Weekly Meanderings, 10 December 2016

The King Jesus GospelThis fella pastors two churches, one Episcopalian and the other a typical low church evangelical congregation: a man of two worlds and one faith.

It’s 8 a.m. Sunday at St. Hilda’s in Catonsville, and the priest in the pulpit wears a white robe and green chasuble to celebrate the Episcopal Mass — a formal liturgy with roots that date to the 16th century.

Two hours later, he has exchanged the alb and chasuble for a black Joe Flacco jersey to lead an evangelical service — his language now part Billy Graham, part Rodney Dangerfield.

“For the last seven weeks I’ve talked to you about sex,” the Rev. Jason Poling says. “Today I’ll address a completely separate issue: marriage.”

Poling, 43, founded the evangelical New Hope Community Church in Pikesville 13 years ago. This year, at the invitation of Maryland Bishop Eugene Taylor Sutton, he launched St. Hilda’s, a new Episcopal congregation in Catonsville. [HT: MG]

Good for Lowe’s:

– A Texas home improvement store has been the buzz of social media for its newest employees.

The Lowe’s in Abilene recently hired Clay Luthy, a disabled veteran, and his service dog, a yellow lab named Charlotte.

Luthy told the Abilene Reporter-News that he was looking for a job after his time in the Air Force and who wouldn’t mind his service dog tagging along. The 35-year-old man recently had knee surgery and now has Charlotte, who is trained to help him back up if he ever fell. That’s when he came across the home improvement store and got the job.

They were the best person for the job. So, we went through the interview process, and Clay and his own merit won the job,” the store’s human resource manager told KIDY. “And we knew he was gonna make a great employee. We just got the benefit of getting Charlotte right along with him.”

A customer ran across the pair, both in their Lowe’s vests, and shared the picture on Facebook. It quickly went viral with more than 100,000 shares and likes.

Roger Olson is right: facts matter less and less, even to those building their theology or making theological claims.

In my opinion, outside of Reformed and fundamentalist circles, and even in some of those, truth is taking a backseat to post-truth in preaching, teaching, discussion, deliberation.  Increasingly, doctrine and ethics are treated as opinion at best—even in relatively conservative, traditionally orthodox Christian contexts. Except when being nice is in view; then opinion is irrelevant even if it is well-grounded and reasonably articulated.

So, what living in a post-truth culture means for Christians, and that is my main concern here, is renewing our commitment to truth regardless of feelings. In the search for truth, feelings such as: desire to feel nice, desire to feel comfortable, desire to be affirmed, desire to be included, desire to feel warm and cozy, desire to be wealthy and powerful, etc., all must take a back seat to reasonable decision-making based on something recognized as authoritative that is believed to be true (meaning consistent with what is actually real and the case).

For all his faults and flaws, and I know many of them, Francis Schaeffer was something of a prophet in this regard. He saw what was happening in American religious life—the devolving of Christianity into a folk religion. That’s why he made the helpful distinction between “truth” and “Truth”—between truth with a small “t” and truth with a capital “T.”

Good for both sides on this one:

On Monday, Native Americans conducted a forgiveness ceremony with U.S. veterans at the Standing Rock casino, giving the veterans an opportunity to atone for military actions conducted against Natives throughout history.

In celebration of Standing Rock protesters’ victory Sunday in halting construction on the Dakota Access Pipeline, Leonard Crow Dog formally forgave Wes Clark Jr., the son of retired U.S. Army general and former supreme commander at NATO, Wesley Clark Sr…

This was a historically symbolic gesture forgiving centuries of oppression against Natives and honoring their partnership in defending the land from the Dakota Access Pipeline.

Chief Leonard Crow Dog offered forgiveness and urged for world peace, responding that “we do not own the land, the land owns us.”

Natives Faith Spotted Eagle and Ivan Looking Horse also spoke at the ceremony.

Lesson for Democrats: don’t insult the voters.

Hessan’s op-ed said the “deplorables” moment appeared to have had more than an impact than Comey did.
“There was one moment when I saw more undecided voters shift to Trump than any other, when it all changed, when voters began to speak differently about their choice,” she wrote. “It wasn’t FBI Director James Comey, Part One or Part Two; it wasn’t Benghazi or the e-mails or Bill Clinton’s visit with Attorney General Loretta Lynch on the tarmac. No, the conversation shifted the most during the weekend of Sept. 9, after Clinton said, ‘You can put half of Trump supporters into what I call the basket of deplorables.'”
Speaking of democrats and democracy, I find it odd how worried many are about “populism,” a term loaded with pejorative connotation for many but which seems to value the essence of democracy: the vote of the people! Since when does “democracy” mean “oligarchy”? What I find in this fear of populism is the return to a fear of the tyranny of the majority. Populism — is it the new code word for “basket of deplorables”?
In a Europe awash with an apparently infectious populism, how votes go beyond their borders is suddenly very relevant.
Jesus Creed co-blogger, Dave Moore, gives his Books of the Year.

