Smart people saying smart things

Smart people saying smart things April 5, 2012

Walter Wink: “To Hell With Gays: Sex and the Bible (via)

Imagine the difficulty that abolitionists faced in making their case in the mid-19th century. In the absence of proof-texts, they had to fall back on the tenor of scripture, the spirit of Jesus, and appeals to compassion and empathy.

Amazingly, enough people understood their case that they were able to carry the day. Today almost no one still argues that slavery is justifiable because it is biblically sanctioned. Likewise, churches have been challenged to accept the equality of women with men, including holding of church offices, though the majority of Christians in the world still do not honor that equality. And women are kept down by appeals to scripture.

… To get to the point: the Bible has no sex ethic. It only knows a communal love ethic, which must be brought to bear on all the sexual mores of a given society in a given period. This doesn’t mean that anything goes. It means rather that everything is to be critiqued by Jesus’ love commandment in a fellowship of seekers — just what we find in the Fourth Gospel. Such a love ethic is nonexploitative (hence no sexual exploitation of children, no using of another to his or her loss); it does not dominate (hence no patriarchal treatment of women as chattel); it is responsible, mutual, caring and loving. Augustine long since dealt with this in his inspired phrase, “Love God, and do as you please.”

Nicholas Wolterstorff, Until Justice and Peace Embrace (via)

God is not on the side of Dutch-speaking people versus those who do not speak Dutch; on that he is even-handed. God is not on the side of football players versus those who do not play football; on that, too, he is even-handed. But the poor are different. It is against his will that there be a society in which some are poor; in his perfected Kingdom, there will be none at all. It is even more against his will that there be a society in which some are poor while others are rich. When that happens, then he is on the side of the poor, for it is they, he says, who are being wronged. He is not on the side of the rich, and he is not even-handed.

President Barack Obama: “Remarks at the Associated Press Luncheon,” April 3, 2012

For generations, nearly all of these investments — from transportation to education to retirement programs — have been supported by people in both parties.  As much as we might associate the G.I. Bill with Franklin Roosevelt, or Medicare with Lyndon Johnson, it was a Republican, Lincoln, who launched the Transcontinental Railroad, the National Academy of Sciences, land grant colleges.  It was Eisenhower who launched the Interstate Highway System and new investment in scientific research.  It was Richard Nixon who created the Environmental Protection Agency, Ronald Reagan who worked with Democrats to save Social Security. It was George W. Bush who added prescription drug coverage to Medicare.

What leaders in both parties have traditionally understood is that these investments aren’t part of some scheme to redistribute wealth from one group to another.  They are expressions of the fact that we are one nation.  These investments benefit us all.  They contribute to genuine, durable economic growth.

Show me a business leader who wouldn’t profit if more Americans could afford to get the skills and education that today’s jobs require.  Ask any company where they’d rather locate and hire workers –- a country with crumbling roads and bridges, or one that’s committed to high-speed Internet and high-speed railroads and high-tech research and development?

It doesn’t make us weaker when we guarantee basic security for the elderly or the sick or those who are actively looking for work.  What makes us weaker is when fewer and fewer people can afford to buy the goods and services our businesses sell, or when entrepreneurs don’t have the financial security to take a chance and start a new business.  What drags down our entire economy is when there’s an ever-widening chasm between the ultra-rich and everybody else.

In this country, broad-based prosperity has never trickled down from the success of a wealthy few.  It has always come from the success of a strong and growing middle class.  That’s how a generation who went to college on the G.I. Bill, including my grandfather, helped build the most prosperous economy the world has ever known.  That’s why a CEO like Henry Ford made it his mission to pay his workers enough so they could buy the cars that they made.  That’s why research has shown that countries with less inequality tend to have stronger and steadier economic growth over the long run.

Mira Ptacin: “Un-bearing

We asked questions but the technician said nothing. I expected her to feed our excitement, but she was stone-faced. The probing continued while the room remained hushed and blooming with awkwardness. I imagined she was bored with her job. As usual, I took it personally. Beyond my feet and backed up against the wall was a young woman, a soft brunette in a white lab coat, observing. It was her job to watch and record; she was a medical resident. But she’d stopped taking notes. She’d pressed her clipboard against her chest and appeared rather uncomfortable, almost as though she didn’t want to be there. Almost like she was backing herself into the farthest part of the room.

“Would you please explain to us what we’re looking at?” Andrew asked, but our technician remained silent. Then, abruptly, the probing stopped. “Is it a boy or a girl?” we asked, and she tightened her lip. “Just talk to us.” She said she could not.

Instead, the technician printed some pictures, dryly mumbled that the doctor would be coming in momentarily, and scurried away.

In the semi-darkness, I sat up and leaned back on my elbows. “Do you think everything is okay?” I asked. …

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  • Whew! That “Un-bearing” story was a pretty hard-hitting and moving story of a woman who agonized with herself over her pregnancy (something had gone wrong, and her unborn child’s brain hadn’t developed) and what she would then have to do – abort, or wait until the miscarriage would happen, or until final childbirth upon which her child would die, in any case?

    Props, however, to Barack Obama. Even to the extent of not barfing when he mentioned George W. Bush.

  • Anonymous

    I’d just like to point out that ‘Un-Bearing’ could be immensely triggering.

    It is also painfully heartbreaking.  Do not read this if you’re feeling fragile at the moment… but at the same time, it should be read.  Especially by anyone who is taking sides on the abortion debate.

  • Anonymous

    There is at least one proof text for the equality of women. Forgive me for not knowing the exact citation, but the verse goes “There is no male and female, for all are one in the body of Christ.” The problem is that there are other “prooftexts” that blatantly contradict this, and rather than take this a proof the Bible contradicts itself, most Christians take to heart the inequality verses, sweep this one under the rug, and then with unmitigated gall claim that the Bible is clear and consistent.

  • Very much THIS when it comes to trying to reconcile such contradictions by ignoring them instead of doing some thinking and analysis.