Archive for March, 2009



18
Mar
09

“Abstinence Only” Rears Again

I would always prefer to avoid criticizing other religious beliefs, opting instead for simply offering an alternate view. I find myself, however, struggling in order to deal with the Pope’s stand on condom use in the battle against HIV/AIDS in a way that is not derogatory. I understand that Catholicism takes an official stand against contraception – well, that isn’t quite true – I accept that it does, even though I do not understand it. In the case of HIV/AIDS, however, the issue isn’t contraception, but the very life of millions of Africans. Continue reading ‘“Abstinence Only” Rears Again’

18
Mar
09

What Do the Numbers Actually Say?

It’s no secret that the the American Religious Identification Survey, conducted by researchers at Trinity College of Hartford, Conn, had some interesting, if not troubling, news for U.S. churches. In a culture and age in which numbers take precedence over other indicators, the results of the survey are sending shock waves down the spines of many denominational hierarchies. As is customary, however, the concentration is on solving the numbers problem, rather than taking a good, long look at the causes. That would require collective introspection – not a process at which mainline denominations are adept. As is not uncommon, it is those outside of the fray that often give the most reasoned critique of the situation. Continue reading ‘What Do the Numbers Actually Say?’

16
Mar
09

Many Tribes or One Nation?

The Concept of Nation in Relation to Israel in the Period of the Judges.

In discussing the concept of nation within Israel’s political, social and/or religious structure during the period of the Judges it becomes imperative, first of all, to remove the obstacle of modern concepts of nationhood from the equation, in favour of attempting to determine the nature of the unity expressed by the final author(s) of Judges. To this end, this paper will try to ascertain the characteristics of the “nation” being claimed in the finished work and then decide, using existing scholarship about supporting and/or contradictory evidence within Judges, whether the claim appears valid. Separating early or core stories from the redactions that followed will help in focussing on the most likely circumstances that existed, as well as the nature and extent of the rhetoric and propaganda used by the redactor(s) to recast the period in a different light.  

Modern concepts of nation, for westerners at least, serve to confuse the issue when considering the question of whether Judges-era Israel was tribally structured or nationally united in some manner. Nationhood, in the sense of countries having sovereign and fixed national borders and central governmental structures, is a relatively modern concept for Europeans, occurring in the West only over the last three to five centuries, and one that may yet be more idealistic than true. Continue reading ‘Many Tribes or One Nation?’

14
Mar
09

Christology – Borg vs Wright

If I can be allowed a brief introduction, I have a comment about the perceived theological location of each of the authors. During 2003/2004, while attending Westminster College, Cambridge, I heard three out of four lectures given by N.T. Wright about “New Perspectives on Paul”. More interesting than the lectures was the diatribe from the various seminaries regarding Wright. The Evangelical Anglicans, conservative as opposed to traditional (self-description), denounced him as “apostasy on two legs”, while the Anglican Catholic half of the Church of England considered him a defender, albeit somewhat radical, of traditional theology in the current age. The United Reformed Church (Westminster), a mixture of very traditional (reformed) to very conservative, generally considered him to be a liberal Catholic. (All that being said, the lecture hall was packed to the rafters.) Overall, the book we’re now reading was described in Cambridge seminaries as a conversation between liberal (Wright) and very liberal (Borg). The book’s cover, claiming representation from liberal and conservative camps, seems to be heavily dependent on one’s point of view. Very few conservatives in Wright’s home country view him as anything but liberal. Still, overall it appears that both authors fit somewhere in the less-than-extreme centrist majority of the imaginary liberal-conservative spectrum and, as such, posit stands most Christians should be able to get their heads around.

Continue reading ‘Christology – Borg vs Wright’

14
Mar
09

Youth See Church as Judgmental

A majority of young people in the U.S. today describe Christianity, and the Christian church generally, as judgmental and hypocritical. Many have abandoned the name “Christian” altogether because of the “baggage” that accompanies the name. A new book released by The Barna Group, which does research of and for evangelical churches, found that church attitudes about many groups of people are driving people ages 16-29 to stay away from the church.

