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Thursday, November 01, 2007

Very Serious blogging below

If you are here for religion and politics please continue to the next stimulating post. However, I dressed up for Halloween for the first time in a long time. Thus, I cannot help but take up some space to post some pics.
First, Homer and his Pirate Daughter:

Add Scary 13-year-old costume:

Finally, "Why you!!"

Lust & Anger

The last couple of items from the sermon on the mount up the ante from no murder & no adultery to no anger & no lust. Looking at this from a public policy standard, I have been suggesting that the nature of these requirements require voluntary compliance. You can't make lust or anger against the law.

How should a Christian respond to speech issues that related to these. Should a Christian be in favor of limits on hate speech and pornography?

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Sermon on the Mount, Fifth

Okay, now this gets interesting, and not just because it is about sex. Here's what we find the sermon says about adultery:

"You have heard that it was said, 'Do not commit adultery.' But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart. If your right eye causes you to sin, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to go into hell.
Matthew 5:27-30.
Jimmy Carter famously commented on this passage in an interview with Playboy, excerpted here. Jimmy Carter's take on this scripture was that everyone lusts in his heart, thus no one should feel superior to someone who commits physical adultery.

I think Carter is amazing, and I think this quote is pretty amazing. He gave the interview to run in November of the year he was elected President. Can you imagine anything so risky, today? And, his faith inspired message is one of humility. Great.

In fact, this is probably the most common interpretation I've heard of the passage. But I think there is more to it than that. I don't know when humans started feeling emotional connections with their mates, but I assume it wasn't always that way. I can't help but notice that most of the good guys in the Bible love their wives. They don't just have healthy wives, or child bearing wives. Perhaps the Bible was written during the period when this was evolving in our culture.

Jesus' message gives us important guidance on how to function as loving couples. Just as we have the power to be more or less hateful and more or less empathetic, we have the power to control lusting after others. And we should because we can harm our relationships even without an extramarital affair.

So, I think this is more directive than Carter said in his 1976 interview. I think Jesus intends for us to endeavor to lust less. Also, as I get older I have become aware of more and more stories of pain and suffering caused by infidelity. I don't think the only person who suffers is the one who is cheated on. I imagine those who focus on lust to the detriment of their deeper relationships also suffer.

I'm not sure what the cutting off bit is about. It is a favorite for attacking literalists, but what does it mean figuratively? Perhaps it is comment on a loss associated with taming our physical desires in exchange for a deeper love.

Cool Local Event

I should probably go and actually learn something about the passage I've been writing about.

The Sermon on the Mount and the Gospel of Matthew
Rev. Vernon Meyer, PhD

Like Moses in the time of the Exodus, Jesus offers a new way of living in the world. The Sermon on the Mount announces that the blessed are the poor and the Lowly; that enemies are to be loved; and that prayer leads one deeper into the mystery of the Reign of God.

Tuesdays, November 13, 20, 27, 700-9:00 PM
$20 per class, or $50 for all four classes

Crossroads United Methodist Church
7901 N. Central, Phoenix


In comments to my post about the Bush administration's noise regarding Iran, Dave from Chandler points out Bush has continued his conduct even given a Democratic majority in Congress. The Democratic majority is not able to stop President Bush because 1) the Republic minority is remaining loyal to the president in upholding his vetoes and 2) The Democratic majority is not willing to bring everything to a screeching halt by unfunding everything until the president discontinues his immoral ways.

I think if anti-war and anti-poverty advocates were as politically loyal as anti-gay and anti-abortion advocates the Democratic majority would have more confidence in taking bold action. But I don't know what I think about political loyalty.

Question: How does one strike a balance between loyalty ("I know they shut down the government, but I believe Harry Reid & Nancy Pelosi are doing what they need to do for the country and they have my support.") versus integrity ("I've always been a Democrat, but if they can't stop Bush from torturing people, I can't vote for them.")?

Monday, October 29, 2007

Integrity is Key

This bright-eyed young fellow is Machinist Mate 2nd Class Matthew Ugarph. He was an Engineering Laboratory Technician (ELT). It appears that last year he was selected for an officer candidate program after serving onboard a Pearl Harbor based nuclear-powered attack submarine. Nice job Matthew.

Guys like Matthew used to work for me when I served as Chemical and Radiological Controls Assistant onboard USS Billfish. We were almost all under thirty, and many of the enlisted men were 19 or 20. We worked in an environment where the most experienced officer onboard had been doing his specific job for three years, and that would have been on the day he was being transferred to a new job. Some of the enlisted men would have been at it longer than that, but not on the same ship, and probably not with the same type of power plant. Many people who operated and maintained the reactor had been doing that job for a year or less.

By contrast, I worked at a civilian power plant for a couple of years where I was a baby at 28, everyone else was in their forties or fifties. Most people had spent twenty years on the job, including the guy on the bottom of the operations org chart whose jobs was to tour the plant and take readings.

My point is that the Navy is able to successfully operate dozens of nuclear reactors with a bunch of teenagers only because it has created a culture of integrity. When that breaks down, it is very dangerous. A friend forwarded me this story from CNN about sailors onboard USS Hampton first failing to monitor reactor chemistry and then falsifying the records to indicate they had performed the tests. Missing the tests is bad, but I'm sure we monitor chemistry much more closely than we need to. It is a long term problem and even if there was a negative impact, there are many, many other layers of protection that would detect a problem in terms of public safety or the safety of the crew. The lying, on the other hand, is devastating. The Navy said, "There is not, and never was, any danger to the crew or the public." I beg to differ. Any breakdown in the culture of absolute candor in the Navy's Nuclear Power Program is a danger to the crew and the public.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

A New Tool in Our Gospel Toolkit

Reverend Mary Jacobs delivered the message at Chalice this morning, and this was the title of her sermon. The New Tool was our building, which has been the source of some frustration for the congregation as it hangs at about 80% complete. Nothing is threatening its completion; we are just experiencing the standards delays that go along with permitting, some cosmetic rework, etc. I liked Mary's analogy of the building as a tool. A tool is something you use for all its worth, and like many at Chalice, I hope we use this building as a staging point for mission work, as a community center, as a launching pad for mission and evangelism. It will also allow more regular fellowship and less energy devoted to setting up and tearing down.

As you might suspect from my listing, church buildings make me nervous. Much of the hatefulness that my dad experienced as a parish minister was related to use of the building. Also, it has been such an energy sink for the last year and will be such a financial commitment for years to come, that I hope it is worth it. (I know for most people that seems crazy. Of course you have to have a building!) Mary's sermon today gave me a really helpful way to characterize the issue. Rather than just a wish that the building is worth it, which puts the responsibility on the shoulders of someone else, we can make sure we use the building with sufficient vigor to make it worthwhile, which nicely puts the responsibility back on ours.