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Thursday, January 22, 2009

A Parable Parable

The following is not persuasive writing. It is an effort to craft a tool for explaining my position. Hopefully, this tool could help explain my position to those who claim to believe that the words in the Bible are "literally true." It would be nice if it could also allow a discussion of the multiple meanings of that term.

The Parable of the Parable of the Sower

There was a public meeting of the Joint Policy Council on Agriculture and Higher Education. They discussed factors that threatened the traditional excellence of higher education agriculture programs and the competitiveness of the agriculture industry. A preacher came to the microphone and asked if the organization would support exposing students to the biblical point of view on agriculture--namely that seeds should be scatter everywhere, and in the places that God intended them to grow, they would grow. The preacher admitted that he could not say for sure whether the models designed by agricultural science were right or wrong, he just wanted to ensure that students were exposed to the Biblical alternative.

Explaining the Parable of the Parable of the Sower

I honestly don't know what a modern farmer would have to say about this. I am not a modern farmer. I suspect, it is poor guidance on how to plant seeds. But what I know, and what everyone knows, is that one should not read the Parable of the Sower this way. Does that mean I don't think the Parable of the Sower is literally true? I guess. Does it mean that I don't think the Parable of the Sower is true? No. The Parable of the Sower is very true; it describes phenomena that anyone who has been in a church for a while has seen.

The most tragic thing about reading the Parable of the Sower as a guide on planting crops is NOT that it is bad guidance on planting crops. The most tragic things about reading the Parable of the Sower as a guide on planting crops is that it misses the actual truth of the parable.

This is equally true of reading Christian mythology as history or science.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

JimII's favorites

Instead of watching the inauguration, I was attending a civil deposition of an builder being sued by a millionaire for not satisfactorily completing her mansion; I was there on behalf of the bank. Some days the job is more glamorous than others.

I just listened to the inauguration. It is remarkable how much Obama represents what I believe and my hopes. As I read the text of his speech I was struck again by how frequently I wanted to shout Amen. Here are my favorites (not so much in the order they came in the speech).

The success of our economy has always depended not just on the size of our gross domestic product, but on the reach of our prosperity; on our ability to extend opportunity to every willing heart — not out of charity, but because it is the surest route to our common good.

The question we ask today is not whether our government is too big or too small, but whether it works

We are a nation of Christians and Muslims, Jews and Hindus — and non-believers.

As for our common defense, we reject as false the choice between our safety and our ideals. Our founding fathers, faced with perils we can scarcely imagine, drafted a charter to assure the rule of law and the rights of man, a charter expanded by the blood of generations.

[W]e remember with humble gratitude those brave Americans who, at this very hour, patrol far-off deserts and distant mountains. They have something to tell us, just as the fallen heroes who lie in Arlington whisper through the ages. We honor them not only because they are guardians of our liberty, but because they embody the spirit of service; a willingness to find meaning in something greater than themselves.
With each of these lines, and with the speech as a whole, the President both rejects the old world view that I find so frustrating, while at the same time replacing it with a new fresh world view. He is not just saying greed is bad, he is saying we will replace greed with shared prosperity. We will replace religious intolerance with broad acceptance of faithfulness. We will reject the notion that soldiers are the only patriots, but we will lift up their remarkable and admirable spirit of selfless service.

Mr. President, I will go where you send me; how shall you send me?

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Getting to work

I was really pleased this morning to see a few clips from events that Obama was at yesterday included him talking about getting to work. He is absolutely projecting an image of urgency in addressing the nation's problems. The symbolic moments were part of the campaign, and I expect we'll be treated to an amazing inaugural address. But it's time to make the world a better place.

In many ways, I suspect this day will feel like the first day back to work after vacation. As it should.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Two Thoughts on MLK Day

First, although I love the "I Have a Dream" speech, my favorite writing from Martin Luther King, Jr. is his Letter from a Birmingham Jail.

Second, Dr. King was always peaceful, but always confrontational. As Obama leads us forward on a path to a more conciliatory tone and an era of cooperation, a choice that makes me happy and which is in line with my own inclinations, I hope there are others who take up the role of Dr. King. People willing to act without violence, but who nonetheless, shove justice down our throats.