Friday, February 27, 2009

What I Have Come to Believe About Love.

I really think that most of my life I have been a "romantic". Romanticism is a child-like belief in "love". Love conquers all. All the world needs now is "love sweet love". Love will make everything all right. If one just learns to love enough, then others will love in return. These are childish imaginings, built on a childish hope for "peace and goodwill to all men"..l

I have come to understand that "love" is not the exchange rate of life in this world and humans don't Love unless they know. Love is a personal word, unlike justice.

Justice is an aspect of love that seeks equality under law, respect, dignity, and value to all people. Justice is blind to difference, because difference in race, religion or "creed of life" are not evaluated in "justice's eyes". Justice is what anyone seeks for "self" and what we need to seek for others. But, justice is measured by law, as laws define and protect justice. Love fulfills the law, because love will not break the law in regards to another's difference of value or choice. Justice is moral because it seeks to give freedom for choice.

While justice is the side to love that is universal, mercy is the side that is personal. Mercy is shown in tangible ways to those whose needs vary. Mercy is not blind, as it sees clearly what the needs are and seeks to meet them. Mercy gives freedom, because it respects another's need for dignity in private moments of despair and discouragement. Mercy reaches out. but doesn't demand to serve or demean in service. Mercy is respectful.

Love is not romanticized in these values of justice or mercy. Justice and mercy seek to alleviate pain, benefit the whole and rectify the wrong.

While I have given up hope for romanticized love, in happily ever afters, as there are no "ever afters". I haven't given up on justice or mercy. While mercy doesn't appeal to me as much now, as justice once didn't in the past, I have come to understand and appreciate justice above all, as I have understood the importance of distinctions, values, and the history of our country. I have become fascinated by things that once were cold hard facts. Now, I live and love history.

I am grateful for my country and the values of freedom and justice for all, as I believe these are values that all people should experience, but most do not. I am so grateful to live in the land of the free and the home of the brave, that seeks to rectify the differences of experiencing freedom and justice for all.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Senator Judd Gregg Appears Tonight on TV

Senator Judd Gregg was on TV tonight. He has turned down Obama for the Secretary of Commerce. He said he turned down the position after he considered his commitment to fisical conservatism. He did not think that this administration was on the "same page" and he thought that he would not have much to offer because of these differences. Hurray for him, for having the integrity to stick by his convictions and not compromise his beliefs! And then, to state them so emphatically on TV.

The U.S. debt is to reach 1.7 trillion dollars, which will hinder our next generation and generations to come. I think that Sen. Gregg was acting responsibly because he remained true to his values and personal commitments. More politicians should do the same.

I wonder how the 'greater good" people would have seen or argued against his individual commitment to his own values at the expense of the adminstration's. Some in blogosphere have been writing against individualism and independence. I find that this thinking is very misguided, as it leads to brainlessness. Independence and individualism doesn't have to mean rebellion or revolution, but some suppose that those who resist, rather than submit are obviously rebellious. Perhaps so.

I am not arguing against social structures or our needs for them, as all of us need context, but I am arguing against depending on them to the extent of giving up one's own values or identity. Ethics is an evaluation of values. And those who argue against the individual are suggesting that "suspending the ethical" is what is for the "best" or the "greater good". How can this be?

These bloggers used Abraham as the suggested "model" of right behavior. These bloggers suggest that faith is "leaping against reason", in sacrificing Issac. Not only is this not reasonable, but it is presumptuous.

The sacrifice of Issac is understood theologically as symbolic representation of the redemption of Jesus. And it is suggested by some that it is a "model" to "test" for "absolute surrender", as Issac was the Promise of god to Abraham, and yet, Abrahma was willing the sacrifice his promised son to prove his obedience at all costs. This was a test for idolatry of heart, at least this is the theologian's interpretation.

The aforementioned theological interpretation is not written in the text, but is interpreted by the NT theologizing. It is not the ethical that God demands, but the outrageously "abnormal". This is considered true spirituality, going against reason, jumping in the dark, taking a leap of faith, etc.

This is not a realistic view of life. Take Senator Gregg, for instance, if he suspended his rational judgment and took a leap of faith, then he would have taken the position Obama offered him, irregardless of Obama's ideological differences. He would have understood that to "walk by faith" would be the "costs" of setting aside his fisical convictions, as these are reasoned, and in opposition to "faith" in taking a risk on his "leader's views". This is the major implication of the Abrahamic story, that the "Leader" is to be trusted. The leader spiritually is Jesus, but in reality, the leader is whoever is in power in the real world.

I would much rather do my business with people who are rational and reasonable, that do not ask for blind allegiance because, then you can understand and converse over the rationale of their propositions. People who do business based on "leaps of faith" have no rationale, as it is pure speculation and risk. And the Christian risk-taker calls it "God's will", even though there is no speicific plan. I think this is downright prsumptuous. Of course, this is my personal conviction....

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

"Killing the American Public"

Honor is a term that is useful for maintaining one's position or place of favor. It is dishonorable to do certain things according to certain traditions, which justify "killing" the guilty. Some traditions "tone down" the actual physical killing by shunning, which is social "killing". But, with the news tonight, it is obvious that not only does tradition "kill", but corporations.

Tonight's news featured AIG. I'm sure the average "joe" is tired of hearing about the overly lavish lifestyle that these executives have, not because of envy so much as resentment about "bailing" these people out of the financial mess they are responsible for. The "middle class" has lived frugally, or at least learned to save, and to make choices about what to do without, while these are living lifestyles that are beyond imagination for most. It is not wrong, necessarily to have or do nice things, but it is really wrong for those who have taken risks with their money or with corporate "investments", to not hold that risk. Why is it the American taxpayer that is to foot the bill? If we don't help then we will suffer the costs. We will suffer whether we bail them out or possibly, if we don't. So, we continue to trust our leaders and those who benefit from those who pay them off and we are oblivious.

This situation is similar to the "bail out" of the woman who chose to have in vitro fertilization and ended up with 14 children. Is it really the American people's responsibility to help when this person acted irresponsibly? But, some would ask, what about the children?

When one talks of helping those who have had limited means and have suffered from bad environments, then that is a different matter, but when there is overt disregard for responsible behavior and then a further disregarding of taking repsonsibility, then there is something definately wrong. Are we condoning the adolescent behavior of our leaders, while the average American is supposed to be a responsible citizen?

The demand that we pay for these irresponsibilities reminds me of "theology". Jesus death was to save a nation and others from their "sins". I find ethical problems with this theology, as it leads to irresponsibility. The American people are being asked to lay down their life for unjust causes, but are being told that it will save the nation in the long run. What ever happened to mature and responsible behavior as it concerns one's finances?

I am not at all suggesting that everyone should live the same standard of life, but I am suggesting that people understand that what they choose to do, is not to be dismissed from accountability with the American people. Americans have become tired of politicians acting as if we don't have a brain and dismissing our hearts. We all want what is best for our children, but some of us don't have the choices that others do. The American people cannot be asked to be more mature and responsible than their leaders. We need leaders that are respectable and respected. Then, maybe there would be more citizens wanting to be involved in politics and informing themselves about what is happening in Washington, rather than turning the channel when a politician comes on TV. And then maybe, honor will have the right meaning and take its rightful place in the public square.

Honor Killing

I just heard on NPR that a man was being prosecuted for killing his wife. The Inman , who was being questioned about this "duty", basically said that when a Christian or Jew beats their wife, there are no reprecussions, whereas, if a Muslim beats his, he is persecuted.

I find that any justification of beating anyone, is unbelievable. How can anyone justify that? I guess honor and shame are really an important attribute of religious social control!

The Consent of the Governed and Religious Freedom

Politics is the domain where we work, play, worship, and live our lives. The political realm is the network of our communities, colleagues, and other social connections. What our political policy and understanding of government that runs the policy is an important one, as it affects all of life.

We are no longer ruled by "the divine right of kings". This is the prinicple of our revolution of England's king to reign over us. Taxation without representation was an important "pivot point" because those who led the revolution felt that all people were created equal under law. That we were not to be a colony, but an independent government. This had/has major implications in understanding faith.

Many fled to America for religious freedom, but finding a place to worship as one saw fit, did not alleviate the need to form a "government'. Church government became a point of contention and led to many dissentions and splits. Some sects thought that the "heretical" should suffer persecution, or worse, death. Those who held such views had not given up on the "divine right of God" and how they understood man's duty toward the "transcendental realm". These believed in a personal God. Believers were not the only ones that made American history, but it was a value that is upheld in our Constitution and the separation of Church and State.

Everyone has an understanding or an "ideal" of what government should "look like" and this is the realm of political discourse. It is the realm of what "should be" and "how it should be accomplished". For the most part, Republicans and Democrats have a different view about what that should look like. Although the political parties have political platforms that formally describe their positions, these positions differ in particular individuals within these parties. Some have even attempted to form a Third Party, but not with much sucess.

Republicans believe in "free market economics" and family values, limited government, etc., while the Democrats believe in social concern in government programs, enlarging government and limiting the free market.

I find that our freedoms politically are the most important value to uphold, as without freedom there is little room for development of individual values, commitments, beliefs, lifestyle, etc. Political freedom is valued by all humans.

