Showing posts from May, 2019

Is another American civil war inevitable?

Is another American civil war inevitable? Some people on the Christian right answer affirmatively, and have even been predicting another civil war for a couple of decades or longer. The cause of this impending conflagration? Disputes over abortion. A person’s attitude about abortion often depends upon the person’s belief on when a human life begins. If a human life begins at the moment of conception, then the claim that abortion equals murder of the unborn makes sense. If a human life begins at some point after conception – for example, when a fetus is viable outside the womb – then the claim that not all abortion equals murder makes sense. The very great problem with belief in this instance is that the belief, regardless of when one believes that a human life begins, does not rest upon any demonstrable or provable facts. Life is precious. Albert Schweitzer consistently emphasized that life is sacred. However, one immense difficulty is an irresolvable lack of clarity –

Can Christians Be Catalysts for Ending Tribalism?

Recently, I attended a couple of Democratic Party events in Hawaii. Although I am a member of the Democratic Party, I am on its fringe in terms of participation. The events interested me more from a sociological than political perspective. Political tribalism dominated. For many attendees, the local party functions as an important, perhaps even their primary, community. Few legislators or their staff members attended; none spoke or were key participants. Attendees expressed desires to include shared meals and other social events in the party’s activities. Importantly, participants with whom I spoke sought a Democratic victory in all elections and on all legislative issues. Compromise and bipartisan cooperation were unthinkable. Tribe defined identity, eclipsing concern for good government. The core membership of the Republican, Socialist, Green, or any other political party in the U.S., and perhaps in other countries, is most likely equally tribal. On reflection, the tribalis

Discerning God's presence

General Douglas MacArthur had a reputation as something of a “cold fish.” After World War II, his public relations people came up with an idea to help him improve his image. MacArthur would review a contingent of veterans. In the middle of the review, he would stop and suddenly recognize an enlisted man who had served with him during the war. “It will be a tremendously moving and human moment,” his advisers told him. “Out of hundreds of men lined up for your inspection, you suddenly pick out a single individual, call him by name and recall past campaigns.” MacArthur agreed to the plan. The lucky soldier would be unaware that he’d been singled out for the honor. They searched Army records, found out everything about the fellow, and figured out precisely where he would be standing when MacArthur marched through the ranks. Just to be safe, they arranged for an aide to nudge MacArthur discreetly when he was directly in front of the proper soldier. The plan worked perfectly. MacAr

A starting point for theology

Theology used to be known as the queen of the sciences.   Theology was dethroned several centuries ago because of the growing recognition of the scientific method’s inapplicability to theology. In general, theologians have begun their work from one of two starting points, either implicitly or explicitly. One of those starting points was God.   Theologians working from this starting point presumed that humans could directly apprehend God.   For example, the classical arguments for the existence of God – the ontological, cosmological, and so forth – all rest on this presumption. This starting point requires assuming that humans are able to know God.   Consequently, some religious traditions posit that humans have a soul that is similar in nature to God.   The Roman Catholic Church, for example, teaches that at conception a human receives an immortal soul.   Many other traditions have similar teachings about humans having an immortal or eternal soul.   Since the soul is immor

Choosing the right lens

Recently, I read an article that suggested environmentalism should be a lens through which people view the world rather than treated as one of many issues that warrant attention and action (Nathan Empsall, “ Connecting the environment and the church ”). The rationale for arguing that environmentalism should be a lens is that basically everything (or almost everything) a person does affects the environment. An environmentally responsible approach to life entails asking, “How will this action affect the environment?” Sometimes the answer is easy: throwing away trash creates unsightly litter and inappropriately disposes of waste material; walking avoids creating greenhouse gases internal combustion engines produce; eating less meat supports a food chain that harms the environment less; etc. Often, however, the answer is less obvious. Is the environmental harm of an electric car or of a gasoline powered car greater when one considers (1) the manufacture of the vehicle and all of