civil religion


January was a much needed Sabbatical @E4Unity

I don’t know if you missed me, but I sure missed posting for you. I have been busy refilling the tank, as they say, by reading a lot of blogs and tweets and adding new friends.

from phoenixmasonry.org

So now I think we’re ready to get back to blogging about humankind and the universal conditions we’re all faced with in the new year. To start us off, with an eye to the Lenten season coming up fast and the present situation in Egypt and the mid-east, I hope this will interest you. Comments from the Letter to the Hebrews:

The preacher finds in these antitheses the basic truth of the matter. His weakness in dying defined his power in ruling. With all other New Testament witnesses he was obsessed with the paradox of the passion story. It was by sharing in flesh and blood that Jesus became a faithful and merciful high priest; it was by being tempted that “he is able to help those who are tempted” (2:18). The devil had tempted him to fear death and thus to become enslaved to the devil; but by resisting this temptation Jesus had received power to free men from that fear, that bondage. So, in the sequence of images by which the preacher gave tribute to Jesus’ glory in 1:1-4, we must give full weight to the mention of the “purification for sins”. This action of expiation explains Jesus’ power to uphold the universe, his work in the creation of the world, his appointment as heir of all things.

Paul S.Minear writing in “God’s Glory in Man’s Story”.

 

 

” That they may behold my glory” – The Prayer of Jesus 


Gifts of the Ascended Christ

 

The greatest desire that Christ expressed in his prayer was that his people might be with him to behold his glory. It is clear that in this prayer the Lord Christ was referring to his own glory and the actual sight of it.

Only a sight of his glory, and nothing else, will truly satisfy God’s people. One of the greatest privileges the believer has, both in this world and for eternity, is to behold the glory of Christ.

Ever since the name of Christ was known on the earth, there has never been such direct opposition to the uniqueness and glory of Christ as the present day. It is the duty of all those who love the Lord Jesus to testify according to their ability to his uniqueness and glory.

I would therefore try to strengthen the faith of true believers by showing that to see the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ by faith is the climax of all Christ’s requests for his disciples in this present world. Here in this life, beholding the glory of the Lord, they are changed into his own likeness by his Spirit (2Cor.3:18). Hereafter, they will be like him for they will see him as he is (1 John 3:2). This knowledge of Christ is the continual life and reward of our souls.

If, therefore we would have a more active faith and a greater love to Christ, giving rest and satisfaction to our souls, we must have a greater desire to see more of his glory in this life. We should not look for anything in heaven other than what we have some experience of (by faith) in this life. If we were fully persuaded of this we would be more often thinking about heavenly things than we usually are.

– John Owen (1684) from The Glory of Christ, the theme of the final year of his life (d.1683).

If Owen found it difficult in England in his day, how much more in our day to keep the greatest gift of all our constant priority. The Advent season is the perfect time to evaluate the year and one’s own choices to judge how well we have resisted all the distractions of the world and kept our eyes on this Leader who is both the Author and Perfecter of our faith.

 

Watch ‘Jesu, Joy of man’s desiring’.

For Brazilians: YouTube honoring Nilson Fanini (1932-2009)  “Verei Jesus como Ele e’ ” e tambem “Para Que vejam a minha gloria” http://youtu.be/3HLhhHNDvxg

Related Post: What difference has looking made?

 

 

Think Beyond the Labels!

I don’t usually plug commercials on my blog though I was sorely tempted by a couple of this year’s Superbowl ads. But this one I simply could not resist the temptation. It goes to the heart of my advocacy for unity and peace- we must learn to resist labeling and the evils that it can produce in how we approach our fellow beings.

Related post on PsychologyToday (Addiction in society)

The American Legion in Atmore, AL is our Santa!

Aimee Todd nearing her 12 birthday visits Santa

” Judy Todd’s husband, Lt. Commander David Todd, is serving in Iraq, so their nine children were chosen with seven being able to attend the event.

Victoria, Micah, Aimee, Rebecca, Christian, Daisy and Lily Todd ranging from 15 years to 22 months were on hand to receive gifts from Santa.

