Freedom of worship or freedom of religion?

The citizen test given by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services speaks of “freedom of worship.”  Senator James Lankford (R, OK) has been trying to get the agency to change the test and the study materials so that they refer to the “freedom of religion.”  The agency has finally agreed to do so.

Do you see the difference? [Read more…]

Leftists go from frightening to frightened

When someone chalked “vote for Trump” messages on the sidewalk, students at Emory University protested, saying seeing these words made them feel “frightened.”  The administration, playing the role of in loco helicopteris parentis, held their hands, offering counseling and promising to investigate who committed this brazen act of democracy.

Similarly, in Scripps College in California, someone wrote “Trump 2016” on a whiteboard, leading to charges of “racism” and the claim that the campaign slogan was an act of “violence.”  This is all of a piece with university students demanding “safe spaces” where they will be protected from any words or ideas that they find disturbing.

Leftists used to project a menacing swagger.  The old Marxists made posters of themselves as brawny workers with hammers and sickles and openly talked about “liquidating the bourgeoisie” (that is, exterminating the middle class).  In my day, the “new left” college radicals stencilled a clenched fist on sidewalks and whiteboards.  They taunted their opponents with “up against the wall, ************!” (referring to the use of a firing squad).

But now these “post-Marxist” leftists–who substitute race, gender, and sexual identity for the old left’s concern for economic justice and class struggle–are so timorous, so fragile, so easily frightened by opposition, that it’s hard to take them seriously. [Read more…]

An object lesson for St. Patrick’s Day

Today is St. Patrick’s Day, a time to commemorate the former slave who escaped his masters, only to come back later to bring Christianity to the whole nation of Ireland.  By extension, it is a time to honor all missionaries.

St. Patrick, who lived in the 400s A.D., the time of the early church, was impressive for lots of reasons.  He is the author of the remarkable meditation/poem/hymn St. Patrick’s Breastplate.  It includes these lines, calling on Christ to be present with him in every dimension of his life:

Christ be with me, Christ within me,
Christ behind me, Christ before me,
Christ beside me, Christ to win me,
Christ to comfort and restore me.
Christ beneath me, Christ above me,
Christ in quiet, Christ in danger,
Christ in hearts of all that love me,
Christ in mouth of friend and stranger.

Applying so many prepositions to Christ reminds me of an object lesson that a Danish pastor offered at the conference I spoke at recently. [Read more…]

Has the word “evangelical” become meaningless?

Southern Baptist spokesman Russell Moore said that he is no longer referring to himself as an “evangelical.”  He says that today’s political opportunism and theological heresies have made the term meaningless, though he hopes it might come back.

Back in the Reformation times and still in Europe, “evangelical” referred to Lutherans, for whom the Gospel was central to all of their teachings, a term distinguished from the “reformed.”  Later in England, “evangelical” was used to refer to low church Anglicans, and later in America as a term for culturally-open fundamentalists, then for conservative Protestants generally, and then for Christians who emphasize “evangelism.”

It is still a slippery term.  Pollsters categorize Lutherans of the Missouri Synod as “evangelicals” because they emphasize the Gospel and the inerrancy of Scripture, while many Lutherans distance themselves from the term because it connotes non-sacramental, non-liturgical Christianity.

Moore approaches the terminology question differently, tying it in to Donald Trump’s candidacy, of all things.  What do you think of his analysis?  Should the term be retired?  Can you think of alternatives?

[Read more…]

Forbidding the use of “husband,” “wife,” “dad,” “mom”

A professor at the University of Florida is forbidding her students to use words like “husband,” “wife,” “dad,” and “mom” as being insufficiently inclusive. [Read more…]

Epiphany and epiphanies

Today is Epiphany!  Have a merry and happy Epiphany!  It isn’t just about the wise men.  It’s the beginning of a whole season in which the scheduled Bible readings on Sunday deal with “epiphanies” of who Christ is:  His baptism, in which the voice from Heaven says, “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased” (Mathew 3:17); His first miracle; then other Gospel stories, culminating in the Transfiguration, in which the voice from Heaven again says, ““This is my beloved Son,with whom I am well pleased”  (Matthew 17: 5), bracketing Jesus’s ministry with the Father’s identification and favor.

I’m interested in the word “epiphany,” which is also a literary term (meaning a character’s or the reader’s moment of realization in a story) and a term referring to experiences of ordinary life, in which we suddenly see the significance of something.

After the jump, I post an excerpt from a dictionary on the various meanings and uses of “epiphany.”  Read them and reflect on how even the seemingly non-religious uses of the term can apply to Jesus.

[Read more…]