August 2017 Streams of Thought
I took a class in Bible College called "Critical Thinking;" it wasn't about being critical in the negative sense, but about listening to other views and testing them from a Christian viewpoint. Similar courses used to be required in mainstream colleges to encourage young people to understand other views so they were well-rounded and informed. They might disagree but at least they could talk about them.
Not anymore. Instead there's a lot of one-sided thinking--much of it opposed to anyone who questions the reigning orthodoxy of secular higher education (from religious or philosophical viewpoints).
One of the disturbing trends related to this is the increase in colleges banning Christians from meeting, publishing hard copy or internet resources, and simply expressing viewpoints opposed to mainstream academic thought.
One result of expressing views contrary to secular orthodoxy on any topic is that people's heads "explode" as New York Times writer Bret Stephens discovered. He wrote an article, based on the latest scientific research, that said mathematical climate change projections at any given time are expressed as probabilities. In any other words no one can accurately predict what will happen. All Stephens did was point this out and there was an epidemic of "exploding heads."
Or consider the violent reactions on some campuses to certain speakers and/or election results. One of the wonderful things about a free democracy is supposed to be the freedom to disagree, hopefully in a civil manner. But the new trend is to shout down, bully, or silence those who hold opposing views. As Christians we must "test the spirits to see if they come from God" (I John 4:1-6) and "speak the truth in love" (Ephesians 4:15). In other words, with God's help, we must think critically.
There are ideas and actions, from a Christian viewpoint, that are harmful to peoples' lives and well-being. The Church, Rev. Martin Luther King once said, is not the master or servant of the state but its conscience. We must oppose things that are contrary to Biblical ideas and speak out when necessary and in an appropriate way. Even if people's heads "explode" and/or they need a "safe place" away from our viewpoint.
Grace and Peace,
July 2017 Streams of Thought
Does it often seem "civil discourse" is anything but civil? This is particularly true if you dare oppose the reigning secular orthodoxy on certain issues; the responses on Twitter, Facebook, or other social media outlets range from insulting to profane.
One of the ironies is the intolerable language of those who claim to be "tolerant." Reasoned responses are dismissed with words like "idiot" or insults aimed at one's politics, faith, or family of origin. But even commenting on relatively mundane issues can lead to mean-spirited vilification.
Granted public discourse hasn't always been civil; the media of
bygone eras (18th Century op-ed cartoons are a good example) reveal some toxic rhetoric and images. But in modern times (for example the town meetings of American democracy) public discussion was expected to be civil even if it got heated.
There are various reasons for the uptick in uncivil discourse (another topic in itself); one is the relative anonymity of the Internet seems to give people the impetus to say whatever they want no matter how venomous.
And sadly Christians get caught up in it as well. But many people of faith (or no faith) try to bring civility to the public square. Proverbs 15:1 says "A gentle answer turns away anger." There will always be those who are angry no matter what anyone says or does but most people respect those who try to keep controversial conversations civil.
Are there times when firm language is needed? Yes and it can be done in a way that avoids insults or inflammatory words. I wonder
if more "gentle answers" to the questions, concerns, and frustrations of our culture would alleviate or at least balance some of the venom that passes for "civil" discourse.
Grace and Peace, Pastor Brian
June 2017 Random Thoughts
Ah, summer; warm weather, ball games, swimming, riding bikes,
camping, vacation. Summer in Western culture is for vacations
and trips and stuff like that. I'm not sure when vacation became a regular thing but the idea of taking time off goes back into the mists of ancient history--literally.
Genesis 2 says God created the world in 6 days (literally or figuratively is a matter of interpretation) and "rested" on the 7th. Even though God didn't need to "rest" (the Hebrew word means to cease doing something) the idea crops up in the official law of Israel in what we call the Ten Commandments.
The Sabbath became fixed in Judaism and Christianity. In American culture it used to be reflected in "blue" or "Sunday laws;" nothing except hospitals or police stations or similar services were open on Sunday. That time is long past, though some parts of the country as well as places in Canada and Europe still practice them.
Because of the shift in culture, the idea of Sabbath has shifted too, and Christians debate how Sabbath should be spent. I think the primary way is at least in worship. In the film Schindler's List Schindler, after moving his business to his hometown, says one day to a rabbi in his employ that the sun is going down and then asks "It's Friday, isn't it?" The rabbi, having concentrated so long on simply staying alive, says, "Is it?" Schindler says, "What's the matter with you? You should be preparing for the Sabbath, shouldn't you?" The next scene shows the rabbi leading his people in worship.
However and wherever we might celebrate Sabbath, it is a necessary part of the rhythms God built into the life of faith. It allows us to renew, rejuvenate, refresh, to be strengthened and empowered by God's presence so we can focus on what matters. It gives us a chance to "come apart so we don't come apart." Let the blessing of God's rest be reflected in your life and the Sabbath(s) you observe.
Grace and peace,
May 2017 Streams of Thought
Mother, Mother! You remember the lunch I took today?
Five little loaves and two dried fish? I gave it all away!
They gave me back some bread He blessed, and some, too, of the fish.
Mother, Mother, all five thousand ate all they could wish.
Yes, and there were little children and their mothers, too.
Oh, but they had all they wanted, I brought some back to you.
No, no, Mother—I'm not crazy, they had naught to eat;
One called Andrew told the Master, “Here are bread and meat.”
In His strong, firm hands He took them, (How His face did shine!)
Blessed and broke, and fed them all with my food, Mother, mine!
I was frightened—all those people! Such a little bit!
Mother, Mother, just suppose I had not given it!
—Mrs. S. May Wyburn
Grace and Peace,
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