Weekly Meanderings, 2 March 2019

Weekly Meanderings, 2 March 2019 March 2, 2019

Welp, we’re gearing up in this house for the 2019 Cubs baseball season and Spring Training games are underway, the weather’s hanging on to winter, but the church calendar is moving us onward in spite of the weather.

Yes for David Brooks!

Cohen has left the Thugs for Trump club and passed that baton to certain House Republicans. I would have loved to have been in the strategy session when the House Republicans decided to be incurious about Trump’s sins and crimes but to rip the skin off Cohen.

Normal people have moral sentiments. Normal people are repulsed when the president of their own nation lies, cheats, practices bigotry, allegedly pays off porn star mistresses.

Were Republican House members enthusiastic or morose as they decided to turn off their own moral circuits, when they decided to be monumentally unconcerned by the fact that their leader may be a moral cretin?

Do they think that having anesthetized their moral sense in this case they will simply turn it on again down the road? Having turned off their soul at work, do they think they will be able to turn it on again when they go home to the spouse and kids?

This is how moral corrosion happens. Supporting Trump requires daily acts of moral distancing, a process that means that after a few months you are tolerant of any corruption. You are morally numb to everything. You end up where Representative Jim Jordan blandly ended up Wednesday, in referring to the hush-money scheme: “I think it’s news we knew about.”

Yes for Sully!

By Katharine Jackson

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Lifting his thick paw to shake, former President George H.W. Bush’s service dog took an oath to serve at Walter Reed National Medical Center on Wednesday, embarking on a new job helping disabled American veterans and active-duty service members.

Sully H. W. Bush became famous as canine caretaker and constant companion to the 41st U.S. president in the final stages of his life. In the Capitol rotunda after Bush’s death in 2018, Sully faithfully laid down beside Bush’s casket.

In his new role as a hospital corpsman in a Walter Reed facility outside Washington, Sully’s duties are to provide support, comfort and cheer to wounded veterans, their families and facility staff, thus reducing stress and increasing positive feelings, the medical center said.

“Sully will go on to spread his love at Walter Reed Hospital. He was a loving companion when my Gampy needed him most,” Jenna Bush Hager, Bush’s granddaughter, posted on Twitter on Thursday

The yellow Labrador is one of seven dogs working at the facility in Bethesda, Maryland. Collectively, they “average 2,500 contacts and over 200 working hours per month,” according to the medical center. He is about 2-1/2 years old, according to America’s Vetdogs, the organization that trained him.

During the ceremony, which was posted in a video on Facebook, Sully prompted laughter from the audience when he raised his head and dipped his chest to stretch before taking his oath to care for veterans “without any promise of treats or tummy rubs.” Afterwards, he was fitted with a “military uniform,” a new vest he will wear while working.


(CNN)For half a century, Katherine Johnson‘s heroics within NASA were largely hidden from the outside world.

Now, her name and legacy will stay front and center at a NASA facility that epitomizes her work.
The Independent Verification and Validation Facility has been renamed the Katherine Johnson Independent Verification and Validation (IV&V) Facility, NASA said.
“The facility’s program contributes to the safety and success of NASA’s highest-profile missions by assuring that mission software performs correctly,” the space agency said.
The renaming couldn’t be more apt for Johnson, who hand-calculated the trajectory for America’s first manned trip to space.
In the 1950s, before computers were widely used and trusted, human mathematicians were called “computers.” And NASA’s “Computer Pool” relied heavily on the extraordinarily complex, hand-written calculations of black female employees.
Any little error could spell disaster. But Johnson and the Computer Pool made calculations for groundbreaking, successful space missions, including Alan Shepard’s 1961 voyage — which made him the first American in space — and John Glenn’s 1962 mission, which made him the first American to orbit Earth.
But Johnson’s contributions, like those of many female “computers,” were often overlooked in history. That was until 2016, when the best-selling novel and movie “Hidden Figures” shined a light on their work and the challenges they faced — including racial segregation at NASA.

One of the greatest challenges I faced as a seminarian and grad student in theology was the fearful prospect of having to make a skilled judgment about what I was reading. It was not uncommon for me to encounter a theological text and have absolutely no clue what to make of it. There was often a certain strangeness to it, and it was not always obvious how I could profit from it. So, I sometimes found myself frustrated: with my professor for assigning such difficult and “unclear” readings, with the writer for being obscure or “unbiblical,” and with myself for being dull and “missing something.”

My situation is not unique. I once gave brief lecture on liberation theology to upper-year Bible and theology majors at my evangelical institution. At various points in the lecture, students would repeatedly ask, “So what?” They were trying to figure out how these Black, feminist, or Latin-American theologians could possibly be helpful to them, particularly considering that (in the students’ view) there was nothing discernibly biblical, or at least exegetical, in their formulations. What do we make of my students’ concerns?

On the one hand, the students were correct to assume that some writers are better guides into Scripture and the knowledge of God than others. On the other hand, there was the false assumption that if the text’s value was not immediately self-evident or its reasoning was not explicitly biblical, the theology had little worth. In light of these challenges, how are we to engage theology profitably?

