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Archive for August, 2009

Thanks to Polycarp for posting this story:

Lutherans begin gay clergy discussion in Minn.

Leaders of the country’s largest Lutheran denomination began discussing Monday whether or not to allow people in same-sex relationships to serve as clergy.

The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, which is meeting this week in Minneapolis, plans to decide whether to approve a proposal that would allow individual congregations to let gay and lesbian people in committed relationships serve as clergy.

Delegates plan to take an early vote on the issue Monday, when they will decide whether to require a simple majority or a two-thirds supermajority to pass the proposal.

My fiancee and I were discussing an aspect of this issue last night though it was in regard to the Anglican Communion and the Episcopal Church. We were discussing the value of unity and whether we should split over issues like homosexuality. I fully acknowledge that there is an inherent value in unity, but I’d argue that there is also a value in separation,  that clear lines of orthodoxy are as valuable as a unified denomination.  The question for me is often whether something counts as sufficiently unorthodox enough to warrant such separation. What do you think?

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I saw this rather humorous advertisement next to some religious articles in Google News.

scientologyThey are apparently proud of the fact that they are the only “major” religion invented by a kook in the 20th century. I’d be curious to see how much they spend spamming through Google. The really sad thing about Scientology, after their moronic theology of course, is that their plan of securing a foothold in society through wooing celebrities has actually worked to some degree.

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From the AP:

INDEPENDENCE, Mo. (AP) – Thou shalt not steal—especially within sight of a convent. Police are crediting a pair of nuns with helping nab a gun-toting man suspected of burglarizing two homes Thursday morning.Around 7 a.m., Sister Catarina glanced out a window of the Sisters of St. Francis of the Holy Eucharist convent and spotted a suspicious man walking through a soybean field. She and Sister Connie headed outside to see if the man was lost or hunting illegally.

The nuns saw the man was carrying a shotgun, boxing gloves and other items. When they began to question him, the man ran into nearby woods.
Sister Catarina gave chase, wearing her ankle-length habit and flip-flops. He got away, but the 49-year-old nun was able to describe him later to police, who made an arrest.

Kudos to these two women. I’m glad the man wasn’t evil enough to just shoot them. I imagine if it gets out how he got caught, his stay in prison would be even less pleasant than normal.

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It is readily apparent to any biblical interpreter worth his or her salt that the social context of a biblical text is an important factor in its interpretation. For a text like Luke-Acts, it is just as important to consider the economic factors as it is to consider the social factors, and in fact they are inextricably linked. It is exceedingly necessary then, if we as present day Westerners are to understand the text, to think in economic terms that are foreign to our experience and essential to those of the writer and audience. Our experience in the West is of a tightly controlled money-based economy that operates off of more or less modified free market principles. Furthermore, our Western economies have created a burgeoning middle class that would be inherently foreign to the writer of Luke and his audience. If we are to get anywhere with the text, we must properly envision a world more sharply divided along the lines of haves and have-nots. The gap between the rich and poor is more properly called an ocean, a nearly insurmountable expanse of social and economic factors that kept the poor at the bottom of the ladder and the rich comfortable. It is almost difficult as a Westerner and moreover as an American to fully envision this world where most people were not just poor, but at or below the amount of income needed to survive. Luke writes to a peasant audience that has clawed its way towards subsistence and often comes up short. These socio-economic factors thus form the backdrop of Luke’s Gospel, which would in my opinion rightly be called a gospel to the poor, the oppressed, and the marginalized.

I intend to talk more about specific factors and principles related to this , but let us briefly look at an example where such a line of thought can illumine a text. Consider the Widow at Nain in Luke 7:11-17.

11 Soon afterward Jesus went to a town called Nain, and his disciples and a large crowd went with him.
12 As he approached the town gate, a man who had died was being carried out, the only son of his mother (who was a widow), and a large crowd from the town was with her.
13 When the Lord saw her, he had compassion for her and said to her, “Do not weep.”
14 Then he came up and touched the bier, and those who carried it stood still. He said, “Young man, I say to you, get up!”
15 So the dead man sat up and began to speak, and Jesus gave him back to his mother.
16 Fear seized them all, and they began to glorify God, saying, “A great prophet has appeared among us!” and “God has come to help his people!”
17 This report about Jesus circulated throughout Judea and all the surrounding country.
(Luk 7:11-17 NET)

A cursory examination of the text might lead one to conclude that what is presented here is a presentation of Jesus’ power over life and a death. Jesus’ action has been interpreted by some as merely a precursor to his own self-resurrection albeit borne out of pity. Yet, if we look closely, and consider the context of the widow, we quickly see that the focus of the story is not her son, but it is indeed the widow herself who is at the center of its meaning. It would be quite easy to conclude that the miracle of resurrection is key to the interpretation of this text, but I argue that it is not. Consider the information we have about the widow: she is a widow, she had only one son, that son is dead. The implications of her situation when considered through the lens of the socio-economic factors of her day were quite dire. On an economic level, she is left without any means of support having no living family and being a woman of some age. On the social level, she has become an outcast, being viewed by her neighbors as cursed by God as a childless widow. With the death of her son, she has become nothing. She has no prospect of a future, and she has become unworthy of the time of those around her. If we consider the level of her degradation, it is no wonder the Lord was moved with compassion to her cause. If we look closely, other than the Lord’s command to the corpse to return to life, the widow herself is the focus of his attention. The supernatural act of her son’s resurrection is not the primary focus of the pericope, rather it is only secondary as the means of Jesus’ true action: overturning the wretched condition of this woman. What is certainly an amazing demonstration of Christ’s power over death is even more a powerful demonstration of Jesus’ care for the poor. With the restoration of breath to her son’s lungs, so also did salvation from that pitiable future come for the widow.

In following posts, we will look at specific examples of important economic factors like reciprocity, patronage, and bartering.

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Try Try again. The hardest part of my summer quarter is coming to a close, so I’m going to try this starting a blog thing anew. Here’s a random tidbit I read about in the news.

HASLETT, Mich. (AP) – Divine intervention? Or just plain luck? No matter what the circumstances, a Michigan church is $70,000 richer courtesy of the Michigan Lottery. The Covenant Life Worship Center and its 25 members in Haslett, Mich. had one of the second-prize tickets in the Lucky 7s raffle held May 4.The $10 ticket was purchased at a convenience store in Haslett, five miles northeast of downtown Lansing. The lottery Web site says the odds of a single ticket winning $70,000 in Lucky 7s are one in 55,556. Michigan Lottery officials say the church will receive the full amount of the prize because it is a tax-exempt group.

Pastor Marilyn Parmelee tells the Lansing State Journal that the prize money will go toward the church building fund, setting up a missionary fund and supporting local community service projects.

Even if the absurd plan worked, what church in their right mind would think such a thing is alright? I am not vociferously anti-gambling or anything, but for a church to squander its resources on lottery tickets is a level of perverse absurdity that reaches critical mass. Here is a handy chart to demonstrate.church funds

If Jim West were here, he might say it is downright depraved!

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