Aug 25 2009

Consoling the inconsolable

Category: church,ministry,religion,theologyharmonicminer @ 12:38 pm

I have a friend who is a chaplain for the local sheriff’s department.    We’ll call him Fred (not his real name).  He is a former Navy man, and he also served many years as police officer, I think mostly as a Deputy Sheriff, though I’m not entirely certain.  He’s a middle aged guy now, retired after some hard years of service, but on call when there is a need.  As you may expect, these things come in waves.  He may go a few weeks without a particular issue that requires his services..  and then an officer may be severely injured or killed on the job, or some young man commits suicide and the department calls my friend to be with the family, or a toddler falls in a pool and is in a permanent coma, or simply dies, or…..  you get the idea.

There are several aspects of this that come to mind.

It’s fairly common for a certain segment of Christendom to portray Jesus as being sort of an extra-spiritual community organizer who took care of the poor while sharing profound narratives with subtle meanings about the responsibilities of the rich and privileged.  People who are so inclined tend to downplay the aspects of His teaching that involved life after death, salvation of the soul, eternal destination, and so on.  But whether or not Jesus was an ancient socialist just doesn’t enter into the picture when you’re trying to minister to people in extremis.  They are struggling with the single most important issue of life, namely the certain death we all face.

What do you say to someone who is suddenly, shockingly bereaved, or so injured that life will never be the same?  Pastors deal with people dying all the time…  but, thankfully, there is usually some warning, some opportunity, however inadequate, to prepare for the inevitable.  But Fred has to walk into a context where the entire family is stunned, in shock, perhaps blaming God for the entire situation, and somehow he has to bring the peace and love of God with him.  I’m sure that sometimes all he can do is just be there with them, and share in their suffering.  Jesus wept.

And I expect that, sometimes, when people in great pain are asking where God is right now, it may only be later that they realize that He sent an emissary to them, in the form of a chaplain who didn’t have to be there, but felt sent by God.

Consider the task.  Some people in these situations will be believers, and the job is to comfort them, and reinforce their faith that God is God.  Others will be complete agnostics, perhaps only now confronting the bedrock issues of life and death, and this can be an opportunity to show, without preaching directly at them, that there is another reality worthy of their attention.  There may be people who are “nominally” Christian, but haven’t taken it at all seriously…. and oddly, these may be inclined to blame themselves, thinking if they’d been “better Christians” maybe it all wouldn’t have happened.  And on the other side of it, these “nominally Christian” folks may be the ones most likely to blame God for it all.

So what kind of person can DO this work?  To start with, you must be steady as a rock.  You have to be able to confront great pain, and not melt away, which means this work can mostly only be done by those who have suffered plenty already.  You have to be enormously grounded yourself.  And you have to know that no one is really prepared for this work, and so your only recourse is to trust God to speak and show His love through you.

It takes a lot of courage.  I have the feeling that, tough guy that I know him to be, Fred sometimes goes home and simply mourns for the loss and pain that people must endure.

And God prepares him for the next call.

UPDATE:  I happen to be in the hospital at this update, for what will probably not be a major matter, though it has caused some discomfort.   My friend “Fred” just came to visit with another friend from church.  After he left, another friend from church called, and asked how Fred was doing.  I asked what she meant, and she told me that Fred had just spent 30 minutes doing CPR on an accident victim he’d come across on the highway, in a remote area where services were slow to arrive.  The man had probably been dead before Fred started…  but Fred just did what needed to be done until emergency services arrived.  Typically, he didn’t mention it to me when he visited me.

Aug 25 2009

Toto, I don’t think we’re in Kansas anymore…

Category: raceamuzikman @ 12:53 am

The other day I wrote a humorous blog about the beer summit, race and political correctness.  I tried to be as absurd as possible to point out the absurd rhetoric so often used in discussions on the subject of race.

Well, I’m here to say I have been clearly outdone.  Someone has far surpassed me on the race and color absurdity scale.  Only one small difference – they aren’t trying to be funny!  The speech police are coming.

Read the entire article here.