Showing posts from January, 2019

And the walls came tumbling down

The title of this post is adapted from a children’s song about the battle to capture the city of Jericho during the invasion of the promised land by the Israelites under Joshua’s leaderships. According to the story recorded in the sixth chapter of Joshua, priests, at the Lord’s command, blew their trumpets after the people had circumambulated the city and then its wall collapsed. Whatever else one may garner from that story, the story poignantly reminds us in the twenty-first century that for three thousand plus years, people have known that walls cannot guarantee their security. Nevertheless, President Trump continues to push aggressively for building a wall on the southern U.S. border, a wall that will, in his words, “stretch from sea to shining sea.” Trump used “Build the wall!” as a highly effective campaign slogan, repeatedly promising to force Mexico to pay for the wall. Trump, inadvertently, was correct. Mexico is paying for the wall. That is, Mexico is footing the

Daring to walk on

Recently, I attended a concert consisting of only Beatles’ music. What struck me as I listened to two hours of their music was how pervasiveness the theme of loneliness was. Some subsequent research taught me the evolutionary value of people feeling lonely, that loneliness is a serious health threat, and that, as often heard without documentation, loneliness is on the increase: Evolutionary psychologists say the lonely feeling developed to alert humans—social animals who rely on each other to survive—that they were too close to the perimeter of the group and at risk of becoming prey. … Researchers at Brigham Young University studying the correlation between social relationships and mortality did a 2010 meta-analysis of 148 studies encompassing more than 300,000 participants. They found loneliness was as strong a predictor of early death as was alcoholism or smoking 15 cigarettes a day, and it was a stronger predictor than obesity or a sedentary lifestyle. The rate of lonel

Jesus’ baptism by John the Baptist

One test that biblical scholars use to determine the historicity of gospel passages is whether the passage would have embarrassed early Christians. If so, scholars tend to accept the incident as historical. They presume early Christians, like most people, preferred to remember what flatters rather than embarrasses. Jesus’ baptism by John the Baptist might have embarrassed early Christians for two reasons. First, John’s baptism, in part, symbolized a person being cleansed or forgiven of her/his sins. Yet many early Christians, advocating what would become the orthodox Christian view, believed that Jesus was without sin. This view, contested in some of the gnostic gospels, is explicit in both the epistle to the Hebrews [1] and parts of our liturgy. If without sin, why would Jesus choose to be baptized by John? Second, John was a political rabble rouser subsequently beheaded by Herod. Yet as Christianity progressed toward becoming the Roman Empire’s established religion, Christian l

The opportunity of numerical decline

Management guru and bestselling author Jim Collins has spent years studying “How Great Companies Turn Crisis into Opportunity” (Fortune, February 2, 2009, pp. 48-52). In doing so, he unwittingly identified three critically important factors for helping the Episcopal Church to reverse its current decline. First, Collins notes that great companies remain firmly attached to their moorings. For example, great manufacturers do not pinch pennies by substituting inferior raw materials. The ecclesial version of this comment is that the basics – great worship, powerful music, reliable childcare, inclusive pastoral care, safe and clean facilities – are non-negotiable essentials. Looking to reverse numerical declines with “quick fixes” borrowed from other liturgical traditions will confuse communicants and ultimately fail. Instead, the Episcopal Church should concentrate on being who it is and doing what it does as well as possible. Skeptics should recall Robert Webber’s book, Evangelicals

Predictions for 2019

In 2018, I did not make any predictions. I’m resuming making predictions for 2019 for two reasons. First, people who do not learn from the past are widely thought to be condemned to repeating the past, not only those things they got right but also those things they got wrong. Reviewing predictions made a year earlier offers at least a limited opportunity to learn from the past. Second, making predictions for the upcoming year orients my thinking to the future. The past is fixed. The present is happening. The future, however, is at least partially undetermined allowing individuals to exert some measure of influence over what happens. This possibility of effecting the future probably explains the popularity of New Year’s resolutions. So, here in no particular order are my predictions for 2019: ·        US stock markets will fall more than 20% from their 2018 highs. The drop will result from a weakening global economy, trade wars caused by the US and other nations raising tar