Saturday, June 19, 2010

The Reality Deficit

I was listening to a report on NPR yesterday on Pres. Obama doing a ceremony in OH to commemorate the stimulus package. The reporter suggested that people are so worried about the deficit that attempts to advertise the advantages of the stimulus will also attract attention to government spending, which will remind them of the deficit.

I was in my car at the time and wondered what, exactly, the guy was talking about. Guess it's this.

Such is the really stupid stuff of much of our public discourse.

More Harm Than Good?

I have been hearing quite a bit recently, particularly on NPR, that part of the clean-up efforts aimed at saving wildlife covered in oil, are either useless or actually do more harm than good. In particular, studies conducted after the Exxon Valdez oil spill (which was a spill; what is happening in the Gulf is an on-going leak) show that the vast majority of those animals cleaned and released died pretty quickly anyway, either because of the shock of being covered in oil, the shock of the cleaning process, ingesting vast amounts of petro-chemicals, or a combination thereof.

Yet, a story last night on the inherent dangers of trying to save every little bird covered in oil - pointing out that attempting to reach a nest with a bird covered in oil disturbs a dozen or even two dozen nests, wreaking far more havoc than any good that might accrue from cleaning the one bird), had one person interviewed saying that, "No one wants to make those decisions," which roughly translates to, "No one wants the poor little birdies or turtles to die! WE HAVE TO DO SOMETHING!!"

Except, sometimes "doing something" - like the endless complaints concerning the Obama Administration - really amount to bupkus when pressed. Yes, it is quite sad that thousands of animals will die despite our every effort to save them. If we are expending resources in a futile effort to save wildlife, it seems to me that we might better spend that money in other ways, not the least of them being ensuring that the piles of dead animals, the destroyed ecosystem, the destitute shrimpers and other fishermen, the tourist economies that are bereft of any money this summer does not happen again.

I also heard a report, on Talk of the Nation Science Friday, that, in the particular case of the clean-up effort in Alaska, the use of high-pressure hot water to clean the rocky shoreline, ended up driving the oil in to the subsoil; the result is that shallow-water clam beds, an essential part of the tidal ecosystem, will probably never root there again, or at any rate not, perhaps, for centuries.

So, not only are we seriously screwing things up for the next few months; in the process of trying to "do something" to make it all better, we might end up making it far worse long after our great-grandchildren are gone.

Another thank you to BP.

When Nerds Attack

The past week has seen two posts at Crooked Timber (AUGH! can't find the one from last weekend!) on science fiction. I contributed a couple comments on one (the one I can't find, of course . . .) concerning Robert Heinlein, whom I consider the archetypal science fiction author. My comments - that Heinlein, whose public statements and collected works swerve between the merely Randian nonsensical to the scary-quasi-fascism of Starship Troopers and even Stranger in a Strange Land - were met with a mixture of horror and sniffing condescension. I noted that I had read a bit of Heinlein (although certainly not all) and also a biography of the guy, and it was pretty clear that the pretty-face put on him by sci-fi fans was like the hopeful image a swooning teenager puts on his first crush. Calling Heinlein a libertarian is a bit like saying that Ted Bundy had issues with women. In short, Heinlein was a crypto-fascist (who, as at least one commenter pointed out, was a dirty old man before he became old).

Other sci-fi authors aren't or weren't much better. My older brother was a rabid fan, and I was surrounded in my youth with volumes by Jerry Pournelle, Larry Niven, Isaac Asimov, on and on and on . . . Even Asimov's Foundation Trilogy, the one epic sci-fi work I can sit and actually enjoy reading, has overtones that make me cringe (part of that, of course, is how dated it is, particularly the early sections, written when Asimov was a young man in the 1940's).

While I really don't want to get in to it with Alan or other fans of the genre - I know I am biased because of my own experience growing up; I find most of the work insipid, kids who got beat up on the playground a lot making up stories where they are the action heroes and kill the bullies and get the really hot women - there is one thing (admitted - I stole it from an episode of CSI) I should point out to any serious fan. I realize the convention of "hyperdrive" or "warp drive" that allows for faster-than-light travel is pretty much set in stone. Yet, this isn't science or even science fiction. Real science fiction would extrapolate from current science - which most certainly would include relativity. There are science fiction writers who refuse to even entertain the possibility of faster-than-light travel in their fiction, but for the most part even those who are actual scientists - Ben Bova, Asimov, Arthur C. Clarke - usually have it in their stories.