Even churches in the “liberal tradition”-otherwise called mainline denominations-have been heatedly embroiled in debate over the exclusion of a certain segments of the population. “The Christian community’s ability to take the high road and help to deal with some of the challenges that this perception represents may be the … defining response of the Christian church in the next decade,” said David Kinnaman, Barna Group president and author of the book, UnChristian: What a New Generation Really Thinks About Christianity. Continue reading ‘Youth See Church as Judgmental’

12
Mar
09

Book Review – Between Vengeance and Forgiveness

How do nations or societies respond after periods of mass violence, indescribable episodes of systematic torture, rape and slaughter of minority or marginalized populations, or even ethnic cleansing and genocide?  Historically, of course, the most common response of populations freed from such oppression has been retaliation in at least equal measure, if not more profoundly violent and obscene in character. Despite the world, in the twentieth century, experiencing atrocities of more magnitude and frequency than ever before, Martha Minow somewhat optimistically details several societal responses aimed at seeking collective healing and reconciliation. After discussing the poles of vengeance and forgiveness, Minow expounds on the strengths and limitations of legal remedies, truth commissions and efforts at reparation, before finishing with other possible efforts for reconciliation. Continue reading ‘Book Review – Between Vengeance and Forgiveness’

12
Mar
09

Running Someone Through the Wringer … several times

Paul Capetz is my one sorrow from the two years I spent at United Theological School in the Twin Cities, my alma mater. I never took a class from Paul, although I benefitted from his faith, wisdom and intellect in other ways. I have no doubt that Paul would have joined the ranks of Chris Smith, Jann Weaver, Eleazar Fernandez and Sharon Tan as exceptional teachers I have experienced first hand. Don’t get me wrong, NONE of the professors at United from whom I took classes were less than great, but these just stood out as truly inspiring. To my great disappointment, I will never know Paul firsthand as a teacher.

I could also never know, firsthand at least, the stress and agony that Paul must be feeling at the hands of an unwieldy ecclesiastical judicial process that is far better equipped at passing a “hot potato” than actually making informed, judicious decisions. Rather than fill some with awe at the intricate workings of judicial machine, which is how I have read some comments, it should fill all Presbyterians with shame. As always, the hand-wringing and juggling of important matters has a human face, and I can only imagine the agony that Paul must feel at times. Continue reading ‘Running Someone Through the Wringer … several times’

11
Mar
09

I’m Feeling Musical …

… but don’t want to overrun the front page with video images.

Let’s start with a mini-concert from Melissa Etheridge – if she doesn’t move you, check to see if you have a pulse.

Then there’s the always incredible Ashley Cleveland and a good live piece from Sheryl Crow.

For some reason, it’s women that have caught my musical ear today. Of course, there must be the ubiquitous guitar work that get’s my blood flowing. I hope you enjoy these as much as I do. Continue reading ‘I’m Feeling Musical …’

08
Mar
09

Mission Prayer

This is a prayer to be said by those going to and coming from immersion mission trips. It is a reminder to hold sacred what others trust you with, especially their hearts. Continue reading ‘Mission Prayer’

08
Mar
09

Risking Transformation

Readings:  2 Kings 2:1-14     Mark 9:2-9

Here we have two passages about transformation. There are, obviously, links between the two. Both talk about Elijah, and each deals with a person being transformed by God in the presence of witnesses.  And it’s those witnesses I am most interested in.

