Wednesday, August 31, 2016

The 33rd of August

Here in South Carolina, it has been a long, hot and humid, but still drought stricken, August, and we are ready to be through with it. But, it could be worse, as the late Mickey Newbury sang all those years ago,

For those of you at work who can't listen, here are the lyrics,

"Lord today there's no salvation
The bands packed up and gone
Left me standing with my penny in my hand
There's a big crowd at the station where a blind man sings his songs
But he can see what they can't understand

Its the thirty-third of August and I'm finally touchin' down
Eight days from Sunday finds me Saturday bound

Once I stumbled through the darkness tumbled to my knees
A thousand voices screamin' in my brain
Woke up in a squad car busted down for vagrancy
Outside my cell as sure as hell it looked like rain

But now I put my dangerous feelings under lock and chain
Guess I killed my violent nature with a smile
Though the demons danced and sung their songs within my fevered brain
Not all my God-like thoughts Lord were defiled

Its the thirty-third of August and I'm finally touchin' down
Eight days from Sunday find me Saturday bound"

If you want to play it on your guitar and sing along, here is a page with the chords.

Sunday, August 28, 2016

What the Lectionary Left Out: "The City That is to Come"

The Sunday lectionary in use by many churches all too often cuts out segments of the Bible and splices verses together so that the original context is not presented to the Sunday pewsitter. If Sunday's bits and pieces of the message are the only exposures to the Bible that large numbers of pewsitters get, then is it any wonder that most of us are failing to spread the Gospel to the world?

This Sunday's example of lectionary omissions may seem harmless enough. We get to hear Hebrews 13:1-8,15-16

Let mutual love continue. 2 Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by doing that some have entertained angels without knowing it. 3 Remember those who are in prison, as though you were in prison with them; those who are being tortured, as though you yourselves were being tortured. Let marriage be held in honour by all, and let the marriage bed be kept undefiled; for God will judge fornicators and adulterers. Keep your lives free from the love of money, and be content with what you have; for he has said, ‘I will never leave you or forsake you.’ So we can say with confidence,‘The Lord is my helper;   I will not be afraid.What can anyone do to me?’
7 Remember your leaders, those who spoke the word of God to you; consider the outcome of their way of life, and imitate their faith. 8 Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and for ever. 15 Through him, then, let us continually offer a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that confess his name. 16 Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God.
The jump from verse 8 to 15 is so smooth that it will probably go unnoticed, but there are a few good points in the deleted section that should be noted. Here is what people missed,

9 Do not be carried away by all kinds of strange teachings; for it is well for the heart to be strengthened by grace, not by regulations about food, which have not benefited those who observe them. 10 We have an altar from which those who officiate in the tabernacle have no right to eat. 11 For the bodies of those animals whose blood is brought into the sanctuary by the high priest as a sacrifice for sin are burned outside the camp. 12 Therefore Jesus also suffered outside the city gate in order to sanctify the people by his own blood. 13 Let us then go to him outside the camp and bear the abuse he endured. 14 For here we have no lasting city, but we are looking for the city that is to come. 
Yeah, all that stuff relating to the dietary laws and temple regulations get the ax. These were important to the Hebrews back then, but what about us today? Certainly the warning against strange teachings should be something that the people should hear. We should also hear about the abuse we will bear, and since it is so rarely discussed in many progressive churches, we really should hear about "the city that is to come".

In fact, I think one of the great verses that will go unheard today is,
"For here we have no lasting city, but we are looking for the city that is to come. "
I'll walk with that one today.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Not Even the Olympics Are Safe For Children to Watch

The Summer Olympics are finally over, and for those of us who watched hours of televised coverage on NBC, there was more to the broadcast than just reporting on the competitive events. Every day there was a sideline story involving alternative sexual lifestyles or ambiguous gender identity. If the male diver from the U.K. and his male "fiance" being featured, it was the female basketball player and her female "fiance", or the female rugby player and her same-sex spouse.

And. of course, we also had the spectacle of the high testosterone people competing against and beating the high estrogen people. 

It seemed to this observer that NBC was using the Olympic Games to advance the LGBT agenda because while LGBT athletes probably made up a tiny fraction of all of the competitors in the summer games, they seemed to get more than their share of the human interest coverage. 

It seems that it is impossible to watch anything on television these days without being exposed to "the gay angle". The only things safe to watch are oldies like the Andy Griffith Show and movies produced during the "Golden Age" of Hollywood.