Now, I know that sci-fi is usually about more than the nuts and bolts of science. In fact, one of the benefits of the genre, allegedly, is that is uses the trappings of some alternate place and time to explore contemporary issues and themes. My problem with this particular way of discussing it, however, begs the question of "what literature doesn't explore contemporary issues and themes?" With the possible exception of the formulaic romance novel, most popular, literary, and genre fiction deal, to one extent or another, with some matter of concern. The benefit of science fiction, once you get passed this particular apologia turns out to be, for the vast majority of its fans, the fascination with all the gizmos and other worlds and weird beings they encounter (except for Asimov's Foundation Trilogy, which posits a galaxy where the only intelligent species is humanity; given the statistical improbability of natural selection actually producing a species that is self-aware as human beings and perhaps a few other species are, and also that are capable and willing to produce a technical culture and society, this seems far more realistic than, say, Sagan's galaxy "teeming" with life).

I don't begrudge people their fandoms. I do think that fans of science fiction, however, refuse to consider that much of the genre is anti-democratic, indeed anti-political, and even at times anti-humanistic. Whether the two-sides-of-the-same-coin dystopia/utopia, or simple positing of various scenarios in which, out in space at some future time, human beings do this or that or the other - the social, cultural, and political setting is usually considered irrelevant. When techne has replaced politics, we have entered the realm of the fascist. That is a future I want no part of.

Friday, June 18, 2010

What Theda Said

Read it all. To left-wing critics of the Administration who insist, as they did during the Clinton years, that we need a third party, or at the very least, a more robust left-leaning voice to force the Administration's hand, please remember that this kind of thinking gave us George W. Bush.

One can be critical of the Administration. One can be critical of the President. While it is certainly within the purview of the left to attempt to create a viable alternative to the Democratic Party, or at the very least sit out the election cycle, the results, as Skopcol indicate, will be disastrous for the country. Electing a conservative Congress, at this point, will result in the destruction of the last tatters of our social fabric, even as we attempt to knit it together without their help.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

The Word

We are obliged, therefore, to say that whoever speaks that which is foreign to religion is using many words, while he who speaks the words of truth, even should he go over the whole field and omit nothing, is always speaking the one word.

What follows is hardly original, and it probably isn't interesting. Yet, it needs to be repeated. It needs to be memorized. The Word of God is not the Bible. The Bible is the written, and edited, testimony to the Word of God, who the Bible itself declares quite clearly is Jesus Christ.

At the end of the day, we Christians need to read the Bible, as we do all things, in Jesus Christ (to paraphrase T. F. Torrance). Even as we disagree over trifles like liturgical practice, or a detail in our thinking on the sacraments, we need to be held fast by the reality that the Spirit that gives life to the words on the page (which are, as St. Paul noted, quite dead) is the Spirit of the crucified and risen Christ.

Anything else isn't reading the Bible. Anything else is just crap. Anything that does not give life, that does not bear the fruits of the Spirit, that does not, in the end return our thoughts and our hearts and our lives to Jesus Christ isn't returning to that one word that defines all the other ones.

Turns Of The Law And Time

Among the many ironies of life, the recently concluded court case considering the constitutionality of California's Proposition 8 banning same-sex marriage, the lead counsel for the opposition - arguing the illegality of the law - was former solicitor general Ted Olson. This is the same Ted Olson who argued the Republican side in Bush v. Gore before the Supreme Court, and whose wife was on the hijacked plane that crashed the Pentagon on September 11, 2001.

I have to say that latter moment made me mourn for Olson, whatever his politics. Now that he is on the side of the (constitutional) angels in the marriage debate, one has to wonder if he will say something about his role in putting George W. Bush in the White House. Suppose it doesn't matter. . .

Wednesday, June 16, 2010


Men have never been good, they are not good and they never will be good.
Karl Barth

When St. Paul talked about Abraham in his epistle to the Romans, he wrote that his faith was reckoned to him as righteousness. Indeed, the long exposition on faith in which St. Paul engages in that letter is an indication that, for him, what God wants is a faithful people, a people willing to live such that righteousness - understood most clearly as "right relationship" with one God and one another, including but not limited to the concern for justice and the passion for community - is the result of the their living witness. When John Wesley spoke of going on to perfection in this life, he was saying much the same thing. Our lives, lived in the reality of grace, being held accountable by and to one another for the working out of our salvation in fear and trembling, is nothing more or less than righteousness.

