Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Blessed Winter Holy Days

SnowyPath1 by paynehollow
SnowyPath1, a photo by paynehollow on Flickr.
Some thoughts from Wendell Berry (from a variety of sources)...

"I don't think it is enough appreciated how much an outdoor book the Bible is. It is a "hypaethral book," such as Thoreau talked about - a book open to the sky. It is best read and understood outdoors, and the farther outdoors the better. Or that has been my experience of it.

Passages that within walls seem improbable or incredible, outdoors seem merely natural. This is because outdoors we are confronted everywhere with wonders; we see that the miraculous is not extraordinary but the common mode of existence. It is our daily bread.

Whoever really has considered the lilies of the field or the birds of the air and pondered the improbability of their existence in this warm world within the cold and empty stellar distances will hardly balk at the turning of water into wine - which was, after all, a very small miracle. We forget the greater and still continuing miracle by which water (with soil and sunlight) is turned into grapes..."

"No matter how much one may love the world as a whole, one can live fully in it only by living responsibly in some small part of it.

Where we live and who we live there with define the terms of our relationship to the world and to humanity. We thus come again to the paradox that one can become whole only by the responsible acceptance of one's partiality..."

“There comes . . . a longing never to travel again except on foot...”

“I thought, [God] must forebear to reveal His power and glory by presenting Himself as Himself, and must be present only in the ordinary miracle of the existence of His creatures. Those who wish to see Him must see Him in the poor, the hungry, the hurt, the wordless creatures, the groaning and travailing beautiful world.”

Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, Blessed Winter Season!

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Disagreement is not an assault on the Gospel

HousesWatercolor2a by paynehollow
HousesWatercolor2a, a photo by paynehollow on Flickr.

Just a quick post to state the obvious.

Stan, over at his blog, noted today that the whole "Robertson crisis" comes down to whether we follow the Gospel. In speaking of the "Duck Dynasty" kerfluffle, over one of the Ducks saying he loves folk, whether they're gay, terrorists, drunks or practice bestiality, and his declaration that homosexuality is a sin, Stan concluded...

Remaining silent when the Gospel is under attack cannot be the right response. It's not Phil Robertson at issue here. It is sin, Scripture, and the Gospel on the chopping block. And for that I will not take a pass.

The problem with this reasoning (of course) it is conflating "The Gospel" NOT with a teaching of Jesus, but with a particular view on a particular behavior - as if you can't disagree about various behaviors and remain a Christian. Of course, this is almost certainly what many folk like Stan thinks - you CAN'T be mistaken on that particular behavior and be a Christian. They are wrong.

As I've said before, the Gospel is NOT a call to have perfect understanding in order to be saved (whether or not they're right on this topic - and they're not), it is a call to a salvation and a life of Grace and of the Love of God.

Conflating "the Gospel" to some particular opinion about a behavior's sin status is - as oft noted here - a mistake and is undermining of the actual Gospel, which is the Good News of Jesus, not the Bad News of the fundamentalists.

Just to repeat this point yet again.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013


My fall has been full of floating
from geese overhead
to water beneath my feet
to dragonflies and dandelion puffs
and golden autumn leaves...

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Peace: Mandela

CLOUT - Hand in Hand by paynehollow
CLOUT - Hand in Hand, a photo by paynehollow on Flickr.

Nelson Mandela died today. I think his Prisoner to President story is one of the most powerful of the 20th century. He certainly was not a perfect man, but I think he was a great man in a great movement. Some of his words...

"If you want to make peace with your enemy, you have to work with your enemy. Then he becomes your partner."

“As we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same.”

"There is no easy walk to freedom anywhere, and many of us will have to pass through the valley of the shadow of death again and again before we reach the mountaintop of our desires."

"We must use time wisely and forever realize that the time is always ripe to do right."

"If there are dreams about a beautiful South Africa, there are also roads that lead to their goal. Two of these roads could be named Goodness and Forgiveness."

"In my country we go to prison first and then become President."

Rest in well-earned peace, sir.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Swirl: A Testimony

Autumn_05 by paynehollow
Autumn_05, a photo by paynehollow on Flickr.

I was captured today
in a gentle storm of suicidal leaves
falling, showering, drizzling
around and upon and throughout me

Enveloping me like grace
like love
like dirt,
like sky
like a great symphony
swelling, flowing, growing
in deep crimson harmony

and with each spin
each rotation of autumnal bliss
I was delivered,
washed clean
baptised with a hickory kiss

spun gold salvation in a
sweet soaring swirl
landing on my head
on my shoulder and legs,
It made me twist, it made me twirl

right along with that
riotous laugh of leaves
and I danced holy ghost joy
on the sidewalk and all down the
wide-eyed street

"Glory Hallelujah!"
I raised my voice on high
I raised my hands
I raised my song
I raised my Self to fly

I was captured, today,
brainwashed and then set free
free to let go and live and leap
and die like those
soaring, spinning, gracious, grinning


and Amen

Monday, November 4, 2013

The temple, ever changing

Autumn_03 by paynehollow
Autumn_03, a photo by paynehollow on Flickr.

In the monotony of clocks
and bells always clanging

We can worship each day
in the temple, ever changing

Monday, October 21, 2013

In Defense of Public Schools

Many people like to beat up public education. And, of course, public education can use improvement. But I've always objected to comparing public school scores to private school scores as a measure of success. It's apples and oranges.

Private schools can kick you out. Public schools can't - not easily. Private schools you have to work to get in - there has to be at least parental effort involved, if not student effort. And do you know what studies indicate the #1 predictor for student success? Not socioeconomic factors (although that plays a big role). Not parental education level. Not even student aptitude. The #1 predictor for student success is parental involvement and concern.

So of course, it is not surprising that private schools tend to score higher than public schools. But, as noted, it's an apples and oranges comparison.

I just read some research that gets to this point and concludes that, pound for pound, public schools are the heavy lifters and better value for education. Read on...

Sarah Theule Lubienski didn’t set out to compare public schools and private schools. A professor at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, she was studying math instructional techniques when she discovered something surprising: Private schools—long assumed to be educationally superior—were underperforming public schools.

She called her husband, Christopher A. Lubienski, also a professor at the university. “I said, ‘This is a really weird thing,’ and I checked it and double checked it,” she remembers. The couple decided to take on a project that would ultimately disprove decades of assumptions about private and public education.

Studying the National Assessment of Educational Progress and the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study, they have found that, when controlling for demographic factors, public schools are doing a better job academically than private schools. It seems that private school students have higher scores because they come from more affluent backgrounds, not because the schools they attend are better educational institutions. They write about these conclusions—and explain how they came to them—in their book, The Public School Advantage: Why Public Schools Outperform Private Schools. Here’s an interview with the Lubienskis about their work, edited and condensed for clarity and length.

Summarize your work:

CAL: We already know that scores for students in private schools tend to be higher. The question is, is that because they’re from more affluent families…or is that because the schools are doing better? If you go back for a generation the research suggests that there is a private school effect, that even when you control for background factors, private schools seem to be more effective, particularly for certain populations, at boosting their achievement.

So what we did, controlling for these background factors, we actually found that the opposite appears to be true and that there is actually a public school effect. Which was a surprise… We were not expecting that at all, but then digging deeper into the data, using multiple data sets, that actually held up. And since that time, other researchers—people at the Educational Testing Service, Notre Dame, and Stanford—have looked at these data sets and come to similar conclusions.

Read more.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Beware the Meddlers...

Wild Cat by paynehollow
Wild Cat, a photo by paynehollow on Flickr.

I've been discussing the notion of Meddling with Craig and others over at another blog. The question was raised by the blogger, "Why do people object to people saying 'That behavior is wrong...'?" and I had responded that, at least in some cases, it's because we don't want to meddle. And why don't we want to meddle? Because meddling is wrong.

And, since this was a Bible crowd (ie, folk who like to be "convinced" by Bible passages), I pointed out that St Paul includes "meddlers" in with a list of sinners including murderers and evil-doers. Biblically, and just rationally, meddling is wrong, it's annoying, we should avoid it.

Craig allowed that, okay, that is a legitimate verse, but still, he said...

