I LOVE comments. Please leave some even if they are brief half-formed ideas
that you aren't even sure you really believe. I just love comments.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Pick me up

I've been feeling a little blue lately. Here is the pick me up provided to me by Sojouner's Verse of the Day:
... it is an unhappy business that God has given to human beings to be busy with. I saw all the deeds that are done under the sun; and see, all is vanity and a chasing after wind.

- Ecclesiastes 1:13-14
thanks sojo

Voting based on issues

I believe CW holds that the most noble way to vote is based on the issues. To vote for a person because of that person's image, or demographic group or, heaven forbid, based on which political party he or she belongs to is evil.

But what do you do when the two candidates are so close on the issues as Senator Clinton and Senator Obama. For forward looking questions, as in "what would you do with regard to x,y,orz," I suggest that that Obama and Clinton are almost identical. Particularly because the influence other branches of the government have over actions taken by the country means that they will not be able to create policies with nearly the nuance that would allow their distinctions to show up.

Is this a situation, can one feel liberated to openly look to the intangibles: character, experience, charism? What about race & gender? Is it okay to say that two people are close enough that you can vote based on whether you are more excited about the idea of seeing woman as president than an African American, or vice versa?

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Noble Leaders?

So, the NYT ran this story about McCain maybe having an affair. First off, it seems the story is pretty flimsy. Consider these two paragraphs:
A female lobbyist had been turning up with him at fund-raisers, visiting his offices and accompanying him on a client’s corporate jet. Convinced the relationship had become romantic, some of his top advisers intervened to protect the candidate from himself — instructing staff members to block the woman’s access, privately warning her away and repeatedly confronting him, several people involved in the campaign said on the condition of anonymity.

. . . .

Mr. McCain, 71, and the lobbyist, Vicki Iseman, 40, both say they never had a romantic relationship. But to his advisers, even the appearance of a close bond with a lobbyist whose clients often had business before the Senate committee Mr. McCain led threatened the story of redemption and rectitude that defined his political identity.
So, it sounds like some people thought that there might be the appearance of a problem, which is particularly bad for someone who claims to be as moral as McCain.

I don't like this garbage of making an allegation and then claiming it doesn't matter if its true because the mere allegation is a problem. It does matter. If the man didn't have an affair, then your done.

If the story is true, what should we do with it? What role should the personal morality of the candidates in our consideration of these candidates?

For example, I consider the following moral imperatives: (1) caring for the poor, (2) marital fidelity, (3) pursuing peaceful resolution to conflicts and(4) avoiding substance abuse. Can I elect officials with more regard to (1) & (3) because that is the "purpose" of casting my vote, or is it immoral to elect folks that fall short with regard to (2) & (4)?

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Sermon on the Mount, Twelfth

The next passage from the Sermon contains some more very familiar verses.
Ask, Seek, Knock
"Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened.
"Which of you, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him! So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.
Matthew 7:7-12 First off, the last sentence, which I included because of the section breaks in NIV translation, doesn't have anything to do with the rest of the section. I mean, I accept that the Golden Rule may sum up the Law and the Prophets, but that is not what the other sentences are talking about.

Second, I don't think the passage means you can ask god for bread or fish. In other words, I don't think the passage means that if you pray for physical things they'll be granted you. I say that because the first part talks about seeking, and knocking and opening doors. I think the passage means that those who pursue faith will find it, just like an earthly father would give his kids a fish, so your heavenly father will grant you faith.

But that doesn't necessarily save the relevance of this passage. Aren't there people who search for faith and don't find it? Aren't there people who wished that they believed but just cannot? I would love to hear from folks who find comfort or meaning in this passage.

P.S. The opposite advice, "God helps those who help themselves" comes from Benjamin Franklin.

UPDATE: I've emailed this post to members of the clergy in my address book. I would be delighted if they would share their wisdom, or if that's too intimidating, their shared befuddlement.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Not Happy with Hillary

I have been in the crowd of Democrats to be pleased with all of the candidates this year. I was uncomfortable when Bill Clinton seemed to cross the line in attacking Obama, but I also thought Hillary Clinton should necessarily be blamed for that.

Here's a story from the Washington Post and everywhere else, in which the Clinton campaign accuses Obama of plagiarizing a speech because he and someone else pointed out that "We hold these truths to be self evident," "I have a dream" and "We have nothing to fear but fear itself" were also just words. Both Obama and the other guy were responding to opponents who claimed they were only empty words.

The attacks from the Clinton campaign are wrong, the idea is not unique, the phrasing is not the same. It is absolutely not plagiarism. The attacks are also desperate. And while as mentioned Bill Clinton put me off before, this is the first time I've found myself really angry at Hillary Clinton and her campaign.

If you watch the link from the Wa.Po. story you will see how absurd Clinton's claims are. I hope this turns the stomach of people on the fence in Ohio, Pennsylvania and Texas.

The most famous scripture

This Sunday our lectionary included John 3:16, which is the most holy of scriptures for born again Christians. One of the things that I remember about this passage is that in it, Jesus is critical of the Pharisee to whom the requirement is given for being overly literal. Seems ironic given the way most born again Christians interpret the rest of the Bible.

Rev. Linda Miller, pastor of Chalice Christian Church, provided a wonderful interpretation of this passage from the point of view of Nicodemus, the Pharisee. She performed a first-person narrative as Nicodemus remembering the night. It opened my eyes to the curious story that surrounds the oft repeated John 3:16.

The story begins with an unusually intimate setting. It is night, and there are evidently only two people present. Jesus and a Pharisee.
Now there was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a member of the Jewish ruling council. He came to Jesus at night and said, "Rabbi, we know you are a teacher who has come from God. For no one could perform the miraculous signs you are doing if God were not with him."

In reply Jesus declared, "I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again."
So, the mandate to be born again is clearly just that. Failing to be born again means that you cannot see the kingdom of God. Nicodemus first tries to figure out what the "born again" stuff is about.
How can a man be born when he is old?" Nicodemus asked. "Surely he cannot enter a second time into his mother's womb to be born!"

Jesus answered, "I tell you the truth, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit. Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit. You should not be surprised at my saying, 'You must be born again.' The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit."
Okay, so you need to be born of water and the Spirit. Baptism I guess. Why the mention of the unknowable nature of the Spirit? Is this a distinction between baptisms performed by John the Baptist and the those performed by the disciples? Nicodemus wants more clarification.
"How can this be?" Nicodemus asked.

"You are Israel's teacher," said Jesus, "and do you not understand these things? I tell you the truth, we speak of what we know, and we testify to what we have seen, but still you people do not accept our testimony. I have spoken to you of earthly things and you do not believe; how then will you believe if I speak of heavenly things? No one has ever gone into heaven except the one who came from heaven—the Son of Man. Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the desert, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life.
Am I wrong, or does Jesus sound like he's getting upset? Does anyone else have sympathy for Nicodemus?

The rest of the story is provided by the author of John. Although, according to Biblegateway there is some controversy over this, it seems to be a summary provided after Jesus words:
For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God's one and only Son.
I suppose it really doesn't matter whether John wrote this as Jesus saying it, or as John saying it because either way it is John's account of what happened.

What do you think? The language is very mandatory but the ideas seem vague. What is eternal life and the kingdom of God? Why communicate this message from one person to another rather than in a sermon, on a mount somewhere, for instance?

NOTE: Linda is going to continue these first-person narratives through Lent. (Last week, she took on the person of the Tempter from the story of Jesus in the wilderness. My thirteen-year-old said he liked it but it was a little scary.) If any readers have considered visiting Chalice, the next few weeks would be a great opportunity to do so.