May 3, 2012
Stories this photo appears in:
FAITH: Buidling bridges doesn’t mean blurring our differences
Our nation is polarized these days in terms of race, class and religion. I read recently that counties with a Whole Foods grocery store vote overwhelmingly Democrat while counties with a Cracker Barrel vote overwhelmingly Republican.
FAITH: Ministers can offer a different perspective on church-owned housing
What kind of home is appropriate for a pastor? The answer depends on the socio-economic level of that congregation, the neighborhood where the church is located, the symbolic message the church wants to convey the community and its members and even the kind of pastor who may be attracted to congregation with a home in a certain school zone or ZIP code.
FAITH: Southern phyche says conversion is heart rather than head
What role does rationality play in the embrace of religion?
FAITH COLUMN: Putin aligns takeover of Crimea with religious sentiments
We Western Christians often oversimplify events that are in reality far more complex than we grasp.
FAITH COLUMN: Should prayers include issues such as currency value and financial policy?
An African archbishop’s prayer for his nation’s currency value and order that Satan release his old on the central bank call to question whether issues such as money and the economy should be included in prayers.
FAITH: Failing to understand others’ religious motivations leads to marginalizing
There is little wiggle room in the church any more and those who seek consensus are often portrayed as soft-headed and soft-hearted.
FAITH: House Bill would allow business owners – citing religious justifications - to legally deny employment to gay and lesbian people and evict such persons from hotels or restaurants.
A similarly worded bill has just been passed in Arizona where Gov. Brewer must decide whether to antagonize much of the business community by signing it into law.
FAITH: Legislation on guns in churches not state’s responsibility
I hate the idea of guns in church. But because I hate even more the idea of government in church I’ve changed my mind on this one.
FAITH COLUMN: Prayer was focal point of angry debate
The church will always struggle with the temptation to use power to define the parameters of holiness and reach consensus on the nature of God. Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on us, all sinners.
FAITH: Definition of distractions may differ
Most distractions the wise pastor learns to ignore, hoping to lead by example: a siren screaming, a ring tone chirping, an entire family obliviously walking down the center aisle during the reading of the scripture, a sanctuary too hot or cold, drooping flowers, precariously tilted candles, even frightened birds flying through the sanctuary. Eventually the calm pastor gets the upper hand.
FAITH COLUMN: The public stance on the constitution has made many Copts uncomfortable
Coptic Christians comprise about 10 percent of the Egyptian population and have endured ostracism and violence over the centuries.
FAITH COLUMN: Hundreds of factors guide where a person eventually decides to worship
Each person has unique criteria for determining which house of worship is the most comfortable fit.
FAITH COLUMN: There are many motivations for giving church another try
God uses many motivating factors to encourage people to engage in worship.
FAITH COLUMN: Touching on money matters is usually touchy with congregations
Pope Francis isn’t the first religious leader to say tough things about capitalism and he won’t be the last.
FAITH COLUMN: Sin thickets are easy to get trapped in
Everyone has sins and flaws from which they need to be rescued, which brings out the joy of what Christmas is all about.
FAITH COLUMN: A new nativity figure is a reminder of the realities of the world
The more powerful an individuals thinks to be, the more insecure and anxious that person can become.
FAITH COLUMN: A child raised in the church has a better chance to become a fulfilled, whole person
Christian denominations have many differences, but giving children the opportunity to thrive and follow God should be universal.
FAITH COLUMN: The biggest challenge we have is to acknowledge that God is larger than we are
The death of a proponent of the prosperity gospel leads to reflection on how Christians deal with those whose beliefs are different.
FAITH COLUMN: A private business contends portions of federal health reform violate its freedom of religion
If for-profit corporations are “people” in the eyes of the law, will the next step be to permit discrimination on the basis of age, race, gender, sexual orientation and disability by corporations and companies who use the Bible as their reason?
FAITH COLUMN: Bible study is challenging and not always easy on the listener
I drove past a church whose name included the word “Bible,” a not uncommon adjective selected by congregations to identify themselves as serious believers. What does this appellation really mean, though? Isn’t every church supposed to be a Bible church?
FAITH COLUMN: The annual challenge for giving has value to congregations
It is up to each religious organization to make its best case for voluntary giving.
FAITH COLUMN: Some try very hard in the latter days of their life to change their image
The ideal of the Christian life is to be unassuming in behavior, meek in spirit and gentle of heart, seeking not to be remembered at all.
He is accused of a triple murder. He may have attended the funeral of his victims and offered condolences to the family. He owns a pawn shop. Sold a pawn shop to his victims. Buys and sells gold on the side. Lives in Kentucky. He is a Baptist pastor.
Christianity, barely breathing in Western Europe and struggling to remain vital in parts of this nation, is growing explosively in Africa.
An article in the New York Times (“Poll Shows Major Shift in Identity of U.S. Jews,” Laurie Goodstein, Oct. 1, 2013) reported that religious observance in American Jews is declining at a precipitous rate.
