We should maintain that if an interpretation of any word in any religion leads to disharmony and does not positively further the welfare of the many, then such an interpretation is to be regarded as wrong; that is, against the will of God, or as the working of Satan or Mara.
Buddhadasa Bikkhu, a Thai Buddhist Monk
Saturday, April 30, 2011
"If you happen to find a bird's nest in a tree or on the ground with the mother bird sitting either on the eggs or with her young, you are not to take the mother bird. You may take the young birds, but you must let the mother bird go, so that you will live a long and prosperous life." (Dueteronomy 22:6)
Friday, April 29, 2011
Just to keep things in perspective, however, our neighbors to the east in New England are the least violent people in the nation by a large factor. Of all 50 states, Maine ranks first, New Hampshire second, and Vermont third in peacefulness. Maine has an index score of 1.34. New York's score is 2.69. Louisiana is the most violent state in the nation with a score of 3.97. So, even though there's a long way to go, good for you, New York! Keep up the good work. Please.
Thursday, April 28, 2011
One of the report's most interesting and important findings is that, according to the Executive Summary,
“Peace is linked to opportunity, health, education and the economy. States that rank higher on these social and economic factors tend to have higher scores in peace - indicating that having access to basic services, having an education, being in good health and ultimately being given the opportunity to succeed, are linked to peace. Improving these factors would also create additional economic activity.” (p. 2)That is to say, states that offer the most opportunities to get ahead, which includes access to education and income, are the ones that are the most peaceful.
The index report also reveals that the U.S. does not measure up to the rest of the world a swell as one might think. It is slightly below the global average for national peacefulness. One important reason is our nations's huge prison population, which correlates with more, not less violence.
In sum, we are headed in the right direction as a nation when it comes to violence. If we can only get over the apparent need to fill our jails to overcrowding we will do even better. One worry, however, is that at the moment we seem bent on cutting social service and reducing the quality of education— two indicators of a peaceful society—so we can keep our taxes unreasonably low. Only time will tell whether we can continue to reduce national violence in spite of cuts in these areas in the years to come.
Wednesday, April 27, 2011
"...we are not frantic to get this world and its history over with as soon as possible, so a perfect forever can begin, any more than a musician is frantic to get to the last note of a beautiful song; we understand that every note of the song is precious and should be played with all we can give it. The point of history, like a song, is not in the ending or finishing of it, but in the passionate playing of it, every moment." (p. 199)
"I have a dream ..." Dr. M. L. King, 1963
In other words, the prayer, "Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven," is not just so many pious words. It, rather, gives us our purpose in life as Christians. It gives us hope. It gives us a vision for the future. It lies, in sum, at the heart of our faith. Amen
Note: the word "eschatology" means the study of end times and usually includes the Kingdom of God, the Second Coming, and the end of the world as we know it.
Tuesday, April 26, 2011
Monday, April 25, 2011
"the right to life and to exist; the right to continue vital cycles and processes free from human alteration; the right to pure water and clean air; the right to balance; the right not to be polluted; and the right to not have cellular structure modified or genetically altered" among other rights.Pachamama, best translated as "Mother World." The laws thus seek to establish a harmony between nature and humanity in the face of the massive exploitation of Bolivia's natural resources by international corporations and the threat global warming poses to the nation's agricultural life. The article quotes one Bolivian official as saying that Pachamama "
Indigenous peoples (a.k.a. "tribal" or "hill" people) often have a degree of spirituality and sensitivity to the natural world that the rest of us can learn from. Without romanticizing them (or demonizing them as some do), it is still true that they generally tend to fit themselves into the natural world in ways that are less exploitive and less aggressive than the rest of us. As peoples, they often are more Christ-like than Jesus' own followers, and when they do become Christians they usually retain a healthy dose of indigenous spirituality. In Bolivia's case, we can only pray that the Law of Mother Earth brings real change to that nation and sets an example for the rest of us—one we follow! Amen
Sunday, April 24, 2011
There are many faithful Christians, however, for whom this traditional view of the death of Christ on the cross is no longer powerful or profound. It is based on ancient concepts of animal sacrifices to appease angry gods and of the scapegoat, which is sacrificed to pay for the sins of the person making the sacrifice. Such ancient practices and beliefs have lost their compelling power for most people today and, if anything, only serve to remind us of how violent life was in ancient times. For these Christians, it is not the cross but the resurrection that lies at the heart of the Christian faith.
