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Showing posts from August, 2017

The irony of Texas’ response to Hurricane Harvey

Hurricane Harvey has had the ironic effect of highlighting the dependence of Texas’ allegedly independent citizenry on the rest of the nation: The thousands of stranded persons evacuated by the Coast Guard, National Guard, and othersThe hundreds of thousands without federal flood insurance, many of whom will seek federal assistanceTwo million plus lives disrupted trying to restore their lives to some new normalTexas’ conservative Republican governor, Greg Abbott, quickly asked the federal government for assistanceThe vital roles played by the Federal Emergency Management Agency and other federal entities as well as non-profits with a nationwide reach, especially the American Red Cross with its federal mandate to assist victims of natural disasters
The willingness of Texans and Texas state and municipal officials to reach out for assistance during and after the destruction wrought by Hurricane Harvey rightly prioritizes need over an incorrect principle. The request is a poignant remind…

Love, don’t hate

"Our prime purpose in this life is to help others.  And if you can't help them, at least don't hurt them." The Dalai Lama Loving others, therefore, is not a question so much of 'doing God's will' but, rather, of 'living God's life.' Paul Knitter, Without Buddha I Could Not Be a Christian Love and ever more love is the only solution to every problem that comes up. Dorothy Day Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. Jesus of Nazareth For Christians, love is the standard against which to evaluate one’s thoughts, words, and actions. Consequently, hate is inimical with Christianity. Violence, unless unavoidable to avert significantly greater harm, is also inimical with Christianity. Bellicose language, whether directed against North Korea, Iran, or any other state, is therefore inimical with Christianity. Similarly, all hate groups – including neo-Nazis, anti-Semites, the KKK, whit…

Further thoughts on clergy transitions in the Episcopal Church

A previous Ethical Musings post that also appeared on the Episcopal Café, Rethinking the transition process, triggered a flurry of responses, pro and con, many of whom recounted personal experiences. Mary Brennan Thorpe’s ensuing contribution to the Café, Transitions – Old Ways, New Ways, Right Ways, Wrong Ways, also received an unusual number of responses (references to Mary Thorpe below refer to that post).
Mary Thorpe is right: Transitions often take too long. However, I disagree with her that generalizations are not useful. Admittedly, characterizing the transition management process as broken is a generalization with notable exceptions. However, this generalization will hopefully be the catalyst TEC needs to address its severe case of transition management arteriosclerosis before the problem becomes fatal. Inertia (we have always done it this away), discomfort with change, fear of the unknown, and the use of theological jargon to masque organizational dysfunctionality are some s…

The love that conquers hate

My mother was from North Carolina and my father from Maine. I have ancestors who fought on each side in the Civil War. I don’t know any details about those who fought for the Union. On the Confederate side, the two of whom I am aware, as much as I might wish that they had become disenchanted with the Confederacy or fought honorably or even suffered from PTSD, instead behaved dishonorably, deserting to escape the monotonous drudgery of life in a military garrison. A couple of generations later, in the 1930s, the KKK threatened my devoutly Christian maternal grandfather for paying his black and white employees equal wages. Somehow, love had begun to erode and then to heal racial differences. In the first part of today’s gospel reading,[1] Jesus explains that it is not what enters the body that can defile it, but what comes out of the mouth that has the potential to defile. Jesus is answering a question about whether ordinary Jews, mostly peasants, should emulate the Pharisees and pract…

The green face of God – part 2

Part 1 of this two-part post enumerated biblical images of the Holy Spirit as the green face of God that Mark Wallace described in his article, The Green Face of God: Christianity in an Age of Ecocide (Cross Currents, Fall 2000, Vol. 50 Issue 3, 310-331). This point focuses on implications of those images for our ecological stewardship, especially on how human abuse of creation causes God to suffer and the necessity for humans to strive to ameliorate and end that damage as a key reparative element of repentance. Wallace explained why damaging the biosphere causes God to suffer: From this viewpoint, as the God who knows death through the cross of Jesus is the crucified God, so also is the Spirit who enfleshes divine presence in nature the wounded Spirit. Jesus' body was inscribed with the marks of human sin even as God's enfleshed presence -- the earth body of the Spirit -- is lacerated by continued assaults upon our planet home. Consider the sad parallels between the crucified J…

The green face of God – part 1

A friend recently sent me a link to Mark Wallace’s article, The Green Face of God: Christianity in an Age of Ecocide (Cross Currents, Fall 2000, Vol. 50 Issue 3, 310-331). Wallace identifies numerous biblical images of the Spirit as an enfleshed aspect of creation: While some of the biblical writings appear partial to these binary oppositions (for example, Paul's rhetoric of spirit versus flesh), most of the biblical texts undermine this value system by structurally interlocking the terms in the polarity within one another. In particular, on the question of the Spirit, the system of polar oppositions is consistently undermined. Not only do the scriptural texts not prioritize the spiritual over the earthly. Moreover, they figure the Spirit as a creaturely lifeform always already interpenetrated by the material world. Indeed, the body of symbolism that is arguably most central to the scriptural portraiture of the Spirit is suffused with nature imagery. Consider the following tropes…

Gratitude and listening to our pain

An Ethical Musings’ reader wrote forwarded this first-person description of a friend’s experience with pain caused by cancer, emphasizing social instead of physical pain: The after-effects of surgery and radiation for my prostate cancer don't cause pain, but they do interfere with my life in various ways. For example, I dribble urine when I cough. To manage this, I wear a pad and empty my bladder often, but I am forced to wear an adult diaper whenever I catch cold or have hay-fever. On occasion, even these measures don't work well. Embarrassment ensues. Yes, this situation does increase my identification with people who suffer incontinence or have had to undergo more radical changes to their internal plumbing. I should have had such empathy for them all along, of course. The experience of cancer has led me (driven me?) to a practice of active gratefulness as exemplified by David Steindl-Rast OSB. Again, perhaps I should have been practicing active gratefulness all along, but …

Listening to our pain

The Buddha taught that one of the four basic facts of existence is that suffering is endemic to human life. Some suffering is avoidable, e.g., annual flu shots reduce the likelihood of suffering from the flu. Some suffering is reducible or curable, e.g., apologizing to a friend whom one has alienated by insulting may lead to reconciliation and renewed friendship. Other suffering is inevitable, e.g., the knowledge that death limits life. Consequently, relationships inevitably cause suffering even though life without relationships is empty and itself a source of suffering, as Buddhist and Christian hermits consistently experienced. Instead of seeking to end all suffering, which the Buddhas identified as the goal of enlightenment, Jesus taught that suffering can be redemptive if one grows through her/his suffering. I have experienced this growth through the suffering caused by my neuropathy. Neuropathy (a disease or dysfunction of the peripheral nerves – in my case, in my hands, lower l…

Stop the fearmongering!

North Korea allegedly has a missile capable of delivering one of its nuclear warheads to Hawaii. Some people on the East Coast may be unsure about Hawaii’s status, e.g., Attorney General Sessions’ reference to a federal judge on some island in the Pacific and a New York Times’ headline that worries North Korean missiles will soon be able to reach targets in the US – only in the text of the article is there a clarification that the headline connotes the continental US. Nevertheless, both the federal and state governments claim that they are taking steps to protect the people of Hawaii. The federal government is accelerating its plans to deploy a missile defense system to shoot down incoming North Korean missiles, or, presumably incoming missiles from other nations. Of course, this missile defense system is unproven and has failed to pass many of the Defense Department’s tests intended to ensure the system’s accuracy and reliability. The missile system, developed and deployed at a cost…