Wednesday, September 29, 2004

Best quote I've ever read about Bobby Knight

"Bobby Knight likes to say of sportswriters, 'We all learn to write by the second grade; most of us move on to bigger things.' Most of us stop throwing chairs and calling ourselves Bobby by the second grade too."--Steve Rushin, Road Swing

Tuesday, September 28, 2004

Christians and politics

I have floated the idea to our Wineskins editors about doing a segment of our Wineskins site--from now running up to the election--on "Christians and politics."

I'm not sure how I'm going to do this, but if there seems to be enough interest in some essays from some of you, I will be happy to place a special standing box on the site for interaction from now till the election. Rubel Shelly and Lynn Anderson were adamant that we not produce a "voting guide," which is certainly not what we'll set out to do.

Instead, we would provide a forum for discussion on the topic of "Christians and politics" and even delve into the notion of non-participation altogether, as one has commented yesterday. The idea of non-participation in government can go much deeper than a principled decision not to vote, and I'd like to examine the range of views and help one another make a principled decision on how to participate or not to participate.

This Ellen Goodman piece (Boston Globe columnist) is thought-provoking: Maybe Father Does Know Best?

If you want to look more deeply into the issue of Romans 13 and cooperation or non-cooperation with government, please learn more about Voice of the Martyrs (VOA), an incredible ministry begun by two men who were imprisoned, one in Cuba and one under the Nazis and Communists for fourteen years. I'll likely write more on VOA later.

The Sports-tine Chapel

One reason I enjoy Sports Illustrated so much is embodied in the most recent issue that came to my house yesterday: The Sports-tine Chapel! I love it. A four-fold rendition of The Sistine Chapel ceiling done as if Michelangelo were a modern sports fan.

SI takes their work seriously but doesn't take themselves or sports too seriously. It's not intended to be profane in the sense that sports is more important than what's represented in the actual panels of creation but to show the story of sports in a unique way that shows the humanity of sports. That's what I like about SI: it tells the human story and often speaks of the search for meaning in those who compete in the race or the games.

Sistine Panels

Sports Illustrated

Monday, September 27, 2004

Is the presidential election another war of good and evil?

I received a "voting guide" that claimed the election, the choice between President Bush and Senator Kerry, is a Christian war between good and evil. Among the many reasons I think this is damaging to the Christian church and cause, here is one:

Christians have allowed the Republican party to successfully capitalize on and co-opt the church as a voting block. We are made to believe this is serving our country and God and children's future well. I'm not sure this is true but I'm certain that these ideas serve the Republican party well.

A friend of mine asked me, "Would you consider voting for John Kerry?"

"Consider--in a democracy--is the key word, isn't it?" I replied. I've had various political conversations with both Republicans and Democrats. Democrats don't believe Bush is fit to lead. Republicans don't believe Kerry is fit to lead. As often is the case, for many it's one of those "voting against" someone or their party campaigns. I don't want my choice of a particular party nominee to be a foregone conclusion without "considering" and weighing the options.

One friend is voting purely on economics and feels Republican economics make more sense. Lower taxes appropriately, increase GDP, bottom line is you actually collect more taxes. Another Christian I know is voting Kerry. She doesn't believe Bush has discernment to lead the country. Some are held up from voting Democrat because of moral issues, believing overall the Republican party "more moral" than Democrats.

Whose set of morals are the benchmark for this?

On the one hand, Republicans advocate "family values" and say Democrats don't. Democrats scoff and say they are for the poor, also a "biblical value" and middle class families in every way. Democrats generally don't support harsh forms of punishment such as capital punishment and advocate social programs to stave off these criminal problems before they happen. Republicans advocate pro-life related to abortion, and many Christians are convinced any vote otherwise is a sin. I'll have to scan and print sometime in my blog the photo I took during the 1992 election of a couple at a Democratic rally for Clinton who were walking around with a poster, "A vote for Clinton is a sin against God."

I don't agree with the sign or the notion that a vote for a particular candidate is a sin against God. This oversimplifies the issues and demonizes those who have thoughtfully differed with the prevailing version of Christianity that would align itself with a political party. While everyone must vote their consciences, we ought to be aware of the possibility that politics might have more influence on us than we on politics. I want Christians to turn that around. To be a Christian in the first place is a political act: we are proclaiming that our allegiance is not to the state but to the kingdom of God.

