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A column in Haaretz takes Trump's gaslighting trip to Israel to task. An excerpt: It speaks, I think, to the ultimately superficial quality of this man and his government. At its core there are no beliefs, only a series of empty gestures at a false decency without a hint of grace. While Trump was in Israel, more details emerged of one of the most savage programs of domestic austerity in the modern history of the United States, supposedly the richest country of the world. read more: Continue reading
What are People for?: Essays by Wendell Berry My rating: 4 of 5 stars I first encountered Wendell Berry in freshman English at OBU. The essay we read seems to be in this volume, "Word and Flesh" (at least this essay makes the same points I remember from 1992). At the time I disagreed with him, particularly that problems, including environmental problems, cannot be approached globally but can only be addressed locally. I came back to Berry near the turn of the millennium, when I read his poetry and fell in love. The poetry invited me into the essays, and... Continue reading
Life and Times of Michael K by J.M. Coetzee My rating: 2 of 5 stars I thought the book lost its way at the very end. View all my reviews Continue reading
Today's worship service began with the congregation singing an enjoyable gospel-folk version of "Wade in the Water" led by the Fleshpots of Egypt. Then we sat through a rather mundane David Lose sermon from which the main takeaway was the rule that if you are a straight white man, probably don't preach a text about a woman that a black African woman who is a marvel of a preacher already preached on this week. Plus, I couldn't tell who the sermon was for. It sounded like something anyone might preach on a routine Sunday; it said nothing that every preacher... Continue reading
I marvel at the preaching of Grace Imathiu. She weaves a message that moves fluidly from humour to profundity to critique to inspiration. Today she was wearing a tall golden crown of a hat. She joked that they keep inviting her because she has the best clothes. No, because her preaching is a marvel. This year’s sermon was an exploration of the story of the Samaritan woman at the well from her perspective and was full of insight. I did not come away with as many quotes and illustrations as I did last year, but I will remember this one.... Continue reading
Will Willimon has clearly reached the point in life at which he doesn’t give a damn. Though I’ve heard him a handful of times before, this time he pulled no punches and cut to the quick. For instance, he said that sometime in the middle of his career it became fashionable to view pastoral care as the primary aspect of ministry, to let it trump preaching. He said, “If you like holding hands, go into nursing. We are called to be preachers. To tell the truth.” His lecture was on using preaching to combat racism. He said, “One of God’s... Continue reading
Culture and the Death of God by Terry Eagleton My rating: 3 of 5 stars Based on a Christian Century review that ended with this description--"This is articulate, winsome, and dashing Christian apologetics dressed up as the history of ideas. It’s a sumptuous feast."--I ordered this book last year. In an enjoyable survey of Western thought since the Enlightenment and its efforts and failures to find a replacement for God, Eagleton narrates how we have arrived at our current moment of a meaningless postmodernism and violent fundamentalism. He does so with intelligence and wit. Reading while flying the other day,... Continue reading
During an interlude of morning worship the organist played Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah." Brian McLaren was the preacher and lecturer discussing what people hate about organized religion. It isn't that they want sloppier religion, its that religion is often organized toward the wrong goals. It should be organized toward justice and the love of God and working in cooperation with people of goodwill from all faiths and cultures. McLaren began by confirming that preaching is becoming more challenging, but the larger social factors making it so, are not our fault. He had a litany, which included the powerful, "It is not... Continue reading
“To be a pastor these days is to navigate a treacherous terrain—you should be scared.” Thus Amy Butler, pastor of New York’s Riverside Church, warned us. She told the story of how after Charleston that the Department of Homeland Security identified Riverside as a potential target and that they implemented a series of security measures there that are still in place. Her lecture was about how we have to be addressing the many issues and events in the news. “If you aren’t talking about politics in the pulpit you have failed,” she said. Part of her admonition was about process.... Continue reading
Sewing fig leaves is absurdly comic, Anna Carter Florence told us. She once brought needles, thread, and fig leaves to class so her students could participate in the text of Genesis 3. What they learned after an hour of trying is that you really can’t sew fig leaves into loincloths. They wilt, for one thing. “The Bible is a collection of scripts that God has given us to rehearse.” So, she said literally enacting the story teaches you the point of the story, in the case of Genesis 3 that human attempts to cover up our nakedness are futile. You... Continue reading