It has become clear to me that I, my students, and others face several barriers to understanding and assessing theologies well. Some of these barriers are skills-related, while others are more tied to our dispositions. What I mean is that there are indeed things one needs to know and practices in which one needs to be skilled in order to be able to read theology with understanding. Yet there are also attitudes that we embody that can be productive for or prohibitive to reading theology well, and for our purposes that means reading theology with wisdom and love, or critically and charitably. In this brief article, I would like to reflect on some of the dispositional obstacles to this kind of reading and suggest a way forward.

More Yesses than Nooos!

By the time the General Council concluded its business on Tuesday, it had sent shockwaves through the United Methodist Church. Many Methodists in various conferences had assumed that the One Church Plan, which had the backing of the majority of the Council of Bishops, would ultimately prevail. This plan would have maintained institutional unity by allowing for doctrinal and ecclesial diversity regarding same-sex marriages and the ordination of non-celibate homosexual ministers. Instead, the evangelical-international coalition of General Conference delegates held together and defeated the One Church Plan—both in the legislative session on Monday and the plenary session on Tuesday when it returned as a minority report. In its place, this coalition pushed through the Traditional Plan, which upholds the Book of Discipline’s current teaching on human sexuality and attempts to strengthen its place in UMC doctrine and polity.

Painful as it was, the General Council pulled back the curtain on a schism that was already occurring within the UMC. It also demonstrated how weak the bishops have become in defining the church. Most important, with the battle lines clearly drawn, it set the stage for trench warfare at the next General Conference in 2020.

There are two distinct coalitions within the United Methodist Church, an evangelical-international coalition and a progressive-centrist coalition. In both of the major votes on Monday and Tuesday, the evangelical-international coalition held strong at 55-57 percent of the vote while the progressive-centrist coalition held 43-45 percent. These two coalitions are already functionally distinct denominations.

The intense debates also demonstrated that both coalitions desire an integral church, which binds doctrine, morality, and polity into a coherent framework that supports a clear mission. However, they have diverse interpretations of Wesley’s emphasis on perfect love. Progressive-centrists see love as a mission to bring about full inclusion through social justice, while evangelical-internationals fuse it with biblical fidelity and holiness of heart. Of course, both sides would probably dispute that characterization: Progressive-centrists consider themselves faithful to the Bible in light of the experiences of LGBT persons, and the evangelical-international coalition argues that social holiness is a crucial part of the church’s mission. These divisions—over the common language of the Wesleyan tradition, how to interpret Scripture, and what weight human experience should have in theological reasoning—all demonstrate the fact that two churches currently exist under one institutional roof.

By pushing hard for the One Church Plan, the bishops played into the mistrust that both coalitions have toward one another. The progressive-centrists wanted more than the One Church Plan could deliver and the evangelical-internationals thought it went too far. Will Willimon is correct that “the General Conference seems united: We don’t trust bishops.” The mistrust will only grow if individual bishops engage in prophetic critique against one coalition while extending pastoral care to the other. This is already happening. Immediately after the conference, the Western Jurisdiction issued a statement calling for a fully inclusive church, inviting others to join them in dialogue “as we move forward together into a future with hope.” One could interpret this invitation as a move to break. At minimum, it’s a clear call to join one side. This will further erode the capacity of the bishops to minster to the whole church and maintain their authority.

Although it seems momentous, the passage of the Traditional Plan was more of a symbolic gesture than a genuine change. When the Judicial Council meets in April, it will take up the question of whether the entire Traditional Plan is unconstitutional, and no one thinks it will survive fully intact. A good percentage of the plan will be struck down, which will set the stage for another battle at the next General Council in 2020. Members of organizations like the Wesleyan Covenant Association will be meeting in the coming months to formulate a plan on how to move forward.

There may be an exodus in the months ahead, but I doubt it. If the Traditional Plan gets dismembered, the bishops will most likely maintain the status quo until the 2020 General Conference. Local churches and conferences will probably wait it out a little longer. During the coming months, however, members of the UMC must ask themselves how long they will maintain this fight.

Adam Hamilton has a powerful response.

The UMC situation right now is an absolute stalemate. There is no third way. An amicable split, the UMC and the MC-USA (or something along that line), seems inevitable.

And one big NOOOOOOOO!

A few months earlier, my district decided to arm staff members. According to a novel reading of Ohio law advanced by the state’s attorney general, Mike DeWine, in 2013, Ohio school districts have always had the option to arm teachers and do not need to make that choice public. Therefore, it is difficult to know how many districts have in recent years availed themselves of this option. Buckeye Firearms Association, an Ohio Second Amendment lobbying organization and PAC, claims that sixty-three of the state’s eighty-eight districts now have armed staff.

My district’s school board struggled with the decision. After the Newtown shooting, parents came to board meetings demanding to know how the district would protect their children; locked doors and security cameras no longer allayed their fears. It was easy to see that in recent school shootings, similar safety measures had proven ineffective.

Calls were made to neighboring districts and eventually Buckeye Firearms Association was asked to make a presentation to the school board. The presentation sharply divided the board’s members. For some, the choice was easy; for others, agonizing.

“How do you know that this person we arm won’t go off?” one board member shouted at no one in particular.

“How else can we protect students on our budget?” came a response.

I sat in the meeting, unsure how I would answer either question.

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