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Friday, July 06, 2007

Is it okay?

From Paul's letter to the Galatians, "There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus." (Gal. 3: 28) Nonetheless, when we worship, we worship as separate races and ethnicities. My church is overwhelmingly straight, white and native English-speaking. While we advertise that we are welcoming of all races and ethnicities and sexual orientations, and indeed we would and do welcome people regardless of these classifications, the fact is we remain homogeneous. Consider this story from CNN about an integrated church.
The House of the Lord, which is nondenominational, has grown from about 2,000 and nearly all black when my wife and I joined to about 6,000 and at least 10 percent white when we moved away, by which time I had been ordained a deacon.
Full story. One in ten breaking the mold is really significant. But, man, can you imagine saying, "Well, 10% of the attorneys at my firm are women," to indicate you welcomed women?

Is church different? Is it okay to be segregated on Sunday?

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Silliest Poll Yet

What do people think the founders would be upset about? That their little fledgling country lasted 200+ years? Perhaps, that it was still a democracy or that it was the world's surviving superpower?

This country could be much better. We have the power to make it that way. Obviously we need to address the abuses of power and the disparity of opportunity. But, please, I think the original GW would be pretty happy to see how things turned out.


I've been trying to spend a little free time reviewing Spinoza. I would have never thought much of him, but Matt pointed him out as decidedly non-religious thinker that influenced Western thought. Here is the first premise from Spinoza's Ethics (which ultimately becomes a version of the ontological proof for God):

Substance exists and cannot be dependent on anything else for its existence.

Spinoza then talks about attributes, which the substance had and the perceiver can perceiver. Then there are modes or affectations, which are the result of the attribute on the perceiver. So, he is carefully breaking down the process of perception, or the make up of reality.

Anywho. Here is what I find interesting: We as human beings--most of us--assume that our perceptions are linked to a substance. We process these various stimuli in such a way as to think that there is a cause of those stimuli outside of ourselves.

I wonder why we do that. Spinoza has no evidence for his first premise. We can know that there is a something--us--and maybe a something else--because otherwise there can't be a defined something--but we have no reason to believe that our sensations are caused by a something else.

Then I heard a story about autism and wondered if autistic people don't so easily make this assumption.

Monday, July 02, 2007

Independence Day, Not Veterans' Day, Not Memorial Day

Do you ever find yourself getting militant about silly stuff? That is what has happened to me with these three holidays. Veterans' Day, 11/11, is a day to celebrate everybody who served in the armed forces. Me, my dad, his dad, my great grandfather, etc. and so on. Memorial Day is in May. (I remember that now because they both start with 'M'.) Memorial Day is for people who died in combat. None of the people mentioned in the previous list are honored on Memorial Day or else I couldn't be writing this post. And finally, Independence Day is to celebrate our casting off the tyrannical rule of King George. It is not about soldiers. Soldiers eventually had to back it up, but frankly they were just citizens. Citizens who in the face of very real, very serious danger of force being used against them, not by a group of international criminals, but by the world superpower, had the courage to make this declaration:

When in the Course of human events it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. . . . The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.

He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.
[And several other grievances listed here]. . .
(I left the first grievance in as a little snarkiness to note what is not even an impeachable offense now used to be grounds for revolution.)

Anyway, I'd like to take this Independence Day to reflect on this idea that the Creator made people equal.

AZ Employer sanctions signed into law

"Following her comments last month that states would forge their own immigration laws in the wake of Congress’s inability to pass immigration reform, Gov. Janet Napolitano has approved a law that will give Arizona the toughest employer sanctions law in the country." AZ Capital Times teaser.

Immigration is a tremendously complex issue. While I have real trouble understanding how a person could profess to follow Jesus Christ and at the same time oppose programs like food stamps, I have no difficulty seeing how Christians can disagree on this issue. That said, it is an issue that deals with the stranger in your home land and exploitation of the poor and justice for the powerless, so it is hard to say it is an issue for which faith should not have an impact.

Here is why I like employer sanctions: Every year hundreds of people die in the desert attempting to enter this country without proper authorization. Fences will not stop these illegal and dangerous acts of desperation--eliminating the chance to work here without documentation will. Many undocumented workers are exploited by their employers but, undocumented workers cannot avail themselves of the protection of our labor laws because they are not authorized to be here. Finally, employer sanctions puts the burden of limiting immigration on the shoulders of a group who is powerful enough to lobby for change if they need more workers. I don't think we have too many workers in this country. Unemployment is too low for that to be the case. But let employers, not employees make this argument.

So, good for Arizona for taking this step. I hope it will deter people from making the dangerous and illegal trek across the desert. I hope it will move Americans toward a serious, rational, comprehensive immigration policy.

Sunday, July 01, 2007

Here's a little something from the Apostle Paul in consideration of Independence Day.
You, my brothers, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature; rather, serve one another in love. The entire law is summed up in a single command: "Love your neighbor as yourself."If you keep on biting and devouring each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other.

Galatians 5: 13-15. In Christ, we are free. With that freedom, we must chose the right way to live. What a wonderful message. The whole passage is an assault on mindless compliance with the law. It spells out the need for Christians to let love be their guide. It's all right there.
When I heard this scripture in church today, it occurred to me how sad it is that so many Christians are obsesses with compliance with the law. How many fail to let love be their guide. I let my mind wander back to the question of whether Christianity has been good or bad for the country. The truth is that I don't know. I really don't. I know that I've found a truth in my faith that I believe would make the world a better place. And I would like to share that truth with others.