The consent of the governed is based on social contract, ethics, human rights, and political freedom. We cannot have morality, or ethical choice apart from political freedom. This very freedom was what some came to our shores to find. Today, Americans have liberty because of the commitment of men and women who were willing to lay their lives down for it. We should do no less!

Sunday, February 22, 2009

The Economic and Global Dilemma for America

Globalization is about economic interests first and foremost and many corporations have benefitted from the labor of the marginalized. While corporations have benefitted financially, it has hindered the growth of our own workforce at home, as well as trampled over the issue of human rights abroad.

While corporations have benefited at the costs of American worker's rights and human rights, in general, humanitarian organizations have pushed for charitable service and giving. Some of these organizations are unaccountable and unregulated. Unaccountability is dangerous in international beareaucracies that have no other interests than attaining their own goals.

Danger lurks within the IO (international organizations) where "good intentions" are wrought with complex ethical dilemmas for free societies. There is nothing more complex than national versus international interests. These conflicts should be a major cause of concern in a world of terrorism.

Some believe such as the U.N. and the organizations surrounding (NGOs, NPOs, etc.) that education is the answer to "world affairs". These organizations are bent on education, healthcare, women's rights, children's rights, etc. There is nothing wrong with these endeavors, but my question is one of ethical dilemma and moral imperative.

Just in the past few days, Hillary Clinton met with China's leader to discuss co-operation in discussing the threat of the Middle Eastern nuclear powers, where terrorism is a threat to freedom and free enterprise. Hillary wanted to "table" human rights abuses in China for the cause of our country's need for "allies" for the "war on terror".

I believe, as I have said many times before, that without freedom, we have no justice, nor any means to pursue justice for anyone else. So, the value of our freedom is first and foremost, otherwise, human rights will die with the Taliban's insistence on conformity to Shairia law for God's will and glory.

Naivete' towards the "world situation of rogue governments" is not courageous or valiant, but ignorance of what prejuidice and intolerance will demand upon the individuals and societies that ignore the dangers. Good government must be protected, valued, sought and fought for, if we are to survive the constant onslaughts against our boundaries, freedoms and way of life.

Human rights, humanitarian aid, and charitble service cannot come before the primary duty to subvert evil governments and protect our own. We are a people because we have a duty to defend and protect our national interests first and foremost, otherwise, we will not be able to defend human rights in the future!

Today's Sermon and the Sociological

Today, I was researching sociological terms such as functionalism, neo-functionalism, conflict theory and intereactionism...Although I am just beginning to skim the surface of this knowledge base, it did bring much to light in my understanding and in my coming to terms with how I want to understand or approach ethics...

This morning my pastor's sermon was on stewardship. Stewardship is more than just tithing and coming to Church on Sundays. He did not formally use, but was using Romans 12:1, presenting one's body as a living sacrifice...stewardship is using one's gifting for "god's service" and seeing all of life as given and gifted by God, who is deemed to be worthy to recieve our offering of "life".

While I do not have anything against his message generally, I have written that stewardship can be an inverted greed, if one approaches one's "needs" and "grabs" what one can get. One wants to "save", so one consumes. Every virtue can become a vice. My pastor did reference boundary maintenance as one aspect of stewardship. This was a good balance of judgment in community.

Sociology is the study of social institutions and how they should work or function. Functionalism sees roles and functions as a necessary ingredient to proper order and maintanence to the structure. Religion is useful to maintain these structures through social sanctions and control. Functionalism deals with the social structure, but dismisses the distinct aspect of the individual.

Conflict theory understands that social structures will have conflict because of different interests of individuals or groups. This is understood to be a necessary part of social change. While functionalism would label individual difference as rebellion, conflict theory and neo-functionalism would affirm the importance of the individual difference.

While conflict theory could be understood within a functionalist frame (at least it seems to me), interactionist theory is more dynamically understood or oriented. This understanding is affirming the individual differences as symbolic interactions, where meaning making is an important communication "tool" in coming to terms with negotiating the different understandings of the parties involved. These understandings are due to a difference in conceptualizations.

My pastor's sermon was understood as the Church's function of bringing meaning out of individual life, through stewardship of that life in reference to God. God is understood as the means to attain one's fulfillment and purpose in life. I think that God is a useful means to maintain social control and organzational structuring for the end goals of those who have undestood their role or function as leaders within the organizational structure of the Church. But, being called to stewardship, does not mean that one uses their gifts within the Church's structure, as this limits seeing all of life and the world as God's domain. Therefore, whatever your hand finds to do, do it with gratitude toward god.

Personally, I am growing weary of the terms and usefulness of god as a means or an end. God has given and has gifted, but this should not be understood as special or directly interventional. No, God works within the natural systems of the world in government (leaderhsip), but that does not mean that the system is free from corruption or evil. We are called, as my pastor said, to work to see the corruption and evil taken out of the system. We are to work against any corrupt or evil systems. This is what goodness is and does.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Reflections of a Wedding Dress and Its Function

Yesterday, I went with my soon to be daughter-in-law and her mom to look at wedding dresses in Indianapolis! I enjoy these celebrations so much and really love to see the '"lovely" in the beautiful.

We left at 9:30am and didn't get home until 9:30pm, which tells you a little bit about what a great experience it was!

She had a set budget for her dress which was really "limiting to her" as far as wedding dresses go. We had been looking on the internet for used dresses for several weeks. But, because the wedding will be in September, she was a little anxious about getting this part of the shopping finished.

She had a definate syle in mind, but I knew that sometimes until one is exposed to what is "out there", one cannot be discriminating, especially on such a limited budget.

We went to 5 or 6 shops and she must have tried on 75 gowns. We found her gown at the second place we stopped, but because this is such a special occassion, I wanted to make sure that she was sure and not just buying the dress because it was in her price range. She struggled with deciding between two gowns. One was a prom dress, but it fit perfectly, was a little higher in price, but with the cleaning and alterations of the other dress, it would still fall within a similar price range. Even though she fit the prom dress perfectly and she loved it, she decided on the wedding dress. This is a wedding and not a prom, after all and even though the prom dress was beautiful, its purpose was not to 'be in a wedding'.

Wedding dresses have a special function and play a special part in setting the tone of the wedding. This is the same as the function of an individual within an organization or social structure. The question was not whether the prom gown would function as a wedding dress, although that was not it's maker's intent. It was whether it was the best for the "part". And whether the wearer of the dress would "feel" that she had sold short her "ideal" for a "function".

I think this is where dreams and pragmatism conflict, at times. Dreams are our "ideals" of life, while "how things really are" is the pragmatic experience in life. Most of us have limited "budgets" (attainment of dreams), but the question is not the "budget" but if the choice of the "pragmatic" (prom dress) is the best for the occassion (attainment of the "goal). How does pragmatism "feel" on the ones who "wear it"? Is it appropriate, or "will it "do" because of costs limitations? Are we functioning on our "budgets" (attainment of our dreams) at the costs of the pragmatic (prom dress)? And what will be the "end" (attainment of the goal, setting the tone of the wedding)?

The question is one of value, purpose, goals, function, and beauty. While goals, purposes, and function are usually forefront in our society and this is why we are a nation driven by business models, will those goals, "functions" and purposes distort values or beauty?

Values are not the considered by the unreflective, while beauty is certainly not the most important emphasis in our pragmatic society. Beauty is in the eye's of the beholder and this is why the individual is expendiable in our society, when it comes to business propositions. The individual doesn't count in a system of pragmatic interests. The individual is only a means of accomplishing the end result, which benefits the "bottom line".

While business interests do drive our nation's "purposes" there are ethical ideals that are written in our general laws. Even though individuals are protected by these laws and have a right to be informed about "government interests" and public monies, if individuals do not advantage themselves of this information, then they hinder the democratic process. Their voice is not heard and this sets up a situation where others will begin to take advantage, as many times there are loopholes to be found in our general laws.

Historically, our Nation has lived through the fights for civil liberties of many "unrepresented groups" (African Americans, woman's rights, etc.). This is what free societies are about. And fortunately, our nation's laws do protect the indivdual, because our Founding Fathers understood the individual's specificity, uniquess and right to exist apart from any other defining or limiting "function". The individual is free to choose the groups he identifies with. This is not so in socialistic or communistic systems. It is determined for you!

We are a people, because we are individuals that all have a voice. The value of the harmony of diversity, and the validity of the uniquely individual. This is freedom and justice for all and I think that my soon to be daughter in law made the right choice in choosing a dress that was designed for its future function

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Two Kinds of Theologians (that I can tell)

There seems to be two kinds of theologians. The first type of theologian speaks to support or defend a"tradition". They "speak for God" and are "defenders of the faith". These are those in authority over others in specified institutions and positions. These theologians are exclusivist, at least in "appearance".

The other kind of theologian is one who does not make claims about speaking for "god" or a specific "tradition", but is speaking about what is universal, the ethical. The ethical is not based on revelational texts, but values.

The former bases their understanding and their theology on specific texts of "revelation" or tradition's authorities. These theologians are useful to benefit tradition's goals of growth, and communal impact and commitment.

