Archive for the 'Citizenship' Category

Yikes! Another bad word. It is divisive and hateful. Meet Mr. “Thug.”

December 15, 2014

Long ago in a sensible and compassionate land, George Carlin laid charges against seven bad words. They were destructive of social order and always unacceptable. Carlin’s points was well taken. It is not the words but the interior motives which constitute the real danger. When things loosened up and the bad words, and a few worse, were allowed to be seen in public, it seemed to be a step in the right direction, and it was. Censorship is most typically a form of government meddling. The proper answer to dangerous words is a strong opposing response. There is another side of this matter and it is that people should be aware of Jesus’ warning that one is defiled by what comes out of the mouth. We are very defiled people.

In the same sermon on the mount, Jesus also warns about hateful words. In fact, he says that kind of expression is equal to murder. The newest addition to our expansive lexicon on abusive language in the frequent use of the word “thug.” Whether this is a racist attack is open for debate, even though there is a strong inference that favors that conclusion. There is more to say against this very bad word.

To say that one is a “thug” is to suggest that the target is less than human. It is a small first step toward genocide. It is only a first step, but if we think about the bloodbath of the 20th century, the march to gas chambers begins with a single step. Dehumanizing the Jewish population was official German government policy and the intention was to make it easier for regular people to go along with atrocities.

If a “thug” ids not human, not a child of God and created in the divine image, it would seem that not much more permission is necessary for the cleanup. Christians are satisfied calling bad people “bad people.” That is enough. We have court houses and prisons to deal with bad people.

ACNA Archbishop asks his bishops and clergy to hold off on signing The Marriage Pledge | Virtueonline

December 1, 2014

Archbishop Foley Beech is right to ask ACNA clergy to pause before signing the currently circulating pledge concerning the lawful recording of marriage certificates. This action serves people who have come to ordained clergy seeking what ordained clergy do. The legal documentation is beside the point and has nothing whatever to do with the very unfortunate situation in which same gender marriages are permitted.

This will require a bit of time and patience. There are two links immediately below. The first takes you to a widely circulated source which, in this instance, I presume to be accurate. This item brings the reader up to date on what is frequently called the “Radner-Seitz pledge.” The second link takes you to the Roman Catholic canon law page of J. N. Peters, whose reputation and qualifications are, to the best of my knowledge, unblemished. Please put aside old prejudices (if I did, you can too!) and careful read the arguments. In my humble opinion, Peters makes a sufficient case as to why the marriage pledge is a bad idea, no matter how much we may oppose same gender marriage.

ACNA Archbishop asks his bishops and clergy to hold off on signing The Marriage Pledge | Virtueonline – The Voice for Global Orthodox Anglicanism.

Peters view, which seems fairly clear headed to me, is understood by following this link to “A chronology of (mostly) my comments on ecclesiastical cooperation with civil marriage.” Abp. Beach is well advised to avoid the knee-jerk response that provides little more than instant gratification

 

 

 

Middle East horrors and consequences #ISIS #Evangelical #theology

September 5, 2014

The point of an execution is mostly to get people’s attention. It is judicial theater intended to remind the buttered popcorn crowd who is really calling the shots. We in the USA prefer our executions to be quiet and private. Like an old liturgy, the priests put up walls and curtains so as not to disturb the mysterious quality attached to such ceremonies. The people of ISIS have shown more than sensible modern people desire to see and such indiscretion must be punished.

Here is the opinion of a non-professional observer and I am certainly glad to be held accountable if this is seriously awry. The main problem with ISIS is that it cannot be bought off. Yes, I suppose they could be rightly classified as “nuts,” but they are a special type of nut. ISIS consists of a hard-nosed faction that exudes hatred of modern culture and anything that does not adhere to its version of Islam. They despise with such fervor that even an untrained eye suspects that we are seeing that is profoundly dangerous. They are a danger to every country in the region, Europe, Russia, and the United States. China? Why not China too.