Tammy Fullbright, who made the trip with her mother Debbie Fullbright also got to sit on the jolly ole fat man’s lap along with Abby Kate Helton, who’s grandfather is Staff Sergeant Richard Stuckey is posted in Afghanistan.

Judy Todd said the Legion was very generous for giving gifts to her children as well as the others involved.

“It was all just a generous and sweet thing that they did,” she said. “My husband was extremely grateful that they did this for our family.”

With such a generous event having a tremendous impact, the Legion is already looking to next year. (Read more…)

Aimee is our grand-daughter who is about to celebrate her twelveth birthday. The American Legion post 90 is only one of thousands who deserve our thanks for doing what Santa gets all the credit for at this time of year! This is truly the “secular” spirit of Christmas in America and has been tremendously influenced by another Giver and His audacious Gift to humankind some 2,000 years ago. Merry CHRISTMAS to my blogging friends. 

 

I don’t know, but I have my doubts, especially this year.

Thanksgiving is a North American civil holiday and not an actual religious holiday per se. Thanks to the nature of our American tradition and the function of religion in that tradition, for many it is the time that all faith traditions emphasize the importance of thanksgiving to the Creator and ultimate source of all blessing in life. So in theory, Muslims in the United States could easily embrace this American tradition and the function that it plays in our National identity and culture.

Did you know that there is another celebration, very significant to Muslims world-wide, that begins the day after Thanksgiving (this year) and this is the main reason for my doubts. It is simply a matter of the “prior” engagement that Muslims no doubt will be occupied with, much like my wife is now occupied with as she prepares for a house full of relatives for Thanksgiving. The Muslim festival I’m referring to is not just one day, but four days, and is called the “Festival of Sacrifice“.

This week Mohammedans celebrate their “Festival of the Sacrifice,” their Id al-adha, with slaying of animals and donations of the flesh to the poor. In New York City the festival has an unusual significance. It is due to the fact that the city has some 18,000 Moslems—Polish Tartars, Albanians, Turks, Hindus, Arabs, Malays, Filipinos. Some 700 assembled at Brooklyn last year for the first time for prayer, prostration and sacrifice. See the link above for more information of this festival which has some similiar features so prominent in our Thanksgiving activities, though we usually don’t refer to the slaughter of so many turkeys as a religious sacrifice. One final picture from Pakistan which is so prominent in our daily news, may be worth a “thousand words”.

Cannon

Billy Cannon runs for an 89 yard LSU touch-down

On October 31, 1959, one of college footballs premier teams, the LSU Tigers, won a closely contested game with an amazing punt return by a Heisman trophy winner named Billy Cannon.

I was introduced to the Louisiana culture as a child, since my mother and her family for five generations were a part of it. This story over at ESPN is pure Louisiana culture if it is anything. But it is much more: it is the culture of the South and the place sports, especially football, plays in that culture. The folk heroes are more often than not, the football stars.

But Billy Cannon’s story-about a young married football star who seemed to have it all, after spending eleven years in the NFL, returned home to take up his life as a Dentist, and fell from grace. He was found guilty of counterfeiting $100 bills and sent to prison.

The Redemption of Billy Cannon is an excellent article that fully explains every factor in this story to the depth of infamy after the pinnacle of fame and the long road back to finding a place of honor in the State of Louisiana and beyond at age 72. No, you won’t find any mention of religion or religious faith in this story- it’s not that kind of redemption. I would rather call it a great example of redemption American vintage cultural style.

Be sure to read the whole story and watch the video of Cannon’s famous punt return at The Redemption of Billy Cannon. Thank you Wright Thompson and ESPN for the memory and the lesson on the American football culture.

What did the wise man of Proverbs have in mind?

