Saturday, November 26, 2005

Fables of Old

I just completed a class called "Principles of the Life of Christ". In this class we examined nothing but the Gospels to piece together a portrait of Jesus' life. Additionally, we also examined other sources that seek to dispel the legitimacy of the Bible in general and the Gospels in particular.

One particular entity is the so-called "Jesus Seminar". This group of scholars gathers twice a year to examine scripture and try to determine

  • Whether Jesus actually said "it" (any particular passage)
  • Whether Jesus likely said "it"
  • No way Jesus said "it"

They then vote according to their own conclusions. I suppose then they expect the world to believe them because by a vote of the minds, they have concluded that Gabriel could not have visited Mary, the Virgin Birth was a myth, and that Jesus never changed water into wine. Exactly how they arrived at these conclusions - while still maintaining the divinity of Christ (I think) - is beyond me.

Nevertheless, I was searching through the Koran to find something for another paper and stumbled across this little tidbit: "When they come to argue with you, the unbelievers say: 'This is nothing but fables of the ancients.' They forbid it and distance themselves from it. They ruin none but themselves though they do not perceive it." 6:20

Of course the Bible is not silent about false teachers who seem determined to somehow undermine the saving grace of YHWH through Christ. What I do not understand is how such a denial can be made while still trying to maintain the integrity of the Scriptures as "inspired".

It seems to me that such outfits as the "Jesus Seminar" may come dangerously close to drawing in Christians with promises of attempts to "prove" the legitimacy of the Scripture while making quite rational arguments against blind faith.

Reading the Bible critically as in reading the words more carefully can go a long way toward dismissing stories from the past that grandma passed on. Reading the Bible critically as in attempting to find fault, however, does nothing good for those who continue to struggle in the faith. And that's precisely what it is: FAITH.

There is much that cannot be explained by man (Revelation leaps to mind!), but faith allows the Holy Spirit to speak to that void. This is a very important element that seems to be missing from these scholars' thoughts.

Friday, November 25, 2005

Promises, promises ...

It is reported in today's Arkansas Democrat-Gazette that states and local governments have made promises they cannot keep. Considering the continuing debate in the US Congress about Social Security and Medicare and the deficit, one cannot help but wonder if this tangled web does not go even further.

Pork-barrel projects are a well-known part of doing business with politicians. We demand that our congressmen and senators "produce" and when they do not deliver, we want their livers on a stick. Yet when the pork is reported, we tend to gloss over those projects that were delivered to our home states and then cry and lament over the wasteful spending in other areas. It is easier to blame congressmen and senators from other states who have been demonized by the opposing political party and use them as the very evidence which proves that they need to go.

The truth is that our Congress is nothing more than a reflection of who we are and what we think we want. We demand the sun and the moon and the stars, and then we scream when the bill comes due. We blame Congress, and yet we have many members of both Houses who continue to be re-elected time after time. It is as if we awaken from a deep sleep only long enough to vote. Then we are only capable of making the selection that is most familiar to us. In many cases, it is the incumbent who naturally catches our eye.

If we have anyone to blame, it is only ourselves.

Promises were made years (seemingly centuries!) ago about how retirements and health care would be available to everyone; utopia was promised to us by those seeking political office, and we fell for it. Now it is time to pay the piper, and we are pretty sure "someone" is to blame; we're just not exactly sure who it is. It surely cannot be "me" - "I" only voted (that is, if "I" bothered to vote at all).

We have a deficit that seems almost surreal and a national debt that pushes a number most of us cannot begin to fathom. We are in the midst of a war fighting for our lives against an enemy that seeks every opportunity to kill and maim innocent children, and we think we are overburdened with taxes. We are facing in the very near future an uncertainty about Social Security that we refuse to talk about, and Medicare does not come close to providing for lower-income recipients who have been PROMISED that they would not want for decent and affordable medical care.

So who is responsible for fulfilling promises that should never have been made? The politicians promised us everything necessary to be elected into office, but we never bothered to ask where that money might come from. We heard only what we wanted to hear. We have been hedging a bet against a future that we secretly hoped might never come and yet somehow knew that there would be no way to avoid it.

