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What Kind of Love Is This? 2 Samuel 13:1-22 by the Rev. Dr. E. Scott Jones First Central Congregational UCC 19 November 2017 We may have reached a significant turning point in American culture. In recent weeks, multiple public figures have been accused of sexual harassment, abuse, and rape. Women and men of all ages have been sharing their personal stories under the hashtag #MeToo about the times they were victimized. I was having beers the other week with the Dean of the Episcopal cathedral and he said that Christianity needs to confess our complicity in developing a culture of... Continue reading
David Frum has a good essay, defending the need for corporate tax reform, but arguing that this current effort is a total failure at achieving that goal. A key paragraph: Congressional Republicans well appreciate the unpopularity of what they are doing. That’s why they are short-circuiting the traditional legislative process, bypassing hearings and other opportunities for public comment. The more the public knows, the more jeopardized their plan becomes. Since the Great Recession, the GOP has grown both more extreme in its goals and more radical in its methods. Apocalyptically pessimistic in its view of America’s future, it seems determined... Continue reading
Epistemology Catherine Barnett Mostly I’d like to feel a little less, know a little more. Knots are on the top of my list of what I want to know. Who was it who taught me to burn the end of the cord to keep it from fraying? Not the man who called my life a debacle, a word whose sound I love. In a debacle things are unleashed. Roots of words are like knots I think when I read the dictionary. I read other books, sure. Recently I learned how trees communicate, the way they send sugar through their roots... Continue reading
An article in The Guardian explores the growing connection between radical libertarians like Wikileaks Julian Assange with Radical Right groups and Russians in their joint attempt to bring down liberal democracy and the institutions of the post-war world order. A sobering examination. Continue reading
I'm really excited by the proposed plans for the Omaha-Council Bluffs Riverfront! Continue reading
Receiving a lifetime achievement award, author Annie Proulx delivered a speech commenting on current affairs but looking forward to a happy ending. As an ethicist and pastor, I thrilled to these sentences: Yet somehow the old discredited values and longings persist. We still have tender feelings for such outmoded notions as truth, respect for others, personal honor, justice, equitable sharing. We still hope for a happy ending. The speech concluded: Hence the indispensable silver lining, the lovers reunited, the families reconciled, the doubts dispelled, fidelity rewarded, fortunes regained, treasures uncovered, stiff-necked neighbors mending their ways, good names restored, greed daunted,... Continue reading
A fascinating article in the Atlantic on how China's advancing SETI research and how this connects with the science fiction writing of Liu Cixin. Continue reading
An optimistic take on the recent elections, asserting that the real majority is taking back control from the "bitter third." Tuesday’s election allowed millions in the American majority to finally take a deep, cleansing breath after a year of fear and loathing, watching the rampant corruption of our government and the degradation of our culture by the vulgar president and his Putinite coterie. It allowed the world to see that our country has not gone entirely mad. Continue reading
The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov My rating: 3 of 5 stars A wild ride with many layers. A rich satirical take on the terror of Stalin's purges. I liked less the more fantastical elements in the second half of the book. But I know this is one that will stick in my memory and imagination. View all my reviews Continue reading
This article grapples with the odd responses coming out of Alabama in support of Roy Moore after these recent allegations of sexual abuse. This final paragraph raises a significant question for the future of our Republic: The newest allegations against Moore present Republicans with a choice—not only individual officeholders, but the party as a whole, both nationally and in Alabama. Withdrawing support for Moore, and calling for voters not to support him, would be a bitter pill. It’s too late to replace him on the ticket, and although there’s talk of a Luther Strange write-in campaign, a Moore defeat would... Continue reading
Preparing for next week's classes, there's this great line for parents of toddlers from Susan Neiman--"The adamant child who wants every question answered expresses something about the nature of reason." This is part of a larger conversation on how our reason demands a world that makes sense and that the philosophical impulse arises from this basic childhood need. So your toddler is exhibiting one of the most important traits of human intellect--the demand for reason and morality. Continue reading
