Wednesday, September 15, 2021

Immigrant’s song

by John Fischer

It’s hard to talk about Christianity in American culture right now without getting tangled up in politics — something I prefer not to do from the Catch if I can help it. But on the currently contested issue of immigration, I can’t help it. Mainly because there is a biblical mandate, both New and Old Testament, to welcome and make room for the stranger and the foreigner. If we are going to be marketplace Christians, we need to exhibit God’s attitude toward strangers and foreigners regardless of what our government does, and God is always placing them first. We may disagree over what we want the country to do or how they do it, but there is no discussion when it comes to us individually.

This is true for us as believers wherever we are in the world. Over forty times in the Old Testament, the Jewish people are admonished to welcome the stranger and the foreigner. And both Jesus and Paul speak of the same thing to us as followers of Christ. Hospitality toward strangers is built into our spiritual DNA.

Perhaps we can learn something from our Jewish friends. A recent article I read from a reputable source pointed out that there is a strong movement among Jews in America to aid and assist their Muslim neighbors and provide hospitality toward Muslim refugees among others. Syrian refugees can take English courses through a free program at a New York synagogue. One Rabbi claims that the current attitude of shunning immigrants being exhibited in America is “a betrayal of what this country stands for, what we Jews stand for, and is a terrible recollection of our own history… There has been an incredible coming together of synagogues around the country to welcome Muslim refugees. Jews really understand what it is to be ‘the other’ and to arrive in a strange country.” And now this same hospitality is being extended to Afghan refugees. 

What is it to be “the other?” Many of us don’t know.

Read the full article: https://catchjohnfischer.com/2021/09/14/immigrants-song/#more-18081

Thursday, September 2, 2021

Monday, July 5, 2021

Celebrating Independence (and independence of thought)!


Yesterday was a day for celebration, but today is a day for reflection. 

Just a reminder that Independence Day did not in fact bring independence to any but the former Europeans who declared they were no longer citizens of the Crown, and had little bearing on the then freedom of the new country's members of the population who were (a) still not seen as citizens or (b) given the right to vote or (c) still legally owned by others as slaves. Women, folks who didn't own land, and slaves still had a long way to go toward freedom, equality, and independence. It's good to enjoy the holiday as the beginning of something awesome but history is important and reminds us that it wasn't true independence for all (who were supposedly "created equal"). It's also okay to love your country and see it as a work in progress, not a finished system. It was a fantastic and radical first step, but it still had a long way to go and a lot of other people to include.

There is a school of thought out there that I think honestly believes that if you criticize something about the U.S., you can't be a patriot or love being American and be thankful.  (Not directed at anyone in particular. Just a general acknowledgment from being on social media.) I find that an odious thought.

If my job as a citizen was to simply to say that all our history and all our national documents and all our ideals are all above critique and we shouldn't question them because that makes us U.S.A. haters, then where does the opportunity to learn from our mistakes come from? Particularly if we refuse to admit we make any because we're 'Murica, dammit." Where can the opportunity to see our documents as living drafts that need to change as our country grows come from? 

I love my kids, but they still have issues to learn from and to change, just like I do. I love my country the same way.

For me, loving America means so much more than having the biggest flag on the block. It means so much more than relegating patriotism to whether or not someone stands or kneels during the national anthem. It means I'm proud of some of what we've done, and I have the freedom to change the other things I'm not proud of us about. It means I have the freedom to understand and acknowledge that we have a mixed bag in our history of both good and evil, and I have the right to confront the evil. It means I have the freedom to make a statement by my words and actions. It means I can respect and love my country without seeing its symbols as synonymous with its goals or even its ideals. I can love freedom and even turn away from the flag because I honor the sacrifices of those who gave their lives to keep us free. It doesn't mean I always need to turn away though, but if I feel the country is in need of understanding a shortcoming, I have the freedom to address it as it behooves my conscience. 

For me loving my country means loving it with my whole heart warts and all, but instead of calling those warts triumphs, I can freely admit what they are and apply a balm to repair them and makes us even better. For me loving my country means I have the freedom and the responsibility to speak out even during times of national celebration without it diminishing my love for it.

Tuesday, June 8, 2021

15 Most Personal Songs (a musical apologetic) -- #1 The Beatles, "Eleanor Rigby"

As a child of the 70s and 80s, I didn't have the luxury of computer games and social media to shape my thoughts. Instead, a lot of it came from the music I listened to. 

