Saturday, April 27, 2013

Arrogance of Medical Doctors Ticks Me Off

I'm sure that many folks in this country have experienced this. You ask a doctor a question and they, condescendingly, ask what your medical background is. Like whatever they may say is so far above your puny comprehension that they cannot be bothered with such things. Or, you tell a doctor that the course of treatment they are taking is not working. They say, 'Trust me'. They think that they cannot possibly be mistaken. After all, they have gone to medical school and done their residency and now are gods that can pronounce truth and justice to the uneducated minions.
I've had this happen to me twice. The first time my mother had just had a very serious surgery. One of the pieces of equipment that was designed to safeguard her failed. Because of that, the doctors gave her too much fluid and almost killed her. During her recovery I went to the attending physician and asked about her condition. He looked at me and asked me what my medical experience was. I looked at him and said that I didn't have any. I was the concerned family member that he was going to talk to...NOW! That got his attention and he took pains to explain what was happening. As a result, we moved my mother to a facility that was far better equipped to help her.
This past week another doctor tried to impress with her vast medical knowledge and experience. My father has been in a skilled nursing facility for rehab from surgery. During his stay he became restless and, as the staff reported, combative. I can see that. He has dementia and doesn't understand much of what is going on around him. The staff physician prescribed a medication that was supposed to settle him down. After a couple days, we noticed that he was becoming agitated and unresponsive. We asked to review his meds and found one that could cause the symptoms we observed. When I questioned the doctor, she assured me that the meds were safe. There was nothing about them that could cause what we were observing. The problem was, we KNEW his behavior. We have been attending to him for the last year and are very aware of all of his issues. What we were seeing was something drastically new and dangerous. We continued to question the doctor. She continued to tell us to 'trust' her judgement. Finally, after more than a week, the doctor started to take us seriously. We had told her and the nursing staff that Dad's behavior was abnormal and most likely caused by the meds he was getting. (Now, it helps that I'm married to a Nurse who deals with these meds. She was instrumental in helping us get our message across to the attending staff. But, what about everyone else who does NOT have someone to help?)
Anyway, the doc discontinued the medication that we suspected was causing problems. Gee, after one day Dad's condition has improved. Whodathunkit?
My point in this rant is that medical professionals, particularly M.D.s, cop an attitude of omniscience that only Yahweh can claim. Family and friends, those who are with the patients day after day, can help when it comes to abrupt and drastic changes in behavior and condition. For these doctors to simply blow off our concerns and observations is simply arrogance. Arrogance that could very well cause harm. Perhaps they should read the Oath again...I will prescribe regimens for the good of my patients according to my ability and my judgment and never do harm to anyone.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Hate what God Hates...Whatever that is

