August 25, 2007


Filed under: Church,Philosophy — Bob Gifford @ 5:20 pm

From Andrew Sullivan:

[C]omplete religious certainty is, in fact, the real blasphemy. As he put it, “We cannot worthily conceive the grandeur of those sublime and divine promises, if we can conceive them at all; to imagine them worthily, we must imagine them unimaginable, ineffable and incomprehensible, and completely different from those of our miserable experience. ‘Eye cannot see,’ says St. Paul, ‘neither can it have entered into the heart of man, the happiness which God hath prepared for them that love him.'”

In that type of faith, doubt is not a threat. If we have never doubted, how can we say we have really believed? True belief is not about blind submission. It is about open-eyed acceptance, and acceptance requires persistent distance from the truth, and that distance is doubt. Doubt, in other words, can feed faith, rather than destroy it. And it forces us, even while believing, to recognize our fundamental duty with respect to God’s truth: humility. We do not know. Which is why we believe,

(Here’s best wishes to Andrew and Aaron on their wedding day.)

August 23, 2007

Fox News: Bomb Iran

Filed under: Politics — Bob Gifford @ 8:38 am

From Fox Attacks, a video on Fox News’ big lies inciting military action against Iran, which are eerily similar to their big lies inciting military action against Iraq five years ago.

“If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will
eventually come to believe it…the truth is the mortal enemy of the
lie, and thus by extension, the truth is the greatest enemy of the

“Think of the press as a great keyboard on which the government can

Joseph Goebbels

Go to Fox Attacks.

August 22, 2007

Lyric of the Week

Filed under: Music — Bob Gifford @ 9:54 pm

We Shall Overcome, as performed by Bruce Springsteen:

Hey we shall overcome, we shall overcome
We shall overcome someday
Darlin’ here in my heart, yeah I do believe
We shall overcome someday

Well we’ll walk hand in hand, we’ll walk hand in hand
We’ll walk hand in hand someday
Darlin’ here in my heart, yeah I do believe
We’ll walk hand in hand someday

Well we shall live in peace, we shall live in peace
We shall live in peace someday
Darlin’ here in my heart, yeah I do believe
We shall live in peace someday

Well we are not afraid, we are not afraid
We shall overcome someday
Yeah here in my heart, I do believe
We shall overcome someday

Hey we shall overcome, we shall overcome
We shall overcome someday
Darlin’ here in my heart, I do believe
We shall overcome someday

And lest you think our cynical post-modern culture has grown beyond such a simple song, read this story about its power and meaning.

August 18, 2007

Opus: Eternally Annoyed

Filed under: Church,Philosophy — Bob Gifford @ 6:47 pm

This week’s Opus (click on the image below to see the whole strip):

August 15, 2007

Cossacks and Other Authoritarians

Filed under: Politics — Bob Gifford @ 6:56 pm

From the BBC, a quote from a modern day Russian Cossack yearning for, well, subjugation:

We need a tsar, one annointed by God. Then there’ll be complete order in Russia. That’s how it always was. Democracy doesn’t suit us. We need a firm hand.

(Via Slacktivist.)

And here’s another crazy quote:

[F]reedom is not a concept in which people can do anything they want, be anything they can be. Freedom is about authority.

Can you believe this Cossack? Oh, wait. That last one is from Rudy Giuliani (via Andrew Sullivan).

August 14, 2007

ELCA and Gay Clergy

Filed under: Church — Bob Gifford @ 6:08 pm

My denomination, the ELCA, had our biennial Churchwide Assembly this past week, and as it has been for the past several assemblies, the hot topic was whether to allow non-celibate LGBT pastors to serve.

Here’s the run-down. About a third of the synods in the US passed memorials (i.e. motions) to allow gay pastors in a same-sex relationship that is mutual, committed and chaste to serve an ELCA congregation. The national church recommended referring these memorials to the Sexuality Task Force which has been working for four years and is scheduled to wrap up in another two years. Hence, this would take this issue off the docket for 2007, postponing it until the 2009 Churchwide Assembly. The motion to refer the memorials to the Task Force won handily I’m afraid. But the good news is that an additional motion also passed handily:

RESOLVED, that in an effort to continue as a church in moral deliberation without further strife and pain to its members, the Churchwide Assembly prays, urges, and encourages synods, synodical bishops, and the presiding bishop to refrain from or demonstrate restraint in disciplining those congregations and persons who call into the rostered ministry otherwise-qualified candidates who are in a mutual, chaste, and faithful committed same-gender relationship; and be it further

RESOLVED, that the Churchwide Assembly prays, urges, and encourages synods, synodical bishops, and the presiding bishop to refrain from or demonstrate restraint in disciplining those rostered leaders in a mutual, chaste, and faithful committed same-gender relationship who have been called and rostered in this church.

