March 28, 2005

Lutheran vs. Emergent

Filed under: Random Stuff — Bob Gifford @ 5:09 pm

A few weeks back, I posted about McLaren’s latest book on Emergent Christianity, A Generous Orthodoxy. I received a thoughtful comment to the post questioning whether the Emergent movement has anything to offer mainline denominations. Not knowing much about things Emergent, I emailed Eric over at xphiles and asked him if he had any insights regarding Emergent and how it compares to Lutheranism.

I was very pleased today to see Eric’s first post on this topic. He obviously has given this some thought, and has insights for those coming from both points of view.

I’m turning off comments to this post — if you have thoughts on Eric’s post, please leave them on his blog, and I will be doing the same.

Update: Post number 2 in Eric’s series.

Update: Post number 3.

Schiavo Protesters

Filed under: Random Stuff — Bob Gifford @ 11:30 am

I had vowed not to post about Terry Schiavo again after my previous rant, but via Carlos at Jesus Politics, a poignant (but profane) Kos diary expressing anger at hardships being imposed on the other hospice patients, the neighborhood, and now a local school by the protesters:

Despite being asked by the family to leave, despite the harassment of the hospice and its employees, we now have a report that 600 students, an entire school will be relocating tomorrow indefinitely because of their threats of violence.

It is not for me to judge the protesters’ hearts or motives, but I can’t help but think of this verse from Galatians:

By contrast, the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against such things.

And this time, I promise no more posts about Schiavo.

Borowitz: God Blasts Tom DeLay

Filed under: Random Stuff — Bob Gifford @ 9:14 am

From the Borowitz Report:

IN RARE PUBLIC APPEARANCE, GOD BLASTS TOM DELAY

‘Enough is Enough,’ Says Almighty

In a rare public appearance that leading theologians called “extraordinary,” God held a press conference in Washington on Sunday to disavow the recent words and deeds of House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Texas).

The normally reclusive Ruler of the Universe took the unusual step of speaking to reporters to blast Rep. DeLay for repeatedly invoking His name in political fundraising appeals.

“I usually don’t like to shoot my mouth off about every little thing that bugs me,” the surprisingly outspoken Supreme Being said. “But enough is enough.”

After complaining about Rep. DeLay’s unauthorized use of His name in fundraising pitches, God warned the Texas congressman to discontinue the practice at once “or else.”

When asked if He intended to strike Rep. DeLay with a lightning bolt, God replied with a terse “no comment,” but later said, “I’ve been known to smite people in the past, and I’m not prepared to take smiting off the table.”

Hours after God’s press briefing concluded, a spokesperson for Rep. DeLay issued a one-sentence statement saying that the congressman and the Almighty remain on good terms and that he hoped to have God’s support in the 2006 midterm elections.

But Dr. Harland Minter of the University of Minnesota’s School of Divinity said that Rep. DeLay would be well advised to heed God’s words of warning: “It means a lot that God took the trouble to hold a press conference, especially on His day off.”

March 27, 2005

Pagans: 1, Christians: 0

Filed under: Random Stuff — Bob Gifford @ 1:06 pm

I woke up my two boys (11 and 14) shouting with astonishment. “Wake up — you’ll never guess what happened! Jesus’ body is gone! And people are saying that they’ve seen him alive! We saw him die just a couple days ago, but now he’s risen!”

One of them rolled his eyes, and the other got mad at me for scaring him, making him think that something really had happened.

Then my wife walked in and said “hey, guess what the Easter Bunny brought.” (Yes, they are much too old for Easter baskets, but my wife has a soft spot for such things.) They both raced out of bed to check out the candy.

It seems my kids get a lot more excited about the pagan part of Easter than the Christian. Oh well, its hard to compete with chocolate.

Have a blessed Easter!

March 24, 2005

Bush and the Biblical Role of Government

Filed under: Random Stuff — Bob Gifford @ 10:40 pm

So why is it that President Bush, Republicans in Congress, and so many conservative Christians are advocating for governmental intervention in the Schiavo case, while reducing government funding to relieve poverty and provide health care to the least of these in the US? Isn’t this a wildly inconsistent view of government? It has always seemed so to me, but the more I ponder it, the more that Bush’s policies and actions seem entirely consistent with the “biblical” role of government as interpreted by the Christian right.

What does the Christian right consider the proper bible-based role of government? From the Acton Institute for the Study of Religion and Liberty:

The state’s most fundamental role is to protect citizens from the sinful conduct of their neighbors. The Bible indicates that government is to help preserve order–people’s ability to live “peaceful and quiet lives,” in Paul’s words–in a sinful world. The state is to be a godly agent that not only allows men to follow God but also contains the harm that would occur in the absence of any public constraints on evil behavior.

So government has a biblical responsibility to protect its citizens from the criminal actions of others. Your right to swing your arm ends at my nose. This is something that both conservatives and progressives can agree upon, since it is the minimum we expect from government. Continuing on with this quote:

“The one in authority,” wrote Paul, “is God’s servant, an agent of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer” (Rom. 13:3, 4).

The interpretaton of this verse is where progressive Christians part ways from Bush and conservative Christians. If a government is inflicting cruel and immoral punishment on “wrongdoers”, whether domestic criminals or foreign state sponsors of terrorism, is it still acting as God’s servant and deserving of our loyalty and support? I think not. (more…)

March 21, 2005

MSNBC Faith in America Poll

Filed under: Random Stuff — Bob Gifford @ 9:43 pm

Here is an interesting poll by MSNBC on “faith in America” (here are the results if you’d rather not take the poll.) Looking only at the phone poll (since web polls are notoriously unscientific), a few things jumped out at me.