Last week I visited a local church. It’s one that I’ve visited a few times over the past few years. I find meaning in the liturgy there. It’s not like the evangelical free church that I was a part of for many years. This church understands the importance of symbol and celebration in a way that actually embodies, at least how I understand it, the work of God in worship. However, the senior pastor made a statement during a prayer that puzzled me. He prayed that we would love what God loves, and hate what God hates. Now, to most evangelicals, this sounds like a good prayer. It is asking God to show us how and where to direct our affection and our disdain. It seems to be asking for wisdom and discernment. Good things, right? But, there is more to this, I think. First, what does God love and hate? The prayer left this wide open to every speculation and opinion. Although, in his sermon he alluded to some moral concerns, primarily directed to young people, there was no direction for any of us to take in order to discern these things. So, I decided to take a quick trip through the Scripture to see if I could find anything that could help me to love the things God loves, and to hate what God hates.
First, I want to say that this is in no way a comprehensive study. Most Christians would not understand it if it was. This is a quick view that any interested person could do in a short amount of time. It is, in its brevity, accessible to anyone.
In the New Testament I found very few references to God hating anyone or anything. There is a reference to Mal. 1:2 in Romans 9. It reads that God has loved Jacob, but has hated Esau. In the Romans context, Paul was trying to explain God’s sovereignty in the form of election. God will have mercy on who God chooses. It’s not up to human actions. In the Malachi reference, it appears that God was explaining that through divine choice, God considered Esau as an enemy. Again, no reason other than God’s choice. PLEASE NOTE that this is an example of God’s own divine choice. It is not something that we could ever possibly act out on our own. We cannot hate Esau because we do not have a reason to. God alone gets to make that call. Besides, for the pastor’s prayer above to have any meaning for us today, we would need to know who the heck Esau is. We cannot hate Esau.
In Hebrews 1:9 we find that Jesus apparently hated lawlessness, but loved righteousness. Again, no definitions here. What did the writer mean by lawlessness? Kittel, in the Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, wrote that in this particular instance, lawlessness could be synonymous with sinfulness. So, the writer was basically making the statement that Jesus hated sin. But, the sin, or lawlessness here appears to be that which Jesus hated in his own life! Not in anyone else’s. Because of this, God set him above his companions. Ok, so we can learn to hate sin IN OUR OWN LIVES. This text does not give us privilege to hate it in anyone else’s life.
There is a statement in Revelation that is a tad confusing. Apparently, God hated the deeds of someone referred to as Nicolaitans. No one really knows for sure who these folks were, nor what deeds are being referred to. Can’t hate what we don’t know about.
So far, there isn’t much that I can find that would help us to hate what God hates. Mostly because, it doesn’t appear that God hates too much.
The Hebrew testament has some interesting things to say about what God hates. Without giving specific references, I found that God hates dishonest gain. Hmm… If we were to bring that statement forward a couple thousand years, perhaps God would not be happy with Western economic systems that reward those who get ‘gain’ using any means, including dishonest ones. Of course, when these people or institutions are found out, there is a great public outcry for a day or two. Then, back to business as usual. Maybe we could find an object of hatred there. But, as Jesus told those who brought the adulteress to him, let whoever is without sin toss the first rock.
The Scripture is clear in many places that God hates idolatry…all idolatry. What can we learn from that? Most people would define idol worship as anything that a person places importance on at the exclusion of other things, especially God. That could be money, house, job, spouse/kids, lover, prestige, RV, or cable TV. Here again, though, it is idolatry that we have in our life that is important here. It’s not up to us to point out the idolatry that we may sense in others. We are pretty much incapable of having accurate discernment.
In Proverbs chapter 6 the writer gave a list of things that God hates. Now, with this kind of list, the main point is usually the last item in the list. In this one that item is one who spreads strife among brothers. In fact, all of the items are interpersonal things. Lying, shedding innocent blood, etc. God apparently doesn’t like it when people treat other people badly. Ok, I can understand that. So, how does that play out as we relate to the LGBT community? What’s that look like as we objectify and marginalize women? Immigrants? The poor? Just something to think about.
There are other texts that I could reference, but, I’ll finish with this one. Amos 5:21-24,
21 “I hate, I reject your festivals, Nor do I delight in your solemn assemblies.
22   “Even though you offer up to Me burnt offerings and your grain offerings, I will not accept them;
And I will not even look at the  peace offerings of your fatlings.
                   23  “Take away from Me the noise of your songs;
I will not even listen to the sound of your harps.
                   24  “But let justice roll down like waters
And righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.

Perhaps, now I’m just speculating here, God isn’t all that happy when people use that authority of the pulpit to speak for God. At least, when making general statements that are loaded with emotion. Maybe our church leaders would do well to make sure that the words that come out of their mouths are accurate and precise. From what I’ve found out, these are the ones who may experience God’s displeasure.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Our Common Human Frailty

This is not the post that I have been planning to write. That one is going to take another couple of days to prepare. But, I'm really having a difficult and emotional moment right now. You see, my dad is getting up in years. He's 84. That's ok, I guess. But the real issue is the dementia that has robbed him of his life. I just came from the rehab center that is his current home. He had surgery to remove his gall bladder a couple weeks ago and has not been able to return to his 'normal life.' I understand that dementia redefines 'normal.' But, I was totally unprepared for what I saw today. I will not go into details, but suffice to say that the, the fire in dad's eyes has been extinguished. I remember playing tennis with him way back in the day. He never had mercy on me, even though I was some 26 years his junior. He wanted me to learn! Today I looked into his eyes and saw...well...nothing. They are pale blue and lifeless. He even told the nurse present that his wife was gone and I am gone. He knows. The time for exiting this life is ever so near. I am preparing a eulogy. I think that God the Holy Spirit know that Bill's life is nearing its culmination. I pray that I can do justice to the life of this man. Formed in his mother's womb, grown up in the sight of Yahweh, and passing in the grace of God through Yeshua Ha Mashiach.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Selling God

