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Showing posts from October, 2017

One person can make a difference

One person can make a difference. When I write this, the Most Rev. Michael Curry has been Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church for less than two years. Yet while attending the Diocese of Hawai’i’s annual convention a couple of weeks ago I was impressed by Bishop Curry’s pervasive influence on the proceedings. This influence was especially noteworthy because Bishop Curry was not present and will not formally visit this Diocese until 2019. Evidence of his influence included: A speaker early in the proceedings repeatedly emphasizing that one of his favorite quotations was from Bishop Curry (Forgive like Jesus; love like Jesus; serve like Jesus)A video report from the Diocesan youth attendees at the Episcopal Youth Event that prominently featured Bishop Curry and his dynamic preachingReferences by several individuals to Bishop Curry’s call for Episcopalians to become Jesus people. What has enabled Bishop Curry, unlike some of his predecessors, to have such an outsize effect on the Epi…

Luther, authority, and Anglicans

Recent commemorations of the 500th anniversary of Martin Luther and the beginning of the Protestant Reformation have often highlighted the two central tenets of Luther’s thought: sola fide (salvation is by faith alone, not works) and sola scriptura (scripture is the only source of truth). (For an especially good recapitulation of Luther’s life and work, follow this link to an article in the New Yorker by Joan Acocella, “How Martin Luther Changed the World.”) The second of those tenets – sola scriptura – represents a key distinction between fundamentalists and other Christians. Historically, Anglicans have stood firmly with the majority and opposed fundamentalism. Notably, the largest block of non-fundamentalists and by far Christianity’s largest Church is the Roman Catholic Church that affirms scripture as a source of truth but complements it with the Church’s teaching magisterium. This latter source of authority is most fully embodied in the Pope, particularly in his capacity to spe…

Learning to see God

Nick, Jonathan and Diane Kramer’s eldest child, was a happy, energetic kid who’d usually come running or skipping out of school. But one fall day, when Nick was six years old, his dad was parked at the curb when Nick was walking slowly towards the car, his curly head hung low, his mouth turned down, a bunch of papers in his hand. Nick seemed to drag himself along the side-walk. He slowly pulled open the car door and slumped into the seat. “Hi, Nick. How are you doing?” his dad asked. No response. “What’s going on? Did something bad happen today?” Nick slowly nodded yes before turning his face away. “Oh, come on, Nick. Tell your old dad what’s wrong.” “I’m bad,” Nick said at last. “Bad? Why do you say that?” Nick handed over a crumpled piece of paper. Smoothing it out it revealed rows of math problems. A big red “-3” dominated the top. “Look,” Nick said, tears running down his cheeks, his lips quivering in an attempt at self-control. He pointed at the glaring red mark. “Look, dad, I g…

Responding to the killings in Las Vegas

While he was saying this, a woman in the crowd raised her voice and said to him, "Blessed is the womb that bore you and the breasts that nursed you!" But he said, "Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and obey it!" (Luke 11:27-28)
A tall, powerfully built basketball player spoke on a radio talk show shortly after his team had captured the championship. The interviewer said, "You are all such talented players. You each have incredible ability. Don't you sometimes want to do your own thing? Isn't it hard for you to do it the coach's way?" "Oh, no," the player responded, "you see, his way is our way."[1] The mass killing perpetrated by Stephen Paddock in Las Vegas has dominated this week’s news cycle. To establish the context for that incident, in 2007, the US had 90 firearms per 100 persons, the highest firearm per capita ratio of any nation in the world, including heavily armed countries such as Yemen and Iraq.

Vietnam, Afghanistan, and Iraq

Ken Burns and Lyn Novick’s Vietnam documentary recently broadcast on PBS reveals how US leaders, elected, appointed, or serving in the military, from Kennedy and his administration through to Nixon and his administration deceived the American public. In private, these leaders recognized that the Vietnam war was unwinnable. In public, these same leaders continued to justify their policies by claiming that victory was soon in sight. Watching the series prompted me to wonder how many US leaders in the administrations of George W. Bush, Obama, and Trump privately recognize that the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq are unwinnable while publicly continuing to voice support for the wars. The war in Afghanistan is now the longest war in US history. The war in Iraq is a close second. The US has spent well over one trillion dollars on those wars, all of which was deficit funded directly increasing the US debt. Future generations of Americans will have to pay for wars that have arguably made the wo…

Power that gives life

A prior Ethical Musings’ post explored power that corrupts and corrodes. This post explores power that gives life. Much theology, especially Christian theology, envisions God as almighty. Historically, theologians and church officials insist that almighty is meant literally, i.e., God is omnipotent. Insisting that God is all powerful presumes that humans can use language to characterize God accurately. That presumption is false. God is the mystery that exists beyond the limits of human language, a view often labelled the via negativa. That is, every statement about who God is can be denied, pointing to a reality that lies beyond human description. Furthermore, the characterization of God as omnipotent developed in the pre-scientific era, an era dominated by a worldview based upon a three-story universe (heaven, earth, and hell) in which humans were the pinnacle and center of creation. We know now that the cosmos has at least four dimensions, is vaster than humans can measure, and tha…