These articles express the opinions of the writers, not necessarily the policies of Simple Living Works! Original submissions are welcome. If you submit an item written by someone else, include the exact source.
Post-Election Emergency/Disaster Preparedness Survival Guide by Gerald Iversen
Review by Gerald Iversen of From Egos to Eden: Our Heroic Journey to Keep Earth Livable by Lee Van Ham
GDP: a poem by John deGraaf
Pre-2016Kristina Kahl's Ph.D. Dissertation on Alternatives: Abstract / Table of Contents / Email / Podcast / Ordering a copy
Pastoral Economic Struggles: Facing Together Global Capitalism's Domination in Daily Life by Lee Van Ham
How to Celebrate Any Day by Ashley Nedeau-Owen
What Might a Christian Life Look Like? by Gerald Iversen
Living Within Your Means by James Stage, Jr.
Being and Doing at Home by Gene Sager
How to Save Money: A Wedding Gift by Rita Iversen
Take My Yolk Upon You by Karl Lehman
Unwrapping Christmas by Lee Van Ham
Where Is Christ in Church Life? by Jon Zens
Post-Election Emergency/Disaster Preparedness and Survival GuideNov. 9, 2016
These suggestions are not in priority order.
We Californians must be prepared for an earthquake anytime. Now everyone in the US must prepare for emergencies and disasters -- natural, political, social, spiritual.
1. Don't waste time, money or energy trying to convert fundamentalists. They are not open to what you have to say. Focus on supporting progressives and other open-minded people.
2. Vote with your dollars. Buy from local farmers' markets. Buy products produced in Blue states, avoid products produced in Red states. Leave a 'I Buy Blue' card at local stores. Don't use the word 'boycott.' Continue to buy organics and avoid GMO foods; if necessary buy some imported. Consult the National Green Pages at GreenAmerica.org.
3. Move your money out of a mega-bank and into a credit union, such as Thrivent Federal Credit Union, which serve the entire nation. Thrivent Financial is the nation's largest fraternal, which means that profits go to non-profits selected by members, rather than to shareholders or CEO's.
4. Live simply to lower your income and thereby lower your Federal Income Tax; give as much as you possibly can to the needy through low-overhead charities. This is vital to keep as much money as possible away from the military, which exists primarily to protect the interests of the rich.
5. Keep at least three days of food and water on hand, as well as an emergency preparedness kit.
6. Install solar panels and a household battery.
7. Take an emergency preparedness class from your local fire or civil defense dept. Learn first aid.
8. Avoid national news on commercial stations and networks. Rely on independent, non-commercial channels, such as Free Speech TV at FreeSpeech.org, and LINK TV at LinkTV.org; and on daily news from 'Democracy Now! with Amy Goodman' at DemocracyNow.org (also on Free Speech TV, LINK TV and some 1000 community and public radio stations).
9. For spiritual support, seek out a progressive congregation, such Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), United Church of Christ, Episcopal Church, or Reform Jewish Synagogue.
10. For political support, contact your closest chapter of the Green Party US or visit gp.org.
11. To work for social change, contact your local chapter of a peace and justice organization, such as Fellowship for Reconciliation at forusa.org; an environmental organization, such as Sierra Club at SierraClub.org. Be wary of corporate-controlled organizations, such as Americans for Prosperity.
Tips for Banishing Fake NewsI blogged recently that we were changing our long-standing 'Alternate Celebrations' to 'Non-Conform-Freely Celebrations' because the terms 'alternate' and 'alternative' had been compromised by the new buzz words 'alternative facts' in DC. Larry Trover asked, 'Do you have any ideas for banishing fake news without abridging freedom of speech and freedom of the press?'
1. By far the best sources of news, public affairs and documentaries are Free Speech TV (FreeSpeech.org) and LINKtv (LinkTV.org), both available primarily on satellite tv and the internet.
2. Though more people receive their 'news' from Facebook than from traditional outlets, it is not a news source. It is social media. It can be fun. It can promote events. It is NOT a news source, except possibly a platform that makes distinguishing 'fake news' from 'real news' virtually impossible.
