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The real message of Genesis …

September 1, 2014

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My suspicions have always nagged: Does the creationism-evolutionism debate totally miss the point? Let’s chill. Let’s listen to the message of Genesis 1-3,

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Praying for Iraq

August 20, 2014

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The traditional answer to pacifism is the so-called “Just War” argument. It’s a classic case of bad branding. Pacifists look like peacemakers while “Just War” advocates look like they’re arguing for war.

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Video of the month: Alister McGrath and the confessions of a lapsed atheist

May 6, 2014

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Pick up a book by Alister McGrath and read it at some time. You’ll discover that the theologian and Oxford University professor violates one of academia’s unwritten but cardinal rules: Not only does he think well, he writes well.

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Are Christian Zionists Doing Israel any favors?

September 23, 2011

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A question: Does “pro-Israel” equal “anti-Palestinian”? Must we always bow before the blustering Benjamin Netanyahu, bent as he is on “creating facts” by building more Israeli settlements? It seems the answer for one presidential candidate, Rick Perry, is an unequivocal yes: “As a Christian, I have a clear directive to support Israel. So from my perspective, it’s pretty easy. Both as an American, and as a Christian, I am going to stand with Israel.” Israel is always right; the Palestinians are always wrong. It goes without saying that the United States should veto any Palestinian application for statehood in the UN. Perry is echoing the theology of Christian Zionist John Hagee, the head of Christians United for Israel.

How intriguing. One survey suggests that Perry is more “Zionist” than most Israeli’s, 70 percent of whom believe their nation should accept the decision if the UN recognizes a Palestinian state. Perhaps they remember that modern Zionism began as a secular movement and that the United Nations foresaw both Palestinian and Jewish nations in the 1940’s. Perhaps they see the impracticality and immorality of oppressing legitimate Palestinian rights. Perhaps they remember that their own forefather, Abraham, was once a “stranger” in the Promised Land.

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Interrogation verses torture: One is good and necessary; the other is terrible and desctructive

September 14, 2011

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I’ve been in e-mail contact with Jennifer Bryson after she found my obscure internet rants when Terry Jones threatened to burn the Qur’an. I soon discovered that her education makes mine look like glorified day care: she got a BA after studying political science at Stamford, an MA in European intellectual history at Yale, and a PhD in Near Eastern Languages and civilizations — again at Yale. She also did a stint at Karl Marx University during the 1980’s in the old East Germany (I’ve been meaning to ask her what that was like), before they ripped down the wall. She’s worked at the Defense Department and she now directs the Islam and Civil Society Project at the Witherspoon Institute in Princeton, New Jersey. And she likes dogs. And cats. And gardening. She’s a veritable advertisement for gentleness.

Imagine my near out-of-body shock when I learned a little detail about her DOD stint: She was a Guantanamo interrogator. Whuh? “Our” Jennifer?

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My personal September 11th

September 11, 2011

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’m remembering the descent into the surreal. Radio reports told of crashing planes and dropping towers, of Pentagon flames and building evacuations, of stranded passengers in isolated airports – and, behind it all, there was the leering face of a would-be Messiah-like figure, invoking religion, polluting its name, and wrapping faith in veils of smoke and fireballs. I’m remembering my own rage, my own lust for revenge, and my own recovery. I remember reconciling two streams of thinking and emerging wiser.

As usual, many fingers have wagged during this commemorative week: “We should have done this; we should have done that …” I’ll spare us that and simply reflect: How should a follower of Christ respond to such events? What is the role of a people with dual citizenship in Heaven, which bonds us to those of many nationalities, and an Earthly country? How do we work through our understandable emotions in light of the Gospel? How does our heavenly citizenship play out in in our national citizenship?

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Socially approved cheap shots

May 28, 2011

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One wonders: Is anti-Catholicism the last permitted prejudice? Sample the approved and publicly flaunted ignorance of the facts. Recently, 75 Catholic academics signed a letter criticizing House Speaker John Boehner for his legislative record on alleviating poverty. Left-handed compliments came swift and sure, with the Syracuse Post Standard Editorial Board providing a sample: “It is a welcome change to see a Roman Catholic politician challenged for a position on an issue other than abortion.”

These routine inaccuracies are getting boring. The US Catholic hierarchy took the side of the labor unions in Wisconsin; the bishops wrote a letter to Congress in general to remember the “least of these;” they published a Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church in 2005, very little of which dwelled on abortion and much of which implies radical societal change. And then there are all those soup kitchens and hospitals and charities and … Never mind. Doesn’t matter. See no good; hear no good. We’ll throw our cheap shots left and right because people wearing red drapes make easy targets.

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Saintly heights and wretched depths: Catholicism’s triumph and despair

May 20, 2011

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Don’t stop me. I’m doing it. I’m throwing every stitch of clothing into a pack, including those wool socks for polar weather and the straw hat to fend off Amazon bugs. I’m on a world-wide quest, an expedition, a voyage, a mission. I will find the great reset button in the sky and I will press it. Brace yourself for a sudden jolt and then bathe in Wonderland’s warmth: Closeted skeletons will vanish and doors will creak open and formerly crazy aunts will roam free. Best of all, cardinals and bishops won’t listen to attorneys any more. They’ll remember the Church is strongest when it embraces weakness and they’ll follow their Lord to the cross, not their lawyers to the negotiating table.

I must find the button because things are now askew. On the one hand, the US Conference of Catholic Bishops rang eloquent in a May 5th letter in which they called budget-debating senators to remember the poor; on the other, fallout in the wake of recent indictments involving the Philadelphia archdiocese suggest magisterium still doesn’t get it. They’ve stalled. They’ve withheld information from its own sexual-abuse review board. They’ve tarnished the church’s reputation while skating the legal ice, naïve of their own harm and supplying fodder for their many opponents. Just to confuse things even more, a

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When your world ends at 6 a.m.

April 29, 2011

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It’s my wife’s fault. She ruined me. I’m not even sure if existence exists because of what she did.

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Warped thinking and a double-dare

April 2, 2011

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You finally did it. You realized your dream and leaped the “brave” leap. Your fellowship sneaked in the Qur’an burning while we weren’t looking and word spread to the Muslim world. Riots erupted in Afghanistan and several now lay dead. Dozens are injured. But please, don’t forget to make that next, crucially “brave” step. Do it for us and for you. I dare you. The world is watching.

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