If I truly cared about my friend or family member wouldn’t it be more caring and loving to encourage and support moving toward behavior that is as minimally sinful/harmful as is possible?

And, after some back and forth (my answer was, "Generally, No, it's not more caring."), I tried another approach...

Look at it this way: There's a whole world of behaviors that are potentially right/wrong... good/bad. We feel more certain on some behaviors and our opinions are less strong on other behaviors.

Should I use a gas mower to cut my grass?
Should I move to a house/apartment that is so far away that I have to drive to work?
Should I move to a city with no public transit?
Should I buy a coke and popcorn at a movie when there are so many people starving?
Should I go to a movie at all, spending money frivolously when people are starving? How about a matinee for $3? What if I rent it for $1??
Should I divorce my abusive spouse? What if the abuse is only verbal?
Is smoking cigarettes sinful in God's eyes? The Bible never says so, so is it okay???

You get the idea. There are a multitude of choices and behaviors that we make each and every day. Any and all of those choices are potentially "sinful," if you are of that mindset, right? And if we don't speak up on "sinful" behavior of others, then are we being loving?

Where would you draw that line? Surely you don't spend all day offering your opinion to a variety of strangers and friends or acquaintances on what you think God thinks is wrong, do you? Because, "IF you truly care for a friend, isn't this the right thing to do... to offer my opinion on the hundreds of daily choices we make that might be sinful...?"

No, I don't think being loving requires us to offer our opinions about what WE think God thinks. For one, I think that is presumptuous - these friends and neighbors are free moral agents, created in God's image, just a little lower than angels. Do they really need me to guide their each step, in my effort to love them?

No, I don't think so.

When you look at it like that, Craig (and anyone else), can't you at least agree a little bit with me? If you can't, then where do you draw the line? Or do you NOT draw a line and you truly go around all the time offering your opinions on all these potential "sins..."?

Of course, God hasn't told any of us what is meant by "meddlers," so I'm entirely offering my opinions here, but I think the whole problem with meddling - why it seems to be treated so seriously - is the presumption it implies on the Meddler's part.

The word translated Meddler in the Bible, according to the Bible Dictionary website...

Allotriepiskopos literally means “not one’s own overseer.” “Not one’s own” is one word and “overseer” is the other. It means, thus, “one who oversees others’ matters or affairs.”

Which is pretty much the same as the Merriam Webster English definition...

to become involved in the activities and concerns of other people when your involvement is not wanted

The idea is that it's taking a place of Overseer, or The Authority over another person, unasked and un-welcomed, and this just seems presumptuous. Who am I to decide for you how you spend your days? Who am I to speak authoritatively as to what God wants for you?

From a Christian point of view, this presumption appears to be putting us in the place of god over another person and I think we can see how that could be terribly troubling.

Now, I did make it clear that I think there are limits to "bad" meddling. That is, if I'm part of a community/group that is asking one another to help hold one another accountable, then I HAVE given permission for someone to tell me when I'm in the wrong. For a simple example: The alcoholics group, where they have agreed to be accountable to one another to help them all succeed in getting away from their addiction. And so, mutual accountability is not meddling.

And, of course, an intervention in the case of someone harming someone else, that is not what we would typically call meddling, or, if it is meddling, it is a righteous/acceptable meddling.

But assuming no overt harm is being done to someone else and assuming that they have not invited me to tell them when they're wrong, then I'd lean pretty heavily AWAY from meddling because, well, meddling is wrong. It's to be avoided. We can't afford to put ourselves in the place of God in someone else's life. That just won't help.

Seems to me.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

A reflection

soccer_05 by paynehollow
soccer_05, a photo by paynehollow on Flickr.

...and sometimes what I see
in you is upside down and
backwards from reality...

...or is that me?

Monday, October 7, 2013

At Liberty!

At Liberty Logo by paynehollow
At Liberty Logo, a photo by paynehollow on Flickr.
A small commercial for a good cause...

My church, Jeff St Baptist Community at Liberty, has begun a crowdsource funding effort to raise money for the At Liberty Hospitality Program. At Liberty is a day shelter open every morning, Monday through Friday. It provides a welcome and safe place where our homeless friends can get out of the weather, have a cup of coffee and a bit of breakfast, and receive medical assistance, social service assistance, clean up, make phone calls and generally get help and friendship.

We have been running At Liberty for ~30 years on a shoestring budget and, with funding getting tighter, we've decided to try to help keep it funded with this crowdsourcing campaign.

Check it out...


Please visit there, link to it, share it with friends, like it on Facebook, give it a pat on the head and send it on its happy way! And, if you like the idea of supporting At Liberty, consider becoming a supporter for this wonderful place of welcome and service for our homeless brothers and sisters.

And, if you're not in a place to support it financially, then please pray/think helpful thoughts for the ministry, visit it (if you're in Louisville) and mention it to your friends. It really is an amazing and vitally needed (unfortunately) ministry.


Tuesday, October 1, 2013

What You Did...

Homeless by paynehollow
Homeless, a photo by paynehollow on Flickr.

This last Sunday, our pastor talked in her sermon about our homeless ministry. For nearly 30 years, we've had a day shelter open, Monday through Friday, where our poor and homeless brothers and sisters can rest for a few hours, receive medical assistance, social assistance and where, most of all, they can be truly welcome. For many of our homeless friends, they tend to be pushed away, shunned and encouraged to move on... they are simply not welcome most places.

It may be a small thing, but we strive to at least provide for them this one small place of welcome. Thanks be to God for the faithfulness of our Minister with the Homeless and the volunteers who've kept this going. And I'm thankful for Cindy, my pastor, for preaching another great sermon.

Here's an excerpt from the sermon. She was preaching on the biblical text about the Shumannite woman who welcomed the prophet, Elisha, into her home...

...The Shunammite woman was able to recognize Elisha as a holy one, and to treat him accordingly. And I, of course - on this morning when we are celebrating our ministry of hospitality as a community - am thinking about how we recognize the holy ones in our midst, how we make room for them.

As I see the Shunammite woman in my mind’s eye, I can’t help but think of David and Tim, who come to this building while it’s still dark, to begin to cook, of Clifford, who comes in and rolls out the coffee and creamer and sugar, and makes sure that there’s plenty of it throughout the morning, of Diane, who opens the doors at 7:00 am, and invites in the holy ones. Now, they don’t look holy, mind you. They look like our society’s refuse, some of them, raggedy beards, disheveled clothing, shoes that don’t fit. No, they don’t look particularly holy. They look like they haven’t had a place to lay their head for the night, and many of them haven’t.

According to our records, about half of the men who come to our Hospitality Program “sleep out,” meaning that they lay their heads wherever they can, down by the river, under a bridge somewhere, in an abandoned building. No, they don’t look holy, and some of them don’t act so holy, either: “Sorry, Diane,” they say in between profanities.

But because Jesus was able to recognize the holy in his midst, and gave us some clues to look for—“whatever you do to the least of these, you do to me,” he said—we know, on our best days, anyway, deep in our gut of guts that these men and women are somehow holy, are somehow him. And so at 7:00 a.m., Diane opens our doors to the holy, welcomes them into this place that she, like the Shunammite woman has so carefully prepared, and they shuffle in like Elisha, deeply appreciative of the coffee and newspaper and telephone and space and place that has become like a second home.

How blessed we are, as a community, to have been able to provide this ministry, this great gift of hospitality for the last 30 years…Of course, hospitality doesn’t just happen on weekday mornings. I’m wondering, who are the other holy ones in our midst, the holy ones that might not look so holy or act so holy, but who, like our homeless friends, are in need of a tender touch, in need of a welcome word, in need of a conversation that feels like home? The Apostle Paul tells the church that we should be “given to hospitality.” Given to hospitality.

Who are the other Elishas in your world? May we recognize them, and make for them a special place.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Anta Adhimun/Ordinary Days

Last year, a very talented friend at my church wrote and performed this song for Ordinary Time (with Paul and Luis accompanying her to great effect). She played it again today and I thought I'd repost this version from last year. I love this song, she does such a great job.

She wrote it starting with a traditional Arabic hymn, "Anta Adhimun" as the chorus, and then added in her own verses about extraordinary "ordinary" daily things. She also includes a few lines in Spanish.