Each of these principle characters had disciples. Jesus, of course, had several but only three were present – Peter, James and John. Elijah had one, Elisha. Both sets of disciples had just been told that their mentor – their master, if you will – was approaching the end of their ministries, and would soon be taken away. The reactions to these events are interestingly different, despite the similarities that exist. Continue reading ‘Risking Transformation’

05
Mar
09

I Will Be Your God, and You My People

Following an oracle about a new ethic of personal responsibility, we find in Jeremiah 31 the announcement of a new covenant: a new picture of the relationship between God and God’s people. Something ‘new’ is not a frequent theme in the Hebrew Bible until it emerges with the prophets. Parallel to the new covenant of Jeremiah, two other significant references are the ‘new thing’ and ‘the new creation’ in Isaiah 43 and 65, and the ‘new heart’ and ‘new spirit’ of Ezekiel 18.

The style of Jeremiah varies – sometimes it reads like poetry, sometimes like prose. Jeremiah was a prophet – a preacher – and he had a scribe, Baruch, who took notes for posterity. We don’t know if they intended their work to end up being part of a timeless international best-seller, but that’s what happened. Continue reading ‘I Will Be Your God, and You My People’

04
Mar
09

The Scandal of Jesus Christ – Three Perspectives

For much of the last two thousand years there have been scandals associated with, or hindrances to, belief in Jesus Christ as savior. What is so outrageous about the claim of salvation in Jesus that offends the moral or rational sensibilities of at least certain segments of society? In examining this question, three authors – Jan Milic Lochman, Elizabeth A. Johnson and Justo L. González – discussed the traditional orthodox views of salvation through faith in Christ in light of modern interests. The authors had particular agendas, openly declared in each of their works, around which they developed their arguments. These various arguments were in close agreement at some points and in discord at others but, when viewed collectively, created an interesting sampling of some of the opinions that make up modern Christian thought. Continue reading ‘The Scandal of Jesus Christ – Three Perspectives’

04
Mar
09

Right (Re)Defining “Bashing”

“BASHING”a word that has long been used by minorities to describe the actions of mobs and people motivated by hate. Some on the religious-right, because of the attention on gay bashing, have started to appropriate this word to talk about how they are being discriminated against. This video is potentially troubling because of some fo the images, but is a must see for those who wish to understand how the word “bashing” in being co-opted and watered down. Continue reading ‘Right (Re)Defining “Bashing”’

03
Mar
09

Doth Thou Protesteth Too Much?

There was an interesting study recently released that measures the appetite for pornography based on scales of religious and social conservatism. The results of this survey are not surprising when compared to other results released years ago.

In the old report, arousal was measured in men, who self-identified from very anti-LGBT to liberal, when they watched “gay porn.” Not surprisingly, those who had the most negative attitude about GLBT had more erectile arousal than those who had less. The results of the survey showed that homophobia is as or more likely to be caused by shame and suppression of innate homosexual tendencies as any other cause.

This recent survey, and the summary article in New Scientist, seems to show a similar pattern Continue reading ‘Doth Thou Protesteth Too Much?’

03
Mar
09

What Must Our Children Think

I’ll think about the following the next time I hear someone say something about the “younger generation.”

There are some interesting statistics – nay, absolutely awful ones – from a CNN article this morning. According to the Pew Center on the States, there were 7.3 million adults incarcerated in this country during 2007. A synopsis of the statistical findings should raise a lot of questions:

That is over 3 out of every 100 people in the country.

People of color were disproportionately more represented than whites – over 9 per 100 of black adults and more than 5 per 100 of Hispanic or Latino adults.

Maybe that doesn’t sound too bad to you, Continue reading ‘What Must Our Children Think’




... or, preaching from both ends

WELL, HELLO! YOU’RE HERE.

That's too bad - I'm so sorry. Oh, well, just try to make the best of it. What you'll find here is a variety of essays and ramblings to do with things theological, social, whimsical and, sometimes, all three. I don't write to get famous - trust me, I've been told how futile that would be - but to express myself. I love to communicate and browbeat - ummm, I mean dialogue - about the things I find intriguing. Since you're here, and the door's locked, why don't you stay a while. There's a page bar under the header with links to information about us - I mean me. Don't forget to tell me what you think - in a nice way, I mean.

Readers since Jan 2009

  • 125,789 posts read

Archives