Weekly Meanderings, 29 June 2019

Weekly Meanderings, 29 June 2019 June 29, 2019

An unusual month of very rainy and some very hot days in Chicagoland. Our Cubs are sputtering along.

And my Reading Romans Backwards is about to start shipping. I’m excited to discuss this book. 10 dollars off right now at Amazon.

New discovery of Pilgrimage Road in Jerusalem:

in 2004, a sewage pipe burst in the middle of the neighborhood of Silwan in southeast Jerusalem. The municipality sent in a crew of construction workers to fix the leak, and as is the case in Jerusalem and especially in neighborhoods adjacent to the Old City, they were accompanied by a team of archeologists.

As the repairs progressed, the construction workers stumbled upon some long and wide stairs a few dozen meters from where the Shiloah – the ancient pool Jewish pilgrims would dip in before beginning the religious ascent to the Temple, until its destruction in 70 CE – was believed to have once stood. The steps were just like the ones that lead to the Hulda Gates, a set of now blocked entrances along the Temple Mount’s Southern Wall.

Discovery of the Shiloah Pool led to another monumental find – the central water drainage channel that had served ancient Jerusalem. This channel is the tunnel that visitors to the City of David – known as Ir David – get to walk through today, starting at the bottom of the Shiloah and emerging about 45 minutes later next to the Western Wall.

As is often the case with archeology, though, the first discovery or two are just the beginning. That is how a few weeks ago I found myself on an exclusive tour of an ancient road dug out beneath the village of Silwan and above the now well-known water channel (also the place where Jewish rebels made a final stand against the Roman invaders).

The ancient street is referred to as “Pilgrimage Road,” since archeologists are convinced that this is the path millions of Jews took three times a year when performing the commandment of aliyah l’regel – going up to the holy city of Jerusalem to bring sacrifices to God during Judaism’s three key holidays, Passover, Shavuot and Sukkot.

The Pilgrimage Road goes all the way from the Shiloah Pool to the area adjacent to the Western Wall known as Robinson’s Arch, where today you can still see remnants of the ancient stairway that led into the Jewish Temple.

Tax break for teachers: No Taxes!

But his most intriguing suggestion was his third one. Teachers are central to education, he says, so “we should make teachers pay no tax.”

“It’s not just money,” he adds. “We need to make teachers a special class in our society.”

And then the interviewer cut him off. I reached out to Schwarzman to elaborate, but did not receive a reply. But let’s look at this.

The financial side of this is interesting. Several Democratic candidates have proposed raises for teachers, but there are plenty of problems with trying to collect federal money and somehow spread it down to local school districts. How will distribution be determined? How will federal and state authorities move the money around?

Let’s assume that we’re only talking about federal tax exemption for the moment. Teacher Tax Freedom would give almost every teacher in the country an instant raise. For some it would be a few thousand dollars. In states and districts where the pay is well below the national average, the raise would not be huge–in fact, for some folks struggling with low pay and a family, the tax freedom would give them almost nothing except a respite from tax form paperwork. From the local school district’s point of view, it is an instant raise that doesn’t cost them a cent. In fact, it reduces the amount of work they have to do to deal with deducting taxes from paychecks.

Of course, there would be lost revenue for the federal government. The exact amount is impossible to calculate, but let’s look at some rough numbers. According to the NEA, the national average teacher salary in 2017-2018 was $60,477. Federal taxes on that amount, for a single person, would be, according to tax calculators, around $6,500. Add a spouse and two kids and that drops to $3,764. But the average tax bite will be lower because teachers on the lower end of the scale fall under a lower effective tax rate. There are roughly 3.2 millionpublic school teachers. If we arbitrarily set the average tax bite at $3,000, we get a loss of under $10 billion to the federal government.

That’s roughly double the hole that DeVos would like to open up in the budget with the proposed $5 billion tax credit scholarship program. One could argue that Teacher Tax Freedom would put that $10 billion in the hands of people all across the country, to be spent in the local community in ways that would stimulate the economy.

Catholic Church closures in Chicago:

With churches in every neighborhood, Catholicism has long been a historic aspect of Chicago culture. Last year, the Archdiocese of Chicago had more than 2.1 million Catholics, according to statistics from the archdiocese.

However, changing neighborhood demographics, fewer parishioners and priests, and a lack of funding have led dioceses across the nation to announce plans for closure or consolidation with nearby congregations. In 1975, there were 477 parishes in Chicago. As of July 1, 2019, there will be 319, according to Susan Thomas, a spokeswoman from the archdiocese. Recently, the archdiocese announced that St. Adalbert Catholic Church in Pilsen will hold its last Mass in July.

Thomas said the process to decide parish closures will continue through at least 2023.

“It is a reality that at some point we do have to draw the ministry of these areas to a close,” the Rev. Jason Malave, coordinator for the Renew My Church program, a campaign aimed at structural change and spiritual renewal of the Catholic Church in the Chicago area.

A long but complete and fair-minded review of Matthew Thomas’ new important book.

Why did the early Patristics reject these works?

Thomas recognises his sources answers to these questions don’t easily group together into neat categories. But as a rough summary he comes up with five main reasons;

  1. The arrival of the new law and covenant in Christ, the Messiah, whose teachings and ordinances replace those of the Mosaic law;
  2. The witness of the Hebrew Scriptures, in which the prophets testify regarding the Messiah and this new covenant, and the cessation of these previous works;
  3. The universal nature of this new covenant, which is promised to be for all nations, and which has its arrival confirmed by the Gentiles receiving grace and turning to God apart from becoming Jews;
  4. The transformation in humanity wrought by Christ, understood as the new birth or the circumcision of the heart, which renders the laws given to hard-hearted Israel unnecessary, and which allows the types and mysteries of Scripture to be rightly understood;
  5. The examples of Abraham and the righteous patriarchs, who were similarly accepted by God apart from these practices, and whose righteousness confirms that the Mosaic law and circumcision were not given for humanity’s justification. (217)

In my opinion, reasons (or categories) 1, 2 and 5 are primary. They all fit into the salvation-historical model I found when I did my readings. What is missing in this description, which might integrate 1, 2 and 5 better together was the early church’s understanding of the Gospel (see my series here, See also Campbell, Gospel in Christian Traditionsreview).

The Gospel was understood as an epoch in salvation history, inaugurated by the coming of the Christ.

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  • Mr. Hawk

    “One could argue that Teacher Tax Freedom would put that $10 billion in the hands of people all across the country, to be spent in the local community in ways that would stimulate the economy.”

    – The ridiculousness of the entire proposal aside, I’ve been assured that tax cuts do not, in fact, stimulate the economy.

  • azbuckeye

    While tax cuts do, in fact, stimulate the economy (more spending by the recipients of the cut with no less spending by the taxing authority), the question is: Who should be the primary beneficiary of education efforts? The student who is enabled to go to a more appropriate school, under the DeVos tax credit plan? Or the teacher who is already willingly trading her talents for the existing compensation, under the no-tax plan? Or the economy? Under either proposal, the economy realizes increased demand, but one would think the primary beneficiaries ought to be the students.