As for me, I am looking at the man in the mirror. I am promising "him" that I will resolve to pay closer attention to what is said. I will not fall for promises that sound too good to be true. I will not believe that re-electing this person or that one will somehow solve all my problems.

I will remember that if there is anything wrong within my own world, I will have no one to blame but myself.

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Genuine Moral Authority

Several weeks ago, much was said about Cindy Sheehan's "moral authority" to speak to the collective concerns Americans have about the war in Iraq. Recall that Mrs. Sheehan buried her son who was killed in action in Iraq. It was questionable then whether Mrs. Sheehan could or even should have taken it upon herself to speak for anyone other than herself.

That aside, there is a discussion within the Bush Administration and the Congress about whether the United States should completely and unequivocally outlaw torture as a means of interrogation against enemy combatants. That there is even a discussion among civilized and, presumably, reasonable persons about the legitimacy of such actions boggles the mind.

Senator John McCain of Arizona has come out and called torture at the hands of the American people a disgrace. If we want to assign any "moral authority" to speak to a situation, it would go to one who endured such treatment. Senator McCain is a former POW in the Vietnam War. He was tortured by the hands of his captors so if anyone would know about the negative ramifications of such actions, it would be him.

One great concern that politicians have had over the years is the United States' willingness to sell its weapons to foreign nations. Time and again, it has been shown that more often than not, these very weapons have fallen into the wrong hands and have ultimately been used against us. Should the idea of using torture as a weapon not raise the same concerns?

Limited training I received during my time in the Marine Corps addressed the issue of torture and its consequences. The bottom line was that we were taught that should we be charged with custody of enemy combatants, we were then responsible for their safety and well-being. There were several reasons why mistreating a POW was a bad idea, not the least of which includes:

  1. Giving a prisoner humane treatment diminished the chances that there would be problems while the POW was in US custody.
  2. Word getting out about the humane treatment of prisoners might encourage others to throw down their arms (remember the en masse surrenders during the first Gulf War? The US had a favorable reputation then) since there was no fear of being mistreated.
  3. Word getting out about the maltreatment of a POW would increase the risk that Americans in the hands of the enemy would suffer likewise.
  4. We would soon digress to become the enemy we so despised.

Senator McCain has a unique perspective about the mistreatment of POW's, and we should pay attention to him. Our mission in Iraq is an admirable one; we are fighting an enemy that has no moral qualms whatsoever about murdering innocent men, women, and children. The evidence also clearly shows that they have no regard for even civilians who would be reduced to begging for their lives and still being painfully and maliciously decapitated while being filmed!

However, this admirable mission will be lost on those who are watching should we come to resemble our enemy. After this, there are no more "good guys".

Saturday, November 19, 2005

Political Opportunism

"No, I didn't!"

"Yes, you did!"

"Well, maybe I did, but I didn't mean it at the time because now I know I was misled and lied to!"

"Show me the lies."

"Well, you know, all that stuff about WMD's in Iraq. If I had known then what I know now ..."

"What do you know now?"

"Well, you know, that we were lied to."

"Very well. Show me the lies."

"Well, everyone knows that President Bush lied to us about the intelligence and ..."

"Ok. I heard you the first time. Specifically what information do you have that proves that the Congress and the nation were lied to."

Columnist Gene Lyons insists that the Bush Administration is attempting to rewrite history about what was actually known about the WMD's and Saddam Hussein's intentions in the world. Now that the nation has grown weary of the negative headlines from the war in Iraq, political opportunists have also jumped on the bandwagon to demand an immediate withdrawal or at least periodic reports from the Bush Administration about the state of the war. It would seem that now the Congress intends to run the war from the House.

President Bush has insisted that the Congress was privvy to the same information since he chose to share it while seeking congressional support for military action. The Democrats chose to support the president at the time. Why? Because the nation was reeling from 9/11, and the time was ripe for hawkishness. It was politically popular to speak of kicking some tail.

Now the Democrats are using the president's low approval ratings to kick him around a little more. Wild accusations about "lies" are flying high and low. The problem, however, is that the evidence which might implicate President Bush seems somewhat light.

If anyone is rewriting history here, it is those who will kick a man while he's down.

Friday, November 18, 2005

To What Extent Guilty?

