Sunday, March 15, 2020

A few links

Not too many links this week; seems everyone is distracted by COVID-19 and the resulting chaos of our (lack of) response to it. Yesterday, when we went to the store to pick up a few things, we wandered the aisles to see how much panic-buying had taken place. Suffice it to say, a good bit. Toilet paper seems to be everyone's favorite item to hoard. Please explain that one to me! I don't get it. But then, I don't understand hoarding; it seems to speak volumes about the level of trust people have in God.

How about those gas prices? I didn't think I would ever see gasoline under $2.00 a gallon, but there it is. Heather Cox Richardson takes a closer look at what might be going on. Worth thinking about anyway.

A new book came out looking at the "City on a Hill" sermon. The Anxious Bench has an interview with the author. The final paragraphs are worth quoting here, but (as always), read the whole thing:

In my last chapter I explain how “America First” differs sharply from the rhetoric of American exceptionalism. American exceptionalism narrates a history based in high ideals, like liberty, democracy, self-government, prosperity, and so forth. It is often blind to anything in American history that contradicts those ideals—and blind as well to the way other countries instantiate those ideals—but it is nonetheless a language of history and a language of ideals.

America First is not. It doesn’t bother with history. It has little interest in discussing democracy, liberty, or all the rest. It is a language, instead, of sovereignty and self-interest. Those are the twin concepts that matter most. In the rhetoric of America First, every nation is basically the same: each is locked in a zero-sum struggle, where the point is to win and where winning makes others lose. “I want to take everything back from the world that we’ve given them,” Donald Trump declared. When he won the 2016 election, he never embraced American exceptionalism and never referred to the United States as a “city on a hill.” In fact, those who turned to this rhetoric on both the left and the right were those who most strongly opposed the rise of Trump.

In other words, America First is the perfect theology (and it is a theology) for our selfish, fallen, sinful self. Which, of course, means it should be the first thing we shed once we become redeemed by the blood of Jesus Christ. Why isn't it? Maybe because we need to get back to the fundamentals of the faith, at least that's what Mike Glenn thinks (and I agree with him, although I wouldn't capitalize "Word"—when used of scripture, it should be lower case; only Jesus as the Word of God deserves to be upper case).
Whenever you hear about some major Christian leader falling, almost every time, they got too busy to take care of the fundamentals.They’re leading conferences, going to meetings, writing books, preaching and teaching – all good things! What they push out of their lives is time alone with God. They forget the fundamentals and they lose the game.

So, if I ever have the chance to sit down and talk with you, this is what I will talk to you about – the fundamentals. Sure, we may talk about your church and your ministry, but what I want to know is how you’re doing with the fundamentals. Are you reading the Word? What is Jesus teaching you? Are you in a group of brothers and/or sisters who are holding you accountable to your best self in Christ?

These are the fundamentals. These are foundations of every winning team. They are the foundations of every winning life.

I know it's not flashy, but it's how you win the game.

Again, over at the Anxious Bench, they discuss the changes in feminism. Seems there's a generation gap there. Definitely worth the read. As a white, over-60, male, I am not terribly qualified to say much, but I fear too many have been seduced by the world's version of success (and that could be said of males, too!), which seems to rate outward appearance higher than inner substance. Just sayin'.

Shifting gears a bit, Scot McKnight is reading through David Opderbeck's Law and Theology. Here's a good lesson (the further indents are quotations from Operbeck's book)

First, the struggle for liberation can only be understood through the experience of the oppressed.
Second, law is the difference between the violent and nonviolent struggle for liberation.
Third, the rule of law is not absolute because only just laws are legitimately enforceable.
Finally, the church cannot sit on the sidelines of legal change if it truly loves the oppressed.
So the Civil Rights Act of 1964 that banned racial discrimination in public places. Many appealed here to “big government.” Bob Jones Universitiy had a law at the time prohibiting dating between whites and blacks, and this energized the evangelical coalition that became the Moral Majority. The IRS prohibited donations to such institutions to be exempt from income, and Bob Jones University fought this to the Supreme Court. The Court ruled 8-1 against BJU. Only in 2000 did it change its policies.
My point here is that even though today conservatives and liberals alike agree, or at least say they agree, with the goals of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and of related federal civil rights legislation, deep doctrinal and ideological divisions remain about the legitimacy of the Congress’s ability to reach into areas of state and local governance in order to impose national values. The history of slavery and the civil rights movement in America shows that positive law was, and remains, an important tool in the struggle for liberation against the American original sin of racism. It also shows that objections to Supreme Court precedents and federal legislation regarding civil rights on the basis of religious liberty and limited government are deeply connected to racism, including racism in the church.
Speaking of racism, I found this piece on the integration of the Billy Graham crusades very enlightening. Do read it.

Finally, two pieces on how the church should respond to the corona virus scare. The first is by Stephen McAlpine:

Whether you are panicking right now, prepping for doomsday because you’re reading and watching everything about it, or if you’re just being realistic and taking sensible precautions, this is a good test run for church.

In the West we’ve built a church infrastructure, that requires certain favourable conditions, including—though not limited to—economic ones, in order to survive. And the para-church organisations gathered around churches picking up those crumbs have also hitched a ride on this model.

And what we’ve seen this past week shows that it’s precarious. And we don’t even think about it. We’re not on our guard.

Read the whole. The second is by Carmen Imes; the final paragraph:
Maybe COVID-19 will re-teach us what we have forgotten—that we are made for embodied community. As wonderful as social media is, it can never replace a handshake or a hug. And as inspiring as online sermons can be, they cannot replicate the taste of bread and wine or deep-throated song in community. This quarantine won't last forever. Hopefully it will be just long enough to help us more deeply appreciate that we were made for each other and that we can't be fully ourselves in isolation. See you on the other side!
Indeed. And on that note, I'll close.

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