And this isn’t just any unsavory Samaritan woman either. She’s at the very bottom of the social heap—a Samaritan woman whose domestic life has been epically, unthinkably, impossibly unstable. John wants us to know that she’s the first century Guinness Book of World Records-holder for powerlessness. Social status doesn’t get any worse than this poor woman.
Jesus, incapable of making good choices, goes out of his way to have an encounter with the last person on the earth he should be talking to.
But that’s Jesus, isn’t it? You can’t take him anywhere, because he’s got really bad social instincts. He spends all his time talking to the wrong people.
Where does that kind of courage from—the kind that drives you to leave Ur and take a hike when you can't even see the path?
You know what I mean, right? What kind of store do you have to go to to pick up the econo-size box of audacity that will allow you to launch out into the unknown, with only the knowledge that doing so is a risk that might blow up in your face?
You could play it safe, of course. Nobody would really blame you. But somehow you know that to do so is to turn your back not only on who you are, but on the kind of world you almost don’t even dare to imagine is possible—but from which you can’t afford to avert your gaze, for fear that it will all just disappear.
By Derek Penwell
When I got to the office one time, I had a voicemail from a young man I’ve never met before. The message began, “My name is Benjamin. You don’t know me, but one of your colleagues referred you to me.”
He went on to say that he’d done some research on DBCC, and the ministry we’re involved in advocating for LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender) people. He wanted me to know how much he appreciated our efforts, and how encouraging it is to hear about a church that actually cares for folks who’ve traditionally experienced only heartache at the hands of the religious establishment.
Felt good. Nice to have your work affirmed by a stranger … unsolicited. Put a smile on my face.
He proceeded to relate a bit of his story. He came out to his parents when he was twelve. Being religiously conservative, they did what they believed best—they put him in “reparative therapy”—”pray away the gay.” The whole thing damaged him so badly that he’s assiduously avoided church ever since. I could hear the bitterness in his voice.
Over a very short period of time, I went from feeling, perhaps, a little too self-satisfied at the initial compliment to feeling awful for this young man’s trauma.
Then he said something that struck me as both profoundly sad and strangely hopeful: “I can only wonder how my life would have been different if there’d been a church around that had loved me for who God created me to be, instead of trying to change me from what it feared I represent.”
I started thinking about the Suicide Prevention Workshop we held a couple years ago. Turns out LGBT young people are two and a half times more likely to contemplate suicide than their straight counterparts. More frighteningly, I found out that those same LGBT youth are eight times more likely to attempt suicide.
Why the significantly higher rates?
Bullying, of course. But bullying is something that frequently happens … to a lot of kids. Perhaps even more deeply than bullying, though, LGBT kids experience rejection and isolation at the hands of the very people kids are supposed look to to love them and keep them safe.
Their parents kick them out of the house at alarming rates, making homelessness among LGBT youth twice as likely as among straight youth. The churches they attend often brutalize them in the name of “love.”
Young people are dying at an alarming rate, in order to allow some folks to retain the purity of their personal sense of integrity. That this integrity costs the lives of children is apparently a price they are more than willing to pay.
I realize that the motive for this stringent vision of purity is rooted in what its possessors would term love. And, I should point out, there is something to be said for saying “no” in the name of love—addicts, for example, often require the love found in “no.” And those who affirm reparative therapy, I suspect, would prefer to see same gender sexual orientation as an addiction to be conquered.
Unfortunately, though, reparative therapy is not “AA for the gay.” For one thing, AA actually works, whereas reparative therapy, at least according to the medical and scientific community, does not.1 But the problem has less to do with the fact that reparative therapy is ineffective, than with the fact that it does damage.2
LGBT young people having to find their way without the people and institutions charged with caring for them struck me today as I spoke with a pastor about his church. It seems there are some young adults in the church who would like to have conversation about how the church can become a place of welcome to LGBT people. Apparently, the older people in the church think such a conversation would be dangerous, afraid people will get angry and leave. After all, there are so many more important things in the world.
As the pastor spoke, I thought about Benjamin. I thought about all the LGBT young people going through hell because the people they trust to watch out for them have belittled and abandoned them. And I wondered how life would be different if there were churches around that loved these kids for who God created them to be, instead of trying to change them from what church people fear they represent.
I pray to God we find out.
