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Showing posts from March, 2012

In All Things Moderation

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As I was pondering what to write this morning for the blog, wondering what direction to go, I was directed to an article by David Brooks in the New York Times.  The tip comes from Scot McKnight's Weekly Meanderings.  In this article Brooks points out the difficulty of moderates to navigate the political realm.  This is especially true of center-right folks who traditionally have found a home in the Republican Party.  The focus of the story is Nathan Fletcher, a California State Rep who is seeking the office of mayor of San Diego.  This office is often held by moderate Republicans, but that animal is a rare bird in this age of polarized politics.  So, Fletcher is going Independent, because as a moderate he's finding it difficult to find a home.  
Having been born into the Episcopal Church -- before converting to Pentecostalism -- I am genetically predisposed to the principle of "in all things moderation."  It is the hallmark of Anglicanism, which sought to find a mid…

People of Faith and the Public Square

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People of faith, if they choose to enter the public square, face the question of why they are making this move into public life. There are those who desire either to dominate public life through the imposition of religious law or a theological vision, whether that is Sharia, the Ten Commandments, or the Sermon on the Mount! Others hope to gain special privileges, whether that involves official establishment or some other form of support. American history shows that there was not a consensus on this question, even as the states began to ratify the Constitution.
In the essays that comprise this book [Faith in the Public Square] I hope to create a conversation that would help the nation in which I live, as well as the global society, to work together for the common good. I happen to believe that while it has its flaws, the American political system is the best system yet devised. It is a democratic system, and yet it has imposed checks and balances that have provided political stabilit…

The Perplexing Message of Palm Sunday -- A Lectionary Reflection

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Isaiah 50:4-9a
Philippians 2:5-11
John 12:12-16
The Perplexing Message of Palm Sunday
            Palm Sunday poses problems for preachers.  We who know the trajectory of the story know that the celebrations quickly give way to a state-sanctioned execution of a possible troublemaker.   Of course, we could just skip Good Friday and jump to the triumphal glory of Easter.  It’s a much more cohesive message.  Jesus enters the city of Jerusalem, hailed as king and then God graduates him to heavenly glory.  We can go from “All Glory, Laud, and Honor” to “Crown Him with Many Crowns.”  There’s no need for us to sing “Were you there when they crucified my Lord?”  After all, in my subdivision, the children will get to engage in the annual Easter Egg Hunt on Saturday – the day before Palm Sunday! 
Now this perplexing Palm Sunday situation could be avoided -- We can focus on the Passion Sunday texts (and two of the text I’ve chosen come  from that set of lections) – but perhaps we need to be reminde…

When the Private is Political -- Sightings

Recent debates in Congress and in the public square have raised the issue of religion and public life. How do these two relate? Is religion truly private? When the two collide, as they often do, what gives? The issue of contraception opened up a lot of different debates, some having to do with the way we understand religion.  In this Sightings article, Caryn Riswold asks us to consider once again the long standing Feminist witness.  It's not, she says the final frontier, but a frontier that has been contested for centuries within the church.  It's a very provocative piece that is worth deep consideration!
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SightingsMarch 29, 2012 When the Private is Political— Caryn D. Riswold Who imagined that the hot political topic in Spring 2012 would be contraception? That Rush Limbaugh would flame back into relevance for demanding that a Georgetown law student provide him and his buddies with sex tapes? That a religious organization comprised entirely of…

Health Care Reform -- What's the Right Thing to Do?

