Posts

Showing posts from September, 2018

Forgiveness and Judge Kavanaugh

I am writing this blog post before either Judge Kavanaugh or his accuser testify before the Senate. The swirling controversy evokes a compelling but almost certainly improbable hypothetical. What if Judge Kavanaugh admits to having committed the sexual assault, regrets his act, says that the act has haunted him ever since, and that his regret has been an essential catalyst for his maturing into a highly moral individual? (This is a hypothetical; in advance of the hearings and absent a crystal ball, I have no way of knowing whether the assault occurred.)
Continuing with the hypothetical, should the action of a seventeen-year-old be held against him thirty some years later in spite of his truth telling, the courage required to tell the truth, and an apparently exemplary life since that awful incident? That is, should we respond with mercy and forgiveness to Brett Kavanaugh in 2018?
Alternatively, what response to Kavanaugh’s hypothetical confession would be commensurate with justice fo…

Are you a fan or follower?

Image
Fans:

Followers:
Which are you, fan or follower?

A higher or different standard

Should leaders – in the church, the government, the military, elsewhere – be held to a different or a higher moral standard?
Most of us will almost immediately respond in the affirmative to that question. Yet implicit within the question are two basic presumptions about the nature of sin.
First, is all sin equally bad?
Answering this question affirmatively creates the difficult problem of delineating a hierarchy of sin. The Roman Catholic Church has defined such a hierarchy, broadly categorizing sins as venial or mortal. Mortal sins, unlike venial sins, place the sinner’s eternal soul in jeopardy.
In reaction to efforts to categorize sin, some Protestant reformers argued that all sin was equally bad because sin, whatever the specifics, separate a human from God; otherwise, that human sin taints God, with the result that God ceases to be perfect.
The Protestant position seems untenable. Sin exists. Nevertheless, God remains in relationship to the world. Additionally, murder or rape se…

The episcopacy

An Episcopal priest recently contacted me with these three questions:
Is the episcopacy necessary for the wellbeing and growth of the church? How does a bishop exercise power and authority? If we ask Jesus what he thinks now about the office of the episcopate, what might he say?
The Episcopal Church, like many other Christian Churches (e.g., the Roman Catholics, Lutherans, Methodists, Orthodox, some Pentecostal groups), has bishops. The Greek word episkopos in English becomes episcopal and its cognates. The word bishop similarly has its etymological roots in the Greek episkopos. In Greek, a bishop or member of the episcopacy was an overseer. In particular, the New Testament usage of episkopos denotes an oversee of one or more Christian congregations, a meaning that continues in the Christian tradition today.
The theological and biblical question has never been whether bishops are necessary for the wellbeing and growth of the church but adherence to the biblical model of ministry.
Som…

The New York Times Op-Ed piece by Anonymous

The New York Times recently departed from its customary protocol of requiring Op-Ed piece authors to identify themselves and published an Op-Ed piece by an anonymous author who identified him/herself only as a senior member of the Trump administration. The piece, “I Am Part of the Resistance Inside the Trump Administration,” available by following this link, disturbed me for three reasons.
First, the anonymous author paints a picture of the Trump White House that is consistent with Bob Woodward’s depiction in his book, Fear, as well as details obtained from multiple sources stretching across Trump’s presidency. Chaos, infighting, and staff jockeying to have the last word with an erratic, inconsistent and amoral president – all apparently common practices in the Trump White House – are extremely worrisome in today’s world. Trump acts as if he would prefer to be a dictator than an elected leader in a nation governed by the rule of law.
Second, the Op-Ed author’s actions presumably unin…

Identity politics

Life in the United States is increasingly defined by a person’s identity as a member of a particular race, gender, income stratum, political party, religion, and so forth.
I strongly dissent.
I am of European descent but that does not define my identity. My race certainly shapes my existence in ways that I only partially understand but my identity is primarily as a human. As a human I attempt to value people of all racial heritages equally. Racial diversity incalculably enriches rather than impoverishes my life.
I am a male but that does not define my identity. As with race, gender shapes my existence in ways that I only partially understand. However, masculinity does not define who I am. My X chromosome arguably shapes my existence more than does my Y chromosome. The diversity of gender identities incalculably enriches my life.
The same is also true for membership in a political party, affluence, religion, etc.
When I look at another person I see a child of God and wonder how my lif…

Inequality and charitable giving

Today’s economic inequality is reminiscent of America’s Gilded Age. Andrew Carnegie, the steel and railroad baron whose gifts built and endowed over twenty-five hundred local libraries, was perhaps the richest man in history.
In his “Gospel of Wealth,” Carnegie argued that the wealthy had an obligation to use their wealth for the common good. He rejected the alternatives of leaving the bulk of one’s wealth to family or to the poor, both of which almost certainly would produce undesirable results.
Three years after authoring “The Gospel of Wealth,” Carnegie broke a strike at his Homestead steel works in Pittsburgh. The workers went on strike when management proposed a thirty-five percent pay cut for workers. To break the strike, Carnegie relied upon armed guards who, when a riot ensued an attempt by scabs to enter the plant, killed sixteen.
Is it possible to gain great wealth ethically? If so, why do large corporations consistently lobby the federal and state governments to enact legi…