14 April 2016

True shorts

This site uses "true sizing." Source.
OK, I'm determined to keep these "shorts" on the topic of truth to no more than three or four paragraphs. That way I can go back to bed as soon as possible and continue feeling sorry for myself. (Bad cold.)

The government uses euphemisms? How can that be?!

Yes, I know it feels like a never-ending slog, but we owe it to our children, our Christian testimony, and our civilization, to keep challenging these violations. Instead of succumbing to cynicism, let's fill whatever space is available to us, to challenge doublespeak and the sins that it covers.

These are the Web articles that provoked me this week: A dictionary of euphemisms for imperial decline. (That item also fits my rubric of perpetual war watch.) And an introduction to Israeli Newspeak.

Lots of news Web sites have been covering the story of the Russian warplanes that "simulated attack passes" near (very near) the American destroyer USS Donald Cook earlier this week. The videos properly impressed me with the apparent aggressiveness of the air maneuvers.

After I watched a few of the videos, I wondered whether there were similar incidents in or near U.S. waters. (The Cook was not far from the Russian port of Kaliningrad.) Given that the Russian military presence outside Russia is microscopic compared to the worldwide scope of U.S. installations, I was wondering if a double standard was operating: it's only wrong when "they" do it. After Googling the topic of Russian vessels near U.S. naval installations and similar phrases, I was amazed at, no matter how I worded the question, Google wanted to tell me about Russians being aggressive to Americans (and allies) rather than the reverse. I was a bit mollified to see moderate language coming out of Pentagon mouths: "'So long as they are operating in international waters -- as, frankly, we do around the world -- and are behaving in a responsible way, they are certainly free to do so and it doesn't cause any alarm within this building,' press secretary Geoff Morrell said at a Pentagon news conference." (Source. My italics.)

Here's a little side-item concerning truth. Compare these two treatments of the same story -- a Russian "research" vessel gathering information near a U.S. submarine base and transit routes. Version one with an actual picture of the vessel. Version two sounds a lot scarier: "Navy Spotted Russian WAR SHIP Near Georgia NUCLEAR SUBMARINE BASE!" In prominent place under the headline you will see, not a photo of the ship in question, but a Russian destroyer bristling with guns. In case you're wondering what the true meaning of Russia's maneuvers are, the article comes complete with a helpful hint: "Could this be a sign that Russia sense Obama's weakness, especially after the pathetic approval of the dangerous Iran nuclear arms deal?"

In the meantime, in Russia itself, things seem to be going from bad to worse for the beleaguered Jehovah's Witnesses. (I've covered this story before; in this post, I quote Vitalii Adamenko's opinion that conscientious objection is a major reason the authorities don't like this church.)

Anton Chivchalov, in his article in Religion and Law, "Russian law enforcement plants evidence on Jehovah's Witnesses," speaks eloquently about the social degradation that results when police are forced to plant evidence:
The more widely it is practiced, the less room remains for honest people. When you are required to plant evidence on innocent people or to convict them, you are forced either to lay your badge on the table or fulfill a dirty and immoral order, inevitably compromising your own conscience.
Every once in a while, the subject of official corruption comes up in our classes -- never at our initiative! (As I've said before, I'm from Chicago; I have no illusions that Russia invented political corruption!!) A few weeks ago, we took an informal poll of our students: "Raise your hand if you think that bureaucrats are something like 75% honest, 25% on the take. Or 50% - 50%. Or 25% honest and 75% dishonest." Not one student agreed with me that most bureaucrats in Russia are honest, though this has been my own observation. (The pat explanation: "You're a foreigner, they treat you differently.") Here's my question: If you are a government worker and you're trying to do a good job, how does it feel to have most people assume you're compromised? Even when cynicism sometimes seems justified by reality, it is still spiritual poison!!

Another truth issue: being honest about the cost of leadership. I was very impressed by something in Alan Amavisca's most recent newsletter from his North County Project. Here's his article, not subject to my four-paragraph limit because I didn't write it!
The Cost of Leadership

"As for you, always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry." - 2 Timothy 4:5

A friend of mine has ministered in a semi-closed country, even planted a church there. He recently told me the church he helped plant has been closed down by the authorities.

The church became a victim of its own success-too many people responded to the gospel. The congregation jettisoned their invisibility and consequently became a target of the police.

"What will they do now," I asked. He responded by showing me a photo he had received. The church's small group leaders were being prayed over and commissioned as 'pastors' of their new little churches.' This was their response. The decision to shut down one church resulted in the birth of twenty new ones!

Opposition and persecution are trademarks of church life in my friend's country. When their churches have camps or retreats they often include a special service with an invitation to ministry.

As a part of the invitation campers are reminded that pastoral ministry means being "the last to leave when a church is raided"-in order to insure the brethren escape. It also means assuming you will be jailed - or worse.

He told me brothers and sisters always come forward at these services despite the warnings regarding the high price of the pastoral calling. Pastoring, as Christians in this country understand it, means doing time in prison.

What price am I willing to pay for the privilege of serving God?

In building a trustworthy Quaker church, there is no more precious role or service than sensitive eldership. In our era of hyper-individualism, is this still possible? And what do we do to help elders when their role drifts into a sort of executive committee of the church? These are some of the thoughts that came to me in reading Craig Barnett's blog post "Spiritual Eldership." (Thanks to quakerquaker.org.) Be sure to read and consider answering the questions at the end of his post.

Why we (churches) pick terrible leaders.

Sarah Ruden on Mary Wollstonecraft and Mary Shelley: Women and the Ironies of Providence. The full article may be behind a paywall, but this site is one of only TWO that I pay to access. Worth it!

Down By the Riverside from Playing For Change on Vimeo.

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