Walter Brueggemann opened the festival by preaching on the story of the shibboleth from the Book of Judges. When the liturgist read the text and said, "The Word of the Lord," this room of 1,800 preachers laughed. Brueggemann said it is an absurd story but went on to talk about the foolishness of the cross that is wiser than all our masteries. He spoke of "God's self-emptying vulnerability." This contrasts with our culture's dominant narrative--"the dominant way cannot keep its promises," he preached. "The foolish, the weak, and the poor--those are the marks of true life." Worship concluded with the... Continue reading
The middle of May once again finds me at the Festival of Homiletics with my friends and colleagues David Breckenridge and Dan DeLeon. This year we are in San Antonio. Here's the event website. We'll join 1,200 other ministers in listening to sermons and lectures on preaching all week! Last year's event, which I blogged extensively (the first post is here) was focused on Prophetic Preaching with pretty much every presenter pounding home every social justice issue imaginable in the midst of the election. More than once Trump the candidate was denounced last year. So, I'll be curious how this... Continue reading
Yes, many of the ACA exchanges are failing, but multiple studies show that this result is not because of some inherent flaw in the law, but because of policy decisions of the states that didn't fully implement the law. This article in The Atlantic, for instance, details some of the study results. If a state expanded Medicaid, didn't allow grandfathered policies, set up its own exchange, and did all the marketing and recruitment work to enroll people, then their exchanges are operating with lower risk. Continue reading
I found the coverage on The Takeaway to be quite helpful in analyzing the various issues involved. And Republican David Frum's "This Is Not a Drill" is a wake-up call. "Now comes the hour of testing. Will the American system resist? Or will it be suborned?" he writes. Continue reading
In a seering, and humourous, column, Republican George Will blasts Trump's ignorance. Here are the choice lines: It is not merely the result of intellectual sloth but of an untrained mind bereft of information and married to stratospheric self-confidence. *** As this column has said before, the problem isn’t that he does not know this or that, or that he does not know that he does not know this or that. Rather, the dangerous thing is that he does not know what it is to know something. *** His fathomless lack of interest in America’s path to the present and... Continue reading
Much has been written about the puzzling support of Donald Trump by Evangelicals (meaning conservative to fundamentalist Protestants and not the more correct theological term of groups descended from Martin Luther, of which my denomination, for instance, is a part). On one hand, I'm not puzzled by the craven Evangelical leaders supporting him. Many of them gave evidence of their moral vacuity years ago. Importantly, not all Evangelicals have backed him. Russell Moore, for instance, has been an outspoken critic, and maybe now risking his job because of it. I'm more puzzled by the support of the average Evangelical who... Continue reading
Catching up on blogging. Here's an Atlantic article reviewing Secretary of State's speech last week as "an intellectually shallow performance" that misunderstands the relationship between America's values and interests. The article is entitled, "Rex Tillerson Doesn't Understand America." Continue reading
Water Come Down by Walter Wangerin Jr. My rating: 3 of 5 stars Good idea, fails a little in the execution. Also annoyed by the masculine language for God. There is a sad lack of the children's Christian books that I want to read to my child. View all my reviews Continue reading
Today I watched a fascinating exercise in public reason--the Nebraska Public Service Commission receiving more than seven hours of public testimony about the proposed Nebraska route for the Keystone XL Pipeline. First, some background. It is activists in Nebraska who largely killed the pipeline twice before. First, when it might have been approved by the Obama administration, Nebraska was the hold up, as there was no approved route here. At the time even some of the GOP political leadership of the state opposed the original proposed route. A special session of the legislature was held, new laws were created, and... Continue reading
The Bridge on the Drina by Ivo Andrić My rating: 4 of 5 stars More than three centuries of the complex history and cultural mix of Bosnia presented as the story of one bridge and the town that surrounds it. Filled with rich characters, astute observations about life, compelling stories, and beautiful sentences, this novel will remain within my memory and imagination for some time. View all my reviews Continue reading
From the Church of England's website commemorating the First World War. Continue reading
Today I was reading through First World War poems in preparation for Sunday's worship, when I discovered this well-curated page from the Poetry Foundation. Continue reading