Is the presidential election another war of good and evil, a battle for Christianity, as the voting guide suggests? What do you think?

Friday, September 24, 2004

Yom Kippur - Day of Atonement

Today is Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement. Spoken of in Leviticus 16, this is the traditional day for the Jews where atonement is made for sins of Israel that have caused a ritual impurity or separation from God or their own people or sins committed in ignorance. Nadab and Abihu are mentioned here, perhaps because the presence of their rebellion and death brought a ritual impurity that required ritual renewal.

In ancient Judaism, two goats, a bull, and a ram were to be brought to the tabernacle (or later Temple) courts. The bull would be for a sin offering of the priest and blood would be sprinkled on the "mercy seat" of the ark of the covenant. The ram would be completely burned as a "whole or burnt offering." The two goats were brought, hands were laid upon them, and one was released into the wilderness as the scapegoat. The Chicago Cubs did not make up this concept, though they continue to practice it! The scapegoat is a misnomer, developed out of the idea of "the goat who escapes" but the word, Azazel, is not that easy to translate. Another example of how it's been translated is something like "spirit of the wilderness or the edge" The idea is that one goat is for the Lord and the sins of the people and the other carries the sins of the people to the edge, outside the camp.

Jews in America do not sacrifice goats and bulls but practice Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, which begins a period of reflection and repentance and giving of forgiveness for sins against one another, even those committed in ignorance. Yom Kippur is the end of ten days of repentance and various forms of fasting. Honey cakes are baked, candles are lit the night before Yom Kippur to symbolize the hope of the human soul being light in the world. Often, white garments are worn to symbolize forgiveness, purity, atonement. A ram's horn, or Shofar (same thing blown before Jericho walls fell), is blown to end Yom Kippur and Saturday will be a special Shabbat and feast.

I do not practice these Holy Days but study them and observe them, so if you know of a mistake I've made, please point it out, because I want it to be accurate and I'd like to learn more about the Jewish faith and practice that has been the foundation for our Christian faith, the tree into which we are graphed (Rom 9).

Thursday, September 23, 2004

Teresa Heinz Kerry - "Let them go naked"

I read in Newsweek yesterday the quote from Teresa Heinz Kerry, speaking to relief workers in New York who were packing supplies for the hard-hit by hurricane Ivan in the Caribbean.

When I showed the quote to Jill she said, "She was probably just trying to show the priority of clean water and power for hospitals."

Jill was right: Heinz Kerry was speaking to relief workers and also spoke French to Haitian Americans who were there. What she said is not as bizzare as some have claimed, considering her intent.

Here is the fuller story:
USA Today: Heinz Kerry visits hurricane relief efforts by U.S. Caribbeans

While I'm at it, here's another perspective on the "shove it" incident with "reporter" Colin McNickle. http://www.philadelphiaweekly.com/print_friendly.php?id=7792. In both of these incidents, media and we the audience must--but often don't--put quotes in context.

Wednesday, September 22, 2004

The Jesus Creed - Scot McKnight

Recently I interviewed Scot McKnight, author of the newly released, The Jesus Creed. McKnight is a fascinating person with much to offer the Christian community.

"For a loving relationship to exist between a human and God there must be truth-telling . . . If we can’t tell the truth to one another, we are not revealing one another. Truth-telling to God is the sole foundation for a relationship. If we have not told the truth, we have not revealed ourselves back to God. Until Adam tells God what he’s done, he’s hiding from God. This is simple as it gets, if we’re living a life of sin, we’re not facing [God] eye to eye, we’re facing God with our heads cocked." --from an interview in August 2004

Blogging, preaching, writing, eating together, looking eye to eye, holding one another accountable, bowing and revealing our hearts to God and one another are all modes of truth-telling, one of the means to a transforming relationship with God.

Tuesday, September 21, 2004

Sunday Bloody Sunday

Sunday one of the lady's in my Bible class said, "You need to move on and quit talking about slitting throats of animals--I'm getting sick."

OK, well, we were talking about the time when I slaughtered a goat and hit my own shin with the sledgehammer. I was able to recover, and groaning, finished the task.

