Showing posts from August, 2018

Looking to grow?

The Church of the Nativity in Raleigh, NC, started , engaging congregants in ministries and mission that stretch from the local to the global. has diminished environmental damage, spread Christ's message of love for all creation, and been a catalyst for spiritual and numerical growth at the Church of the Nativity. (In the interest of full disclosure, I served this parish as priest-in-charge and then as a priest associate but moved to Hawaii several years before the congregation began .) Examining highlights six organizational dynamics essential for congregations that desire to increase both the number of Jesus people who attend as well as their spiritual depth. First, emphasizes an issue central to human existence. Perhaps the two most immediate threats to continued human existence are nuclear war and the global warming caused by humans. Scientists detected the first si

Rationing health care

An Ethical Musings’ reader sent me the following: Our local newspaper had an article about a family that enjoys many of the local activities in our area. Their issue is the 34-year-old husband who survived pancreatic cancer as an eight-year-old child and now needs help. His cancer treatment removed 85 percent of his pancreas, 50 percent of his stomach, 50 percent of his small intestine, and 60 percent of his colon. Over the years he has had numerous bleeding issues that required over 100 units of blood and many hospital stays to stop the bleeding. As a result of the cancer, he now needs a five organ transplants. He needs a new stomach, liver, pancreas, large intestine and small bowel. If he has the surgery, he has less than a 30 percent chance of surviving the surgery itself and a 40 percent chance of surviving for a year. If he gets the call, he goes to Georgetown University Hospital for the surgery. He remains in the hospital for six to nine months and will have to live nea


Nonkilling is emerging as a new field of academic exploration. Scholars of nonkilling argue that humans are not hardwired to kill. These scholars rightly contend, in my estimation, that killing is learned behavior. For a detailed biological argument in support of this view, cf. Piero Giorgi’s book The origins of violence by cultural evolution   available as a free download by following this l ink . This view does require rethinking the traditional understanding of Genesis 3 in which the first humans commit sin that results in God expelling them from the utopian Garden of Eden. The traditional position envisions a God incompatible with a twenty-first scientific worldview in which God is clearly not a deified human. The traditional view of de-evolving is also incompatible with evolutionary theory. Rabbi Harold Kushner helpfully has suggested interpreting Genesis 3 in terms of humans first experiencing freedom, an essential element of the image of God in humans and a vital step

Is prayer magic, mystery, or?

What is prayer? Is it magic, mystery, or something else Prayer is not magic. Contrary to a widely held misunderstanding, prayer is not a means of manipulating God to produce a desired result(s). No formula, no action, no degree of sincerity in asking God to do something is assured of achieving the desired result. The occasions on which prayer leads to the requested result are serendipitous. The results are actually attributable to other causes and not to God if the full picture is accurately understood. Concomitantly, chalking up failed prayer to receiving a “No” from God simply avoids the actual, underlying issue of correctly understanding prayer. Magic, according to the Concise Oxford Dictionary is “the power of apparently influencing the course of events by using mysterious or supernatural forces, mysterious tricks performed as entertainment.” Believing that prayer is a means of obtaining specific results from God has three major theological problems. First, the pers

For such a time as this

The Episcopal Church’s triennial General Convention, which met in Austin a couple of weeks ago and which I did not attend, interested me more for what did not happen that for what actually transpired. Don’t misunderstand me. Lots of good decisions were made. In no particular order, some of General Convention’s decisions that I applaud include: ·        Readmitting Cuba as a diocese ·        Authorizing use of specific inclusive language at places in some of our Eucharistic liturgies ·        Authorizing the use of same sex marriage rites in all dioceses ·        Indefinitely deferring publication of a new prayer book (I’ve previously argued on this website here and here that any new edition of the prayer book should be electronic, not printed) ·        Support for justice for the Palestinians Given the controversial nature of some of these decisions, your list of good decisions may vary from mine. Regardless of one’s opinion of General Convention’s decisions

What is truth?

A shepherd and his dog are herding a flock in a remote pasture when suddenly a brand-new BMW appears out of a dust cloud. The driver, a young man in an Armani suit, Gucci shoes, and Oakley sunglasses, leans out the window and asks, "If I tell you exactly how many sheep you have in your flock, will you give me one?" The shepherd looks at the man, who is obviously not a shepherd, then looks at his peacefully grazing flock and calmly answers, "Sure. Why not?" The driver parks, whips out his smartphone, uses GPS to obtain an exact fix on his location, gets a NASA satellite to take an ultra-high-resolution photo that he exports to an image processing facility. In a few seconds, he turns to the shepherd and says, "You have exactly 1586 sheep." "That's right. Well, I guess you can take one of my sheep," says the shepherd. He watches the young man select one of the animals and looks on amused as the young man stuffs it into the trunk of

Another reflection on my European travels

Portion sizes in both Italy and France have continued to increase in size. And, restaurants now welcome diners to share a course, whether starter, main, or dessert. Sharing courses, while common in the U.S., had previously triggered disdain if not outright opposition from Italian and French restauranteurs. This year I would guess that at as many as a third of the tables in the restaurants where I dined people shared at least one course. Meanwhile, my anecdotal observation is that Europeans are gaining weight, though they are not yet at the levels of overweight and obesity found in the U.S. God created humans to enjoy food and wine. One aspect of life in Europe that I have enjoyed in the past is eating a multi-course paired with several different wines, finding myself at the end of the meal pleasantly and comfortably sated but neither stuffed nor inebriated. Temperance, however, is one of the four Christian cardinal virtues. I find the practice of moderation in all things (

Jesus for President

An Ethical Musings’ reader sent me these intriguing questions: If Jesus ran for President, would you vote for him? Would the American people vote for him? Would the media reduce his achievements to make us question his value? Christians too often limit the scope of Jesus’ teachings and his significance to issues of personal, interior spirituality. These Christians are sadly blind to, or choose to ignore, the relevance of Jesus and his teachings to issues of human relationships, community, national and international policies, and the stewardship of creation. If you have a narrow view of the scope of Jesus’ teachings, reread any one of the gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, or John) with the expectation that Jesus’ speaks not only about one’s interior life but also about life’s broader, external dimension. Remember, Jesus calls to love God and our neighbor. Would you vote for Jesus? No one issue defined Jesus. Nor does any one candidate ever fully embody the teachings of Je

Some reflections on my recent trip to Europe

Attentive readers of Ethical Musings will have noticed an almost three-month gap in my postings from mid-April to early July. I appreciated a couple of concerned friends querying whether I was ill during that period. I was not ill and, to the best of my knowledge my cancer remains in remission. Most of that time, I was traveling in Europe, spending about a week and a half in England, four weeks in Venice, and four weeks in France (the rest of the time I was traveling in the U.S., visiting friends and family).   In the late 1990s, I lived for two years in London. Since then, I’ve traveled frequently to Europe, most years following my 2005 retirement from the Navy spending one or two months there. On this trip, my first trip to Europe in three years, I noticed some interesting changes. First, almost all French and Italian sales clerks, restaurant wait staff, museum personnel, etc., began the conversation in English or immediately shifted to English if I started the conversat