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Flotsam and jetsam (2/24)


Today, most men in their 20s hang out in a novel sort of limbo, a hybrid state of semi-hormonal adolescence and responsible self-reliance. This “pre-adulthood” has much to recommend it, especially for the college-educated. But it’s time to state what has become obvious to legions of frustrated young women: It doesn’t bring out the best in men.

Just as each writer must find her or his own voice, I believe each preacher must find her or his own way into the call of preaching. However, we don’t do it alone. The most healthy preachers know they are always in conversation with their congregation, their local community, the world, the books in their library, those closest to them, their own lives. They know that throughout these conversations, scripture winds its wisdom, prophecy, incongruities, humor, and stories.

In the face of death, suffering and grief, what the Jesus community is given to know and to hope in and to proclaim is the word of the cross and resurrection. We have no other word!

The study, as reported in a recent online Christianity Today article, reveals that the category evangelicals are most willing for the government to cut is economic assistance for global poverty. Fifty-six percent of evangelicals preferred to chop from the federal budget aid for the world’s poorest people. The next highest choice, at 40 percent, was economic assistance for the unemployed. As the CT article notes, evangelicals were more supportive of decreasing spending in these areas than were other Americans. Evangelicals were much more reticent, on the other hand, to cut terrorism defense and military defense. In fact, 45 percent of evangelicals favored increasing spending for military defense, a percentage well higher than non-evangelicals (28 percent).

Flotsam and jetsam (2/3)

I’m flying to Phoenix this morning for a conference, so just a couple of quick links today.

Here’s the painful reality to someone like me:  it doesn’t matter how carefully I make the arguments, how vociferously I contend that people with gay desires are Christians, how rationally and civilly I try to make my case.   In a world where news stories dominate and facts are hard to obtain, the perception is all that matters.  And when the perception is that evangelicals hate gay people, every argument–of any sort–is inevitably one more piece of proof for the case.

Why can’t all the professing Christians in the world look past their differences and just get along?

Because some of those differences are irreconcilable. Most significantly and most foundationally, the three main branches of Christianity in this country–Roman Catholic, Liberal Protestant, and Evangelical Protestant–do not agree on the locus of authority. We don’t answer the question, “What is our final authority?” in the same way.

From the first pages of Scripture to the last, God demonstrates that where there is need, there is also provision. Where there is emptiness, there is also a remedy. Where there is the aching fear that we navigate our days on earth alone, there is a loving God always present and actively sovereign. But our perception fails at times.

An immigration officer in the U.K. found a novel way to end his relationship with his wife. His cunning plan was to wait until she went abroad to visit family, then add her to name to the terrorist no-fly list. Unable to return from Pakistan for three years, with officials refusing to tell her why, it took three years for the truth to emerge

Flotsam and jetsam (1/28)

People ask me all the time, “Who do you read?” In most cases they’re looking for book recommendations. (Some people, particularly Calvinistas, are trying to determine if I’m safe–are my ideas and my theology grounded in what they see as credible sources.) But my answer usually surprises them: “I read dead people.”

One of the problem in the origins of christology is the question, “When did Jesus become the Messiah?” Scholarship has often assumed that Jesus’ life was non-messianic, not only that, but Jesus in fact repudiated the messianic role.

I refuse. I absolutely refuse to go back to a god who is only interested in what I do, not who I am. I have no interest in a god who keeps score, who I have to appease by doing good things and avoiding bad things. A god who is more interested in institutes and forms and structures than he is in relationships.

To sum, I appreciate his provocative introduction of the subject but find his primary notion that “suffering has no inherent value in biblical faith” seriously wanting

Flotsam and jetsam (7/6)

Flotsam and jetsam (6/8)

Would the world be a better place if we weren’t on it?

Sometimes you almost hate to distinguish someone’s argument by commenting on it. And then you do it anyway. I think it has to do with a deep-seated need to punish ourselves for all the undiscovered misdeeds of our lives by repeatedly doing things that we know will only frustrate and anger us. Kind of like golf.

This is one of those times. Princeton ethicist Peter Singer, best known for his arguments in favor of animal liberation and ethics based on personal and group self-interest, raised the question in a NYT online piece yesterday of whether the world would be a better place if all the humans would agree that this will be the last generation of humans. We’ll stop reproducing and just agree to put an end to the human race when we’re done.  If nothing else, Singer has a penchant for asking provocative questions.

Singer’s argument actually runs along a couple of veins. First, he argues that our lives are generally less pleasant than we like to believe and that bringing a child into the world is almost certain to cause significant pain and suffering for that child. So, reproduction is far more likely to be harmful to future generations than beneficial. Therefore, we should stop hurting our children by not having them in the first place.

Second, he argues that this is actually in our own best interests. We waste a lot of time feeling guilty for the terrible things that will happen to later generations because of the mistakes that we’re making (e.g. climate change). So, if we agree not to have any future generations, we won’t feel anywhere near as guilty. (Of course, based on the same logic, shouldn’t I just go home and kill my daughters now so that I won’t feel bad about not being a good father?)

Singer is well known for taking the logic of an atheistic, utilitarian worldview and pressing it to see where it ends up. Interestingly, though, here he backs away from the logic of his own argument. Although in the essay he at least tacitly approves the idea that we should reject our “pollyannaism” (i.e. an overly optimistic view of reality), he concludes by arguing that we should not actually off the human race. Instead, he concludes:

I am enough of an optimist to believe that, should humans survive for another century or two, we will learn from our past mistakes and bring about a world in which there is far less suffering than there is now.

What? We’re basically torturing small children by bringing them into existence, but it’s okay to continue doing so on the off chance that somehow we’ll figure things out a few hundred years from now? That’s very comforting.

Apparently Singer finds the vacuousness of his own worldview unpalatable. I don’t blame him.

I’ll stick with my pollyannic conviction that God’s people in God’s creation to God’s glory is a good thing. It’s hard to see at times through the muck and the mire, but I’ll take my hope over Singer’s any day.