Monday, March 29, 2010
Saturday, March 27, 2010
That kind of preaching is fundamentalist boilerplate. I was actually surprised that preachers are still using that line. But it does say a lot about how this preacher interprets sin and justice; and I believe his interpretation is the opposite of the heart of God.
As my wife and I drove home from the symphony this evening, she told me of an incident that happened between our children today. The two of them usually get along pretty well, in fact I would say that they enjoy each other's company. They like to play together. Today though, there were some harsh words said and it left one of my children hurt and broken hearted.
As my wife told me the story, I felt my heart slowly sinking. I ached for my child that was hurt. But I was also hurting for the one who said the words. Contentment and happiness are hard to find with words like that embedded inside, ready for use. It crushed me that those words could be said. I hope for so much more.
I wasn't angry, I wasn't wrathful. No one had to step between me and my child to prevent me from doing them harm. Justice is not taking vengeance out on one of my children. My desire for justice is a desire to put things right. That things would be as they should be. That my children would be in a loving, happy relationship. That is when justice is fulfilled.
I think the heart of God broke as he listened to the preacher speak harsh, untrue words to his brothers and sisters.
Wednesday, March 24, 2010
Tuesday, March 23, 2010
Monday, March 22, 2010
Yesterday's health care bill was a big squeeze.
Since then, I have heard joyous elation to enraged frustration.... and everything in-between. I was primarily for the bill, so I realize I have a skewed interpretation.
There are a number of dissenters whose position I can sympathize with. They have technical reasons why they think this is a bad idea. Fair enough.
Then there are the conspiracy theorists who think this is part of a plot that was initiated in the early 20th century. Though annoying, I can't help but feel pity for these folks who are so easily led.
23"Therefore, the kingdom of heaven is like a king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants. 24As he began the settlement, a man who owed him ten thousand talents was brought to him. 25Since he was not able to pay, the master ordered that he and his wife and his children and all that he had be sold to repay the debt.
26"The servant fell on his knees before him. 'Be patient with me,' he begged, 'and I will pay back everything.' 27The servant's master took pity on him, canceled the debt and let him go.
28"But when that servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii. He grabbed him and began to choke him. 'Pay back what you owe me!' he demanded.
29"His fellow servant fell to his knees and begged him, 'Be patient with me, and I will pay you back.'
30"But he refused. Instead, he went off and had the man thrown into prison until he could pay the debt. 31When the other servants saw what had happened, they were greatly distressed and went and told their master everything that had happened.
32"Then the master called the servant in. 'You wicked servant,' he said, 'I canceled all that debt of yours because you begged me to. 33Shouldn't you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you?' 34In anger his master turned him over to the jailers to be tortured, until he should pay back all he owed.
35"This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother from your heart."
Jesus said "with the measure you use, it WILL be measured to you".
Christian.... how do you want your mercy measured?
Sunday, March 21, 2010
Saturday, March 20, 2010
This was the guilt of your sister Sodom: she and her daughters had pride, excess of food, and prosperous ease, but did not aid the poor and needy.
Monday, March 15, 2010
Newsweek makes a bold statement in saying that the number one factor in the educational success of a child is the teacher. There are myriads of studies that refute that, but to be honest, we can find a study to back up almost any proposition we like. So let me bring this down to a personal level.
I have been teaching for over 19 years. My first two teaching jobs were at highly advantaged schools. My previous 6 years have been at an inner-city, Title One (poverty) school.
Let's assume the Newsweek proposition is correct: I am the single largest factor in the success or failure of my students. If I am a good teacher, wherever I go my students should be successful. If I am a poor teacher, wherever I go my students should do poorly.
When I taught at advantaged schools, my students regularly scored amongst some of the highest in the nation. Year after year they performed excellently on state standardized tests.
Now that I teach at a disadvantaged school, my students usually score below the minimum requirement on state testing.
Now remember, I am the lynch pin factor. If I am a good teacher, regardless of environment, my kids should do well. If I am a poor teacher, regardless of environment, my students will do poorly.
If I were conducting this scenario as a science experiment with my students, the first thing I would ask them is: Did we control the variables? Are there other variables that could be affecting the outcome?
Since I have taught in both environments, I can speak to those variables. In advantaged schools, most parents are highly educated; in disadvantaged they are not. Advantaged schools have scores of volunteers; disadvantaged schools do not. The students of advantaged schools start kindergarten 10 times richer in vocabulary than their disadvantaged counterparts – that gap widens exponentially with every year that passes. The children of advantaged families have more opportunities for learning outside the home due to larger disposable funds and higher parent interest. In advantaged homes there is money for tutors and specialists. In advantaged homes, parents are more equipped to help with homework. In advantaged homes there is better nutrition and they are more likely to have set bedtimes and routines. The list can go on and on.
