Saturday, April 04, 2009

Friday, April 03, 2009

Why Did Obama give the Queen an iPod?

Because she was already using the royal Wii.

Get it? Pluralis majestatis?

Oh forget it...

Evangelicals and the Housing Bubble

The NY Times recently hosted an analysis that “found that during the last two housing booms in the United States, regions with high concentrations of evangelicals saw lower gains in home prices and less volatility than similar regions with fewer evangelical residents.”

They've taken into account that rural areas are likely to have more evangelicals. And the as-yet-unproven assertion that evangelicals are lower-educated and less-payed than non-evangelicals - the results weathered both challenges admirably. The bottom line is found in this observation: “unchecked greed and speculative frenzy are seen as undesirable in the evangelical community.”

The next time some incredulous soul says that it doesn't matter what you believe, or that theology is just a head-game with no real-world implications, point to this and take heart. When the American empire crumbles, the City of God will go on.

Salt & light, people. Go be it.

Thursday, April 02, 2009

Ministers of Molech

In case you're wondering why the Episcopal Church USA is shrinking at an alarming rate, you might want to check the, “sermons” of the woman they just elected president of the Episcopal Divinity School at Harvard. Katherine Hancock Ragsdale has lots to say about her favorite axe to grind - abortion. (After serving nearly two decades on the national board of the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice the board of NARAL Pro-Choice America, she'd better.)
When a woman finds herself pregnant due to violence and chooses an abortion, it is the violence that is the tragedy; the abortion is a blessing.
PLEASE NOTE, less than 1% of abortions are sought for rape (and most of the incest cases are covered up by the abortion industry)! You'd think a policy-wonk would know that. Oh well...Romans 1:18-23, I suppose.
When a woman finds that the fetus she is carrying has anomalies incompatible with life, that it will not live and that she requires an abortion – often a late-term abortion – to protect her life, her health, or her fertility, it is the shattering of her hopes and dreams for that pregnancy that is the tragedy; the abortion is a blessing.

When a woman wants a child but can’t afford one because she hasn’t the education necessary for a sustainable job, or access to health care, or day care, or adequate food, it is the abysmal priorities of our nation, the lack of social supports, the absence of justice that are the tragedies; the abortion is a blessing.

And when a woman becomes pregnant within a loving, supportive, respectful relationship; has every option open to her; decides she does not wish to bear a child; and has access to a safe, affordable abortion – there is not a tragedy in sight -- only blessing. The ability to enjoy God’s good gift of sexuality without compromising one’s education, life’s work, or ability to put to use God’s gifts and call is simply blessing.

These are the two things I want you, please, to remember – abortion is a blessing and our work is not done. Let me hear you say it: abortion is a blessing and our work is not done. Abortion is a blessing and our work is not done. Abortion is a blessing and our work is not done.
Did you catch that. It's not that she doesn't want to impose her morality on someone else. It's not that she sees this as a tragic consequence of living in a fallen and unjust world. No...abortion is - in her words - a blessing.

Well...isn't the Episcopal Church blessed.

I really appreciate how she ends it:
God bless you all.
Don't you mean to say: “God abort you all.”

EDS trustee, The Rt. Rev. M. Thomas Shaw stated in a press release, “I am thrilled with the appointment of Katharine Ragsdale as the president and dean of EDS. She brings a wealth of small parish ministry to her new position and it is critical that the new president and dean be able to train and form parish priests for the growth of progressive parishes across the country. She brings a wealth of experience, talent and creativity to this new position.”

Small parishes, indeed. Ms. Ragsdale most recently served as vicar of St. David's Church. For non-Anglicans, that may sound impressive. But you need to understand what it means to be a vicar. Vicar - a shortened form of vicarious - means someone who stands in place of the bishop. Since the bishop is responsible for all ministry within his diocese, a vicar is sent when the representation does not need or cannot support a rector (viz, a full-time priest). For instance, a campus minister can be a vicar - even though it's often a full-time job. Other public but non-parish functions can have a vicar. But when a vicar is in a parish setting, it is for one of two reasons: a) the church is a mission / plant and cannot yet support a rector; or b) the church is in such steep decline that it can no longer support a rector. Care to geuss which category applies to St. David's?

A telling article from the Boston Globe uses words like “tiny.” They had this to say: “Ragsdale's parishioners love her, aside from a few who have left because of her politics...”

Aside from being incapable of teaching seminarians how to grow a church,based on her practical experience, she's not capable of teaching them any academic subject either - seeing as her own doctorate is the professional vocational degree, the Doctor of Ministry (abbrev. D.Min.). Not to DMin-ize the board of trustees, but...srsly? Were all the PhD's taken? I mean...this woman is being put forward as the president of a seminary that is affiliated with HARVARD UNIVERSITY (not to mention Episcopalianism...the Cadillac of progressive Americanity). Is she expected to be taken seriously by the scholars in the religion department? Or by fundraisers?

