Saturday, December 21, 2019


Many Paths Galesburg
Bruce Weik & Peter Schwartzman

     Conventional wisdom has it that you should never talk about religion or politics in public. But our faith, one of our strongest personal assets, and today’s many political crises, both need some public discussion. What we believe, and how we carry it out, as individuals and a nation, are at this moment in our history, both in need of examination. And that is just what we did, on Dec. 12, at the Knox County Brewing Company. That night, Many Paths Galesburg recorded our fourth live podcast, with a panel of five persons from the community, who were willing to talk about their faith. Defying the odds, we had a civil, responsible, inclusive, and entertaining discussion about how our faith intersects, and interacts, with the common good—that sense of binding solidarity that draws us, all of us, together.
     With Christmas just around the corner, and Galesburg being vast majority Christian, we focused, as anticipated, on Christianity, although as we learned, many of the prominent religious faiths are represented in Galesburg as well. We also identified many who consider themselves spiritual, but not necessarily associate with any particular religion or church. These people tend to their spiritual needs by connecting with nature, visiting inspirational places, meditating, doing yoga, or, simply, gardening.
      For many Christians, their past resides in the fact that the Jewish people fled Egypt, freeing themselves from the Pharaoh and his system of scarcity (little freedom, little food, little family time). They fled to the Promised Land, and received rules by which to live together and be good neighbors. Abundance could be found through devotion to God and commitment to one another. (Walter Brueggemann, Journey to the Common Good).
     As it happened, Christ entered the picture, whose birthday Christians celebrate on Dec. 25th. He was not born into privilege, but arrived in a stable, with dirt and animals and filth. It was the commonness of this birth that is most overwhelming. He was eventually to challenge the leadership of the Jewish people and the Roman government. His existence would be conflictual and eventually lead to him being hanged on the cross for sedition. This horrific act was executed for arguing that we should be inclusive, emphasizing the common good, being a good neighbor, and preaching the apocalyptic message of total devotion to God, not man.
     In response to Christ’s actions, Christians are were moved from a place of bondage, scarcity, submission, and blind obedience, to a place of abundance, hope, freedom, the common good, and the promise of community and inclusive, caring neighborhoods. This is the promise of Christmas.
    While there are many other faiths present in Galesburg, too many to give proper attention to in such a short column, it is important to remember some things when we practice our faith. First, we need to acknowledge that other faiths exist and can coexist with yours/ours. If we are going to tackle the challenges humanity faces right now, people of different faiths are going to have to work together. The panel reminded us how important it is to seek out people of other faiths intentionally, as a way of learning from one another and as a way of harmonizing our communities. This need for the deep respect of others, without judgment, also comes from different sects of Christianity. Apparently, all too often, a minor difference in faith leads to significant schisms between peoples. This breeds hostility and disharmony and must be avoided at all cost. Lastly, traditional organizations of worship should regularly challenge their own faith by looking at their actions and ensuring that they are consistent with precepts of their faith. Sometimes this process leads to new actions. However, sometimes, the precepts of one’s faith may need to be reinterpreted so that necessary actions (such as feeding the hungry) remain part of one’s commitment to the larger community as well.
Our next podcast will be January 23, 6-8pm, at the Knox Brewery. Our topic will be celebrating Galesburg music, both from a promoter’s point of view, and the artists’. All are invited.



Thursday, December 12, 2019

The Christmas Story

Born to raise hell
     Born into the working class, Christ’s story has been one shrouded in mystery and intrigue. From the very beginning, Jesus’ life was recorded by writers as divine: A virgin birth; declared “King of the Jews”; the Savior of mankind. It was clearly not a royal birth, having taken place in an out building of an inn in Bethlehem. And immediately, the Roman government was worried about this birth.
     The gospel’s give us the only accounts of Christ’s birth, life, and death. The first book was surprisingly not Matthew, but was Mark. * (123) Mark was written some 35-70 years after the death of Jesus, by an anonymous writer. * (67) The writer was more than likely sitting in Rome, using stories that had been transmitted by oral tradition. There were no firsthand accounts of Jesus life. Josephus, a prominent historian of the time, mentioned an apocalyptic preacher who was roaming the countryside at the time, but there were numerous preachers doing so. It remains unclear who he was referring to. No one was there, standing next to the writers, telling them what they saw. They relied on orally transmitted stories.
     The facts surrounding Jesus life has been argued for the last 2000 years, and will no doubt be argued the next 2000. For me, it is not the facts that are as important as the story. The story highlights what Christians should be striving for: Revolutionaries for the poor, mistreated, sick, and forsaken.