Half of the respondents said that religion is losing its influence on American life. This is while all three branches of our government have been occupied lately resolving the life of one woman based on religious principles, with a President elected (twice) largely by the involvement of evangelicals in politics, and with a Supreme Court justice (Scalia) stating that the US was founded on Christian principles.

Only 10% of the respondents believe religious groups should not be involved in poverty issues, but 38% believe respondents should not be involved in the lack of healthcare coverage. So, churches should worry about families after they’ve been impoverished trying to pay for a medical emergency, but not before?

57% of the respondents believe in the “total biblical account of creation” instead of evolution.

Think this sample must be skewed to the Christian right? 52% of the respondents are, or are leaning to, Democrats, and only 38% are, or are leaning to, Republicans. Go figure.

March 20, 2005

What Makes Me Angry About Schiavo

Filed under: Random Stuff — Bob Gifford @ 4:04 pm

So Congress has passed a law intending to prevent the death of a single individual. As I have already blogged, that may be the right decision (although I reject the idea that Congress knows better than the family and the courts.) What makes me angry is that while so much time and effort is being spent to save one individual,

I understand that these problems seem so big and intractable, and saving Terri Schiavo is something concrete and achievable. But the Bush administration and Republican Congress don’t even agree that our government has a role to play in helping solve these big, difficult problems. But they do believe it’s their role to insert themselves inbetween the Schiavo and Schindler families and the courts.

It just pisses me off.

What We Can't Know About Terri Schiavo

Filed under: Random Stuff — Bob Gifford @ 1:10 am

I have avoided blogging about Terri Schiavo for a simple reason: I’m not sure what the answer is. Uncertainty seems to surround every aspect of this situation, and so I am utterly amazed at how certain so many people on both sides seem to be.

According to doctors that have examined her, Schiavo is in a persistent vegetative state with virtually no possibility of recovery. According to the LA Times, “the brains of such patients are functioning only at a very rudimentary level…they cannot feel pain, express themselves or receive communication…there really isn’t a significant relationship with the outside world.”

However, patients in a persistent vegetative state are not in a coma, in which the patient is unconscious and can not be aroused. Schiavo is conscious, no matter how minimal that consciousness may be. No one can know for sure what Schiavo’s level of consciousness is or to what extent she is aware of her surroundings. No one can know what it “feels” like for Schiavo, whether she is “suffering” as the right-to-die advocates maintain, or whether she is merely mentally disabled but still “aware” as the right-to-life advocates argue. Even these words create their own uncertainty: do concepts such as “feel”, “suffer” or “awareness” even have meaning for Schiavo, or is her brain function so compromised that we have no words to accurately describe her mental state? (more…)

March 16, 2005

Wolfowitz for World Bank? Aaargh!

Filed under: Random Stuff — Bob Gifford @ 5:53 pm

Wolfowitz? Wolfowitz? The World Bank, led by one of the biggest proponents of the neo-con preemptive military strategy and war in Iraq? The World Bank, which under James Wolfensohn has been focused on alleviating global poverty, now returning to pouring huge amounts of money in big infrastructure projects like dams and bridges? I don’t know what to say.

From Jeffrey Sachs, advocate for global poverty relief and author of the just released The End of Poverty: Economic Possibilities for Our Time, as quoted by Bloomberg:

“It’s a very surprising and, in many ways, inappropriate nomination,” said Jeffrey Sachs, a Columbia University professor in New York and a United Nations adviser. “We need an individual with international experience in the fight against poverty and global trust. Mr. Wolfowitz does not fit those criteria.”

(more…)

Anne Lamott on Her Christian Faith

Filed under: Random Stuff — Bob Gifford @ 12:52 pm

Anne Lamott, author of Plan B, Further Thoughts on Faith (here is a review from Salon) was interviewed on NPR’s Day-to-Day. Some excerpts (transcription, and errors therein, are mine.)

First, on her conversion to Christianity years ago:

I was so sick and so struggling, I was kind of at the end of my rope and there wasn’t even enough rope left to tie a knot, and so I went and I sat down and these people did not hassle me, I mean I think that’s the most important thing in a church, they didn’t try to get me to do bible study or to stay after and have rice krispy treats, or to try to learn about Jesus and who shot the holy ghost, they just welcomed me.

All I can say is I felt like I was home. I can’t imagine there’s a white church in America that would have been interested in this drunk, stoned bulimic on a bicycle, you know, who couldn’t stand up for the hymns and the joy was palpable and I thought ‘I want what they have’.

On the Christian right’s misrepresentation of her faith:

And so now when you say oh, they’re a Christian, you think right wing Christian, you think Tom Delay and Hammer of God. You think faith-based initiative where if your family needs help, or if you’re a drunk or an addict, which I am in recovery, or if you can’t pay for your kids to eat decently, that they’re willing to give you help, but you have to do the bible study too, right?

I think it would have just made [Jesus’] blood run backwards to hear what we’re threatened with in his name, how we’re shamed in his name, how its pointed out nicely in his name that a lot of us, people like me, are going to go to hell and rot for all eternity, which is a very loving sweet thing to share with someone.

On how we should welcome those that need what we have:

And when you begin to find a tribe of people who accept you as you are, whoever you love, whatever you look or smell like, or whatever you believe, who just say, oh my God, of course you’re welcome here, whoever you are. My experience is that there’s a warm chair with people who aren’t going to hassle you to death, who may have some really nice food if you’re hungry, and who may have some secret kinds of food to offer too.

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