Showing posts from November, 2016

Advent Reflections--The Politics of Heartbreak

Yesterday was the the First Sunday of Advent, the season of waiting and watching for the coming of Jesus at Christmas.  As was so well said by in the sermon I heard this weekend, there are really three different sorts of "coming of Jesus at Christmas" that Advent looks forward to--the one in Bethlehem 2000 years ago, the one that we believe will come at the end of time, and the one that comes to each one of us in an individual way, in that "sound of sheer silence" as the title of this blog says.  Those three ways are different, of course, but they are also the same in important ways, I think.  The more you carefully look at one of them, the more they resemble the other two.

In that light, I was thinking over the course of this weekend about the how the people in the 1st Century were waiting and watching, and how that might relate to our waiting and watching.  What might we learn from them?  How are their struggles like our struggles, their fears like our fears?  T…

Wars and Rumors of Wars

When some were speaking about the temple, how it was adorned with beautiful stones and gifts dedicated to God, he said,"As for these things that you see, the days will come when not one stone will be left upon another; all will be thrown down."
They asked him, "Teacher, when will this be, and what will be the sign that this is about to take place?" And he said, "Beware that you are not led astray; for many will come in my name and say, 'I am he!' and, 'The time is near!' Do not go after them. When you hear of wars and insurrections, do not be terrified; for these things must take place first, but the end will not follow immediately."
Then he said to them, "Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom; there will be great earthquakes, and in various places famines and plagues; and there will be dreadful portents and great signs from heaven.

"But before all this occurs, they will arrest you and persecute you; they will…


Leonard Cohen died yesterday.  He wrote many wonderful songs, but certainly his most famous is "Hallelujah," and rightfully so.

Now I've heard there was a secret chord
That David played, and it pleased the Lord
But you don't really care for music, do you?
It goes like this
The fourth, the fifth
The minor fall, the major lift
The baffled king composing Hallelujah

I have no problem with science, and I absolutely refuse to accept the Luddite notion that there is something inherently wicked about our technological civilization, especially in light of the human suffering from disease and starvation that we have been able to mitigate with that technology.  But I also simply cannot accept the idea that the phenomenon of human experience is capable of being reduced to purely materialistic concepts that can be explained scientifically.  So much of what we do and what we experience is deeply irrational and purposeless according to those pure scientific standards, and yet we do them …

Conservatism's Version of the "Big Lie"

The idea of the "Big Lie" is usually associated with Adolf Hitler and is usually discussed in connection with Nazi propaganda.  It turns out the term was coined by Hitler in Mein Kampf, but it was used to refer to his claim that the Jews (of course) blamed Germany's defeat in World War I on poor military leadership, as opposed to laying the blame where it should go, which is on themselves (in Hitler's mind--this is of course nonsense).  In any event, the notion here is to make a simple statement that is repeated often, and eventually people will begin to believe the statement to be true.  Or, said in a pithy way "Make the lie big, make it simple, keep saying it, and eventually they will believe it."

In the case of Nazi version of the Big Lie, the statement they chose was, well, a complete lie--the idea that conspiratorial Jews were behind everything.  Tragically, their version of the Big Lie worked, leading to the horrible consequences we all know.  But the…

One Day More

After tomorrow, it will be over.  We will have to deal with the aftermath, and that aftermath could be catastrophic, but the immediate phase will be over.  It has been, and I say this without hyperbole, a horror show from beginning to end.  I will tell you that I sit here, with one day more to go, profoundly depressed about the state of the country that I was born in and love still.

There is a significant chance (if, I think, substantially less than 50%) that Donald Trump will become the President of the United States.  If that were to come to pass, I believe that the United States will never be the same.  Here, I am with Andrew Sullivan in his apocalyptic piece from last week--I believe a President Trump means the institution of fascism in the United States, much along the lines of the model provided by Trump's buddy Vladimir Putin of Russia.  If Trump were to win tomorrow, I believe the 2020 election will be much more like the 2012 Russian Presidential election than, say, the …

A Matter of Honesty, Part IX--Stop with this "Clericalization" Nonsense

Imagine a society that is multiracial, but where one racial group (let's say, just to be provocative, Caucasians) were not eligible to hold public office.  Can't be the President or Prime Minister, can't be in the legislature, can't be a member of a local school board or community board.  No positions of public authority, and the rule is enforced by law.

No doubt, there would be a segment of folks who would be upset about this state of affairs and would be pushing back.  They would point out that the origin of this rule (let's say) was a view that Caucasians were intrinsically inferior to people of other races.  "This rule is a product of rank bigotry and must be changed," they would say.

"No, you have it all wrong," responds the President of our fictional republic.  "Sure, maybe back in the day we thought that Caucasians were a lesser form of human than those of other races, but we absolutely reject that now.  We love you, and we value you…

A Matter of Honesty, Part VIII--Real Talk on Ecumenism

Let's take a moment and think about world Christianity, 2016.  You can slice all the Christian bodies that exist in various ways, but one easy way to do that has to do with the Eucharist.  On one side, you have all of the bodies that subscribe to some version of the "memorial" model of the Eucharist--it is a symbolic reenactment of the Last Supper, and nothing more.  Into this bucket one would place all of the churches influenced by Calvin and his theology, all of the evangelical Christian bodies, the Mormons--lots of different folks.  On the other side, you would put what are generally called the "high churches"--those that would argue that the Eucharist is not only a symbol, but also reflects some sort of "Real Presence" of Jesus in the Eucharist in a unique way.  Here, we can think about three sub-buckets within that group--the Orthodox Churches (both "Chalcedonian"--i.e. the Greeks, Russians, etc.--and "non Chalcedonian" or &qu…