Wow....well, at least she'll be eager to admit this guy for study.
Yes... I know he's joking.

BTW - I was going to post this yesterday, but I didn't want anyone to get it confused with a National Atheist's Day prank. (Psalm 14:1)

h/t Reformed Pastor and MCJ

Remembering John Donne

“The Scriptures are God's Voice, The Church is His echo.”

John Donne 17th C, commemorated this past Tuesday.

Almighty God, the root and fountain of all being: Open our eyes to see, with your servant John Donne, that whatever has any being is a mirror in which we may behold you; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Fundamental to serving God in the Church is an acceptance of the authority of Holy Scripture. Perhaps the choice of the opening word “fundamental” seems ill advised, but I am not talking about biblical literalism - which is opposed to the Reformational hermeneutic of grammatico-historical analysis - but about the fundamentals of our faith. Without a firm foundation on God’s self-revelation in Holy Scripture; in God’s word, and in the Word made flesh, Christ Jesus Himself, there are no fundamentals and no place to stand. The two are linked together in my mind, because they are linked together in the mind of Jesus who came “not to abolish the Law or the Prophets; …but to fulfill them” (Matthew 5:17).

Neither am I talking about simplistic proof texting, yet the texts are indeed important. There is such a thing as biblical theology, and both Jesus and Paul, and the other New Testament writers model that for us in their treatment of the Old Testament. From a classic Anglican position we also go back to the biblical theology of the Early Church Fathers. The Lord warns us in Isaiah that if we are not firm in our faith, we will not be firm at all (Isaiah 7:9b). There is no firm foothold, no possibility of establishing “fundamentals” if you take your stand on the quick sand of the world and human philosophy.

The fundamentals of the faith are first of all reflected in Holy Scripture itself, and then secondarily, in the writings of the Fathers. There is no argument there over what the fundamentals are. True, much of the writing of the Fathers was a defense of the faith against heretical opinions that were springing up everywhere. That is the point. There is a difference between what is theologically true, and what is a lie. The lie was always characterized as heresy, or apostasy. You either believe Holy Scripture, or you don’t. There is no valid half-way point.

You either believe the creeds, or you don’t. You can''s say you affirm them as true, only in so far as you can modify their plain (and historic) sense. You either believe...or you do not.

You either believe and respond to God’s call to personal holiness, or you don’t. Thus says the Lord, “You shall be holy, for I am holy” (1 Peter 1:16). If you don’t understand holiness as Scripture and the Fathers understand holiness, you don’t understand holiness at all. There is no real question in the Church today regarding what Scripture, the Fathers, or the Church catholic has always taught, and teaches still, about the fundamentals, or about sexual morality. Morality is after all an essential part of our walk before the Living God.

The question before mainline churches today is simply this: The text says what it says; no-one is really disagreeing, there are no varying interpretations, no one is really disagreeing over what Holy Scripture actually says. The disagreement is over whether or not the texts, Holy Scripture itself, and the ongoing teaching of the Church, are relevant at all. From the viewpoint of the tradition of the Church we believe what has been believed everywhere, always, and by all (The Vincentian Canon - more about that in 3 weeks). What is being said in some quarters today is that those fundamentals, and those moral teaching are no longer relevant in modern society.

Over the last several years bishops and high-placed leaders in the Church have disavowed specific fundamentals. They tell us that the physical resurrection did not happen, that Christ did not die for our sins, and that he is no longer the way, the truth and the life and that it is not true that no man comes to the Father except through him (John 14:6). According to them, it doesn’t matter what Jesus said in John 14:6, because he probably didn’t say it anyway.

Unfortunately there is no common ground between our small group revisionists and the Church catholic. For them, there is nothing that can be discussed on the basis of Holy Scripture. They tell us that the moral teachings of the Sermon on the Mount, the teachings of Paul and Peter on holiness, and the teachings of the Law and the Prophets on these issues, are no longer relevant in modern society. They reject the teaching of both Scripture and the Church and take their stand on sinking sand, on an antique humanism that is already going out of fashion in this post-modern age.

You either build your house on the Rock, or you build your house on the sand. They prefer the sand, probably because in their mind it is closer to the water. “The waters that you saw, where the prostitute is seated, are the peoples and multitudes and nations and languages” (Revelation 17:15). I should probably apologize for the use of that text because certainly in the minds of some The Book of Revelation is almost the very last place we ought to look for a word from God.