A couple days ago I drove past a local church. It is a fairly large Assembly of God church. On the sign outside were the words 'Healing Service.' Now, I've seen hundreds of these signs over the years. Sometimes the type of service changes. It may read 'Deliverance Service,' or 'Revival Service,' or any number of other kinds of service. I have attended these services in the past. Shoot, I've been part of the administration of them as a worship leader! So, why was I offended when I saw this particular sign? After all, aren't we supposed to encourage everyone to come to the 'house of the Lord'?
I think that part of my reticence has to do with the apparent arrogance of the sign. It implies that only at such and such a time, God will have office hours. If you come to our church during this time you may experience some kind of super-natural intervention that may alleviate your present, less than satisfactory condition.
This opens an incredibly large can of night crawlers. (If your intent is to go fishing, maybe this is ok.)
First, there is the overt arrogance of a small group of people, (re. white males), who have an inside track to understanding the movement of the Holy Spirit. They think that if they can schedule a spiritual event, then Ruach Elohim, the Breath of God, is compelled to show up and do their bidding. As I read the scriptures I see the Spirit hovering over the deep, coming and going like the wind, doing anything other than what is predictable. So, to think that this Spirit can be harnessed into our understanding of time and space is wrong-headed at the very least.
Another thing that stands out is the advertisement of the event. To place a sign outside of a building implies that this particular place is the only place where God will be on whatever particular evening. I don't want to be crass, but the only words that come to mind right now are "bullshit." (Sorry to offend folks who are sensitive to language.) God is God. God does what God wants to do when God wants to do it. We CANNOT be so arrogant as to say that God will be available at whatever time and place we deem proper and in line with our human agenda.
But, the most offensive thing in all of this is that God is commodified. God is marketed on signs outside of churches like a pot-blessing dinner. (How I hate that Christianese term!) God is revealed to people in a way that shows humans as the ultimate arbiters and administrators of Spiritual truth. I don't see God in a box as I read the Scriptures. Perhaps, we should be taking a more human like approach realize that God is God and we are not. No one can control what and where the Spirit moves. Absolutely not on a sign outside of a building.

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Two plus Two equals Five

I have finished Orwell's 1984. Having grown up in the 60's, I can see a lot of what he wrote reflected in the mentality of that era. We were neck deep in a cold war with the USSR. Vietnam was exploding on our televisions and rock-n-roll was my language of choice. We saw in the so-called 'establishment' an attempt to control our thought and way of life. Ok, so maybe we were a tad paranoid about that. But, that era prepared me, and countless others, to accept the new orthodoxy of Christianity. I was a Jesus Freak. I grabbed onto the tenets of that movement with both hands. Over the years I became convinced that we were right and everyone else had missed the mark. The biggest proof that we had was communicated in our own language. We had 'chosen' to be 'born again' through 'faith' in the 'gospel,' whatever that was. We had our own music and culture. If something wasn't "Christian" it was suspect. That leads me to this quote from Orwell's work.
The character O'Brien speaking to Winston:
You are here because you have failed in humility, in self-discipline. You would not make the act of submission which is the price of sanity. You preferred to be a lunatic, a minority of one. Only the disciplined mind can see reality, Winston. You believer that reality is something objective, external, existing in its own right. you also believe that the nature of reality is self-evident. When you delude yourself into thinking that you see something, you assume that everyone else sees the same thing as you. Bit I tell you, Winston, that reality is not external. Reality exists in the human mind, and nowhere else. Not in the individual mind, which can make mistakes, and  in any case soon perishes; only in the mind of the Church, which is collective and immortal. Whatever the Church holds to be truth is truth. It is impossible to see reality except by looking thought the eyes of the Church. That is the fact that you have got to relearn, Winston. It needs an act of self-destruction, an effort of the will. You must humble yourself before you can become sane."
Ok, I took some liberty with that quote. I substituted "Church" for "Party." In the evangelical, neo-reformed church there is an understood command to not question the party line. We are told what to believe and how to express that belief. When someone, (me for instance), begins to question things, we are told to hold to the 'orthodox' faith or face some kind of retribution. Mostly, this involves being 'shamed.'
I'm sorry if anyone is offended. But, I simply DO NOT adhere to any teaching that is exclusivist or patriarchal. I don't buy into the fundagelical literal belief that requires anyone to believe exactly as the 'party' does. I must live in a world where questions are welcome and faith is allowed to grow in 'real time'...for real people.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

1984 was a very, er, Interesting Year

I've got some kind of virus right now. It's kicking my butt. So, I really am trying to take it easy. But, I was checking some of the posts out there in the blogoshpere and came by one by James F. McGrath. The only reason it jumped out at me is that I am currently reading 1984 by George Orwell. (For the first time. Ok, I'm a little behind, let it go.) Most of the time when I read fiction I find myself transported into the world that the author has created. For C.S. Lewis I find myself in Perelandra, Malacandra or Narnia. Tolkein takes me to Middle Earth. With Orwell, I find myself in Oceania. However, McGrath makes the point that "Orwell has written a book that seems like it ought to change the world." This I find interesting. More than making a political statement, he was making a critique of society and culture at a very basic level. Classism, racism and any other social construct came under his scrutiny. I appreciate McGrath's insight on this. I may have to re-read the book with my own worldview placed under the microscope.