Yours truly, E4Unity

Yours truly, E4Unity

I’m going to have another birthday in a few days so I guess that explains why I’m doing a little more cogitating than usual, thinking about life and how to live in a manner pleasing to the Creator and Sustainer of all life.
This phrase which comes from the Book of Proverbs in the Old Testament,
caught my eye and off I went looking for just what the wise man meant.
There is a way that seems right to a man, But its end is the way of death”. (14:12 and 16:25)
If you have a couple of minutes I’ll try to tell you the gist of my thoughts and then tell you what I discovered, from all people, Charles G. Finney, who seems to have come to the same answer.
I always took it for granted that in keeping with so many of the wise sayings about life by the wise man of Proverbs, that this “right way” of living was in stark contrast to all those he labels as “foolish”, “wicked”, “sinner”, “scoffer”, or even “backslider”, etc. It just made sense that this expression also referred to a specific, observable class of individuals who seemed to be radically different (by observation) than these others. And yet it struck me that he says these folks, living a way that seems to them to be the right way to life, ended up instead coming to the same end- death.
So I thought about other parts of the Biblical narrative, wondering if the answer was not clearly revealed in other places both in the New as well as the Old Testaments. Could it be, I mused to myself, that this has reference to the “religious” folks- those that not only believe this is the right way to live, but actually practice a specific codified system of rules of an organized religious order? In the context of the Old Testament, the keepers of the Old Covenant-those who lived by the rule of law?
Now I’ve speant a lot of time in Paul’s letter to the Romans over the last forty years or so, and I remember that part of Paul’s thesis in that letter is that there is something that the law, as perfect as it is, just can’t produce: the right way of living before God (righteous living). So to make a long time of meditating as simple as I can, that is exactly the conclusion I came to, not only reflecting upon one book of the Bible, but reflecting on the entire story-line. The reason why the announcement to the Shepherds that Jesus had been born was such good news, “tidings of great JOY to all peoples” makes sense to me now as I prepare for Advent season. Read the following Scripture and see if you see what I see:
“2) For the law of the Spirit of life has set you  free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. (3) For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin,  he condemned sin in the flesh, (4) in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.”  (Romans 8:2-4)
FinneyTo see what Finney said about
this in July, 1859, Go Here! (approaching his 67th birthday)

An Amazing Revelation captured on film!

No, this time I’m not referring to the scandals of Wall Street or the multiple debacles of failed government both State and Federal, that we have been forced to view daily on the news in the last year. This time, I’m happy to be able to report on a much richer and far more uplifting project that is now ready for viewing about the real soul of the American people- including those we refer to as the “Native Americans”.

It’s all there; recorded for us marvelously in the epoch film-making of Ken Burns married to outstanding texts narrated by a rich assortment of eye witnesses from both the past and the present. It is the PBS production of “Our National Parks: America’s Best Idea”. Set to premiere on Sunday, this wonderful National treasure can be viewed on the internet in multiple clips that give us a sample of what it’s all about- our national soul; touching the living spirits of the land and the ancestors that have gone ahead before us. Don’t settle for this one clip! Press on to view as many as you can emotionally stand. And remember the theme: This land belongs to YOU and ME, this great land which is AMERICA.

SMITHSONIAN CHANNEL this weekend

“At that moment . . .there was a feeling. . .HOPE: it was the feeling that something better was going on, and what you’re doing has some special meaning! I was lucky to live at that moment.”

Studs Terkel WPA writer

Studs Terkel WPA writer

I caught part of Bob Edward’s program on PRI this morning and it was fascinating. Turns out it was about a program that the Smithsonian channel is showing this Labor Day weekend:

FDR’s Works Progress Administration (WPA) funded four arts program.  One of those, the Federal Writer’s Project, employed thousands of writers and started the careers of some of America’s most famous authors like Studs Terkel, Ralph Ellison, Richard Writer, Saul Bellow, and Zora Neale Hurston.  Bob talks with writer David Bradley about a new documentary that tells the story of the Federal Writer’s Project.  “Soul of a People: Writing America’s Story” premiers on the Smithsonian Channel this weekend.

 I had never heard of this WPA project before. Evidently at the time it uncovered more than a few of America’s “dirty linen” such as the extent to which “slavery” was still alive and well in the 20th century. But there is a lot more I’m sure about the strength of America’s grass roots communities immediately following the ravishes of the Great Depression.

I hope you get to listen to Bob’s program sometime soon and for sure take time to see the special on SmithsonianChannel.