3. Since purveyors of Fake News thrive on conflict, do not confront them directly. That energizes them. Instead, ignore them. They will not go away, but they will be 'banished' from your life. Encourage your friends to do the same.
4. Realize that some 'news' is not really news. Fox News, for example, might more appropriately be called 'Fox so-called News' or 'Faux News.' It is propaganda disguised as 'fair and balanced.' I had to make several attempts to get it 'banished' from the lobby of our local senior center. It was making a friendly meeting place a really toxic environment. Now the TV there plays old-timey TV shows, maybe not the greatest choice, but vastly superior to Faux News.
5. The labels of 'liberal' and 'conservative' media are less relevant than the real difference, which is between corporate, for-profit media, and independent, non-profit media. As bland as they are, PBS and NPR are superior to the main-stream media, such as NBC, CBS, ABC, CNN.
6. Some of the best reporting comes from outside the US, e.g. BBC, RT-America, Al Jazeera.
7. Some consider independent, non-commercial news/public affairs programs, such as 'Democracy Now!' with Amy Goodman to be too negative. The problem is that they avoid 'news light,' info-tainment, fluff pieces. They work for change. That is more than some can bear. So don't watch them every day, or watch the first 15 minutes, the news headlines. Democracy Now! Is broadcast on over 1500 public and non-commercial radio and TV channels in America. Plus it is available 24/7 on the internet at DemocracyNow.org.
8. Avoid AM talk radio. Though it may contain a few worthwhile programs, such as Ed Fallon's FallonForum, it is grossly full of hate speech, such as Rush Limbaugh, Howard Stern, Matt Drudge, and the like.
9. Educate yourself about Fake News, e.g. NPR podcasts: Planet Money #739 - Finding the Fake-News King (12/3/16); Fresh Air - How Fake News Spreads and Why People Believe It. (12/14/16)
10. Avoid commercial internet consolidators, such as Yahoo, AOL, etc. Instead receive daily email reports from Reader Supporter News (RSN), AlterNet, DailyKos, CommonDreams, etc.
11. See how Banishing Fake News fits into an overall plan. Read 'Post-Election Survival Guide' above, especially #8.
12. Fake news used to be limited/isolated to 'The National Inquirer' and 'The Star' available at the check-out lanes at grocery stores, for those who fawned over movie stars and their latest escapades and publicity stunts. Now National Inquirer has come to DC!
13. Media Literacy has been a long-time focus of SLW! See more resources.
Tips to Spot False News on Facebook
Counterpunch Radio Podcast Ep. #76 with Mickey Huff of Project Censored.
From Egos to Eden: Our Heroic Journey to Keep Earth Livable
by Lee Van Ham
In contrast to the 'proof texting' that many Christian authors use to make their point, Lee Van Ham uses multiple sources of wisdom from many spiritual traditions. The Foreword by Patricia St. Onge is indicative of this wide scope. She is a representative of the First Nations Haudenosaune people.
Though Van Ham uses the image of Eden in his book series, he does not limit our thinking to the Old Testament. He uses Eden as an icon of what life on Earth could be when humans come to their senses that we live on One Earth, not five, as the MultiEarth, consumer model thinks and lives.
This volume has distinctive cover art by the renowned John August Swanson that portrays humans and animals living together in a verdant garden. Although the setting and the book's concept may seem primitive, even regressive, it is both hopeful and realistic. Humans have the consciousness to get beyond their own greedy egos to live for the benefit of all life on one planet.
Van Ham has done the reader a real service by blogging about each chapter of the book, thereby putting his thoughts into morsels online for free at TheOneEarthProject.com. So, a reader can invite a friend, relative or associate to dip into this thoughtful, new view of possibilities without feeling intimidated by a 400 page book!
Although this is the second in a series -- the first being Blinded by Progress: Breaking Out of the Illusion that Holds Us (2013) -- it stands alone. One needn't have read the first to read this one. (And Van Ham does us the favor of summarizing the first book in the Introduction to the second.) A third and final volume is planned in the near future.
