Archive for the 'Justice & Mercy' Category



31
Jul
09

Comparative exegesis – Romans 1:14 – 2:3

When doing exegesis, I do not rely on one translation exclusively, because each have taken certain liberties in syntax or word choice, and even added the occasional word where it did not exist in the original language. Experience has taught me that no version can made a claim to be “the right” translation or interpretation of the scriptures, and to rely solely on one version is to elevate or even idolize a work of human endeavor. Translating and interpreting are human exercises to bring ancient texts to more modern readers who speak different languages, after all. The question, then, is not one of inerrancy of the texts in the original languages, but the inaccuracies of translated and interpreted versions.

I will also be making an argument that, to separate that chapter 1 of this epistle from the beginning of chapter 2, abuses the scripture and robs Paul’s argument of its greatest import. It must be remembered that chapter and verse were added well after the fact.

While the scriptures were divided into paragraphs by time of the Council of Nicea (325 AD), these are not the same as those in our modern translations. The New Testament was divided into chapters by Archbishop Steven Langdon around 1230 AD, and verses were introduced in 1551 by Robert Estienne. The first English Bible to make use of both chapter and verse was the translation of the Geneva Bible in 1560.

The decision to separate 1:14 through 2:16 remains a quandary but has substantially altered what may be one of Paul’s most remarkable arguments.
Continue reading ‘Comparative exegesis – Romans 1:14 – 2:3’

30
Jul
09

The Bread of Life II

The text for this section is John 6: 22-36. If you have not read the section on John 6:1-21, click here.

After Jesus fed the five thousand, the people misunderstood who Jesus was – or, maybe more correctly, misunderstood his purpose. Read verses 14 and 15 from John chapter 6:

When the people saw the sign that he had done, they began to say, “This is indeed the prophet returning to the world.” When Jesus realized that they were about to come and take him by force to make him king, he withdrew again to the mountain by himself.

Jesus had previously explained that actually doing God’s will was the bread of life – the nourishment that strengthened Jesus and the same food that he offered to his followers. Jesus offered discipleship – active engagement in bringing God’s love to the world as the source of spiritual sustenance. The crowd had misunderstood Jesus’ message and the miracle. While they had shared in a common meal, they believed Jesus had been the source of the bread that satisfied their physical hunger.

This, then, led them to believe that Jesus was the messiah. Actually, they were okay to that point. Their problem was that they believed Jesus was the prophet of old returning to be their king. Continue reading ‘The Bread of Life II’

19
Jul
09

An Episcopalian Triple Play. Arms wide open – well, kind of.

It is unlike church hierarchies today to risk alienating anyone, especially large numbers of people, and to risk the secession of member churches and expulsion from a world-wide organization that gives them political and financial clout. It is even more unusual that decisions having those potential outcomes would be made in the name of justice. But, this past week, The Episcopal Church (TEC), the American branch of the Anglican Communion, risked all three possibilities by passing three of their own decisions that throw their doors wide open. Continue reading ‘An Episcopalian Triple Play. Arms wide open – well, kind of.’

16
Jul
09

Have you not heard? – Sermon on Mark 1:29-39

“The time is fulfilled, and the reign of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news!” 

Verse 14 points to the message that Jesus is proclaiming in Capernaum, and that the gospel of Mark has at its core. The Good News is that the time of waiting is over and that the Reign of God has begun to take shape among them.  That is the message, and Mark – whoever she or he really was –  gave us in last week’s and this week’s text the effect the message has.

Without keeping that in mind, Chapter one appears to read like a choppy series of unrelated incidents.  While it is true that the gospel showed us last week Jesus’ power as an exorcist, and this week as a healer, it isn’t trying to tell us, “Hey, this guy Jesus is a great preacher … and exorcist … and healer!”  The gospel is telling us about the Good News in this opening summary – the gospel of the Reign of God – and starting to flesh out what it looks like from a purely Markan perspective.  Jesus is not only the bearer and herald of the Good News of the Reign of God; Jesus is the Good News of the Kingdom. Where Jesus is, the kingdom has drawn near. Continue reading ‘Have you not heard? – Sermon on Mark 1:29-39’

05
Jul
09

Summer Patriotism

The summer seems to be a great season for patriotism. It begins with Memorial Day and ends with Labor Day, well not officially, but certainly in practical terms. Both these holidays celebrate what has made and still makes the U.S. the U.S. – people. In between these holidays, of course, we have Flag Day and Independence Day. July does seem to represent the peak of summer and, I think, the peak of summer patriotic fervor, perhaps a lasting effect of the fireworks and cook-outs. Between the celebrations of people, we celebrate nationhood, freedom and this great land.

