Welcome to the website of a retired United Methodist pastor! This corner of the Internet continues nearly fifty years of a weekly column in a church newsletter, on topics ranging from the ridiculous to the sublime. The opinions expressed are the author's and represent no institution, although it is hoped that within these pages you will find a reflection of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, who, in his own borrowed words, insists that we love God with, along with all the rest of what we are, our minds. "Critical" as used in the title does not mean being nasty or grumpy; it means using intellectual faculties in the service of God. Your reactions, rebuttals, comments, and questions can be addressed to: BobHow9846@comcast.net.
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October 30, 2015 - Essays: Prayer as a Scream of Our Humanity
November 21, 2015 - Essays: The Kingdom Not the Caliphate
The horrific atrocities devised and committed by Abdelhamid Adaaoud and
his band of imbecilic terrorists prompted an analyst to
The Kingdom Not the Caliphate
The horrific atrocities devised and committed by Abdelhamid
and his band of hell-bound terrorists prompted an analyst to explain the appeal
of ISIS to the young impressionable losers attracted from around the world: that ISIS promises meaning and purpose to empty and drifting lives.
didn't stop there in his analysis. He went on to not so subtly condemn Western
society for providing no other alternative than a life of ease, materialism, and
(no, he didn't say it, but could have) selfishness.
bleak assessment of us doesn't jibe with my experience. The households and
pulpits I have frequented have been insistent, if not always eloquent or
persuasive, that one of the major strategies for a meaningful life is to be
useful: not just to make money, but to make friends.
of those long, long Thursday afternoons in the church I last served, when one
after another thirteen year old confirmand would enter my study for a
face-to-face with the pastor, one of them carried a loose-leaf book covered with
wrapping paper on which he had sketched his heart's desire, a Lamborghini. The
subject for the afternoon was The Sermon on the Mount. I guided him to
Matthew 6 and hinted that Jesus told us not to worry about where we would live,
what we would eat or drink... and (getting a little anachronistic) what we would
drive. I met the lad twenty years later; he had no recollection of that
afternoon or the drawing. He now drives a Chevy SUV. Financial
limitation not pastoral advice is the likely reason for vehicular choice.
But, smart guy on TV, don't tell me that we are raising children without
pointing them in the right direction and insisting that life is a lot more than
Lamborghinis and a couch on which to watch endless football games.
closer to home: I am inordinately (but justifiably) proud of a couple of
twenty-three year olds who spent most of those years growing up within easy
reach of my unamplified voice and its occasional advice. They now aspire
to lives of service, one as a doctor, the other as a judge. I have
regularly disabused them of any fantasies about making a lot of money, telling
them that they'll always have enough for a satisfying life if they do their jobs
well, that our society will always need their skills and will show appreciation
with the salaries paid. "Be useful and all these things will be added unto
you," Jesus never said it, but the thought is a fair interpretation of the
clinching line in Matthew 6.
analyst mentioned another appeal of ISIS, its call to sacrifice your life for a greater
cause. The road to that cause may be bloodstained with decapitations, but
the caliphate which emerges will be a glorious triumph for Allah and the minions
who make it happen.
"Sacrifice": I have consciously erased it from my sermonic vocabulary and
my biography. They told me I might have been publisher of Time
magazine. They told me I should have been president of Syracuse
University. They told me I was wasting my talent in a small church in Brooklyn
when larger pulpits beckoned. I suspect I could have made a fortune if I
had followed a well-worn path by earlier collegiate alumni to Wall Street. Doing
what I have done with my life was no sacrifice, though some tried to put that
label on me. Doing what I have done - being a pastor and being useful to
those at hand - is (forgive me the arrogance) the wisdom for a fulfilling life.
And it's no sacrifice.
Someone taught me that. My mother, surely. My pastors, of course.
Jesus, eternally. The word is out there. So don't tell me that
Western society is doomed to fail in a contest for the minds and hearts of the
disaffected young because of the failure to offer an alternative.
my watch anyway.