PREVIEW Sneak Peak (video)

Sadness of Coming to the end:  The Year of Saint Paul

yearofpaul

This has been a wonderful year for me to be involved with the larger Christian community in celebrating the 2000th birthday of the Apostle Paul. Of course we’re really not saying goodbye to the Apostle of Liberty, how could we without saying goodbye to the Holy Scriptures themselves. But I do have a certain sadness in seeing yet another golden opportunity to celebrate our Christian unity with the universal community of faith pass into history.

So as I post my final attempt to look at Saint Paul’s influence on the Christian Church, I’ve decided to return to an old friend mentioned early in this series, James S.Stewart, author of “A Man in Christ“, first published in London in 1935.

The Vital Religion of Jesus Christ

One thing I’ve been able to do in this ‘Year of Saint Paul’, through my own study as well as looking at countless blogs and essays, including those of Pope Benedict XVI, is put to the test a working hypothesis regarding what Saint Paul contributes to the whole narrative of Holy Scripture- the unfolding drama of redemptive history.

Thank you for taking an interest in my personal journey of faith. So once more I come back to that hypothesis: that the Apostle Paul does play a rather decisive role/function in the Biblical narrative that centers on Jesus of Nazareth. In fact, I’m now ready to advance that hypothesis a step further, and say that Paul the Apostle is in himself and his writings the greatest interpreter of what James Stewart calls, “The Vital Religion of Jesus Christ“.

Paul or Paulism: The Great Dilemma

When Saint Paul composed his great hymn of Praise to Love (I Corinthians 13), he began by distinguishing between the vital religion of Jesus Christ, as it had gripped his own experience, and certain more or less imperfect and unbalanced forms of religion, which from that day to this have sheltered themselves under the name of Christianity.”

This is the dilemma for the Christian Church today in the age of the international blogging community just as it has been down through the years of Christianity: the distortions of “the vital religion of Jesus Christ” in all the different views of that religion that are out there in the real world of hurting, lonely, lost, suffering, humanity. These distortions is what the world sees and feels around them instead of the authentic Christ of the New Testament Gospel. And frankly, this frustration at times almost overwhelms me. This is why I came to the place almost ten years ago, after a great deal of experiencing much of this frustration, where I intentionally made the decision to stop promoting any one “imperfect and unbalanced form of religion” as found in the religious ideologies of Christendom, and instead try to model and encourage everyone I could to get back to the original as found in the Biblical narrative itself. So I will leave you and the year of celebrating Saint Paul’s birth (even that is arbitrary) with these remarks with which James Stewart opened his book in 1935:

Gifts and graces which God intended to be the adornment of the Christian community may cease to be its adornment, and become its snare. “Though I speak with the tongues of men and angels”- that is religion as ecstatic emotionalism. “Though I have the gift of prophecy, and undersand all mysteries, and all knowledge”- that is religion as gnosis, intellectualism, speculation. “Though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains”- that is religion as working energy. “Though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor”- that is the religion of humanitarianism. ” Though I give my body to be burned”- that is the religion of asceticism.

All these one-sided and patently inadequate representations of the Gospel, Paul expressly repudiates. Yet history, which has been unjust to many of its greatest men (and women), has given us from time to time, by the strange irony of fate, a Paul who is himself the type and embodiment of the very things against which he strove with might and main.

We have had Paul the ecstatic visionary, Paul the speculative theologian, Paul the organiser and ecclesiastic, Paul the humanitarian moralist, Paul the ascetic (mystic). Of these portraits which have appeared at different times in the course of Pauline study, by far the most unfortunate in its results has been the second- Paul the dogmatist, the doctrinaire thinker, the creator of a philosophy of religion, the constructor of a system. This is history’s greatest injustice to its greatest saint. It is the blunder which has ruined Paul for thousands. . . Paul’s worst enemy down through the centuries has not been Paul: it has been Paulinism. (from A Man in Christ, James S.Stewart, Harper & Row)

May we dedicate ourselves afresh to avoid (and repudiate) with all our might these distortions of this passionate lover of Jesus Christ  whom he served in life and by many sufferings and finally, death.

Related readings & downloadable essays at Christ in You, Ministries,see “Christianity is NOT a religion“, by James A.Fowler

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