Saturday, July 23, 2016

The U.S. Immigration Crisis (Miguel De La Torre): Review

THE U.S. IMMIGRATION CRISIS: Toward an Ethics of Place (Cascade Companions). By Miguel A. De La Torre. Eugene, OR: Cascade Books, 2016. Xx + 176 pages.

                The United States has an immigration problem, and it's a problem largely of our own making. Decisions made decades in the past created the climate that has only been exacerbated by more recent decisions regarding the border. When we think about this crisis, we’re focused on the southern border with Mexico, a border that came into existence due to a vision of Manifest Destiny accompanied by conquest. Many solutions to the crisis have been offered, but many are racist, inhumane, and from a Christian perspective counter to the message of Jesus. If there is any hope of finding a true solution that is just, it will take soul-searching, repentance, and a willingness to go in a new more humane and compassionate direction. Hospitality is important—that is the biblical principle of welcoming the stranger but it is not enough. Why? Because hospitality implies possession of the land. Perhaps something else, something more radical, is required of us. That will start with recognizing that we do not own this space.

Friday, July 22, 2016

Finding Hope In Conflicted Times

There is violence in the streets (police shoot black men, and then police get shot). Nations are being torn apart (Syria, Turkey). Political systems seem broken (U.S.A.). I'm generally an optimistic person. Yet, I'm troubled by what is happening around me, especially the political rhetoric of the hour. We seem intent on building walls rather than bridges. The Republican Party concluded it's convention last evening, anointing Donald Trump as its nominee. I didn't watch the speech, but I'm not surprised by what has been reported. It expressed clearly a politics of resentment. It was divisive and angry. The message that emerged from that convention was anything but hopeful.

The message we're hearing from some in the political realm is a nationalist one (Americanism not globalism). It's focused on me first. We've heard preachers at the convention, in their prayers, refer to the other major party as the enemy, while another speaker suggested that the presumptive nominee of that party serves Satan.  I'm hoping for better from next week's Democratic Convention, but there could be a lot of angry words coming out of that convention as well. There is a temptation to match anger with anger, to fight fire with fire. Being a registered Democrat, I'm hoping for better, but I am concerned.  

Thursday, July 21, 2016

White Protestant America -- Sightings (Martin Marty)

Analyst of trends in religion, Robert P. Jones, of the Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI) has authored a new book with the provocative title of The End of White Christian America. I've not yet read the book, but had the opportunity to hear him speak at the 2015 Academy of Parish Clergy meeting, where he detailed some of the trends in American religion that I'm assuming are detailed in the book. This week historian of American religion and commentator on things religion, Martin Marty takes up an aspect of the book---that would be the state of white Protestant America. Marty quibbles a bit with the language, suggesting that we might talk about the end of white Protestantdom (like Christendom), but more focused on the decline of white Protestantism's hold on American society. I invite you to take up the conversation --- what is the future of predominantly white Protestantism in an increasingly diverse nation?  

White Protestant America
By MARTIN E. MARTY   July 18, 2016
Image: "Little church on American prairie." David Kay via
“Everybody’s talking about . . . ,” in this case, white Protestant America’s posture and place in politics, events, culture, and more. This summer “everybody” is, or at least quite a few people are, talking and blogging about the capitalized three words: White Protestant America,  referencing the book by Robert P. Jones, CEO of PRRI, the Public Religion Research Institute (Simon & Schuster).

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Making Peace with the Earth (Grace Kim) -- Review

MAKING PEACE WITH THE EARTH: Action and Advocacy for Climate Change. Edited by Grace Ji-Sun Kim. Foreword by Guillermo Kerber.  Geneva, Switzerland: World Council of Churches Publications, 2016. Xxiii + 274 pages.

                The question as to whether the earth is experiencing climate change, and whether humanity is to blame, has become a major political hot potato. Even among those who accept that climate change is occurring, are not of one mind as to what should be done. Could we be past the point of no-return? Are the solutions too drastic, and thus unworkable? As for those who deny climate change, part of this may result from a lack of trust in science, as well as the lack of incentive to make the required changes. Indeed, at times it seems as if the only solutions require that we return to a pre-industrial agrarian society. After all, if you agree with the science, but aren’t able or ready to make the necessary changes in life-style, you may find yourself suffering from disagreeable guilt. We may want to be green, but too often our commitment to the cause is rather weak. We may recycle our garbage and turn down the thermostat, and even drive a more fuel efficient car, but is that enough?

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Persistent Prayer - Lectionary Reflection for Pentecost 10C

The Insistent Friend (Jesus Mafa) 

Luke 11:1-13 New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)

11 He was praying in a certain place, and after he had finished, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray, as John taught his disciples.” 2 He said to them, “When you pray, say: 
Father, hallowed be your name.
    Your kingdom come.
3     Give us each day our daily bread.
4     And forgive us our sins,
        for we ourselves forgive everyone indebted to us.
    And do not bring us to the time of trial.”

 5 And he said to them, “Suppose one of you has a friend, and you go to him at midnight and say to him, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves of bread; 6 for a friend of mine has arrived, and I have nothing to set before him.’ 7 And he answers from within, ‘Do not bother me; the door has already been locked, and my children are with me in bed; I cannot get up and give you anything.’ 8 I tell you, even though he will not get up and give him anything because he is his friend, at least because of his persistence he will get up and give him whatever he needs. 
9 “So I say to you, Ask, and it will be given you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you. 10 For everyone who asks receives, and everyone who searches finds, and for everyone who knocks, the door will be opened. 11 Is there anyone among you who, if your child asks for a fish, will give a snake instead of a fish? 12 Or if the child asks for an egg, will give a scorpion? 13 If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!”


                How should we pray? What is the proper demeanor for approaching God? What words should we use? Jesus offers us one example of what prayer might look like. We call it the Lord’s Prayer. Many of us recite it on at least a weekly basis. I’ve written a book about the meaning of this prayer, which I titled Ultimate Allegiance. That’s because I have concluded that the Lord’s Prayer is the Christian version of a pledge of allegiance. The prayer is followed by a series of sayings that speak of persistence in prayer and God’s faithfulness.