So the ELCA has not been able to bring itself to actually change our exclusive, punitive policy regarding LGBT pastors, but we have said that for the next two years we will not enforce the current policy. This is too late for Pastor Bradley Schmeling in Atlanta (although he will remain at St. Johns), but is a respite for my friend and pastor, Pastor J, and others like him.

Change for Lutherans seems to happen at a glacial pace, which is ironic given our genesis. Martin Luther changed the face of Christendom in a heartbeat, but here we are putting off any real change for another two years. And what is disturbing is that the deep division in the ELCA won’t disappear between now and the 2009 Churchwide Assembly. I’m sure everyone involved can see how this is going to go in 2009 — a motion to allow LGBT pastors to serve will receive majority approval, but will fall short of the two-thirds approval required to change the bylaws. So we’ll extend the moratorium on discipline for another two years.

But this is the Lutheran way. Try to keep everyone happy, avoid conflict, compromise, waffle and dodge so that nobody’s feelings are hurt. Minnesota nice. And in our own Lutheran way, we’ll muddle through until the younger generation begins infiltrating the representatives at the Churchwide Assembly and we finally achieve a two-thirds majority to change the bylaws. So we’ll change, but we’ll do it as Lutherans. Slowly.

(More resources: Lutherans Concerned/North America, Goodsoil)

August 8, 2007

Credo Quia Absurdum

Filed under: Philosophy — Bob Gifford @ 9:27 pm

From Kierkegaard:

If I am capable of grasping God objectively, I do not believe, but precisely because I cannot do this I must believe. If I wish to preserve myself in faith I must constantly be intent upon holding fast the objective uncertainty, so as to remain out upon the deep, over seventy thousand fathoms of water, still preserving my faith.

As quoted in Sophie’s World (p 379).

August 4, 2007

Maha: The Wisdom of Doubt

Filed under: Philosophy — Bob Gifford @ 7:05 pm

Maha has been writing a series on The Wisdom of Doubt, which she has now wrapped. Given the name of this blog, I have been reading it with great interest. Maha is a former Christian, current Zen Buddhist, and as you can imagine, has a lot of interesting things to say about Christianity as well as religion in general. I highly recommend the whole thing, but there are a few of my favorite quotes:

Doubt in the Zen sense is not knowing. A Christian might use the word humility instead of doubt to mean about the same thing. Doubt means you don’t know with any certainty who or what God is, or what’s going to happen next, or how your plans for yourself will turn out, or even what happens when you die. But though you doubt, yet you trust. This is faith.

Doubt also means you are open to all possibilities, all understanding, because you haven’t filled up your head with certainty. Zennies sometimes use the phrases “beginner’s mind” or “don’t know mind” to mean the same thing. That’s why this kind of doubt is about being open. The other kind of doubt, the one that causes people to fold their arms and say religion is just superstitious crap, is closed.

This captures so well why I, a believing Christian, yet embrace doubt as an essential part of my personal philosophy.

Maha also includes a quote from Reinhold Niebuhr, the 20th century Christian theologian:

When we look into the future we see through a glass darkly. The important issue is whether we will be tempted by the incompleteness and frustration of life to despair, or whether we can, by faith, lay hold on the divine power and wisdom which completes what remains otherwise incomplete. A faith which resolves mystery too much denies the finiteness of all human knowledge, including the knowledge of faith. A faith which is overwhelmed by mystery denies the clues of divine meaning which shine through the perplexities of life. The proper combination of humility and trust is precisely defined when we affirm that we see, but admit that we see through a glass darkly.

Romney v. Christianist

Filed under: Politics — Bob Gifford @ 4:40 pm

I think this youtube clip is fascinating on several levels. To be clear, I will never vote for Romney, but he is so far beyond this radio interviewer intellectually and rhetorically it’s not a fair match. I agree with his meta-point, even though I disagree with him on abortion: one can be morally opposed to abortion while also opposed to criminalizing abortion (as I am).

His interviewer is a whack job. He argues that the executive branch should be free to ignore Supreme Court rulings the President believes go beyond the constitutional power of the judicial branch. Since the judiciary is to interpret law and not make law, the President should declare that any Supreme Court decision the President deems to go beyond mere interpretation to be null and void. Bush’s unitary executive is nothing compared to this. Can you imagine the constitutional crisis that would result? Man, these guys are begging for a complete melt-down of our federal government.

He also seems to say that he knows the ins and outs of the Mormon faith better than Romney. Like I said, whack job.

So it’s long, but compelling. (Via.)

August 1, 2007

Must Love Jaws

Filed under: Random Stuff — Bob Gifford @ 10:32 am

Andrew Sullivan has been posting recut trailers (Mary Poppins as a horror movie, The Shining as a tender-hearted family film). Here’s my favorite so far:

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