But, I find that the ethical theologian doesn't have to be functioning within the institutional paradigm, but can use many means of "getting his message across". The purpose of these theologians is the concern for humanity, for individuals and for justice. These theologians can be journalists, lawyers, authors, teachers, activists, and even, politicians (wouldn't that be nice!).

Theologians can be anyone who cares about life in general and its larger purposes, or vision. And I think theological ethics is imperative in today's climate of expediency, pragmatism, and outcomes.

In America, it is obvious that many live for today's hamburger to be cooked well, and tomorrow's bills to be paid, but do not attend to what is happening to the larger concerns of our nation or the world at large. This attitude breeds an attitude of indifference and ultimately the downfall of our nation's imfluence and power abroad.

Others in our nation have an attitude of a different kind of entitlement, and special priviledge. These people disregard or disrepect others in their abuse of legalities that subvert the intent of the law and take advantage of the system. Their inside knowledge, either formal education or position give them a feeling of empowerment over others. This attitude breeds arrogance and ultimately leads to what has recently been seen on Wall Street, in larger corporations, or our politicians.

Both American groups are indifferent to our nation's values of equality before the law. One disrepects the law by not being "good citizens", as a lack of taking responsibility, while the other disregards the law's intent. Both undermine what has made our country great, "the rule of law". Both need a good dose of theological ethics.

Ethics in the Marketplace

After writing my blog entry on Obama's design on our nation's economy, I found myself wondering what type of ideological commitment our nation's leaders have. People during the campaign were talking about being above ideology, but what I am finding is there is certainly ideology and ideological commitments that are impractical.

One can have opinions and believe that they are true with all one's heart and soul, but "trying them on for size" and impacting others because we believe that our ideological commitments are right, falls short of what would be considered ethically "above board".

The campaign ran along Democratic and Republican lines of argument, as we all expected, but slips of the tongue when Obama spoke to "Joe the Plumber" makes one wonder if re-distribution of wealth is what our stimulus package is about? Or is the package about placating the general public with "doing something quickly" (and underhandedly), while giving the perks to those who would benefit the ideological ends that this adminstration is committed to..

Many have their hands out wanting a bit of the "action" so they can continue their irresponsible behavior at the costs of the taxpayer. We have benefitted from a free market system that had limited controls. But, we have found that the limitation of control by the federal government has led to a wholesale "sell-out" of our country's moral values for the monetary gain.

What is to be the solution? I don't believe that limiting the free market, but I don't believe that there should not be ethical guidelines when it comes to business endeavors. Otherwise, we will be using humans for our own monetary purposes. And that is the base of unethical behavior...

The Psycho/Spiritual/Physical State of the Human

This "hot" topic in theological, psychological and religious studies is the question of mind/body and how our physicality impacts our "selves". Is the brain the same as the "mind"? Is our environment the determining factor in life? Or is there an innate nature within the individual that is distinct from others, like fingerprints?

I do think that there is major "news" to discover in these arenas, but my concern is with a presupposition of the scientists (if there is one) of determination of environmental issues. Of course, this would support the Church's role in helping the family and school in the development/education of the child. The development and education of children is now in question, as many "ethical" children can be raised apart from religious teaching. And the Church's doctrine of the atonement, Jesus' life, and because of these issues, the social structure itself is in crisis. The struggle for the Church to survive these "onslaughts" of "modernity" is what is on the forefront of "news headlines" in theological circles. I personally do not find that reflecting on "theology" apart from reality is beneficial. Hope should be based on real issues of this world, instead of 'pie in the sky" hope for the next.

The Church is looking for a way out of gnostic tendencies in separating the "real world" from the "spiritual one". Many distorted doctrines have hindered man's flourishing, because man if viewed as "so fallen", that there is no redeeming quality within man. Everything that a "natural man' does is questioned, as lower than a 'spiritual man". The wall of separating the sacred and secular has hindered the Church's connection to the world and has hindered how everything 'in the world" has been viewed from "art", human virtue, to higher education. These "worldly" avenues are labelled as leading the "elect" astray and hindering the 'spirit".

I think that there is "hope" for the future of religion in discussing these issues, and I hope that I can be a part of the discussion. I know I will, if not directly, I will keep informed....

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Obama's Package Deal of Change for the American People

Obama's stimulus plan is the largest in American history. With it's largeness and vast demands on the American people, I would have hoped that our representatives would have taken the care to investigate it's contents. But, none of them had the time to read the "catalog" of "perks" to stimulate our economy. One should question such tactics of expediency when the costs is so vast and the changes so deep. Is this why the American people, as well as, their representatives were not fully informed? Is there knowledge that we wouldn't support billions of dollars being spent on "pork". And now, they are talking about another stimulus package, hardly before the other one got out the door!

Make no mistake, government has changed and become an entity itself, which distances government from its people. Lincoln's call for a government "for the people and by the people", has little resemblence to this adminstration, so far. Surely, Martin Luther King, Jr.'s call for his children to be known not by the color of their skin, but by their character, would be a good dose of medicine for our leaders today!

Why does anyone think that leadership means that one can do what one wants, even demanding others to change their lifestyles, for the "greater good" and all the while, leaders never changing theirs? I thought leadership was first and foremost about representation and example? I guess I have an old fashioned view of leadership, that doesn't "work" in the real world. Today's leader must know how to lead change and expect those who are called to change, to resist. But, the leader is taught how to "comfort", "console", "support", and yet, they are not nor will they do what they require others to do! Change, and leadership is built on the business model and they use the "character model" for those who are "different" kinds of leaders!!! This is outright hypocrisy! There should be another Revolution against taxation without representation!!! Have we been informed about the details?

Yes, we have heard all the "dark scenario" that will transpire if someting drastic isn't done and done quickly...was this a way to "pull the wool over our eyes, so that us "dumb", "ill informed" folk" will just sit quietly by and pay their dues, so that others can live their lavish lifestyles and not pay their taxes!!!?

We had hoped, yes, that change meant that we would be important enough to be considered. We thought that our government was about "us", but we have been sorely mistaken. We have lost our government when government official tout their concern over our deficit, but fly our government jets to Williamburg to discuss policy issues.

What concerns me is how so soon after the election, many promises seems to have been only promises. Now, that reality has set in, promises are no more. We are given doomsday prophecies and a dire view of our future.

The American people need to be informed, and not placated, patronized, or patently ignored...

Scripture's Impact on the Individual and Personal Identity in American Society

Scripture has been useful to impact the individual's "self-concept" as a special creation of God. A life filled with purpose and a future hope of rewards fill the heart of every evangelical believer. But, these understandings are a limited view of what it means to be "human".

These believers for the most part have "experienced" God's grace and seen it's manifestation within "community", where the experience is re-enforced with "belonging". Believers who believe that God inhabits these communities range the gambit from fundamentalists who believe in the literal understanding of Scripture, to the charismatic, who "finds" meaning not just within
Scripture, but also in ongoing "revelations" of the "Spirit". There are many colors in between these distinctives, which are "translated" into community through the understandings of Scripture.

Paul Tillich understood the continual "division" of the "Protestant Principle". But, the divisions have not always been along the lines of Scripture but also understandings of "god", and culture. The Jewish religion broke down in understanding of sectarians (Essenes), resurrection of the dead (Pharisees) or no resurrection (Sadduccees). Religion defines itself in numerous ways.

Individuals within traditions come to understand themselves as identified with these interpretive understandings. Meaning and significance come along with a sense of belonging and value.

But, these "messages" of significance, meaning and belonging are not just understood within religious traditions, but also other social structures, such as family, vocation and ethnicity. Individuals do not have the fullest understanding of the "human" without these social contexts. As apart from social contexts, the individual ceases to "belong" and in a sense, ceases "to be". We are known and we know, as we experience communal ways of understanding, as well as embracing the "otherness of the other".

American identity, in this sense, is a unique one, as it allows individuality in understanding and places significance of the individual's importance to society as a whole. Apart from the individual's unique understandings, giftings, and inclusion, society suffers from a lack of innovation, or creativity, which hinders the colorfulness of the "whole of society" and limits what it means to be "human".

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Virtue and/or Value?

Christians have believed that Christ's life was exempliary. They believe that his life was a life of virtue, as he "gave up his life" for others. This was the fulfillment of the "law of Moses" and the Golden Rule. He did not consider himself above others. While his life was exempliary, was his life the only life that is to be emulated?

Our nation's values of "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness" is the virtue of Jesus life, as he believed, as any moral model does, that others were to be valued equally. Each individual has the "right" to choose how he defines what life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness means. As a nation, we have protected civil liberties where the individual was a self-determining agent. Our nation had no "moral agenda", per se. We believed that "common sense", and nature had endowed humans with reason, which would inform the conscience and will.

The clash over values and virtue is a dirty one, as the humanistically inclined would adhere to a values based education that believes in reason's right to choose, whereas, the religiously inclined would look toward the life of virtue, as based on the example of Jesus.

While the religiously inclined tout Jesus life and example, they do not use virtue as their own measurement when their ideology clashes with those of a "values based" mentality, or other religious moral models. While values define the society, virtue defines the individual. Both are necessary components to a full view of personhood made in God's image. While virtue and values are the necessary ingredients for a full developed person, each person will uniquely manifest those components within their life.