Around this song, then, we constructed this slide show, with photos and movies from every day life here in the States, and in Morocco and in Latin America. Thanks, Kate, for sharing!

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

A Strange Brand of Bragging....

Beady by paynehollow
Beady, a photo by paynehollow on Flickr.

So, last year, the band my kids are in (Beadyhad their first official album produced - Youngest Days... and that was exciting.

This year, one of the songs from their album is being used as part of an independent movie soundtrack. It sounds like a relatively small scale movie, but it has Shirley "Momma Partridge" Jones in the cast, which makes it pretty big in my eyes. That movie opens THIS (September 13th) weekend in limited theaters around the US.

The movie is called, "
A Strange Brand of Happy, and is self described as a "faith-friendly romantic comedy..." Looking at the trailer, it looks pretty fun and hopefully won't be too preachy (in that negative "preachy" way).

It's opening in Louisville and around the nation in theaters this Friday and we'll be there. Another neat thing, for us in this area, is that the soundtrack for the movie is populated with many local bands besides Beady. Way to go sonaBlast! Records!

Done bragging for now.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Jesus and Reason

Sunflowers Sky by paynehollow
Sunflowers Sky, a photo by paynehollow on Flickr.

In the previous post, the point was raised that Jesus often cited Scripture in support of his points. And, of course, he did. I found one source that suggested that Jesus cited Scripture up to 78 times. Another source says 180 times.

No doubt, Jesus often did so. Now, does his frequency of citing Scripture suggest that this means that Jesus, therefore, called Scripture the Primary Source (or, the SOLE source) for knowledge about God? No, of course not. That suggestion doesn't follow. It COULD be the case, but the text does not demand or really even suggest it. It just doesn't.

But that got me to thinking: How often did Jesus cite other sources of knowledge?

For instance, in the story of Jesus healing the paralytic man lowered through the roof of a house, we find this exchange...

When Jesus saw their faith, he said, “Friend, your sins are forgiven.”

The Pharisees and the teachers of the law began thinking to themselves, “Who is this fellow who speaks blasphemy? Who can forgive sins but God alone?”

Jesus knew what they were thinking and asked, “Why are you thinking these things in your hearts? Which is easier: to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Get up and walk’? But I want you to know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins.” So he said to the paralyzed man, “I tell you, get up, take your mat and go home.”

In that story, Jesus does not respond to the Pharisees charge with Scripture, but with real world reasoning. "Which is easier, to say 'your sins are forgiven' or to say 'walk...'?"

It's a simple rational argument in response to accusations of violating their interpretations of Scripture.

Or consider another response to Pharisees complaining (and note: they were complaining because Jesus was violating THEIR UNDERSTANDING of Scripture)...

But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law who belonged to their sect complained to his disciples, “Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?”

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

Again, no scriptures offered in response, just simple real world reasoning.

Same point in this story (again, with the Pharisees raising objections to Jesus' behavior...)

They said to him, “John’s disciples often fast and pray, and so do the disciples of the Pharisees, but yours go on eating and drinking.”

Jesus answered, “Can you make the friends of the bridegroom fast while he is with them? But the time will come when the bridegroom will be taken from them; in those days they will fast.”

Simple real world reasoning.

Jesus goes on to tell a parable...

He told them this parable: “No one tears a piece out of a new garment to patch an old one. Otherwise, they will have torn the new garment, and the patch from the new will not match the old. And no one pours new wine into old wineskins. Otherwise, the new wine will burst the skins; the wine will run out and the wineskins will be ruined. No, new wine must be poured into new wineskins. And no one after drinking old wine wants the new, for they say, ‘The old is better.’”

In fact, as we all know, Jesus told many parables - simple stories usually featuring real world, natural circumstances to illustrate a point, to make a case.

Parable upon parable, offering natural world observation and learning about God given real world situations and observations...

He also told them this parable: “Can the blind lead the blind? Will they not both fall into a pit?

The student is not above the teacher, but everyone who is fully trained will be like their teacher.

Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?

Three real world observations and analogies in a row. Pow, pow, pow.

"Consider the lilies of the field..."

"Consider the birds of the air..."

“Foxes have dens and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.”

And not just the parables, his teachings are jammed with these sorts of observations, illustrations and analogies...

Someone told him, “Your mother and brothers are standing outside, wanting to see you.”

He replied, “My mother and brothers are those who hear God’s word and put it into practice.”

Simple real world reasoning. Using our/his God-given reasoning. Appealing to God's Word, written upon our hearts.

I'll close with one more, another instance of a Pharisee being self-righteously indignant that Jesus was not abiding by their interpretation of the Law...

When Jesus had finished speaking, a Pharisee invited him to eat with him; so he went in and reclined at the table. But the Pharisee was surprised when he noticed that Jesus did not first wash before the meal.

Then the Lord said to him, “Now then, you Pharisees clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside you are full of greed and wickedness. You foolish people! Did not the one who made the outside make the inside also? But now as for what is inside you—be generous to the poor, and everything will be clean for you.

Simple real world reasoning. Natural world observations and illustrations. Over and over and over.

Does that mean that I think God is telling us that Reason is the Sole Source - or even just The Primary Source - for knowledge about God? No, God hasn't said that to me and I'm not going to claim God has. But clearly, folk who value what the Bible says can acknowledge how important real world reasoning and observations were to Jesus.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013


Listen by paynehollow
Listen, a photo by paynehollow on Flickr.

I'd like to raise a question I've asked before in various ways and have never received an answer. I bring it up because, most recently, I've seen it argued at Stan's blog (the aptly named?), Winging It. The point of the post is his rather dubious and hole-y notions of Christian "essentials," but as part of getting to his essentials, Stan says, and I quote...

The Bible we have today is a translation of original texts that are, of a necessity, God-breathed (2 Tim 3:16-17). They were not merely "inspired" as we might use the term today, but actually breathed by the Holy Spirit to His authorized messengers who, in their own words and under the supervision of the Spirit, wrote down what God wanted His people to know. As such, these texts were infallible -- could not be wrong -- and inerrant -- had no mistakes.

The Bible is the only source of authority in matters of faith and practice for Christianity.

As I have asked repeatedly: Would SOMEONE please answer the question:

WHERE does the Bible claim that "the Bible" is the sole authority?

IF the Bible is the sole authority for matters of faith and practice in Christianity, then SURELY the Bible makes this claim about itself, right?

Otherwise, you have an utterly self-defeating argument:

"The 66 books of the Bible - which is the SOLE source for knowing what is "right and wrong" for Christians and their practice, never makes that claim about itself, so IF it is the SOLE source, then it CAN'T be the sole source because it does not tell us it is the sole source. Indeed, someone REASONED that idea extrabiblically and, thus, they used an EXTERNAL source (their own reasoning) and thus, that opinion can't be trusted or at least, validated. IF the Bible is the sole source."

Do you see the problem with this argument? Can SOMEONE please address this huge gaping hole in the reasoning here?

Perhaps the problem is in what advocates mean by "the sole source of authority in matters of faith and practice for Christianity." I'd entertain definitions of that notion, if anyone wants to tackle it.

But allow me to spell out the problems that I see with this notion, as I understand folk like Stan are making it...

1. If "The Bible is the sole source of authority in matters of faith and practice of Christianity" [SS], WHERE in the Bible does it specifically say this?

2. If it's not in the Bible specifically and literally (and clearly, factually, it simply isn't), then where does the Bible objectively and demonstrably even HINT at it?

3. Knowing that advocates will say that, while the Bible doesn't speak of the 66 books of the Bible (ever, not one time, never), it does speak of "Scripture," and that the Bible is "as Scripture" to us, the reasoning person would say, "Okay, if 'the Bible' is SS, then where does 'the Bible' say that the 66 books are 'as Scripture' to us?" The answer? The Bible does not say the 66 books are "as Scripture" to us. That is, in itself, an extrabiblical conclusion made by fallible humans (the Catholic Church, if I'm not mistaken) to call these 66 books "as scripture."

