Speaking before the National Prayer Breakfast this week, President Obama used the opportunity to deliver a professorial warning. Referring to ISIL/ISIS/Daesh and describing them as “a brutal, vicious death cult …,” the President condemned their “unspeakable acts of barbarism” in the name of religion. Then, he continued: “Lest we get on our high horse and think this is unique to some other place, remember that during the Crusades and the Inquisition people committed terrible deeds in the name of Christ.”The National Prayer Breakfast (and its associated events) is an annual event that dates back to 1953. This year’s breakfast drew dignitaries from far-off places around the globe as well as many high profile Washingtonians. Overall, the event draws some 3,500 people of various religious affiliations – as well as non-religious individuals – to a ballroom at the DC-based Washington Hilton Hotel for prayer, a shared meal and the usual speechifying. Continue reading “Moral Equivalency & High Horses”
Today is a day for sober reflection. No matter how often I interact with people from all walks of life who are suffering through various challenges in life, the question invariably crops up: Why? and just as often, Why, God?
It’s an understandable question, almost as natural to our humanity as breathing. In some respects (no matter our age), we are like three-year-olds investigating a complex world we’d like to understand. Asking Why? is our common standard that (hopefully) leads us to understanding.
Why is the sky blue? Why do dogs let their tongues hang? Why do I need cash when you have a credit card? These are the kinds of questions children tend to ask, but in our own way, we adults express an identical inquisitiveness, though we often do so with guarded sophistication … for fear of being perceived as ignorant.
Reminiscing with my mother today (via phone), I was reminded of the long-ago world she and my dad shared. As their world had convulsed from war to a tenuous peace, they began their life together 69 years ago this week.
I had asked her a couple questions about my dad who, when I was a young child, attended Bible school. This would have been after World War II, after he’d married my mom and after their first two or three children had arrived.
To put Dad’s hunger for education into perspective, it’s important (I think) to mention he didn’t graduate from high school. (He attended one year before quitting.) Instead of further schooling, he chose to take a job driving a truck and delivering furniture.
But following the war, he had renewed motivation to expand his understanding of the world. Having traveled to Europe (while in the Army), having seen and experienced horrible things, he was – on his return – an eager student whose further study was the natural result of witnessing the tumult faraway and having a curious mind that hoped to sort out some of what he’d seen. Continue reading “Practicing Peace In An Age Of War”
Returning to Job today, chapter 14 brings us one-third way through the book. (To view earlier posts, they begin here and continue on successive Sundays.) With this chapter, Job continues his response … but he’s no longer addressing his friends. He has, in fact, realized they already have their minds made up (about his perceived sin), so instead, Job directly addresses God as his friends listen in to the conversation.
Because Job has ceased defending himself to his friends and is speaking specifically to God (i.e. prayer), the intensely personal nature of this chapter is evident. Not a thing that Job recites is unknown to God, yet Job still schools the Almighty on the realities of humanity. Even as he speaks to God, he’s reminding himself that life is hard … and then you die.
Continue reading “Job: Life Is Hard . . . And Then You Die”
Let’s take an excursion into Imagination Land today! No, we won’t be delivered on board a red Grumman sea-plane, we won’t be greeted by either Ricardo Montalbán or Hervé Villechaize, and this will not be our once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to explore the fantasy of our choosing. (I’m much too practical for such a distraction as that.)
What we will do for a few moments is engage the imagination … yeah, you know that essential part of your brain? The organ you once used to envision yourself as a swashbuckling pirate or a ravishing princess held captive in a tower guarded by sword-wielding savages. Yeah, that brain.
And if it’s been so long ago you’ve forgotten where you put it (your imagination, not your brain), close your eyes a moment and see if you can imagine the Dallas Cowboys actually making it to the Super Bowl – plus, since we’re imagining, you’ve managed to snag tickets in one of the prestigious executive boxes. (I told you to use your imagination, didn’t I?!) Continue reading “Numbering One’s Days”
An interview I read this week (conducted by World magazine’s Warren Cole Smith with writer/professor Bart D. Ehrman) seemed an apt reminder of Job’s struggle chronicled in The Book of Job. With his 2014 book How Jesus Became God, the once-evangelical Ehrman (now an outspoken atheist or agnostic, depending upon which resource is consulted) explains his personal rejection of faith in a way Job might well understand.