This led to an incredulous question from one lady about why I had used a hammer and not slit the goat's throat. One elder popped up and said the next door neighbor of the church had two goats roaming on our parking lot and would I shepherd them. Hey, man, I'm not the shepherd. Did I not just tell you a story about what happens when I handle goats?

We had been talking about the atonement out of Leviticus 16 and cross-referencing Hebrews 9. Those are bloody chapters. The most striking are these two verses in parallel universes of Israel's temple rituals and the altar of the cross of Christ:

Leviticus 17:11
I have provided the blood for you to make atonement for your lives on the Altar; it is the blood, the life, that makes atonement.*

Hebrews 9:14
Through the Spirit, Christ offered himself as an unblemished sacrifice, freeing us from all those dead-end efforts to make ourselves respectable, so that we can live all out for God.*

*Peterson, E. H. (2003). The Message : The Bible in contemporary language. Colorado Springs, Colo.: NavPress.

Monday, September 20, 2004

Big Churches Need Small Groups

I believe any large church needs small groups of fellowship, accountability, and prayer. One of the vital elements of the life of a large church like Woodmont Hills in Nashville is small groups. No fancy name, no big program, just small groups of people in one another's homes. Terry Smith, mentor and friend to me, prays for and helps connect people but largely he lets groups form naturally around relationships not zip codes.

Right now my group gathers at 5:30 pm - 7:30 pm at a different house each Sunday night, and we are studying an IVP 2:7 group study series called Growing Strong in God's Family. The study involves bringing our personal Bible study to bear on our lives together. We talk about what Scriptures we've been meditating on during the week and there are five key verses to memorize as well as some workbook material to go through. Some in the group have done this kind of study before and say themes develop out of the choices of Scriptures various members read from over the week. The study encourages everyone picking out passages themselves to read and meditate on. Interestingly, I'm writing a book right now on Leviticus and the study specifically mentions Leviticus and Revelation as books young Christians ought to avoid.

After two of the sessions, I've enjoyed the interaction and Spiritual growth and community maturity that it nurtures. I'd recommend this particular 2:7 series highly.

Saturday, September 18, 2004

Soccer & Foreign Policy

Three soccer games today. Jill and I coach our three kids' teams. Soccer's a great sport.

Perhaps in the future soccer will help foreign policy. Nearly everywhere in the world people goes bonkers for "football." Part of the ugly American in me didn't understand that for many years, but after living in foreign countries I realized how exciting soccer can be.

Maybe someday we'll have a president who played soccer growing up, took a foreign language in school and can begin to fathom the beauty of a simple diversion of most of the rest of the world.

We are powerful and our sports and traditions do catch on somewhat around the world, but that doesn't necessarily mean we should be arrogant and believe what we do is "best." I'm amazed at President Bush's incredulous question, "Why do they hate us?" and differ strongly with his answer.

President Bush claims other nations hate us because they hate freedom and they are evil-doers. “They hate what we stand for,” says Bush. “Our enemies are thugs and evil-doers…” Right now there are people in Iraq who hate us because they hate foreign occupation.

I spoke to Richard T. Hughes the other day in an interview and he said others may believe we’re more interested in commerce, they hate us for much same reason the rest of the world does: because we've divided the world into good and evil and we always come out innocent and the bully. This doesn’t help the cause of peace.

The myth of American innocence, says Hughes, is a claim that runs counter good biblical theology. We all are sinners and stand in God’s judgment, and we are not perfectly executing a godly plan for our nation. God is the ruler of the universe, not American versions of freedom and justice.

I'm glad I'm not the president. The toughest job in the world, but we need someone who can discern and be wise about foreign policy in these days of international business and the shrinking and ever-interacting world.

Friday, September 17, 2004

Amazed

Read the Gospel of Mark. Many times the crowds were amazed at what Jesus was doing. When he healed the blind man, they were amazed. When he cast out a demon, they were amazed. When he taught with authority, they were amazed.

