Weekly Meanderings, 21 December 2013

Northern Seminary each year has a staff Christmas party, with a little bit of singing and eating and praying and congratulating … all wrapped up with nothing less than a leg-slappin’ riot of white elephant gifts, and here is none other than our OT prof, Claude Mariottini wearing some get-up he received as a gift.

The women of Advent — with Gail Wallace.

The borders in the Middle East and how we got them:

The map that the two men drew divided the land that had been under Ottoman rule since the early 16th Century into new countries – and relegated these political entities to two spheres of influence:

  • Iraq, Transjordan, and Palestine under British influence
  • Syria and Lebanon under French influence

The two men were not mandated to redraw the borders of the Arab countries in North Africa, but the division of influence existed there as well, with Egypt under British rule, and France controlling the Maghreb….

  • The Sykes-Picot agreement is a secret understanding concluded in May 1916, during World War One, between Great Britain and France, with the assent of Russia, for the dismemberment of the Ottoman Empire
  • The agreement led to the division of Turkish-held Syria, Iraq, Lebanon, and Palestine into various French and British-administered areas. The agreement took its name from its negotiators, Sir Mark Sykes of Britain and Georges Picot of France.

The expansion of same sex marriage certainly raises important religious liberty questions, but what saddens me is how little biblical or theological reflection by Christians I have heard online or on the airwaves in the wake of the court’s ruling. Instead I’ve encountered a torrent of conservative political cliches and anti-liberal talking points. “This is America,” one radio host said, “a business owner should be free to serve or not serve whomever he wishes.” Another Christian called the court ruling “an attack on our first and greatest freedom.” (I assume he was speaking of the First Amendment and not the freedom won for us by Christ’s death and resurrection.)

Agree or disagree with the politics of the ruling, Christians should not merely interpret the wedding cake case through the lens of the culture wars. We must consider how Scripture and Christian values would have us live beside our LGBT neighbors. Toward that end, I want to examine three objections raised by the wedding cake lawsuit.

Online rage and irresponsible comments, from The Atlantic: (HT: LNMM)

Liba Rubenstein of tumblr at the Silicon Valley Summit on Monday…. agreed that this worry is understandable, but she argued that good product design can alleviate some of this ragey-ness. She cited two aspects of tumblr‘s design that keep it from contributing to the Internet’s “engine for outrage.”

First, the company doesn’t allow a commenting free-for-all. “We don’t have traditional online commenting,” Rubenstein said. “Commenting was a cesspool of online exchanges—[it’s] the ability to dump on someone else’s content and walk away from it. If you’re going to participate in a conversation [on tumblr], that comment is going to follow you and broadcast to all of your followers. Not to say that there’s not vitriol on tumblr, but that’s product design that’s trying to encourage a more positive and responsible type of online exchange.”…

Rubenstein’s second explanation was far more thought-provoking. “By its nature, tumblr is less of an inherently immediate platform than some of the other social networks, and it’s a much better platform for archiving content. The lifecycle of a post on tumblr is very long: We actually see a whole lot of activity on popular posts a month or sometimes a year after posting. It’s not a thing that if you don’t come across it in your feed when it’s posted, it’s gone forever.”

Kate Tracy and who is perceived as more trustworthy:

In fact, recorded public trust in clergy has now reached an all-time low, with only 47 percent of Americans rating clergy highly on honesty and ethics (compared to 82 percent saying the same about nurses). The previous low since Gallup began asking the question in 1976: 50 percent in 2009.

However, clergy still ranked No. 7 out of the 22 professions studied. And confidence in the overall church as an institution improved over the past year.

CT reported the results of last year’s survey, when 52 percent rated clergy highly on honesty and ethics. This still placed clergy within the top half of all rated professions in 2012 (No. 8 out of 22). Confidence in clergy has stayed relatively stable over time: ranging from 61 percent in 1977 to a high of 67 percent in 1985, but has been consistently in the low 50s in recent years.

In 2013, Americans rated six professions more trustworthy than clergy: nurses, pharmacists, grade school teachers, medical doctors, military officers, and police officers. Meanwhile, engineers, dentists, and college teachers—three professions which surpassed clergy in 2012—dropped below clergy in 2013. (Grade school teachers and military officers rose above clergy from 2012 to 2013, while nurses, pharmacists, medical doctors, and police officers topped clergy in both years.)

However, clergy members were nowhere near the low rating of members of Congress, with only eight percent of Americans vouching for lawmakers’ trustworthiness. Congress ranked second to last behind lobbyists (6%), while car salespeople ranked ahead of both groups (9%).

Seven top stressors on pastors … worth your reading of the full post at the link.

  • Giving their families deserved time.  
  • An unhappy spouse.  
  • The glass house.  
  • Lacking competencies in key areas.  
  • Personal financial needs.  
  • Responding to criticisms.  
  • Lack of a confidant.  
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