The book is designed to keep us engaged. Within six sections and twelve chapters, one finds numerous subheading, bullet points, charts, illustrations and quotations from notables. Most helpful is a chart in the appendix that succinctly contrasts the MultiEarth and OneEarth Worldviews on topics of economics, government, religion, nature, etc.
At the end of each chapter is a conclusion that helps summarize the new thinking of the chapter and prepares us for the next. Finally come 'Ponder, Discuss, Act' items for personal or group development, making the book a potential study guide.
Some may read Van Ham's words as 'Change or Die!' For those who will hear, he is most emphatically and sincerely saying 'Change and LIVE!'
Though the subject of the book is 'deep,' Van Ham keeps it from getting academic. Without being self-indulgent, he connects each of the steps toward OneEarth consciousness to his own personal story.
Don't read this book unless you're willing to see life on OneEarth in a new, exciting way! You may begin listening more to the Earth by spending more time in Nature, even watching more Nature documentaries.
Hear the author discuss his new book on The Common Good Podcast at http://www.casajubileo.org/single-post/2016/11/01/Episode-76-From-Egos-to-Eden
Gerald 'Jerry' Iversen, Minister of Word and Service, ELCA (Evangelical Lutheran Church in America)
Chief Activist, SimpleLivingWorks.org
Former Executive Director, Alternatives for Simple Living
THOUGHTS ON CHRISTMAS MORNING. I don't write a lot of poems, but this morning--on the day many of us celebrate the birth of a faith--I was thinking that the economy has become our real religion and these words came to me:
GDP--a poemHe is gone now,
Thirty years and one,
The man who gave us
The Gross National Product.
He never meant to start
A new religion.
Indeed, he warned repeatedly,
His magical numbers,
And their idol, productivity,
Could never tell us
If we were living
Well or happily.
The high priests,
In the sanctuaries
Of academe and policy,
Were not listening.
In Growth We Trust,
They loudly proclaimed
Republicans and Democrats alike
Are Sunnis and Shi’ites
Of the one true faith.
Their sacred reports
Ignore the melting Arctic
And the hungry ghosts
Sleeping in the doorways
Of blazing Babylon.
John deGraaf, 12/15/16
P.S. It seems my purpose in what years I have left, is to question this religion and its dangerous assumptions.
Re: Sep 18, 2016, Nudge Gerald, in light of your astute remark, 'The system' is designed primarily to keep us passive, to let professionals do the work while we pay them outrageous salaries, I thought I would pass on a piece I wrote recently. JZ
Where Is Christ in Church Life?Jon Zens
R.C. Sproul for years has been a well-known Presbyterian teacher and author. In 1996 Tyndale published a book by him called Now, That's a Good Question! On pages 325-368 there is a chapter titled 'Church Life. Since Sproul's approach to church mirrors the concepts practiced by many of today's churchgoers, I would like to explore aspects of his views, seeking to see if they are in touch with Lord's mind.
Church Is Boring
'Church is boring' is the number one reason, according to R.C., why people are leaving churches (p. 330). While general boredom is widespread, it would seem that other reasons vie for first place. Based on books like William Hendricks' Exit Interviews, people are leaving churches because (a) they longed for meaningful relationships, but felt like they were in a religious machine, (B) they have been deeply hurt by the way things are handled (politics), and (c) they had no say in anything, but were expected to shell out big money to meet the looming demands of the budget.
What cannot be denied is that myriads of folks are leaving institutional churches for a number of reasons. The tradition of throwing mom and the kids in the car on Sunday morning and heading off to a church building no longer has the cultural pull it once did.
Follow the Bulletin or Spirit-Led?