To wit: American Academy of Pediatrics, American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy, American Medical Association, American Psychiatric Association, American Psychoanalytic Association, American Psychological Association, American School Counselor Association, National Association of Social Workers, Pan American Health Organization (PAHO): Regional Office of the World Health Organization. ↩
See above note. ↩
The idea that Jesus wasn’t political is a fiction typically maintained by middle class white folks who’ve more or less benefitted from the political status quo—who have the luxury of not thinking about politics, because politics has typically been pretty good to them—and they have no reason to fear that that state of affairs won’t continue for the foreseeable future.
But if you’re among that increasingly large group of Americans who haven’t fared so well as a result of how our political systems are designed, the idea that Jesus had no interest in politics is most likely unintelligible to you. If you’re among that group of folks who have historical reason to fear the power of the political class, then maybe you feel like you can’t afford to sit back and see how everything will shake out. You’ve seen how things have 'shaken out' in the past, and you have little confidence that if you just shut up about politics things will work out fine for you and yours.
Have you ever been to a church in which justice is not just the securing of individual rights, but the pursuit of a vision of the reign of God in which there is no justice until it gets extended to everyone? Where the people who live in fear of what an uncertain world holds for them are more important than the people who are making laws to oppress them?
God is a God of justice, who empowers people to live in ways that welcome all people, in ways that look after the rights of all people, in ways that ensure the safety of all people—and sometimes, in ways that ask of us to put ourselves and our bodies between the vulnerable and those who would seek to destroy them, between those whose race or religion or sexual orientation or gender identity is being threatened and the ones who brandish fear and hatred against them, between families and those who would tear them apart by ripping children from the arms of their foreign born parents.
We who follow Jesus make up that unbelievably weird group of people who claim to take the side of the powerless against the powerful, to worry more about securing food and housing and healthcare for the poor than securing tax breaks for the wealthy.
We’re the folks who see refugees not as terrorist threats, but as neighbors who are literally running for their lives, who see Muslims not as our religious or political competitors but as fellow seekers of God’s peace and justice for the world, who see undocumented immigrants not as sponges who suck up our resources but as families who bring vitality and worth to our lives.
In a world in which the beautiful, the influential, the successful get all the attention, we followers of Jesus opt for failure by being called to love those for whom so many others can manage only fear and hatred. But a people who follow an executed criminal can never get too caught up in what everybody else understands as success anyway.
By Derek Penwell
Let us imagine that you live in a circle of eight houses, seven of which have fertile gardens in back -- enough to feed a family. Unfortunately, however, the eighth house has a patch of swampy land that makes growing a garden impossible. Consequently, the people that live there spend their lives on the edge of starvation.
In the middle of this circle of houses is a commons that everyone uses to supplement their own gardens. But the gardening done in the commons, split eight ways, is only enough to give each house a little extra produce to sell for “nice things.”
The sharing of the commons is a tradition that has been passed down to homeowners in the neighborhood for generations. Nobody even questions it. The commons arrangement is just the way things are.
However, one-eighth of the commons doesn’t give the family with swampy land enough subsist on.
But that’s the way it goes, right? Life isn’t always fair. There has to be winners and losers.
Then one day, you’re having a cookout at your house with the bounty harvested from the commons. You’ve invited over a friend, who just happens to be a surveyor. She’s interested by the layout of the neighborhood, and the almost perfect solution of a commons. She thinks this is a great idea.
On her way to the bathroom, however, your surveyor friend happens by an antique survey map of the neighborhood hanging in your study. She begins to inspect it closely, as supper is being prepared. As she looks, she notices that the commons isn’t really a commons at all. In fact, the land that the neighborhood has been using freely to supplement each one’s income is actually a tract that legally belongs to the house with the swampy land.
You immediately realize the implications of this discovery: For years, because of a longstanding tradition, everyone in the neighborhood has been fattening their pocketbooks at the expense of the family that lives on swampy land. In other words, you realize that you’ve been getting rich on the back of the neighbor who can least afford it. You have an epiphany: Your neighbor’s family has been starving, while the rest of the neighborhood has taken the proceeds for itself -- the proceeds that rightfully belong to the starving family.
You feel awful. But it was tradition. Nobody knew any better. That you probably should have been more compassionate toward your neighbor all along is beside the point. Now you know.
The moral question is: Having finally realized that you’ve been treating your neighbor’s family unjustly all these years, what are you going to do about it?
