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In praise of simplicity

A tourist stops at the home of the great Rabbi. Since the Rabbi has such a world-renowned reputation the visitor expects to see a great home filled with valuable treasures.; However, he is shocked when he sees a bare home with almost nothing in it. “Where are your possessions?” he asks in astonishment.

The Rabbi responds, “Where are yours?”

“What kind of question is that?” the tourist responded. “I’m a visitor here.”

“I am too,” the Rabbi replied.

Long before Marie Kondo, nineteenth century designer and supporter of the arts and crafts movement William Morris advocated, “Have nothing in your houses that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful.”[1] Or, as Henry Wadsworth Longfellow wrote, “In character, in manner, in style, in all things, the supreme excellence is simplicity."

Stay at home orders in response to the Covid-19 pandemic have prompted many people to act on advice. Some are sorting through their possessions, looking at items unused and perhaps unseen f…

Science, morality and the pandemic

Right now, science and the humanities should be in lock step: science producing vaccines, with the humanities stocking leaders and citizens with the capacities of resilience, care and collaboration until they come. But, instead, the humanities are in crisis at the exact moment history is revealing how vital moral formation really is.David Brooks, “If We Had a Real Leader,” New York Times, May 28, 2020

Living daily with suspicion

Response to the Covid-19 pandemic has promoted a culture of suspicion. Who or what might transmit the virus to me? Do I have the virus? Who is the person behind the face mask? What is their facial expression in this moment?

Requiring masks have highlighted a couple of ironies. First, in most locations, patrons do not have to wear a mask when in a bank. Authorities fear that masks may confuse bank personnel about who is and is not a bank robber. Second, in countries like France, that prohibit individuals from wearing facial coverings for religious reasons (primarily niqabs by Muslim women), authorities now struggle with whether to mandate face coverings as a means of preventing Covid-19 from spreading. The prevalence of face masks, including my wearing one, has given me a personal understanding of the pros and cons of wearing a niqab, and I have found no advantage apart from health concerns for wearing a face mask.

Twentieth century liberation theologians introduced a hermeneutic of s…

When religion becomes silly

According to a recent poll reported in the British newspaper the Guardian, two-thirds of Americans who believe in God think that the Covid-19 pandemic is a message from God. A striking 31% told pollsters that God sent the virus to tell humanity to change its behaviors and attitudes. God wants people to oppose abortion, same sex marriage, gay rights and other “liberal” views. Unsurprisingly, these individuals describe themselves as evangelical or fundamental Christians.

To suppose that God visited a Cov9d-19 “plague” on humanity terribly distorts the human perception of God. While people are unable to describe God's nature, concepts such as light, love and energy point to that which we call God, the divine, the Alone and a host of other names.

At best, those misguided believers have adopted a silly response to the virus. God does not specifically create or spread individual viruses; nor does God cause evil. Viruses are simply part of the cosmos, something that emerged from the pri…

Re-opening churches

When should church buildings, closed for public worship during the pandemic, reopen?

To begin, churches should comply with government orders to close during public health emergencies such as the current pandemic. As an ordained Christian leader for four plus decades, I’m comfortable writing about Christianity. Leaders of other faith groups must conduct their own assessments, weighing public health against religious freedom.

Christianity values life and offers a path toward more abundant living. Needlessly endangering life through corporate worship amid a public health emergency contravenes the foundational Christian value of protecting and promoting life. Nowhere do the Christian Scriptures mandate attendance at public worship. Christians can worship alone, with those who live with them or in virtual gatherings. Physically worshiping together is important, as I have repeatedly argued in Ethical Musings posts. However, protecting life is even more important. In sum, temporary bans on …

Resilience for such a time as this

The term resilient can evoke an image of a strong, silent person, most often a man such as several of the characters that John Wayne and Clint Eastwood have portrayed. Such a person who stubbornly persists no matter what occurs, never sharing his (or her) feelings. That stereotype unhelpfully confuses emotional openness with the ability to persevere or bounce back from hardship. Illustratively, emotional openness connotes awareness of one’s feeling and a willingness to share those feelings with another; resilience is the rider who, trying to break a horse, when thrown gets up, shakes off the dust, and gets back in the saddle.

Resilience receives too little attention in discussions of Christian character. Yet, resilience is vital for healthy living. Resilience helps a person to bounce back after adversity. Christianity is not a prophylactic against bad things happening to a person nor can Christianity set the world, or even the Christian, right after bad things happen. Christians, lik…

Finding God in a pandemic

But Thomas (who was called the Twin), one of the twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, "We have seen the Lord." But he said to them, "Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands, and put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand in his side, I will not believe."
A week later his disciples were again in the house, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were shut, Jesus came and stood among them and said, "Peace be with you." Then he said to Thomas, "Put your finger here and see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it in my side. Do not doubt but believe." Thomas answered him, "My Lord and my God!" Jesus said to him, "Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe."
John 20:24-29
John 20:24-29 is part of the Gospel reading in Episcopal Eucharistic services on the Second Sunday of Easter. The COVID-19 pandemic can cas…