This ugly blog

Redeemed Rambling is hating on this blog, criticizing our graphic design!  This is what he says about Cranach:

Ugly. Mixed web 1.0 and 2.0 graphics give the site a weird feel. The posts and comments sometimes display wrong. Definitely a content-centric blog, but that doesn’t give it license look uglier than a newspaper.

via Redeemed Rambling: Christian Web Sites Worth Avoiding.

Mixed web 1.0 and 2.0 graphics?  (I don’t even know what that means, which is probably part of the problem.)  Weird feel?  (Maybe I’m just being emergent.)   Post and comments sometimes display wrong? (That I know, but I’ve been unable to remedy it.)  Content-centric?  (Well, yes.)  No license to look uglier than a newspaper?  (But I like the look of newspapers!)

Redeemed Rambling has white letters on a black background.  Isn’t that hard to read?  Isn’t black print on a white background better and making a statement about  being print-oriented?  And why does Redeemed Rambling have my picture in the side-bar?  That uglifies HIS site.  At least I have a great artist’s portrait here, rather than my own.  But I guess I owe it to Cranach’s memory to have a blog with some visual appeal.

At any rate, I don’t want to hurt your eyes or violate your aesthetic sensibility.  I’m sure it’s time for a complete Cranach make-over.  What do you think?  What would you suggest? 

 Help, tODD and Stewart!

A Lutheran church & school before the Supreme Court

The Supreme Court is taking up what some are describing as the most important religious liberty case in decades.  And it involves a Lutheran school whose church fired a called teacher.  From Notre Dame law school professor Richard Garnett:

In a nutshell, Hosanna-Tabor is a lawsuit brought by Cheryl Perich, a former teacher at a church-run Lutheran grade school who argues that the church violated a federal law against disability-based discrimination when it rescinded her “call” as a “commissioned minister” — and fired her as a third- and fourth-grade teacher, after a disability-related leave of absence.

A federal trial court in Michigan dismissed the teacher’s claim, insisting that the “ministerial” nature of her position and the religious dimensions of the church’s decision made it inappropriate to apply the anti-discrimination law. But the court of appeals disagreed and concluded that her “primary duties” — as a “commissioned minister” at a school that aims to provide a “Christ-centered education” from teachers who “integrate faith into all subjects” — were secular, and not religious.

The court gave little weight to the facts that the teacher led her students in prayer several times a day and taught religion classes four days a week, and instead simply compared the minutes she spent on religious formation with those she spent teaching “secular subjects.”

The Supreme Court should reverse this decision, and it is important to understand why.

For starters, it is well established that a “ministerial exception” to job-discrimination laws prevents secular courts from jumping into religious disputes that they lack the authority to address or the competence to solve. The question in the Hosanna-Tabor case is not so much whether the exception exists — it does, and it should — as how it should be understood and applied.

As the court of appeals recognized, this exception is “rooted in the First Amendment’s guarantees of religious freedom.” Indeed, a religious-liberty promise that allowed governments to second-guess religious communities’ decisions about what should be their teachings or who should be their teachers would be a hollow one.

via Hosanna-Tabor case to test our church-state divide – USATODAY.com.

Frankly, I’m confused about this, both legally and theologically.  Is the church running roughshod over its own doctrine of the call, in effect demanding the religious liberty to ignore its own religious teaching?  Is the state doing what the church should be doing, in enforcing the binding nature of the call?  Would a legal win on the part of the church be a theological defeat?  Or does this legal challenge unmask the confusion between the teaching office and the pastoral ministry?  And should the state presume to define “church work” and “ministry,” denying the teacher that status because she teaches “secular” subjects?

Can anyone untangle these issues?  And does anyone know anything about the disability issues being raised?  Were there other factors in the congregation’s desire to dismiss this teacher?  (Hosanna-Tabor Lutheran Church is an LCMS congregation in Redford, Michigan.)  I mean, I can’t help but sympathize with the congregation being dragged before the court, but help me sort out not only the law but the theology and the church practice.

“Fairness” and “Common sense”

Two articles take apart the language of political rhetoric:

Arthur Brooks examines the way the Democrats invoke the concept of “fairness” and shows that there is more to justice than just taking from the rich: Obama says it’s only ‘fair’ to raise taxes on the rich. He’s wrong. – The Washington Post.

Then, from the other side, Sophia Rosenfeld critiques the way  Republicans are invoking the concept of “common sense”: Beware of Republicans bearing ‘common sense’

In a day when reason is widely rejected and political discourse has become reduced to manipulative rhetoric, is political debate just a matter of who gets control of the language?  Can you think of other examples of this sort of thing?

Where your taxes go

President Obama, in his State of the Union Address, said that taxpayers would soon be able to access an online “receipt” to show what all your taxes are paying for.  That site is now up, and it’s kind of interesting:  Your 2010 Federal Taxpayer Receipt | The White House.