R.C. suggests that 'If people were having a vital encounter with the Living God, nobody would say that church is boring' (p. 331). Perhaps this statement reveals the ultimate reason people are exiting churches in droves. After 'going to church,' they leave the doors without having had a living encounter with Jesus Christ. On the other hand, it is safe to say that if Jesus was being expressed through brothers and sisters in an open gathering, the time together would hardly be boring! Should this not give us pause to stop and ask, is the traditional bulletin-led Sunday service conducive to those in the pews experiencing the depths of Christ? Is there any echo of NT practices in today’s Sunday worship service? No. In fact, all the evidence in the NT points to informal settings, usually homes, where everyone had the opportunity to participate. There is nothing in the NT to suggest that in order to have 'church' you need a special building, pews, a pulpit, a pastor, a sermon, hymnals, a choir or worship band, the collection plate for tithes, and ushers.
The largest window we have in the NT of a believers' gathering is found in 1 Corinthians 14. Paul was correcting some problems here, but in doing this some fascinating elements were uncovered. Please note these pivotal ones:
** It was a body gathering. Anyone who had a portion of the Lord to bring to the feast was free to share Him. 'Each one of you has a song, a teaching, a revelation, etc., etc.'
** There was no 'up-front' where certain people functioned, and others couldn't. Usually, all were in a home together, an open atmosphere.
** There was no 'pastor,' no pulpit and no sermon. 'You may all prophesy one by one,' said Paul. The focus was on the Living Christ flowing from living stones, not on a sermon by one person occupying a center position.
The vital question that begs for an answer is, why have we, practically speaking, taken scissors and cut 1 Cor. 14 out of the NT, and substituted for it a 'church service' which has no warrant from the NT? Further, why have we not practiced a body meeting lifting up Christ together, and instead constructed a 'service' that is fixated on what 'the pastor,' and often a worship band, do in front of others?
My heart was very heavy recently when we went to a church service with about 100 people present. The meeting was typical, except here they did not take an offering. The pastor's sermon made some real good points, but I found myself thinking -- here are a lot of believers, many of them over fifty, who no doubt have a latent, unique, wonderful portion of Christ they could share publicly, yet the structure will not allow it to be expressed -- only one 'ordained' person is allowed to speak to the whole body. What is wrong with this picture? In 1 Cor. 14 Paul said, 'each one of you has . . . .' In 1 Cor. 12 he said, 'the body is not one part but many.' Why have we turned the tables around, exalted that which opposes Paul's words, and dismissed that which is in line with his teaching? Such a serious deviation from Paul's letter to an assembly should not be taken lightly.
This shift from body-voices to one-voice, which is diametrically against Paul's line of thought, graphically illustrates what Jesus pointed out as a fatal flaw of the Pharisees: when you pour all your energy into the wrong things, the right things are pushed out of sight. What we have done is place the health of the church on one person, the pastor, and thereby left undone the mutual care of the body through the 58 one anothers that Jesus left us with.
In his view of church, R.C. states, 'I also think that one of the vital ingredients of growing churches is strong, biblical, expository preaching' (331). He gives no consideration to the possibility that 1 Cor. 14 might be relevant to how believers gather. To him, it all boils down to the centrality of preaching.
Preachers vary. Some do topical sermons -- they'll speak on angels one week and demons the next. Others will go through a chapter or book of the Bible verse-by-verse. This would describe what R.C. means by 'expository preaching.' He's saying that this type of sermonizing is a must for growing churches.
He leaves unanswered a huge question. Where in the opening sixty years of the early church is there any clue that thriving assemblies were structured around one person preaching any kind of sermon? Further, during this period there was not a 'pastor' in every community, and there was no Bible for one person to exposit! R.C.'s assumption of the importance of expository preaching is thus based on a long-standing tradition, greatly influenced by Greek rhetoric in the period of roughly 250AD - 500AD. There is no hint of the 'centrality of preaching' in the assemblies portrayed in the NT.
'Preaching' in the First Century was a proclamation of Christ to unbelievers, not the big moment in a gathering of disciples. The words used within the believing community are connected to mutual relationships -- encourage one another, speak the truth to one another, etc. The only time 'preaching' is mentioned within body-life is in 1 Cor. 11 when Paul told the assembly that in the Lord’s Supper 'you do proclaim the Lord's death until He comes.' This was a corporate proclamation, not the expository monologue of one person.
