When I was in my late teens, my father, who’d been a farmer all of his life, diversified into selling farm equipment. He set up an office and repair shop in town. I had just decided to be a theology major and was going through an especially intense phase of religious life, so I insisted that in his new office he hang a picture of Jesus (Sallman’s head, of course) and have a Bible on his desk, Amazing Facts brochures on the coffee table, and Bible text plaques on the wall.
During my long life, I have felt good with my Uruguayan citizenship. I was born and went to my first grades in school in Montevideo. Uruguay had by then established a democratic and progressive system of government. Its educational system was a copy of the French, and its civic culture had been strongly influenced by the Enlightenment.
I’m not an especially emotional person. But the inauguration of Barack Obama brought me about as close as I am likely to get to being moved by a televised event. It wasn’t the screaming fans or the non-stop coverage of the Obama family’s every twitchthat’s just celebrity excitement, and often pretty shallow. It was the realization that we have taken first steps to move beyond a huge national shame.
“Two hundred and thirty years ago,” Harvard economist Edward L. Glaeser recently declared in the New York Times, “Adam Smith made the case for selfishness when he wrote that ‘it is not from the benevolence of the butcher, the brewer, or the baker, that we expect our dinner, but from their regard to their own self-interest.'”1 (Emphasis mine)
Christians have had an easy time deciding, in truth, what Christianity is about. That is why many types of Christians exist. Many people affirm that there is only one way of being a true Christian: Theirs is the only true Christianity. In my youth, I must admit, I was counted among them, but this way of thinking is one of the many things that I left behind as I matured in the faith.
I am about to make some critical observations about the state of Adventist K-12 education. So before you hand your coats to Saul and gather stones, some explanations.
First, I’m a product of Adventist education, and I owe it a great deal. Adventist education gave me a bigger world than the neighbor friends I grew up with.
Second, I want it to succeed. I am a pastor of a church with a lovely new church school building, and I want to see it bursting with children.
When I suggest that the primary cause of our current economic difficulties is our frequent failure to integrate in theory and practice what Adam Smith (the eighteenth century so-called “father” of capitalism) meant by sympathy and self-interest, I have in mind things like these influential paragraphs that economics Nobel Prize winner Milton Friedman published forty years
On July 2, my fourth grandchild was born in Baltimore. His grandparents immediately made the six-hundred-mile trip to see him and celebrate his birth. Arriving at his home, congratulating the parents, and holding the newborn in my arms was a moment that will remain forever engraved in my memory. The joy of the moment was compounded by the knowledge that he was a healthy baby with a wide-open future. With much gratitude, we thanked God for Danielito. The visit to Baltimore was a historic event in the life of our family.
William Kristol, neoconservative leader and Weekly Standard editor, believes that the time has come to rethink capitalism. “It will be important, over the next four years,” he writes in the November 24 edition of his journal, “to fight to save free-market capitalism from the Barack Obama administration.
In the first years of my ministry, there were two annual events that I dreaded all year long.
One was Harvest Ingathering, which started in the autumn and lasted until Christmas. It meant weeks of driving around to small towns in my rural district, begging businesses for contributions, then convincing my church members to tramp through the cold streets for a few bucks more.
The other was nominating committee.
My wife, Carmen, and I just returned from three weeks in Italyour first visit to that absorbingly beautiful country. There are many reasons to visit Italy, but a Christian can’t help but enjoy it as one of the formative sites in the development of Western Christianity.
We love visiting churches, and Italy has an enormous number of them, in every small town, and concentrated in the heart of every city, all Roman Catholic, of course, and most very old.
I discussed in my last column the overly fearful reaction of some Adventists to the current financial crisis. How do we make sense of it?
Back in 1964, Richard Hofstadter wrote a piece for Harper’s Magazine that has become a classic monograph on political paranoia.1 Hofstadter wrote “The Paranoid Style in American Politics” in the wake of McCarthyism, the founding of the John Birch Society, and the fearful hatred of the civil rights movement that lurked in the Goldwater right.
Although mentally competent citizens of the United States do not have a right to die, they do possess the right to refuse any medical intervention even if doing so results in their foreseeable deaths. Unfortunately, many dying patients needlessly suffer because they don’t know this. On September 30, Governor Arnold Schwarzenneger of California signed into law legislation that I think will help.
I have some anxiety about what’s happening in the financial world right now. After decades of a defined benefit retirement plan, the Church switched the younger of us over to a defined contribution plan. So now most of my retirement is in that erratic stock market, and the rest in my unsalable house.
A church member pointed to the cross on the cover of a Bible I was carrying one day, and asked, “You know what that stands for?”
“The sacrifice of Jesus?” I said.
“No,” he said. “That’s what the Catholic Church wants you to think. It is initial of the pagan god Tammuz. The Catholic Church uses it to keep paganism alive, while people are deceived into thinking it’s Christianity.”
Bless his heart.
Those of us who write about others usually reveal much about ourselves. I believe that Milton Hook does this in Desmond Ford: Reformist Theologian, Gospel Revivalist (Riverside, Calif.: Adventist Today Foundation, 2008). Among other things, he tells us that he is not happy with the Wesleyan heritage that we Seventh-day Adventists share.