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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 lacking in many…

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 prompted two …

Black Lives Matter: Ending systemic racism

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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 openness may…

Musings about God

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Painting of God in the  Sistine Chapel at the Vatican An Ethical Musings’ reader has asked me to elucidate my understanding / definition of God. She cited a statement in a recent Ethical Musings post as an example of how I understand or define God: “God (the energy, light, love, etc., which permeates all existence).” In her email she also quoted another cleric’s definition of God as “Ultimate Reality,” a phrasing that I sometimes use.She finds those definitions overly vague. She’s also troubled by frequently hearing sermons that suggest God is someone who "loves us", "cares", etc. She wonders how energy, light, or ultimate reality can "love" or "care"? She’s also concerned that characterizing God's actions as loving or caring anthropomorphize God, i.e., attribute human traits or characteristics to God, perhaps most infamously imagining God as a big old man perched on a cloud.Answering her questions requires disentangling several theological is…

Covid-19 battle fatigue

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The diagnosis of post-traumatic stress disease (PTSD) in the military began with pre-twentieth century militaries executing soldiers who suffered from PTSD as deserters. In World War I, the terminology gradually shifted to “shell shock.” In World War II, Sir Charles Moran, Winston Churchill’s military physician proposed individuals had a supply of courage that, once exhausted, left a soldier psychologically incapacitated. By the end of WWII, the U.S. Army concluded:The army’s experience with psychoneurosis during the war had led it to two sobering conclusions. The first was that even the most psychologically healthy men would almost inevitably break down after long-term exposure to the horrors of modern battle. An investigation by the army’s surgeon general’s office in 1945 concluded that six months of continuous fighting was the maximum that even the “sturdiest and most stable soldier” could endure without breaking. That is, the process of psychological breakdown was actually a norma…

Seeking beauty in hard times

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A friend, Ray Woo, took this photo from his apartment in the Honolulu building in which we both live. The view is of the Pacific at sunset the night before hurricane Douglas was forecast to strike Oahu. Thankfully, Douglas turned north and veered into open ocean. The beauty of the sunset, however, is striking.Had Douglas struck Oahu, the sunset’s beauty would in no way diminish or justify the harm the winds and rain would have caused. The Bible encourages people to seek the good that may come out of bad things. Yet the Bible never suggests or implies that the good in any way justifies the bad from which the good emerged.Similarly, suggesting that Covid-19 represents God's judgement on certain people, beliefs, or practices shows incredible hubris and terribly distorts who God is. God, in all of the world’s major religious traditions, is good and loving. God never wills bad things for creation nor increases the bad that exists. Metaphysical answers to the perennial question of “Why?…