4. Since that was an extrabiblical decision, how can we authoritatively know the 66 are "as Scripture," since it comes NOT from SS but from an extrabiblical, human decision? [Mind you, I accept the Bible "as Scripture," I'm just noting that this is not compliant with SS, as far as I can see.] Clearly, saying "We can know with authority that SS is true, why? Because of this EXTRABIBLICAL authority..." is not consistently logical. Indeed, it's a self-defeating argument.

5. Beyond that, the Bible (which is our SS, comes the claim), itself makes the claim of MULTIPLE ways of knowing about God. The Bible claims we can know about God...

a. Through the world itself (all of Creation tells of the glory of God)
b. Through God's Word/God's Law "written on our heart" (which could be interpreted as our conscience, our inate sense of God, and/or our reasoning)
c. Through the Holy Spirit of God revealing God to us ("these are the things God has revealed to us by his Spirit.")
d. Through our God given reasoning (come, let us reason together")

...For instance.

6. So, if the SS TELLS us that there are other sources of knowledge, then how could "the Bible" or "Scripture" be SS, since Scripture itself contradicts that claim?

7. As an aside, IF the Bible is the SS, then claims that "the Bible" is inerrant and infallible can not be justified because the Bible does not make that claim, either about "the Bible" or about Scriptural text. As always, this falls apart - even if you thought the text was somehow inerrant or infallible (which, again, is not a biblical claim) - as SOON as you have human eyes reading and human brains INTERPRETING the text. If "Love your enemies" is a teaching ENTIRELY without error, but someone reads it and finds justification for killing their enemies, then you have human interpretations of texts and human interpretations are, of necessity, fallible.

I'm open to polite, respectful discussion about this topic. I'm not open to comments about people. IF you think people who advocate such things are hypocrites or goofballs or inconsistent or irrational, I don't want to hear that. That may well be the case and that can be obvious if no rational answers are forthcoming, but I don't want to hear that. (Indeed, the one individual I recently tried talking to about this made extremely weird strawman arguments one after another rather than dealing with the questions I was asking - but maybe he was just on the immature side, that happens.) But I am open to direct answers to my direct questions.

WHERE does the Bible make the claim of SS?

WHAT of the passages within the Bible that claim other sources of knowledge/authority?

How about it?

Monday, August 5, 2013

Friend of Dexter

Friend of Dexter by paynehollow
Friend of Dexter, a photo by paynehollow on Flickr.

You have to be some kind of industrial grade creep to pick on a two year old kid and his momma at the Walmarts. But, of course, there are people out there ready to step up and prove just how very large a creep they can be...


I gladly stand with young Dexter, his mother and anyone else who chooses to dress however they wish. Mind your own business, people.

Monday, July 22, 2013

What Have You Dismantled Today?

Tearing Down the Walls by paynehollow
Tearing Down the Walls, a photo by paynehollow on Flickr.
An excerpt from a recent sermon by my pastor Cindy, at Jeff St Baptist...

In Adult Sunday School last week, we discussed Ched Myers’ book, Sabbath Economics. He talks about the disparity between the wealthy and the poor, and he says that the Biblical witness refuses to stipulate the injustice is a permanent condition, and, this is the line that caught some of our attention, “Instead, God’s people are instructed to dismantle, on a regular basis, the fundamental patterns and structures of stratified wealth and power, so that there is enough for everyone.”

[and here, he is speaking specifically in reference to the Sabbath and Jubilee laws - as well as touching on the Manna story, but he would argue that it extends beyond that... ~dt]

One thing that we liked about that sentence is, “God’s people are instructed to dismantle, on a regular basis…” We talked about how we have to continually remind ourselves that what we think we own is not really ours, but rather, God’s. About how hard it is when you grow up in this culture to really get that into your head and heart, how hard it is not just to dismantle an unjust system, but to dismantle predominant beliefs and values.

What have you dismantled lately? What are you in the process of dismantling?

When you look around, what is it that you see that needs to be dismantled?

This morning’s scripture reading is the first of a series of five stories in less than two chapters where Jesus, whose ministry and sudden rise to popularity has been briefly introduced by Mark, clashes head on with the authorities. There are many more confrontations to come, but it begins with this series of clashes.

In Jesus’ day, a physical illness or disability was seen as a consequence or punishment for a sin. If someone was healed from an illness, then in order to be pronounced clean, or forgiven, they would have to follow a certain procedure, in a lepers’ case, for instance, go before a priest, sacrifice an animal, pay some money.

But in this story, Jesus, upon seeing the paralyzed man, pronounces him forgiven, clean, before he’s even healed, before he’s seen the priest, before he’s sacrificed the animal, before he’s paid the money, before the scribes have had a chance to reclassify him.

“Your sins are forgiven,” Jesus says, and in those words, Jesus restores him to social wholeness. He’s welcomed back into the fold: You are no longer an outcast, you are no longer unclean. You are brother, you are father, you are son, you are restored to your position as a child of Israel.

Jesus restores him before he’s even been healed. The scribes go ballistic, and "for good reason,” says Ched Myers. “Their complaint that none but God can remit debt is not a defense against the sovereignty of Yahweh, but of their own social power.”

They accuse Jesus in the strongest language possible: “He blasphemes,” they say, which as you’ll remember, is the charge that will eventually be used to execute Jesus.

Jesus restores the man before he’s even been healed. “You can’t do that,” they say. At which point, Jesus heals the man, this time actually restoring his body as well. And so the scribes have been “out-dueled,” and Myers points out that the next time they appear, it will be in the person of government investigators from Jerusalem...

What have you dismantled lately? What are you in the process of dismantling...?

Friday, July 19, 2013

Tombstone Poetry

Tombstone by paynehollow
Tombstone, a photo by paynehollow on Flickr.

The fell destroyer early marked
her for his victim
and she sunk
in the midst of life
and usefulness...

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Church Flag Flying

Yes Banner by paynehollow
Yes Banner, a photo by paynehollow on Flickr.
A recent post over at Juicy Ecumenism revisited an article from last year's July Christianity Today magazine, in which three folk debated about whether flying a flag in your church is a good or bad idea.

The fella doing the "agin it" position noted the problems of associating your church with one particular nation, the problems of being unnecessarily divisive rather than inclusive, the problem of overtly or passively suggesting you are beholden to the state, of tying your religion to your state. Serious concerns, all.

I would add to that just the question of "Why?" Why would/should we fly a flag in our church service? Is this true of all nations or just the US? Should Chinese Christians meeting in secret for fear of prison fly a Chinese flag in their service? Did the early Christians fly a flag of Rome after Rome killed off Jesus??

What is the rationale for even considering doing this?

The two people in favor of flying the flag in churches suggest it as a way of honoring country and to encourage a good sort of patriotism. They also suggested a flag (again, any flag? just the US flag??) is a way of remembering that "greater love hath no one than to lay his life down for another..."

One of the commenters on the Juicy blog said that he would not go to a church that didn't fly a flag in their sanctuary. I just wonder, "Why?"

I also would point out that this sort of dogmatic belief is a very good reason to be wary of this sort of tradition.

To my understanding, having a flag in sanctuaries is a very new phenomena, beginning perhaps during the Civil War (when I believe BOTH sides flew their own flags and when an area was subdued by the North, I've read, they would sometimes replace the Confederate flag in a church building with a Union flag.) It certainly is not biblical nor an ancient tradition, not that I'm aware of (again, can you imagine the early church flying the flag of Rome?? How ludicrous!)

Perhaps not surprising, given my anabaptist background (anabaptists, by and large, do not have flags in their church services, nor do they pledge allegiance to a flag elsewhere), I understand the NOT flying a flag in church position. It seems to me to be the rational and moral position to hold to.

Given the, I think, serious reasons not to fly a flag, on what basis would we choose to do so? It's not biblical, it's not rational that I can see (ie, "Christians should rationally have their state's flag in their church because..." what? I can think of no rational defense for it) and it's questionably moral.

Having said that, I don't condemn my brothers and sisters in churches that have a flag. I grew up with it and know how culturally tied we are to the idea and it's really not like it's evil or anything to do it. I just can't think of any positive reason to do it.

Does anyone care to give it a try?

