An art critic discovers Luther

Daniel Siedell is a Christian art critic and curator, the author of God in the Gallery: A Christian Embrace of Modern Art.  In a recent post on his Patheos blog Cultivare, he describes how frustrated he became with evangelical and Reformed scholarship on the arts, leading him to turn to Catholic and Orthodox theologians.  But then he discovered Luther and Lutheranism, who were not at all the way he had assumed:

 The outlier in my aesthetic evangelical resourcement was Luther, whom I had simply lumped into the Protestant tradition as a “pre-Calvinist” and a “post-Catholic,” shaped as I was by the biases of Catholic and Reformed interpreters, and art historians like Joseph Leo Koerner, who blamed the Reformer for a privatized, relativized, and disenchanted Protestant faith. But things changed when my family and I became members of a confessional Lutheran Church (LCMS), and I discovered through the weekly practice of the preached Word and Sacrament, that Philip Cary is right: Luther is not quite Protestant. And for the sake of enriching evangelical cultural thought, that is a very good thing, as even Reformed historian Mark Noll observed in his classic essay, “The Lutheran Difference,” published in 1992 in First Things. But, unfortunately, as Kevin DeYoung admitted last summer, Luther and the Lutheran tradition remain virtually unknown to conference-circuit evangelicalism.

Although I practiced the Christian faith in the Lutheran tradition for almost eight years, it was not until I encountered Luther, liberated from a confessional tradition that had domesticated it and non-Lutheran thinkers who had distorted it, and interpreted through sensitive readers like the Hamann scholar Oswald Bayer, Steve Paulson, Gerhard Ebeling, and Gerhard Forde, that he came alive for me, presenting to me a Luther I never knew. And a Luther evangelicalism desperately needs.

What I discovered is a Luther whose thought offers fertile ground for a desperately needed re-evaluation of evangelical approaches to art and culture, from his understanding of the distinctions between the letter and the spirit; law and gospel; theology of the cross and theology of glory; the kingdom of God and the kingdom of this world; the human being as simultaneously sinner and saint; God hidden and revealed; and nature and grace. In addition, in his revolutionary understanding of vocation and through his emphasis on the sacramental nature of the preached Word, Luther opens up space to think freely and creatively about modern art, without expectations for what art should look like. For Luther, it is not what we see, but what we hear from paintings, when the bullets are flying, when push comes to shove, as we live and feel the pressure of life and the strained relationship between God and neighbor.

And so I find Luther a welcome and helpful companion when I go to art museums and art galleries, when I am confronted by work that looks different, that frustrates my expectations, and distracts me by its strangeness. Luther is teaching me to wait in faith, and listen, with love.

via Luther, Evangelicals, and Modern Art.

Republicans will raise taxes if Obama wins

Republicans have used their majority in the House of Representatives to foil President Obama’s attempts to raise taxes.  But don’t expect them to keep doing that if Obama is re-elected.  Republicans are saying they will interpret his re-election as a “referendum on taxes”–a sign that voters are willing to pay more–which will trigger a change in strategy that would trade tax increases for other Republican causes:

Senior Republicans say they will be forced to retreat on taxes if President Obama wins a second term in November, clearing the biggest obstacle to a deal with Democrats to defuse a year-end budget bomb that threatens to rock the U.S. economy.

Republicans have long resisted tax increases of any kind. But taxes are a major battleground in the campaign between Obama and Republican Mitt Romney, Capitol Hill veterans say, and the victor will be able to claim a mandate for his policies.

“This is a referendum on taxes,” said Rep. Tom Cole (R-Okla.), a senior member of the House Budget Committee. “If the president wins reelection, taxes are going up” for the nation’s wealthiest households, and “there’s not a lot we can do about that.”

With Election Day still more than six weeks away and the president holding a thin lead in national polls, Republicans say they are not conceding that an Obama victory is the likely outcome. But they are beginning to plan for that possibility.

Lawmakers expect to leave town Friday and will not return until mid-November, when they will have little time to head off $500 billion in automatic tax increases and spending cuts set to take effect Jan. 2.

If Romney wins the White House, Republicans say, their strategy is clear: They would push to maintain current tax rates through 2013, giving the new president time to draft a blueprint for overhauling the tax code and taming the $16 trillion national debt.

But if Obama wins, the GOP would have no leverage — political or procedural — to force him to abandon his pledge to raise taxes on family income over $250,000, according to senior Republicans in the House and the Senate.

So they are beginning to contemplate a compromise that would let taxes go up in exchange for Democratic concessions on GOP priorities.

via GOP retreat on taxes likely if Obama wins – The Washington Post.