Virtue without values is a person who has not developed their own identity and value system, while the value based person could be one that was oriented toward values that would destroy themself or others. The values based person, who has no virtue, in their pursuit of life, liberty or the pursuit of happiness is bound to breed a destructive influence in society. Therefore, both virtue and value need to be affirmed for a balanced and beneficial life.

Yesterday's Provocation

Yesterday, in one of the blogs I follow, the person questioned his own 'commitment to writing' on his blog site, as his other responsibilities were suffering. Anyone's questioning themselves challenges me to question myself, as I often do, anyway.

His question whether his family responsibility suffered was one I pondered. His reflections, and output on his blog has affected many more people than he could as he put it 'before an empty Word window...I thought about the movie, "Chariots of Fire". The main character of the movie was a runner and he felt God's affirmation whenever he ran. I think desire is like that when it is directed in the right direction. Writing gives me a sense of "release". I enjoy expressing myself in writing, thinking of ways to "put things". Sometimes writing is just a journaling adventure for me, a thinking out loud. It helps me to organize, as I am not by nature an organized person.

I have often been told that I make no sense. And I wonder if this is because I can't organize my thoughts, have too little information, am uneducated, assume the other knows more than they do, or jump around too often, connect too many ideas that really are not connected, or What? possibly it is all of these. But, I think that my writing on this blog is a step forward for me. Whenever I have gotten negative feed-back, which has been most of the feed-back I have gotten, I continue. I am not discouraged, because I am doing this out of my heart and desire. People do not have to read my blog, if they are offended and my not being discouraged, is a positive step forward, because I am not dependent on feed-back. I am doing this because I want ot do it and I enjoy it.

Some may find fault with my writing, as if it is not benefitting someone else, then is it selfish? Does any thing that someone does have to have a benefit for another? Is the excercise of one's mind in thinking and writing of any benefit for the individual doing it? Doesn't a runner have to practice to become the best? Is the runner's practice selfish because it doesn't benefit someone else? I find that some conservative radical believers think that everything has to be purposed toward God, as if God "needs them". God's glory, just is and it need recognition, I think, more than seeking to implement God's glory on another.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Intolerance for Intolerance

It was just reported on Fox news that a Muslim woman was be-headed for filing for divorce! The man is being charged with 2nd degree murdery. Hurrah for our govenment's "sense" of sensibility when it comes to religious conviction! We cannot tolerante religious intolerance, of any kind!

This is one freedom we are not going to tolerate, even in the name of religious freedom! We are a nation that believes that behavior is defined by law, and belief is personal and private. Therefore, we will not allow "morality" in the name of religion, to subvert ethical behavior toward those who differ!

Social Construction, the Human, and Outcomes

Social structures are to benefit man in giving a social context. Social context makes meaning out of life. These contexts all have different authoritorial rules that make the groups distinct from one another.

Sometimes social structures can be limiting to human development. These social contexts hinder human flourishing because of their limited viewpoints, understanding, or "world". A human must leave these contexts, so that growth can occur, but it is done sometimes at great costs emotionally. These contexts are the contexts of family, religion, and culture. While family may not necessarily be a "bad" environment, the young adult cannot grow fully without coming to the full realization of "self" apart from familial identities.

Religion is also a limited view on understanding one's "self", as religion contains the ways of understanding God, which impacts ways of viewing life. Ways of viewing life are contained within cultural systems that understand history in certain ways. So, culture is also limiting to understanding a broader view of the world.

While none of the traditional roles of social construction are necessarily bad, they can hinder the fullness of development, if it confines understanding to them. Free societies allow the young adult the ability to learn and grow beyond the intial ways of life in childhood.

Some Christians would believe that this would be anathema to the "gospel" as the "gospel" is about culture, the "right" culture. Culture being the rules of dress, and specified behavior in speicific situations. There is a narrow understanding of life in its vast diversity, and even then, there is a determination to convert other "worlds" into their limited view.

These Christians understand family in ways that do not allow diverse viewpoints, as the parents are to teach what is "right" and the children do not question, but respond in obedient submission. Children in these environments have difficulty leaving their absolute understandings behind because of their enculturation at an early age.

The Muslim woman who wrote a book on her struggle to come out from under the brain washing of her culture within her family talks about this. Even after being educated at a European university, and having a career in government, she struggles with what was engrained on her memory. Cults of all kinds work this way, as they are mind-control ways of social control. These cults have many ways of shaming and controlling their subjects. These subjects are not allowed freedom of expression because the heirarchal leadership hold the reigns of power concerning "rule-breaking". Humans have a herd mentality, for the most part.

Our country seeks to free countries who have repressive regimes, because individuals within these countries suffer. Suffering is not a virtue in American society. Suffering is considered a hinderance to a free person, because suffering means subversion of independence in self-governance.

Self=governance is only useful when character has been formed where the young person has come to understand that his life is one among many. That his convictions, while valid, are considerate of another's different convictions. Free societies can only survive if citizens understand their duty to the nations' "good". The military trains and teaches these concepts of duty, honor and country. The respect for truth telling is evident in West Point's motto, of non-tolerance to those who lie. The military system of respect for authority is one born out of a realization of our country's values that depend upon it. Freedom is not won without sacrifice.

Evil must be resisted, as evil does not quietly die, is not done away with education, or undermined by diplomacy. Evil is determined to subvert, intentional in its goals, and disregarding and disrespectful of anyone who gets in the way. Evil breeds deception, suffering, and intolerance. Evil must be stopped.

So, while social structures are natural means useful for human flourishing, they may hinder human flourishing due to "outcome based" goals that are deterministic, which hinder individual freedom and choice. Outcomes are the goals that subvert independence, and creativity, because they are specified beforehand. Parents who choose their children's vocations, hindering their child's self-determination, get in the way of the child's development. Evil subverts like that and it must be resisted.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

A Play for the 'Greater Good'.

Last night's play had another aspect of meaning for me, as well as religious freedom. It also had the significance of academic and political freedom!

I commend the President, the Provost, and any others involved in allowing "the show to go on", because, I know that the culture of the university is a conservative one. The reason I think that this was a step in the right direction, is because our very nation's values are being threatened by religious zealots, that find tolerance abominable. I think that the Provost's introduction of the play and his emphasis of the university's distinctives were commendable. I also thought that the program giving reasoned reasons for certain aspects of the play that might prove offensive was gracious.

Our Bill of Rights does protect freedom of expression, whether it be in journalism, or religious conviction. Without freedom to express "another opinion" our political culture is endangered, because it becomes propagandized for a particular view or opinion. Education cannot happen in cultures that dominate, control or prohibit these freedoms of expression, because critical thinking skills are not needed where there is no "difference".

Christians should be people that believe that God is bigger than any type of expression. That does not mean that Christians condone any type of expression. The political realm can only be open and free when there is religious tolerance. And religious tolerance says that Congress shall make no legislation concerning religion or its free expression.

Grace means that we grant others the right to differ in opinion, values and commitments, because we understand that some things are just not "black and white" issues. Paul commended in the Scriptures that each man should be fully assured in his own mind. And Jesus said that we should not judge another's man's servant, because to his own master his stands or falls.

All of life is gifted and given. The play itself, as well as the university's tolerance of it was affirming of the grace that is prevenient. And I think is what Wesley would have approved.

Religion's "Duty" and Ethical Choice

My pastor's sermon today was about the Christian "call" to "love" all people, even those different from oneself. This is moral perfection in holiness circles, because "love fulfills the law".

Why does "love fulfill the law"? Because love will do no wrong to a neighbor. What is doing wrong to a neighbor? Breaking the law. So, love knows the neighbor and chooses to do what is right by fullfilling the law through love. There is no justice here, for love doesn't ask questions, or seek answers according to the "model of Jesus". "He was led as a lamb to slaughter". "He answered not a word"., etc.

Justice is doing what is ethical, not necessarily "moral". The higher principle of "right" applies to the other text used in my pastor's sermon. The one on Cain and Abel. Cain's sacrifice was not pleasing to the Lord and so, he slew Abel. What was point of the story? My pastor pointed out that there are many theological understandings of "why God chose Abel over Cain". But, he said this was not what the text reads. It was wrong to kill, period! The moral calls for Cain to bear consequences, which the text describes as a banishment and and a wandering upon the earth.

The theological calls for a "forgiveness", a wiping the slate clean, no matter what has resulted from the "sins of the heart". But, the ethical calls an acknowledgment of humanity's systemic need to compete for these innate desires of the human heart. The desire for God's favor, the desire to "get ahead", the desire to be the "top dog", the desire for "leadership", the desire to benefit from another's work or life, the desire to control, the desire to demand, etc. All of these desires were the warning of God to Cain before Cain did the "evil" in killing his brother. God warned that "sin was croutching at the door"....

I find that the religious justify their actions, just as those "in the world". There is no difference, just a difference in "ends", which justify in their minds, actions that would otherwise be abhorrent. The ends never justify the means, if the means is a human life.

Human life is what our laws protect, in free societies. Free societies allow choice to individuals, and do not demand "allegiance" of life, other than a "call for duty to protect" the nation against enemies.