Another related question:

I would point back to the fella who said he wouldn't attend a church that didn't fly a flag in its sanctuary. I can understand that, perhaps for some reason - cultural, modern traditional, whatever - that people like the idea of it. But to say you wouldn't attend a church that doesn't fly one, that seems to me to suggest that you think it's wrong NOT to fly a flag. If there are people out there like that, I would ask, "On what basis would you think that?"

It's one thing to have it as a preference, but to actively think it's wrong NOT to fly a flag in your church sanctuary? That just defies reason, to me.


Monday, July 1, 2013

Get out your tin foil hats, people!

So, visiting over at John's blog and reading about how we should reject the notion of anthropogenic climate change because he cites sources (like globalwarmingskeptic.com) as "proof" that it's not happening.

I ask the fellas there, "But NASA, the AMA, the AMS and other very legitimate sources say that 97% of climatologists say climate change is real and likely due to human factors. Do you believe that NASA, the AMA and AMS are all lying or do you think they're all fooled, because they haven't gone to globalwarmingskeptic.com to learn the Truth?"

No answer beyond "I see you can't refute my sources!"

I ask, "I'm not a scientist, but I am a reasonable person. On what basis would I suspect that NASA, the AMA and AMS are lying/wrong and globalwarmingskeptic.com is right?"

The answer is to denigrate these scientists as also believing that gay people marrying is a good thing and...

and these same “scientists” go on record as believing in evolution!

And Trabue claims he is rational.

Dang them "scientists" and their lying ways.

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Rejoice, and be glad!

Celebrate1c by paynehollow
Celebrate1c, a photo by paynehollow on Flickr.

Let my name stand among those who are wiling to bear ridicule and reproach for Truth's sake,

and so earn some right to rejoice when the victory is won.

~Louise May Alcott

In the depth of winter, I finally learned that within me there lay an invincible summer.

~Albert Camus

watch me rise like smoke from fire.
Watch me fly above your hate.
Watch me dance upon your meanness
like a ballerina with posture; grace.
Watch me laugh over your hatred;
watch me soar above your sea of grief.
And know that I am out there somewhere...

~Coco J Ginger

The true triumph of reason is that it enables us to get along with those who do not possess it...


Wednesday, June 19, 2013

More Scandal!

Red Train by paynehollow
Red Train, a photo by paynehollow on Flickr.

From CNN...

(CNN) -- Skeptics who have long theorized that TWA Flight 800 was brought down by sinister forces will get a fresh surge of energy when a new documentary attempts to disprove that the 1996 crash was accidental...

Suspicions that criminals or terrorists were behind the TWA 800 explosion are not new. The FBI conducted a parallel investigation, but concluded that the incident was not a crime or terrorist attack...

The evidence proves that "one or more ordnance explosions outside the aircraft caused the crash," the producers said. But it does not identify or speculate on the source of the ordnance explosions...

How long before Obama gets the blame for this?

Monday, June 17, 2013

A blessed silence...

Hinds Feet... by paynehollow
Hinds Feet..., a photo by paynehollow on Flickr.

I am opposed
as a matter of principle
to noise

I am willing to make an occasional allowance
for an ambulance, for instance,
or a fire engine

But only grudgingly
and with no small discomfort.

Rather, give me a rabbit
silently listening at a
field's edge

Or a cautious deer
gracefully whispering away
from sight

Give me the trickle of
a rain-swollen stream glazing
smooth pebbles

Or a deep gray fog rampaging
innocently through an
early morning woods

I can rest and be entirely at ease
with the rustle of fall leaves
skittering easterly

and I find that a blessed silence
is what is needed more often
than not.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

More Jokers...

Skull Clock by paynehollow
Skull Clock, a photo by paynehollow on Flickr.

(CNN) – For Southern Baptist pastor Tim Reed, it was Scripture versus the Scouts.

“God’s word explicitly says homosexuality is a choice, a sin,” said Reed, pastor of First Baptist Church of Gravel Ridge in Jacksonville, Arkansas.

So when the Boy Scouts of America voted to lift its ban on openly gay youths on May 24, Reed said the church had no choice but to cut its charter with Troop 542.

“It’s not a hate thing here,” Reed told CNN affiliate Fox 16. “It’s a moral stance we must take as a Southern Baptist church.”

Southern Baptist leaders say Reed is not alone.

Baptist churches sponsor nearly 4,000 Scout units representing more than 100,000 youths, according to the Boy Scouts of America.

That number could drop precipitously.

The Southern Baptist Convention, the country’s largest Protestant denomination, will soon urge its 45,000 congregations and 16 million members to cut ties with the Scouts, according to church leaders.


What I'm wondering is how this makes any sense at all? Are the BSA endorsing gay sex? Are they going to be actively recruiting boys into "the gay lifestyle" and endorsing "the gay agenda..."?

By accepting boys who happen to have a homosexual orientation, is that an endorsement of sex of any sort? I mean, they accept boys with a heterosexual orientation, does that mean that they endorse boys having straight sex?

Even if the Southern Baptists tend to think that gay sex is wrong, this is not an endorsement of that. It's just accepting kids into their group, just like they accept boys who might have premarital sex with girls or just like they might accept kids who have (or will tell) lies or cheat on a test.

Acceptance of people into your company is not an endorsement of all their behaviors and the Southern Baptists (and others) can't start excluding folk WITHOUT appearing hateful and intolerant. This is blind and irrational discrimination and it's wrong. Shame on them.

Even so, Southern Baptists will still be tolerated in my company. Disagreement does not have to lead to empty-headed and grace-less exclusion.

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Wise Men Comedy Show

Old Man Cattail by paynehollow
Old Man Cattail, a photo by paynehollow on Flickr.

Tonight's Topic: The Plague of Working Women!

Lou Dobbs: I want to do something I don't usually do. I'm going to turn to a study...

[rim shot!]

...Pew Research, showing that women have become the breadwinners in this country and a lot of other concerning and troubling statistics.

[crazy shriek! Laugh track laughing]

Our society is being torn in so many directions right now, this stuff is really at the margin as you watch the Republicans, the Democrats, this president his scandals and the appropriate investigation by the Republicans. When we're watching society dissolve around us.


Juan, what do you think?

Juan Williams: Lou I just think this should be in large letters in every newspaper in America because what we're seeing with four out of ten families with the woman is the primary the breadwinner, you're seeing the disintegration of marriage, you're seeing men who were hard-hit in the recession in a way that women weren't...

[cats and dogs, living together! MASS hysteria!]

...You're seeing, I think, systemically larger than the political stories we follow every day – something going terribly wrong in American society and it's hurting our children and it's going to have impact for generations to come... Left, right. I don't see how you can argue this!

[laugh track]

Lou Dobbs: You mention children. And those are the children who survive. 54 million abortions since Roe V Wade. 54 million in this country!

[cue Darth Vader theme]

...What has been the impact of that, what does it say about our society, our education.. our high school drop outs! Erick, your thoughts on this study and what it portends?

[Doom! Destruction!]

Erick Erickson: Lou, I 'm so used to Liberals telling Conservatives that they're anti-science but this is, liberals who defend this and say it's not a bad thing are very anti-science...

[You keep using that word... I don't think you know what it means...]

...when you look at biology, when you look at the natural world, the roles of a male and a female in a society and other animals, the male is typically the dominant role, but the female is not antithesis, it's not competing, it's a complementary role.

We, as people in a smart society have lost our ability to have complementary relationships in nuclear family, it's tearing us apart. What I find interesting in the survey is that 3/4 of the people surveyed recognized having mom as primary breadwinner is bad for kids and bad for marriages and reality shows us that that is the truth...

[aaOOOOgah! Laugh track...]

That's all the time we have tonight folks, see you next week!

[cue Benny Hill theme song]

Friday, May 31, 2013

Consider the Birds of the Air...

Redwing Blackbirds by paynehollow
Redwing Blackbirds, a photo by paynehollow on Flickr.

I was reading a blogmentary and the resulting comments today and thought I'd correct someone on the internets who was wrong.

The blogger said...

Have you heard of "red letter Christians"? That's a cute way of indicating those people who classify themselves as Christians by taking those red-letter texts -- you know, the ones that Jesus said -- as absolutely true and setting the rest aside as questionable at best...