When we saw the Mel Gibson movie, The Passion of the Christ, we were amazed. Some, as in Mark's account, were offended. There is a great turning point in Mark 8 where Jesus turns toward Jerusalem and says, "Anyone who would follow me must deny himself, take up his cross and follow me." Amazement turns into decision. Peter pushes Jesus aside and says, "NO, LORD!" and Jesus does something that amazes Peter. He says, "Get behind me, Satan!" Wouldn't want to be called Satan by Jesus. Perhaps in that moment Jesus was so resolute that anything standing in his way would have been Satanic.

The question for us anytime we are faced with the amazement of Jesus and the offense of the cross, the way of the cross, is Will we go with him? The way we answer that is in our faith, our walking that road of carrying the cross. It takes a lifetime, I believe, to figure out what that means. Carrying crosses is a mystery to me. I don't claim to fully understand it, and certainly religious folks have confused it with self-punishment and guilt. Yet there is something in the heart of Jesus' message and story that leads me to believe somehow the mystery will be revealed to us while we are carrying the cross of Christ, not simply while we are amazed.

Lines of fellowship

Some members of the church that nurtured my faith as a young boy believe my own parents ought not come to church with me at Woodmont Hills Church of Christ. Because of what people think of Rubel Shelly, the Woodmont Church, my book on baptism, they believe somehow Dad, who has been an elder for more than 30 years, is going to import the same kind of thinking into the Dewey Church of Christ.

I don't believe Dewey needs to become Woodmont, nor do I believe any church needs to rise in the image of anyone or any other church--we only seek the image of Christ. What disturbs me is that people are very willing to make judgments based on third, fourth, fifth-hand information. What can we do?
  1. Go to the source. We need to stop relying on ninth-hand information. One brother who practices this is Ray Myers, who taught me at Dewey when I was in junior high. He has dialogued with me about my views on baptism.
  2. Stop bearing false witness to things we haven't seen. Spreading falsehood or sketchy information about things is slanderous and wrong.
  3. Pray for churches worldwide, that we might bear the image of Christ, not the image of the church of Christ as a denomination but as the true body of Christ that reflects his love. I appreciate churches that get involved in hurricane victim relief and other service and mission, rather than being concerned about how churches in another state sing or organize themselves.
  4. Be vocal. We cannot sit idly while divisive voices ring out loudly. The gospel is at stake, and we must interact and talk and dialogue about what we believe. Dad, Mom, and I have had more good visits about life in Christ since I became involved in controversial ministries such as Wineskins, ZOE, and Woodmont, than ever before. These conversations have been difficult but needed and helpful, though at times I feel it stresses Mom and Dad out more than it does me.
  5. Keep paddling where you are. We ought to pay attention to the time and place where we are, rather than worry about what everyone else is doing or not doing. This is a simple lesson my children learn about obeying what they've been told rather than taddling on their siblings.

What else can we do? Thoughts?


Go Dog Go

This morning Jill asked my oldest daughter and me if we knew that last night Jacob read Go Dog Go, Hop on Pop, and part of Green Eggs and Ham . . .

I had heard him reading but should have savored the moment and watched, but I was preoccupied with thoughts and searching internet for an aerator rental for the backyard and how I wanted grass for a football field this winter and not a mud pit, and I missed that milestone.

I'll be there for the full Green Eggs and Ham.

******

The other day Jacob said, "I wish I had a brother."

"I'm your brother," I said.

"You're my dad."

"Yes, but I'm your brother too. When you get bigger, the same size as me, we'll be like brothers and play and you can pin me down in wrestling."

"I can already pin you down, dad. And when I get bigger, I'll really beat you in football."

I better get that aerator and get the football field ready.

Thursday, September 16, 2004

The Question of God

I taped the PBS special The Question of God last night but have only been able to watch the introductions to Sigmund Freud and C.S. Lewis. This is a moving look at Freud's journey to became a skeptic, atheist, facscinated with and highly influencial to human self-understanding and Lewis's journey of skeptic, atheist turned Christian, writer and one of the most widely respected advocate of faith in Christ in the modern era.

Simultaneously in the show a panel of skeptics and believers in God dialogue on questions such as "Why do humans suffer?" and "Where do we find ultimate meaning?" and "What is our destiny?" This flows along the storylines of Freud and Lewis.

I'll write more about after I see it. Anyone else already see the whole thing? What do you think? There is a part 2 that airs next week.