The call for Jesus' life was a call to protect the nation (better for one to die than the whole nation). Jesus' life was a life given, but it was also a life taken. A life taken by those who benefitted through the peace it protected, as the crowds wanted Barababas to be released, not Jesus. For fear of the crowds, the rulers killed Jesus. They did what was wrong because it was expedient for the greater cause of "peace".

I find it interesting that Christians use Jesus life as an exempliary one, as his life, though lived in acknwledgement of the inclusion of sinners, was a life that allowed "evil to prevail". The theologians would not think this, no it has become the epitome of what being a Christian is about...a belief that Jesus died for me, so that I might live. Jesus was a sacrificed life, which others threw their guilt upon. He was scape-goated, so that others might find a "free conscience", not by doing what is "right", as God called for in Genesis, but doing what is in self-interest.

Theologians bring a "new understanding" in a "new time" to what the gospel's message means. Today, the ethical and scientific questions regarding "life" is at the forefront of "making meaning". I find that without ethics, we will continue to live in isolated and defined theologically justified ways. I don't consider living this way is the way of breaking down walls, but upholding them.And that certainly is not the way of love.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

A Play on Freedom

Tonight, my husband and I went to a play. I don't remember the playwright, so I will not divulge the name of the play, either. The theme on freedom came out loud and clear to me, but it was interesting to hear comments about the play's meaning from others during the after-talk. Everyone had grasped different aspects of the play. Sometimes, I wonder if faith is not like this, too.

The play was set in Zion, Indiana. The main character of the play was a boy, who suffered a grave fear of water, due to his mother's drowning. She had died, while saving him. The boy's fear was directly impacted by a wandering ex-preacher, who had come to his town. The preacher be-friended the town and the town's characters were contrasted against his presence.

The theme to me was that this preacher's freedom from religion gave him the freedom to touch many in that town. He became human and put down his "duty" to preach the "gospel" and truly met some needs in the process.

His freedom was contrasted most to me by a lady named Norma. She was the epitome of a religious person, who had "prayed for a preacher to come to town"...'perhaps, a revival was in store", she just knew that the "Lord had sent him", etc. At the same time, her prudish fears, and her superstitious interpretations were truly amazing, but very true to life. She was bound by a narrow view of life and how God "works". Hers was a world of religious conversion and believing that conversion was the most important aspect to life.

In Norma's zealousness, she missed by not seeing, by being blinded to what she wanted to see. She missed the boy's need to be freed from his fear of water and his need to be physically healed from ring-worm. The ex-preacher had eyes to see and sought to aleviate the boy's handicaps.

In the end, the boy dies, while Norma give "praise to Jesus" that he had "been baptized". The others are stuck by the sadness of a life that has ended. She could only see her religious conviction. Her zeal had made her detached from life and the tragedy that had struck everyone else.

One does not have to be a Christian, in fact, being a Christian, was a hinderance in this play. At least, a "traditional Christian". I think that life is far too complex to simply believe that "if people only believe the "gospel" everything will work out. This view, unfortunately, was one that I grew up with...

I remember one of my family members quoting Romans 8;28 to me after my engagement was broken. It just seems that Scripture leaves one cold when the waters are too deep to swim. Scriptures have been useful in such hands to knock down, take out, suppress, repress, oppress, dominate, discriminate, badger, hinder, minimize tragedy, judge, condemn, ostricize, exclude, prohibit, and anything else that one would choose to do independently from those in "power".

So, this play had a meaning of freedom from religion. A freedom to be human and that being human was a way to touch and make a differenc in another human's life. Humans are what life is about, not religion, not conversion and not some supernatural text of religion. No, life is about life and should be embraced alongside others of like kind (although they may be different from oneself).

Friday, February 13, 2009

Two Sides to the Human Heart

Freedom and Justice are two desires built within each human heart. Wars and conflict happen because these two desires are at odds with each other within the heart and within social structures.

Freedom is the need to be. It is the individual seeking identity and expression. Freedom allows creativity. Freedom is found within American ideals and our Bill of Rights.

Whereas freedom is found in individuality, justice is found within the social. Justice cannot exist apart from relationship. Justice is found within our American form of government in its laws. Because our form of government affirms both liberty and justice, we are a nation of diverse opinions, and commitments.

Human rights and ethics itself is based on an understanding of justice. And sometimes justice is not understood within the confines of law, if laws are unjust means of attaining desires that subvert another's freedom. Freedom is primary, if the individual matters at all, which is what Christians and Americans affirm and believe.

Views From Below

I have been thinking about how people come to understand their faith along the lines of belief, belonging, and behavior. This is of major importance, I believe, if there is going to be an understanding across faith dimensions...

Belief is a set or way of understanding meaning. These meanings are made within our heads as we experience life. These meanings come from many factors in our life and this makes up our personal history. Beliefs contain everything from how we understand God, to how we understand life and how it should function because of these beliefs.

Behavior is how we understand what is appropriate and by what means. These are the social norms we live by and are given within our cultural and familial settings.

Belonging is our specific cultural, and familial membership. These can be formal or informal memberships, but do prescribe how behavior is to be understood, as they uphold the values that make for the social norms.

In this mix, we also must allow for individual development beyond these "identifications", or determinants. Although most people do not understand their beliefs as culturally specific, or their behavior as determined by these cultural limitations, there is development beyond these understandings, which are conventional social norms.

Whenever an individual reaches beyond their parental, and cultural "thinking patterns", then the mix will always be individually determined, as a unique "call" of individuality, which is the giftedness that is to be given back to "life".

Conventional morality is specified by "order" and the status quo. It behaves because "that is just the way it is", without question. most Americans in the South and many elsewhere just accepted the subjugation the the African American race, because this was the "accepted form". This is where the moral limits the ethical.

The conservative Church, for the most part, has held to the moral, and has limited the ethical change that needs to be made. Conservatism is the epitome of status quo and conservatism hinders the development of human flourishing due to "fear" of subversion of cultural norms.

While conservatism limits, it also gives historical bearings, so that there is some way to view life with a "frame". Without a frame there is a free for all in social change.

Perhaps, in thinking about social change, we should enlighten our understanding about how social change has taken place before and what it meant for those it impacted. Without a sense of history, we will not have the impetus to move forward or to slow down. Globalization calls for a re-working of our understanding of faith. And, I personally believe that we cannot dismiss pluralism in some form, otherwise, we are idolizing our particular reference point, or experience.

So, this morning while thinking about my faith, I question and I prod, but that is just "who I am".

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Obama's Plan Is Surprised

Obama promised a more unified dialogue across party lines. But, this has not happened. In fact, today's resignation of the nominee of Department of Commerce, a Republican, I'm sure was a blow. He could not agree to the stimulus package, is what he said.

But, it was reported that the cenesus, which is supposed to be done by civil servants, to represent a "fair" representation of "reality" in America, has been moved to the White House! Is this a way to promote a Propagandized census, to justify spending in certain ways or areas? It does look suspcious, but should we be surprised?

Whether the census will be used for such purposes, the "low expectation" of the stumulus package and our economic recovery is being promoted by the media. Setting low expectations is a nice political move, as then we cannot be disappointed, no matter what. And the Mr. Nice Guys in Congress will come out looking like their stimulus package doled out the taxpayer money in "good order". And those who happened to benefit will be even more pleased...

Obama called for a cease fire to partisan rivalry, but how is this to be, unless he expects the Republicans to wholesale sacrifice all their scruples, values and "world-view" about economics? Politics rules the world in every area, so beware, you , naive.... And politics is about might, and fight and dirt.

Unified Diversity

With all of the discussion over whether a text is "special revelation", or by what means is a particular denomination to understand faith and how that plays out in orthopraxy, it seems that there should be a loud and clear call for a "peace treaty" on absolute truth claims.

Battle scars are many where there is an absolute claim on truth. Humans suffer in many ways because we justify actions based on our own limited understanding of what constitutes right behavior.We all have personal values and convictions on what is right or wrong, but sometimes we hold these convictions with little or no reflection. When there is little of no reflection on things that matter or should matter most, which are the ideals we live by, there is limitation on life itself. Socrates said "An unexamined life, is not worth living".

What would it be like to live in a world that let everyone seek their own life, with no interference? If one could pursue interests that were the "ideals" one valued? And everyone left others alone that differed? The world, yes, would be compartmentalized by many "differences", but wouldn't that breed a culture of acceptance and value of difference? And wouldn't it reflect a larger view of "truth" and breed a culture of understanding? Living in unified diversity is what I would call "heaven", as each would "be" and "do" as he understood to be of importance and of value. Then, peace would abound and no one would have a privy or right to jusitfy "speical priviledge" or "special rights", as everyone would be equally respected under "law".

I think this is the "ideal" of our American government. While fundamentalists of all kinds feel it their duty, to warn, rebuke, correct, and convert, I think a more healthy attitude toward self and neighbor is seeking understanding dialogue. Most religions, though, are based on a limited understanding of life and the values of the "transcendent" over-ride one's duty toward others and real life in this world. Is religion dangerous? I am beginning to think so.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009


My husband just came in from work and told me that Gert Wilders was invited to show his piece about Islam, in England, but was not allowed into the country. What? A free Western nation bans someone's free speech? Were they afraid of retaliation from extremists? Did they think that his criticism of a religion was inapropriate? Is tolerance to a religion, even if extreme, more important than freedom?