Science shows us that the media is presenting a false narrative about human sexuality (see "Nearly Everything the Media Tell You About Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Is Wrong"). 

After my experience of watching too many hours of television this summer thanks to the Olympics, I am thinking of creating a new Olympic sport, television hurling.  

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Today, Jesus Might Be Considered Guilty of Committing a Microaggression

Today's Gospel reading is from Luke 13:10-17, and I wonder how Jesus' words would be taken today in an age where everything celebrities say is recorded, dissected, and analyzed.

Now he was teaching in one of the synagogues on the sabbath. And just then there appeared a woman with a spirit that had crippled her for eighteen years. She was bent over and was quite unable to stand up straight. When Jesus saw her, he called her over and said, ‘Woman, you are set free from your ailment.’ When he laid his hands on her, immediately she stood up straight and began praising God. But the leader of the synagogue, indignant because Jesus had cured on the sabbath, kept saying to the crowd, ‘There are six days on which work ought to be done; come on those days and be cured, and not on the sabbath day.’ But the Lord answered him and said, ‘You hypocrites! Does not each of you on the sabbath untie his ox or his donkey from the manger, and lead it away to give it water? And ought not this woman, a daughter of Abraham whom Satan bound for eighteen long years, be set free from this bondage on the sabbath day?’ When he said this, all his opponents were put to shame; and the entire crowd was rejoicing at all the wonderful things that he was doing.
Did you spot the microaggression?

Maybe you have to be a woman to notice it.

I bring this to your attention just to point out the silliness of the microaggression game that is being played out in our culture.

Maybe I am just being stubborn and, like a mule, stand here with my four hooves stuck in the past.

Maybe you too are refusing to be led by the nose into the microaggression trap.


I'm guilty too.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Charlotte School Children Are No Longer To Be Referred to as "Boys" or "Girls"

My neighbors across the Catawba river are becoming progressive too rapidly for my tastes. I rarely make the 40 minute drive into downtown Charlotte anymore, but many of my friends and associates reside there and are upset that their children are being taught by the media and in school that their gender is not what their parents told them.

We have all heard about the North Carolina "Bathroom Bill" which was a response of the state to block Charlotte's local government's attempt to allow men who self-identify as women to use the "Ladies Room" and/or locker room if they so desire.

Now the Charlotte public school system is suggesting that its teachers eliminate gender-specific language altogether. The story was posted by ABC news.

Saturday, August 06, 2016
"CHARLOTTE (WTVD) -- A Charlotte Mecklenburg Schools presentation to principals and counselors recommends children are not to be referred to as boys and girls, but instead as scholars and students.
READ THE COMPLETE DOCUMENT: CMS transgender student presentation (.pdf)  (warning, my porn blocking software wouldn't let me open this)
Eliminating boy and girl references is one of several policies included in the CMS bully prevention regulations, WSOC reported. 
One policy allows students to participate in extracurricular activities and overnight field trips based on their gender identity. A student who identifies as a girl would be allowed to participate in an 'all-girl' overnight trip. 
Another policy says CMS must evaluate all gender-based activities and 'maintain only those that have clear and sound pedagogical purpose.' 
Another recommendation is to avoid lining up students by a boy/girl/boy format, instead using an alphabetical, birth month or favorite color designation."
Don't expect the Episcopal bishops of North Carolina to weigh in on this. They have been outspoken opponents of protecting the privacy of our youth (see their letter opposing the "Bathroom Bill").

My guess is that children who are raised in such an environment will be at a greater risk of gender confusion as they enter their teenage years.

Perhaps that is the goal. After all, homosexuals cannot reproduce by any other means.

I am advising all of my friends who live in Charlotte to home-school or to enroll in a private Christian school. 