A Quebec political party proposes to ban the wearing of religious symbols by government employees.
The Rev. Creede Hinshaw talks about the lack of action on the part of congregations to oppose legislation that negatively impacts the poor.
The power of money – coinage, gold, silver, etc., is almost universally seductive, at least in modern society.
An Easter Sunday-sized congregation gathered for her funeral last Saturday at the Wynnton United Methodist Church in Columbus. I drove 100 miles to attend. Dodie MacElhannon was a servant of the Lord who loved the church, God’s world and God’s people. That’s why I had to sit in a folding chair on the back wall of the sanctuary, the only seats left available.
I took my weed trimmer to a shop to determine whether it was worth fixing. It was the kind of shop that is vanishing in our nation: a place where the customer can walk into the back and talk to the repairmen.
I took a little trip down I-75 to Florida last week, giving me the opportunity to reflect on the tackiness, ugliness and downright tawdriness of the billboards lining both sides of the highway. If there were ever a candidate for highway beautification, it would be this despoiled corridor, especially the stretches around Valdosta, Perry and much of Florida.
This week I want to reflect on a success story between the evangelical church and the public school system in Portland, Oregon. Samuel G. Freedman of the New York Times told the story in an Aug. 10 article headlined “Help From Evangelicals (Without Evangelizing) Meets the Needs of an Oregon Public School.”
Let’s think about school funding today, a subject that seldom makes its way into a column about religion and ethics. There is simply not enough money to go around in Georgia’s public schools. A few years ago we cut our Pre-K program (one of the best investments we can make in our children) by $54 million, reduced the K-12 budget by $110 million and slashed the higher education budget by $174 million. That’s lamentable, you say, but what is a state to do?
If you’re looking for a little mud-wrestling on a lazy August, cast no further than the dust-up involving a new book about Jesus written by a scholar whose credentials are impeccable.
Pope Francis has made the news with regularity, having recently completed his first visit to South America since being named the new pontiff.
Almost every religion grapples with the meaning of giving and receiving, generosity and greed. How do these things add up for the believer?
Almost every religion grapples with the meaning of giving and receiving, generosity and greed. How do these things add up for the believer?
Reports from eastern Oregon indicate that a farmer there found a strain of genetically modified wheat growing in his field this season, a puzzling discovery since Monsanto, which had tested that strain of wheat for 12 years, never put it on the market. Nobody can figure out how the wheat got there.
A few years ago on a trip to the United Kingdom I noticed that few Union Jack flags flew from houses or businesses. A British friend explained that most Brits do not have that same sense of national pride we display here.
The New York Times this week described a small group phenomenon involving discussion of the often avoided topic of death.
The New York Times printed a fascinating report from William Grimes on May 27, “Something Happened on the Way to Bountiful: Everyone Sang Along.”
A few weeks ago I promised some more thoughts on the religious problem behind too much stuff.
The Western Wall, one of the most sacred and prominent sites for Jewish and Christian pilgrims in Jerusalem, was the locale for anger, rock tossing and controversy last week when several hundred Jewish women exercised their legal right to pray at that prominent locale.
Almost two months ago Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio was elected by his fellow cardinals to serve as the next leader of the Roman Catholic Church.
Last week country and western artist George Jones died. He was a hard-living kind of a fellow, according to the reports, carousing so hard and heavy that he was often too sick or bleary-eyed to appear at his concerts.
Earlier this week I had the privilege of conversing with a Boy Scout executive who is a friend and fellow Rotarian. As an Eagle Scout and Explorer who received my God and Country Award, I have a deep, lifelong appreciation for Scouting.
Yesterday an interfaith worship service was held in Boston to begin the process of healing across our nation in the aftermath of the horrific bombing at the Boston Marathon.
It is disconcerting to contemplate the amount of stuff that middle class Americans own. Whereas the average size of an American home in 1960 was 983 square feet, that average home had mushroomed something like 250 percent in 2011 to 2,480 square feet, even while the average number of people living in the home shrank. My own family history closely mirrors this trend. My parents raised four children; the six of us lived in a three-bedroom, one-bath house with incredibly small closets. I could not imagine now living in such a home. It couldn’t contain all our stuff.
Before we rush to Easter — and with good cause the Christian world anticipates that glorious day with its splendor, pomp and elation — let us tarry in other places with Jesus.
Headlines continue to announce the paranoid, bellicose behavior of the isolated and impoverished nation of North Korea, truly one of the pariah nations in our world. This rogue nation, erratic and unpredictable, now apparently has nuclear weapons of at least a primitive nature with which they threaten to incinerate the United States.
How can one dwell on anything other than issues of Catholicism this week? The cardinals of the church gathered in Rome at the Sistine Chapel to elect a new pope and this Sunday is St. Patrick’s Day commemorating one of the great saints of the church.
I’m suffering through the third day of a miserable head cold with the consequent aches, stuffy head, puffy eyes and runny nose. I catch this stuff rarely, but when I do I am convinced I may not survive.
