they politicians, athletes, or celebrities, being “dirty” in some way. And we simply accept it.

2.      It’s all about winning. UCLA Bruins football coach Henry Russell (“Red”) Sanders has said “Winning isn’t everything: it’s the ONLY thing!” (1950) Win at all costs, by skill, cheating, trickery…, whatever. Just win!

3.      Our base concern is the Bottom-Line. Making money is the only thing that matters. Screw anybody, just to make a buck. Remember the Wall Street broker’s answer to the question?  “How much money is enough?”  “More! That’s why lawyers are brought in to arbitrate an agreement. It is assumed that both parties will write the contract in their favor exclusively. Purity and fairness never come into the equation.

4.      A total abnegation of personal and corporate (not to mention governmental) Integrity. We no longer have a problem with disguising a lie as a truth, or with omitting certain data to make ourselves look better. Pragmatism has supplanted personal integrity in unfathomable ways.

To change this cultural-life pattern is no simple task. But we must start (yes, again) to correct our ways before God and our fellow men & women. Might I suggest we start with our own lives and relationships, and then press on to demand some degree of personal integrity and purity from our cultural leaders? 99.99% is sounding pretty good. Mostly pure!

 

For what it’s worth,

  Gary

Uncovering Christians at Christmas

Dr, Gary, Davis, Christmas, Christian, Clueless, faith            It is becoming more and more difficult find real Christians. We have been supplanted by the massive dismissal of genuine Christian and Biblical beliefs. Replaced, seemingly, by a preference for anything else. But this begs a question—  Why do we need to identify the genuine Christians in culture?

I’m not sure that we do need to identify other Christians in our culture. BUT…, genuine Christians should standout, in some positive way, more than our normal citizens. Some of the things my wife and I have done over the years are—

1.      Gathered our agnostic & atheists friends to join us in neighborhood caroling. Then we gather back at our home for good cookies, wassail, & hot cider,

2.      Distribute our excellent Christmas cookies to friends, of course, but also to the local businesses with whom we do business. If they are in retail, nothing beats a delivered pizza or salad.

3.      Sweeping off the snow & scraping the ice off cars of fellow employees at the end of the day.

4.      Shovel neighbors’ driveways. (note. This is not possible in southern Cal or Florida.)

5.      Providing child care, free of charge, for couples that need to escape for a while.

6.      Take $100, break it into $20s, and give it to random people. No reason.

7.      Give someone the gift of a creative teenager who can help wrap their Christmas gifts. (OK, we haven’t actually done this one yet, but we will. Promise!)

8.      Give hand-warmers to everyone!

9.      Distribute fine bottles of wine randomly; decoratively wrapped.

10.  Or eggnog.

Now, please note. Are any of these ideas especially Christian? No, not really. But we have found that these simple acts of Christmas kindness give rise to the question, “Who are these people?” A simple act that opens a window for a relationship of faith & trust.

So what do you do that is particularly Christian at Christmas?

For what it’s worth,

  Gary