Robert Blake, the actor, was recently acquitted of murder, yet a civil court has ruled that he is liable for his wife's death to the tune of $30 million. In 1995 O.J. Simpson was also acquitted of murder in the death of his wife but shortly afterward, a civil court held him liable and ordered him to pay millions.

Say what you will about these criminal proceedings - and I'm no lawyer - but it seems to me that to be found liable by one court after having been found innocent by another smacks of double jeopardy. It is the same case with the same evidence, yet somehow a civil court can decide that a criminal court erred. After this has been done, they can then decide that a person's life has a finite value. I suppose they are able to get around the double-jeopardy thing by going to civil court as opposed to a prosecutor retrying the case and taking another stab at it. For some reason, however, the prosecution in both cases chose not to appeal the acquittals. Why is this since there was some evidence that convinced a civil jury that proper justice had not been served?

Without knowing much about the finer points of each case, it would seem that a civil trial is going to play more heavily toward emotion rather than fact. This is the very reason why so many defense attorneys have such a problem with "emotional impact" statements from families of the victims in criminal trials. True justice is not being served because it is not hard evidence that is convincing a jury; it is a sobbing daughter who has lost a mom or an emotional father who has lost a son.

I am not completely without compassion in these cases. If I were to have suffered such a loss, I could not say for absolute certainty that I would not respond according to my fouled up emotions maybe even outside the court room if given a chance. It must be noted, however, that this must be the very reason why the Lord set up such procedures for the Israelites. Safe havens for the accused in order to protect them from emotional family members who would seek vengeance against someone who just might be completely innocent if allowed the chance to prove it. It must surely be the very reason why at least two eyewitnesses must be present, according to Torah.

Our Constitution stipulates that one is presumed innocent until proven guilty, but the truth is that we would prefer to ignore that rubbish. We know a crime has been committed and we know that someone did it, and we want someone to pay. It really does not matter whether that person who has been arrested and photographed is actually innocent. The fact that enough evidence exists to bring charges against that person is good enough for most of us - ESPECIALLY if we are talking about child molestation cases!

I know that if I am ever accused of a crime, I want them to bring irrefutable evidence that connects me to the crime. I have to live in a society that presumes guilt and even if I am not a criminal (and have no plans to be!), it is a threat to my own well-being that a court can be manipulated minus any hard evidence that I am guilty simply because someone can cry on command.

This does not mean that Robert Blake and OJ Simpson finally got theirs. What it actually means that no one among us is safe even in a United States court of law.

Sunday, November 13, 2005

Resting on our Laurels

Matthew 25:14-30

“An idle mind is the devil’s playground.”

We’ve all heard this quoted more than once especially as it pertains to our children and their education. We also know, or should know, that if we GROWN UPS do not keep our minds occupied, there is no telling what can come forth. And something has to come because humans are just not geared to “vegging out” though we do sometimes try, and our children sometimes seem to defy this rationale!

With this reasoning, we can then suppose that if we do not keep our minds filled with things of the Lord, our minds will wander in other directions very naturally because the world is filled with all kinds of sights and sounds and temptations that can move us in sometimes dangerous directions and, ultimately, bad decisions. It is that the loudest noise at any given moment will be what captures our attention.

According to what is written in Matthew 25:14-30, choosing to do “nothing” will get us in as much trouble with The Master as would DOING something wrong. “You WICKED and lazy servant …” For the servant who did NOTHING with what was entrusted to him, it is a very unhappy time. He is to be “cast … into the outer darkness” for being “unprofitable” to the Master.

In the parable itself, Jesus uses money as the object but cash is not exclusively what He is referring to. And isn’t it interesting that the word “talent” is translated as a measure of money because when we speak of our spiritual gifts, can we not consider these gifts “talents” that have been entrusted to us?

Our “talent” is our ability to do, to perform. Our “talent” is something we are very good at. A disciple is going to understand that even though we may be able to develop our talents over time, the foundation of that ability was given to us from Above. And knowing this, we should know then that this talent that has been entrusted to us is not something we can keep to ourselves. It was given for a reason, to serve a purpose much greater than for our own success.

Faith in the Lord God is not something that “just is”. Rather, to “love the Lord your God with …” everything we have and everything we are is not passive in any sense of the word nor is Jesus suggesting such. In fact, it seems to be quite the opposite.