- Stay quiet about it and keep the arrangement the way it is. It appears to be in your best interest economically just to keep your mouth shut. Why say anything at all if it’s only going threaten your otherwise comfortable existence?
- You could privately admit to one or two neighbors that -- if it were up to you -- you’d just restore the commons to its rightful owner. You’re humane, after all, you don’t necessarily want to see anyone starve. But then you might continue by telling your friends that, though you’re personally pulling for the family with swampy land, you’re afraid that if you say anything publicly about the injustice, one of two things might happen: 1) your other neighbors might get mad and vote you out of the neighborhood association; or 2) they might just think the whole arrangement is falling apart and vote to disband the neighborhood association all together. And boy howdy! You could never live with yourself if you were the person who submarined such a great arrangement, which seems to meet the needs of so many people.
- Or you could say, “Now that I know an injustice is being committed, I can’t keep quiet about this practice that threatens one of my neighbors, even if speaking up about it makes everyone else angry.”
Whatever you do, though, now that you know your neighbor is suffering unjustly at the hands of people among whom you live and work, morally you occupy a different place than before the surveyor pointed out the inequity.
So, let’s bring this home for the church folk:
If you happen to be a follower of Jesus who believes LGBT people have suffered injustice at the hands of the church, your response to that injustice -- whether you stand up publicly to speak against it or not -- (as difficult as it is to think about) is a moral question.
If you come to believe as a result of your faith that disproportionately imprisoning and killing young African Americans is an epidemic that is just a public manifestation of institutional racism, how you respond to the shooting of Michael Brown, Trayvon Martin, et al., makes a difference.
If in the course of your life as a Christian and a participant in the great American commons you become convinced that people arriving to participate in that commons from other countries deserve to be treated with dignity and hospitality, whether you choose to stand beside them in the face of hatred is not a matter of moral indifference.
“What will my congregation/denomination think if I publicly name this injustice?” is certainly a question worth asking. But the more pressing moral question has to do with thinking that that question is more important than “What’s my moral responsibility to people facing an injustice that threatens their dignity, their careers, their living arrangements, their ability to be parents -- and in some cases -- their lives?”
True moral knowledge of injustice without action makes you part of the problem. If you don't think so, ask the folks in the swampy land.
Jesus announces a new order of things in which the anawim—a Hebrew word applied to those who are the very lowest in society, the huddled masses, the wretched refuse, the homeless, the tempest-tossed, the folks who live out next to the garbage dump of life (literally, the $#!& of the earth)—a new order of things in which the anawim occupy the places of honor, finally get to sit at the big people’s table, no longer handed the crumbs and the leftovers.
When Jesus calls us to follow him to Galilee, to the walk with the socially marginalized, do we go? Immediately?
There’s work to be done, my friends. Following Jesus as he heads into the shadows to find those people who are trying to remain invisible for fear of what will happen to them requires a sense of the 'fierce urgency of now.'
It’s not easy. Who knows what it might cost you and those you love in the coming days?
But as the activist priest Daniel Berrigan once said, 'If you want to follow Jesus you’d better look good on wood.'
There are too many people looking around, seeing the good others have, and wondering why it’s been reserved for the few. They see folks with reliable health insurance, folks whose children can walk to school without fear of being bullied because of their sexual orientation or gender expression, folks who don’t fear that anytime their fathers goes out for a drive that they’re in danger of being shot. And they say together with one voice, 'You’ve got pretty good lives. That’s good for you, but what about us?'
The church can say all kinds of beautiful things. It can build beautiful buildings, and play beautiful music. It can pack the people into the pews and get itself on radio and T.V., and get invitations to rub elbows with the powerful and the well-off. But let me just say something, if the church can’t answer that question, whatever else it is, it’s not church.
By Derek Penwell
A Course in Creative Writing
They want a wilderness with a map—
but how about errors that give a new start?—
or leaves that are edging into the light?—
or the many places a road can’t find?
Maybe there’s a land where you have to sing
to explain anything: you blow a little whistle
just right and the next tree you meet is itself.
(And many a tree is not there yet.)
Things come toward you when you walk.
You go along singing a song that says
where you are going becomes its own
because you start. You blow a little whistle—
And a world begins under the map.
“They want a wilderness with a map.”