Only God knows the solution and we are not on the best of terms with the heavenly court. Nonetheless, the prayers of devout believers are heard on high and are effective in seeking peace and safety. It might also be useful to remember that vengeance is the exclusive work of God and forbidden for mere humans. It is probably a bad idea to extend the vengeance prohibition past personal rivalries. Nobody should expect that a short-term solution such as the old-fashioned “eye for an eye” would do any good with ISIS. These folks are completely unimpressed with anything that attempts to match up to their acts of public butchery.

Things are already out of control and there are real limitations on government retaliation. Nobody should think that this is some sort of positive development that will give Jesus the opportunity to land back here and grab the believers at the very moment they are most needed. The church has been in tribulation since the Roman persecution. John’s epistle tells us that the man of lawlessness has been around since the earliest days. These are hard times, but our mission has not changed. Baptize and make disciples. If we are leading others to a new life in Christ and teaching our faith, that is the best most of us can do.

 

The great unhappiness of Fergusson, Mo. #Fergusson

August 25, 2014

Thee seems to be a recurrent cycle in the development of news stories. Version A, trumped by Version B, none-calling and personal attacks. scapegoating,  Version C, Version D, more name calling, best story wins, and the poor people catch hell. So it goes in Fergusson, Mo. For the moment, it is America’s unhappiest. town.

If one is a little bit Reformed, the cause is obvious. Yes, three is racism for sure and you can easily find economic inequality. There is a prideful part of humanity that requires not only victory but the destruction of those holding different positions. The hyper-Calvinists call this disorder of the soul “total depravity.” For us Anglicans, that kind of language is awfully strong. We prefer talking about “the fall.”

So what?

The Reformed (include properly schooled Anglicans) know that the Civil Rights Movement may have passed some laws and changed a few customs, but human nature remains the same. We continue to be the same judgmental, power-hungry, greedy, and diligent guardians of the privileges bestowed on the fortunate. Yes, there is racism, and to admit its existence, like a rotting corpse concealed in the basement, is to expose ourselves to accountability. It is to deny what we say about ourselves when the flags are unfurled. We would rather turn our eyes away from the lingering consequences of slavery than get our nominally Christian hands dirty fixing anything.

The “fixing” part is difficult because, as was the case in the Civil Rights Movement, there is only so much even an entire generation can accomplishment. Human nature is still a mess and that can only be addressed  by putting on the new man of conversion and Baptism into the Body of Christ. That means being open to the leading of the divine Spirit. Too easy? Not if one is actually led into a new set of behaviors that walk away from the old cycle of suspicion and wishing the destruction of those that look, act and think differently.

If this individual change (some of us call it “regeneration”) is insufficient, then the gospel is a lie and the atheists are right. Even though the good outcomes of following Jesus are not immediately visible, we take up the cross anyway. Friends, it is a cross – an instrument of our own pending executions. It is faith and the power of God’s grace that moves Christians to act like Christians anyway. It is forgiveness, turning the other cheek, and taking up the cross. That is completely opposite from the name-calling and personal destruction that is Fergusson.

The Christlike version of change takes time. It takes so much time that it is typical to think that one has failed. This notion of success is a something that runs deep in the culture. It is the same strain that looks upon the poor as failures. The dominant American idea is that those who have less deserve all the bad things that happen to the powerless. Christians know that we are tested and one’s attitude toward and treatment of the less fortunate is a measure of character and part of the criteria on which we will be judged. That is God’s grace delivered by the hands of men.

 

A question for Arkansas Senatorial candidate Tom Cotton concerning “once-a-week-Christians”

July 15, 2014

Let me tell you that things down in Arkansas are a mess and I find the pending November elections to be an awful puzzle. The candidates are terrible, which is such a departure from the time that this small southern state produced national figures like Joe T. Robinson, J. William Fulbright, and Dale Bumpers.

Republican candidate for the United States Senate Tom Cotton recently accused incumbent Mark Pryor of being a “one-day-a-week-Christian.” Such accusations have no place in political campaigns in the first place, and the Constitution clearly says that government may not require religious tests of office holders. Yes, I do get the distinction, but I also understand the background and what should be a rule in all elections.  Furthermore, I am willing to stipulate that Pryor’s response was tepid, shallow and absolutely dreadful.