The truly relevant question is not what they believe, or don’t believe. The truly relevant question is: What do you believe? Do you stand on solid ground, or do you stand on sinking sand? These questions are not a matter of airy-fairy theological debate. They are in fact questions about life and death. A seminary professor of mine taught that miracles didn’t happen, that the physical resurrection of Christ did not happen. So what!?

The so what happens when their students go to a parish and undermine faith in the resurrection, and in so doing destroy the faith of a woman who was dying of cancer.

The so what happens when we hear teaching on “Situation Ethics” - that it doesn’t matter what you do as long as you do it lovingly - and see it lived out. Clergy begin to say that premarital sex is perfectly O.K. (which happened in the 1960s). That attitude was a contributing factor to the free-love movement of the late sixties and early seventies and has laid countless young people in America vulnerable to a variety of venereal diseases, including HIV/AIDS - not to mention the broken hearts, shattered lives, and destroyed families left in the path! Paul calls sex before marriage, “fornication.” Why? There are after all several very valid reasons.

As Christians we believe that “The Scriptures are God’s Voice, The Church is His echo.” We believe it, in part for some very practical reasons. The teachings of Scripture guide us on our journey preserving our mental and physical health, preserving the integrity of our families, and leading us to the Door to Eternal Life, Christ Himself, The Living Word. Jesus Himself was well aware of the antipathy people had towards His teaching and asked “Do you take offense at this? … The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life. But there are some of you who do not believe” (John 6:61-64). The direct result was that many of his disciples turned away and no longer walked with Him. The question is: Will you walk with Him? Peter’s response was this, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life” (John 6:68).

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Food and Sex

This is from today's AP:
GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. – The West Michigan Whitecaps say they have no plans to put a warning label on an enormous new hamburger they're selling this season — despite a vegan advocacy group's request to do just that.

Susan Levin, a staff dietitian for the Washington-based Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, sent a letter to the Grand Rapids minor-league team on Tuesday. She's asking that the 4,800-calorie burger be labeled a "dietary disaster" that increases the risk of cancer and heart disease.

The 4-pound, $20 burger features five beef patties, five slices of cheese, nearly a cup of chili and liberal doses of salsa and corn chips — all on an 8-inch bun.

Whitecaps spokesman Mickey Graham says the burger is a gimmick that's being promoted as a very unhealthy menu item.
Here's the warning I suggest:
WARNING: May cause people who think that women have a right to kill a baby to say that you don't have a right to know how heart-stoppingly delicious this burger tastes.
What kills me is that we've turned food into the new sex. Can you imagine the outrage they would have if we asked for warnings on miniskirts? Oh the moral indignity they have when we "puritanical prudes" take offense at the sexualization of our daughters when we complain about the toys they make and the clothes they produce. (BTW, modesty is never really out of fashion.)

(Click on that pic to enlarge - or just take my word for it: they are marketing this as appropriate clothing for a 12-18M and 18-24M old girl. And that's not even the "thongs" I've seen in WalMart!)

Think about it. When was the last time you were accosted for a consumer choice (whether it be a car, an item of food, a television from your local big-box chain store, your pharmaceuticals)? Or maybe not accosted, but scolded by the news reports?

Now...when was the last time you heard people being scolded for having serial sex partners? I remember watching Oprah and Jerry Springer one day. On Oprah, Amy Dacyczyn a.k.a. the Frugal Zealot was talking about wearing second-hand bras and socks and shoes. The audience was totally grossed out - gasping at the disgustitude of this woman. Meanwhile, on Jerry Springer, you have a guy who is sleeping with his girlfriend, his girlfriend's sister, and her cousin. Plus he'd just been caught with the neighbor. And nobody found that "gross." (Oh yeah...he was also jobless, but the men in the audience were hooting him up as though he were somehow a male idol. American idle is more like it.)

We're forging a new set of purity laws in this country that will turn us into Pharisees - hypocrites who make a big deal about paying your mint and dill and cumin tithe, but ignoring the weightier matters of the law. Paul - who had been rescued from hypocritical pharisaism - saw the danger and warned Timothy that in the later times, people will devote "themselves to deceitful spirits and teachings of demons" and "forbid marriage and require abstinence from foods that God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and know the truth."

(Those who are undermining the intimate ties between sex and family life - marriage and procreation of children - are making marriage a burden, and thus forbidding it.)

Priorities are shifting...but this is nothing that we - the Christian Church - have not faced before. Perhaps we are in the last days of the American Empire. So be it. Read St. Augustine's City of God where he talks about what it means to live as the church apart from the Roman Empire. We'll figure it out...and maybe even see a new era of Christendom from our missionary activities.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

The Theology of Accomodation

We need to be reminded that it's not just a "liberal" thing... it's a "sin" thing. None of us are above it.

Thanks, Naked Pastor!