These are the top fifteen songs that helped to make me who I am and help keep me on track as a genuine person in this human experience. #STformativesongs

#1 - "Eleanor Rigby" by The Beatles

There has always been a sort of profound sadness in this song to me. So many people go unnoticed all the time. How can I dare say I'm being salt and light in the world if I let them continue to go by unnoticed and unloved. 

Some people say I'm too friendly, that I treat total strangers as if I've known them all my life when I strike up conversations in grocery store lines, at the coffee house, or in a waiting room while my car is being fixed. I just ignore them and think of this song again. 

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Ah, look at all the lonely people

Ah, look at all the lonely people


Eleanor Rigby

Picks up the rice in the church where a wedding has been

Lives in a dream

Waits at the window

Wearing the face that she keeps in a jar by the door

Who is it for?


All the lonely people

Where do they all come from?

All the lonely people

Where do they all belong?


Father McKenzie

Writing the words of a sermon that no one will hear

No one comes near

Look at him working

Darning his socks in the night when there's nobody there

What does he care?


All the lonely people

Where do they all come from?

All the lonely people

Where do they all belong?

Ah, look at all the lonely people

Ah, look at all the lonely people


Eleanor Rigby

Died in the church and was buried along with her name

Nobody came

Father McKenzie

Wiping the dirt from his hands as he walks from the grave

No one was saved


All the lonely people (ah, look at all the lonely people)

Where do they all come from?

All the lonely people (ah, look at all the lonely people)

Where do they all belong?

Tuesday, June 1, 2021

15 Most Personal Songs (a musical apologetic) -- #2 Bob Dylan, "With God on Our Side"

 As a child of the 70s and 80s, I didn't have the luxury of computer games and social media to shape my thoughts. Instead, a lot of it came from the music I listened to. 

These are the top fifteen songs that helped to make me who I am and help keep me on track as a genuine person in this human experience. #STformativesongs

#2 - "With God on Our Side" by Bob Dylan

I too was taught that the country I grew up in had God on its side. I too learned that you never ask questions when God's on your side. What I failed to learn until I was older was that, even in a historic religious understanding, God doesn't get on anyone's side. God calls people to join his/her/its (God is spirit, not human) side. 

I grew up believing that as long as I went to church and didn't do the actions that the grown-ups told me to avoid that God would be on my side. It had nothing to do with the attitudes of my heart or my actual love for others. It was all about not smoking, dancing, drinking, being gay, or hanging out with with people who did those things. 

I learned later that most everything I had learned as a child was garbage. True religion, I learned, was taking care of widows and orphans. Real Christian character came from exemplifying the fruit of the spirit. And I learned that the whole of religious law can be summed up as love God and love your fellow humans. 

And most of all, I learned that I never have God on my side. God doesn't get behind me and support my goals. Nor does God support the goals of the USA or the church or the conservative PACs or the goals of Republican or Democrats or Libertarians or anyone. God supports his/her/its own plan... period. 

The sooner I got over thinking God had my back the soon I realized I no longer had carte blanche to pursue every selfish whim I had and try to cover it in some kind of religious version of Manifest Destiny. We can ignore a lot of evils if we persist with this notion that God is on our side. 

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Oh my name it ain't nothin'

My age it means less

The country I come from

Is called the Midwest

I was taught and brought up there

The laws to abide

And that land that I live in

Has God on its side


Oh, the history books tell it

They tell it so well

The cavalries charged

The Indians fell

The cavalries charged

The Indians died

Oh, the country was young

With God on its side


The Spanish-American

War had its day

And the Civil War, too

Was soon laid away

And the names of the heroes

I was made to memorize

With guns in their hands

And God on their side


The First World War, boys

It came and it went

The reason for fighting

I never did get

But I learned to accept it

Accept it with pride

For you don't count the dead

When God's on your side


The Second World War

Came to an end

We forgave the Germans

And then we were friends

Though they murdered six million

In the ovens they fried

The Germans now, too

Have God on their side


I've learned to hate the Russians

All through my whole life

If another war comes

It's them we must fight

To hate them and fear them

To run and to hide

And accept it all bravely

With God on my side


But now we got weapons

Of chemical dust

If fire them, we're forced to

Then fire them, we must

One push of the button

And a shot the world wide

And you never ask questions

When God's on your side


Through many a dark hour

I've been thinkin' about this

That Jesus Christ was

Betrayed by a kiss

But I can't think for you

You'll have to decide

Whether Judas Iscariot

Had God on his side.


