Good writing

World Magazine is planning to set up regional online bureaus to provide local and regional news coverage.  The first one is for Virginia and is making use of journalism students at the school where I work, Patrick Henry College.  One of my former students, Hannah Mitchell, has written a feature story on a big Picasso exhibit at a Richmond art museum.  It struck me as just a very, very good piece of writing.  See for yourself:  WORLD Magazine | Picasso’s tragedy | Hannah Mitchell | Mar 01, 11.

What I’d like us to do is discuss what is good about this particular piece of writing.  Let’s not talk about Picasso, as such.  Let’s talk about how Hannah approaches him, how she sets up her article, her style, and her good lines.

For example, I like the sentence where she describes a professor speculating about Picasso’s art.  She describes him as “wondering through the exhibit.”  Get it?  wandering/wondering?  A wordplay that shows genuine wit.

What else?  What’s good about this article in the way it’s written?

You (already) are the salt of the earth

In Sunday’s sermon, Pastor Douthwaite made an important grammatical point.  You know in Matthew 5 where Jesus says, “You are the salt of the earth” and “you are the light of the world”?  The verb is an indicative:

It’s not an imperative, a command. Jesus is not saying you have to, must be, or should be this – it is what you ARE.

It is what your Saviour has worked in you and made you by His grace.The challenge is to BE who you ARE. To live as a spiritual being and not just an animal who lives and eats and procreates. To live in the image of God and not try to be the image of others in the world – sports stars or celebrities or others we think successful. To live as one redeemed by Christ the crucified. That is a challenge because satan is constantly tempting you to BE something else, something less than you are, and making that less look like more.

But do not be fooled. You are more than all that. You are a child of God who has been illuminated in Holy Baptism. You are a child of God who has been salted by the Holy Spirit. That is who you ARE.

And so you are that which salts the earth.You are that which gives light to the world.That is your identity – and, your calling. It is part and parcel of your life in Christ. No one else has this calling. Only children of God in Christ Jesus.

And so enlightened by Him, Jesus says, BE who you ARE. Let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.

These words of Jesus today reveal that God has vested you with an incredible honor and purpose in life. That your life is not pointless or useless. That to be a child of God is not like standing on the corner waiting for the bus to heaven, but to be living, breathing Gospel.

via St. Athanasius Lutheran Church.

How do we salt the earth?  How are we already serving and having an influence by “being” rather than “doing”?  Similarly, Christians often talk about winning the world for Christ and that sort of thing.  But if He is Lord, isn’t He already reigning over the world?

Gestational carrier

Movie star Nicole Kidman and her husband, country singer Keith Urban, both of whom hail from Australia, had a baby.   They are the child’s biological parents, but their fertilized egg was implanted into another woman, thus farming out the  task of bearing the baby and giving birth.  I don’t know if some medical condition made this process necessary–if so, I’m not criticizing them, not being sure what I think of that.   Or if it is an example on another plane of the wealthy exploiting workers for their “labor.”

At any rate, what I want us to notice is a word that I haven’t heard before for the woman who had the baby.  Not “mother” but “gestational carrier.”  From the couple’s statement:

“Our family is truly blessed, and just so thankful, to have been given the gift of baby Faith Margaret. No words can adequately convey the incredible gratitude that we feel for everyone who was so supportive throughout this process, in particular our gestational carrier.”

via Nicole Kidman’s Baby — Kidman and Keith Urban Welcome New Baby through Surrogate | TMZ.com.

We may be hearing that term more and more as “reproductive engineering” proliferates.  Being a “gestational carrier”  may become a profession, with  women who can afford that service opting out of pregnancy altogether, while still getting to be moms.

So, all of you Solomons. . . .Does a “gestational carrier” have any claims to motherhood?  Do you see any ethical problems with this as a medical procedure for a woman who is unable to carry a child to term?  At least the married couple’s “one flesh union” is preserved and extended to the child, since no extra-marital semi-adulterous  egg donor or sperm donor were used.

Do you think this might catch on, not just with women who cannot carry a child, but with women who want a child but don’t want to go through pregnancy?  Mothers, would you have been open to this option if it were available and if you could afford it?

Forbidden descriptions

Now pundits are drawing back from their initial claims that Sarah Palin and company were responsible for the Tucson shootings, since it’s evident that the gunman Jared Loughner was simply mentally ill and never paid attention to political rhetoric.  But now they are attacking Palin for describing the way she was blamed for the killings as a “blood libel.”

