Friday, July 31, 2009

No Matter Who you are...

At St. Marks, no matter who you are or where you are on life's journey, you really will be welcome!

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

The United Church of Christ

No matter who you are or where you are on life's journey, you are welcome here.

Wednesday Musings

I will continue on my theological journey with John Calvin, but I wanted to ‘muse’ today.

Brett Favre has decided to stay retired. It is so fitting and awesome that he will not be quarterbacking the Vikings against the Packers in Green Bay. My fear was that he would tarnish the love Packer fans have had for him over the years. He has taken a massive amount of punishment as an NFL quarterback and it is better to leave, now, while he still can leave with some semblance of health.

I am wondering about Dr. Conrad Murray and if he should be charged with a crime administering the drugs to Michael Jackson. I can make all sorts of ethical arguments and professional arguments on why he should not have, but I’m not sure there are many legal arguments against this. He was paid by a patient who requested a legal drug be administered for a medical problem. Lord knows that more than one physician has administered a drug to a patient who then died from that drug. It is often impossible to know how drugs are going to interact with people and when powerful medication enters the scene, things can happen. Unless Dr. Murray intentionally administered a dose with the intention of killing Michael Jackson, I do not see a crime here. There may be malpractice or something like this, but criminal, I doubt it. It also can create a dreadful precedent. Physicians vulnerable to criminal prosecution in the case of drug interactions.

A couple of thoughts on two sports figures.

The first controversy is that Michael Vick is going to be allowed to play this coming season. Some people are outraged, but I think this is a good thing. What Vick did was heinous, without a doubt. He has spent time in prison however, and this conviction, loss of playing time, loss of endorsements, has cost him an estimated $100,000,000.00. The man has paid for his crime and from my perspective, grace needs to be shown him and him given an opportunity to play again.

On the other hand, they are thinking of removing the lifetime ban on Pete Rose. Pete Rose bet on baseball while he as a manager. Unlike Vick, whose crime had nothing to do with football, Rose was gambling on baseball while actively part of the game. He was a great player, without a doubt, and had he not done something to disgrace himself while IN the game he was part of, he should be in the Hall of Fame. He, in my opinion, excluded himself from baseball forever. Unlike Vick, whose livelihood is on the line, and who has to prove himself on the field of play, all there is for Rose is an opportunity to be honored. It is an honor he does not deserve.

Colin Powell had the best line about the story of the police officer and the Harvard professor. “Adult supervision” was needed. That is the case so very often, isn’t it? I suspect that we have been guilty of needing adult supervision from time to time. I know I have. It is a reminder that losing one’s temper generally has consequences.

A 24 year old woman in Mississippi car-jacked a car and drove to an RV dealership to hold them up telling the people in the RV dealership that she had a gun. She told employees she had a gun and demanded money. The employees did not believe the claim and restrained her until officers arrived. As she was dressed only in a bikini that left little to the imagination it was obvious that she was not carrying a concealed weapon. Police said the suspect appeared to be under the influence of drugs or alcohol. She is in the current lead for dumbest criminal of the year award. This kind of brilliance does need to be recognized.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Calvin 1

Calvin Part 1

I have been doing some reflection on the growing sense of Calvinism we are seeing within Protestantism these days. Is this a good thing?

I decided to reflect on this a little and I want to start with some basic premises behind Calvinism and some of my thoughts on the subject. As a point of reference, I am not a proponent of Calvin so what I write may be somewhat biased.

To begin this, however, one thing needs to be stated. There are all sorts of theological frameworks in which people work. There are many theological vantage points that have a great deal of substance to them and many of them differ from each other in significant ways. Many of these frameworks, however, enable people to develop a relationship with God and ought not be trivialized. They do need to be seen, however, as theological frameworks which are not sacred in and of themselves. They are simply means of interpreting much greater truths.

In reviewing Calvinism, in its most basic form, there are five basic principles, often given the name TULIP. I’m going to reflect on each other.

