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Showing posts from September, 2020

Four theological and ethical musings on the current political campaign

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  Here are four brief musings about the current political campaigns. First, honesty – truth telling – is the sine qua non for intelligible public discourse. Without honesty, discourse becomes mere prattling. Of course, thoughtful people change their thinking and opinions over time. Honest people acknowledge these changes. Dishonesty (i.e., lying) entails intentional deception. The intentionality may have its roots in the speaker not wanting to speak the truth, e.g., a spy lies to hide the spy’s espionage. Alternatively, the intentionality may have its roots in the speaker being too lazy to obtain facts, preferring to rely on preexisting biases. Honesty admits mistakes. Honesty in public discourse is also sufficiently broad to include misspeaking in the “heat of the moment.” Honesty similarly allows some degree of exaggeration to emphasize a point or message, without the exaggeration becoming an outright lie. In both cases, the intent to deceive is arguably absent. Honesty is la

Sing to the Lord a new song

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  Honolulu is in the midst of its second lockdown / stay at home order. The mayor and state governor gradually lifted the first order when the number of new cases reported per day hovered near zero. They imposed the second order when the number of new cases reported daily spiked to 300 and remained in that range. In the interim between the two orders people were still directed to practice social distancing, wear masks, and wash or sanitize their hands frequently. Restaurants had to have at least six feet between tables, gatherings of more than ten people were prohibited, etc. Unfortunately, people wearied of loving their neighbors. After six months of pandemic driven restrictions on heretofore normal patterns of social interaction, I occasionally note that the failure of people in movies or on TV to practice those protocols feels odd to me, as though life has somehow become disjointed. Then I remind myself that what I’m watching was filmed pre-pandemic. These experiences have pro

Black Lives Matter: Ending systemic racism

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  I’ve never understood Matthew’s pairing of the two parts of this morning’s gospel reading. [1] . If another Christian sins against you, confront that person directly. If that fails to fix things, take another one or two Christians with you as witnesses and again confront the person. If that fails, then treat the sinner as a tax collector or Gentile, i.e., love the person from afar, no longer accepting them as a member of Christ's family. Frequently, this latter course of action becomes a hurtful shunning or shaming, whether formalized as the Roman Catholics and Amish do or informally practiced, as we Episcopalians and others have done. The passage begs multiple questions. Who defines sin? What if the alleged sinner is innocent? How serious must a sin be to trigger this process? How can we avoid politicizing or otherwise distorting the process? And, most decisively, if anytime two or three agree in prayer, God will grant their request, why not simply pray for the sinner to repent?

Is prayer efficacious?

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  My friend who inquired about God also had questions about prayer. Discussions of prayer often founder from a lack of definitional clarity. “Prayer” denotes intentional efforts to interact with God, God imagined in terms of light, energy, ultimate reality, etc. (cf. the recent Ethical Musings’ post, Musings about God). Prayer, therefore, may take the form of meditation, contemplation, oral statements or thoughts (e.g., the Lord's Prayer or extemporaneous words), and actions meant to express love for God or others (e.g., participating in rituals such as Holy Communion, feeding the hungry, and embracing the hurting). All of these varied activities may afford opportunity to increase one’s awareness of God's abiding presence. Prayer can be efficacious in three ways. Frist, prayer touches the person praying. Prayer may turn the attention of the one praying toward God, thereby potentially increasing the person’s openness to correctly sensing God's nudging or luring. The op