Boy, ain’t that the truth? In a world that seems constantly to be shifting beneath our feet, ministers feel that unspoken expectation every time they step into the pulpit.
“They want a wilderness with a map.”
I think that’s why bumper stickers are so popular. There’s a sense that if we could just get a few things nailed-down, if we could just see a few markers that would point us through the briars, through the overgrown brambles, through the violence, and uncertainty, and senselessness of it all, we might somehow survive another day in the wilderness.
Straight-line, discursive speech that tells us where to put our feet next. We all know about preachers only too anxious to give it to them. The sermon as self-help, as moral disquisition, as prosaic orienteering. “I’m okay, you’re okay.”
“Five easy steps to a better prayer life.”
“God helps them who help themselves.”
“Do this. Avoid that. Don’t talk back to your mother. Brush your teeth after every meal. A penny saved is a penny earned. Wash your hands after you go to the bathroom.”
“Be careful little feet where you go.”
“It’s so hard out here. Tell us something that allows us to believe the whole thing isn’t so unpredictable, isn’t about to blow up in our faces.”
We preachers understand it. We know the diminished expectations. Such deflated speech, however, bridles all complexity, all nuance, all mystery. In our rush to have a manageable reality, a tractable existence we lose the “errors that give a new start/or leaves that are edging into the light/or the many places a road can’t find.”
The temptation of preaching is to smooth the rough edges, to iron out the wrinkles, to fill in the cracks and gaps with caulk, to be assuring and affirming, to opt always for the palliative, rather than the curative.
But this attenuated speech raises the question of why anyone would need to come to church to receive such thin gruel? You can buy that sort of non-confrontational, low-cost reassurance anywhere. Daytime television is busy dishing this stuff out in much more convenient doses, which don’t even require you to get out of bed to partake.
The problem with all this tiny talk for tiny Christians is that bumper stickers are too small to make good maps. If you tame the wilderness, it’s no longer wilderness; it may be easier to move about in an illusion, but you don’t really get anywhere—and it’s not near as exciting.
“Maybe there’s a land where you have to sing/to explain anything.”
Maybe, like Walter Brueggemann has argued, the job of the preacher is not to circumscribe the known world with bromides and banalities—but to render a world heretofore unimagined, to break open a reality that has gone unobserved because we didn’t have the resources to name it, to speak it—by the grace of God—into being, a world where “you blow a little whistle/just right and the next tree you meet is itself./(And many a tree is not there yet.)”
If you ask Jesus, the reign of God is too huge, too grand, too paradoxical ever to be contained by our pedestrian prose; it’s a world so inimical to the way we’re conventionally trained to see things that often the only way we have to speak about it is poetry and parable and story; it’s “a land where you have to sing/to explain anything.”
And in Christ, we’re finally given the words to sing the tree. As we sing the truth, we see that it was a tree all along, and not just a stick with green attachments shooting off in every direction, or a large birdnest, or an inconvenient obstruction to new housing development.
And by singing that one tree into existence in all of its wooded glory, maybe we can begin to understand that there are forests of other trees standing before us, and beside us, and beyond us that we formerly saw as merely wilderness to be traversed as efficiently and painlessly as possible, by whatever map promised the easiest route.
The very act of singing this world sets you on a journey into the heart of the mysterious wilderness. Who would be callow enough, stupid enough to claim that it’s an easy journey to walk? Only those with a pretend map of a pretend land that exists in an illusion called reality, utility, fact—conjured up by people with inexaustable fear, but limited vision.
“Things come toward you when you walk.”
The fact that you begin the journey at all means that you’ll run into obstacles that you would otherwise have avoided if you’d only stayed home and watched Jeopardy.
Beginning the journey at all means that you’ve surrendered the notion that you possess a way to map the wilderness, that it’s possible to have any real understanding as an antecedent to actually taking the first step. In the same way it is impossible to learn to swim without ever getting in the water, it is impossible to know the terrain, to understand the wilderness, while sitting at home in your Barcalounger with a map in one hand and a Budweiser in the other.
“You go along singing a song that says/where you are going becomes its own/because you start.”
Following Jesus is a contact— not a spectator — sport.
“You blow a little whistle—/And a world begins under the map.”