...who would not be fine with it? Well, Paul, for starters. He's the one who wrote that all Scripture is God-breathed (2 Tim 3:16-17). So if Jesus is God Incarnate (John 1:1-3), then all Scripture is, technically, the words of Jesus. (Remember, John refers to Him as "the Logos", the Word, the actual expression of God.) Even Paul's. Peter held that Paul's writings were Scripture (2 Peter 3:15-16). So if all Scripture is God-breathed, then what Paul wrote is just as much Jesus's words as what the red letter versions put up as Jesus's words. And, of course, Jesus held the Old Testament as Scripture, so that would be just as much Jesus's words as anything in the New Testament.

What do I do when Jesus and Paul disagree? Nothing, really. Because, well, they don't. So the problem isn't them. The problem is me. That's when I back up and figure out where I made the wrong turn. And, as it turns out, I usually find it pretty easily. But pitting Scripture against Scripture -- even Jesus against Paul or Peter or anyone else -- is a bad option if you're going to take Scripture seriously. Countering a Scripture with a Scripture is all well and good as long as you plan to make them agree...

And a commenter added the little jab...

The "red letter Christians" really tip their hands by implying that those words are inspired and that others are not. But why would they trust one Apostle's account of Jesus (any Gospel) and another Apostle's account (from Paul)? They implicitly deny the inspiration of scripture, and, not surprisingly, a lot of mischief follows.

The problems with this criticism (and ensuing false charges and attacks)...

1. We who are followers of Jesus, the Christ, really OUGHT to consider closely and take seriously Jesus' actual and direct teachings.

2. It demonstrates a bad, irrational, unbiblical approach to Bible study.

2a. The Bible makes THIS claim about "all Scripture..." That it is God-breathed/inspired and thus, useful for teaching and correction.

2b. The Bible does NOT make this claim about the Bible:

* That the 66 books of the Bible = "all Scripture.";

* That it is a magic rule book and if you only can read all the rules pretty (but not exactly... sort of, but not always, but kind of literally) and rightly apply them all in your (and you, in everyone else's) life, then you will find salvation and the Right Way to behave (and the Right Way to tell everyone else how they should behave);

* That it never contradicts itself in any manner;

* That each line of text in the Bible is equally valid as all other lines;

* That if an OT rule and a direct NT teaching of Jesus conflict, that we MUST find a way to make them not contradict one another...

3. Indeed, it is abundantly obvious that the Bible DOES contradict itself, at least as far as moral teachings go. The OT quite clearly teaches that God's people should NOT eat shrimp, for instance, that doing so is an "abomination." AND YET, Jesus and other NT writers directly contradict this teaching. "It's NOT what goes in to a person that makes them unclean or a sinner, but what comes OUT of them..." Eating shrimp is specifically NOT a sin or an abomination in the NT. That is a contradiction.

4. So, the problem here is treating the Bible as if it claimed that it was a rule book (magic or otherwise). The idea - "IF there is a rule in the OT, THEN Jesus' teachings can NOT contradict it, we must make Jesus' teachings mesh with OT teachings." - is simply sloppy reasoning and Bible study. Additionally, this is a way (perhaps unintentionally) of undermining the teachings of Jesus, making them subordinate to OT Jewish rules and teachings. I would call that sloppy Bible study and disrespectful to the actual teachings of Jesus.

5. And as soon as I say that, someone will sputter, "but, but, but... Jesus SAID 'I did not come to destroy the law, but to fulfill it...'" and indeed, he did. But "fulfilling it" does not mean accepting each OT teaching and rule as a universally moral teaching. That is another way (perhaps unintentional) of undermining Jesus' teachings, making them captive to ancient rules and understandings and mores.

6. The use of "red letter" by some folk (such as the ones cited) is a way of disrespecting/mocking those who hold fast to Jesus' teachings and seems odd to me. Why would followers of Jesus (and his teachings) NOT be especially concerned about the "red letters..."? We in the Baptist/anabaptist tradition (and others) approach Bible study with this attitude: That we understand all of scripture through the lens of Jesus' teachings. Why wouldn't we? We're followers of Jesus!

7. We who do strive to hold fast to Jesus' teachings are not saying that some Bible teachings are inspired and some are not (well, some "red letter Christians" might, but it's not a given or a universal trait at all). Rather, we understand ALL of Scripture to be inspired and useful for teaching (what the Bible actually claims) but don't conflate that to mean that each line in the Bible holds equal weight and are equally valid moral teachings. Clearly, according to Jesus, this is not true (well, unless you try to make Jesus' captive and overruled by OT interpretations and rules).

Indeed, we strive to use Jesus' teachings as a lens to biblical interpretation BECAUSE we value all biblical teachings. Biblical teachings are only useful IF they are rightly understood. Jesus' Gospel teachings help us to rightly understand.

Again, why would followers of Jesus NOT pay particular attention to his teachings?

I know I've said much of this sort of thing before, but I had a little time and thought I'd do that silliest of things: Correct someone who was wrong on the internet. Call me sick.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

IRS "Scandal..."?

Watch your step by paynehollow
Watch your step, a photo by paynehollow on Flickr.

Far be it from me to defend the IRS, but as I've been listening to this news story, I have some questions...

No doubt you've all heard the story, "IRS employees targeted conservatives unjustly...," etc, wherein some in the IRS are accused of singling out and targeting for extra scrutiny conservative groups who've applied for non-profit status. My question has to do with the way this charge has been framed.

IS there any evidence that, in general, these IRS employees who've allegedly targeted "conservative" groups HAVE done so?

First, it appears clear that, if nothing else, we've sort of set up rules that make this job difficult for IRS employees. Some groups will apply for non-profit status, presumably so that they can do good for the community and some in the IRS are charged with the task of deciding if the application is legitimate.

The purpose of the non-profit status is to help those groups whose PRIMARY purpose to is promote the social welfare. Or, as it reads in the IRS code...

An organization is operated exclusively for the promotion of social welfare if it is primarily engaged in promoting the common good and general welfare of the people of the community.

The problem is, WHAT is the measure for "primarily engaged in promoting the common good..."? It appears to be left rather vague, making the job of this department of the IRS a difficult one. It would seem obvious that a group providing housing or job skills for the homeless or unemployed is primarily promoting the common good, but what of a more political organization that, say, is fighting against (or in favor of) abortion? Is that "primarily promoting the common good"? Who decides?

If nothing else, hopefully this "scandal" will raise attention to this problem and help lead to clarification.

But, back to my problem with this "scandal."

First, let me be clear: IF it turns out to be the case that this office of the IRS was populated by partisan Democrat hacks who deliberately targeted conservative groups because they were conservative, that is wrong, wrong, wrong and the problem should be addressed.

However, from all evidence that I've seen thus far, these employees (and their managers who knew about it) weren't generally targeting conservative groups at all, much less for political reasons.

Rather, at a time when many tea party-type groups were being formed and applying for non-profit status, these employees made the call to target specifically applications that were "tea party" or "patriot"-styled groups. And what was the reason for this?

Was it because these groups were primarily conservative and these were liberal partisan hacks? Then hold them accountable and clarify the rules.

On the other hand, if they did it because tea party groups have tended to be pretty virulently anti-gov't, anti-tax groups who have tended to be more political in nature, rather than "primarily" operating for "the common good," well, then, give these employees Gold Stars, they seemed to have been doing their job.

The tea party-types that I have read have tended to say things like "taxation = theft!" and "Big gov't is STEALING our money, let's put an end to it!"... that is, they come across as pretty politically opposed to taxation in general AND pretty political in nature and those qualities SHOULD raise a red flag for a tax collecting agency.

Consider: There is on the Left in the Peace Wing, a pretty small group that supports withholding a percentage of tax dollars - those dollars that would go to the "war machine." I'm not entirely unsympathetic to the notion, myself, although I'm not part of it.

Now, if groups who agreed with this idea started proliferating in the way that the tea partiers did in the last decade and they began organizing and applying en masse for non-profit status, then I would expect it to be not unreasonable for the IRS to "target" groups with "anti-war tax" in their title/mission statement.