My husband said Wilders piece was only informing from the Koran, and showing how the Taliban implements their discipline. It takes great courage to inform such an intolerant tradition. There is no openness to another's opinions, at least, in the end. Their vision is total control and domination under God's rule.

Hirshi Aryan Ali warned that the tolerance and religious freedom of the West would allow free reign to political infilteration and finally an enslavement to a narrow view of religious tradition under Shairia Law. This is greatly disturbing to the future of our individual rights, human and otherwise.

Absolute Uncertainty

If we only conceive of God because we "need" God, then, that doesn't prove anything about God, so much as us. We are limited and finite, and dependent on many things to survive.

Some believe that God is necessary for "life", and believe in "other worlds", or God's intervention within time...But, do we know this really, or is it just an interpretaion of events? We only see what we look for, in that we "see" God working or "explain things other situations away", And this is what many call "faith", which is really interpretation.

Others say that the only thing that is possible to really know is what science tells us. Therefore, their views do not "see" other scientific ways of understanding the same situation, circumstance, or events. We speak a specific language according to the speicific discipline and many think they address the "whole world" and all things with that specifice and limited knowledge.

People just do not know anything apart from what they place their trust in and whatever they put their trust in is still limited in view of the whole. So, all we know is that we do not know, but in part. This fact alone should cause a humble approach to any problem in the name of our limited view.

Science Is Religion's "Step-Child"?

Some believe that the world functions along separate lines of understanding, religion speaks for God, and science speaks to everything else. The problem of divorcing the two, is it leaves little room for religion and God. This is where the battle lines become fierce, as the exclusivist vent their fears by enforcing a "brittle" understanding of a text, or tradition. In Christian history, this is where fundamentalism was born. But, staunch stands do nothing to endear the Church in the public square.

Others would argue that "religion is science's step-child", because religion is just useful to serve other ends. Religion is to be a useful means to incorporate cooperation from the "feeble minded", who depend on religion. While dependence on religion may be true for identification, or cultural forms that help make the individual feel "at home", I think the attitude of "usefulness" is inappropriate and demeaning to others.

While I agree that tradition limits "free-thought", tradition is useful to serve the purposes of acculturation in a culture. Our American culture does not define itself on a primary religious tradition, as we believe that religion is a private matter. We affirm religious freedom and tolerance in our Bill of Rights and Constitution.

Just today, while talking with my hairdresser, who just became a deputy in the Episcopol Church, he informed me that the reason the Episcopol Church separated from the Anglican Church was because of the American Revolution. We were not be be subservient to a king, in our religion. This is a challenge today in the Anglican tradition, as well as other organized traditions. Where is authority and by what means are issues to be dicussed and decisions made?

Science has challenged our understanding of man and nature and we will never be finished with exploring all the avenues available in seeking undersanding of our physical world. The challenge for the religious, is to understand their faith within a scientific framework. Faith is not dependent on doctrine, or belief, or text, but on life itself. Therefore, science should not threaten the faithful, it should only challenge our minds in understanding any limitations on science. So, the call to the Church should be in ethics. Ethics brings pertinence to the Church and gives a voice in the public square.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Social Responsibility Within a Political Frame

Politics drives what policy is heard, considered and how and if it is implemented. Our free society allows any and every voice to be heard, at least in theory. This is important not just for self-interest, but also for the interest of "freedom' in the political realm. Without all being represented, then there will be an oppression of a voice, or a people.

When Obama won the presidentcy, the whole world was elated over the possibility of equality, opprotunity for social change where all voices could be heard. The human heart is like that, it enjoys its freedom. But, freedom that is taken for granted may soon be lost. This is why the military is important. The military watches over our interests abroad and ensures that our ideals of a democratic form of government is won for others. The conflict comes over how that is won.

The individual is the epitome of responsible action, as responsibility cannot be gauged in a corporate way. Political ideologies vie for a hearing in how we think it best to bring about the right or proper society. The society cannot flourish if the individual holds no sense of responsibilty toward our freedoms, as freedom depends on responsible character.

Character is where the individual believes and chooses for the best "outcome". These choices do consider what values are to be upheld, as it is often times not a straight forward decision, but a weighing of what is of most importance. It is wrong for others to make judgments about motivations when judgments are made with personal values in mind. These values may differ from another's and this is where it becomes a question of agreement and cooperation, or of disagreement and a parting of the ways. There is often no "right or wrong", but a matter of personal "tastes".

Many would like to "sell" thier political agenda with phrases that play upon social responsibility. If a person is a person of character, then, the person's commitments will not be shaken with such tactics, as these commitments are already settled. It is only when there has been a lack of commitment or a lack of self-reflection that a crisis becomes the call to commitment of the values of most importance.

Those who have the priviledge to live in free societies should take an active interest in what their government is doing and stands for. This is where the civic meets the moral. And sometimes that means activism.

The Banality of the "Common Good"...

If we think we live isolated lives that do not matter in the large scheme of things, we are mistaken. Our country does value and affirm the individual and for the most part, allows the individual the freedom to choose his "way of life". Is this changing in our globalized world? I believe it is, because we don't choose to do what is wrong or shady alone. We must have co-operation from a larger "group".

This morning it was reported that the SEC person who should have overseen Bernie Madoff, "overlooked" his indiscrepencies. Her "indiscrepency" encouraged Bernie's "greed" and has made her culpable in the "scheme of things". She has resigned. Bernie's actions have affected many, but he obviously did not do it alone. This is how the "system" works. And it has become more and more prevalent as our world has become interconnected.

I think that without individual choice and responsibiltiy for "self", that there is no real morality, because it alleviates personal decision making, which salves consciences from what would otherwise be reprehensible. And many times the "evil" is done in the name of "good", so it further gives credibility to the pressure to conform to the "system's" role and function appropriately.

Also, this morning, it was reported that our country was headed for socialized medicine. Whil many countries have this style of medical insurance, socialism has not bred the best environment for medical research and development. Systems do not allow the individual as many choices in being responsible for their own health-care. Insurance companies would not cover certain surguries or treatments, as these would be considered prohibitive in costs, or "outside" the scope of "common" concern. Again, we will not be allowed the freedom to choose whether we can or will afford a certain treatment. But, I am sure the socialists would approve of this design in the name of the common good!

Last night, during his presidental address, I got the impression that Obama was cautious in his word selection concerning Iran and what our future actions would be toward that nation. While I respect his carefulness, if it was due to lack of information at this point about our future actions, I do not condone an attitude of tolerance toward those who would subvert the "rule of law".

Boundaries are necessary to maintain identification factors and allow a consideration of difference. Otherwise, humankind looses their identification factors and I think, this leads to violent fear and anxiety. Identity breeds security because "we know who we are and what we stand for". Otherwise, the human is dissolved into social and political "forces/issues" that don't regard the person, but uses the person for the "system's interest".

"Sin" is not just a personal issue, but a systemic one. Individuals must resist the "group mentality" that would subvert "proper respect" and regard for another human being. Justice is standing for and up to these forces/factors in the name of individuals who have no voice. Our country has sought to bring that freedom to other nations, so that their people can have a voice. Just recntly, elections were held in Iraq and women were on the ballot. This is dramatic social change. And yet, we do not hear about this change on our major news networks.

Humankind is not a personal word, nor is, the "common good". Socialism, communism and political dictatorships all breed on "group think" and "common purposes", which disregard personal interests, disrespecting the individual. These are manavolent factors in the world that do not breed "freedom" in any shape or form. This is why our Founding Fathers were so careful to allow the individual the freedoms that we tout in our Bill of Rights. Without these laws, we cannot make any difference for others, because we, ourselves, will be slaves to the "common good", which will be "dictated" by "elite rulers" and not the "common person". We must fight the "banality of the common good".

Sunday, February 8, 2009

What Does One Do?

My grand-daughter is here today. She is dancing and curtseying and bringing the "wonderment" that is a part of childhood. I wonder how she will grow and develop, as she is so "smart", at the tender age of two. She dreams and makes up stories. She shares her heart and she believes that eveything is good and nice and to be trusted. What happens when she realizes that life doesn't work that way?

How do you protect the innocence, and yet prepare them for the real world? What if she is meant to create like this all her life and she is maladjusted for the rest of her life like many creative spirits? I don't know how to protect, if I should or even, if I can.

Even though I saw this aspect in my children and delighted in seeing their creative spirit, I didn't appreciate it like I do my grand-daughter's today. Perhaps, because I have grown "more realistic" (although, I do believe I'm more creative than therefore may never grow up in certain ways...), I have come to realize that life "happens" and that sometimes even though leaders attempt to "make things happen", certain things are beyond their control or knowledge.

Hannah Reece is my grand-daughter's name, and I hope that she gives to life as much as she given to ours, these short two years she has lived.

Realism's Relativity

Realism is about truth based in the real experiences of life. Our experiences are the very contexts that we understand and bring meaning into our lives. Those who live in different situations think differently about "truth".

Truth is survival to those who live in poverty and disease, whereas truth is liberation for those who live under oppressive regimes. Truth is about reality, life's situatedness, and personhood. If truth is disconnected to what we experience, or our individuality, then there is cognitive disconnect from what is being touted as "universal truth".