Wednesday, September 15, 2004

Tennessee State Fair

Took my five-year-old son, Jacob, and eight-year-old daughter, Anna, to the Tennessee State Fair last night. My ten-year-old, Ashley, didn't want to go, so went to piano and out with Jill.

We had one free admission ticket Jacob had gotten from school, so here's what it cost us for two hours one evening at the fair with our FREE ticket:

  • Parking, $3 (not bad)
  • Admission for Anna and me, $12
  • Just inside admission you buy ride tickets, $20
  • Immediately the kids want to pay $5 a pop to throw basketballs through hoops the size of a wedding ring - I resist both the children's pleas and every ball barker saying, "Hey dad! Let the kids throw, they get somethin' even if de miss . . ." $0
  • Ice cream, $5

So, that free ticket cost $40 . . . and, would it be too trite to say that seeing my children smile would be worth it? Well, I can see my children smile when I tickle them or say something kind to them, so yes, it would be too trite. It was fun and we saw and experienced some bizarre things you see at fairs: a huge turtle, a kangaroo, six guys eating hamburgers to see who could eat the most, fun house, burlap sack slide, bumper cars.

What an interesting, if not half-off-its-rocker, society I'm a part of.

Tuesday, September 14, 2004

Wineskins online

A question was asked about online Wineskins helping with speed of delivery, costs, etc.

Here's what's happening right now with Wineskins magazine transition (www.wineskins.org):
  • We are at the 18 month point in our transition from print to online
  • Many have said/asked, "I thought you were going out of print, but now I hear you have some print issues coming out or just out. What's the deal?" Both are true. We are going online, but this takes phasing out print subscriptions. Those who have paid are still served print issues until they lapse. We have not taken renewals in 18 months, and we are trying to transfer as many as possible online to receive content from the web site.
  • Therefore, in this 18 month period, we have still produced both print (double) issues and between those (we've done 3 double issues in last year), we have done purely online issues that are in PDF and text article format. You can see these at our archives link on the web site.
  • Do people like it? Yes and no. Many people say they miss the print (but we are still doing print, so if you miss it and your subscription has lapsed, BUY it! They are available here).
  • Will Wineskins continue and will this be successful? We already have more than 1,000 subscribers online and about that many more logged in as users who view free content. We anticipate continued growth and are very happy with this growth in the past 18 months. Please pass the word along about the magazine.
  • Is Cope and Shelly still involved? Yes, they are still co-editors and Lynn Anderson, Darryl Tippens, Thom Lemmons are still department editors. I also have help from Margy Smith Roark and Shannon Whitehead, who copyedit.
  • What is the connection with The ZOE Group? We are published by The Zoe Group, Inc., owned by ZOE. More and more we are one ministry and working seamlessly after three years of getting to know how the two organizations can function together.

Monday, September 13, 2004

Wineskins at the press

Wineskins is at the press now. Next I get a press proof and make last minute changes. It's difficult and costly to make changes at press, so we keep these to a minium. Three writers came in with a change they missed on the earlier proofs I'd sent. I missed a few things, such as pub info on a particular book. After I approve the press proof, it takes about a week to 10 days to go on press. I go out and check at the press and make sure all the printing is being done well. Last issue the press made a mistake and made the spine too large, which would have made the spine lap over the cover and words of spine be seen on edge of front cover. Had to be reprinted. Things like this happen often behind the scenes and the better a magazine or any book or publication looks, the more effort likely went into making it so (even re-doing when necessary).

Saturday, September 11, 2004

Car Wash, Yeah!

Washed my car this morning because I parked under a tree where a flock of birds unloaded apparently all day long on my Buick hood (this is more akin to my father's Olds/Buick than Tiger's, mind you).

So I went to wash my car, and my intent was to get the thing clean. But my intent always twists when I get to the car wash bay. My goal becomes Get-this-thing-soaped-then-rinsed-and-cheap-waxed-all-in-4 minutes-for-a-buck-fifty.