God doesn't care if I'm "good" or "bad". Indeed, one of the first really deep and honest realizations that should come from the life of faith is, for all that God does indeed love me, seeking me out each moment of my life, the life to which I'm led isn't about me. It is about forgetting about myself. It is about putting others first. It is about living in such a way that I, in the late-modern sense of the sovereign subject beholden to none, ceases to exist. My life is about and for God, and for others.

One of the great gifts of the Protestant Reformation is the honest realization that sin is not an act, or a series of acts. Sin is a description of creation separated from God. Even with the new reality inaugurated in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ already breaking in to our world, making of those in Christ "a new Creation", the reality is the old, separate, sinful reality still exists as well. It is grace that cuts through the bond to sin, to be sure, but until all is made new and, as the Revelation to St. John says, God is all in all, that sinful reality exists side by side with the new thing done by God for us.

Our most cherished possession - our sense of ourselves as righteous and blameless before God - comes not from ourselves but through the grace of the crucified and risen Christ. All that flows from the hope given birth by that event still has, until the end of the age, the taint of sin upon it. Our most beautiful words, our most cherished ideas, even the very declarations of faith we make, are sinful.

What sin destroys, grace transforms. What we declare good, grace declares irrelevant. What we offer as a sacrifice, God call a stink in His nostrils (check out some of the Hebrew prophets if you don't believe me).

God asks us, not to be good, but to be faithful. In that faithfulness, we are not reckoned "good", but reckoned righteous - our relationship with God is restored, not through our efforts, but that graced state we call faith.

A Living Faith

Faith must trample under foot all reason, sense, and understanding.
Martin Luther

It would be simplistic to take this quote of Luther's at face value. After all, his collected writings amount to 80 fat volumes in English - lectures, sermons, treatises, occasional writings, even the famed "Table Talk" and hymns. Yet, Luther's opposition to "reason" (he actually called it a whore) was based on the over-reliance on technical reason in the Roman Catholic Church. Without belaboring the historical point, Roman Catholic theology at the time of the Reformation was a baroque castle in the air, bereft (as Luther saw it) of the simple message of salvation by grace through faith, as contained in the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments.

Yet, there is also something correct in this formulation. At the end of the day, after all the theological reflection, Biblical exegesis, and consideration of the history of the Church, if our faith is not a living, breathing thing concerning our encounters with our brothers and sisters, living out love for all creation, it is really not faith at all. This is not to denigrate the life of the mind, or its place in the life of the faithful Christian. It is only to put it in its proper place. Being seized by grace means all of our life is now under that marvelous law of love and freedom. Our faith must seek understanding, but it must be a real, living faith to be understood.

It might just be, for example, that there are all sorts of sound reasons, neatly thought out and considered, as to why one should not become an ordained clergy person, say, or a missionary. A successful career, a happy family, comfort and a good reputation. Yet, if one is responding in faith to the call of God, all those reasons "why not" end up being trampled under foot. I have seen it far too often to deny the simple reality that faith takes all the ways we deny it, laughs at them, balls them up, and throws them away.

Part of the freedom of being a Christian includes the freedom from the dictatorship of all the ways we tell ourselves we need not believe, need not follow, need not live in love toward all creation. A living faith is a faith that is always moving, certainly always reflecting, but also never submitting itself to the dictates of any set of rules that do not begin, "First, love God with all your heart and all your mind and all your soul and all your strength, and your neighbor as yourself. In this is all the Law and Prophets."

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

"God has never needed our defense"

I swing back and forth between understanding and even occasionally approving apologetic language and thinking that it is reflective of a defensive posture toward the rest of the world. I cannot rest easy with the idea that part of the Church's call is to make the claims of faith not just intelligible to contemporary discourse, but compatible with it. Yet, there is also a part of me that understands the pull, intellectually, ethically, even pastorally, of the desire to make of religious discourse something not just sympathetic but recognizable.

In this article (h/t ER), the Rev. J. Bennett Guess, director of publishing, identity and communication for the United Church of Christ, considers the life and language of the Church as it faces the bigotry of so many within its walls toward sexual minorities. Yet, even as he expresses understanding and sympathy toward those folks in the LGBT community who are both hostile toward and afraid of the Church, he also expresses a faithful recognition that the Christian life, the presence of Christ in loving community, is something that can be experienced together in those moments of life where living is most intense. Here, right here, is the breaking in of the Kingdom of peace and love, where the old dichotomy between immanence and transcendence, sacred and profane breakdown. In those moments where we share joy and laughter, passion and commitment, sorrow and even rage together with others, there is the Spirit of Christ, there is the Kingdom he proclaimed as fulfilled in him breaking through.

