Monday, November 29, 2010

Martin Marty | Celebrating 400 Years of the King James Bible

Martin Marty's brief reflection on the 400th anniversary of the King James Bible is worth a peak as Advent begins. 
Thanksgiving weekend gave those who live off or for the media an excuse to slow down, turn off some signals, and settle back to football, turkey, and family—or to shop. For those who keep the Christian calendar, yesterday was also a significant change-of-pace day, since it was the beginning of a new church year. Readers of Sightings who are distant from Christian observances cannot have escaped the carols and wreaths which resound and decorate public spaces. Looking for ways to celebrate the season and anticipate 2011, we were aided by an editorial from the Observer in the UK.          
Here’s the deal: 2011 is the 400th anniversary of the King James Version of the Bible, an event that merits observance far beyond the circles of librarians, antiquarians, and classicists. Anyone who keeps files on the fate of the KJV in the twentieth century and ever since will find many controversies to pass on the way to the book and its cultural import. Thus I have files, books, and personal recall of the way defenders of the King James edition fought off new translations. The Revised Standard Version, backed by the National Council of Churches, was scorned as “Stalin’s Bible” because it seemed to some to slight the virgin birth of Jesus. Burnings of the Bible at mid-century, when the Revised Standard Version appeared, drew attention just as the planned burning of the Qur’an recently did. 

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Who Work While Others Sleep

A prayer in light of staggering third quarter corporate profits

O God, your unfailing providence sustains the world we live in and the life we live: Watch over those, both night and day, who work while others sleep, and grant that we may never forget that our common life depends upon each other’s toil; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
— Compline, Book of Common Prayer, p134

Monday, November 22, 2010

Full Disclosure | a letter from my US senator about the DISCLOSE Act

Dear Mr. Hancock:

Thank you for writing to me to express your support for the Democracy Is Strengthened by Casting Light On Spending in Elections (DISCLOSE) Act.  I appreciate hearing from you on this important issue, and I share your support for the goals of this bill.

I believe that it is of the utmost importance that we do not allow corporate money to disproportionately influence our elections.

As you may know, in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, a 5-4 majority of the Supreme Court reversed a century-old law and overruled decades of legal precedent when it decided that corporations cannot be restricted from spending unlimited amounts in federal elections.

The decision was astounding, not just because it was a gross display of judicial activism, but because it defies common sense for the Supreme Court to conclude that corporations are citizens, as you and I are, in the eyes of the law.  Many corporations make enormous contributions to our society, but they are not people.

The DISCLOSE Act would lessen the harmful effects of the Court's ruling by prohibiting government contractors, foreign corporations, and companies that have received Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) funds from making political contributions.

This legislation would also prevent corporations, unions, and other organizations from coordinating campaign expenditures with political parties or candidates.  It would establish tough new rules for reporting campaign spending in a timely manner so that the public can see exactly what organizations are spending on political activities.

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

The Tortured Logic of Our Times | Expecting More from Our Leaders

The release this week of George W. Bush's memoir directs us again to a series of conscious choices by which the U.S. government has wandered off into the tall grass with others who practice and rationalize torture.  [updated below]

It would be naive to argue that agents of this nation have not from time to time violated laws banning torture; but we have seldom approved and almost never framed those illegal acts as virtuous behavior. Now some of us do approve — not because torture "works" — I'm convinced the empirical evidence against that is settled — but because it feels good to know someone out there is willing to do anything to protect us — even things that do harm rather than good.

In this, former President Bush misled the American people into behavior we have rightly condemned in other nations, and the Congress of the United States gave him cover by passing the misguided Military Commissions Act of 2006.

In a comment on the passage of the Military Commissions Act I concluded:
In that singular change we have become what we declared unlawful and unacceptable in 1776, fought against until 1783 and carefully designed our Constitution to prevent in 1789. Our oppressors and enemies in that conflict followed us into the spirit of that new social covenant. The US Constititution changed the game.
Now this President and Congress have changed it back and 74 million Baby Boomers failed to stop them. This is what The Big Chill looks like.

It's time for a thaw. I think it's time to shake off the stiffness and invite the generations of voters behind us to join in prevailing on President Obama to complete the work started by his Executive Orders on Detention and Interrogation Policy, January 22, 2009. We can do better than we're doing.

Sunday, November 07, 2010

Expecting More from Our Leaders

As we were finishing our elections last week, a UK court was busy voiding the election last May of a Mr. Phil Woolas

Mr. Woolas' error was simple to comprehend: He knowingly made false statements about his opponent in the election in violation of election law which makes it an offense "to publish 'any false statement of fact in relation to the candidate's personal character or conduct' to prevent them being elected - unless they believed it was true and had "reasonable grounds" to do so."

The court found:
Having considered the evidence which was adduced in court we are sure that these statements were untrue. We are also sure that the respondent had no reasonable grounds for believing them to be true and did not believe them to be true.

Mr. Woolas was ordered to pay £5,000 and costs to his opponent. 

He faces a three-year parliamentary ban.

He was suspended by his party, a deputy leader saying: "It is not part of Labour politics to try to win elections by saying things that are not true."

A party deputy from the opposition said: "Mr Woolas has come severely unstuck and I am very pleased for politics and the rule of law that the judges have said so clearly that this was unacceptable."

What do you call it when we tell our children not to lie but teach them the opposite by tolerating — even celebrating — people in politics and business who gain an advantage by lying?

What could possibly prevent us from embracing in practice the standards we declare with our words?

Thursday, November 04, 2010

Old Youth Workers Never Die | Finding Your Way in a New Place

I took a new youth pastorate [and] I am excited, sad, and nervous all in one! Every blog I read has a pretty jaded stance on leaving churches, going to new churches etc. Do you have any advice for me?

Hey John; nice to hear from you. Congratulations on your new position. 

And condolences… I certainly know the grief of leaving behind a church in which I was nurtured and a group of kids I loved. I think it takes time to process that and learn everything it means. 

Off the top of my head...

If there’s already a going youth ministry concern at your new location, there will be assumptions and expectations about roles and programs. Find out what those are and evaluate how to honor those who came before you even as you look for ways to improve on their work. If there’s something you believe needs to go away, think about whether you can, 1) just let it die by leaving it off the calendar going forward or 2) devise something better to replace it. 

Listen as deeply as you can to find out what’s important to people. Don’t pick unnecessary fights. Where you believe change is necessary, act like a shepherd rather than a cowboy (sheep are led, cows are driven).

If there’s not much going on already, introduce new things with care. You’re new culture may or may not embrace things that killed where you were before. I would recommend thinking less about building and more about growing.

Monday, November 01, 2010

Why Vote? Because We Can.

 "Listen here, if you don't vote, you don't matter! And then you're just as ignorant as them in the city say you are!" — Willie Stark in Steven Zaillian’s 2006 film adaptation of Robert Penn Warren’s All the King’s Men.