For Jesus' disciples, in fact, it is clear that it was not the cross that blew their minds. They may not have expected that Jesus would die on a cross, but in hindsight it was hardly surprising that he did. The thing that changed their lives was their experience with the risen Lord. They were not animated by the cross but by the resurrection. In the resurrection, God transcended the violence of the cross, changed despair into hope, and showed the disciples the way into the future. Easter, thus, overshadowed Good Friday by transforming one rabbi's violent senselessness death into the hope for new life. The crucifixion was but a prelude to the resurrection.
Mary Magdalene,is a case in point. Her hope was not reborn when she stood at the foot of the cross and witnessed her rabbi's death. The risen Jesus, instead, rekindled that hope when he spoke her name there by the empty tomb (John 20:11-18). In a violent world seemingly dominated by a multitude of forms of death, death did not and does not have the last word. From our own lives we know that hard times and difficult experiences, when handled prayerfully and humbly, lead us to new beginnings. Time and again, we find God's Spirit prompting us, guiding us, renewing us, and carrying us forward. So that while we do have our crosses to bear, our salvation is not in them but in the transforming power of God in Christ, which takes us from death to life.
That is to say, it is not by the "blood of the Lamb" that we are saved. Our salvation, rather, is through our faith in God in Christ, the One who Brings Life out of Death. It is the risen rabbi's voice not his crown of thorns that calls us to life abundantly lived. Amen.
Saturday, April 23, 2011
For the professional historian, this evidence from Paul and the gospels is highly suspect. First, it reports an incredibly unlikely event, a resurrection. Second, it comes from a religious sect that had a vested interest in concocting a story purporting the resurrection of its beloved leader. Third, people in ancient times could believe things happened that did not actually happen.
Historically speaking, then, the only evidence we have that "something happened" is the bare fact that Jesus' movement did not die away when he died. There had been messiahs before, but their movements always ended with their death. If nothing special happened, how was it possible that a motley group of common folks could defy the authorities, overcome their grief and loss, invent a patently ridiculous story about a bodily resurrection, and jump start a religious movement that rapidly gained adherents? How could this happen in Jerusalem, which was small enough so that people would have known if the disciples had just made up the story? No, something happened, and it was not just your ordinary, every day, garden variety "something." Something strange and apparently spiritually powerful happened.
That is the most we can say historically, and obviously most strictly secular historians are not willing to say even that much. But, in refusing to do so they cannot come up with any other reasonable explanation for the Jesus movement, which eventually became the Christian movement. The thing is, Jesus' disciples did not base their claims about the resurrection on the empty tomb or the absence of a corpse. They, rather, claimed that they saw their risen Lord. Something happened.
Friday, April 22, 2011
One example: the Great Lakes are seriously deteriorating in the face of a host of environmental problems including toxic contaminants, invasive species, polluted watersheds, loss of wetlands, and deteriorating beaches. In recent decades Congress has passed a number of bills aimed at restoring the Great Lakes, the most recent being the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative of 2010. Designed to address the environmental degradation of the Great Lakes, it began as an impressive effort that engaged in numerous projects from Minnesota to New York, which were beginning to make a difference. Now, however, according to a Politifact.com posting the recent cut-to-the-bone frenzy on Capitol Hill has adversely affected the funding of restoration projects sufficiently to render the whole initiative "stalled." Given the way our planet is progressively losing natural habitat after habitat, "stalled" is not really stalled. It represents just one more failure to effectively address the conditions that are destroying our natural environment.
In the white heat of today's angry, irrational political environment, we have lost our sense of balance and put short-term irritations at the top of the agenda and long-term needs and solutions at the bottom. Those who are so desperate to reduce government spending drastically should realize what we are losing in the process—much that is good, worthy, and open to no other solutions than by that spending. The Great Lakes lay at the very heart of our continent, and their slow but evidently inevitable death will have a huge impact on all of us. Coupled with the horrific things we have done to the Gulf of Mexico, one can only feel a deep sadness at what we have already lost and troubled at what we are going to lose.
Thursday, April 21, 2011
|Open Theism (from Mudpreacher.org)|
Truth be told, open theism is not really about God at all. Its underlying agenda is to defend the biblical view of God, which is that God answers prayers, reacts to human actions, and otherwise changes the divine mind at the drop of a hat. The open theologians believe that the Bible must be interpreted literally, which raises for modern minds the problem of God's knowledge of the future and the notion that God changes her mind. Open theism is one attempt to deal with these questions and others like them.
Wednesday, April 20, 2011
Quantum physics does not give us license to believe any old silly nonsense we want to believe. By the same token, however, it does encourage us to think about the so-called real world in new, quirkier ways. And it opens up the possibility that in some important ways the "spiritual world" of our faith parallels or has aspects similar to the quantum world.
Who said that theology is boring? Not today!