At the car wash bay I'm trying to scrounge for quarters and short of coins, I'm desparately trying to time everything so no soap is left and I get the rinse job done just in time.
I often start my worship this way. My intentions are good but my flesh slams me and I think how much I'd like to just punch the right buttons and get this thing done with as little cost and sacrifice to me. I'm clean enough, let's move this thing out of the car wash bay, por favore!
One of these days I'll fill my pocket so full of quarters it sags and I'll take my time (if no one's behind me) and I'll wash that car with that cool wand until I'm satisfied it's clean, and one of these days I'll learn to sit still and know God and realize how much he's washed me, and I'll let the water stream down and enjoy.

Friday, September 10, 2004

Wineskins deadline

I'm on a Wineskins deadline right now and it's difficult to post, because it takes a large section of my brain and heart for the weeks leading up to the final deadline.

Today I'll send files over to the press via FTP server of the press. We are completing five months of discussion, prep, and gathering and shaping articles with writers on the theme of desperate: finding God in arid places. Articles are as real as they've ever been in Wineskins.

Wednesday, September 08, 2004

Theological reflection . . . with fifth & sixth graders

Two of the best ways I know to hone theological thinking is to teach children and teach in other cultures. Tonight Jill and start another year of teaching 5th and 6th graders. It's a stretch for me to relate, and it's a challenge for Jill to enter kid world again after a full day with middle schoolers and our own children, but we feel more than ever the call of Jesus to the children: "let the little children come to me."

We're starting a semester on prayer tonight. We'll learn the Lord's Prayer and look at prayers in Psalms and throughout Scripture . . . and practice the power of talking to the Lord together during the classes.

Trouble posting

Ever have trouble posting. It keeps trying to process...so I'm doing this post as a test to see if some link or something I've done is keeping it from posting.

Open House & Neil Postman

Open House night at our children's school. The new school seems filled with life as teachers and students spruce up the place with drawings and sounds of learning and laughter. The cafe-torium was busting at the seams with parents wanting to see what this new school was going to be about. Jill and I, of course, enjoy hearing the teachers praise our children and say how much they enjoy having them in class. We try not to look incredulous when they say they are so well-behaved and instead beam and enjoy the moment.

I like the philosophy of our principal of Shayne Elementary, Mrs. Brown, who is averse to getting computers for the classrooms just for the sake of having technology. I guess I'm a Luddite in some ways, influenced heavily by the thought of Neil Postman. Mrs. Brown views computers as a learning tool that should be used sparingly and with discretion in the early grades in particular. I agree with her, though my children enjoy playing computer games at home and we certainly don't discourage them developing a healthy understanding of this computer reality in our lives.

Ran into a guy at Open House who I went to school with in Oklahoma--he is the age of my brother, Toby. I saw him across the cafe-torium as the principal spoke (then the PTA president, then the treasurer...someone yell food fight and let's get out of here!). I thought for a while about his name and it came to me. After the meeting I walked over and said, "Danny Zolar!" He said, "Toby?" Wrong brother. They have just moved here from Richmond, Virginia. I was also reminded at Open House how teachers are some of the best people you can meet. They love and care and work tirelessly, and anyone who cares for my child endears herself or himself to Jill and me.

Monday, September 06, 2004

Labor Day

I labored to have a good time. The kids were up by 6 am, so Jill and I decided to get up and "quickly" do her progress reports for her Algebra, Geometry, and Pre-Algebra classes. I told her we could whip out reports using a mail-merge. Yeah right. Every time I go to use a mail merge I'm thinking, "I could have handwritten this in quadruplicate without carbon paper with my left hand in this amount of time." We got names, grades entered and merge worked as expected and will be much quicker next three weeks.

Said goodbye to neighbors today who we prayed for three years ago. Their son and our son, Jacob, were best buddies, and now they are moving after living next door to one another three years. They are still in town, so we envision their friendship continuing, though differently than running around the yard almost daily with shirts off and sword in hand or soccer ball at the foot.

Mom and Dad are here, and Dad turned 69 today. He said he was in first grade when Pearl Harbor was attacked. Said he thought Pearl Harbor was a man, that boys on the playground said "I'm tough," to which another would reply, "Not as tough as Pearl Harbor!" Happy Birthday, Dad. Sitting on the deck and talking into the night as the cicadas sang and praying with you was important to me. Thanks for coming to visit us and playing checkers with Jacob and making Ashley and Anna laugh.

Played kickball and Sorry with the kids and enjoyed saying "No" to the question, "Are you going to work today, Daddy?"

