Showing posts from February, 2020

Jesus taught character, not rules

Today’s gospel reading offers multiple, important sermon topics: anger, violence, adultery, divorce and oath taking. [1] Instead of focusing on one topic, or all of them (think a two-hour sermon), I want to consider the passage as a whole, equipping you to interpret if for yourself. Christians generally adopt a misguided approach toward this reading, mistakenly seeking to discover specific rules for governing human behavior from God. More broadly, Christians frequently characterize Jewish and Christian ethics as divine command ethics, God issuing a set of commands by which people should live. An interpretation more faithful to Jesus begins by situating the text in its historical context. Jesus’ contemporaries regarded him as a rabbi, a teacher of Judaism, not as God incarnate issuing commands. What Christians regard as “law,” Jews then and now believe are instructions on how to live constantly mindful of God's loving, life-giving and liberating presence. Imagine eac

Why bother with church?

Recently, I attended a free, two-hour training session sponsored by the ACLU (American Civil Liberties Union) on how to advocate for legislation with the Hawai’i State Legislature. Two aspects of the useful session particularly caught my attention. First, the session used technology to connect people gather in four locations (one each on the islands of Oahu, Kauai, Maui and Hawai’i). Sitting in the session, I wondered why more groups, such as the Episcopal Church, do not use similar technology to offer seminars in multiple locations. The technology is available for free. Gathering in multiple locations can boost attendance, as it did for the ACLU. Some evangelical churches already use this type of technology to allow congregations that meet in various locations to worship together and to hear the same sermon. Slow adoption of this technology has unintentionally both limited audience size and restricted groups to hearing speakers locally available. Second, I was among the old

Americans get the political leaders they deserve

Government of, by and for the people – we call democracy – requires that people invest some effort and maybe a little money in elections. This does not happen in the U.S. One reason the founding fathers established the electoral college was that they did not trust the average voter to exercise his franchise wisely. And that was after limiting voting in most places to white, property owning males. Thankfully, the U.S. has extended the privilege of voting to all citizens 18 and older who register to vote. However, that extension of the franchise has not diminished voter laziness. Voter laziness cedes electoral power to monied interests. This is nothing new. For example, in times and places where the rule of law was less strictly enforced, voters sold their vote to the highest bidder (remember machine politics in New York City, Chicago and elsewhere). The two most important ways that a citizen can invest in democracy are (1) to become informed about the issues and candi