My current class at school is “The Life of Christ”. In the class, we are putting together a picture of what Jesus’ life must have been like. In Matthew 16, Jesus moves up to Caesarea Philippi. Beginning in verse 13 is the story we are very familiar with; “Who do people say that I am?”

Well, Peter makes his confession of faith and Jesus celebrates Peter’s confession by pointing out that the Church is going to be built upon a “rock”.

What is most interesting about that “rock” is that our understanding of what that “rock” may be will depend on whether we are Catholic or Protestant. I have to admit to you that I am a Catholic sort of preaching as a Methodist, and I’m not sure which side I come down on.

But whether Jesus was talking about Peter himself or the faith that enabled Peter’s confession is beside the point that I would like to make now. At the place where Jesus was said to be standing was at one time a pagan place of worship. It is said that some very dark and sinister happenings occurred there to include child sacrifices as a means of worship. The place is said to have been at the very core of what “evil” really looks like.

This “rock” is at the entrance of a cave at this particular place and in some circles, it was said to be the very entrance to “Hades” itself. The "god" Pan was said to have entered into Hades through that very portal. So the Church that Jesus is intent upon founding and building upon this “Rock” is at the very core of what Christianity is all about.

It is not enough that Christianity is merely an alternative to evil. It is not enough that Christianity creates sanctuaries from which people can find rest and respite from the world. Instead, it seems to be that Jesus is declaring WAR upon evil at that very site and at that very moment. “And the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it.”

So to simply offer people a “choice” between good and evil is to do nothing more than to rest upon our laurels and say to people, “Here we are in case you need us.” If it is that Jesus is intending to build His Church at that spot, then it may very well be that Jesus is going to force a confrontation with evil and not simply abide by it and "be tolerant" of it. If evil wants to come out of that hole, it can go around a "passive" church. If a Church is alive with life, then evil must come through a church alive. "And the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it."

No, we do not have to peaceably “coexist” with evil nor can we. Evil may not be able to touch those of us who have declared our faith and allegiance to Christ, but there are plenty of other weaker targets out there who are vulnerable to the influences of evil.

We are not to simply offer a “choice”; we are to put evil in its place. However, we do have to realize that there are limits to what we can do. And we must always be mindful that we never “return evil for evil” regardless of our intent. But to simply stand idly by and hope others will see us, as the “wicked and lazy servant” learned, is just not good enough.

The "Master" has invested a great deal in our "talents", and He has every right to expect a solid return on that investment. One question remains: what is a fair rate of return on One's life?

Saturday, November 12, 2005

'Tis The Season

Ho frikkin' ho. Today is November 12, and I am already sick of Christmas!

There was a time when Christmas could not get here quickly enough. The surprises that were under the tree were always more than generous and were almost always broken before noon! It was still great fun to be a kid. It was not until many years later when I finally figured out how deeply my parents always went into debt during that time just so we kids could have a "nice" Christmas.

We want this for our children now. More than anything, we want our kids to enjoy being children, having fun, exploring life, and learning something new with a sense of awe and wonder that too many adults no longer have. I guess it comes with getting older, but Christmas anymore has become one big pain in the rear bumper.

Why is this? Christmas is still Christmas, isn't it? We still celebrate the birth of the greatest Gift of all. We still celebrate that moment, that one incredible moment, when the Lord God humbled Himself to share in our humanity and show us the way Home.

And what have we done with it? We've turned it into a holiday whose success is measured by how much trash is left on the curb. We have turned it into one huge family conflict. We've turned it into a time of year when those with very little are made to feel even more inadequate as parents because they cannot shower their children with a lot of needless crap. We have turned it into the time of year when the suicide rate goes through the roof. A time that should be joyous above all else has become a time of profound despair for far too many. Is it because they have lost their focus? Or have we so-called "believers" lost our focus?

Some blame commercialism generally and Wal Mart specifically for the mess we've made out of Christmas. The reality is, however, that we have come to acquire a certain sense of entitlement so that rather than bless the Moment that so richly blessed us, we virtually curse the day and wish it would just pass quickly and quietly because there is no way we can give to ourselves or our children all that we believe we are owed.