In words from

T: This usually stands for "Total depravity:" This is often mistaken to mean
that humans are all hopelessly, intensely sinful. Actually, it means
something quite different: as a result of Adam and Eve's disobedience to
God -- the Fall of Man -- sin has extended to all parts of every person's
being: "his thinking, his emotions and his will."

Sometimes, this has been called "Total inability." This is the concept that it
is impossible for the ordinary "natural" human to understand the Gospel's
message. They are spiritually helpless. First, God must first decide to
intervene in the form of the third personality within the Trinity, the Holy
Spirit. Otherwise, the person is lost forever.

Calvin’s point is that not everything every person does is driven by their depravity. This would make people unable to do anything good and worthwhile. His point, however, is that this depravity (his word, not mine) or sinfulness, touches on each portion of a person’s life. The writers point out examples of ‘thinking, emotions, and will.’ It is not that our thinking, emotions, and will are totally sinful, but that sin and human weakness touch every part of our being.

Often one of the differences between much of Roman Catholic theology and Protestant Theology is the nature of humanity. From my understanding, Roman Catholic theology teaches that humanity is basically good, but sinful; Protestant Theology teaches that human nature is essentially sinful with people’s goodness coming by the grace of God. While these appear to be opposite, they ultimately end with the same idea. People have goodness within them and people have an inclination to sin. Both are present in everyone all the time.

In essence, I’m not sure I am particularly comfortable with John Calvin’s words, total depravity, but the point is well taken.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Monday Musings

Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates and police Sergeant James Crowley had a memorable meeting and are now probably going to the White House for a beer. The original 911 call did not mention race so any racial overtones that might have been raised took place at the scene with a lot of shouting. In the midst of all the shouting, I strongly suspect that we have a story of two incredibly good men with great reputations having about the worst possible meeting imaginable. I would venture a guess and say that neither of them wanted things to turn out the way they did. I also suspect that they will come together and teach the world a lesson about what took place as they are both fine individuals. They teach us a lesson that even the best of us have bad days and meltdowns.

President Obama, I think, might have also learned a lesson about speculating in front of an open microphone. When he began his comments with not really knowing all the details, he should have stopped right there. Once the word ‘stupidly’ came out of his mouth, that was going to be the center of the story.

The Octo-Mom signed a television deal for ‘reality television’ starring her children. Why do I fear that her children, much like the Gosselin children, are going to end up being ‘stars’ in a horror show that will be their lives. I am long passed believing that either of the Gosselins have their children’s best interests at heart. Kate may have an inkling in that direction, but only an inkling. Jon is too busy going on dates with crazy girls to worry about much else. Of course, there is some major money involved...

I have been a lifelong New York Mets fan and the Mets are terrible. Willie Randolph took it in the neck last year and it was ‘his’ fault that the Mets were not playing well. He is gone and they are far worse. They need to fire EVERYONE in their front office and start over.

I watched some of the confirmation hearings for Judge Sonia Sotomayor and they were incredibly uninformative. Her responses were not much different from Justices John Roberts and Samuel Alito though, one suspects, they will vote contrary to each other. No one in their right mind is going to ever really answer a question on these confirmation hearings but they have them anyway. Ugh. I think that if I lived in Alabama, however, and my Senator was Jeff Sessions I would like to crawl under a pregnant ant and hide. It is rather sad that we have such a collection of intellectually challenged folks in Congress. Ugh.

Erin Andrews has reminded us that there are still major gender problems in the nation. She is a very attractive woman who is a sports reporter for ESPN. She was filmed, through peepholes, at multiple hotels walking around naked in her hotel room. It is most interesting to see responses.

First, one person was saying that she ‘deserved’ this because she was walking around naked in her hotel room. We shouldn’t even know what she wears or doesn’t wear in the privacy of her hotel room let alone judge her for it.

Secondly, the only places that I saw ‘blurred’ photos of her was on Newscorp, most notably Fox News and the New York Post. It was disgraceful. This woman’s privacy was completely violated.