So now as I'm leavin'

I'm weary as Hell

The confusion I'm feelin'

Ain't no tongue can tell

The words fill my head

And fall to the floor

That if God's on our side

He'll stop the next war



Tuesday, May 25, 2021

15 Most Personal Songs (a musical apologetic) -- #3 Michael Jackson, "Man in the Mirror"

 As a child of the 70s and 80s, I didn't have the luxury of computer games and social media to shape my thoughts. Instead, a lot of it came from the music I listened to. 

These are the top fifteen songs that helped to make me who I am and help keep me on track as a genuine person in this human experience. #STformativesongs

#3 - "Man in the Mirror" by Michael Jackson 

I know Michael Jackson is an artist with a tainted legacy, but that doesn't lessen the impact of this, one of his greatest songs. This one actually continues the theme from yesterday. Before I look to change anyone else, I need to face the, well, face I see in the mirror each day. I need to work on that person before I even dare to presume to address anyone else's faults. And sadly, knowing me the way I do, it's going to be a long time before I get that guy right enough to go around judging anyone else. 

I think this one lesson is one that could fix so many of the problems in our world and cultures. 

==================

I'm gonna make a change

For once in my life

It's gonna feel real good

Gonna make a difference

Gonna make it right


As I, turn up the collar on

My favorite winter coat

This wind is blowing my mind


I see the kids in the streets

With not enough to eat

Who am I to be blind?

Pretending not to see their needs


A summer disregard, a broken bottle top

And a one man soul

They follow each other on the wind ya' know

'Cause they got nowhere to go

That's why I want you to know


I'm starting with the man in the mirror

I'm asking him to change his ways

And no message could have been any clearer

If you want to make the world a better place

Take a look at yourself, and then make a change

Na-na-na, na-na-na

Na-na, na-na


I've been a victim of a selfish kind of love

It's time that I realize

That there are some with no home, not a nickel to loan

Could it be really me, pretending that they're not alone?


A willow deeply scarred, somebody's broken heart

And a washed-out dream

They follow the pattern of the wind ya' see

'Cause they got no place to be

That's why I'm starting with me


I'm starting with the man in the mirror

I'm asking him to change his ways

And no message could have been any clearer

If you want to make the world a better place

Take a look at yourself, and then make a change


I'm starting with the man in the mirror

I'm asking him to change his ways

And no message could've been any clearer

If you want to make the world a better place

Take a look at yourself and then make that

Change!


Tuesday, May 18, 2021

15 Most Personal Songs (a musical apologetic) -- #4 The 77s, "The Lust, the Flesh, the Eyes, and the Pride of Life"

 As a child of the 70s and 80s, I didn't have the luxury of computer games and social media to shape my thoughts. Instead, a lot of it came from the music I listened to. 

These are the top fifteen songs that helped to make me who I am and help keep me on track as a genuine person in this human experience. #STformativesongs

#4 - "The Lust, the Flesh, the Eyes, and the Pride of Life" by the 77s

One of my core beliefs that has guided me is that unless I can acknowledge the evils (call it your choice, sin, bad stuff, flaws, etc.) inside, I can't become the person I'm supposed to. The minute I think I'm above anything is the moment I set myself up for a fall. There is an innate self-focus, selfishness that I have to resist, but to do that I have to know it's there and face it. It doesn't mean I embrace it, but I do have to accept it. I am a prideful SOB, and I know it. I want what I  everybody else be damned instinctively, and only knowing that's not who I want to be helps be resist it. Michael Roe and the 77s nailed me totally in this song, and I love them for it. 

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Well, I feel

Like I have to feel

Something good all of the time

With most of life I cannot deal

But a good feeling I can feel

Even though it may not be real

And if a person, place or thing can deliver

I will quiver with delight

But will it last me for all my life

Or just one more lonely night


The lust, the flesh

The eyes

And the pride of life

Drain the life

Right out of me


Well, I see something and I want it

Bam! Right now!

No questions asked

Don't worry how much it costs me now or later

I want it and I want it fast

I'll go to any length

Sacrifice all that I already have

And all that I might get

Just to get

Something more that I don't need

And Lord, please don't ask me what for


The lust, the flesh

The eyes

And the pride of life

Drain the life

Right out of me


And I love when folks

Look right at me

And what I'm doing

Or have done

And lay it on about

How groovy I am

And that I'm looking grand

And every single word

Makes me think I'll live forever

Never knowing that they probably

Won't remember what they said tomorrow

Tomorrow I could be dead


The lust, the flesh

The eyes

And the pride of life

Drain the life

Right out of me