When David ate of the shewbread in the Scriptures, he was not reprimanded, because his need for sustenence was greater than his need for the "holy". Traditionalists condemned him, but Jesus did not. Compassion looks on others in thier situatedness and does not judge, but seeks to help. On the other hand, understanding that our helpfulness can also be short-sighted unless we acknowledge that each of us is different and the differences of our experiences and understanding will always limit how much we can help.

Theology "speaks for God" in traditionalists circles, but, theology is really about "man speaking about God". We cannot attain to God's mind, or God's personhood, as we just cannot know. We only have models of experience and religious representations of God.

Some want to make absolute assertions about God and demand that others follow their suit. What transpires is tragically a "social convention" that is passed off as "God". And God's name is "used in vain" by promoting, and demanding that everyone see and experience the same thing, the same way. Apart from conformity, there is no "real salvation". I personally think this is idolatrous, for we cannot know but in part, and we certainly don't understand the "other", they way we need to.

Those who have closed minds concerning diversity/difference are doomed to oppress and stifle, while those who have no way of measurement, have no gauge, where values can even be discussed.

All of us have limited understanding and we base our understanding upon different authorities. Each authority is a limited one and we must humbly acknowledge that to one another in seeking after and commiting to "truth seeking understanding"...

Friday, February 6, 2009

Calvin's "Spiritualized" Salvation History

I find it quite amusing to read Calvinistic theology nowadays. Why? because it is a big mythological way to understand "salvation", "God", and "history".

There is always "something special" in Calvinistic thought; the elect, salvation-history, the divine Christ, the penal substitutionary death atonement, the exclusivist claims, the Canon itself, Israel, the Church, a special call, etc. It is as if there is no real reality, if one is a person of faith. This understanding seems to me to be absolute aburdity. It is looking at everything with "spiritual eyes", as the 'natural man does not accept the things of the spirit".

I think that there are those who have an agenda for the Church to maintain its "identity with Calvin". Others are truly duped. The social organization is no less "special", if one has eyes to see and believe. The government is no less a place to be a "minister". The Church is a social organism and a social structure, which is useful for certain purposes, nothing more and nothing less.There is no separation of secular and sacred, as all of life is about giftedness and gifting.

Jesus life was mythologized by the early believers and Church. His "story" is one narrative among many narratives. Many have made use of his identity and lacked the ability to come to their own identity.

There is really no "God's salvation history". There is only ancient history and ancient texts. These are the ways of coming into mature and responsible behavior, where one does not seek another's "help" to avoid the responsibilities before them. One starts to own his own identity. He no longer identifies himself primarily as a Christian, but as a person. This is where the individual finds their own identity and "life focus" and creates their story, within the narrative of history.

Two Sides of Suicide

Suicide is taking one's own life. There are two ways to group the identifications factors of those who commit suicide. One believes in complete individuality apart from the social or the other group has a complete identification to the social.

The social structures were made to bless life, be a support system and bring a sense of belonging. But, when social structures are used as a means of control of identity or are ignored altogether, then there will be a disvalueing of the individual life.

Our culture affirms the strong, independent, and brave person who can "go it alone". We understand this type of attitude as "manly",. We condone men when they are strong in bearing up under stress and we condemn or look down upon those men who express a need, or desire for community. These men are considered effeminate, or immature.

Just today it was reported that there were 24 suicides this month according to the Pentagon. There was a discussion about it on NPR. It seems that 1/3 had been deployed, 1/3 were deployed and 1/3 had not been deployed. It was suggested that the military encourage soldiers to seek help when they find it difficult to bear the stress. There didn't seem to be any universals as to "reasons". But, our culture does not affirm men "with problems" they can't handle alone.

Just recently, a man lost his job and killed his wife, himself and his 5 children. And we wonder why such despair? Some would consider this to be a lack of faith. Others would wonder about his personal life. There seems to be little understanding in our culture of a need for deeper relationships. We don't have the time, nor do we value them that much. The relationships we do have are those we find at our jobs, as we have little time to even know our neighbors.

On the other side of the spectrum, is the emmeshment of one's identity so deep that there remains little left of the individual. These are cultures that breed dependence, have strict social norms and enforce them with oppressive social control. God is useful to bring about a "controlling force" of obedience, or submission. These types of cultures do not value the individual or the creative, as this threatens the very identity of these groups. These groups survive in isolated contexts and have isolated views about life in general. Truth is known as special and independent to any "truth out there".

While one group will commit suicide because of a lack of social connection, the other will do so, because they think they do God service by annihlating themselves for "God's Kingdom", to prove their ultimate dedication to the deity or to the group.

Social structures are to be nurturing and safe environments, without domination, control of the individual's identity. Otherwise, it is a cult. Get out quick!

Justice Is Not Just Social

Justice is defined by our courts as adhering to lawful standards of behavior. Justice is blind because justice is not partial. The law doesn't care about the specific details, it only defines boundaries and borders around the individual's property or person. It is only when the social has respected the individual boundaries that the social is of any moral or ethical value. Otherwise, it is an unjust community, organization or nation.

Justice is to be sought by all of us, as it limits evil, and protects society from further abuses of power. Individuals have to hold the social to account, and these are the ones who bring about social change.

Wouldn't it be the height of hyposcrisy and arrogance, if one teaches and believes in social justice and, yet, perverts justice by scapegoating an individual? This is why the evangelical message has no meaning, insofar as real justice. Real justice is about the individual and human rights, and good government, and lawful behavior.

Social conformity should only be done if there is an adherence to honesty, and integrity, and lawful behavior, which is demonstrated by a commitment to the value and worth of the individual. We must seek justice, especially in the face of evil.

Handicaps in Church

I don't know a lot about golf, although my family is "big" into the sport. But, I do know that people are allowed "handicaps", which consider limitations. I think this is reasonable and gracious in regards to understanding the human, which is what the Church should be about.

Handicaps could be anything that limits one, whether they be physical, mental, emotional, spiritual, or social. Handicaps should be accepted and not forbidden as something that must be "fixed", healed, corrected, or disciplined.

The Church is about justice, which has come to mean meeting a standard that none of us can attain. The law was created to protect, not condemn and judge. I find that handicaps stretch our ability to use the law rightfully. Understanding life as a journey of faith that has many bumps, as well as many personal fallabilities, is what grace is about. And grace is most of all what the Church should be about....

My Hairdresser is an Episcopol Deputy!

This morning my hairdresser called. In our conversation, he mentioned that he has been chosen to be a deputy in the Episcopol Church! I was elated to hear his joy! And I was intrigued about this "Congressional role". He has been sharing a little all along with me, although I don't see him but ever couple of months. But, here he is, a hairdresser and a deputy along with a theologian from Notre Dame, a lawyer and others. What an exciting opportunity for him. And what an "ideal" of mine. Inclusion.

But, this is where I guess my own faith is too weak to believe that something so great would happen to me. I told him that whenever I have trusted, as if God intervened in this life, I had ended up "naked and alone". So, I have my reservations about that kind of trust, anymore. My husband believes that God deals with us differently. I just don't know. Risk seems to be in whatever I choose to do, so it is not about "character" in taking chances, and "leaping out into the dark". And maybe I have given up hope. I haven't given up on life, though, as I am grateful for life, and all that is "mine". And I am still thankful to God, as the Giver, although, I'm not quite sure I know how he has given. I am still in process as to understanding "theological" ways of seeing...I am just walking out my life with a heart of gratefulness.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Marriage as Role, Function, or Covenant?

Marriage is a sacrament in the Christian Church. Even though the Church holds this sacrament as a universal one, there are diverse views as how the marriage is to function.

Some believe that the roles and functions are defined by gender and gender determines the role. Their view takes the Scripture literally in the wife being submissive to the husband. The serpent beguiled Eve first, so, this means that Eve must submit, as she is easily decieved. This view sees "order" as primary. While there is nothing wrong with order, is there something much more important at issue when it concerns marriage?

Marriage is also understood as a covenant. Covenant was a ancient binding agreement of life for life. The exhange of life of life for life is not based on role, function or gender, but on commitment of life. This way of viewing marriage is understood in Jonathan and David's relationship. Their relationship was a protective and intimate one. Their relationship was not based on gender identification, but on what was important in the relationship. Jonathan defended David from his own father, King Saul. Saul's jealousy threatened David's life and Jonathan sought to defend, enlighten, help, and fight for David.

Those who function on an honor/shame basis, which is an "ordered" way of understanding, would see the wife's role as bringing honor or shame to the husband, but never the other way around. Shame is useful to "put someone in their place", in socially conforming to social norms. Although our culture does not function as much along those lines as in the past, there is something to be said about raising a child's conscience in regards to society and responsibility. This is where the family is important in educating the child's conscience.

I find that this is not the best way to understand marriage, as marriage should be based on friendship first and foremost, not on "forms" and confomity to a cultural norm. Relationships that are based on friendship are not defined by role and function. It is a relationship that is based on trust, respect, honor and defense. Such relationships go beyond race, gender, politics, etc. as these relationships are defined by the two people involved.