HT:  Mary J

A dying church

A pejorative term directed against some congregations is that they are “a dying church.”  Either because most of their members are elderly or because they don’t get a lot of new members or because they don’t seem exciting enough.  I have always thought that this is rather wicked to say, since we have no idea about the true spiritual life that may be pulsing inside of these Christians, however elderly or not-growing or unexciting they may be.  Then our pastor, Rev. Douthwaite, preached this sermon on Palm Sunday:

Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus. And we also prayed: Mercifully grant that we may follow the example of His great humility and patience.

What does this mean? Do you know what this is saying? With these words we are really saying: Lord, help us to die. Help us be dying Christians. Help us be a dying church.

Ah, no. That doesn’t sound right! We don’t want to be a dying church! We don’t want to be dying Christians, do we? That sounds like failure. We want to be successful, we want to be admired, we want to be big, we want to be glorious. A dying church sounds . . . like . . . a story gone horribly wrong.

But this is exactly what it means to have the mind of Christ. We are to be a dying church, because we have a dying Saviour. For only by dying can we live. . . .

But what has Jesus done? What is this story we are hearing again today and will remember all this week? This story is not a story gone horribly wrong, but of our Saviour using suffering and death for life, for good. That what looks like defeat is really victory.And so we are a dying church because we have a dying Saviour. This is not our doing – our Saviour pulls us into His dying; for to die with Jesus is to live.

And so in baptism we are pulled into His death and resurrection.

We hear the preaching of Christ crucified and are pulled into the story of the cross.

We die in repentance and are raised in absolution.

The dying and rising body and blood of Jesus are put into your mouth, to pull you into that same dying and rising.

You see, that is what set the Apostles free to face death when they went out into all the world – they had already died with Christ! They had nothing to fear.

That is what set the early martyrs and the Reformers free to face death – they had already died with Christ! They had nothing to fear.

And this is what sets you free to face whatever this world and its evil prince may throw at you – you have already died with Christ! You have nothing to fear.

And so it is only by dying with Christ that can we then live. For dying with Christ, we live a life that suffering cannot take away, that the sins of others cannot take away, that the struggles of this world cannot take away, that disasters and tragedies cannot take away, that laying down our lives for others cannot take away, that not even death can take away.

via St. Athanasius Lutheran Church.

How Democrats and Republicans amuse themselves

A study of political affiliation and use of media has found that, contrary to  popular assumption, Republicans are more active online than Democrats.   Republicans are also more likely to watch “The Office,” like sports, and watch the History Channel.   Democrats prefer newspapers, “Ugly Betty,” Comedy Central, and basketball.  At least in the Midwest, the focus of the study, though some of the results are thought to be transferable more broadly.  Here are more details from the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, which takes a Wisconsin-centric view of the data:

Democrats and Republicans not only vote differently and see the world differently, but they get their information and entertainment from very different places.

A new study on media consumption in the Midwest illustrates how this works in individual media markets like Milwaukee.

Heavy radio and Internet users here tend to skew Republican, while big television and newspaper users skew Democratic.

Viewers of Fox News, the Golf Channel, the History Channel, the Speed Channel, ESPN and Country Music Television lean Republican.

Viewers of MSNBC, CNN, Comedy Central, Lifetime and Bravo lean Democratic.

“We know Wisconsin is polarized politically. We’re also polarized in how we pay attention to media,” says UW-Madison political scientist Ken Goldstein, who did the report for a research group he launched last year, the Midwest Foundation for Media Research.

Milwaukee is a microcosm in many ways of national patterns in partisan media consumption. . . .

“Sports channels skew Republican, which is a (more) male audience, and women’s channels skew Democratic,” says National Media’s Will Feltus, who was part of the Bush campaign’s media team in 2004.

Primetime network shows follow partisan patterns as well; nationally, “Survivor” and the “The Office” skew Republican; “60 Minutes” and “Ugly Betty” skew Democratic. . . .

The heaviest newspaper readers score the highest for political engagement and skew somewhat Democratic in their politics. Big TV watchers are even more Democratic but less engaged. Heavy Internet users tend to skew Republican, not Democratic as is often assumed. And radio users skew Republican, reflecting in part the role of conservative talk radio. . . .

Golf and car racing have a more Republican following; basketball and hockey have a more Democratic following. The Brewers don’t skew in either direction. The Packers skew a little bit Republican (as do sports fans overall, which is consistent with the fact that men are more likely than women to be both sports fans and to be Republicans).

In a separate analysis Feltus did last year on “The Politics of Sports Fans,” he wrote that sports fans nationally tend to report higher than average rates of voting.  That’s especially true of golf, college sports and big league baseball fans. (They tend to be older and have higher income and education levels, which correspond to higher voter turnout).

Fans of pro wrestling and monster trucks, however, reported much lower than average voting rates.

via How Democrats and Republicans use the media (very differently) – JSOnline.

How do you account for these differences?


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