Went to see/hear Annie Lennox and Sting tonight with my friend, Shawn Brown. He is an aspiring musician and songwriter, and a good one at that. Sting was amazing, and very world music sounding. Surprisingly, Annie Lennox was soulful and bright and hopeful, different from the techno-rock of the 80s Eurythmics.

I'm thankful to have a job to return to tomorrow, but today sure was fun.

Sunday, September 05, 2004

Clean and Unclean

I tend to want to skip over portions of Scripture like Leviticus 11-15 that discuss dietary laws and learning how to discern clean and unclean...but there's something there. Something that runs like a thread through Scripture. God, from the beginning has separated light from darkness, clean from unclean. He called Noah to put seven of every clean, two of every unclean animal in the ark.

Maimonides, the Jewish philosopher, said the reason for the dietary laws was to "train us to master our appetites; to accustom us to restrain our desires; and to avoid considering the pleasure of eating and drinking as the goal of man's existence." Modern off-the-cuff interpreters seem bent on saying that God knew science before science knew science, that he ultimately knew what was good for our bodies to consume, good hygeine, etc. Both Maimonides and modern interpretations about the reasons for the Levitical dietary laws belie the fact of God's ultimate reasoning: "I am the Lord your God; consecrate yourselves and be holy, because I am holy. Do not make yourselves unclean by any creature that moves about on the ground. I am the Lord who brought you up out of Egypt to be your God; therefore be holy, because I am holy" (Lev 11:44-45, NIV).

God knows his creation and its design. He knew he designed a vulture to eat corrian (road kill) and that we should detest such. BTW, my cat brought in a baby vulture (buzzard) the other day. I kept waiting for the other shoe to fall...does a buzzard circle around the dead carcass of its own? But the overriding point of not skipping over the dietary laws in Leviticus is that God, in his infinite wisdom, knows his creation and how to live with discretion within it, how to honor life and blood and revere the world in which we live. He also knew that neighboring nations to the Israelites used pigs in their pagan practices and the new community of faith that was Israel would be distinguished from the nations by their discretion of certain hooved and cud chewing animals and leaving belly crawling snakes (also the stuff of pagan ritual) alone.

Again, none of these explanations encompass the whole scope of God's reasons for dietary laws. In fact, the Jews have a word for dietary laws like the ones found in Levitcus 11-15: chukim. Chukim (shoe-keem) means mandatory laws that must be followed regardless of the sense they make. But the questions still remain, and certainly they remained even into NT days and today.

Jesus spoke about clean and unclean (Mt 15; Mk 7). His focus, however, was on the paradox of the Pharisees following dietary and washing rituals yet being the ones who were truly unclean while the leper, who would by law need to cry out "unclean" was found to be made clean by Jesus. Jesus "cleansed" outside the temple and outside the rituals of temple (heresy to them, much the same way John the Baptist claimed to ritually purify in the Jordan, outside the temple). All this becomes incredibly rich and more meaningful when beginning with the whole idea of clean and unclean in Leviticus (and even in creation, Noah, etc. accounts).

Saturday, September 04, 2004

Family problems & MATHO

A 13-year-old African American girl in one of Jill's middle school math classes came to her a few days ago and said she'd be gone the next day.

"Mizis Taylor," she said, "I won't be here tomorrow. I got family problems."

"I'm sorry to hear that," Jill said.

"Well I need to get my work for tomorrow."

"You won't miss any work but we're having a special math game called MATHO" (like BINGO but with math problems), Jill said.

The girl shook her head and pursed her lips. "Ahh, man! I'm gonna miss MATHO."

Friday, September 03, 2004

Republican or Democrat?

I had at least four political conversations today. I thought politics wasn't safe to talk about. One Christian woman said, after I asked her if she'd heard Bush's speech Thursday, "I'm still voting for Kerry." I was glad to hear her say this unabashedly in the Republican hotbed of Nashville.

Just heard a good sermon by Tim Spivey of Highland Oaks Church of Christ in Dallas, Texas. It brings kingdom of God balance into the discourse on Republican and Democrat ideals and affirms that God's kingdom vision overrides the visions or conventions of parties.

Pathways to Freedom: Uncommon Decency