Sunday, July 25, 2004

145 No easy transitions

Pastor Barbara said this morning during her transition from the sermon to communion, as the microphone wouldn't unclip and then the clips fell on the deck, as the wind whipped her notes and hair, "Each week I prepare a smooth transition from sermon to communion. . ." and the wind took the rest of her words. But informal church on the lakefront singing camp songs is wonderful. Today we sang "Hallelu, Hallelujah!," "Down in my Heart," and "This is the Day." Gwen at the electric keyboard is always joyful and led us in rounds. And it was a glorious day, overcast perhaps, but the mighty Erie was singing God's glory with white caps and a bit of spray baptizing our efforts to outsing her.

No easy transitions. A staff member died on the same high-way I was driving last Sunday. We prayed for his widow, children and grandchildren. It was a shock to all our little community, but not to Jesus, who was waiting with open arms for his child who had served him many years. It will be a difficult transition for his family, but it was effortless for him.

Jesus has done it all, as the hymn says. He has lived the perfect life and paid for our sins on the cross so we can confidently make that transition as though we had lived without sin. And make an effortless, smooth transition when our time here is over.

Saturday, July 24, 2004

144 Two with no mayo

This has been all over blogdom, but started in The New York Times Magazine. I heard it read on the radio, and almost couldn't believe my ears, considering the people I know who are flying to the Ukraine, India and China to adopt babies (usually girls since boys are more valued).

After deciding with her boyfriend that it was time to start a family, she was surprised by the diagnosis of triplets. So she aborted the twin boys and kept the single. Her boyfriend started to balk when he saw the 3 heartbeats on the sonogram, but wimped out. If he's smart he'll walk out on the woman who killed his sons.

Her income would take a significant hit. "There was a part of me that was sure I could work around that," she allowed. "But it was a matter of, Do I want to?"

Her answer was no. There were health risks. Moreover, "I'll have to start shopping only at Costco and buying big jars of mayonnaise." So it was off to the specialist who would shoot potassium chloride into the hearts of two of the babies.
One version here, but it is all over the place.

We believe that every human life (born and unborn) is precious, being created in the image of God. Because Jesus Christ chose to die for us, every person is loved by God. Since life is sacred, abortion is not pleasing to God and Christians are called to value life as God does. Our worth is determined by God’s view of us which is demonstrated in Jesus, not by our own self-estimation. (Genesis 1:27; John 3:16; Psalm 136; Psalm 139:13-16) Statement “What we believe” [about] Human Worth, Upper Arlington Lutheran Church, Columbus, OH.

Thursday, July 22, 2004

143 Don't preach outside the YMCA

A Christian had his family’s membership revoked at the East Cobb, GA, YMCA (Young Men’s Christian Association) for witnessing to two high school seniors outside the building. Did the Y own the sidewalk? The air? The right to speak? Can it tell members what to say and to whom?

Story here, and it certainly sounds odd. No one claims that the YM or YW are Christian organizations anymore, but they are supposed to reflect “Christian principles.” Well, chalk that up for one more reason not to contribute to United Way type organizations and send your money where you know what people stand for.

Monday, July 19, 2004

142 Christians and the Internet, a code of ethics

The code of ethics I drafted for Upper Arlington Lutheran Church on use of computers and the Internet, is now available for viewing and comment at the church's web site, The references to parents is to make it inclusive for our members who are young people and children. You can comment here or at the church web site. Linked references were checked in May, 2004.

Sunday, July 18, 2004

141 Maybe it's their strength

Donald Cranksahw at "Back of the Envelope" blog writes:
I believe that the Democratic party is on the verge of collapse. The reason I think this is that the party doesn't have any sort of unified vision, but is instead cobbled together from dozens of special interest groups who have no fundamental common ground. The gay rights' lobby, the working class, the unions, the ethnic minorities, the abortion rights' lobby, the transnationalists, etc. The core of the Democratic party used to be the working class and the unions, which formed a natural alliance with the ethnic minorities, since most of them were working class. This is what led to the big Democratic initiatives of the past, such as The New Deal and The Great Society. It wasn't a perfect fit, but it worked for a time. However, these groups have no natural affinity for the likes of the gay rights' lobby, the abortion rights' lobby, the anti-war transnationalists, etc. More and more, the Democratic party seems under the power of these latter groups, whose values are not only alien, but oftentimes anti-thetical to the old core of the party.
They could still elect a president even if they wouldn't go to dinner with each other.

Saturday, July 17, 2004

140 This can't be real!

"This has got to be the hardest decision I’ve ever had to make. I’m doing this on the day I gave birth to my first child, so it will always be a day I’ll never forget. I love you even though I know in my heart I can’t keep you, but the memory of you will make me strong. I know your spirit is in a better place. Each tear I cry will help me erase the memory of this day, but not of you. You will always be a part of me even though you are not here with me. All my love, the mom you’ll never meet, but I’m sure you know who I am."