On page four of the interview, Erhman notes: “What ended up leading me away from the faith was unrelated to my scholarship. It was dealing with the problem of suffering in the world and why there could be so much pain and misery if God is active in the world.”
A couple interview questions later, Ehrman continues his explanation, expressing contempt for a deity who permits the deaths of starving children and tsunamis that obliterate thousands of human beings in one swoop. His perspective of evil in the world has caused him to reject the overall concept of God. The existence of pain, suffering and evil in our world are ample proofs (for Ehrman) that God does not exist. Continue reading “Pain, Suffering and Evil, Oh My!”
Variously characterized as an “English writer and philanthropist,” “a British playwright, abolitionist and philanthropist,” “an Evangelical philanthropist,” “an educator, writer and social reformer,” poet Hannah More’s name is one with which I was unfamiliar. A contemporary of John Newton and William Wilberforce (among others) and a woman who mingled with many of London’s literary elite, More lived from 1745 to 1833.
With a recently released biography, author Karen Swallow Prior provides a portrait of Hannah More, a cultural figure who engaged her times and challenged the conventional norms of her time, including prevailing attitudes on slavery. The book is Fierce Convictions with the subtitle The Extraordinary Life of Hannah More: Poet, Reformer, Abolitionist. Continue reading “Disperse! Ye Shades of Night”
One of the lead stories of this morning’s news was the monstrous traffic jam in Massachusetts I-93 caused by protesters, arms voluntarily inserted into sand- or concrete-filled barrels, positioned directly in the highway right-of-way reserved for vehicles. At least one report indicated the protesters wished to make a statement about “improving race relations” due to recent deaths perceived to have a racial component.
In the photo above, the white barrel includes this warning: Caution. Moving barrel will cause injury and prevent disengagement. Of course, this message was a subtle warning for law enforcement, a means to coerce officials to take every precaution before resolving the traffic snarl … protect the protesters no matter the costs and delays.
The protester manifestos are available online, but I have no intention of providing any additional web hits they’d love to have, so I won’t link here. In a nutshell, their protests were designed to deliberately shut down the highways leading “from the predominantly white, wealthy suburbs” into Boston. Continue reading “Do Black Lives Matter?”
Buried in my iTunes rotation is a 1986 song by the singing duo The Judds. It’s called “Grandpa (Tell Me ‘Bout the Good Ol’ Days)” and the song became the sixth Number One hit The Judds enjoyed on Billboard’s Hot Country Singles charts. They earned a 1986 Grammy for the song, capturing Best Country Performance By A Duo or Group.
The song came up today in my music rotation, and although it’s not one of my favorites, I let it play. As I half-listened to the lyrics, I thought about the nostalgia we often entertain for that mythical period we refer to as the Good Ol’ Days. With this particular song from twenty-eight years ago, Grandpa hearkens back to values from an even earlier era. Continue reading “You Can’t Have It All”
Lately, I’ve been wondering, when did it become okay to kill children? Since Roe v. Wade in 1973, I know at least 50 million legal abortions have been performed in the United States. Yes, they were “legal” based on the standard instituted through the Supreme Court’s Roe decision. Nevertheless, women who sought abortions used to drive to neighboring towns to obtain abortions; they didn’t stand on Main Street with signs and brag about having killed their unborn children.
A woman who had an abortion acknowledged there was a natural stigma about it, supposedly an admission that the procedure was the “only” choice rather than the “preferred” choice. Even politicians adopted the “safe, legal and rare” mantra. Why rare? Because of its moral component! Because having an abortion was thought to be a BAD choice (albeit in their minds a necessary choice, nonetheless)!
I haven’t heard the “safe, legal and rare” (SL&R) mantra in a long time. I think, in part, the phrase fell out of favor because there were those who recognized this specific phraseology carried a negative inference (specifically, the moral component) … and God forbid, any woman who has an abortion should feel shame (or moral condemnation) for taking the life of her unborn babe! Continue reading “Rebranding Despicable”