Since Mr. Cotton has taken it upon himself to publicly question the religious faith or another candidate, and presumably somebody he would count as a brother-in-Christ, I am wondering what steps Cotton went through before using the nuclear option. Did he follow the procedure laid out by our Lord, Savior, and Living Head of the Church, Jesus Christ, in Matt 18?

Did Cotton go in private and outline his concerns? (18:15)

I’m not making this up. If Cotton had done so, He might have won his brother. That is what Jesus says. If Prayer would not listen to Cotton, did the GOP candidate go again with others and address the issue in front of Witness? Again, Jesus says this is what Christians with disagreements are bound to do. (18:16) Some churches actually follow these steps. No foolin’.

The final step is to bring it to the Church. My reading on the subject, which is not exhaustive, SUGGESTS to me that Cotton should bring the issue before Senator Pryor’s church. (18:17) Some might hold that Pryor be questioned in Cotton’s Church. I doubt it, but this is an area in which I am open to instruction.  I should add that my readings about the following aspect of proper order, point to the purpose of church discipline as eventual restoration. I might mention here the writings of John Calvin and the Anglican Articles of Religion in support of my opinion. Looking at the words of Jesus in v. 17, it seems that even tax collectors and Gentiles are capable of repentance.

Since Mr. Cotton apparently holds himself out as something more than a Sunday-only kind of guy, it would be good to hear about his theological and biblical reflection on Mark Pryor’s alleged shortcomings. There are one or two further questions that need Mr. Cotton’s attention.

Why did he take church business, stuff that Jesus himself instructs to be kept inside the church, into the political arena?

Does Tom Cotton believe that the name of Jesus is glorified by the public airing of accusations among Christ’s followers?

Supremes weaken church, strengthen state, damage wall of separation

May 6, 2014

The consequence of the unfortunate high court ruling to allow prayers before town meetings will not be a good thing for those who take prayer seriously. The triumphalism of the most vocal and obnoxious Evangelicals will place Christianity in an even worse light as seeking the power and privilege of a class ruling by divine right. It is as if these Christians have never heard of gay marriage. This small supposed victory will be paid for at a dear price.

Some of us traditionalist Christians think the Supreme Court was completely wrong, that prayer is, in one sense, part of a sacred relationship between individuals and their Creator and, in another sense, between the Church and its head and redeemer, Jesus Christ. We understand that civil religion is no religion and serves only the state interests. Christianity suffers because of the inherent trivialization of our practices. Justice Kennedy says the prayers should be seen as “ceremonial” and part of the national tradition.

That sounds good, unless one believes that there is an Entity on the other end who cares, listens, and acts upon our supplications. “The inclusion of a brief, ceremonial prayer as part of a larger exercise in civic recognition suggests that its purpose and effect are to acknowledge religious leaders and the institutions they represent, rather than to exclude or coerce nonbelievers,” Kennedy said.

The decision echos the mega-church notion of ego driven and materialistic mega-preachers. And do not think that any other less colorful religious leaders will be called up on except in the rarest circumstance. I grew up as a Roman Catholic in Alabama, so I know what the underside of a Baptist’s thumb looks like. Although Roman Catholics must make up a substantial portion of Mobile’s population (40% ?), I never recall any Roman Catholic clergy ever being allowed to lead a public prayer – not even once.

And some of my friends actually call that a victory?

What if the purpose of public prayer (we Anglicans call it Common Prayer) is to give glory and worship to the One who is the King of Creation, a being who reigns far above Supreme Court Justices? What if prayer is intended to request good weather, bountiful harvests, safety in battle, good grades, physical healing and a host of blessings that only the Triune God of orthodox Christianity may mercifully grant.

But Justice Kennedy is a modern man whose public positions could never conceive of an all-powerful God who sets up and brings down nations. Kennedy’s God is an artifact of culture, an idol. This bad ruling is a sorry reflection on our system of constitutional interpretation.

