Showing posts from March, 2018

A new commandment I give you

In a German prison camp just months before World War Two ended, Master Sgt. Roddie Edmonds stared down the barrel of a Nazi’s pistol and refused to identify the Jews among his fellow prisoners of war. “We are all Jews here,” said Sergeant Edmonds, the highest-ranking American noncommissioned officer in the prison. “The Geneva Convention does not require prisoners to divulge their religion,” Sergeant Edmonds added, warning that if the German shot them, he would be tried for war crimes. Edmonds’ act of defiance spared the lives of 200 Jews. [1] On Maundy Thursday Christians commemorate Jesus washing the feet of his disciple, Jesus’ Last Supper, and his giving his disciples a new commandment to love one another. [2] Each represents an important aspect of the Christian tradition. Foot washing – washing and often anointing with perfumed oil the dirtiest part of the body among people who wore sandals or went barefoot in an often dusty and sometimes muddy place – was an act o

We wish to see Jesus

One summer night a young man in Scotland decided to take a shortcut across the moors on his way to the town where he had a job. That night he knew he would be passing near one of the area’s many limestone quarries, but he thought he could avoid it. So, he set out through the rock and heather on that inky black, starless night. Suddenly he heard a voice call out with great urgency, "Peter!" A bit unnerved, he stopped and called back into the dark, "Yes, who is it? What do you want?" No response. Just a bit of wind over the deserted moorland. The lad concluded he'd been mistaken and walked on a few more steps. He heard the voice again, more urgent than before: "Peter!" He stopped in his tracks, bent forward to peer through the dense black, and stumbled to his knees. Reaching out a hand to the ground before him, he clutched thin air. The quarry! Sure enough, as Peter carefully felt around in a semicircle he discovered that he had stopped at the

A new illiteracy

A new type of illiteracy seems to be emerging as an unintended side-effect of technological progress. Many people have some competence using one or more electronic devices such as smartphones, tablets, and computers. Few people are familiar with all of the features and capabilities of their device(s). Very few people actually understand the software and hardware required to make those features, much less have the knowledge to modify or to create a new feature or capability for their device. This new illiteracy especially strikes me because I remember how easily I learned to program in Basic and Fortran as a largely self-taught high school student using a computer at a local college. After mastering those two languages, I learned that particular computer’s machine, which required mastery not only of software but also the design of the computer’s hardware. Neither the high school nor the college then offered courses in programming. Nevertheless, the college did require students in

Is the Book of Common Prayer too wordy?

A friend who is an Episcopalian suggested that the Book of Common Prayer (the 1979 edition, which he has used for 30 years) is too wordy. He wondered if the Episcopal Church overloads people with too many words, too much spirituality. What do you think? The length of Episcopal services compares very unfavorably with the length of Tweets. Twitter accounts are now much more popular than are blogs, in part because Tweets are so much briefer. Our culture is moving towards more video and more images, away from words. Where in the Book of Common Prayer, now being considered for a possible revision, would you suggest cutting words? Where might images become a regular element of Episcopalian worship and services? I look forward to your thoughts and comments.

Following the Prince of Peace and ending gun violence

According to a widely reported statistic, there are 89 privately owned guns in the United States for every 100 citizens. Other estimates place the number of guns as high as 101 for every 100 citizens. These are necessarily estimates since the US does not mandate gun registration. Citing the lower estimate helps to avoid unresolvable arguments that are tangential to the problem of gun violence. Of course, 89 guns per 100 citizens does not mean that 89 of every 100 citizens owns a firearm. Many citizens own multiple guns. Others own no gun. However, the approximately 290 million privately owned firearms result in the US ranking number 1 globally for gun ownership, with almost twice as many guns per capita as Serbia, which ranks second with 58 firearms per citizen. Enacting tighter restrictions on gun ownership, mandating background checks, and repealing the Second Amendment (the right to bear arms) – all measures which I support – in many respects resembles closing the proverb