By "targeting," they weren't simply dismissing the tea party groups - indeed, it appears most groups got their non-profit status. It just means that because these groups seemed to be questionably out to "primarily promote the common good" and more political in nature, that they looked at their applications a little more closely.

From all I've seen so far, this does not seem inappropriate to me, nor does it seem to violate any laws or any internal IRS rules.

Am I mistaken? If so, where specifically? What rules have they violated? What laws have they broken?

Do I support clarification of these "primarily for the promotion of the common good" rules so it's not left so vague? Sure, that would be a good thing. But let's not blame the IRS if their only sin is doing their job as best they can. If it turns out that these employees and managers did NOT "target" the tea party groups as part of a partisan attack, but just doing their jobs, I am hopeful that Congress and the Right-eous attackers will apologize for creating a "scandal" where none existed.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Best Final Episode Ever?

Flowers Watercolor by paynehollow
Flowers Watercolor, a photo by paynehollow on Flickr.

The TV show, The Office had its final episode last night. Now, I am no fan of TV, as a general rule, and think we'd do better to spend less time watching it. I am, therefore, loathe to spend any time talking up a TV show, but, well, here we go....

I have enjoyed The Office over the years. The last few seasons, the quality of the shows has declined, as is common in even good TV shows, and I didn't watch it as regularly. Still, I tuned in last night for the final episode and must say that I thought it was great, perhaps the best final episode of any TV show ever.

(NOTE: Since most Final Episodes have not been all that good, that may be feint praise... my previous favorite Final Episode was Newhart.)

This Office finale was almost certainly too sentimental. Some might complain that being sweet and sentimental forced some characters to play out of character. But it's a final episode, I can cut them some slack for even over-the-top sentimentality.

I thought it had a nice balance of wistful remembrances and solid humor.

But probably the reason I enjoyed the show so much was because they took the opportunity to wax poetic and philosophical - and a departing is a perfect time to do that - and they did so in a way that I didn't find preachy or treacly, just pleasant.

A few favorite quotes...

Jim, reflecting upon his years in the incredibly inane and unimportant "paper selling" business...

“Even if I didn’t love every minute of it, everything I have I owe to this job. This stupid, wonderful, boring amazing job.”


“I wish there was a way to know you’re in the good old days before you’ve actually left them.”

What do you think? Any Office mates out there?

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Save Your Indignation, Part Deux

Sad by paynehollow
Sad, a photo by paynehollow on Flickr.

On the same theme as the last post, a whiny blogger recently listed a whole list of religious folk getting in trouble for refusing service to others because of their "religious beliefs..." for things like a florist not being able to refuse service to send flowers to a wedding between gay folk or adoption agencies refusing to allow gay folk to adopt, etc.

The blogger said...

What is in common with all these stories? Yes, there is a whole lot of "look what 'gay marriage' is doing to religious freedom", but that isn't in all of these cases. Yes, it does look like religious persecution is starting in America, but it's a little hard to support the term "persecution" when it is so spotty and rare. What, then? The common element is religious convictions in the public square. Obama, for instance, allowed the Roman Catholic Church an exemption for contraceptives because the Roman Catholic Church is, well, a church. Their subsidiaries, their services, their other programs? Not protected. Neither are private citizens who own businesses such as Hobby Lobby. That is "the public square" and religious persuasion in the public square will not be countenanced. You are free to believe what you want in private; just don't exercise your religious convictions in public.

And he may be right that some people are getting in trouble for their "religious beliefs" but he reaches the wrong conclusion. They are NOT getting in trouble for exercising their religious convictions in trouble. You can do that all day long if you want.

They are getting in trouble for illegal discrimination which results in harm to others.

That is a big difference.

Let me run down a list of examples of the difference.

Does your religion teach you to help the poor? You are free to express those religious beliefs publicly.

Does your religion teach you to kill the infidel? You are NOT allowed to express that belief publicly.

Does your religion teach you to not steal, to not lie, to not cheat? You are free to express those religious beliefs publicly.

Does your religion teach you to discriminate against "the gays," "the Jews," Muslims, Christians... and refuse to let them in your business? You are NOT allowed to express that belief publicly.

Does your religion teach you to hate the behavior of gay folk, black folk, muslim folks, Christian folks? You are free to express those religious beliefs publicly.

Does your religion teach you to kick "the gays," "the Blacks," Muslims, Christians, those who fornicate out of your rental property? You are NOT allowed to express that belief publicly.

Get the difference. Yes, there ARE some limits we place on our liberties. We are free to think that some people are hell-bound sinners, but your liberty to believe that STOPS at the line of harm. You can think Muslims are sinners, but you can't kill them, beat them or refuse service to them.

So it's NOT the case that "religion in the public square is not to be countenanced." It's the case that we have reasonably concluded that your right to believe what you want ENDS at harm.

Stop whining and complaining about the pending "persecution..." you just look silly.

Or not, you remain to be whiny as hell in the public square in the name of your religion. It just comes across as a rather pathetic, wimpy religion, but you remain free to be pathetic if you want.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Save Your Indignation

Compost by paynehollow
Compost, a photo by paynehollow on Flickr.

...and put your persecution complex on hold, right-winged zealots.

Recently, some in the more fundamentalist/extremist camp have been up in arms (literally??) about a news story. The Pentagon has recently reiterated an existing policy against proselytizing. Some in the extremist camps have pointed to this to prove their poor persecution and the state of our godless society and president.

They are, of course, never ones to let facts interfere with a good pity party.

The facts, from the Pentagon...

A statement released May 2 by Defense Department spokesman Lt. Cmdr. Nate Christensen clarified the military’s policy that “members of the military are free to share their faith as long as they don’t harass others.” Christensen continued:

“Service members can share their faith (evangelize), but must not force unwanted, intrusive attempts to convert others of any faith or no faith to one’s beliefs (proselytization),” said Navy Lt. Cmdr. Nate Christensen, a Pentagon spokesman, in an email.

“If a service member harasses another member on the basis of race, color, sex, religion, national origin, age, or disability, then the commander takes action based on the gravity of the occurrence. Likewise, when religious harassment complaints are reported, commanders take action based on the gravity of the occurrence on a case-by-case basis.”

Christensen said there are no plans to single out evangelical Christians for punishment, despite claims of activists.

“The U.S. Department of Defense has never and will never single out a particular religious group for persecution or prosecution. The Department makes reasonable accommodations for all religions and celebrates the religious diversity of our service members,” he said.

"Free to express their faith AS LONG AS they don't harass others..."

So, is it the case that these extremists want to reserve the right to harass others or are they just looking for reasons to whine?

Or maybe a bit of both?

Facts: 1
Zealotry: 0

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Happy Bicycling Month!

Bike Whiz by paynehollow
Bike Whiz, a photo by paynehollow on Flickr.

An 80-year old man goes to the doctor for a checkup.

The doctor is amazed at what good shape the guy is in and asks,"How do you stay in such great physical condition?"

I'm a cyclist," says the old guy, "and that's why I'm in such good shape. I'm up well before daylight and out and ride my bicycle."

" Well," says the doctor, "I'm sure that helps, but there's got to be more to it. How old was your dad when he died?"

"Who said my dad's dead?"

The doctor is amazed. "You mean you're 80 years old and your dad's still alive. How old is he?"

"He's 100 years old," says the old cyclist. "In fact he rode with me this morning, and that's why he's still alive . . . he's a cyclist, too."

"Well," the doctor says, "that's great, but I'm sure there's more to it than that. How about your dad's dad? How old was he when he died?"

"Who said my grandpa's dead?"

Stunned, the doctor asks, "You mean you're 80 years old and your grandfather's still living! Incredible! How old is he?!"

"He's 118 years old," says the old cyclist.

The doctor is getting frustrated at this point, "So, I guess he went bike riding with you this morning too?"

"No. Grandpa couldn't go this morning because he's getting married today."

At this point the doctor is close to losing it.

"Getting married!! Why would a 118 year-old guy want to get married?"

"Who said he wanted to?"

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

The Birds are Flown...

The Birds are Flown... by paynehollow
The Birds are Flown..., a photo by paynehollow on Flickr.