At the end of the day, it is this declaration of faith - that right here, in the messiness and ambiguity of our everyday existence, the presence of God is real, taking even our most mundane experiences, our most human foibles and limitations, and making of them something holy - that even transcends the apologetic/non-apologetic dichotomy. While I recognize the desire to explain this, I think declaring it, getting the rest of the world to see that, as St. Paul wrote, Christ came so that we might have life and that more abundantly, is the real meaning of what it is to be Church. If we can model this way of living - not worrying about tomorrow, but living for today, in the Spirit of love that unites us to the Son of the Father - as what "eternal life" is all about, the dross and chaff will fall away.

This neither precludes nor negates larger attempts to make the world a place where all human beings can live free, fully human lives. Rather, the faith that sees the beauty and power of interpersonal loving community is forced to share this with the world. Making the world understand that it is God's, and that God asks of us to be together in love and gentleness - this is the mission of the Church. This is who we are called to be, what we are baptized to do.

If more folks lived this out, and made the point that this is what it's all about, we might not need to worry so much about making God intelligible to the rest of the world. If more folks refused to silence those voices that demand better of us followers of Jesus, but listened to their anguished cries for real love and service, we might actually have fewer such voices. If more people just lived this out, instead of demanding that others submit to their all too human authority, we would no longer need worry about whether or not God's Church will live another year, because we would be the living presence of Christ that is the Church.

Monday, June 14, 2010

And Are We Yet Alive?

The meeting of the Northern Illinois Conference of the United Methodist Church began yesterday. Prayers for its successful conclusion. Celebration because Moriah was in a mass youth choir last night at opening worship, video of which can be seen here. She's third from right in the front row, in the blue t-shirt and white skirt.

Like Oil And Water

It seems that the on-going flood of oil from the Gulf floor (again, this is not a spill; this is an on-going leak) has awakened some people to the thought that, hey, the federal government might actually have a role in doing stuff. Except, of course, in this case, what might that be?

Beyond its advisory role with with the states via the Army Corps of Engineers (Louisiana sand berms) and the Coast Guard (dealing both with BP and various states on setting up booms), what is it, exactly, these folks want the federal government to do? Nationalize BP, which is, you know, short for British Petroleum? Use capital it does not possess and expertise it does not have to take over capping the leak? While I still think BP's performance has been horrible, and their plans for mitigating any potential disaster amounts to nothing more than tinker-toys and duct tape, getting mad at the feds, especially the person and office of the President, makes no sense.

I heard a story on NPR this morning concerning what is happening on a barrier island off Pensecola, FL. Residents and even the county commissioner were mad as hell and weren't going to take it anymore. Except, of course, the anger, while certainly understandable, makes no sense. The county commissioner stated that the estimates he was given by the federal government were wrong. Last time I checked, those estimates were actually supplied to the feds by BP. So . . . how is this the President's fault? The oil isn't from a leak caused by the federal government; BP has been neither transparent nor honest from the get-go about the amount of oil leaking out of the sea floor, or its efforts to stop the leak, and there are indications that its successful efforts to put a cap on part of the leak have actually created a situation where more oil is spilling out rather than less.

Again, I have to ask all those people who are demanding the President, or the federal government, "DO SOMETHING!!!" to spell out, exactly, what that might be. Today he visited, for the fourth time, the Gulf Coast. Tomorrow night, he is giving an address to the nation. Those agencies that have relevant expertise as well as legal jurisdiction have been involved from the get-go. Beyond that, the issue isn't federal inaction. The issue is BP's lack of any serious fallback in case of just such a disaster as continues a mile below the surface of the Gulf of Mexico.

Pres. Obama is not someone given to symbolic gestures, photo-ops, or soundbites. While certainly deeply distressed over the situation - he is asked about it every single day, several times, and repeats over and over again that he and his Administration are, quite literally, doing everything they can within the limits of the law - my guess is he is even more frustrated by the fact that a whole lot of people (the press, some parts of the public) are turning to him and saying, in effect, "Make it better." He can't make it better, and it isn't his responsibility to make it better. Even if he were to have the justice department pursue legal action against BP, at this juncture that would be counter-productive.