Sort of sounds like something you might write to a child placed for adoption, but no, it is to an aborted baby from "mom." I think I liked it better when women pretended a fetus was just a blob of tissue and not a human being. Seen at Letters from Babylon. I'm hoping this is as phoney as MM's F 9/11, because I really don't want to believe a woman could feel this and then destroy the baby.

Thursday, July 15, 2004

139 The travel writing genre

Lakeside, from which I’m writing, is a Chautauqua community and offers classes and programming on many topics--and there was a travel writer on the program list this week. I didn’t go for two reasons, I don’t travel much, and I’m not interested in publication (usually a topic within writing classes). Actually, three reasons; I don’t read travel literature. But I thought this observation about Evelyn Waugh’s newly reissued travel writing was interesting at First Things. Waugh Abroad: Collected Travel Writing
“For the most part, Waugh’s books are not really about travel at all. True travel writers work upon the assumption that their task is, primarily, to see and to describe, and where possible to enter into as profound a sympathy for their subjects as they can; Waugh proceeds upon the (subversive) assumption that his business is to evaluate and to comment, and to avoid sympathy as assiduously as circumstances and good taste permit. For all his considerable prowess as a stylist, in these books he rarely troubles to convey any image or experience with appreciable vividness or pungency (except where an opportunity for mockery presents itself). Any reader of his novels knows that he was quite capable of painting pictures with words when necessary; but his genius lay elsewhere. His prose is urbane, unsentimental, and economical, hospitable to moments of purple abandon but at its best when its controlled and even flow allows him to pass from delicacy to savagery and back again without any visible effort. It is, in short, a prose of personality, not of scenery; of irony, not of anecdotes. And so it is in these books.”
The author did list some travel writers he enjoys and did cite the redeeming qualities in Waugh’s books--always about the author, not the travel. For example:
“[British Guiana] If there is any more unprepossessing expanse of earth upon the globe, one cannot imagine where. This book is an unremitting account of misery, privation, and pointlessness in a world of dun landscapes, tormenting insects, malnutrition, and cultural stagnancy. What makes it fascinating, though, is the almost demented composure of the author; it demonstrates with remarkable poignancy how, in its way, British equanimity can constitute a kind of emotional extremism.”

Wednesday, July 14, 2004

138 The high cost of FDA approval

I took a beta blocker for about 6 years. Somewhere I read that 100,000 people had died who could have been saved by that class of drugs waiting for it to make its way through FDA approval. From drug discovery to approval for distribution and sale, here is a handy chart. This process typically takes seven to ten years and can cost upwards of $900 million dollars per drug.

Alexander Coombs explains why we will tolerate the death of thousands rather than risk the death of someone from an unsafe drug. It's in our brain function, according to MRIs.
When television programs such as 60 Minutes show people suffering from unintended effects of a drug, we feel enraged and disgusted. We wonder how such tragedies are permitted. Those who suffer and die because of drugs that will never be available to them receive no television coverage; no headlines decry the injustice. They simply pass away untreated, unrecognized victims of an irrational policy.
See his article, "Two Track Mind: How Irrational Policy Endures" June 7, 2004.

Tuesday, July 13, 2004

137 The Politics of Partisan Neutrality

"Americans who want to understand conflicts between Democrats and Republicans during the election season have received precious little help from the media. While reporters usually recognize that there is some sort of problem about “values” and about “faith-based” principles, and that the Democrats and Republicans are often on opposite sides, writers and editors tend to publish news and analysis as if the situation were as follows: The Christian right, having infiltrated the Republican Party, is importing its divisive religious ideas into our public life, whereas the Democratic Party is the neutral camp of tolerant and pluralistic Americans.

This way of framing the matter predominates, not only because it reflects the personal beliefs of many journalists, but also because it draws upon a long American tradition of suspicion and fear of committed Catholics and evangelical Protestants. (In the elite newspapers and magazines, the number of journalists in either of those groups is tiny.) It is thus comfortable for journalists to conceive of religiously based political conflict in terms of an aggressive Christian right advancing upon a beleaguered neutral and pluralistic center and left.

What the journalists leave out of their accounts is the fact that the nonreligious have also become aggressive actors on the political stage and that they possess and promote, in fact, an overarching religious worldview of their own—one that can fairly be called secularism."

Complete article at First Things, May 2004

Monday, July 12, 2004

136 Making church members feel good about themselves

The blog Ecumentical Insanity questions some of the marketing techniques being used by churches. See Latest Panacea, July 11, 2004

Sunday, July 11, 2004

135 On Wearing the Pants

During prayer requests at the worship service on the Lakefront, someone requested prayers for the safe return of our troops. Another chimed in for safe return of all troops. I assume she was including the Moslems who think she is an infidel, and not worthy of life.

The following excerpt makes wearing a hood or women’s lingerie while in prison look like a birthday party, doesn’t it?
“We tied the infidel [a Briton] by one leg [behind the car]. . . . Everyone watched the infidel being dragged. . . . The infidel's clothing was torn to shreds, and he was naked in the street. The street was full of people, as this was during work hours, and everyone watched the infidel being dragged, praise and gratitude be to Allah. . . .

