Wednesday, August 29, 2012

St. Paul

Something I have learned over the years is that many people struggle with St. Paul. In progressive mainline Protestant churches he is often a lightning rod for things people do not like about Christianity. His letters have often been cited by some to exclude women in leadership positions in the church and to establish hierarchies within families. Paul is seen by many to be harsh and judgmental. He is also often something of a dualist in his approach to humanity. Additionally, his letters often appear to be rather abstract and difficult to comprehend.

Yet, here I am, a progressive mainline Protestant who loves St. Paul. I really do and I preach from the Epistles of Paul a good deal. Often, at least in my opinion, the problems people have with St. Paul can be addressed.

First, the role of women is a sticking point for many. I do not believe Paul was a misogynist. Misogyny is a hatred of women and girls. Paul did not, in my mind, even come close to this. He was, however, a person of his time.

Jesus was not a person of his time. Jesus appeared to women first. In many ways, the primal message of the Gospels is that Jesus was raised from the dead. The first Christian preachers, the first people to share the good news of the resurrection of Christ were women. Jesus was not a person of his time and, frankly, neither was God very interested in the human constructs of the day. It can be argued that the Incarnation, the Word becoming flesh, was a primal message. Again, the receiver of that message was a woman. Women, in the Gospels, took a second seat to no one.

Paul was a person of his time. Women had no rights. Women did not speak in the synagogue. Women were the property of men. Often missed in Paul’s letter to the Ephesians about women submitting to husbands was the command for husbands to love their wives. It was more than romantic love. It was an outright statement of responsibility the husband was being given to take care of and be responsible for his wife’s well-being. His words are, however, in the context of the world he was living in. Paul was slightly ahead of his time by our standards, radically by the era’s standards.

The issue of women speaking in church was not unlike this. Paul came from a tradition where women were separated and silenced in the synagogue. In early Christianity, as some women stepped forward, this was met with great hesitation by people. One concern Paul had was that the women might lead the men astray as the women did not have the same background of information as the men. I wish he had given more say to the women having the ability and privilege of receiving more information, but he didn’t. Sadly. However, Paul was not atypical of his era.

Several things people seem to miss about St. Paul.

His writings were letters to churches addressing specific issues within those churches. The early Christian Church put those letters in the Bible, but Paul was not, in his mind, writing the New Testament. He was merely writing letters to address issues. His responses were and are brilliant. The problem is, however, that we do not have the letters TO Paul that contain the questions he was being asked. We attempt to ascertain those questions with his answers, but we might not always be correct. As a result, those letters may appear to us, to fall short.

Secondly, Paul was brilliant. He studied to be a rabbi under the premier Rabbi Gamaliel, who, in rabbinic terms, would have been the “Harvard or Yale” of his era. Paul was also fluent in Greek and his writings demonstrate a clear understanding of the writings of the Greek philosopher Plato. Paul uses the language of Plato to often explain, to the Gentile world, Jesus’ theology. This was no easy feat and it is often difficult to truly get a grasp on Paul without a working knowledge of Plato’s philosophy. His writings are sophisticated and often elegant and deftly put together.

Third, there is culture. People are products of their time and place. It’s important not to bind them to our time and place and judge them according to our own eras.

Lastly, the writings of Paul evolve. St. Paul, often not noticed by people, changed many perceptions. He became kinder and gentler as he got older. He grew in his faith. I admire that, and love that about him.

This blog today may seem random. Just a reminder to us, however, to not gloss over and dismiss this amazing man and his writings.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

The Unnecessary War Between Science and Beliefs

Science and much of people’s beliefs appear to be at war. The war, however, is mostly one-sided. Science just does its thing and people’s beliefs seem to be attacking science’s ‘thing.’

Congressman’s Akin was actually being honest the other day. What he said was, in fact, his opinion. It is often said that when politicians have this kind of ‘slip of the tongue’ it occurs when they are actually telling the truth----or their opinion of the truth. He was simply guilty of listening to, as S. E. Cupp so aptly pronounced, junk science. He was not the first and he will not be the last. His statement was simply being honest at the wrong place in the wrong time.

The National Right to Life organization has been around for years. They have been historically opposed to abortion and euthanasia. Personally, I will never call anyone pro-life unless they also include capital punishment. To me, if one takes the life issue seriously, one need to include this as well. But that’s my opinion. Having said that, if a people tell me they are ‘pro-life’ the first question I will ask will be about capital punishment. If they do not want to include it, I won’t call them pro-life. I’m rather obstinate about that.

