Friday, June 22, 2012

The Bible and Economics

homeless by paynehollow
homeless, a photo by paynehollow on Flickr.
Part of an ongoing series looking at all the many passages in the Bible that deal with wealth and poverty issues. You can see the links to the other passages in the series under the heading "The Bible and Economics" below.

Today, I'm looking at the Gospel of Mark, Chapters 1 and 2.

You can see others in this series in the "Bible and Economics" link below (on the left).

Before starting, let me just point out that much of what I find in Mark is a more subdued/vague reference to our practices related to wealth and poverty. You don't, for instance, find, "Blessed are you who are poor..." in Mark, instead, you find Jesus calling his disciples to leave all and follow him.

The teachings, while vague, continue to give a more complete picture of the teachings found in the Bible as it relates to how we deal with our material goods and needs.

For instance, we find in the first verses, a rapid fire description of Jesus' cousin and fellow preacher, John the Baptist...

And so John the Baptist appeared in the wilderness, preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. The whole Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem went out to him. Confessing their sins, they were baptized by him in the Jordan River.

John wore clothing made of camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist, and he ate locusts and wild honey.

Mark 1: 4-6

and Jesus' trip to the wilderness...

At once the Spirit sent him out into the wilderness, and he was in the wilderness forty days, being tempted by Satan. He was with the wild animals, and angels attended him.

Mark 1: 12-13

and John's arrest and the start of Jesus' preaching...

After John was put in prison, Jesus went into Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God. “The time has come,” he said. “The kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news!”

Mark 1: 14-15

and Jesus calling the first disciples...

As Jesus walked beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen. “Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will send you out to fish for people.” At once they left their nets and followed him.

When he had gone a little farther, he saw James son of Zebedee and his brother John in a boat, preparing their nets. Without delay he called them, and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired men and followed him.

Mark 1: 16-20

and Jesus' first sermons being alluded to...

They went to Capernaum, and when the Sabbath came, Jesus went into the synagogue and began to teach. The people were amazed at his teaching, because he taught them as one who had authority, not as the teachers of the law.

Mark 1: 21-22

and the description of Jesus associating with "sinners" and his quick conflict with the Pharisees...

Once again Jesus went out beside the lake. A large crowd came to him, and he began to teach them. As he walked along, he saw Levi son of Alphaeus sitting at the tax collector’s booth. “Follow me,” Jesus told him, and Levi got up and followed him.

While Jesus was having dinner at Levi’s house, many tax collectors and sinners were eating with him and his disciples, for there were many who followed him. When the teachers of the law who were Pharisees saw him eating with the sinners and tax collectors, they asked his disciples: “Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?”

On hearing this, Jesus said to them, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”

Mark 2: 13-17

and, finally, Jesus' teaching about Sabbath and work and hunger...

One Sabbath Jesus was going through the grainfields, and as his disciples walked along, they began to pick some heads of grain. The Pharisees said to him, “Look, why are they doing what is unlawful on the Sabbath?”

He answered, “Have you never read what David did when he and his companions were hungry and in need? In the days of Abiathar the high priest, he entered the house of God and ate the consecrated bread, which is lawful only for priests to eat. And he also gave some to his companions.”

Then he said to them, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. So the Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath.”

Mark 2: 23-28

...and I'll stop there for today.

In these passages, while wealth, poverty, work, making a living, etc are not mentioned directly, there is a lot going on and a lot which impacts, it seems to me, our concepts of wealth and poverty.

For one thing, Mark is a rapid fire book of quick sound bytes from Jesus' life that leave you wondering, "What was going on there?? What was the context of THAT statement?"

Jesus just walks up to some strangers and says, "follow me," and they do? Is there more to that story?

Why was John the Baptist living in the wilderness dressed like a madman (or was his dress and diet that weird in that day)?

What WERE Jesus' teachings that so immediately stood out as different than the norm?

What WAS the "kingdom of God" that both Jesus and John were speaking of and what were the implications of teaching about it in that society in that way?

Why did the Pharisees so immediately take such a disliking to Jesus?

I think there are hints in these first verses that are more completely filled in by the rest of the Gospel teachings, and some of those ideas are specifically about our understanding of wealth and poverty.

What do you think?

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

The Amish are Right. Again.

Muddy Kids by paynehollow
Muddy Kids, a photo by paynehollow on Flickr.
Subtitle: And So Are Dudes.

Sub-Subtitle: A Scientific Validification of the Five Second Rule

So, I heard this news story from NPR...

Allergies are on the rise these days, especially in children. Nearly half of all kids are now allergic to something, be it food, animals, or plants. Federal health officials say that rate is two to five times higher than it was 30 years ago.

And as researchers are trying to understand why, they're increasingly looking at kids who grow up on farms.

The leading theory behind the uptick in childhood allergies, says Andy Nish, a physician with a private practice in Gainesville, Ga., is the hygiene hypothesis. Paradoxically, the theory goes, we're too clean.

"It looks like with our modern conditions and cleanliness that we have fewer and fewer germs to fight off," Nish says. Our immune systems protect us by learning to fight off foreign invaders, whether they're harmless or not. We can't train our defenses if we don't get exposed."

...Holbreich recently did a study, published in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, which found very low rates of allergies among Amish children living on farms in Indiana. He says the reason may be because the children get exposed very early on to dirty environments, and to a variety of dust and germs. Even young kids are often in the barn, working with animals, and drinking raw milk.

"We think there's something about milk," Holbreich says. "That's key, along with exposure to large animals, particularly cows."