"Generally operating outside of school bureaucracies as charter schools, programs like KIPP (Knowledge Is Power Program) have produced inner-city schools with high graduation rates (85 percent). KIPP schools don't cherry-pick—they take anyone who will sign a contract to play by the rules, which require some parental involvement. And they are not one-shot wonders. There are now 82 KIPP schools in 19 states and the District of Columbia, and, routinely, they far outperform the local public schools. KIPP schools are mercifully free of red tape and bureaucratic rules (their motto is "Work hard. Be nice," which about sums up the classroom requirements). KIPP schools require longer school days and a longer school year, but their greatest advantage is better teaching."
Sunday, March 14, 2010
But isn't it convenient that once again it turns out that the problem isn't us, and the fix is something that doesn't require us to change our behavior or spend any money. It's so simple: Fire the bad teachers, hire good ones from some undisclosed location, and hey, while we're at it let's cut taxes more. It's the kind of comprehensive educational solution that could only come from a completely ignorant people. ~ Bill Maher
Friday, March 12, 2010
To me, people who work toward social justice acknowledge that there are inherent advantages and disadvantages interwoven throughout society. It is not too surprising that the advantaged statistically tend to fair significantly better than the disadvantaged. Also not surprising is the fact that the advantaged would like to leave things just as they are- thank you very much. The goal of social justice is to correct structures that perpetuate the inequalities and to protect the powerless.
To counter the complexities involved in these advantages and disadvantages, oppositional arguments will often try to sift the situation down to: The Government wants to take money from the hard working man and give it to a lazy bum. Who could be FOR that?!
However, there are more facets to life than that. It is a strong human tendency to leverage existing power to take more, more, and more. People with less resources are channeled into positions of having to accept situations that work against their interests. Throughout history, landowners have kept those around them in poverty so as to maintain a cheap and controlled labor force. This history repeats itself in various forms.
I picked up a book in Michigan's Greenfield Village. It is called "The Good Ol' Days - They Were Terrible!" In it, the author describes what working conditions were like prior to contractual agreements and basic laws that protected workers rights and safety. A very sobering read.
I am reminded of David in the Old Testament. He was King over Israel and had everything. Still, he desired the wife of one of his soldiers named Uriah, though the king had many wives already. David knew the only way he could get her was to be rid of him. Killing Uriah would be wrong, so David worked out a scenario guaranteeing Uriah would die in battle. David used his power to leverage the situation, whereby he could get what he wanted, but remain technically innocent.
As Christians have begun to bend the knee more and more to economic systems, we see their ethic changing from justice ... to remaining technically innocent. As they spend myriads of hours listening to the likes of Beck, their contempt and resentment of the poor grows. Their economic conscience becomes numb and the question of how life SHOULD be conducted is replaced with the priority of achieving more wealth. The voice explaining the moral cost fades to a whisper as the Christian population wraps themselves in technical innocence.
In the years to come, will the powerless, the hungry, and the lame find they have to protect themselves from those who should have been their greatest defenders?
He who oppresses the poor taunts his Maker, But he who is gracious to the needy honors Him. Proverbs 14:31
Thursday, March 11, 2010
Monday, March 08, 2010
"Yeah, they try to portray it as good, but it is just paganism and they are trying to trick us."
Here the Christian states that something seems good, but because it is being portrayed by another belief system, that makes it bad.
This was also demonstrated today by Glenn Beck. He warns Christians to abandon churches that focus on "Social Justice". Glenn said:
"I beg you, look for the words 'social justice' or 'economic justice' on your church Web site. If you find it, run as fast as you can. Social justice and economic justice, they are code words. Now, am I advising people to leave their church? Yes!"
Religion can cause people to develop very dubious ethical systems. Good and bad become relative to who is doing it. Loving your neighbor becomes valuable if you are a Christian, but if the same behavior is exhibited by an atheist it becomes "nice" at best and deceitful at worst. God forbid we should think well of the Muslim who loves his neighbor.
Glenn knows this phenomenon personally. Many Christians are "rah-rah" Glenn. Go Glenn go!!
Then they find out he is a Mormon.
Suddenly Glenn doesn't sparkle so brightly.
Saturday, March 06, 2010
I generally like Greg Boyd. I think he has been an important voice when it comes to getting Christians to see that the way they have interwoven Christianity and American politics into a single entity is nothing short of idolatrous.
In the video, I see Greg do what many good-hearted Christians do: go into theological contortions to accommodate Hell. One of those contortions is to suddenly make goodness and right behavior into vague, amorphous notions. It is the only time Christians do this; any other time, they are loud and specific with their opinions about goodness and right behavior. This line of argument does not get made often, and usually the Christian is uncomfortable while they make it because they know it renders any further discussion on ethics completely meaningless.
Hell goes against everything we know about goodness, parenting, love, and forgiveness. The evangelical view of Hell leaves most of Jesus' teachings empty. It is the oxymoron of the faith. It makes a lie of every good thing one might declare about God.
When I watch the video, I see a good man who is trying to make an evil notion fit into his worldview ... because he believes he has no other choice.