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Skipping over the Lord's Slave Remarks

This Sunday's Gospel reading continues in Luke 12, but skips ahead to verses 49-56 from where we left off last week. Today's reading reinforces the separation that people will have to cope with once they follow Christ,

‘I came to bring fire to the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled! I have a baptism with which to be baptized, and what stress I am under until it is completed! Do you think that I have come to bring peace to the earth? No, I tell you, but rather division! From now on, five in one household will be divided, three against two and two against three; they will be divided:father against son   and son against father,mother against daughter   and daughter against mother,mother-in-law against her daughter-in-law   and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law.’He also said to the crowds, ‘When you see a cloud rising in the west, you immediately say, “It is going to rain”; and so it happens. And when you see the south wind blowing, you say, “There will be scorching heat”; and it happens. You hypocrites! You know how to interpret the appearance of earth and sky, but why do you not know how to interpret the present time?
The divisions among Christians are a disappointing if not unexpected proof of Jesus' words. Those who believe the Gospel accounts of the Resurrection will be against those who deny the physical resurrection of Christ. Those who have faith in the virgin birth will be against those who deny it. Those who believe that marriage is the union of one man and one woman as one flesh will be separated from their brothers and sisters who insist that it is okay to revise the Church's teaching on marriage.

The way the Sunday Lectionary works, the average once a week or less churchgoer never gets to hear the full Gospel. This week,  Luke 1:41-48 was omitted. This section might be problematic for modern ears that are not expecting to hear Jesus talk about slavery and who would be shocked to hear him say anything about cutting one of them into pieces.

 Peter said, ‘Lord, are you telling this parable for us or for everyone?’ And the Lord said, ‘Who then is the faithful and prudent manager whom his master will put in charge of his slaves, to give them their allowance of food at the proper time? Blessed is that slave whom his master will find at work when he arrives. Truly I tell you, he will put that one in charge of all his possessions. But if that slave says to himself, “My master is delayed in coming”, and if he begins to beat the other slaves, men and women, and to eat and drink and get drunk, the master of that slave will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour that he does not know, and will cut him in pieces, and put him with the unfaithful. That slave who knew what his master wanted, but did not prepare himself or do what was wanted, will receive a severe beating. But one who did not know and did what deserved a beating will receive a light beating. From everyone to whom much has been given, much will be required; and from one to whom much has been entrusted, even more will be demanded.
"Blessed be the slave whom his master finds at work" is not one of Jesus' more famous quotes. In fact, I suspect that if it appeared on a test as a True/False question, "Did Jesus say, 'Blessed be the slave whom his master finds at work'", most people would answer, "False."

As Paul might put it, we are slaves for Christ, and given Jesus' warning, we had better be prepared. I suspect that those of us who are slaves and who have been placed in charge of others had better be especially careful.

Beating false teachings into the pewsitters very well might result in the first penalty, being cut to pieces, that our Lord has reserved for the wicked.

Maybe that is why most priests will be happy to not tell you about the Lord's slave remarks.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Enneagram Classes at Upper South Carolina Episcopal Church: Like a Bad Penny

Episcopalians are nuts about anything "spiritual". Just look at all the labyrinths being built or proposed. It was just 6 months ago that an Episcopal church in Upper South Carolina  offered a class on "enneagrams" during Lent. I have not heard any reports from the field on how that fared, but if you missed it six months ago, they are giving you a second crack at it.

Enneagram class to be held at St. Martin's, Columbia

A six-week, free series on the Enneagram will be offered on Wednesdays, starting Aug. 3 and ending Sept. 6. The class will run from 10 a.m. to 12:15 p.m. in All Saints' Hall and childcare is available at no charge in the Drop-In Nursery. The class will include DVD instruction with Loretta Brady about this ancient tool for self-discovery. Discussion and journaling also planned. Please email Galen McWilliams at or call her at 309.2341 if you would like to take part.

 The last time this happened, I found the following description on the church's web page,

One idea underlying the Enneagram is that people have two important aspects - essence and personality. Each person has a unique "essential self" that can't be reduced to a category or a number. However, the Enneagram describes nine patterns or themes by which people form a personality, and a social persona, to meet the challenges of love and work. Ideally, personality is an effective way to express ourselves in the world. But problems arise when personality covers up the inner self, or our point of view becomes stuck and rigid. 
Please join *** and *** as they show Richard Rohr's DVD. "The Discernment of Spirits," and help you discover your essence, your best self." *** and *** are strong advocates of the Enneagram and can attest to its profound effect on their own spiritual development, especially in forgiving others. 

I repeat what I wrote back in 2012, 
It is understandable that Episcopal priests who, in their pastoral roles engage in a lot of counseling of troubled souls, might find themselves looking for help from whatever is popular in the  psychology circles of the day.  
I repeat what I wrote back in February of this year,
Something about Episcopalians makes them susceptible to being attracted to these kinds of pop-psychology scams. I believe it has to do with our general lack of Biblical grounding and its resultant weakness of faith in Jesus as the rock of our salvation.
If your Bishop is permitting classes such as this to be held in your diocese, recognize that he/she is not being a faithful pastor to his flock.

