I’m alive

I had a speaking gig in Oklahoma City, so I took the opportunity to visit my family. My plane was several hours late on Wednesday, but it was a good thing since if it had come in on time I would have had to drive my rental car through a massive storm that brought flooding to the highway. Then, over the weekend, that tornado hit Picher, which is only a half hour or so from where we were, killing seven people. The tornado missed us in Vinita, as did the bad thunderstorms, but despite our clear skies a huge wind started blowing. It snapped a big maple tree, two feet in diameter, right at the ground, falling right across my sister’s driveway. Although I had forgotten what springtime in Oklahoma could mean, I did have a great visit with my parents, both siblings, and some friends I hadn’t seen since the olden days.


Happy belated Pentecost. There’s another powerfully significant holy-day that gets short shrift, especially when it falls on Mother’s Day. Did any of you learn anything about the Holy Spirit yesterday? As part of our continuing reflection on reclaiming holidays, how can we get back to the true meaning of Pentecost?

Happy Mother’s Day

Here is a holiday that needs no reclamation, that we know how to celebrate: Just heap acclaim on mothers and pamper them totally. A reminder to all men and other children: Get a card; if you do not go out to eat, fix dinner yourself (which may score you even more points); do not go to some meeting after church; let mothers do NO WORK.

There. I’ve reminded you and, I suspect, saved many of you much grief and guilt. You can find some way of paying me back later.

McCain’s faith

The L.A. Times has a revealing story about John McCain’s faith. A sample:

McCain is most comfortable talking about his religious awakening during his 5 1/2 years in captivity, where his connection to God grew stronger and he served as “room chaplain” for a small group of prisoners.

In his early life he was influenced by his “deeply religious” father, who relied on his faith in a long struggle with alcoholism. Prayer and church became an “ingrained part” of McCain’s life at his high school, where he attended chapel every morning and on Sunday evenings, even after church, he says.

McCain says in those days, he was a self-absorbed rule-breaker who became a hard-partying naval aviator. It was not until after his plane was shot down over Hanoi in October 1967, he wrote in his memoir, “Faith of My Fathers,” that he learned to “grasp” faith tightly. In solitary confinement, he prayed “more often and more fervently than I ever had as a free man.”

“I was very slow in maturing,” he said aboard his campaign plane. “I knew right from wrong; I knew the Bible; I knew the Nicene Creed and the Apostles’ Creed and the tenets of my faith. And although I neglected them, the time came that I could fall back on them as a net, as a way of salvation, literally.”

Often his faith helped him “get through another minute,” he said. At the same time, McCain said, he learned to be “careful not to ask God to do things that were temporal rather than spiritual.”

In McCain’s first talk as chaplain, he cautioned fellow prisoners not to pray for their release — reminding them of a parable in which Jesus was asked whether it was right to pay taxes. “He held up the coin and said, ‘Render unto Caesar that which is Caesar’s and unto God that which is God’s,’ ” McCain said, recalling his lecture. “The point of my talk was we were doing Caesar’s work when we went into combat, so we really shouldn’t ask God” for release.

That lesson guided McCain not to pray for his own personal success. “I pray to do the right thing so I won’t look back in regret or embarrassment or even shame that I betrayed my principles and my faith,” he said.

McCain began attending a Baptist church after marrying Cindy McCain in 1980 and moving to Arizona. At North Phoenix Baptist Church, which is affiliated with the Southern Baptist Convention, McCain was attracted to the pastor’s message “that we’re all sinners, but we can benefit from God’s grace if we recognize those sins and move forward,” he said.

Although some religious leaders contend that McCain has not said enough about how his faith influences his positions, his stance on abortion is clear. McCain is a staunch opponent. He said that his view that life begins at conception is based “to some degree” in his religious faith.

Some quirks (not praying for his own success or even release from the POW camp), some insights (“we were doing Caesar’s work”), some solid theology (sin & grace; dependence on the Creeds). At least he stands squarely against the gospel of success that plagues, the confusion of kingdoms, and the content-free theology that plagues contemporary Christianity. Maybe he associates all of that with contemporary evangelicalism, which is why he keeps his distance. Or do you think this is not an adequate confession of faith?

HT: Mark Stricherz at Get Religion.

Allowing gay marriage by not allowing it

The high court in the Presbyterian Church (USA) ruled that a pastor who performed a same-sex marriage cannot be censured, BECAUSE the church does not recognize same-sex marriage. Get a load of this reasoning:

The order issued Tuesday said, “The ceremonies that are the subject of this case were not marriages as the term is defined (by the Book of Order). These were ceremonies between women, not between a man and a woman. … It is not improper for ministers of the Word and Sacrament to perform same sex ceremonies.”

The church’s Book of Order says, “Marriage is a civil contract between a man and a woman,” and does not prohibit blessings of same-sex couples that are not determined to be marriages.

The high court said in the ruling that the lower court had erred by finding Spahr guilty “of that which by definition cannot be done. One cannot characterize same sex ceremonies as marriages for the purpose of disciplining a minister of the Word and Sacrament and at the same time declare that such ceremonies are not marriages for legal or ecclesiastical purposes.”

The church defines marriage as between a man and a woman. A minister marries two women. But the minister cannot be sanctioned because, according to church teaching, gay marriage is impossible. So the minister could not have conducted such a thing.

Thus, the teaching AGAINST gay marriage provides a mechanism for allowing it.

Professor suing her students

A Dartmouth English professor is threatening to sue her students:

[Priya] Venkatesan said the incident occurred when she was lecturing about The Death of Nature, a book by Carolyne Merchant, and the witch trials of the Renaissance. The student went on a “diatribe” about the inappropriate nature of challenging patriarchal authority, Venkatesan said. Vakatesan respected the student’s right to express this opinion, she said, but the manner in which he vocalized his views and the applause afterward were disrespectful and offensive.

“I was horrified,” Venkatesan said. “My responsibility is not to stifle them, but when they clapped at his comment, I thought that crossed the line. … I was facing intolerance of ideas and intolerance of freedom of expression.”

Venkatesan contacted [Thomas Cormen, chair of Dartmouth’s writing program] about the event, she said, but claims she received no support from him. She canceled class because the incident caused her “intellectual and emotional distress,” she said. This event, which occurred on Feb. 1, would likely be included in a list of grievances relating to a potential lawsuit, she said.