Sadly, the taping of her is not illegal in many states. Despite the fact that her privacy was completely violated and she is subjected to humiliation around the country, it is dubious that criminal charges will ever come forward. I do hope that I am wrong. Erin Andrews is a competent sports reporter and she deserves far better than she has received.

I am doing some research and teaching a class on the New Calvinism on Sunday. I will, hopefully, write something about this.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Jimmy Carter Leaves His Church

Jimmy Carter left his church after many years because he cannot abide by the rampant sexism in the Southern Baptist Convention.

For those who discriminate against women and blame it on God, his words are a firm rebuke which, interestingly enough, has barely been reported.

This Day, 40 Years Ago

This day, 40 years ago, July 20, 1969 the first people set foot on the moon. Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin departed "The Eagle" and walked around on the moon.

I was 14 years old and watched in live on television.

Many years later I met Neil Armstrong at the funeral of a dear friend of his parents. He came back to his hometown of Wapakoneta, Ohio to attend the funeral of this very fine woman. I was officiating at the funeral and was quite honored to meet him. He grew up at St. Paul United Church of Christ in Wapakoneta and, years later, I spent 11 years as the Pastor of that congregation, so I heard a good deal about his 'growing up' years from people who knew him in his youth.

Neil Armstrong was, and is, a very quiet, very private, very decent, very intelligent, very courageous person. He was the first person on the moon and he set the pace for all the others. He could have gone off the deep end and we could be using all sorts of products he chose to endorse and listened to him on all sorts of subjects or been to a "First Man on the Moon" theme park or some other foolishness. Except Neil Armstrong did not exploit what he did. He was an astronaut who was doing his job, and one of many who was responsible for landing on the moon. His quiet dignity is something that ought to always be treasured.

In the news footage remembering Walter Cronkite, two images stand out. One was the sheer pain of announcing the death of President Kennedy and the other was the smiling delight and exhilartion speaking about the moon landing. It really WAS that exciting!!!

Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin, and Mike Collins were literally strapped to their seats in a small capsule on top of a large guided missile----a huge bomb, if you will. They were catapulted into the sky and travelled at 66,000 mph to the moon. The calculations to get there were done by hand (they hadn't yet invented the calculator) and an error of 1 degree would mean that they would have been lost in space forever. The moon, which is about a quarter of a million miles away from the earth, is a target that, with that distance in mind, would have been difficult to hit.

The astronauts were incredibly brave and brilliant minds led them to their destination. They were able to photograph the earth from a distance and an angle and a view never seen before----reminding us how small our world is in comparison to the universe.

It was a great a momentous day in the history of the United States and a day that, I think, is worth remembering.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Mike Lupica's Column

I find myself very much agreeing with Lupica on this column. I know a lot of people will focus on Lupica's comments about the gun. That's a political statement that you can agree with or disagree with. To me, the crux of what Lupica is saying comes in these words:

That this pillar of his community and the pride of Mount Olive, Miss., was another guy in sports who thought women are supposed to be perks of the job.

How often have we seen this? Men abuse girls and women in sports and think there are no consequences? Star athletes who have never been accountable for any of their misdeeds end up tragically facing something far worse than they anticipated?

Lupica's column says it well:

Friday, July 03, 2009

Top Ten Reasons Sarah Palin Resigned!

Top Ten Reasons Sarah Palin Resigned

10. She was jealous of all the attention Governor Mark Sanford was receiving.

9. She was so excited about beating Rod Blagojevich for the Sitting Duck Award she figured this was a great time to cash in on her status.

8. She was jealous of all the attention Carrie Prejean was getting so she wants to run for Miss California in the Miss USA pageant next year.

7. She wants to host her own late night talk show opposite Letterman and tell jokes about him too.

6. She couldn’t think of any other way to get on the news tonight.

5. She got confused with her dates and got April Fool’s Day and the 4th of July mixed up.

4. The midnight sun made her a little goofy.

3. She wants more free time to go flying with Putin.

2. She was jealous of all the attention Michael Jackson was receiving.

1. They told her that as the Governor of Alaska she was not allowed to live in Hawaii.