The Brewer veto and religious liberty

February 27, 2014

There has been a good deal of crazy talk and harsh words cast about concerning the now vetoed Arizona legislation that would have defended individual religious liberty. Personal attacks (“bigot,” etc) are the typical tolls of those who have no real argument. Although I am not expert on the matter, my inclination is to back the proposed law and to bewail Governor Brewer’s executive action which killed it.

This does not make me a “wing nut” or some kind of social extremist. Anybody who knows me would find such accusations to be almost hilarious. The fact is that I have been subjected to a certain amount of criticism by my Evangelical brothers and sisters for not holding a more vehement and hateful position toward homosexuals. But how could I? The fire-breathing stuff is fairly easy for those who don’t get out much, but I know plenty of gay folks and, so far as I can see, most are fine people.

My wish is that they would “repent.” That is a biblical word that actually means “change.” Now, that is certainly not as easy as it sounds and one must appreciate the power of such factors as sexual desires. Just look around and tell me if you honestly think gay people are the only ones who should change. It is my opinion that homosexuality is “hard-wired” into the personality and that I should be very understanding of other people. In other words, one should get the two-by-four out of your own eye before fishing the speck out of the other guy’s (Matt 7:3-5). Call me a bigot, but that means exactly nothing.

Gay people deserve to have jobs and all the other necessities of life and the rights of citizenship. I do not happen to think that this extends to the recognition of “gay marriage,” but I am in the minority on that. I am not entitled to personally belittle gays any more than the majority is entitled to call me ugly names. Do not, under any circumstances, compare me to the KKK. Those people have a historic reputation as murders and domestic terrorists.

This brings us to the Arizona legislation. It is not an extremist rant to suppose that people have a right to act on their religious beliefs. It ought to be pretty obvious that this does not extend to rationalizing away criminal acts or depriving anybody of the rights associated with property, life, and citizenship. If the baker opposes gay marriage and backs it up by not accepting the wedding business that might come from it, so be it. It is a question of conscience and religious practice, which should generally trump just about any other interest. Our founders were familiar with real religious persecution and had a fear of what might come from religious passions.

A good deal of the dumb stuff in this supposed conversation has come from my side, so let’s get a few things straight here. The definition of “Evangelical” is of no relevance to the discussion. Whether or not Lydia (a wealthy woman in the book of Acts)  sold anything to pagans matters nada. I imagine that Paul probably sold one or two of his tents to scoundrels. Let us not loose sight of the crucial issue.

Those who lack of sense of history fail to recall that the governing documents in the old Soviet Union granted freedom of religion. The thing they prohibited was the actual exercise of religion. It is exactly the same issue faced by Arizona lawmakers and Governor. It is the same thing, an identical denial of personal religious freedom.

I mean no harm to gay people -ever. I regret those self-proclaimed religious authorities who do wish ill for their fellow human beings, all created in the image and likeness of God. Our mutual failure to deal with this important issue bodes nothing but evil.

 

 

Ken Cuccinelli Is Amazed God Hasn’t Punished America For Abortion

October 15, 2013

Cuccinelli is running for Governor of Virginia. He is pro-life, as am I. He has been soft-peddling his own position on abortion on the advice of political consultants who have held sway since the days of desegregation. “You can’t do good if you don’t get elected,” or so it goes. He has a lot of nerve to criticize the Roman Catholic church for being “soft” on its moral teaching. Here is a little quote from today’s story, followed by a link and a few pithy comments from me.

Ken Cuccinelli Is Amazed God Hasn’t Punished America For Abortion

By Laura Bassett Posted: 10/15/2013 9:40 am EDT  |  Updated: 10/15/2013 10:43 am EDT

Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli has been trying to downplay his outspoken opposition to abortion rights in his campaign for governor this year as part of an effort to win back the support of women voters.

But in his speech to the Christian Life Summit last year — unearthed Monday night by NBC12 — Cuccinelli said he is surprised that God has not yet “imposed” more judgement on America for allowing abortion to be legal.

“Really, given that God does judge nations, it’s amazing that abortion has run as far and foully as it has, without what I would consider to be a greater imposition of judgment on this country,” Cuccinelli said. “Who knows what the future holds?”