The Media, Bias, and Education

On the radio today, a discussion over the place of the media in educating the public was made. In the program, it was suggested that Rush Limbaugh was the "talking head" of the Republican Party. Just before this program there was discussion on Reganomics. I find this interesting that these discussions were held back to back.

The media is responsible for reporting the facts, informing the public about what is happening. Most of our national news is just that, national, as it concerns national interests. But, with globalization, we cannot hide our heads in the sand without limiting our free society. The media assures a free society, when there is an affirmation of our Bill of Rights, which assures that our press remains free, in speech (what is said), opinion (religion or political party), and access (information in all areas of our public discourse).

These discussions, I thought were biased attempts at expressing a liberal agenda. Many have attempted these days to lay the crisis in our economy at the foot of Reagan, because of deregulation, capitalistic interests, and military support. Rush Limbaugh would probably represent the epitome of these opinions concerning the free market, and the political scene. But, this is his right to do so, in a free society.

The majority's rule in Congress is leading to an abuse of our bail-out, in my opinion. What criteria is there for deserving a bail-out? And those that are bailed out by the taxpayer are to be responsible and conservative in their future plans for business. Just today, I read where a company had scheduled an extravagant conference (holiday?) in Las Vegas, only to be reprimanded and cancel their plans. More companies need to take this type of responsibility themselves, instead of having a police state watch every footstep. The executive limiting their salaries to $500,000. is a good start, especially since those who make so much less are paying for their position, as well as the company's solvency.

Our society has gotten out of bounds concerning the free market, and what type of vocation deserves the highest pay. Of course, in free societies it depends on what the market will pay a particular person for their expertise. This is a question of "free market economics" and "the greater good", which is both Republican and Democratic values. If one or the other dismisses it's balancing "other side", then, we are headed down the road we have been on. And that only leads to greed, self-indulgence, and a lack of social responsibility. I believe that the two sides to the Golden Rule is a necessary balance to abuse. Whichever position one is commited to, is what basis one should make decisions about others...doing unto others. This allows freedom of conviction and commitment, while balancing each side.

The question of balnacing bias in journalism is a well-known fact in some circles, even though reporting is to be done in an unbiased way. Anyone who has taken two newspapers and read the same story covered by these different commitments (conservatism/liberalism) will see the differences in how the story is written. It is quite interesting and an education itself.

The Ethical Questions Posed....

I went to hear two of our professors talk about genetic engineering yesterday, in regards to changing behavior. The two professors represented religion, and biology. And the discussion crossed those disciplinary lines concerning sin, salvation and sanctification.

The discussion is not new to me, as my husband is a Bio-physist and we had been exposed to these discussions over 25 years ago at the University of Rochester during his post-doctoral experience.

The premise was that if behavior is determined to be genetic, such as alcoholism and certain mental disorders have been, then, the solution for "sin", salvation and sanctification would be to genetically correct the problem.

I have nothing against changing genes, per se. But, this opens up a "can of worms" for me concerning ethics. When is the genetic predisposition determined? at birth or when the behavior manifests itself? Or when families have this propensity? Who keeps the records, the State?

What is sin? How is it defined and by what authority? Will there be religious freedom if one believes in another type of authority, than societal? Is genetic "salvation" mandated by the State? the Chruch?

What is sanctification, then? Is it only behaving in a certain way, when the predisposition is there but the societal norm is prohibitive?

Is the determination of human genetic predisposition to be based upon any finding in the physical world, as it was argued that homosexual behavior among certain insects showed this tendency? If so, how does one keep from reducing man to the physical alone, i.e. reductionism?

I recognize that the Scriptures are written in an ancient context and it must be "transformed" in some way to have relavancy at large, but how do we protect religious freedom? Or should we look to ethics as a means to answer the questions concerning man in the face of scientific discovery, so that man is not reduced to his lowest denominator. And should we also limit the political realm of deeming a scientific "solution" mandated, thus, protecting religious conscience?

These are interesting questions that must be discussed by all of the disciplines, so that all voices that represent man, are heard and heard loudly, before any political determinants can be made...Science has always given "grief" to the Church, but it has also blessed man. We must understand how to use science, politics, and religion as a means of blessing. These areas are of most importance in today's climate of globalization.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

The Absurdity of Belief continued

Tonight, while eating with some students, the discussion led to the octupulets that were just born. We started talking about whether this was ethical and on what grounds do we defend or understand our position. It was quite interesting....

In the proces of discussing this issue, which got into whether God interevened directly into the life of this mom's choice to have the children, the in vitro fertilization, responsibility factors, and whether one can come to a universal understanding of birth control and on what basis...we "happened" upon how miracles can be believed as written in the text using science. I think I will call it biblical scientism, as it hisoricizes the text as literally true, even scientificall....the words are interpreted into scientific instead of understanding the ancient text as "outdated" through ancient Greek understandings, they seek to hold to "inerrancy, and infallibilty" of the text, while re-interpreting what was "inspired". No myth, it is absolute reality that is to be applied to life today.

I didn't even respond, unless my facial expression gave me away. It is always important to affirm what students believe and ask the right questions to get them to think beyond where they are...I didn't even have questions to ask, as I was dumb-founded.

Oh, well, life will go on regardless of what this student believes about the text. I have to live my life and he his...He is after all a married man.(His wife was also in on the conversation!)....

Yesterday's Reading Touches Today's

Yesterday, while at a friend's house, I picked up her book on temperaments. In the book, it not only described the differences among the temperaments, but also, what their strenghs were and where they most 'fit" as it concerned career. I was interested as my grand-daughter is getting ready to go to pre-school and I wondered how she would fare and what we should expect concerning her interactions with others.

Today, someone brought up the issue of authority. In the post, the Pope was mentioned. The Pope demands obedience because he is God's authority figure. Protestant Christians base their authority on Scripture, which is still a limited understanding of authority due to the differences of the authors and the emphasis of the writings themselves. Tradition throughout the ages has understood different emphasis in Christian faith. So, it is a matter of faith in how one understands. It is not about authority.

I have written before about overbearing parents, who do not allow any type of expression in the child other than what the parent thinks is right. I am hoping that what I have learned through my mistakes will help my grandchildren. Things that do not matter, as to "morality", as to the choice of vocation, is of importance in allowing the child to find what is of interest to him. This makes for a exploring of different topics, and jobs, before there is a commitment of life. Otherwise the parent has failed to help the child to form and be prepared for the future. Of course, things are different in socialized countries, as it is assumed that society will be responsible for the upbringing of the children. Ours is a mixture of personal convictions with public education being open, if that is what one chooses.

Authority is not important after one has reached maturity where one's values are clear and one's commitments are made. These are personal decisions that must be made in free societies by the adults within them.

The Quandary Over Our Culture

It was reported in the newspaper that Iran was sending up a satelitte. Although the range was not to be feared, the West is still fearful of Iran's intention in regards to nuclear weapons. This fear is well-grounded through experience and the perception that Iran's president has toward the West.

Iran, as well as other strict Islamic states, do not affirm the human, but God. God is to be revered above all else, and disrupts Islam's life for prayer many times during the day. While strict tradition can limit the diversity of the 'human", so can politically oppressive regimes. The politically ideological are focused on thier own way of life at the expense of another's expression and understanding. The politically ideological also limit diverse expression of the human.

We are in a quandary in the West with many countries on the verge of bankruptcy and our own cultural demise. Many think that the West is dying and are seeking spiritual renewal. While this may help a few, I don't think that it will affect most of the cultural elites, as thier interests would not even expose them to "the revivalists". Neither will tradition's tradition help alleviate the demise. The cultural elites are those who are our policy makers and power brokers. These are not impressed by "strict traditional understandings of faith".

Tradition and revivalism is based on the supernatural. Scientific understanding is not open to such "superstition". So, there must be educated believers in all areas of "life". These believers are not radicals, but are rational in their beliefs. These have an understanding of broad issues of history, culture, and politics. These people seek to make a difference in "real life" not the "by and by".

Just yesterday I got an e-mail about a Rabbi who heads up a National Jewish Center for Learning and Leadership. I was fascinated by it's vision, as it is inclusive of all religious traditions, while affirming all of learning. I find it hard to swallow that one should "cut off" learning because it has led one "astray" from a speicifed "faith understanding". If all truth is God's truth, then the only thing to be cautious about is the perversion of truth. Understanding life this way means that we are open to all of learning and struggle and seek how to understand learning within an open universe, where God is not defined in limited ways, and all human learning is a way of understanding life. It is not about right, and wrong, but about cultures, peoples, and humanity at large.

Some are of the opinion that one must hold to a certain view to be "saved" or "right with God". This is a very narrow way to understand life and limits those within it "confines" to tradition's understanding, without coming to terms with one's own personhood. That is not to say that some may find themselves most at home and comfortable in such an atmosphere, but,it is not for everyone.

The West's concern over it's culture should be one about the humanities, as the humanities are about the human. The humanities are the creative avenue of expression that makes the difference between man and animal. And the humanities are as diverse as the people who create them and they are expressive of the diversity within the universe. The humanities enlarge the heart and express the transcendent. One of our presidents, John F. Kennedy, has gifted our nation's capital with the "Kennedy Center for the Arts", a place where many can gain a glimpse of the transcendent from a life below.