The worst call in NFL history

And my beloved Packers were the victim.

Replacement ref furor grows after Seattle Seahawks’ wild win over Green Bay Packers – ESPN.

This all comes from the regular referees being locked out.  The replacement refs have been the scourge of the whole season so far, not only blowing calls but failing to control players when fights break out.  This is the first time, though, an actual game hinged on the call, as the interception was ruled a last-minute game-winning touchdown by Seattle.

This has even Paul Ryan–who, as a Wisconsinite is a Packer fan before he is an anti-union Republican–calling for the NFL to cave to the Referee’s union at all costs.  (By the way, why isn’t the players’ union refusing to play, in support of the refs?  What happened to the solidarity of the labor movement?)

Lampooning the Jesus’ wife hype

The inimitable Hans Fiene at Lutheran Satire on the Jesus’ wife kerfluffle and, more generally, on the mindset it represents:

Lutheran Satire – YouTube.

So what will Obamacare cover?

Here I thought Obamacare would just cover abortions and euthanasia.  (Kidding!)

It is among the health-care law’s most important — and most daunting — questions: What health-care benefits are absolutely essential?

California legislators say acupuncture makes the cut. Michigan regulators would include chiropractic services. Oregon officials would leave both of those benefits on the cutting-room floor. Colorado has deemed pre-vacation visits to travel clinics necessary, while leaving costly fertility treatments out of its preliminary package.

Policy experts expected the Affordable Care Act to establish a basic set of health benefits for the nation, but the Obama administration instead empowered each state to devise its own list. When all Americans are required to purchase health insurance in 2014 or pay a penalty, they will find that the plans reflect the social and political priorities of wherever they live.

That nationwide patchwork highlights the difficulty of agreeing on what constitutes good basic health care, as well as the tricky balances that states face in weighing coverage vs. cost.

“I want a benefit package that gives people viable protection but not necessarily a Mercedes,” said Arkansas Insurance Commissioner Jay Bradford, who is still deciding what options to pick for his state.

If insurance plans cover too much, premiums could become prohibitively expensive. But if they skimp on coverage, the states could fail to deliver on the health law’s basic promise: extending quality health coverage to 30 million Americans.

States do have guidelines to work within: They must cover 10 broad categories outlined in the Affordable Care Act, including doctor visits, maternity care and prescription drugs. They also must use an existing health-insurance policy as a template, such as a small-group plan or the package for state employees.

Eleven states have settled on packages of essential health benefits or are close to doing so, according to the consulting firm Avalere Health. Twenty others are still in the process of choosing a plan.

While benefits for hospital care and doctor visits tend to look similar, coverage for alternative medicine and mental health services varies widely.

via Is acupuncture essential health care? Weight-loss surgery? Under Obamacare, states choose.

So some states will pay for fertility treatments, stomach-reduction surgery, and other elective procedures and some won’t.  (I wonder if my cataract surgery would have been covered.  I think I’d hesitate to make a claim for fear of getting the attention of the death panels.  [Kidding!])

Here are the ten areas that must be covered:

  1. Ambulatory patient services
  2. Emergency services
  3. Hospitalization
  4. Maternity and newborn care
  5. Mental health and substance use disorder services, including behavioral health treatment
  6. Prescription drugs
  7. Rehabilitative and habilitative services and devices
  8. Laboratory services
  9. Preventive and wellness services and chronic disease management, and
  10. Pediatric services, including oral and vision care

So dental and vision will be covered for children, but not for adults.  Presumably, health insurance plans at work can still offer those and other benefits.  The question is whether the Obamacare mandates will have a flattening effect on insurance offerings.

A big problem with Obamacare is that it’s so complicated and no one knows what it will really do.

Romney’s taxes

Democrats have been accusing Romney of not paying any income taxes or of hiding something in his finances.  So the Republican presidential nominee has released his 2011 returns.  It turns out, he paid 14.1% of his income to the government.  And he paid 30% to charity.   He didn’t even claim all of the charitable deductions he could have!

He also submitted a letter from his tax accountants, PriceCooperWaterhouse, saying that between 1990 and 2009, his average taxrate was 20.2% and that he never paid less than 13.66%.

So much for the Democrats’ tactic of trying to demonize the guy over his taxes, though the Washington Post article giving the details takes a strangely negative tone (saying how his taxes “would have been” only 10% if he took all of his deductions, that he could amend his return at any time, that we still don’t know the flow of his investment income, and other irrelevant attempts to put the worst construction on facts that are all to Romney’s credit).

via Mitt Romney releases tax return for 2011, showing he paid 14.1 percent tax rate – The Washington Post.


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