Any group or movement loses credibility when its most basic claims and assumptions prove false or unreliable. Psychics, for example, are ridiculed when they purport to discern the future for paying clients but cannot predict winning lottery numbers or positive stock market trends for themselves. Similarly, faith healers are derided when they exercise their “gift” only in glitzy auditoriums–where they collect large offerings from gullible followers–and never in pediatric cancer hospitals. Continue reading
As you know, if you read this blog at all regularly, for my Lenten discipline this year, I selected fourteen titles from my “New Books” shelf and will devote a separate blog post—two per week across the seven weeks of Lent—to each of them. This post is number ten in the series.
In choosing these fourteen titles, I left twice that many on that same “New Books” shelf (yes, I buy books much faster than I read them), but I have derived such benefit from this exercise that I may continue the practice, at the rate of one book/post per week, even after Lent is over. I’m thinking of calling that weekly post “Library Friday.” I’ll of course let you know if I decide to undertake a schedule like that, and if I do, I’ll publish, in advance, a list of the titles I plan to read and write about over the next few months. Continue reading
In a way, Hillbilly Elegy could not be a more appropriate place to begin this literary journey through Lent by way of fourteen titles that have recently moved me “a little farther down the path” on my personal pilgrimage as a follower of Christ. (For the significance of that imagery, see yesterday’s post on this blog.)
At every Ash Wednesday service, marking the beginning of the season of Lent, when ashes are “imposed” on the forehead of each worshiper, the officiant intones the words, “Remember that you are dust (or dirt), and to dust (or dirt) you will return.” There were times while I was reading the book that I really felt like dirt. Continue reading
Over the past decade, I have made a lot of changes in what I believe about life and faith and how I evaluate truth claims and worldviews. Like so many others in similar situations, I changed my mind about essential matters when I found that, at the most crucial times in my life, my previously-cherished beliefs simply did not work for me; they promised far more than they delivered.
When I looked more deeply, I found that the superstructure of my belief system crumbled because the foundation on which it rested was riddled with cracks. In philosophical terms, my presuppositions were flawed, so the conclusions based on them turned out to be flawed as well. You don’t have to agree with my assessment here; I’m just putting it out there. Continue reading
As I sit down to write this morning, the news is all about two destructive forces unleashing pain and calamity on our nation—one meteorological, one political. Hurricane Matthew, a monstrous storm that caused widespread damage and loss of life as it swept across the Caribbean and posed a major threat to the southeastern U.S., seems to be losing steam and veering away from the coast with much of its ruinous potential unrealized. Sadly, the same cannot be said of the Republican candidate for president.
As everybody knows by now, an audio recording has surfaced from 2005 in which the Republican candidate made vile and vulgar comments about women and spoke of his attitude and behavior toward them in terms that can only be described as predatory and demeaning. It is simply one more example, as though one were needed, to show that every time that man speaks, he hurts somebody. Continue reading
I am not a medical person, so I don’t know if this analogy works, but I’m going to try it anyway. Imagine a disease or condition which comes on slowly with symptoms easy to overlook. Eventually, however, the symptoms are so gross and the patient’s condition so degraded as to require extreme and/or radical treatment.
The treatment appears successful, and symptoms abate, only to reappear, and sometimes maliciously so. Each recurrence, however, surrenders to treatment and the benefits of overall improving health. Continue reading
I grew up conservative in every way—theologically, socially, and politically. But things change. Circumstances change. Perspectives change. People change. I changed. And here, as succinctly as I can make it, is an example of how and why.
As a faculty member in my eleventh year of teaching at a small, conservative, Bible college in the Anabaptist/Mennonite tradition, I taught a course called Peace, Justice, and Simplicity. Prior to that, I had preached several series of sermons on the text of the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7). When I taught that course, however, in the spring of 2005, I read that passage as I had never seen it before, and I heard Jesus saying things I had not previously understood. Continue reading
I knew that the post I published yesterday might generate some reaction from those who enjoy arguing about issues like this. I did not wish to engage in arguments of that sort, so I did not include a comments section following the post itself. I promoted the post on Facebook, however, and I knew that some might leave comments there.
One of my friends (a real friend, not merely a Facebook friend) saw the notice of yesterday’s post on The Relentless Pursuit’s Facebook page. He left a thoughtful comment there. I believe it deserves a thoughtful response. I know that most of my Facebook friends and most of my blog readers never see the FB page dedicated to this blog, so I decided to use this follow-up post to address the issues he raised in his comment. Continue reading
I am a pacifist. I don’t say that very often. I am annoying in so many other ways that I try to avoid making an issue of my convictions in this area lest I provide people with either another reason to be annoyed with me or an explanation (at least in their minds) for why I am so annoying in the first place.
Once in a while I am pointedly asked, often as a result of something I have written, “Are you a pacifist?”. I usually obfuscate a bit in my reply, noting that pacifism is mainly a political position with philosophical roots. I prefer the term “biblical nonresistance,” since my objection to violence, including the violence associated with “justifiable” wars, is rooted in my understanding of the teachings of Jesus. Continue reading
Fifty years ago today, April 16, 1963, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., wrote his famous “Letter From A Birmingham Jail.” He had been arrested on April 12 for participating in a non-violent demonstration against racial segregation in violation of an injunction, issued by a Circuit Court judge two days earlier, against “parading, demonstrating, boycotting, trespassing and picketing.”
Dr. King acknowledged that he had broken the law, but he defended his act (and rightly so) on the grounds that some laws are just and some are unjust. In his letter he wrote, “Now, what is the difference between the two? How does one determine whether a law is just or unjust? A just law is a man made code that squares with the moral law or the law of God. An unjust law is a code that is out of harmony with the moral law.”