Fake news stories can have real-life consequences. On Sunday, police said a man with a rifle who claimed to be “self-investigating” a baseless online conspiracy theory entered a Washington, D.C., pizzeria and fired the weapon inside the restaurant.

So, yes, fake news is a big problem….

Stopping the proliferation of fake news isn’t just the responsibility of the platforms used to spread it. Those who consume news also need to find ways of determining if what they’re reading is true. We offer several tipsbelow.

The idea is that people should have a fundamental sense of media literacy. And based on a study recently released by Stanford University researchers, many people don’t.

Sam Wineburg, a professor of education and history at Stanford and the lead author of the study, said a solution is for all readers to read like fact checkers. But how do fact checkers do their job?

Alexios Mantzarlis, director of the International Fact-Checking Network at Poynter, says fact checkers have a process for each claim they deal with.

“You’ll isolate a claim that has something that can be objectively verified, you will seek the best primary sources in that topic. Find whether they match or refute or prove the claim being made, and then present with all limitations the data and what the data says about the claim being made,” Mantzarlis says.

Finding a way around chaos and violence in the Congo, and the Catholic Church:

The task of preventing Democratic Republic of Congo’s political crisis from spiraling into fresh conflict falls to the country’s Catholic Church, one of the few institutions to emerge from decades of turmoil with its credibility intact.

The role as mediator of last resort illustrates the clout of the Church in Congo – home to some 30 million faithful – where Catholic leaders have long gone beyond their pastoral duties to fill the void left by an absent state, providing healthcare and schooling, and promoting human rights and democracy.

In October, Congo’s President Joseph Kabila appeared to have secured the backing of regional leaders for an African Union-mediated deal with some opposition leaders to remain in power until April 2018, a year and a half after his second and last term in office ends.

However, heavyweight rivals such as veteran opposition leader Etienne Tshisekedi and millionaire businessman Moise Katumbi boycotted the process, insisting Kabila step aside this month.

Diplomatic and political sources said neighboring leaders delivered a clear message to Kabila in private at a summit in Angola – seek help from CENCO, the Catholic Bishops’ Conference in Congo, to get more rivals on board, or risk major unrest.

“No one is better positioned today to be the honest broker. Not the discredited AU, nor the West,” said Pascal Kambale, a Congolese human rights lawyer working for the Open Society Foundations.

Since then, Congo’s bishops have spent a month shuttling between rival camps in a bid to bridge the gap between those who signed the Oct. 18 AU-backed deal and those holding out.

CENCO is in a race to secure a deal ahead of Dec. 19, the official deadline for Kabila to leave power.

Lisa Baertlein and Tim Bysinger at Reuters:

Starbucks Corp co-founder Howard Schultz’s plan to build a new prestige brand is a bet that moving upscale can raise the profile of the world’s largest coffee brand with millennials like Megan Sauers.

Schultz in April will step down as chief executive to focus on building 1,000 new “Reserve” brand stores. Over time there also will be as many as 30 large, showcase Reserve Roastery and Tasting Rooms in major cities around the world.

Starbucks last week announced that Schultz was moving into the role of executive chairman in April to focus on the project. Analysts expect more details at a meeting in New York on Wednesday.

The transition marks a turning point for Starbucks, which introduced millions of people around the world to higher quality coffee and espresso drinks and now must find a way to avoid being labeled pedestrian when compared with upscale rivals like Blue Bottle and Intelligentsia, which are popping up in U.S. cities.

“Starbucks is the millennials’ parents’ coffee house and Starbucks is acutely aware of that,” said Ric Rhinehart, executive director of the Specialty Coffee Association of America.

Starbucks’ Reserve projects are “a reminder that they did this first and they do this best,” said AB Bernstein analyst Sara Senatore.

The company already has added Reserve bars to a handful of Starbucks shops in major cities including New York.

Kristin Romey:

The tail of a 99-million-year-old dinosaur, including bones, soft tissue, and even feathers, has been found preserved in amber, according to a report published today in the journal Current Biology.

While individual dinosaur-era feathers have been found in amber, and evidence for feathered dinosaurs is captured in fossil impressions, this is the first time that scientists are able to clearly associate well-preserved feathers with a dinosaur, and in turn gain a better understanding of the evolution and structure of dinosaur feathers.

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