Weekly Grace General Blog
This blog contains lead articles in the Weekly Grace columns.

Respect and Dignity

Listening to a recent BBC radio broadcast about the immigrants coming to the southern US border, I heard one British official note that many of these immigrants are fleeing violence and political persecution in their countries of origin and should qualify for political asylum. He went on to say that because they were fleeing terrible conditions and persecution, that they deserved to be treated with respect and dignity. I was shocked by the implications of this. Was this commentator suggesting that those people who were NOT fleeing persecution and political pressure were somehow less deserving or not deserving at all of respect and dignity?

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Toxic Traditions

Much of this article is borrowed from a similarly-named article in www.patheos.com A century ago, heroin, cocaine and methamphetamine were street legal and even found in some consumer products. Cocaine was in the original Coca Cola formulation. Heroin was prescribed as a cough suppressant (I bet it was effective) and meth was the drug of choice for WWII soldiers on all sides of the conflict. Now we know a lot more about the dangers of these drugs. In the same way, our church has developed “toxic traditions” that often cause more harm than good. Here are some of the author’s points. (Note that this is an evangelical, very conservative author. Six of his ten points I either disagree with or do not think they are relevant for Grace.)

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The Lilies of the Field

Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow.

They don’t toil, neither do they spin. Mt 6:28

In the foggy early morning hours, I am looking out at one of the last hydrangea flowers of the season. Abundant June rains enabled these plants to explode in size and profuse flowers. The floral show this year was the best ever. Now, when most of the flowers have withered and turned to seed pods, I see one or two late bloomers pop out of the green hedge. I feel an affection for late bloomers of all kinds. A sage once remarked that “youth is wasted on the young.”

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Church and Politics

I recognize that, taken together, these two subjects are about as welcome as talking about sex and income, but the faithful life cannot be lived outside of politics.  Considering a recent academic study that revealed the third most common reason young people leave the church is because they “disagreed with the church’s position on political and social issues.”   The disagreement on social and political issues happens with both conservative and liberal young people.  Lest we think this is a modern phenomenon, consider two of the disciples of Jesus, Simon the Zealot and Matthew.  Simon’s extended name, “the zealot” indicates that he was actively involved in the Jewish movement to overthrow the Roman government.  Matthew, on the other hand, was a tax collector.  Although he was Jewish, he made his living in collusion with the Roman occupiers.  I seriously doubt if Matthew and Simon ever agreed on anything politically, but we do know that the labored tirelessly together to build the church.


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Rivers in the Badlands

“Forget about what’s happened; don’t keep going over old history.  Be alert, be present. I’m about to do something brand-new.  It’s bursting out! Don’t you see it?  There it is! I’m making a road through the desert, rivers in the badlands.  Isaiah 43:18-19 (The Message)


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Sound Bites and Dialogue

Thanks to the video-ization of modern culture, humans have shifted our cognitive skills to largely visual with short attention spans, now shorter than a TV commercial.  This means that anything that is not visual, i.e. auditory or kinesthetic, is discounted.  This also means that anything that takes more than about 13 seconds of our attention is either discounted or ignored.  Hence, quickly pronounced “sound bites” have taken the central role of truth in our society, over and above having a substantive dialogue about a topic.  Heaven forbid that any of us would be required to engage our rational thinking skills more than 13 seconds.


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Anxiety and Inflation

Caveat: I am not an economist.  I took two econ courses in college. 

Having warned you, I must ask, why do we have inflation?  Why must the prices of goods and services go up in a never-ending cycle while we avoid the dreaded deflation?  Economists will give all kinds of reasons for this and many are very valid.  Having observed this “macro” phenomenon for decades I wonder if there might be one more factor – anxiety.

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Twin Devils (part 1) – In the Hopeful Season of Advent

The question posed (for now) is hypothetical, but poignant, nonetheless.  I imagine my teenaged grandchild asking me this question, “Grandpa, you’re a scientist and a priest, what did you do to prevent all those Christians who wanted the world to end soon from carrying out their plans?”   Some people advise that we tolerate other Christians’ beliefs, but what should we do when those beliefs cause real harm to generations of people?  Beliefs like vaccinations cause autism or because some Christians want to be part of God’s chosen elect who get taken up in a cloud after the end of the earth, they desire the destruction of governments and the planet for their own self-interests.  Do we tolerate murderers coming at us with a weapon?  Do we tolerate people who want to see the planet burn up?

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History

I hated history in high school and college.  Maybe it was the monotone, no-nonsense droning lectures.  Maybe the classes were during my most-of-the-day sleepy period.  For whatever reason, I grudgingly studied the subjects and made B grades.  Fast-forward to age 40 in seminary, and history began to make sense.  I don’t know what happened.  Having lived through civil rights, the Vietnam war, the sexual revolution, Ronald Reagan, Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton and more, history was at once, entertaining and frightening.


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Reconciliation

Reconciliation   noun

  1. the restoration of friendly relations.
synonyms: reuniting, reunion, bringing together (again), conciliation, reconcilement, rapprochement, fence-mending;

We come together as a community out of mutual love, respect, caring for one another and compassion.  In open, honest conversations, mistakes are made.  The challenge lands in our lap immediately.  When we are the recipient of a remark or action that we interpret as rude, thoughtless, careless or even hostile, what action do we take?  Do we go to the offending party later in private to work things out?  Or do we hang onto the ugly feelings and let it out by counter-attacking, gossip or leaving the church?


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