So, if anyone out there thinks Obama should be "doing more", I am open to suggestions, in particular from those people who, up until a few weeks ago, thought the President was on the verge of marching them to concentration camps because he is a budding dictator, and who also believed that the secret pact between communists and environmentalists was poised to destroy our economy only now, they weep crocodile tears over the environmental disaster going on in the Gulf. Please, I am really curious.

As the crickets chirp, I won't hold my breath.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

One Last Word . . .

My recent obsession with right-wingers is drawing to a close. Yet, I could not offer an opportunity, not taken, for Neil Simpson to give his views without also responding, in a meta- kind of way, to his rather heated verbiage.
And another critic is one of those wimpy, gutless, spineless, passive-aggressive, postmodern girlie men who think they are right but pretend to deny the correspondence view of truth. As despicable as Chuck Currie’s antics are he is still a notch above the philosophical food chain compared to this guy. There are more of course, but you get the idea. So of course I don’t worry about what Chuck and my other theologically liberal critics think.

In declining to comment on my website, he wrote the following.
I also don’t waste time with people who are incapable of or, more likely, unwilling to properly characterize my arguments. Just one example: Your silly ad hom / straw man about me “hating on gays.” Pathetic.(emphasis added)

I have left one final response which I will now reprint in full.
OK, Neil, let’s see. You banned a person from your other website because you said he was “stalking” you. Yet, here is an entire website dedicated almost wholly to a single individual! Oh, you throw in a mention of Jim Wallis and even now, it seems, Bishop Spong. The vast majority of your posts, however, deal with Chuck Currie. I have seen your comments at his website as well, and was both surprised at how similar they are in pattern to so many of our previous discussions, and nodded with a bit of recognition at the sheer welter of comments.

You say I have “made up lies” about you. OK, such as? In the course of our interaction over the years – if anyone looks carefully at the record, I think it’s easy enough to see that I instigated it in a naive but faithful desire to exchange views without rancor – I have been up front with you, I have never once, to my recollection said anything on Eternity Matters, What’s Left In The Church, Erudite Redneck, or anyplace else where we have interacted that is not easily supported by anyone investigating the facts of the matter. Indeed, precisely because the internet happens to be so transparent, lying would be ridiculous.

If you mean, however, as you have indicated, my saying that you “hate on gays” is untruthful, well let’s investigate that, shall we. You state, factually, that there is no Biblical support for same-sex marriage, or even for same-sex romantic love. OK. Yet, you have indicated, time and again, that this means they should be denied equal rights with straight couples in our secular law, that gays are a threat to children, the usual. Anyone, even those who “follow” you, would agree that this is so. Is this “hating” on gays? Perhaps that is a debatable point. Yet, it that adjective that is the heart of the matter. With you there is no debate. No discussion. No interaction. This is your schtick, and I’ll leave you to it. Like with Rev. Currie, however, your accusation is, quite simply put, not supported by any evidence. Remember, it is not up to me, or Rev. Currie, or anyone else to disprove what you claim. It is up to you to prove your claim.

I have a log with over 2700 posts. I offer that as evidence to any interested, or disinterested reader. I also offer comments made at Eternity Matters and any other website where we have interacted over the years. Rather than a summary made by either one of us, I think the whole thing should be presented for anyone to read.

The thing is, Neil, I have never – EVER – been afraid of dealing with you. I contacted you, and continued our previous on-again, off-again discussions because I thought (again, naively) that we could learn from one another. I discovered pretty quickly that you have no interest in learning anything. About anything. Again, that’s fine, too. That’s your internet schtick, and it seems to work for you.

If your accusation of cowardice is directed at my refusal, over the past couple years, to interact with you, well, that’s not so much cowardice as it is plain, old-fashioned common sense. Our interactions did nothing for either one of us, certainly not me. Rather than submit myself to the kind of rhetorical onslaught you seem to revel in, I withdrew. I have discovered a vast array of people that continue to enlighten me, feed my spirit, and with whom I can interact without feeling my blood-pressure skyrocket. Far better.

I wish you well with this website. You certainly have the formula and buzzwords down pat. Your rhetorical strategy is also intact, only your sights, it seems, are trained on far larger targets than little old me. Again, good luck with that. You should remember, however, that stuff on the internet lasts forever. Even stuff that’s been deleted can be recovered. I do what I do without fear, and when I’m wrong – really wrong – why, I’m the first to admit it, and correct my errors. Transparency is at the heart of online interaction. At some point, amidst all the accusations and ad hominem attacks, you might want to keep that in mind.