Cuccinelli also criticized the Catholic church for its “soft and weak” leadership on social issues.

Ken Cuccinelli Is Amazed God Hasn’t Punished America For Abortion.

Deep breath.

Yes, God does punish countries. He did a pretty good job with Nazi Germany after WWII. There is, however, a lot of historical evidence to the contrary concerning divine retribution. Have things really gotten any worse for Russia? It has been pretty consistently awful for hundreds of years (thousands?) but can we really discern punishment? How about Iran? All of Europe is hopelessly secular, and I mean in the wrong sort of way. And, yes, the good old United States of America comes to mind. Has American been punished for the sin of abortion? I have two things here.

First, considering the economic collapse of 2008, does Cuccinelli not feel a little bit punished himself? Does he expect that Christians will escape the punishment? Our lives may be spared, but we are still right here, still salt and light. Perhaps, Mr. Cuccinelli, an examination of conscience is in order.

Secondly, by the way he poses the question, the would-be governor,demonstrates that he has misdiagnosed the offense. Yes, abortion is almost always wrong. The common practice is an offense against Almighty God, but abortion is not the chief shortcoming of America. The real problem is our selfishness and materialism. So long as a handicapped child represents an intolerable inconvenience, we have a problem. It is not that we kicked God out of our schools, it is that we kicked God out of the everyday life of most Americans.

This is a country that has heard of Jesus, and rejected his gospel. Our churches face little fear of persecution because many have long ago rolled over to accommodate the idolatry of consumerism and narcissism. Messing with the status quo would require a real love for our neighbors and the living God. We treat compassion as a despicable sign of weakness and respect as a joke. That is what God is going to punish, and the smaller issues, such as abortion, will take care of themselves.

Send the Bill For the Shutdown to the Evangelicals

October 2, 2013

Here is a blog post by Frank Schaeffer on the influence of Evangelicals in the congress that contributes to the present federal government shutdown. I do not agree completely with every assertion here, but Schaeffer makes some darned good points that need consideration. After reading this item, scroll down to the previous item on Glad Streams for another perspective. The link for Schaeffer is below, and here is his opening paragraph.

Don’t like the shutdown? Send the bill to the evangelicals. People schooled to live in a make-believe magical facts-be-damned world took over the Republican Party. The Tea Party is the pro-life evangelical subculture reborn with a few libertarian nuts thrown in. I’m talking about the bedrock mostly southern and mountain state evangelical conservatives that are anything but conservative. The pro-life, home-school, anti-government far right is the evangelical movement. And it’s radically anti American. Without this movement the 40 extremists in congress who are the radical right of the far right would not have been elected.

Send the Bill For the Shutdown to the Evangelicals.

Would Jesus shut down the government? #congress #shutdown

October 1, 2013

Now that I have your attention, let us agree that the headline is misleading and highly manipulative. I am anxiously looking forward to somebody’s biblical analysis that will prove the federal shutdown to be part of the divine punishment for … well, you name it. Honestly, America has a lot of punishment coming.

But you cannot easily say that some modern event is traceable to some biblical principle or prophesy. Yes, God works in the world and he sets up human governments, and brings others toppling down. There is an eternal purpose being worked out here and some of it is hinted in the pages of scripture, but we must be careful.

With a due sense of caution, let’s try to think about the shutdown of many federal government services in biblical terms. This is a political question, so I want to be sure to stay out of partisan disputes. This national train wreck is to a very large degree the result of deep divisions among factions that are also very personal. How we treat each other is a moral issue. In this hard situation, Christians have a positive message.

Unfortunately, over the past 30 years, or so, it has become common the demean those who hold different viewpoints. Fair disclosure demands you be informed that I have frequently been on the receiving end of the verbal abuse. The name calling happens on a two-way street, so everyone is due criticism. For goodness sake, we are seeking insight and, now of all times, the last thing anybody needs is finger-pointing over who got called the worse names. Let us stipulate that things have been bad all around.