How we read our inherited assumptions into the NT is revealed by our use of the word 'sermon.' Tradition came to call Jesus' teachings in Matthew 5-7 and Luke 6 'the Sermon on the Mount.' The public proclamations of Peter and Paul in the Book of Acts are usually called 'sermons.' But what tradition means by the word 'sermon' -- a monologue by an ordained person behind a pulpit -- has nothing to do at all with what Jesus, Peter and Paul presented to their hearers.
Three Types of Church Government?
R.C. suggests that there are three types of church government. The episcopal form rests upon a bishop (overseer), and thus 'authority or pastoral leadership is vested in one person who rules over an area' (p. 332). Seeing the bishop as standing in the place of Christ, and ruling over churches in a territory, emerged about 250AD, and developed further as time rolled on.
The presbyterian form, which R.C. endorses, posits that 'authority is not rooted in one man who oversees other pastors, but in a presbytery . . . . this body of elders has authority over the local churches' (p. 332).
In the congregational form, 'authority of the structure of the church is rooted within the local congregation' (p. 332). 'All of these forms,' as R.C. summarizes the matter, 'have some kind of governing authority that gives magisterial leadership to the people within their fellowship of believers' (pp. 332-333).
Those holding to traditional views of church are always concerned about finding a final seat of authority -- in a bishop, in a pastor, in a church board, or in a congregation. But this approach misses entirely the crucial reality that Christ is the only final authority. The body of Christ meets under his Leadership, and He expresses Himself through all the brothers and sisters. The buck stops with Jesus, not with any human or humans on the earth.
R.C. feels that believers 'yearn to hear somebody with authority say, 'your sins are forgiven' ' (p. 360). Well, that person of authority is Jesus Christ, not some ordained church leader.
It is significant to note that church historians and New Testament scholars are all united in this one observation: the early church moved from simplicity and every-member participation to complexity/bureaucracy and an inordinate focus on 'clergy.' For example, Lutheran scholar, George Wolfgang Forell, in his History of Christian Ethics, Volume 1, pointed out that 'ethical guidance . . . was offered at first by a polyform ministry of grace, reflected in the New Testament. But as time went by, moral authority was increasingly focused in an ordained ministry of bishops and deacons' (pp. 39-40).
R.C. believes that the 'pastor [is] the head of a group of people' (p. 343). He compares the pastor to being 'the president of a company' (p. 343). One must ask, where is such a job description found in the NT? Also, it is fair to inquire, how can a human be designated as the 'head' of a church when the NT affirms that only Christ is the Head of His ekklesia?
This office of pastor is the linchpin of Protestantism (and in different ways, Catholicism), yet the existence and prominence of this position cannot be discovered anywhere in the NT. Does it concern anyone that all of our eggs have been put into a basket that doesn't exist?
Of course, the NT speaks of elders, overseers and shepherds, but where does it portray the centrality of 'the pastor'? Ministry magazine boldly asserted several years ago, 'the local church pastor is key -- absolutely central -- to everything we are and do as a church.' Really? How could anyone read the NT from Matthew to Revelation and convince a jury of that conclusion?
This human construct called 'the pastor' is replete with many risks. R.C. asks, 'What causes the most pressure or strain on my pastor?' (p. 342) The truth is, the clergy profession brings with it one of the highest percentages of burn-out, drop-out, nervous breakdowns, moral failure, and divorce. Mark Galli of Christianity Today wrote, 'Pastors complain about how lonely and isolated they feel . . . . [Pastors are] stuck in a religious system from which few escape unscathed.'
'When Any Woman Prays or Prophesies'
R.C. sees 'women’s ordination' as an issue (p. 345). Truth is, the traditional practice of male ordination has roots that are essentially bogus! R.C. holds that 'Paul prohibits a woman from having some kind of authority. The role of juridical authority or of governing authority is not to be held by a woman' (p. 346).