That phrase specifically refers to the old anti-semitic libel that Jews mix the blood of Christian children in their matzoh balls.  How dare Palin compare criticism of her with the pograms of the Jews, especially in the context of the shooting of a Jewish congresswoman!  Oh, how insensitive!  Oh, how hateful!

The phrase was first used in this context by conservative blogger Glenn Reynolds, aka “Instapundit.”  It has also been used in other contexts and for other meanings without attracting condemnation.

So do you think “blood libel” can only apply to what Jews have been falsely accused of?

Some say that “holocaust” should only refer to what happened to the Jew, though it seems acceptable to speak of “nuclear holocaust.”  Some say the same for  “genocide,” but it is still used for attempts to wipe out other ethnic groups.

Should “inquisition” be off limits, out of sensitivity to Lutherans and Jews, the two main targets of that persecution?

Is “witch hunt” insensitive to Wiccans?

Should we reserve “purge” for the victims of Communism?

Can you think of other potentially problematic terms, if we are going to go this route?

Sarah Palin’s effort to defuse controversy backfires with ‘blood libel’ comment.

Two meanings of “faith”

Thanks to FWS who pointed us to this post from LCMS president Matthew Harrison quoting the German theologian and enemy of Nazism Hermann Sasse (who quotes Werner Elert):

Werner Elert repeatedly drew our attention to the fundamental difference between the Roman Catholic and Evangelical Lutheran understandings about ecclesiastical confessions of doctrine. It consists in this, that the Roman doctrinal confession has the form of an imperative, while the Lutheran has the form of an indicative. Roman dogma is a command of faith; the Lutheran an expression of faith. There, a credendum [something which must be believed] is presented with a command to accept it. Here is expressed, what the church [already] believes: “We believe, teach, and confess.” The difference is deeply-rooted in the concept of faith. Faith, in the Catholic sense, is the supernatural virtue, by the power of which I hold for true that which the church presents to be as the content of revelation. . . .

Thus the objectum fidei, the object of faith, is defined. Corresponding to the concept of faith as “holding something to be true,” the object of faith is, for a Catholic, always dogma, for example the dogma about Christ. Corresponding to the evangelical concept of faith as fiducia, as trusting the divine promise of grace in the gospel, is the fact that, for the Lutheran, the objectum fidei is not the dogma about Christ, but rather Christ Himself; not the dogma about the Trinity, but rather the Triune God; not the Bible as such, but rather God, Who speaks to us in each word of the Scripture.

This important distinction was mis-used, by Ritschl and his school in his time, but then by the entirety of modern liberalism, in order to get rid of dogma in general.

via Mercy Journeys with Pastor Harrison: “How far does the validity of the confession go?” Sasse.

Faith isn’t just believing that God exists.  It means trusting God.  Of course, God has to exist if we are going to trust Him–and the quotation goes on to show why “dogma” remains important–but just the truth claims are not sufficient.  This explains why atheists keep missing the point and have little impact on evangelical believers.   They keep belaboring the truth claims–“But there isn’t enough evidence!”  “We can never know for sure!”–while being oblivious to what faith actually is to those who have it.

Tucson shootings & political rhetoric

Conservative polemics are being blamed for the shooting in Tucson that critically wounded Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords and killed nine others, including a judge and a little girl. The killer shows clear symptoms of insanity, though, and was evidently motivated by schizophrenia rather than politics. And the liberals are ignoring their own history of demonizing their opponents and violent rhetoric. (There was a book, a play, and a movie fantasizing the assassination of George W. Bush.)

But still. . . .Do you think our polarized politics and the inflammatory rhetoric from both sides might have created a climate that could push a lunatic over the edge so that he actually does what many people have been advocating metaphorically? Or even if that is unlikely to happen, does our rhetoric create a negative ethos that is harmful to the country? Or is the problem greatly exaggerated? (We see great animosity in our entertainment media, but don’t we get along pretty well with our neighbors and family members despite political differences?)

Some lawmakers are proposing special laws against threats or symbols of threats (e.g., the tea-party cross-hairs targeting enemy politicians) against office holders or political figures.

Is there an ethical issue in the use of flamethrowing rhetoric? Does it violate the commandment against bearing false witness, as the Small Catechism defines it? (“We should fear and love God, so that we do not lie about, betray or slander our neighbor, but excuse him, speak well of him, and put the best construction on everything.”)

What do you think?