As any visitors may have noticed, I've been quite busy of late, tending to my parents and taking on other projects, which has left me a bit understaffed emotionally to worry too much in writing about political debate. But, just briefly, I've noticed that the opponents of marriage (ie, those who nominally support marriage and recognize its benefits, but only if it's between two straight folk, not two gay folk) are appearing to slowly recognize the reality that public opinion has shifted and they are now on the losing side of history.

You might be inclined to think this loss would be accompanied by some humble self-reflection, but you would be mistaken. From what I am seeing on the interblogs, the recognition that they've lost is there, but otherwise, reality seems to elude them.

I'm speaking primarily about the lack of understanding on their part as to the reason they lost the argument against marriage equity. As with most arguments/debates, one side "wins" and the other "loses" when one side makes the case in a way that appeals to those listening as the most rational and/or moral argument.

For many out there, the reasons they lost are clear (in their mind) and include...

1. The devil always wins out in the short term
2. Pro-marriage-equity types have "controlled the language"
3. Pro-marriage-equity types have taken over the media
4. Pro-marriage-equity types have subverted our public schools
5. Our side is willing to do anything to win, including lie, cheat and twist facts

and, the ever popular...

6. The public is too dam dumb!

I've tried pointing out that it seems clear that they are losing/have lost the debate about marriage because their "side" appears to more and more people to be less moral and less rational and that the way the go about "debating" the topic mostly involves calling people stupid and/or evil for not agreeing with them and being disrespectful in their approach to disagreement.

I've pointed out to some conservatives that perhaps the main point they've lost on is their failure to reasonably address the "Where is the harm?" question. That is, it is quite obvious to most people that two rational adults, committing to love, honor and respect one another, to be there in sickness and in health... that THIS is not going to "destroy marriage" and that there simply is no obvious harm/no serious downside to such arrangements. That such love and devotion to another person/your family is an objectively, self-evidently Good and Rational idea. How is it NOT?

Not only do they not address the question. Ever. But what they do/have done instead is berate and demonize the Others for failing to recognize the brilliance of their position, even if they can't answer this obvious question.

Instead of answering, "I know it SEEMS like two adults committing to a loving, healthy marriage relationship is an obviously good thing, but the problem is - the harm that comes from this is..." and giving some specific real world answers (something other than "the harm comes from this is... that God disagrees with that behavior. I know because God told me..."), instead of doing that, they consistently drop back to repeating and repeating meaningless hunches and, when that fails, personal attacks.

Yes, we KNOW it is your opinion that God disagrees with that behavior. We disagree. Now what?

No, we are NOT trying to "destroy marriage." No, we are NOT simply trying to be blandly agreeable. No, we are NOT just WANTING to embrace evil. No, it is NOT the case that gay people are incapable of being faithful and moral. No, no, no, to all these attacks. We live in the real world and can see obvious evidence contradicting these attacks, and that makes THEM seem to be the immoral ones, for repeating lie after lie, twisted truth after twisted truth, false witness after false witness.

But rather than admit that they simply did not do a good enough job of convincing people that their position is both moral and rational, they go on the attack against all the stupid people who are too stupid and evil to agree with their hunches.

I hope that, as time goes on, they can begin to let the bitterness and vitriol go. That, for their sake, they can recognize that - even if they still ultimately disagree with us - they simply failed to make their case in a convincing enough manner.

Look, as an anabaptist peacemaker, I know what it's like to hold minority positions. We peacemakers did not want the US to invade Iraq for no good moral reason. We thought it was an abundantly obvious mistake. But, in the end, we could not convince our fellow citizens in sufficient numbers to agree with us.

Does that mean that I think the public at large is evil or stupid, for disagreeing with our collective pacifisty wisdom? Does it mean I think they "control the language?" No, we simply failed to convince enough people at the time in sufficient numbers and with sufficient momentum so as to stop the invasion.

Live and learn. What can we do next time (God forbid) to better make our case?

We did this (before my time) with the Viet Nam War. The protestors then who were righteously opposed to an immoral war took many actions that were quite obviously (at least in hindsight) a poor approach to making their case. Demonizing your fellow citizens as "baby killers," for instance, is not a good way to make a rational argument.

Live and learn. Give up blaming, learn to recognize your mistakes and reflect on how you can better present your view on a debate the next time around.

Live and learn, friends, live and learn.

Sunday, March 31, 2013

Grace-full Easter!

Monarch Butterfly 2 by paynehollow
Monarch Butterfly 2, a photo by paynehollow on Flickr.

Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted.

Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth.

Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled.

Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy.

Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God.

Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God.

Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness' sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven...

Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal. For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also...

Therefore I say unto you, Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on. Is not the life more than meat, and the body than raiment? Behold the fowls of the air: for they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feedeth them. Are ye not much better than they?

...And why take ye thought for raiment? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin; and yet I say unto you, That even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these...

Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed? (for after all these things do the Gentiles seek) for your heavenly Creator knoweth that ye have need of all these things.

But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and all righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you...

The kingdom of God cometh not with observation: neither shall they say, Lo here! or, lo there! for, behold, the kingdom of God is within you...

The sabbath was made for humanity, and not humanity for the sabbath...

Verily I say unto you, Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven.

Whosoever therefore shall humble himself as this little child, the same is greatest in the kingdom of heaven. And whoso shall receive one such little child in my name receiveth me.

These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.


Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Beady album review

Jordan Sarah by paynehollow
Jordan Sarah, a photo by paynehollow on Flickr.

An album review for the first CD from Beady (the band featuring my kids) can be found at...


Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Evidence and Reason

Mountain Justice by paynehollow
Mountain Justice, a photo by paynehollow on Flickr.

In the previous post, the suggestion was made that I incorrectly conflate the parable of the Good Samaritan with the historical account (they say) of the Hebrew people leaving Egypt. The suggestion was made that I erred because I treated the historical text as a fiction, although it was okay to treat the parable as a parable.

Some considerations...

Good Samaritan:

1. The story of the Good Samaritan, told in Luke 10, Jesus answers the question "who is my neighbor?" by telling the story of the Good Samaritan.

2. The text does not identify the story as a parable. It is a story that Jesus tells. If I understand my actual history of the area correctly, the story could very well be based on an actual event - the Jericho Road in the story was known to be plagued by violent robbers.

3. The point of Jesus' story stands whether or not it was based on an actual event. The historical veracity/accuracy of the story is irrelevant to the moral lesson. We have no reason I can think of to worry about whether the story is fiction or not.

Hebrew slaves in Egypt:

1. The story of the Hebrews in Egypt is found in Genesis and Exodus. The story has a feel of a historical story, but not necessarily a strictly factual historical story.

2. In fact, in the time period from which these stories come, there is no historical record or known evidence (that I've heard of) of people telling historically accurate histories in the manner we would tell such stories today.

3. Additionally, there is no/very little in the way of archeological evidence to support the story taken literally. In the Bible story, the Hebrew people are enslaved by Egypt for ~400 years and the Egyptians were very dependent upon these Hebrew slaves.

And yet, there is no archeological evidence to support the claim (or maybe very little - I don't know enough to state definitively, but the general consensus appears to be that there is no serious archeological evidence to back it up).

4. Which is not to say that the story is not based on at least some factual points. Clearly, after all, there was a Hebrew people. Clearly, they came from somewhere and had a beginning in the region somewhere. I'm just saying there is no (little?) hard physical/archeological evidence to support the claim.

I'll stop there for now.

My question (or one of them) is this: On what basis do we feel we need to insist the Exodus story is a literal history, told more or less in modern literal historical style?

It does not identify itself as a literal history. The Samaritan story does not identify itself as a parable. Nowhere in the Bible is there any insistence that these stories must be taken in a specific style.

Why could it not be more of a period-appropriate epic story teaching moral lessons (which would seem to at least some folk to be the obvious style it is written in, given the textual and contextual evidence)? Why must it be considered a literal history?

Don't answer too quickly, please. Just consider: Is the sum total of the reason to take it as a literal history that, this is the way it's traditionally been considered?

And, if that is the sum total of the reasons, do you think that is enough?

Maybe more later, that's all I have time for now.