Oddly, I've been on a tear about Christmas since I began preaching. I have my annual "Wal Mart Christmas" sermon that I dust off every year sometime right after Thanksgiving to remind my congregations of what Christmas is really supposed to mean, what it should really be for us and to us. For some reason, that sermon never seems to make a dent.

I am so deeply thankful that Messiah was delivered to us. So why is it that this holiday is one I have grown to utterly despise? Why can I not make peace with this time of year that my beloved wife and children love? My foul moods this time of year create more hurt feelings than anything else, and my heart shatters when I see what my anger and frustration can do. There is nothing that can make me melt like the contorted face of a child whose heart has been broken.

The season itself has lost its sense of wonderment, and the only mystery left to be associated with Christmas is how we are going to pay for all this crap we've bought! And truly, some of us will have better luck figuring out the miracle of the Immaculate Conception than we will figuring how to pay a $1000 Christmas bill with only $100.

Then of course there are those Christians who will be "offended" such as when Wal Mart and other businesses will begin officially disallowing their employees to say "Merry Christmas", insisting instead upon "Happy Holidays" so as not to offend anyone. Do we really think that Wal Mart has such influence that because they will not support "Merry Christmas" that suddenly Christ will not have been born?

We can do better and we must, but we must also pick our battles. It is not enough to get upset with secular business because Christmas is the time of year that they depend on, and Christians certainly do their part to make the season for retail a good one! Retail business is not the enemy; they sell what folks walk in and buy, but they don't kidnap shoppers.

It seems to me that the true enemy is within each of us and is struggling to be set free so that it can manifest itself in the commercial and secular thereby rendering Christmas to be nothing more than a secular holiday. Simply complaining about commercialism while standing in line to pay for our stuff is not good enough.

The Spirit of the holiday is alive and well. The only question that remains is whether this Spirit will choose to use us or loose us.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

The Abundance of the Heart

"Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels but have not love, I have become sounding brass or a clanging cymbal. 1 Corinthians 13:1

One of my favorite parts of any newspaper is the editorial/opinions section. I love to read other perspectives, and I love hearing especially from those whose opinions differ from my own. I already know what I think; now I want to hear something else. However, I freely admit that I have a tendency to become defensive when challenged, but over time words from reasonable persons can sink in. I may not change my mind, but I am satisfied that I have at least learned something that I may not have considered before.

Today was an exception, I must say. The "letters to the editor" as well as the contributing columnists were all so powerfully negative and essentially said nothing, at least nothing of any real substance. Regardless of who is writing the piece or what they may be writing about, the only thing that is apparent is that the person who wrote the piece was very angry when the piece was written. After today, I felt as though I had been beaten!

Regardless of political or even religious affiliation (and often it is difficult to tell them apart except that a topic may accidentally reveal itself!), words like "moron", "idiot", "evil", "stupid", "anti-American", or "ungodly" are peppered throughout the piece rendering the opinion void. Why? Because the only ones who could possibly appreciate what has been written are those who already share those hateful, negative feelings. Persons of reason will stop reading it.

Not long ago I got into a letter exchange through my local paper with a dear friend who is not a Bush supporter, to say the least. Worse than this, however, is that he is a Bush HATER! And even worse than this, the man is an ordained elder, a minister of the Gospel. Having been involved in more than one political or religious discussion with this man, I know that he has every intention of trying to influence other opinions. This is completely fair for this is why we discuss or debate anything; we want others to agree with us. We want others to see and appreciate our point of view. I believe this to be part of the reason why our republic works so well: Democrats and Republicans, liberal and conservative; all can be so infuriating. However, each one keeps the other in check. The differing opinions ultimately serve a useful purpose.

As Paul reminds the Corinthians, however, being hateful - regardless of intent - will produce no positive results. Even if we replace the word "love" with "respect" for our more secular friends, the admonishment still carries a lot of weight. It makes perfect sense.

My friend with whom I had gotten into this exchange with at least finally realized what I had been trying to point out to him. Bush haters already agreed with him, but moderates and most certainly Republicans and Bush supports were tuning him out because he was doing nothing more than making unintelligible noise. And we tune out unpleasant noise, don't we?

