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Pet Bible-Thumping Peeves: Self-Defense

"Jesus wants me to defend myself and my family, right? I mean, violence is okay as long as someone else started it, right?"
So, what part of "Turn the other cheek" did you misunderstand?
"Jesus would not have a problem with arming ourselves against intruders, robbers, muggers, and people trespassing on our property, right?"
So, Jesus said, "Do not return evil for evil, but repay evil with good. Bless those who curse you, bless and do not curse them. You shall do good to your enemies and pray for those who persecute you." What part of that is confusing?
"We don't need to concern ourselves with what Jesus said in relation to posting armed guards at church or packing heat in the pews. After all, we need some security. We had a shooter at a church recently, and then there was Dylan Roof attacking people at a church service. We need to make sure we are a safe place for children."
Remember that other saying of Jesus, "Why do you call me …

Faith and Magic - 1 Samuel 6:1-13

Faith and magic are intertwined in the minds of many. We consider religion and spirituality from a perspective that runs counter to Biblical faith. We associate superstition with faith and fail to grasp that God calls us to a relationship of dependence, rather than obedience to magical rites. God is far above any human ability to manipulate. While on one level we readily acknowledge that, on another we often attempt to follow prescribed formulas specifically to control God, directing God to perform our will over any other. That is the provenance of magic. Faith, on the contrary, calls us to submission and dependence. Why is it so hard for us not to confuse the two? Israel struggled with concepts of magic in its thinking about Yahweh. They tried to break out of the mold of using rite and ritual to manipulate God, but they routinely fell into the trap to succumbing to magical thinking anyway. In the finals days of Eli before Samuel became the judge and prophet over Israel, the people were…

Single-Issue Politics

I read an article this morning attempting to support an accused pedophile because of his stance against abortion. The author went through an array of mental calisthenics to find reasons to eliminate the grounds for crediting accusations against him based on the age of the accusers. As he determined they were women, not girls, he could ignore any substance to the accusations purely by not meeting his proposed definition of pedophilia. He never got to the issue of a grown man's unwanted sexual advances, since he had to limit his argument to find some way to support the candidate. He ignored issues of power disparity. He ignored that victims most often do not speak out of fear and intimidation. He used the limited number of allegations as a reason to discredit the one known (at the time) allegation that did meet his criteria for pedophilia. The author's point in writing was to find a way to make this candidate acceptable to his readers due to support for a single issue in the polit…

Adapting to Realities - Acts 17:10-22

Fundamentalism is characterized by a static concept of faith and belief. It is a tightly packaged system of belief more in keeping with a philosophical construct or a time-stamped cultural perspective than with a living faith. The structures and definitions of Fundamentalism make for a secure belief system in the short term. It can be appealing, especially to those who want quick answers to the complex issues of life. It offers hard and fast answers, an enemy to oppose, and the security of belonging to a group with a defined expression of the truth for all time. The problem is that it fails at adapting to the shifting realities of life. If life requires adaptation, fundamentalism seeks to restore life to a supposed golden age of some idyllic utopia or plan for some new implementation of the same. What it fails to account for is that as life changes around us the answers of another year do not respond appropriately to the struggles and questions of a new age. It also fails to account fo…

Pressing On - Philippians 3:4-17

Biologists tell us the life and growth go hand in hand. Cells multiply. Plants develop roots, stems, and leaves. Eggs hatch. Babies grow and develop. If this process of growth with its accompanying changes stops, life itself ends. All throughout life we adapt, change, and respond to the environment all around us as a matter of course, even if there are certain elements of life we would like to freeze at some moment in time or at least slow down for a period. Life, however, calls us onward to new experiences and challenges, whether we like it or not. Hitting the pause button is just not an option. As the biological world we inhabit responds constantly to change with growth and adaptation, so do our spiritual lives. God created the physical world we inhabit, after all. God created the physical aspect of our lives, and these same basic principles of growth, change, and adaptation apply to our spiritual selves just as much as to our physical nature. As much as we might like to simplify our…

Pet Bible-Thumping Peeves: God Created the World in Seven Days

People like to point to Genesis chapter one as an account of God creating the world in seven days. Actually, that account speaks of a six-day process of creation, not seven. That is not the whole story, however. Genesis chapter two is also a creation narrative. It does not present God creating the world in seven or six days. It speaks as though God created the world in one day. The issue, however, is not one of mathematics and counting. The issue at hand is that the Bible is not interested in how many days, years, millennia, or aeons God took to create the world. That is a question for the domain of scientific inquiry to investigate. The Bible's questions and concerns are not with addressing when or how God created, nor with when or where. The Bible is concerned with issues of theology. It addresses questions more akin to who and why. Genesis one is more concerned with how God fashioned order out of chaos. Genesis two is more concerned with God's purposes in creation as relat…

Creation Care - Genesis 2:4b-23

Jewish understandings of Genesis chapter two have long focused on God's ideal design for the world. The contrasts between Genesis two and three focus on how the reality of life on earth is different from the way God created the world to be. Sin intervened and life no longer flows according to God's original purposes. When Jesus spoke of Genesis chapter two, he called attention to the ideals of God in establishing the world, even as humanity has departed from those same purposes. First of all, we find in this text that the world order was established with the purpose of sustaining human life in all its fullness. The order of creation here is different from that in the first chapter. The narrative is so told in order to highlight God's design for creation. That is the point behind addressing the creation of humanity first, then turning around and completing the creation of humanity at the narrative's end. For the first narrative, humanity was God's crowning achievemen…