Just like a church, however, a nation does not exist without people. The land certainly does, but it is the people who make it a social, political and communal place. Freedom is an empty concept without people – the freedoms we celebrate are those that are the inalienable rights of the people of this land. But just who are these people, you know, the ones who have had this freedom? Continue reading ‘Summer Patriotism’

05
Jul
09

The Case of the Disappearing Assets

Background:

The BIA was established on March 11, 1824 and is subsumed under the Department of the Interior as the agency that overseas Indian Affairs. What does “oversea” mean? Essentially it is a policy of treating Native Americans as orphaned children. As long as Indians maintain an identity as primarily a member of a tribe, as opposed to an independent US citizen, they are dealt with differently. The BIA, among other functions, is charged with “holding” Indian owned assets (land and the proceeds from the land) for the benefit of the Indians.

The “land” is that which was ratified by the Congress in 1895 as owned by Indians tribes and their members. These assets are “held” in trust – therefore, there is a fiduciary responsibility to maintain the assets solely for the benefit of the owners. In the past, only if Indians removed themselves from themselves from collective ownership of land would benefits accrue to them.

The Bureau administers 43,450,266.97 acres of tribally owned land, 10 million acres of individually owned land, and 309,189 acres of federally owned land held in trust status. The BIA is also responsible for leasing the land for agricultural use and managing the land for the removal of natural resources from the land. The lease payments and mineral right royalties are collected by the BIA and held in trust to be paid to the Indians. At any given point in time $2.5 billion is in the combined Individual Indian Money and Tribal Accounts

On June 10, 1996, the Native American Rights Fund (NARF), together with a number of attorneys, representing individual Native Americans, filed a class action lawsuit against the federal government claiming that the government failed to properly manage Indian Trust funds. Continue reading ‘The Case of the Disappearing Assets’

03
Jul
09

Scapegoating & Spiritual Abuse in Churches – Scattering the flock (Part 1)

While a church administrator, I had the unfortunate experience of witnessing profoundly disturbing spiritual abuse – not just once, but twice. In one instance, the abuser was a thirty-something-year pastor intent on maintaining control of what had become his church. In the other, the pastor was the victim of two elders who happened to be related to the former long-term pastor. In both cases, while there were the primary targets of the abuse, there was a system wide fallout upon many other victims. Both churches are recovering, but remain shadows of their former selves. As a result, and after much research, I am offering this paper. Continue reading ‘Scapegoating & Spiritual Abuse in Churches – Scattering the flock (Part 1)’

03
Jul
09

Idolizing Wealth – Luke 12:12-21

Jesus is asked to intervene in an inheritance dispute, and responds by telling a parable about greed. Obviously, Jesus has decided that greed is the underlying motivation of the person who asks for their share of the inheritance … and that this is a good time for a lesson about greed in general.

Quite simple, really. Hardly much point in preaching about it, since it’s just so obvious, eh?

There is more here than is initially apparent, however. To find it we have to delve a little deeper into the text. And my job is to do that without turning this sermon into a geek fest of language and theological study that leaves you groping for the exit door in a bored stupor. We’ll see how I do.

There are many patterns in Luke, but one in particular is how Jesus answers questions. Rarely does Jesus give direct answers to direct questions. Jesus generally answers a question with either another question or a parable, and many times with both… and it strikes me that Jesus does this so people can learn to discern their own answers. Continue reading ‘Idolizing Wealth – Luke 12:12-21’

21
Jun
09

The Bread of Life IV

I am having difficulty settling on a sermon for the third section of John 6, so I have decided to move into the fourth segment of John’s continuing Bread of Life discourse. The text for this is John 6:51-58. The sermon for John 6:1-21 can be found here and John 6:22-36 here.

If we read Chapter 6 superficially, it sounds like many, many words saying the same thing. It sounds repetitious and redundant. “I am the bread of life.” Five weeks of sermons saying the same thing.

There are two ways to read virtually any written work, however – literally and figuratively. Most of us don’t stop at the literal wording of John’s gospel – even literal fundamentalists. This gospel defies a literal reading. Jesus is not actually a light, a word or a loaf of bread. We are not literally sheep. The figurative reading, however, can be just as shallow and repetitious – leading many to think that all God expects is to accept Jesus as savior and put him into your pocket as a free “get out of hell” card. Continue reading ‘The Bread of Life IV’

20
Jun
09

Always Baby Steps – One Forward & Two Backward, It Seems

President Obama put out a particular spokeperson to deal with his innaction – actually, offensive action – with regard to LGBT issues. The spokeman ordered to the front line of the debacle initiated by the Justice Dept’s defense of DOMA (Defense of Marriage Act) was the highest ranking LGBT staff person, John Berry. Now, what the head of the administration’s Office of Personnel Management has to do with the Justice Dept action is anybody’s guess, but it seems pretty clear that Berry gave the interview not primarily because he’s  a member of  Obama’s staff, but because he is gay. Continue reading ‘Always Baby Steps – One Forward & Two Backward, It Seems’

12
Jun
09

Transgender Stories

Two stories. One in the third person – a story about transgender folk. Another in the first person. Both touching and sure to create a little more empathy – with some, anyway.