Not exposed enough to germs and dirt? We're TOO clean? Well, then, just take a lesson from the Amish and dudes everywhere: Get out in the dust and mud and muck! Eat after your dog! Drop that chewing gum on the bathroom floor and pick it up within five seconds and pop it back in your mouth - you're good! (In fact, maybe we need to extend the "five second rule" to the "sixty second rule..."!)

While the Amish lifestyle is proven right all the time, it's not often that dudes get vindicated. So, haha! We DO know something. Eat that!

Who would have guessed it?

I'd like to close this moment of triumph with a poem appropriate for the moment...

An Ode to the Gross and Uncouth

There once was scientific proof
That showed that guys knew the truth
That living in slime
filth, grunge and grime
Is, in point of fact, quite couth.

So the next time you drop your chicken
Pick it up! It's still finger-lickin'
Good to the taste
So please don't waste
Lickin' a stricken chicken won't sicken!

Monday, June 11, 2012

Holy Days

At my church, we've kicked off a summer of "Ordinary Time," with some photos of our every day lives, which we've placed in this slideshow with a lovely song by the always great Carrie Newcomer.

In the churches in which I grew up, the liturgical calendar was not something we used or referenced at all. Given that, I was almost entirely unfamiliar with Advent (the days leading up to Christmas) or Lent (other than that's what the Catholics did before Easter), and certainly I never heard of Ordinary Time. It's the time after the celebration of Pentecost (celebrated in May-ish) leading up until Advent.

It's the time of the year when it's not Advent, Christmas, Lent, Easter or Pentecost, those ordinary, "in-between" days. It's most of our lives, a waiting time, a life-living time.

I suppose that's something to celebrate in itself.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Cane Ridge Meeting House

Cane Ridge Signs by paynehollow
Cane Ridge Signs, a photo by paynehollow on Flickr.
I recently had the good fortune to finally stop by the Cane Ridge Meeting House, albeit for a short visit. This is a significant bit of US history that began right here in central Kentucky.

Folks familiar with church history will recognize the term, The Great Awakening. There have been at least four "great awakenings" in our recent history. The first began in Europe and swept over to colonial America in the 1740s-1750s.

The second Great Awakening is the one that began at the Cane Ridge Meeting House north of Paris, Kentucky at the beginning of the 1800s.

The Great Awakenings were times of spiritual revivals in certain Christian circles. They were generally followed by times of significant cultural change and a push for social change - much of the push for rights for minorities and women, along with the abolition of slavery, along with movements to aid the poor and immigrants and other social changes, can be traced to the Great Awakenings.

The Cane Ridge revival has been recorded to have started like this...

On the 1st of May, at a society on the waters of Fleming creek, on the east side of Licking, a boy, under the age of twelve years, became affected in an extraordinary manner, publicly confessing and acknowledging his sins, praying for pardon, through Christ, and recommending Jesus Christ to sinners, as being ready to save the vilest of the vile--Adult persons became affected in the like manner. The flame began to spread...

On Friday night preceding the Sacrament at Concord, I was present at a society, held at Kainridge, a united congregation of Mr. Stone, and saw the extraordinary work. Of fifty persons present, nine were struck down. I proceeded next morning to Concord, ten miles distant, where a sermon was preached, at which several became affected and struck down. The exercises continued all night. This was the first occasion, that shewed the necessity of performing out doors. The number being so great, the Lord's Supper was administered at a tent. A great solemnity appeared all day. A number were struck down; on the whole occasion about 150. The exercises continued from Saturday till Wednesday, day and night, without intermission. The appearance itself was awful and solemn. It was performed in a thick grove of beachen timber; candles were furnished by the congregation. The night still and calm.

Add to that, exhortations, praying, singing, the cries of the distressed, on account of sin; the rejoicing of those, that were delivered from their sin's bondage, and brought to enjoy the liberty that is in Christ Jesus; all going on at the same time.

About 4000 persons attended, 250 communicated; twelve waggons had brought some of the people with their provisions, &c. from distant places. This was the first occasion that shewed the necessity of encamping on the ground; the neighbourhood not being able to furnish strangers with accommodation; nor had they a wish to separate.

[from Colonel Robert Patterson's letter to Dr. John King]

One reason that these worship/revival meetings were unusual and significant was that blacks and whites were meeting together in a time and place where that just didn't happen. One of the signs at the meeting house today calls the place, "A Temple of Christian Unity."

In Patterson's letter, he describes the unusual physical manifestations of the revival (which appears to be something akin to the "being slain in the Spirit" phenomenon still found in some charismatic churches, or the trembling of Shakerism)...

Of all ages, from 8 years and upwards; male and female; rich and poor; the blacks; and of every denomination; those in favour of it, as well as those, at the instant in opposition to it, and railing against it, have instantaneously laid motionless on the ground. Some feel the approaching symptoms by being under deep convictions; their heart swells, their nerves relax, and in an instant they become motionless and speechless, but generally retain their senses.

It comes upon others like an electric shock, as if felt in the great arteries of the arms or thighs; closes quick into the heart, which swells, like to burst. The body relaxes and falls motionless; the hands and feet become cold, and yet the pulse is as formerly, though sometimes rather slow. Some grow weak, so as not to be able to stand, but do not lose their speech altogether.

Patterson's description of the meetings is an interesting read, if you are interested, you can find it here.

The Cane Ridge Meeting House was built as a frontier church in 1791 and the congregation (the Cane Ridge Christian Church) ceased to be in 1921. The log building meeting house had a stone building built around it in the 1950s, to preserve that part of our heritage and history and today, serves as a museum/memorial run by donations. I plan to visit again soon when I have more time.