When you need to relax, here are the songs that neuroscience has demonstrated are most likely to reduce our stress. Continue reading
Where Charity and Love Prevail Romans 14:13-22a by the Rev. Dr. E. Scott Jones First Central Congregational UCC 5 November 2017 Our current church is the heir of four different congregations; one of those was St. John's Evangelical Church, which was formed in south Omaha in 1895 by a group of German immigrants. One of the more intriguing passages in our church history books is about St. John's: During World War I, the church was called "The Kaiser's Church" . . . . Although individuals of the congregation were not subjected to harm, one of the pastors had to kiss... Continue reading
David Ignatius's column considers how Robert Mueller is exposing Russia and then contemplates how Putin might respond. Continue reading
You often hear that Islam needs something like western Christianities Reformation. This good article from The Atlantic disagrees. It reminds us that the 16th century Ottoman Empire was more religiously tolerant than most of the European Christian states. And its analysis is that the current state of the Muslim world is closer to that of post-Reformation Europe, when there has been great division leading to sectarian violence. The article argues that what Islam needs is a John Locke or a Moses Mendelssohn, not a Martin Luther, its own version of the Enlightenment. Here is the closing paragraph: If the Protestant... Continue reading
I read last week that the BJP is now campaigning against the Taj Mahal. That its image has been removed from various places and that they don't think it should be the cultural symbol of the nation. Here is a good discussion of the intellectual origins of fundamentalist Hinduism. Continue reading
The big news this last week seems to be the rise of Xi. My vote is for Xi to be Person of the Year. David Ignatius concludes that Xi has risen to high. Continue reading
Theologian Stanley Hauerwas has an interesting take on Reformation 500 in the Washington Post. Protestants won. The RCC has reformed itself to address Luther's critiques. Now what? That the Reformation has been a success, however, has put Protestantism in a crisis. Winning is dangerous — what do you do next? Do you return to Mother Church? It seems not: Instead, Protestantism has become an end in itself, even though it’s hard to explain from a Protestant point of view why it should exist. The result is denominationalism in which each Protestant church tries to be just different enough from other... Continue reading
Entertaining Doubt Matthew 11:2-5 by the Rev. Dr. E. Scott Jones First Central Congregational UCC 29 October 2017 "Our identity as the United Church of Christ lies in our doubt of the adequacy of any human containers of the Word of God. We doubt that the depths of God's Revelation in Jesus Christ have been fully explored." In her insightful book The Evolution of a UCC Style, church historian Randi Jones Walker gives this explanation of the essential identity of our denomination. We have no common theology, no shared worship style, no unique structure. Instead, we are the people who... Continue reading
My Uncle Napoleon by Iraj Pezeshkzad My rating: 3 of 5 stars A young man falls in love with his cousin in the midst of family turmoil in this hilarious story set in 1940's Tehran. At times the family arguments dragged out but other times they were quite hilarious. This story was turned into a popular Iranian television series before the Revolution, and it almost reads like a script, there is so much dialogue. I can imagine it was quite entertaining. Only near the end did I feel like the novel fully flowered in both comedy and pathos. View all... Continue reading
Philosopher Martha Nussbaum delivered this year's Jefferson Lecture in the humanities on the topics of anger and fear in our politics. A clear statement of her topic: One of the trickiest problems in politics is to persist in a determined search for solutions, without letting fear deflect us onto the track of anger’s errors. Democratic work is not easy, as it involves the transformation of our anger and controlling our fear. Making a future of justice and well-being is hard. It requires self-examination, personal risk, searching critical arguments, and uncertain initiatives to make common cause with opponents—in a spirit of... Continue reading
A Republican Kansas State Senator writes a warning to Congress as it works on tax reform about the devastating mistakes Kansas made in service to ideology. I never anticipated entering public service. I was content raising my family, participating in the PTA and operating my business. However, I saw the impact that bad tax policy was having on the state. I felt the results of growing class sizes and shrinking programs in the schools my children attended. I witnessed a gradual erosion of the quality of life that makes Kansas such a great place to live. Continue reading