Write him/her a letter.

Start a blog.

Keep the faith.

Sunday, August 07, 2016

Be Prepared

This Sunday's Gospel reading was from Luke 12:32-40, 

‘Do not be afraid, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom. Sell your possessions, and give alms. Make purses for yourselves that do not wear out, an unfailing treasure in heaven, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. 
‘Be dressed for action and have your lamps lit; be like those who are waiting for their master to return from the wedding banquet, so that they may open the door for him as soon as he comes and knocks. Blessed are those slaves whom the master finds alert when he comes; truly I tell you, he will fasten his belt and have them sit down to eat, and he will come and serve them. If he comes during the middle of the night, or near dawn, and finds them so, blessed are those slaves. 
‘But know this: if the owner of the house had known at what hour the thief was coming, he would not have let his house be broken into. You also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an unexpected hour.’
Back in the day, when the Boy Scouts of America was a respectable organization, "Be Prepared" was the Scout Motto. Robert Baden-Powell must have known his Bible because in the creation of the Scout Motto he borrowed a page from Luke who recorded Jesus' words for us about the necessity of being prepared.

"The Scout Motto is: BE PREPARED which means you are always in a state of readiness in mind and body to do your DUTY. 
Be Prepared in Mind by having disciplined yourself to be obedient to every order, and also by having thought out beforehand any accident or situation that might occur, so that you know the right thing to do at the right moment, and are willing to do it. 
Be Prepared in Body by making yourself strong and active and able to do the right thing at the right moment, and do it."(Scouting for Boys, Camp Fire Yarn Number 3 p 23/221)
 Being prepared as a Christian means loving God with all your heart, mind, and soul, accepting Jesus as Lord, following and obeying him in thought word and deed. Our handbook is the Bible. In order to be prepared, we had better study it.

Wednesday, August 03, 2016

Any Guesses Who This Episcopal Priest is Going to Vote For?

The following letter appeared on a church's Facebook page from its Episcopal priest in Philadelphia. While he doesn't come out and tell his followers who to vote for in the upcoming US Presidential election, he comes awfully close. 

