Election optimism

An optimistic take on the recent elections, asserting that the real majority is taking back control from the "bitter third."

Tuesday’s election allowed millions in the American majority to finally take a deep, cleansing breath after a year of fear and loathing, watching the rampant corruption of our government and the degradation of our culture by the vulgar president and his Putinite coterie. It allowed the world to see that our country has not gone entirely mad.


What's the standard then?

This article grapples with the odd responses coming out of Alabama in support of Roy Moore after these recent allegations of sexual abuse.  This final paragraph raises a significant question for the future of our Republic:

The newest allegations against Moore present Republicans with a choice—not only individual officeholders, but the party as a whole, both nationally and in Alabama. Withdrawing support for Moore, and calling for voters not to support him, would be a bitter pill. It’s too late to replace him on the ticket, and although there’s talk of a Luther Strange write-in campaign, a Moore defeat would probably mean the seat goes to Democrat Doug Jones. And yet if the party’s members can’t bring themselves to set aside narrow partisan interest and condemn a man whom they despise, with a track record of bigotry, and with multiple on-the-record accusations of improper sexual misconduct with underage women, what behavior and which candidate can they possibly rule out in the future?


The Questions of a Toddler

Preparing for next week's classes, there's this great line for parents of toddlers from Susan Neiman--"The adamant child who wants every question answered expresses something about the nature of reason." This is part of a larger conversation on how our reason demands a world that makes sense and that the philosophical impulse arises from this basic childhood need. So your toddler is exhibiting one of the most important traits of human intellect--the demand for reason and morality.


Where Charity & Love Prevail

Where Charity and Love Prevail

Romans 14:13-22a

by the Rev. Dr. E. Scott Jones

First Central Congregational UCC

5 November 2017

 

 

    Our current church is the heir of four different congregations; one of those was St. John's Evangelical Church, which was formed in south Omaha in 1895 by a group of German immigrants. One of the more intriguing passages in our church history books is about St. John's:

 

During World War I, the church was called "The Kaiser's Church" . . . . Although individuals of the congregation were not subjected to harm, one of the pastors had to kiss the American flag or suffer a beating.

 

    I am unable to locate any further information on this episode, though you can discover general information about the anti-German sentiments in Omaha during World War I. An article in last year's Omaha World-Herald said, "While fighting to make the world safe for democracy, Nebraskans nearly lost it at home."
    In Omaha Germans were a majority of the population at the time, but they were still discriminated against. Even after the war, laws were passed to enforce English-only against the Germans. St. John's bravely continued to hold worship in the German language until 1935.

    I have thought often in recent months of this episode from our history as the rhetoric and violence against immigrants and refugees has increased.

 

    In the early 19th century, following the Napoleonic Wars in Europe, thousands of Germans immigrated to the Midwest. The more traditional among them formed the Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod while the more liberal created the Evangelical Synod of North America. The UCC's short history book describes these immigrants as "free-thinking rationalists, who placed their hope in science, education, and culture." Our St. John's Evangelical Church was part of this Evangelical Synod of North America.

    This last week was historically significant for these liberal Evangelicals. Not only was it the 500th anniversary of the beginning of the Protestant Reformation, it was also the 200th anniversary of the Prussian Union. On Reformation Day 1817 King Frederick William III united the Lutheran and Reformed churches in his dominion, bringing together this historic division in Protestant Christianity. Our liberal Evangelical predecessors were part of this historic, ecumenical movement.

 

    When the Reformation broke apart the European church, for the first time a great diversity of religious belief and practice began to coexist. This, of course, caused tension and ultimately violence, as war and persecution resulted. But this experience with diversity ultimately changed religious faith.

    Diarmaid MacCulloch, in his magisterial history of the Reformation, writes that "It is possible to argue that the most significant contribution of the two Reformation centuries to Christianity was the theory and practice of toleration, although it would also be possible to argue that the contribution was inadvertent and reluctant."

    We have tried to be honest in our commemoration of this historic event. While honoring the high points, we have not neglected the dark side. The most troubling aspect of Martin Luther's own life was his rabid anti-Semitism, expressed in writing near the end of his life. Earlier this year Fred Nielsen borrowed this volume from the collected writings of Luther, which Fred had donated to this church from his own father's pastoral library. After reading Luther's work against the Jews, Fred sent me a message, "Not good, not good at all. We knew that already, of course, but to actually read it."

    MacCulloch stated simply, "Luther's writing of 1543 is a blueprint for the Nazis' Kristallnact of 1938."

    Fortunately Luther's anti-Semitism did not go unchallenged even in his lifetime. Andreas Osiander, the Protestant pastor in Nuremberg, wrote against anti-Semitism. And the major Lutheran bodies have since faced this despicable part of their heritage, confessed their sin, and sought reconciliation.

 

    Through a long and troubled history, we have learned toleration, pluralism, and inclusion. We have even come to understand that more is expected of us than mere tolerance; hospitality toward others is an expression of God's love.

    Of course that's what Paul was preaching at the birth of the church. In Romans he wrote that we should not pass judgment on one another but should "pursue what makes for peace, and for mutual upbuilding."

    Fortunately, we don't have to earn God's grace. For if we had to earn it, then our biases, our racism, and our exclusion of others would likely get in the way of our salvation. Instead, God's grace is more powerful than our sin. Sin and death and racism were defeated when Jesus Christ was raised from the dead and ushered in a new humanity in a new creation.

    Yet, the powers-that-be continue to challenge the way of God in this world. They continue to sow darkness, doubt, and injury. They divide, exclude, and violently oppress. The Risen One stands to rebuke them. This is not the way of God. It is the way of sin. It is the path to hell.

    We will not be thwarted by their failed philosophies and false doctrines, because we share in the power of the Risen One. We too have been raised with Christ.

Let us make it our habit then to

include the outcast

    liberate the oppressed

    seek justice for the poor

    heal the suffering

    give of ourselves with humility

    be compassionate toward all in a

    community based upon forgiveness and reconciliation

    and be the instruments of God's peace in a world of violence.

    

That's the Good News. Thanks be to God.


Islam & Reformation

You often hear that Islam needs something like western Christianities Reformation.  This good article from The Atlantic disagrees.  It reminds us that the 16th century Ottoman Empire was more religiously tolerant than most of the European Christian states.  And its analysis is that the current state of the Muslim world is closer to that of post-Reformation Europe, when there has been great division leading to sectarian violence.  The article argues that what Islam needs is a John Locke or a Moses Mendelssohn, not a Martin Luther, its own version of the Enlightenment.

Here is the closing paragraph:

If the Protestant Reformation teaches us anything, it is that the road from religious fracturing to religious tolerance is long and winding. The Muslim world is somewhere on that road at the moment, and more twists and turns probably await us in the decades to come. In the meantime, it would be a mistake to look at the darkest forces within the current crisis of Islam and to arrive at pessimistic conclusions about its supposedly immutable essence.