·        Introducing the New Testament.” Achtemeier, Green, Thompson. Eerdmans Publishing, 2001

     Mary and Joseph left Nazareth to be counted by the census being taken by Rome in Bethlehem. They arrived to find that the Inn they had planned on staying in was full. The innkeeper, seeing that Mary was pregnant and about to have a child, allowed them to stay in an out-building, which has been described as a stable. He supplied them with blankets and linens to make their stay as comfortable as possible.
     Herod hired the three wise men to see what was going on with the birth. The baby was being described as “King of the Jews.” The word King upset him. They were basically hired as spies for the King. When the shepherd’s arrived, they were overcome with joy and thanksgiving. Rather than report back to the King in Rome, they fled to the country-side, never to be heard of again.
     In apparent response to the wise men not providing a report, Herod decreed that all first born male children were to be killed. However, there is no historic evidence to suggest this was ever carried out. Something that dramatic would definitely have caught the attention of historians.
     At his same time, another miraculous birth had taken place. Elizabeth, wife of Zackerius, was a cousin of Mary. It is reported that they actually spent about 2 months together while they were pregnant. Writers of the gospels described Mary's pregnancy as an “immaculate conception,” and Elizabeth’s a “miraculous conception.” Elizabeth’s child was named John. He would come to be known as John the Baptizer, (Baptist), who would eventually baptize Jesus.
     Joseph, Mary and the baby Jesus left Bethlehem and fled to Egypt. They would eventually return to Nazareth. From that time until Jesus was approximately thirty-three, there is little information available.

It is widely believed that Jesus was a Zealot, one of the Jewish sects of Jesus’ time. The Zealots were advocating revolution against the Roman government. Christ intentionally broke many of the Jewish customs and Roman laws. It seemed clear he was not happy with the Jewish hierarchy or the Roman government. At his death, he was found guilty of sedition. Hanging on the cross was reserved for the worst of the worst. The persons hanging to his right and left were thought to be Zealots. *
·        “Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth,” Reza Aslan.
     Christmas and Easter are important times in the Christian faith. For me, Christ’s apocalyptic message represented a new beginning, perhaps in your life/faith. Regardless of our understanding, he clearly started something of a revolution. It would become known as Christianity.


Wednesday, December 4, 2019


Reconciling our faith with the current moment. How authentic is our faith?
By Bruce Weik & Peter Schwartzman

     With Christmas just around the corner, we feel it is a good time to examine our faith as it plays out in our lives and the community. As Galesburg is probably 95% Christian, among those that practice religion, we are going to emphasize Christianity. Our hope is for more diversity and choice in the future.
     Suppose the sky broke open and your God fell out. What would you ask, if you were given one minute of his or her time?  Would you wonder if a right-wing Republican was held in more esteem than a liberal Democrat? Or if a billionaire businessman is more important than a homeless person? Or if a preacher is more holy than my transsexual neighbor?
     Perhaps your questions would be more personal. For example: Is my life on the right track? How are my chances of entering the Kingdom? Do I have an inside track being a Christian? Should I become a Buddhist, a Muslim, a Hindu, or adopt Judaism?
     Remember, you would likely have limited one-on-one time with God. Would you wonder: Do I follow the right religion? Go to the right church? Say the right prayers?
     On the other hand, would you take this precious time to ask something bold, like: Why don’t you straighten out the mess we find ourselves in? Why do you let children suffer? Can’t you do something about my sick husband/wife? With a twitch of our finger, couldn’t you find food for the hungry? Shelter for the homeless? Surely you can get this climate change thing taken care of?
     Clearly, the harder we think about it, the more convoluted that one minute becomes.
     Okay, the minute exercise is up, but there are still important questions about your faith to consider. Where do you go to get your faith fortified or your soul renewed?  Perhaps you don’t go to church at all, but go to the forest, a river, the mountains, the ocean, or some other power place, to energize your spiritual self. Maybe you exercise, do yoga, read spiritual-meditation books, or follow daily devotionals. Perhaps you escape to your own backyard getaway. Either way, isn’t it important to renew yourself?
     Thinking about this, is it fair to ask: Are we being authentic with our faith? Thinking locally, we wonder if our needs for faith are being met in Galesburg?
We do seem to have a lot of churches. Do all of these churches translate into people actively living out their faith in the community? Is our faith adding to the common good--that sense of binding solidarity that moves us all together: the have’s and have-not’s, the rich and poor, young and old, black and white, home grown and immigrant, Christian and Muslim?  Strong forces are acting to deny this.  Jim Willis, founder of Sojourners, in his new book, “Christ in Crisis,” calls this moment antithetical to everything Jesus valued, taught and modeled for his followers. He refers to it as “Anti-Christ politics.” Will our churches and its people’s remain quiet and unresponsive to these challenges? Or will we step forward, acting out our belief in Christ’s calling for what is possible through transformation and commitment?
     We keep coming back to questions. Questions, we’re guessing, we all share. Our next podcast will be December 12, 6-8 pm, at the Knox County Brewing Co.: “Our faith and the collective (common) good.” Come share your questions and thoughts.


"Am I my brother's keeper? No, I'm my brother's brother, or my brother's sister. Human unity is not something we are called to create--only something we are called on to recognize."

William Sloane Coffin