Born in male body, Jenny knew early that she was a girl

Henry Joseph Madden was a good student and track team member in high school, but he had a secret: He sometimes wore his mother’s pantyhose and underwear under his clothes. Continue reading ‘Transgender Stories’

08
Jun
09

oh! you’re childless – a new parable

I’m doing something different. This is a story that will develop over time. I’d like to incorporate your thoughts into it – which means, obviously, you have to give me some. I’ll make it sticky for a while – at least, until I think it’s done.

Kim and Leslie were descendents of the original settlers on Terra – the fourth generation to live on this distant planet colonized by the United States. They had been together for over twelve years – years during which they suffered estrangement from “polite society” and were subject to pointing fingers, pursed lips, derision and even a couple of instances of violence. There was no doubt they did not belong, but they knew no other place, no other home, such as it was. They had long resigned themselves to living on the fringe of Terra community. Kim and Leslie were not alone in their plight, being part of a minority that was ignored in demographic research. Continue reading ‘oh! you’re childless – a new parable’

03
Jun
09

Comments on Abortion and Murder from Rabbi Arthur Waskow

Abortion is one of the most decidedly divisive issues in society and religion. Following the murder of Dr George Tiller, Rabbi Waskow issued the following opinion piece – one that is lucid and pleading. I commend Rabbit Waskow’s courage and his thoughts, while acknowledging that there are many who believe abortion to be heinous. I, myself, battle internally with this issue. I believe that abortion is rarely a good option or a good thing, but also agree that unwanted pregnancy can ruin lives and lead to poverty. The solution, in my mind, is to make abortion irrevelant as we tackle the causes of unwanted pregnancies. In the meantime I lean towards allowing, as moral agents, women to exercise discretion with respect to their own bodies. I know many disagree, but encourage them to read Rabbi Waskow’s comments anyway.

Dear friends,

So another physician has been murdered for making it possible for women to actually use their constitutional right to choose an abortion. Continue reading ‘Comments on Abortion and Murder from Rabbi Arthur Waskow’

03
Jun
09

Faith-Based Homophobia: ‘An Appalling Christian Moral Failure’

Lawrence from First Light provided the following article with brief commentary preceding it. At usual, there is no need to add commentary at this point.

You might expect such an evaluation from people in our own community, or from parents, family, friends and allies. But the conclusion comes from an unexpected source.

I’ve spoken about the organization “Faith in America” before, a group that, like Soulforce, attempts to communicate the harm done by faith-based bigotry against TLGB people. And I think I’ve also mentioned “Crisis,” the book compiled by FIA founder Mitchell Gold in support of that effort, which was published earlier this year. Gold has just sent an email alert to friends and members of FIA regarding a review of the book which has appeared — to his surprise — in the publication The Christian Century. The surprise isn’t that this progressive periodical printed the review; it’s that the review was written by a relatively conservative Baptist minister who teaches Christian ethics at Mercer University. Continue reading ‘Faith-Based Homophobia: ‘An Appalling Christian Moral Failure’’

28
May
09

Dallas Principles

 

LGBTfront

No-one has commented on more lucidly, nor collected articles about, The Dallas Principles than Lawrence at First Light. I am posting his comments and articles he cited here, minus any identifying details, since First Light is a membership based list serve. Feel free to go to the link and sign up if you are allied to the cause of LGBT equality.

The meeting in Dallas which produced “The Dallas Principles” is another in a recent series of efforts by grassroots and out-of-the-mainstream activists to stimulate greater popular initiative and control over lobbying to achieve greater TLGB equality. In many ways, it seems to me that it’s at least partly a reaction against the failure of ‘official’ activist groups to defeat Prop. 8 in California last year, and partly an expanding anger and unhappiness over the go-slow approach of national groups like The Human Rights Campaign, which seem to be unwilling to make hard demands of persons in power.

The strength of the Dallas 24, who met to hammer out some foundational goals of the TLGB community in 2009, seems to me to be that they are not tied to top-heavy bureaucracies with huge budgets that support highly-paid staff with power, status and positions to protect. Perhaps their weakness is pretty much the same: they have no official standing, no ongoing structure, little serious connections to the people in power, and are just as much self-selected as the organizations which they believe are failing to achieve community goals quickly enough.

Despite a flurry of media releases, they’ve gotten precious little mainstream news coverage. What they have going for them are basically internet blogging audiences (how large? unknown), some potential funding resources (how much? unknown) and initial enthusiasm and desire to make an impact (how lasting? unknown). The Dallas Principles are scarcely arguable, but their influence is very much up in the air. But if you’re weary of the questionable pace and product of the ‘big boys’ of community lobbying, you have nothing to lose by checking out the Dallas bunch. Continue reading ‘Dallas Principles’




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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.

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