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Showing posts from October, 2019

Pride that goes before a fall

A Hindu priest, rabbi and TV evangelist were caught in a terrific thunderstorm. They sought shelter at a farmhouse. "That storm will be raging for hours," the farmer told them. "You'd better spend the night here. The problem is, there's only room enough for two of you. One of you will have to sleep in the barn."

"I'll be the one," volunteered the Hindu priest. "A little hardship is nothing to me." He went out to the barn. A few minutes later, the Hindu knocked at the door. "I'm sorry," he said, "but there is a cow in the barn. According to my religion, cows are sacred, and one must not intrude into their space."

"Don't worry," said the rabbi. "Come on in. I'll go sleep in the barn."

A few minutes later, the rabbi knocked at the door. "I hate to be a bother," he said, "but there is a pig in the barn. In my religion, pigs are considered unclean. I would feel uncomfortable …

Some musings about bail: Part 2, Why the system is broken and how to fix it

Part 1 of this post presented an overview of the bail system in the U.S.

By all accounts, the present system of pre-trial release and confinement is broken. Too many accused individuals who pose little immediate threat to self or the community sit in jail awaiting trial. Too many individuals who need to be in a secure residential treatment facility for addiction or other mental illness sit in jail or are released, frequently recidivating.

Releasing some accused individuals on personal recognizance or in the supervised custody of another individual or institution works well for a substantial number of arrested persons, e.g., those with steady employment who have no record of criminal activity, non-appearance in court, etc. Increased utilization of monitoring through the use of ankle bracelets might expand the number of accused for whom one of these options is appropriate. Advantageously for the taxpayer, these are the lowest cost alternatives to pre-trial incarceration and therefore wo…

The Bible is a window through which to see God

Two longtime friends were arguing over who knew the most about the Bible. The first finally said, "OK, prove it, you think you know so much. I'll bet you $50 that you don't even know the Lord's Prayer!"

The second friend thought for a couple minutes, and then said, "Sure, you're on. 'Now I lay me down to sleep, I pray the Lord my soul to keep …'"[1]

The first friend was astounded. He took $50 out of his pocket and said, "You sure surprised me. You win!"

Fifty years ago, preachers presumed that their hearers had some familiarity with many biblical passages and stories. That is no longer true. Incidentally, in case you are wondering, the Lord’s Prayer begins “Our Father, who art in heaven.” Survey after survey shows a huge gulf between the large percentage of people who say the Bible is important and the small percentage of people who actually read the Bible, even occasionally. Don’t worry – I’m not going to ask for a show of hands to i…

Some musings about bail: Part 1, The system

A person apprehended for allegedly committing a crime in the United States is, according to the U.S. Constitution, presumed innocent until found guilty by a jury of the person’s peers. The presumption of innocence raises the question of what to do with the accused until his/her trial.

One option is to incarcerate the accused until a court determines the person’s innocence or guilt. Incarcerating all accused persons prima facie violates the presumption of innocence. Human propensity to err constitutes the theological basis of this important legal safeguard against overzealous or corrupt law enforcement officials.

Incarceration is also expensive, for example, costing over $65,00 per year, per person, in Hawai’i. For individuals who pose an immediate threat to the community or to themselves, incarceration or mandated participation in a secure residential treatment program is appropriate. For all others, keeping the accused incarcerated is tantamount to punishing a person legally presume…

How gratitude changes us for the better

The Butterball Turkey Company had a hotline to answer consumer questions about preparing holiday turkeys. One woman called to inquire about cooking a turkey that had been in her freezer for twenty-three years. The operator told her it might be safe if the freezer had been kept below zero degrees the entire time. But the operator warned the woman that, even if it were safe, the flavor had probably deteriorated, and she wouldn't recommend eating the turkey.

The caller replied, "That's what we thought. We'll just give it to the church."[1]

Congregations routinely conduct annual pledge campaigns in the weeks before Thanksgiving, a season that encourages gratitude. Too often, people give God second best, what remains after satisfying all of their obligations and even many of their desires. “The flavor is gone. Give it to the church.”

Hearing the word leprosy almost invariably evokes thoughts of Hansen’s disease, which causes flesh to rot away. Entire appendages – finger…

Increase our faith

A deeply devout Christian woman died. Her son had inherited none of her faith. In his grief, for the first time, he wanted the comfort and strength that only faith can provide. So, he took his mother's glasses, her prayer book and sat in her favorite chair. He opened the prayer book and tried to hear what she heard. He put on the glasses and tried to see what she saw. All to no avail.[1]
We may chuckle at that story, yet at least occasionally most of us wish that our spirituality was stronger, deeper. Similarly, Jesus' disciples approached him and implored, “Increase our faith.”[2]
The early history of Jesus’ teaching about the mustard seed highlights one way to increase our faith. Scholars believe that Mark’s gospel was the first gospel written. In Mark, Jesus teaches his disciples that faith is like a mustard seed, the smallest of all seeds that grows into the largest of shrubs.[3] In Luke’s gospel, as we just heard, Jesus says that faith the size of a mustard seed can relocat…

Celebrating St Francis

This week I will conduct a blessing of animals for the parish where I am the interim rector and for the children enrolled in our parish day school. I value the opportunity to remind adults and to teach children that God loves all of God’s creation, including all animals, whether alive or stuffed (the latter sometimes more popular with young children!).
In an era characterized by diminished protection for endangered species (e.g., expanded permission to drill for oil and natural offshore and in the arctic, rollback of clean air standards, and several attempts to increase coal consumption), celebrating God's concern and care for all life is especially important. Caring for creation is an unavoidable nexus between religion and politics. Whatever one’s political affiliation, God has entrusted humans as God's stewards to care for ALL creation.
St. Francis represents more than a reminder calling us to love and to care for all of God's creation. Theologian Ilia Delio has written…