Sing a little bit, take a few baby steps and soon you see that the prosaic maps of the bumper sticker producers, the map-makers only serve to cover up the reality that’s there beneath the surface of a different reality contained in the words the church uses to name that world, and thereby call it into being—a radical, crazy wilderness in which it makes sense to turn the other cheek, to pray for those who persecute you, to sell everything you have and give it to the poor.
Those sorts of big, unwieldy truths don’t much lend themselves to bumper stickers, or to maps . . . or unfortunately for us all . . . to many sermons.
Jai Husband in the pulpit this week!
When we’re the establishment, it’s very difficult not to fall into the trappings of entitlement. Easily I’m talking about spirituality and religion, but I could just as well be talking about gender, sexuality, economics, politics—anytime you have the introduction of the other—into a routine or system previously established, it seems our subconscious default is the exaltation of the normative expression at the expense of and usually invalidation of other-ness. But it’s an illegitimate default as it’s built on authority derived from a projection of ownership that does not exist. IT ALL BELONGS TO THE OWNER OF THE FIELD and that is not us.
The truth of this story, the grim portion of the Christmas story that doesn’t find its way into the Hallmark Christmas Specials, is that Jesus is born into a world that kills children to protect those in power. And we ought not to look too far down our noses at these pre-modern hayseeds from the Palestinian boondocks either. We know all about how those in power seek to trade the lives of children in order to maintain a claim on political power. Flint, Michigan is just up the road after all.
Just because we believe that the work Jesus ultimately accomplishes is precisely what this world needs, we should never be so callous as to say that it magically takes away all the pain the world experiences. As Stanley Hauerwas has said, 'The gospel—the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus—is not a consolation for those whose children are murdered. Rather, those who would follow and worship Jesus are a challenge to those who would kill children.'
In a world that maintains such a casual relationship to violence, a taken-for-grantedness that ought to shame everyone who claims to follow a man who—when given the chance—chose to endure violence rather than inflict it, we need a dangerous mercy, a world altering generosity, the kind that turns reality on its head.
We need a new way of locking arms with those who are too often the targets of cruelty, those who live in fear that the bigwigs who run the show will notice them and begin to stoke the fires of fear and hatred against them—a kindness so destabilizing that the world, as it’s presently ordered, can’t contain it.
Apologies for some of the recording hiccups. You can fill in the missing pieces below in the manuscript.
This year, after an exhaustive polling of the congregation and friends of the congregation, we've decided to have Christmas Eve service at 5:00 p.m., while giving you a time to be with your family and friends on Christmas Day. We will not have Christmas Day Sunday service or Sunday School this year. If you would like to attend Christmas Day services, we invite you to visit with our friends at St. Paul United Methodist Church.
In addition, we will not be having Sunday School on New Year's Day. However, we will have worship at the regular time on that day. Happy holidays!
By Derek Penwell
I used to say that when I was younger … more than I like to remember. Wrong coach. Wrong teacher. Wrong boss.
Of course, I’ve quit some things that were well worth quitting.
I quit the violin in fourth grade, because I could barely manage to make it sound like anything less than two love-starved Carpathian Marmots in the throes of passion.
I was a horrible boy scout, inasmuch as I thought sleeping outdoors in a cotton/poly-blend sack on the hard cold ground a fool thing to do. Moreover, I don’t even like properly heated Chef Boyardee, let alone the gelatinous squares glopped from between the jagged edges of a can opened with the little used implement on a $7 Swiss Army knife knock-off.
I worked at a Ziebart, rust-proofing the undersides of cars against the ravages of Michigan winters. I came home from that place looking like Rambo after a night spent in the rain-soaked climes of the Pacific Northwest with only a Ka-Bar knife and the song in my heart to keep me company.
I sold Icecapade tickets for disabled children as a telemarketer in the back of an old H&R Block building one summer, with a besotted Nick Nolte look-a-like threatening to give all the good leads “TO SOMEBODY WHO CAN ACTUALLY SELL WORTH A &%#@!”
I worked at a church one time that sucked my soul like an Electrolux plugged into a 220 V outlet during a power surge. I was a half inch shorter by the time I quit that one.
Some things I take pride in having quit.
But there are other things I would like to have stuck with.
I wish I hadn’t quit the guitar.
I wish I hadn’t let some of my languages slide.
I wish I hadn’t stopped writing that novel … or that other novel.