Dear Members and Friends of All Saints’ Church: 
"As you all know, this is an election year, and the campaigns for various offices are underway. Throughout my ministry I have tried to maintain clear boundaries between religion and politics. I do not think, for example, that it’s proper for me, as pastor of a congregation, to take the side of any particular candidate running for public office. I also think it is inappropriate for a congregation to endorse any politician or party. I am, however, a citizen and registered voter, and I have my personal opinions, which our faith informs. To that end, I want to offer some thoughts to consider for those of us who are committed Christians and eligible to vote in the upcoming elections."
Fair enough, but this being an Episcopal priest, anyone should be able to guess for whom he would like his flock to cast their vote.
"There are a number of issues in contemporary politics for which there is no current consensus among Christians. Examples of these include the pro-life or pro-choice position on abortion, the support of same sex marriage and LGBT rights, the support of equal rights pertaining to women, the debate regarding the morality of the death penalty, the question of whether military force is ethical, the issue of whether or not the minimum wage should be raised, and the current discussions pertaining to gun control."
I believe the opinion of the Christian Church throughout the ages would be that there is consensus on same-sex marriage and abortion. For a discussion on the right to self-defense see this post by R. Scott Clark at The Heidelblog. The argument that there is no consensus on such things only comes from the tiny minority who, like this priest, disagree with the teachings of the greater Christian Church.
"While some denominations and congregations have taken stands on these matters one way or the other, there is NOT universal agreement on them within the worldwide Christian community. Beware, therefore, of anyone who would tell you otherwise."
I guess that means you had better beware of me.
"There are, however, certain standards of conduct about which I believe all Christians are of one mind. I would describe them as follows:
- Hating others is not who we are as followers of Christ. We may disagree with them or not understand them, but hating them (and, in extreme cases, wanting to kill them) is inconsistent with the Christian faith and life. That applies even to our enemies, those who wish us harm, and those we perceive as threatening. It feels strange for me to say something so obvious, but with the amount of hateful rhetoric going on today, I think a reminder is in order."
Can't argue with that, but I can guess which political candidate he thinks has expressed hatred or wished the death of others.
"- Mocking, bullying, and belittling people is also not who we are. We may take issue with their viewpoints, but we are to treat others as we would want to be treated. Jesus was mocked by those who rejected and crucified him, but he did not do the same to them."
I wonder which candidate mocks and belittles?  Both mock each other don't they?
"- Expressing and demonstrating hostility toward strangers or foreigners is contrary to the Old and New Testament mandates that we make a place for them and show them hospitality in our land."
Is it being hostile to ask that strangers pass improved security checks, and until we figure out how to do that shouldn't we hold the door shut?
"- Categorizing specific persons or groups of people as inferior is not what Christ would do. The life that God has given to us is a gift to be used for God’s glory. It is not a competition to see who is number one. There are no winners and losers in the eyes of God. All are equally loved."
Is the priest accusing one of the candidates of racism?
"- Acknowledging one’s sin and need for forgiveness is an absolute. Jesus came into the world because humanity is in need of a Savior through whom our sins are forgiven and we are redeemed. Failure to apologize when one is clearly in the wrong is not an option."
I do believe that both of the major party candidates could be accused of failing to apologize when they were clearly in the wrong.
"- Affirming and helping the poor, the sick, the hungry, the disadvantaged, and those who are marginalized by society is an absolute. Jesus had a special place in his heart for such people, and those who would be his disciples must as well."
Okay, both candidates go about this in different ways. One may promise to help the poor by creating jobs, the other thinks they can be helped by increasing their dependency on government programs.
"- All people are to be respected, which includes women. Even those who still might see males as dominant must acknowledge that women are fellow human beings who deserve to be treated as such. Verbal abuse of women, such as making degrading comments about their physical appearance or clothing, is inconsistent with the Christian faith and life."
I wonder which candidate he means by that? I recall that the Democrat Party candidate has a history of going after a little girl who was raped back when the candidate was a defending the rapist in court, and the Republican candidate has said some nasty things about certain women.
"- Children are to be loved and protected. Children were the least valued and most vulnerable of people at the time of Jesus, and he welcomed them, cared for them and blessed them."
It never ceases to amaze me how Episcopal priests try to hide behind "loving and protecting the children" when we all know good and well that the Episcopal church is a proud supporter of abortion.
"- Those with abundance are urged to pray and discern how those gifts may build the Kingdom of God. The objective of a Christian is not to become wealthy, particularly if it comes at the expense of others. Rather, it is to care for and help those who have less."
Both major candidates have made becoming wealthy a big objective in the past.
"- Fear is not to be our motivator. “Fear not” is a message found many times in the scriptures. As Christians, our inspiration is FAITH, not fear. Faith and fear are inversely correlated."
So why try to elicit fear amongst your parishioners?
"- Jesus said that those who want to think of themselves as great must take the position of the lowly. “Those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted” (Matthew 23:12). Our greatness comes from God, not our ambition to be better than others. What we perceive as great is not necessarily great in God’s eyes."
I haven't seen much humility out of either candidate.
"I could probably list more, but these are the ones that come to mind primarily. I understand that one of the principles this country was founded upon is the separation of church and state. At the same time, we who are Christians are Christians first, and our country is, foremost, the Kingdom of God. As you exercise your civic duty, please consider these universal Christian values and ways of living as they reflect on the candidates you support and on us as participants in the electoral process.
If you would like to discuss anything pertaining to what I have written, including any questions or comments you might have, please let me know and I would be very happy to talk with you.
And don’t forget to vote in November! 
Yours faithfully, 
Rector of All Saints’"
If I were to take a poll of Episcopal clergy, I would guess that the vast majority feel the way this particular priest does. Some will undoubtedly let their opinions be known from the pulpit, via social media, or by participating in political events while wearing their clerical collars.

Since my candidate lost in the primary contests, I am trying to stay out of the debate over the general election. This best advice that I have seen thus far comes from "The Anxious Bench" pages in a post entitled, "How to Pray for a Presidential Candidate You Don’t Like". It reads,
“O, Lord, wilt Thou bestow upon the Vice President a double portion of Thy grace,” Connecticut minister Jedidiah Champion begged God before the election of 1800, “for Thou knowest that he needs it.”