Protecting Core Democratic Values

Recently residents of Michigan learned that a commission tasked with setting socialstudies standards chose to remove the phrase “core democratic values” from the standards, along with several other important concerns. This was done at the behest of a Republican politician running for governor, who got himself appointed to the commission. He complained that that the phrase was partisan. After all, he wasn’t asking for “core republican values” to be part of the standards. I think that this politician flunked civics in high school. Having students learn about the “core democratic values” of the United States doesn’t involve learning the platform and principles of the Democratic Party. Instead, learning about our democratic values is to understand that all political power emerges from the people, who determine the priorities and principles of the nation through the exercise of their vote.
Now this politician argued that the United States isn’t really a democracy. It is a republic. He is p…

1 John, Christ against Culture, and Our Times

As I was working on my study guide on the Letters of John, which I hope to publish soon, I decided not to add a section to each chapter that invited the reader to engage in a theological reflection on an excerpt from a theological document ancient or modern that paralleled the chapter. As I was removing those reflections already present in the document, I came across this excerpt from the session on 1 John 5:1-12 (titled “Overcoming the World”). While it would have to be removed from the book, I decided it was too good to simply toss out. It seemed to fit our times. The excerpt comes from H. Richard Niebuhr’s classic book Christ and Culture.
Niebuhr offers an interpretation of 1 John in Christ and Culture, suggesting that the message of 1 John fits his “Christ against culture” paradigm. While he rejects this paradigm as insufficient, he recognizes the importance of having this vision present in the conversation, as a check on the tendency to get too enmeshed in the culture. Christen…

A House for the Lord - Lectionary Reflection for Pentecost 9B (2 Samuel 7)

2 Samuel 7:1-16 New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)
Now when the king was settled in his house, and the Lord had given him rest from all his enemies around him, the king said to the prophet Nathan, “See now, I am living in a house of cedar, but the ark of God stays in a tent.” Nathan said to the king, “Go, do all that you have in mind; for the Lord is with you.”
But that same night the word of the Lord came to Nathan: Go and tell my servant David: Thus says the Lord: Are you the one to build me a house to live in? I have not lived in a house since the day I brought up the people of Israel from Egypt to this day, but I have been moving about in a tent and a tabernacle. Wherever I have moved about among all the people of Israel, did I ever speak a word with any of the tribal leaders of Israel, whom I commanded to shepherd my people Israel, saying, “Why have you not built me a house of cedar?” Now therefore thus you shall say to my servant David: Thus says the Lord of hosts…

Loving and Leaving a Church (Barbara Melosh) -- A Review

LOVING AND LEAVING A CHURCH: A Pastor’s Journey. By Barbara Melosh. Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2018. 206 pages

When a church calls a minister (or a minister is appointed to a congregation), the new minister and the church usually share one thing in common. Both parties believe that something wonderful is about to happen. The new minister believes she or he has something to offer the congregation that will help it grow and achieve its potential. The congregation, especially congregations that have experienced decline, live in hope that this time things will click, and resurgence of life will occur. Congregations often look to the new minister to be their savior, and the new minister may be inclined to buy into that hope. More often than not, these hopes and dreams don’t come to fruition. Many small and struggling congregations don’t have a lot of energy. They’re living in the hope that the new pastor can breathe life into the congregation without requiring too much of them…

Good Neighbors or Bad?

Under the current administration that is leading the United States, there seems to be an intentional effort to antagonize neighbors, near and far. Our President seems intent on turning long standing friendships into enemies, while embracing those who have demonstrated less than honorable intentions toward us (that is Vladimir Putin and Russia). He has been especially antagonistic toward our neighbors to the north and to the south, countries with which we share borders, and with whom we have exchanged trade and more over the years. It's not that we never have problems. Neighbors can have disputes big and small, but at the end of the day they treat each other with respect (at least when it comes to Canada and Mexico, we hope for good relations). I've lived a significant portion of my life in California, which is near the Mexican border. California's population is diverse, with immigrants from the South and elsewhere contributing to its economy and its culture. Now, I live i…

The Morality of Mister Rogers - Sightings (Martin Marty)

In an age of growing incivility and discontent, the voice of Mr. Rogers is making an appearance. Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood came on to the scene a bit too late for my early TV watching. It was Captain Kangaroo not Mr. Rogers that spoke to my generation. But Mr. Rogers made his mark, bringing a gentle spirit that was rooted in his own Presbyterian ministerial background. Martin Marty invites us to consider his legacy, as revealed in a recent op-ed piece by David Brooks, that points to Fred Rogers' deeply moral message that could speak to conservative evangelicals and secular liberals.  I invite your thoughts, especially if Mr. Rogers influenced your upbringing.  

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Dancing Before the Lord - A Lectionary Reflection for Pentecost 8B (2 Samuel 6)

2 Samuel 6:1-5, 12b-19 New Revised Standard Version (NRSV) 6 David again gathered all the chosen men of Israel, thirty thousand. 2 David and all the people with him set out and went from Baale-judah, to bring up from there the ark of God, which is called by the name of the Lord of hosts who is enthroned on the cherubim. 3 They carried the ark of God on a new cart, and brought it out of the house of Abinadab, which was on the hill. Uzzah and Ahio, the sons of Abinadab, were driving the new cart 4 with the ark of God; and Ahio went in front of the ark. 5 David and all the house of Israel were dancing before the Lord with all their might, with songs and lyres and harps and tambourines and castanets and cymbals.  12b So David went and brought up the ark of God from the house of Obed-edom to the city of David with rejoicing; 13 and when those who bore the ark of the Lord had gone six paces, he sacrificed an ox and a fatling. 14 David danced before the Lord with all his might; David was girde…