Why can we not all just play nice?

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Impending Moment of Truth

The French Prime Minister is quoted in today's news as saying that France is facing a "moment of truth" in regards to the riots that have been going on for about two weeks now. The prime minister is quoted in an AP story: "The Republic is at a moment of truth. The effectiveness of our integration model is in question." He called the riots a "warning" and "an appeal" by disaffected youth of African and Arab descent who believe they have been made to feel as though they do not belong in France.

Law enforcement aside, what separates these youth from the "insurgents" in Iraq? Why is it that we are somehow expected to believe that these kids are under some sort of moral umbrella that gives them the right to destroy property that does not belong to them? And how can it be that when situations like this arise, those who would apologize for the disenfranchised might somehow try to make reasonable, law-abiding citizens to believe themselves to be the problem instead? As if to imply that they should feel guilty for having worked and earned and saved?

This is not to say that we who have much are not expected to give much, but our Lord does not try to beat it, burn it, or extort it from us by using fear and terror as a means to an end. And I do not pretend to understand what it is like to be a "minority" person; I am a white man. There is much I do not know and cannot comprehend. There is, however, something I do know: the model for changing an entire society was perfected and proved to be extremely effective by Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr who acknowledged that he learned as much from Mahatma Ghandi and his model of peaceful protest. "Bless those who persecute you ..." and all that.

Apparently, however, bombing and pillaging works just as effectively and maybe even gets results quicker. After all, there was a span of nine years from the time when Rosa Parks made her stand to the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The French riots have been going on for two weeks and the French government, or at least the prime minister, is prepared to apologize and make nice.

We faced the same apologists after Hurricane Katrina, and there are many who insist that the terrorists whom we continue to face must have some sort of justification for their "anxiety"; otherwise, they would be content to just be left alone to live their lives and bother no one.

This is not to say that there are not injustices; there most certainly are with some to spare. Do we really have to be hit over the head with a stick in order to see it and actually do something about it? Some seem to think so.

Sunday, November 06, 2005

The Leadership Wisdom of Jesus

Worldly wisdom suggests that the Bible is nothing more than a collection of ancient documents written for an ancient people during an ancient time. This “wisdom” then suggests that the Bible, as it is written, cannot hold any genuine relevance for the world today because man has somehow evolved intellectually from the time in which these texts were written.

Mr. Manz takes this wisdom that comes from the world, and turns it upside down. He systematically proves that the Bible, particularly the lessons taught to us by Jesus, has as much relevance for us today as it did then, perhaps even more so for the intellectual progressive but certainly no less so for all others willing to listen.

Lest we somehow attempt to pigeon-hole these lessons exclusively for business leadership application, it is important to realize that these principles as outlined by Mr. Manz are probably even more applicable to those who consider themselves disciples of Christ. Jesus is not speaking exclusively to business leaders or disciples; He is speaking to anyone who will listen.

According to The Leadership Wisdom of Jesus, it is not enough to simply know how to manage a business although there is certainly a place for such skills and knowledge. However, it is important to also understand that a business’s greatest resource is its people. The principles outlined by Mr. Manz give clear direction for not only empowering subordinates to be the best they can be, but they also ensure seamless transition during times of change.

The principle that spoke most clearly to me, and the one I have personally witnessed in more practical application situations, is the section entitled, “The Last shall be first”. The genuine leader is always going to be mindful of how his or her actions affect those whom he or she will lead. The genuine leader understands that the position of authority that has been entrusted to him or her has not been granted due to special favors owed or due. Rather, a true leader will understand that his or her responsibility will rest not only with a job well done but also on the ability to encourage and train his or her eventual replacement.

My own role as a manager and as a leader with my employer has as much to do with the day-to-day task as with those times when my absence is inevitable. It is a given that one day I will no longer be with my employer whether by death, retirement, or the pursuit of other opportunities with another employer. My task as a leader, then, requires that I give my employer my all which will include the time when I am no longer there. The only way to ensure this success is to ensure the success of my subordinates. My personal witness to this concept is that my subordinates already make me look good, probably more so than I deserve!

