Thursday, July 7, 2011

bridgeport international

hey friends - i am working on a newsletter with some cool kids in the neighborhood, called:

the bridgeport international

Here is a draft of what may be my article.



Dear Reverend,

During last winter's blizzard my wife, friends and I hotly debated the ethical and moral implications of reserving a parking space with lawn furniture, or other household items. The shear amount of snow the blizzard dumped on the city certainly made it tempting to save the spot one work hours to clear. Yet when Chicago has an average storm (2-3 inches of snow) it hardly seems fair for someone to claim public space, especially when so little effort was expended to clear the parking spot. I won't even get into how terrible the neighborhood looks with all that junk in the street.
As a man-of-the-cloth what do you think of this moral and ethical dilemma? Is there a point at which streets filled with lawn furniture is morally acceptable?

Be Well,


Wow: a perennial question. And quite fit for the month of July.

At the center of my faith (and ethics) is an ideal that professes that one loves God by loving one's neighbor. Period. That's how it happens. If you're not loving other people, you're not loving God. Even if you think you are.

But there's more than just love.

Also in the mix of ideologies inherited by Christians over the past 2,000 years, is the ideal of self-sacrifice (a.k.a.. altruism). “Perfect” altruism is modeled, ultimately, by Christ, who, according to much of Christian theology, gives his life for the sake of giving other folks new life.

So we've got Love. And we've got Altruism.

When we put these ideals together, we get something really, really, beautiful.


Other times, this combination really sucks.

For example: misguided clergy of Christian past have done awfully horrible things with these ideals.

Such as: advising an abused spouse to stay in an abusive relationship, claiming that was that spouse's “cross to bear,” and that the right thing to do was to endure the suffering for the sake of staying together. For the kids. For the marriage. For Altruism. For Love. Nonsense.

God's not into people getting beat up.

Self-sacrifice, when chosen, might be noble (like a kid jumping in front of a bus to save another kid). But when imposed from the outside, or by societal expectations, it's not self-sacrifice. It's oppression.

And God's not into oppression.

The God of the Bible is into liberation. Redemption. Deliverance.

What's this have to do with snow?

We certainly don't live in a neighborhood so morally bound that its members will look at your dug-out spot after a big storm and say to themselves:

“Well, somebody else dug a spot for him/herself here! Therefore: I ought to dig a spot for myself. After all, that's only fair!”

And you, as a moral person, even with an ideal of Love and Altruism, are in no way obligated to dig out someone-else's spot, though it would be nice to do so for an elderly neighbor.

If someone were to take “your” spot, who was perfectly capable of digging out their “own” (and you were okay with that), you would simply be enabling that person to be lazy, get fatter, and continually abuse other spot-diggers in the neighborhood. Not cool.

In my opinion, the best way to be ethical in such a situation—the best way to be both neighbor-loving, and to encourage healthy, mutually self-giving relationships, would be to:

Not simply dig yourself out and call “dibs,” claiming: to each his/her own;

Not sacrifice self for the sake of an abuser by digging out spaces and giving them away without discretion, leaving yourself (and those really in need) without a spot;

but, rather:

to love your neighbors by meeting them. Gather your dig-able neighbors and their shovels. Go out for a couple of hours, and clear the whole block. And if your block wants to call dibs: fine. You deserve it.

The snow is deep.

May your love be deeper.


Rev. Tom Gaulke
First Trinity Lutheran Church, Bridgeport


  1. I drove to Bridgeport this winter in the middle of the snow to drop off some stuff for an elderly lady of my church who lives there, and I was scorned by someone immediately after I parked, because I took up the spot she saved for her husband who was coming back from work.

    During that same snow storm, the first thing an old missionary in our church did, was to walk blocks from his house to our church and gathered some other brothers of our church to clean up the church’s parking lot for Sunday service.

    If Christianity ever looses its relevance in today's society, it should be no surprise, if we Christians behave just like the rest of the society under the harsh weather - of nature or of life.

    Indeed, the snow is deep; but may our love be much deeper, so long as we remember to band up together with our instruments of faith & draw from the Infinite Font of Love, and we shall see ALL harsh weathers defeated in the face of that love!


  2. [OOPS! Sorry for posting the following comments in the wrong spot below using the computer of the kid who's currently summer vacationing at the house!]

    ...then, what exactly is this love which is rooted in & funded by Christ? How is it manifested in our everyday life?

    If I may venture an answer to this question, I'd say, it's a kind of self-giving which facilitates others to become what God creates them to be, to become Christ-like.

    On the one hand, such a love ought to be an art rather than a science, in the sense that it may be displayed in wondrously many different ways, all reflective of God’s many-faceted deep love for us...

    On the other hand, a victim of abusive relationship cannot give such love, because the victim is under fear, and so does not own the self, and cannot really give the self to others. Neither can anyone who gives oneself in such a way that, it exacerbates Christ-dislikeness in other people, e.g. oppressiveness, laziness, dependency, etc.

    One vivid demonstration of such self-giving love - which helps to transform others to become Christ-like - may be that priest figure in Les Miserables, when he handed his silver candleholders to the stranger who was brought to him by the police for stealing his silverwares after eating dinner in his house!

    ...then again, how very difficult is it for us to live out this kind of love, pure, other-oriented, fearless, neither too compromising nor too harsh....

    May the Lord Who Himself is Love teach & help us each day the ways of love, that most excellent gift of all the gifts from the Holy Spirit!