The Supreme Court is in the midst of hearings that will have wide ranging effects on the lives of every American.  The Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) is an imperfect instrument, but it is the first such instrument to be put into law.  It is an attempt to provide health care for every American, and Congress (Democrats in Congress) chose to require every American to purchase insurance or pay a rather nominal penalty.  Many Democrats preferred a single payer system like Canada's, but they didn't think they had the votes, so they went with on that involved private insurers.  When fully implemented there will be regulations and expectations placed on these carriers, including ending the practice of denying benefits for those with pre-existing conditions.
The only way that this requirement can work is if everyone is in the pool.  If not, then costs can't be shared in a sustainable way.  
Yesterday the merits of this mandate were argued and many observers believe that the votes…

The Kingdom of Heaven and the IRS -- Sightings

We've been having lots of discussion recently about where the line is drawn between church and state.  Whether it's arguments in support of a Christian America or claims of persecution for righteousness sake -- relating to health insurance coverage, the debate has roared.  Martin Marty throws open the debate a little further with this essay, using as his foil the claim by a Florida man that he doesn't owe taxes because he's part of the Kingdom of Heaven.  Not sure it works, but even in its silliness it raises the questions of boundaries and what is essential and non-essential.  And, is heaven a new tax haven replacing the Cayman Islands? Take a read, offer a thought!  

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Sightings  3/25/2012 The Kingdom of Heaven and the IRS -- Martin E. Marty A Gentile (as in Russell P. Gentile) is the most recent, perhaps most earnest, certainly the boldest claimant, on the government and religion news front in the winter just past. While others have protested a…

Jesus Have I Loved, But Paul? -- A Review

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JESUS HAVE I LOVED, BUT PAUL? : A Narrative Approach to the Problem of Pauline Christianity.By J.R. Daniel Kirk. Grand Rapids:  Baker Academic, 2011.  Ix + 214 pages.  

         If you ask many of my progressive Christian friends what they think of Paul, their responses might be less than complimentary.  Paul simply doesn’t rate with Jesus, and in the minds of some, Paul ruined the faith that Jesus established.  Now, it’s true, there have been liberal attempts (Marcus Borg and John Dominic Crossan’s First Paul) to rescue Paul from ignominy by separating out the truly Pauline letters from the pseudo-Pauline letters. Thus, Paul’s more radically egalitarian message is seen as being set aside by later church leaders who sought to shore up the church by casting it in a more hierarchical framework, and doing so in the name of Paul.   But, who is Paul, really, and how does his message fit with that of Jesus?  Are they polar opposites or are they on the same page?     
           Daniel Kirk,…

Hearing the Voice of God? Experience

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Acts 11:1-18

    How does God speak to us, if burning bushes aren’t a normative experience?   In answer to this question, we’ve considered Scripture, Tradition, and Reason, but could  God also speak to us through our own experiences and the experiences of others?   The idea that God might speak through experience is both an attractive and dangerous idea, but can faith be alive if it’s not experienced? 

    An answer might be found in St. Augustine’s confession:   “Thou hast made us for thyself and restless is our heart until it comes to rest in thee.”   And Augustine’s confession is similar to that of the Psalmist:

     Just like a deer that craves streams of water,
        my whole being craves you, God.
    My whole being thirsts for God, for the living God.
           When will I come and see God’s face?  (Psalm 42:1-2 CEB).
According to Augustine and the Psalmist this desire to be in relationship with God is written into our very being.  We won’t rest until we find our fulfillmen…

Experiencing God's Presence. Is this the Heart's Desire?

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I'm about to conclude a four week series on hearing the voice of God.  We've considered how God speaks through Scripture, Tradition, and Reason -- but what about Experience?
Diana Butler Bass writes that in her conversations with Mainline, liberal, Progressive Protestants, a group of Christians that value education and  have "little patience for faith without reason," there is disquiet about religious experience.  Though I have to say from my own experience that there is equal disquiet about Scripture, so that Reason might be given greater pre-eminence.  Perhaps, as Diana suggests the reason for this is that religious experience is often coupled in the minds of many with Pentecostalism (Christianity after Religion, pp. 120-121).  Having been a Pentecostal, I understand some of the reticence, but is it necessary?
Is it possible for us to hear the voice of God in the midst of our experiences of life and the Spirit?  
Perhaps the most famous declaration of this possib…