The newspaper headline regarding the desired skill set for the new leader of the Roman Catholic Church intoned, “Charisma, Management Skills Sought in New Pope”. I’m sorry, but this headline and the article itself was less than groundbreaking.
Earlier this week, the 40-day season of Lent began with Ash Wednesday when worshipers gathered in churches to receive from priest or pastor a smudge of ashes on the forehead signifying godly sorrow, repentance and one’s mortality.
Americans are addicted to second guessing. Did Mark Richt make the wrong call at the Alabama-Georgia game? Should Mitt Romney have run a different election campaign? Should we have better protected the Benghazi Embassy? There’s no topic immune from second guessing, including public prayer. I refer to the invocation offered prior to President Obama’s inauguration last Monday.
Find this story and other news, sports and features items at www.albanyherald.com.
A couple of weeks ago I watched Peter Jackson’s The Hobbit at an IMAX cinema with Dolby sound and 3-D glasses. It was a pretty powerful movie if you like non-stop action where good wins out. As you might know, The Hobbit was written by J. R. R. Tolkien, author of the trilogy Lord of the Rings, too.
In the shadow of the fiscal cliff, Senate Majority Leader Democrat Harry Reid and Arizona Republican Sen. Jon Kyl are cooperating to introduce a law to expand online gambling and create an Office of Online Poker Oversight.
One hears the phrase “fiscal cliff” so often these days that I now find myself looking for guard rails on every street and avenue, even though here in Savannah there’s no such thing as a cliff within a good day’s drive.
The recent revelation of adultery by retired four-star General David Petraeus is tragic. Confessing to the betrayal of his wife of 40 years General Petraeus submitted his resignation as Director of the Central Intelligence Agency. He not only tarnished his family, career and reputation, but he could potentially — because of his sensitive role — have placed our nation in a vulnerable position.
Hubris has been in abundant supply at both presidential debates and one suspects that the honking sounds at next week’s third debate will be both candidates tooting their own horn. If this election is as close as polls indicate, the first candidate displaying any sincere evidence of humility might gain the advantage with that dwindling group of undecided voters.
Although Methodism have been established in Georgia for at least 225 years, its continuing presence in Savannah, where I serve the church, is 200 years old this year.
The Islamic Center of Murfreesboro, Tennessee, opened in August 2012 after enduring two years of controversy, perhaps bringing to a close the vandalism and violence that has roiled both the structure itself and people of this middle Tennessee city of 100,000 citizens.
I’m not sure whether to file this column under the sports page or the faith and values section, but there’s an intersection here, as there so often is, between sports and religion. I’m referring to the “replacement referees” now being employed by the owners of the National Football League (NFL).
The Republicans have had their week in Tampa, Fla., and the Democrats will have theirs next week in Charlotte, N.C., a back-to-back prospect prompting all but the most hardened political junkies to pray that the deity might send hurricane winds to cancel both political pep rallies.
How does a Christian relate to his or her culture in the Muslim world? I’ve been thinking about this after reading a recent Wall Street Journal article (Saturday, Aug. 11-12) about the struggles of the Christian faithful in Syria.
What would you do if a group of punk musicians rushed to the altar area or claimed the pulpit in your church and began singing protest songs in the middle of a Sunday morning worship service?
Being a pastor means one is never caught up with pastoral care. At least in the United Methodist Church, people place a fairly high priority on pastoral visitation, and Methodists can sometimes be heard yearning for a pastor who knocks on doors more frequently.
A nation-wide leadership search is taking place in the United Methodist Church this week in three locations where church delegates are electing eleven new bishops.
The Rev. LeeAnne Watkins, rector of St. Mary’s Episcopal Church in St. Paul, Minn., wrote a thought provoking article describing how the church continues to invest in activities that no longer produce results. (“This Just Isn’t Working,” Christian Century, June 13, 2012, p 10-11).
Here are some things I’ve been thinking about the relationship between church and state:
Have you ever sung the words of a hymn while simultaneously thinking about something else?
This week in New Orleans, La., delegates to the Southern Baptist Convention made history by electing the Rev. Fred Lute as the first African-American pastor in their long history to serve as their president. Luter, the charismatic pastor of a New Orleans' Lower 9th Ward mega-church, ran unopposed.
I recently reflected on the importance the church practicing the highest standards of honesty and transparency by citing public allegations of influence peddling in the Vatican.
The headline in the Wall Street Journal caught my attention: “Facebook and Twitter Postings Cost CFO His Job.” Rachel Emma Silverman reported (May 15, 2012, B-1) that 63-year-old Gene Morphis was fired because he showed no restraint on Facebook and Twitter.
The most valuable possession the church has, something so invaluable it could never be insured, is the trust of its church members and the larger society.
When Charles Colson died in April, age 80, it was the first time in 34 years that he did not spend Easter Sunday preaching to prisoners.
Pastors struggling with proper attire.