Obviously, this is a large can of worms not to be elaborated on here, but it needs to be noted that R.C. does not touch on the fact that Peter approved sisters prophesying on the Day of Pentecost, and Paul approved females praying and prophesying in 1 Cor. 11, and concluded in verses 11-12 with a mutuality between husband and wife 'in the Lord.'
Bias is indicated when a person takes one Scripture and uses it to run roughshod over other revelation in the NT. Literature that is more sensitive to the whole picture regarding women can be found in Philip Payne, Man & Woman, One in Christ, Zondervan, 2009, Felicity Dale, ed., The Black Swan Effect: A Response to Gender Hierarchy in the Church, and Jon Zens, What’s With Paul & Women? Unlocking the Cultural Background to 1 Timothy 2.
The Essence of 'Church'
Tragically, but accurately, when the curtain is raised on traditional church, R.C. rightly concludes that “in Protestant worship, for the most part, we sit and listen to a sermon” (p. 353). Is it any wonder, then, why so many are exiting church buildings? People are waking up and realizing that there must be more to being a believer than just being ears for one person’s monologue.
In R.C.'s unfolding of 'Church Life,' he never mentions Christ's authority, and he never wrestles with the fact that there is zero in the NT about 'the pastor,' yet there are 58 one anothers that are for the most part swept under the rug.
R.C. asks, 'Do you have to go to church to obey Christ? Yes, you do' (p, 340). The reality is, 'No, you don't.' There is nothing in the NT about going to a building, working your way through a church bulletin, singing some songs, putting money in a plate, hearing a sermon, and shaking the pastor's hand as you head for your car to go home. In the NT, you find believers following Christ together in community, letting His life flow through them as they flesh out the one anothers in daily relationships and in body gatherings. It's not about running and maintaining an organization with a leader in charge. It's about Jesus' life continuing on earth through us His body.
For further reflection:
Randall Arthur, Wisdom Hunter (a novel about the ruin and rise of a pastor's life), Multnomah.
Miles Austin, 'Letter from A Pastor's Wife,' 1989 http://searchingtogether.org/articles/Pastors_Wife_Letter_1989.pdf
Shirley J. Case, The Evolution of Early Christianity, The University of Chicago Press [orig. 1914], 1960.
Werner Elert, Eucharist & Church Fellowship in the First Four Centuries, Concordia, 1966.
William Howitt, A Popular History of Priestcraft in All Ages and Nations, London, 1833; reprinted 1982, Milton Printing.
Richard Jacobson, Unchurching: Christianity Without Churchianity, 2016.
David Murrow, Why Men Hate Going to Church, Thomas Nelson.
David C. Norrington, To Preach or Not to Preach? The Church’s Urgent Question, Paternoster, 1996; reprinted by Searching Together, 2013.
Wayne E, Oates, The Christian Pastor, 3rd Edition, Revised, Westminster Press.
Yvonne Partyka & Joanne Klinger, Surviving Shattered Dreams, WinePress Publishing, 2009. (Two former pastor's wives tell their stories).
Clyde Reid, 'The God-Evaders ,' Searching Together, 38:3-4, 2012, pp. 1-26. ('I am convinced that religious life today constitutes a massive evasion of God').
Milt Rodriguez, The Community Life of God.
David S. Schuller/M. Strommen/Milo Brekke, eds., Ministry in America, Harper & Row, 1980.
Frank Viola/George Barna, Pagan Christianity, Tyndale.
Frank Viola, Reimagining Church: Pursuing the Dream of Organic Christianity, David C. Cook.
Hans von Campenhausen, Ecclesiastical Authority & Spiritual Power, Hendrickson.
Marjorie Warkentin, Ordination: A Biblical-Historical View, Eerdmans, 1982, 202 pages.
Jon Zens, http://www.searchingtogether.org/when-are-we-going-to-wake-up-to-reality-the-nightmare-of-the-pastoral-institution/
Jon Zens, http://www.searchingtogether.org/?s=boil+down+to+pulpit
Page updated 13 April 2017
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