So what? Well, there is that little matter of Gen 1.

Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.”

So God created man in his own image,

in the image of God he created him;

male and female he created them. (Gen 1:26-27, ESV)

Man is a little bit like god. He is similar, or in the divine “likeness.” Man is formed out of the ground. He is body and spirit. God and man both communicate. This is an attribute that makes humanity distinct. No other creature communicates with the volume and variety of the human person. Before the fall, God and man had a perfect face-to-face relationship. This is exactly what God wants, and it is what human beings need to become competent custodians of the material world.

Since the entry of sin, God communicates with man by way of revelation. That can be done through nature or by inspired scripture. Man talks to God in prayer. The Eternal is working on a program of restoration. Christians believe that Jesus’ atoning sacrifice made it possible for God and man to enjoy a harmonious relationship.

The point of all this is that mankind is unique and has a particular duty toward mutual respect and kindness. In his book Divine Conspiracy, Dallas Willard spends several chapters looking into Jesus’ teaching in the Sermon on the Mount. After dealing with the Beatitudes (Matt 5:2-12), he asks how should our righteousness exceed the scribes and the Pharisees? That bunch was very big on keeping small points of the law (of course all of the law is important) and parading around to show what extraordinary law-keepers they were. The problem with the Pharisees is that their hearts were not into it. All that rigid observance was for show.  According to Jesus (v. 20), it is necessary for anybody who wants citizenship in the kingdom of heaven to have the right kind of heart, the interior religion.

Willard proposes that the Sermon is a self-contained unit and that it is deliberately organized in a particular order. Imagine that, Jesus did things in order! There is a concept. Anyway, anger is item number one of the agenda of negative traits. Anger is the moral equivalent of murder (v. 21-22). If you believe anything Jesus ever said is trustworthy, anger is very serious business. The person who is angry is subject to judgment. The one who says “you fool” is subject to the “hell of fire” (v. 22).

Anger is the kind of unchecked emotion that would kill somebody if no one were looking. Anger seeks to belittle and destroy. Anger wants to dominate and to intimidate all on-lookers. Anger is pride gone wild. It is an expression of egotism that throws itself up into the face of God. It is an intolerable sin. Now, ask yourself this question; “how much anger do I perceive in American politics? How much derision? How much insult?”

It would be very hard for a Christian to hold public office, and if you ever wonder why our viewpoint has lost credibility, now you know. Forget about the lying (we will catch that some other day), a Christian is forbidden to take part in killing another person’s reputation.

Yes, American politics has always been bad. George Washington saw his own image burned by unhappy crowds, and he is supposed to be just about the best President we ever had. The press has been ugly. The debates have often been personally destructive, but I would contend that today there is a greater use of the name-killing gotcha’.

But isn’t that the way the game is played? Back in the days of segregation, “good” southerners used to excuse their association with racists and racism by saying, “you can’t do good if you don’t get elected.” They got right down in the sewers and that might have been alright when all there was down there was a little human feces. Today, they add in hazardous chemicals and a little radioactive waste on the side. People die in the political sewer.

What is a Christian to do? Do we sit at home and hide in the basement? That is hardly any way to be “salt” and “light.” Christians have to start taking part and it is necessary to recognize the political poison for what it is. Christians may never succumb to anger, name calling, or personal attacks. This is not the recipe for success. Expect to get your brains beaten out. Expect to be beaten without mercy, and be nailed to a cross. isn’t that just what they did to Jesus?

Doing what Jesus requires will make things happen. We are not able to see from here exactly what might take place, but it is bound to bring more people into God’s kingdom. The martyrs of the early church had no way of knowing how much they inspired others to faith. Leave the final victory to Jesus. His promises are explicit and his followers will rule with him. It will be the right kind of government; just and merciful in the perfect proportions.

The day will come when Jesus comes back in triumph to shut down every human government. In the meantime, as Christians seek to be more Christlike in every respect, the hardness of heart that plagues so many of our neighbors may begin to ease. People can live together with respect and patience. The door will be open for the gospel to be heard and to touch the hearts of self-righteous and murdering people.