Abortion is an ugly subject. I wrestle with the subject of when life begins; I also wrestle with the subject of when human life begins. There is the very real question of determining if this is, in fact, a separate life if it cannot exist outside the mother’s womb. Science doesn’t really make ethical judgments on this at all. It merely tells us what is there. What we do with that information is very much up to us to determine philosophically and theologically.

I would, in a perfect world, like to be totally opposed to abortion. It is not, however, a perfect world. I am also not a woman and I cannot, in good conscience, ever tell a woman what she can and cannot do or have done to her own body. It would be simply inappropriate. Frankly, I really do not believe anyone can tell any other person what they can and cannot do in this regard. Additionally, rape, incest, molestation, health and well-being of the mother all come into play. Abortion is an ugly subject and it often gets even uglier when there are circumstances behind it.

In the 1970’s I did join the Right to Life organization. I was in the seminary and I read the literature RTL put out and I believed it. One piece of that literature was the scientific ‘fact’ that women did not get pregnant from rape. I did more research and learned that was not true. In a rape, when the rapist is wearing no protection, and the sexual act is completed inside the woman, the woman has a 5% chance of becoming pregnant. It is exactly the same percentage as any other kind of unprotected sex. That is the factual science. Saying that the woman’s body ‘protects’ her from becoming pregnant is junk science.

Interestingly enough, S. E. Cupp, who is very conservative and states she is very pro-life (I don’t know if she really is in terms of capital punishment), said that this kind of junk science is inexcusable and does more harm than good in terms of discussions about abortion.

She is correct. When junk science gets exposed and people begin bringing this nonsense to the public forum, they get discredited. Serious discussions on abortion are short-changed into saying that people are lying or are uninformed fools.

It’s an unnecessary war and it’s a foolish war to be having. Abortion is a painful and ugly subject; at least give the topic the dignity of dealing with real science and not junk science. And, please politicians, before you speak on such topics, learn the subject and the difference between real and junk science.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Random Musings for Today


I really need to get back to blogging…

Strange thing to lead off with, but Phyliss Diller was always one of my favorites. Instead of mocking others, she made fun of herself. She will be remembered, interestingly enough when one considers her humor, as a kind and amazing beautiful person who brought laughter to so many people. The world was a richer place because of her. Her passing at the age of 95 very much ends an era.

The horrible topic of rape is in the news. We have been exposed to such phrases as ‘legitimate rape’ and ‘forcible rape.’ It strikes me that there is no such thing as ‘legitimate’ rape and that all rape is forcible. It seems we need education on the fact that rape is a violent crime that is devastating to victims. I hope these statements are merely mis-statements and not an attempt to impugn the victims.

Doctors, are saying, by the way, that 5% of instances of unprotected sex result in a pregnancy and 5% of rapes with intercourse to completion end up in pregnancy. Those are the facts. Whatever one chooses to do or surmise from these facts is ripe for opinions, but not stating facts correctly is simply wrong.

On a fact finding trip to Israel, there seems to have been a party and several drinks were shared. People ended up swimming in the Sea of Galilee. One person, Kevin Yoder of Kansas jumped in the sea naked. Now there is great controversy. My thought on this is simple. People need to grow up. That this is even a news story is mind boggling to me.

The Princeton Review named the 377 Best Colleges in the United States. They have some interesting categories. The ‘best party school,’ is West Virginia University. The ‘most stone cold sober school’ is Brigham Young University. Brigham Young, a Mormon school, does not allow alcohol, tobacco, or caffeine on campus and they attribute the overall sobriety to the Mormon faith. When asked why West Virginis was the best party school, none of the WVU students were able to remember…

I change my mind every day as to who I am voting for in the next election. All the political ‘ads’ people put on Facebook are influencing me greatly… Not.

I watched a wonderful story on the Today Show about a family leaving $500.00 tips to honor the memory of a son/brother. People are donating money to them and they are leaving these large tips as a ‘pay it forward’ tribute. It’s also a great reminder that servers work hard for their money and a generous tip is good for them and good for the tipper’s soul. Generosity is a wonderful thing and need to be practice.

Someday check out the NBC News website, CNN website, and Fox News website, and you’ll wonder if we all live in the same country.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Sermon Audio August 19, 2012










Commissioning One Another: Honor All People

Text: Romans 12:9-21

Rev. Dr. John E. Manzo

August 19, 2012

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Sermon Audio August 12, 2012


Commissioning One Another---Help the Afflicted

Text: Luke 10:25-37

Rev. Dr. John E. Manzo

August 12, 2012



Sunday, August 05, 2012

Audio Sermon 8-4-12


Strengthen the Fainthearted; Support the Weak

Text: 1 Corinthians 8:1-13

Rev. Dr. John E. Manzo

August 5, 2012