We entered one of the companies' [offices], and found there an American infidel who looked like a director of one of the companies. I went into his office and called him. When he turned to me, I shot him in the head, and his head exploded. We entered another office and found one infidel from South Africa, and our brother Hussein slit his throat. We asked Allah to accept [these acts of devotion] from us, and from him. . . .

At the same time, we found a Swedish infidel. Brother Nimr cut off his head, and put it at the gate so that it would be seen by all those entering and exiting. We continued in the search for the infidels, and we slit the throats of those we found among them. . . .

We found Filipino Christians. We cut their throats and dedicated them to our brothers the Mujahideen in the Philippines. [Likewise], we found Hindu engineers and we cut their throats too, Allah be praised. That same day, we purged Muhammad's land of many Christians and polytheists. . . .” Special Dispatch, no. 731, Middle East Media Research Institute

Wednesday, July 07, 2004

134 John Kerry and Holy Communion

“Recently 48 Catholic members of Congress signed a letter to Theodore Cardinal McCarrick declaring that "We firmly believe that it would be wrong for a bishop to deny the sacrament of holy communion to an individual on the basis of his voting record ... We do not believe it is our role to legislate the teachings of the Catholic Church. For any of us to be singled out by any bishop by the refusal of communion (because of a pro-choice position) is deeply hurtful." Seen in Brent Bozell’s column July 7, 2004

I’m not a Catholic, but a group of Catholics using their positions as U.S. congress people to try to get the Catholic church to change its position on abortion sounds really odd to me. The Supreme Court decided that the unborn aren’t human beings worthy of life and as a result millions of babies have died. The Church has applied Canon Law to those, who like John Kerry, go against Church teaching. If I had to decide who had a direct line to God about morality, I’d choose the Catholic Church over the Supreme Court any day--given only two choices.

George Weigel states in his column of June 21, “. . . the members misrepresent canon law and the purpose of canonical penalties. Canon 915 states that those who "obstinately persist in manifest grave sin are not to be admitted to Holy Communion." The application of this canon to present circumstances is being vigorously debated throughout the United States (and in Rome) right now. The debate would be a wiser one if everyone understood (as the forty-eight members of Congress evidently do not) that canonical penalties have a different aim than penalties in civil and criminal law. The purpose of canonical penalties is remedial, even medicinal: imposing a penalty is intended, not so much as a punishment, but as a prod to conversion. The aim is not retribution, but change of heart and mind.”

Monday, July 05, 2004

133 Lutheran Chautauqua

The Lutherans have two weeks at Lakeside, a summer Chautauqua community owned by the Methodists where we have a summer cottage. This year is their 83rd, and I believe at one time at least one group of Lutherans had services there in German. The Pastor of the week is Rev. Henry J. Langknecht, Professor of Homiletics & Christian Communication at Trinity Lutheran Seminary. I rarely attend services at Hoover Auditorium in the summer, having been burned by too many liberal preachers who had us praying to "mother-father God" and mouthing all sorts of creedal blather about environmentalism, AIDS, and women's rights during the service. Instead, we attend the informal service on the lakefront, where camp songs and praise choruses make sense, considering the metal chairs, strong winds off the lake, and people wearing athletic shoes and shorts.

However, I thought, it being Lutheran week, maybe I'd hear some good music and catch a gospel centered sermon. There was a nice choir from Zion Lutheran Church in Sandusky and we did sing "This is my Father's World" and say the Apostles' Creed. (Do any Lutherans have liturgy anymore?) The sermon had a political theme, it being July 4, so I don't begrudge Rev. Langknecht that opportunity to bring in civil and women's rights into his theme of the week, "There is Nothing 'Self-Evident' About 'These Truths are. . .'" He even closed with something about Jesus and our sins--don't recall the exact wording, but it was a strong nod to why Christians even gather on Sunday.

Pastor Ted Stellhorn of Marblehead was the worship leader. He had a closing prayer that really left me with something to think about all week. If I'm not mistaken, I think he asked God for something like "fair wages" or "equitable wages" for workers--I don't think he said "living wage." I was so startled, I missed the rest of the prayer. I got to wondering about fair wages for pastors, for librarians, for architects. What would be fair? Should pastors make more than their secretaries? More than surgeons? What about the organist? What is fair wages for a church organist? Or the janitor? Like I say, gave me something to think about, but mostly I'm thinking it definitely didn't belong in a worship prayer.

Sunday, July 04, 2004

132 Welcoming home our troops

A beautiful story about the chaplain who welcomes home our dead soldiers. Washington Post, July 4, 2004.
"Lord God, we stand humbly before these valiant Marines," he said in a recent service aboard the plane. "It is our deep and sacred honor to welcome them home once again. . . . Bless their fellow Marines with whom they served. Protect and guard them. May the bravery of these Marines strengthen our resolve in the difficult work of laying the foundation for peace in our time." Father Robert Cannon