Knowing when to hang on and when to quit is, I suspect, something of an art, rather than a science. It has more to do with plot structure or composition than with empirical verifiability or equations.
Part of the problem stems from our inability to know which voices to listen to, and which to ignore.
Social media, which opens us up to a much more insistent set of opinions often only serves to complicate things. I have people who are simultaneously telling me to shut up, while others are telling me to talk louder. Some people apparently believe that I’m Satan’s advocate, while others tell me I’m doing the Lord’s work.
In my better moments I can find the necessary reserves to tune out those who would like nothing better than to see me quit the things I find most important to do. In many moments, though, those voices seem loudest, their warnings most dire.
How do we know when quitting is in everyone’s best interest, and when quitting is the sucker’s way out, that if we’d just hang on a bit longer, our initial instincts would be vindicated?
This is a difficult question, since a lot seems to ride on the ability to persevere through doubt and distraction. It turns out, though, that one of the greatest predictors of personal success isn’t brute intellectual force, but the ability to press on in the face of adversity and doubt. According to Angela Duckworth the highest predictor of success is self-control, not self-esteem. That is to say, students who excel are those who have what she calls “grit,” rather than those who are the smartest and who feel the best about themselves.
In a brief article for the American Psychological Association about Duckworth, E. Packard writes: “Backbone, chutzpah, fortitude, guts, stick-to-it-iveness: All words that describe what separates brilliant slackers from the simply talented who excel through a passionate yet steady approach.”
Having spent the better part of my adult life in post-secondary education I can attest to the insight: the people who do well in school (and, I would suggest, life) aren’t the brightest, but the most dogged—those capable of identifying the good among a host of competing voices, and pursuing it … even though the prevailing wisdom seems unanimous in its prediction of failure.
Clearly, there are some things worth quitting. The trick, though, is not only knowing what’s worth quitting, but why.
Congregations, it seems to me experience this sort of conundrum. Facing decline, anxious congregations capable of working up the necessary courage to try something new often lack the patience to see it succeed. Expecting that everything has to have—if not an immediate payoff, then—a payoff that shows results pretty dang quick.
“But we just started our cat shaving ministry last month!”
“Yes, but it seems to be going nowhere. We thought it would have a greater impact on the spiritual pilgrims in the cat shaving world. Alas …”
On the other hand, there are some things these congregations can’t quit, despite the fact that continuing to hang onto them is like clinging to the alligator as it does its death roll.
“We think that given a bit more time our lace doily making ministry is bound to catch on with the younger generation.”
“But we started it in 1946. We got our last new doily maker in 1972. We shouldn’t rush into any big decisions, but, you know, maybe it’s time to start thinking about going in a different direction.”
Some things are worth quitting.
But there are other things that congregations do on which they ought to take a longer range perspective—not least because ministry should be done for its own sake, because it’s the right thing to do.
Ministry, after all, isn’t about getting what we want, it’s about God getting what God wants.
Those who follow the crucified Jesus shouldn’t be surprised to find out that sticking with a losing proposition sometimes works out in the end.
How can we ever expect the Israelis and the Palestinians, the Hutus and the Tutsis, the Indians and the Pakistanis, the Chinese and the Taiwanese (or the Tibetans), the United States and the Afghanis to live together peaceably if the church doesn’t show them what that might look like?
The church offers hope to the world precisely to the extent that God establishes the church to give the world a glimpse of the new world God has in store—a world in which wolves and lambs lay down together, a world in which Jews and Gentiles claim one another as family, a world in which black and white, rich and poor, gay and straight are no longer epithets to keep one another at arm’s length, a world in which Muslims and immigrants and refugees don’t have to spend their lives always looking over their shoulder for people determined to fear and hate them, a world in which that which unites us is always stronger than that which divides us.
Advent is a scary time of waiting to see how it’s all going to shake out. We’re hopeful, but it’s not with us yet. You only have to read the front page of the New York Times to know that.
We can’t see what it’s going to look like in all of its glory; the mist blocks our vision. But we get glimpses, tiny snatches of light. We stand waiting for Christ to be revealed, but the darkness appears to rule.
Bullets fly. Water canons and concussion grenades are unleashed. The building of walls is contemplated. Children die in the dry night. Governments hire people to invent ever more ingenious ways to damage one another.
God is not satisfied with the world as it is presently ordered. And we hear Isaiah say, 'But in days to come . . .'