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Post-election blues

 This Veteran’s Day has prompted some musings about the color blue, the election and Veteran’s Day. First, former Vice President Biden is now President-elect Biden. The Democrats, generally depicted by the color blue in color graphics, won the presidential election. The chaos and lack of character widely associated with President Trump will soon vacate the White House. The US has now had both a Black president and a Black woman Vice President-elect. When I was born, both were unimaginable in the segregated Jim Crow south as well as, if we're honest, in the rest of the US. Second, President Trump probably feels depressed, an emotion associated with the color blue. His depression is obvious in his mien. He, from all appearances, is not a person who copes well with losing or rejection. Similarly, other candidates, Democrats and Republicans alike, who invested considerable time, emotion and resources in losing campaigns for office also probably feel depressed. Yet, I’m grateful f

Musings about Amy Coney Barrett and the Supreme Court

Perhaps Amy Coney Barrett’s appointment, and confirmation, to the Supreme Court will be good for the United States’ democracy in a way that President Trump and Barrett’s other supporters never imagined. First, however, I must emphasize my strong disagreement with both how Barrett reads laws, including the Constitution, and her views on abortion, gun ownership, the death penalty and a host of other issues. Barrett has stated that she seeks to read laws literally, taking the law at face value, following in the footsteps of her mentor Justice Scalia and others. This approach to exegeting a document (or law) fixes the document at a particular point in time and thus precludes it becoming a living document, adaptable over time to changing circumstances and values. I object equally strongly to reading the Bible or other sacred texts in a similar manner. But the president, and not I, has the power of appointment. The Senate's Constitutional role is to advise and consent, not to exercis

Trump's Covid-19 response: science or pseudo-science?

  What if Trump’s disregard for masks and social distancing, combined with his demand to reopen the economy, reflects his advisors’ push for developing herd immunity in the U.S.? if so, Trump may think he is acting in accordance with scientific principles in spite of usually disregarding science as fake and fraudulent. Herd immunity implicitly presumes culling the herd of its weaker members, those least able to survive a present threat. This adheres to the evolutionary principle of the survival of those best suited for current conditions. Not wearing masks and not socially distancing allows the Covid-19 virus to spread more easily from person to person. Persons who have an asymptomatic or very mild case are well-suited for survival. Those who develop a serious, life-threatening case are less well-suited for survival. Reopening the economy increases the probability of these cases overwhelming the healthcare system’s capacity. The human herd collectively – in the U.S. and/or on ear

Four theological and ethical musings on the current political campaign

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  Here are four brief musings about the current political campaigns. First, honesty – truth telling – is the sine qua non for intelligible public discourse. Without honesty, discourse becomes mere prattling. Of course, thoughtful people change their thinking and opinions over time. Honest people acknowledge these changes. Dishonesty (i.e., lying) entails intentional deception. The intentionality may have its roots in the speaker not wanting to speak the truth, e.g., a spy lies to hide the spy’s espionage. Alternatively, the intentionality may have its roots in the speaker being too lazy to obtain facts, preferring to rely on preexisting biases. Honesty admits mistakes. Honesty in public discourse is also sufficiently broad to include misspeaking in the “heat of the moment.” Honesty similarly allows some degree of exaggeration to emphasize a point or message, without the exaggeration becoming an outright lie. In both cases, the intent to deceive is arguably absent. Honesty is la

Sing to the Lord a new song

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  Honolulu is in the midst of its second lockdown / stay at home order. The mayor and state governor gradually lifted the first order when the number of new cases reported per day hovered near zero. They imposed the second order when the number of new cases reported daily spiked to 300 and remained in that range. In the interim between the two orders people were still directed to practice social distancing, wear masks, and wash or sanitize their hands frequently. Restaurants had to have at least six feet between tables, gatherings of more than ten people were prohibited, etc. Unfortunately, people wearied of loving their neighbors. After six months of pandemic driven restrictions on heretofore normal patterns of social interaction, I occasionally note that the failure of people in movies or on TV to practice those protocols feels odd to me, as though life has somehow become disjointed. Then I remind myself that what I’m watching was filmed pre-pandemic. These experiences have pro

Black Lives Matter: Ending systemic racism

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  I’ve never understood Matthew’s pairing of the two parts of this morning’s gospel reading. [1] . If another Christian sins against you, confront that person directly. If that fails to fix things, take another one or two Christians with you as witnesses and again confront the person. If that fails, then treat the sinner as a tax collector or Gentile, i.e., love the person from afar, no longer accepting them as a member of Christ's family. Frequently, this latter course of action becomes a hurtful shunning or shaming, whether formalized as the Roman Catholics and Amish do or informally practiced, as we Episcopalians and others have done. The passage begs multiple questions. Who defines sin? What if the alleged sinner is innocent? How serious must a sin be to trigger this process? How can we avoid politicizing or otherwise distorting the process? And, most decisively, if anytime two or three agree in prayer, God will grant their request, why not simply pray for the sinner to repent?

Is prayer efficacious?

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  My friend who inquired about God also had questions about prayer. Discussions of prayer often founder from a lack of definitional clarity. “Prayer” denotes intentional efforts to interact with God, God imagined in terms of light, energy, ultimate reality, etc. (cf. the recent Ethical Musings’ post, Musings about God). Prayer, therefore, may take the form of meditation, contemplation, oral statements or thoughts (e.g., the Lord's Prayer or extemporaneous words), and actions meant to express love for God or others (e.g., participating in rituals such as Holy Communion, feeding the hungry, and embracing the hurting). All of these varied activities may afford opportunity to increase one’s awareness of God's abiding presence. Prayer can be efficacious in three ways. Frist, prayer touches the person praying. Prayer may turn the attention of the one praying toward God, thereby potentially increasing the person’s openness to correctly sensing God's nudging or luring. The op