The concept is as simple as the leadership principles I witnessed during my time in the US Marine Corps. Seemingly simple acts such as ensuring that those of lesser rank eat first, especially in the field when the food is still hot, affirms for those who eat first of their inherent worth as individuals. The acts themselves need not be so profound that the implication is ultimately lost.

There can surely be no drawbacks or weaknesses of such a concept not only because the wisdom shared comes from the Divine Source of all wisdom but also because in practical application in my own life as well as in the professional life of great leaders such as Donald Peterson, former CEO at Ford Motors, there is proof beyond reproach that the concept has merit and value just as each unique individual created in a Divine Image has inherent merit and value.

Mr. Manz’ book challenges anyone who strives for success and, as stated earlier, cannot be restricted exclusively to the business world. For it is not that any should strive for rewards for oneself; instead, it is that the success of others is our ultimate success.

Saturday, November 05, 2005

What is the Word?

The Ed Johnson decision was reported in the Arkansas United Methodist paper. The article did not claim a "quote", and I could not find the link for that particular article on line (just so the reader is aware, I do well just to turn my computer on!). The gist of the article did nothing more than to report the decision of the Judicial Council to affirm a pastor's authority to determine who is and who is not ready for membership vows in a local UM congregation. The word "authority", however, was not used. Instead, the article writer chose the word "power" in place of "authority" which struck me rather odd.

I am a part-time local pastor of a small, rural congregation, and it never occurred to me that I possess any sort of assigned "power". Limited authority, yes. But power? Perhaps with my words, but no more or less so than with words spoken by others.

It would make sense that a pastor is going to be sure that a potential new member understands what it means to be part of a church family with the duties and responsibilities as well as the joys and opportunities. Being an active member of a church is very serious business! A person needs to be aware that a church cannot function as its ideal unless everyone lives up to their God-given potential and spiritual gifts.

However, making a judgment as to whether this person or that person may or may not live up to the church's expectations can be treading into some dangerous territory and making some vague assumptions. The pastor should possess a certain level of spiritual authority. However, it must always be remembered that a pastor is still a fallible human person and is quite capable of making mistakes.

I suppose someone has to be in charge and I don't really question what happened in VA since I do not have details. It is downright scary, however, to notice how significantly one single, tiny word can change the context of an entire story. Or is it just me?

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

A House Divided Against Itself ...

Appelate Judge Samuel Alito, Jr has been nominated by President Bush to serve in outgoing Associate Justice Sandra Day O'Connor's seat on the US Supreme Court. This is now old news. As time goes on and more effort is given to read into Judge Alito's past works, there will be more and more new stuff to read and more information with which to either support this man's nomination ... or attempt to destroy him and the President who appointed him.

In Planned Parenthood vs Casey at the Third Circuit Court of Appeals, Judge Alito was the lone dissenter in refusing to recognize a wife's "right" to an abortion without notifying her husband. The PA spousal notification law was rendered void by the US Supreme Court.

This case is disturbing to me on so many levels that I cannot even think of where to begin. How could a reasoned judicial opinion possibly conclude that a husband has no right to know that such a thing is about to take place? Some would argue that abortion is still about a WOMAN'S right to lord over her own body while completely ignoring the pro-life stance that opposition to abortion is about a HUMAN right to life.

Even if we are arguing about "rights", and the mantra always seems to be "equal" rights, where does the father of the soon-to-be executed child have the opportunity to exercise his rights? What "rights" does a husband even have? What is equal about such an opinion that would encourage not only the destruction of an innocent life but would also remove the foundation that upholds a marriage? This decision made it clear that when we are talking about rights, there is nothing equal or equitable about it.

Some articles have suggested that a woman might "need" to have an abortion because the husband did not want children to begin with. This argument is weak at best. Has no one in this nation heard of birth control? Or SELF-control? It seems to me that the only thing that has been protected here is a wife's "right" to cheat and not have to contend with potential consequences. Is this not what abortion is all about anyway? The potential consequences of an unwanted child who might get in the way or diminish career growth or reveal one's sin?

However, the decision of the Supreme Court is final; wives can destroy their unborn children, and their husbands have absolutely no say. Even if the husband never finds out about a particular instance in which HIS CHILD has been destroyed, we can be sure of one thing: the division in that household has been set in stone and will never recover. That marriage is over.