Monday, April 18, 2011
The Rev. Rob Bell is pastor of the Mars Hill Bible Church in Grandville, Michigan, near Grand Rapids. The Mars Hill Church is an independent mega-church that has gained a national reputation, and Bell has become a well-known evangelical figure. Now, he is also a controversial one. His recently published book, Love Wins, has provoked an intense debate among conservative evangelicals because it seems to them to deny the existence of a literal hell after death, and they feel it smacks of "universalism,.” “Universalism,” as they see it, is a heretical doctrine that proclaims an easy salvation where everyone goes to heaven whether they believe in Christ or not. Rob Bell, some think, is guilty of this heresy because he appears to proclaim a “generous salvation” by which God saves most people irrespective of their earthly lives or beliefs.
Sunday, April 17, 2011
The article quoted one of the lead researchers, Ashley N. Gearhardt of Yale University, as saying,
"What I see as a bigger concern is really our food environment. If you think of these cues as starting to trigger the problem, the worst environment you could possibly be in is the one we have," said Gearhardt. "All the billboards, all the vending machines. If you changed each of these into an alcohol cue and you were trying to recover from alcoholism, it would be impossible."Scary stuff for those of us who struggle with weight. Losing weight is not impossible; people do it all the time. But those who do want to lose weight have to take into account two important factors. First, many of us (most of us?) are struggling with an addiction. Second, society is our enemy in our struggle. It is filled with advertising that is aimed at defeating us, and we face daily sometimes hourly opportunities to fall off the wagon—often at the hands of well-meaning friends with their "aw, one piece can't hurt" invitation to failure. Churches, truth be told, play their part, too in promoting food addiction. Most church social events include a tempting array of cakes, cookies, and other things just not good for the food addict to be around.
It is good (and important) to know, however, that each pound we do lose, each day we do stick at it, is a victory. The trick is to win today and pray for tomorrow. Perhaps someone reading this posting will support a friend or a loved one struggling with food addiction by not putting and even pushing them into harm's way with tempting treats and invitations to eat what they should not eat. Amen.
Saturday, April 16, 2011
|Nanotechnology & Cancer (a future cure)|
Friday, April 15, 2011
Yesterday's posting, "Lewis County, NY - Sorta Red, Sorta Purple" drew on a recent survey of the county, which suggests that Lewis County is more politically/ideologically diverse than one might think. On reflection, the survey's data also suggests that there is an important place for a "purple" church in our "sorta purple" county. A purple church is an open, inclusive church that values and practices diversity. It understands that there are a variety of entirely faithful ways of following Christ—one can do so as a "conservative Christian" or a "liberal Christian" or "non-ideological" Christian or a large number of other "kinds" of Christian. A purple church preaches social as well as personal salvation. It affirms the authority of the Bible, looking to Christ as the measure of scripture. The Bible is the "word of God written," while only Christ is the Word of God (John 1). A purple church provides a spiritual home for those who are uncomfortable with a strongly ideological or fundamentalist message and practice. It does not live in a "black-and-white" world or rely on human so-called "absolutes". A purple church lives by faith, which is primarily a matter of trust in God and only secondarily concerns itself with beliefs about God .
First Presbyterian Church, Lowville, seeks to be just such a church. Its members embrace the fact that they see and live out the Christian faith in different ways. They look beyond the labels and can listen with interest to and learn from views not their own. As a congregation, they value preaching that asks hard answers. They feel uneasy with conventional answers. It is good, thus, to have some statistical confirmation that there is ample room for this purple-leaning church in sorta purple Lewis County. Amen.
Thursday, April 14, 2011
|Lewis County, NY, Windmills|
Tuesday, April 12, 2011
Sidi Bouzid, Tunisia, is a city of about 40,000 residents located 175 miles south of Tunis, the national capital. Until this past December, its only claim to fame was as the site of a World War II battle. Now, it is also famous as the epicenter of the people’s revolt that brought down the government of President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali in January after 23 years in power.
Monday, April 11, 2011
Sunday, April 10, 2011
Saturday, April 9, 2011
Friday, April 8, 2011
Thursday, April 7, 2011
I am pastor of First Presbyterian Church (FPC), Lowville, NY. I started with the church in September 2011, and my wife Runee and I quickly came to love both the church and the community. I grew up in a small town out on the prairie of southwest Minnesota (Luverne, MN, to be specific) so moving to Lowville has felt something like coming home. And while I hope that members of the FPC family will visit Rom Phra Khun from time to time, it is a personal blog. The church is not responsible for its contents. It is meant to be shade from the sun for you and a playground for me. Peace & blessings, Herb