Thursday, November 12, 2009

Meaning and Life

There are a number of things in the media this week that I thought might be worth dwelling on in this week's eNews. From murderous shootings within our own military to some significant votes in several states regarding versions of “homosexual” marriage, the times continue to be tumultuous. Oil prices are on the rise just as winter sets in, and while some portions of the media claim that the economy is on the rebound because the DOW is upish, others point out that unemployment numbers have not changed.

Much is going on. And I face a double difficulty in beginning to talk about it with you. It is important for pastors not to meddle in the “civil” realm too much, lest we confuse theology with politics. At the same time, the civil realm has very much crept into the world of theology over the last century. While it is the duty of the pastor to encourage God-fearing to be at peace while holding a variety of political positions (such as the conservative Lutherans during the American Revolution who were, in fact, “royalists,”) at the same time, when the state begins to tell the Church what to believe, one must speak out clearly.

For example, recent “hate-crimes” legislation has been made into law, granting and exceptional status to people of certain sexual persuasions. While we are told that this law will not prohibit the preaching against certain sins in American pulpits, the same kinds of laws put into practice in Canada, over the course of a few decades, have meant just that. Now, more recently, the debate over public healthcare has taken on a new dimension because it has become a debate over abortion “rights.” An amendment to the massive House package passed last week (submitted by a democrat) has made it so that the bill going to the Senate will not allow public funding of abortions in any way. NPR was alive with commentary about how this will be the end of reproductive rights and force private insurers to refuse abortion coverage.

What a difficult road to navigate! In the face of all this “gray” (which itself is made up of so much “black and white”) I think the most important that we remember one thing above the rest: there is Truth. And that Truth is irrevocable. Infanticide is murder. Adultery is...well...adultery. Islam is a false religion, and so is secular humanism. We must know these things. They are not options or opinions or interpretations. If there is Truth at all, then it is True.

With all this, and so much more, fighting for our attention, I've decided that I'm going to redirect the coarse of the Enews a little bit in the coming weeks to help us get back to this root of Truth.. You might remember that when I first arrived at St. John I passed out a couple of handouts following the services. I think I called it the omniPRESSent, or some such. What it actually consisted of was the first few chapters in a book I had been working on while in Seminary. This book was something of a response to another book which you might have heard of, Rick Warren's The Purpose-Driven Life.

I was first given a copy of The Purpose-Driven Life in the summer after my first year at Seminary. I was still very young theologically, and very impressionable. But even at that very naïve stage in my life, I didn't get more than five pages into Warren's book before I was compelled to find a pencil and beginning crossing out lines and words, writing in the margins, and exhibiting a growing disgust for the fast and loose way he quoted the Bible.

I don't want to spend this time going into a full critique of the PPD. That work has been done quite well in other places, and I'd be happy to point you to them if you're interested. Rather, as I came to be heartily disturbed by the vast success of a book that claimed to be Christianity in a nutshell but was rather a self-help book full of misinterpreted Christian words and Bible quotes, I began to believe it was necessary to have a book that did what Warren was claiming to do, but did it right.

I probably finished three-quarters of that book by the end of my vicarage year. After two years of working on it (while also staying on top of a graduate-level educational marathon), I eventually ran out of steam, and the book fell to the back burner.

But my thought is, now that I'm writing a short essay once a week for the benefit of our congregation, why not go back to that material and give it another look? This doesn't mean that every week I'll necessarily do so. There may be other things which come up which I feel I must write to you about. But, at the same time, even in a week with as many wide and varied happenings as this one, what could be better than to continue our focus and grounding on the central truths of the faith?

All that being said, I've now managed to take up the space of the eNewsletter by talking about writing, rather than writing. So, if you're excited, then good! But you'll just have to wait till next Thursday for the first bite.


Theophil Jones said...

"All that being said, I've now managed to take up the space of the eNewsletter by talking about writing, rather than writing."


"I sought fit words to paint the blackest face of woe,
Studying inventions fine, her wits to entertain:
Oft turning others' leaves, to see if thence would flow
Some fresh and fruitful showers upon my sun-burn'd brain.

But words came halting forth, wanting Invention's stay,
Invention, Nature's child, fled step-dame Study's blows,
And others' feet still seem'd but strangers in my way.

Thus, great with child to speak, and helpless in my throes,
Biting my truant pen, beating myself for spite--
"Fool," said my Muse to me, "look in thy heart and write."

RevFisk said...

Nice! Thanks for the comment and the time to type it out so completely.

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