With that, I consider the matter, and our recent interactions, at a close. What with the move, and far more interesting things on the internet to keep me occupied, I will allow Neil his space to do his thing to whomever finds it worthwhile.

To Whom Do You Answer?

I read all of this short little book yesterday, by the late Dr. James Logan (my seminary academic advisor). Entitled How Great a Flame, it is a consideration of the Wesleyan revival in mid-18th century Britain and what relevant lessons we can learn from Wesley's practice.

The biggest thing that struck me, quite apart from being able to hear the voice of a now-passed mentor and friend as I read his little book, was the emphasis Wesley put upon follow-through. While the numbers of those to whom Wesley preached are certainly questionable - his rough calculations even left his brother Charles shaking his head - they were certainly large; in the midst of preaching, as people came forward expressing a new or renewed faith in the saving power of God in Jesus Christ, Wesley was not content to leave it alone. Based upon his own experience at Oxford, with the Holy Club his brother Charles had started, as well as the Moravian class meetings (which, Logan reminds readers, were actually a short-lived phenomenon in Moravian religious practice), Wesley sought in every place he preached to organize those who professed this faith, whether new or renewed, in what he first called bands, and later classes. Organized around lay leaders picked out by Wesley, these small groups, no more than 12 individuals strong, were to hold one another accountable. They were to gather for study of the Scripture. They were to lift one another up. Monies were to be collected and distributed, first for work in Bristol, then for various other works Wesley had organized. He was not seeking to create a new denomination; rather he was seeking within the fervent of social change in Britain at the time, particularly in the Anglican Church, to bring more and more people to a renewed faith.

Yet, Wesley was quite clear that this faith had to be nurtured. Even more important, it had to be tested. Anyone confessing faith in the risen Son of the Father through the Holy Spirit (lest anyone doubt it, Wesley was thoroughly Trinitarian in his faith) may be a new creation, yet Wesley understood that this was not a singular event, but part of a process. Logan points out that the lay leadership of these classes - who also spent time as itinerant preachers, guided very closely by Wesley himself to keep them from straying in to heresy - had a high turnover, for a variety of reasons. One of those reasons, certainly, was more than likely a falling off not just of enthusiasm for this new-found faith, but a calling out by others to whom they were accountable that their faith seemed not to be bearing fruit.

One point Logan stresses in the final little chapter of this work is that it is important to seek lessons from history without thinking it possible to staple those lessons on to our contemporary scene (something that he knows the Church, in its desperation and occasional ignorance, would be more than happy to do). Yet, this idea of accountability in our faith, of holding one another up and holding one another responsible is one we have lost.

I suppose this begs some questions. Most mainline denominations are wary of lay folks setting themselves up as theologians, for good reasons. This is one very good reason I do not consider myself one such. As a lay member of the United Methodist Church I am not nor have I been given any sanction to teach. I am offering some theological stuff (along with other thoughts) that are wholly my own, and do not reflect the views of the United Methodist Church, Poplar Grove United Methodist Church, or anyone else. Yet, I hold myself accountable to both, answerable to the doctrine of my denomination as set forth in the Discipline of the Church, as well as its ordained and consecrated leaders and baptized members.

Furthermore, I am answerable to any and all readers of good will. I offer my reflections and thoughts without considering them binding on anyone but myself, yet knowing that others have differing thoughts, and seek to be both encouraged and chastened through discussion. In this more direct fashion, my desire for comments is a necessary part of holding myself accountable.

Finally, my hope is that my views conform to the historic teachings of the universal Church, a treasure in earthen vessels to be sure, but one nevertheless necessary to keep me within the bounds of what we Christian preach and teach, and in whose name we minister to all the world. While always seeking to make the faith something vital for people today, one cannot ignore the two millennia of teachings, from the Biblical authors and compilers through the variety of voices that have sought to discern what it is we believe and what this means for our lives. Falling within this tradition, as vague as the word may be and as varied as it actually is, is important.

I am thankful that there are those who listen and respond to some of the things I write. I am thankful that I am not just putting this stuff out in the world thinking I rest upon either my own intellect or of my own accord as I do so. I serve, first and foremost, the God incarnate in the crucified and risen Jesus whose Spirit is life and whose whole being is love. In that name, I serve all those who read these words, doing my own little bit the best I can. I do not stand on my own, but beneath the authority of that great cloud of witnesses who have gone before me and who surround me now, both upholding me and calling me to account.

Virtual Tin Cup

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