If you ever visit Masaka, Uganda, and serendipitously meet a boy named Keith Augustus Burton, what is the first thing that would come to your mind? There actually is an infant in the region who bears that name, but if I could borrow some words from the late Michael Jackson, I need you to know that “the kid is not my son!” Then is this just a coincidence? Absolutely not! Well, if it’s not a fluke occurrence, how can it be explained?
Last Friday Arizona became the first state to pass a bill that will allow for-profit business owners to claim a religious exemption in service to customers and treatment of employees. The bill, which would have allowed business owners to refuse to serve gay people and discriminate between genders in terms of pay, was vetoed by the governor yesterday.
I was interested to learn, a few months ago, that some folks in Silver Spring had discovered how many were "slipping out the back door" of the church. It made me think of those European explorers a few centuries back who came back from sea voyages saying they’d discovered a new land, even though that land was occupied with people who had apparently discovered it long before. We out in the congregations have been experiencing the hemorrhaging for a long time. Especially small congregations.
I recently went through a word study of grace in the Bible. In the NASB, the word grace appears approximately 125 times. A good amount of the time the word is used either in greeting at the beginning of an epistle or at the conclusion of an epistle. It happened so often that it almost made me think that God’s grace might be something that only applied to Christians, a concept that only made sense in discussing what God had done for us.
Should all religious communities be periodically assessed? Should they be only assessed in their practice or also in their founding principles? Are the claimed founding principles of a community always biblical or rather are they already an interpretation of the bible, mixed with some cultural conditioning elements? Are these cultural conditioning elements necessarily negative? Are they absolute? How should intrinsic and extrinsic evaluative perspectives be combined? Are continuous evaluations necessarily heterogeneous?
While Georges Polti presents an argument for as many as thirty-six predictable plots in literature,[i] I tend to agree with Foster-Harris’ trinitarian understanding of a single plot that is characterized by one of three “types” of development.[ii] The first two are self-explanatory: “Type A, happy ending” and “Type B, sad ending.” “Type C” is more complex, with the “ending” occurring at the beginning of the narrative, and the explanation provided as the narrative develops.
We spend a lot of time during the Christmas season talking about things that don’t have much to do with what the holiday commemorates. There is certainly a lot of misguided focus on gift-giving and consumerism. Some Christians and television stations are overly focused on a war on Christmas that is not nearly as extensive as they seem to want it to be. The cliché is that Jesus is the reason for the season – and that is certainly true. If we are going to celebrate the coming of the Savior during this holiday season, then it is important for us to understand who Jesus is.
I needn't tell you that it's difficult for a pastor nowadays to find a place to plant his or her feet on the moral questions of the day. I'm constantly struggling with it. I know what my heart tells me to do, what I think Jesus would do. But then there's this institution to which I've devoted my life, an institution in some ways still firmly rooted in the 19th century, that has its own expectations. Most of those expectations are excellent and praiseworthy. Others are difficult to navigate.