Wednesday, June 28, 2006

"Immoral use of Morality"

Weekend Fisher has posted an interesting discussion of the "immoral use of morality" in the debate about homosexuality Pet Peeves in Homosexuality Debate

This article helps me see why I'm not comfortable with the arguments used by some people that I probably agree with. And why I'm not being swayed by the other arguments. Great job, WF!

Monday, June 26, 2006

Immigration policy and racism

….Is it related?


Much is in the news these days about illegal immigration.  The emphasis is always on the “illegal” part of the equation.  And much is in the news about our southern border. 


Illegal immigration from the south almost always implies people who are not white.  This may not be stated, but it is certainly the implication.  But statements are made about language, about having immigrants learning English, regardless of where they are from. 


One thing that “seems” to be true is that employers are hiring people, either not caring or not checking if they are illegal. 


I know that when a company is interviewing a person for a job, there are a number of personal questions that are not allowed to be asked.  This begs the question:  Can an employer ask where a person is born?  Can they ask if and when the person was naturalized (to be a citizen of the US?)?  Apparently they can ask for certain documentation.


What about people who fit the general superficial description of an immigrant, but are legal citizens, perhaps even born here?  Do they have to constantly carry their birth certificates?  Most of the rest of us don’t have to do that.


We became acquainted with a couple with Hispanic last names because our children were friends.  They told us that the reason they were self-employed is that they faced so much apparent racism when they were looking for work.  I found myself assuming that they had come from Mexico at some point, even though they spoke English with the same accent as the rest of us.  Well, my assumptions were wrong.  They told me that they had come from Colorado where their people had a strong Spanish influence, and their ancestors had been there for 400 years. 


Will there be a backlash against people who appear to be immigrants, appear to be non-white, or people have accents? 


A young man I know, who is an immigrant, naturalized citizen, who speaks with a middle-American accent, has been having problems finding work.  He is clean-cut, well-spoken, outgoing, hard working, and has excellent recommendations, etc.  He gets called to come and find out about a job, but when he gets to some of these interviews, they’ve sometimes taken one look at him and said that the job has been filled.  Or they say that they will call back, and they don’t.  He is beginning to suspect racism.  His last name sounds “white,” which is why, he suspects, that he gets called for the interviews.  We are not talking great jobs here, but rather, part time work to make ends meet. 


He says that when he talks to his white friends, they deny that racism could possibly be a part of the equation.  And, of course, he doesn’t really know the real reason why he isn’t finding work.  Are whites still in denial that racism still exists?  This young man has also noticed that “all” of the cleaning people he sees anywhere are not white. 


What should people of faith do to influence the current public policy and climate?  What would you say to this young man?

Sunday, June 25, 2006

Old Hymns, New Music ?

As I posted on another day, our denomination is set to publish a new hymnal.  This will contain some old, some new, some music and hymns of other cultures.  In talking with a few other people about this and about music in their church in general, I’ve come to find out that many Lutheran churches don’t use any of the so-called newer hymnals we’ve had for several years. 


(And I’m sure that there are other churches that use music that they gather from a variety of sources, and in fact, some churches print their own music sheets.)


But one thing I’ve wondered about is how much of a shock a new hymnal will be to a church that is using our green hymnal exclusively.  That book is almost 30 years old. 


The church I attend, as I’ve mentioned before, has used music from a variety of sources.  We have come to love the With One Voice (blue hymnal.)  The copyright date on that is 1995.  We love the “new music” in that hymnal. 


Hmmmm, New Music?  Well, I counted the hymns today [while watching the Twins pound the Cubs 8 – 0.]  Since the blue book came out in 1995, I figured that I’d count anything copyrighted in 1990-1995 as “new.”  Anything before would be “old.” That means that new music could actually be 16 years old. 


There are 201 numbered hymns in the blue book.  Of those, 175 are more than 16 years old.  What really surprised me was not that many are from other cultures, but that a large number of the hymns are many centuries old.  Of course, at some time, those were new music as well.


Our church’s pianist has used the blue book with the Sunday School kids, teaching them the liturgy and a number of they hymns.  They love it.  I personally believe in also teaching the Sunday School kids some of the old beloved hymns.


Related Points:


No wonder some people seek to use much more contemporary music as a means to draw in the unchurched. 



The Roman Catholic Church as been commissioning much new music, and, in fact, employing some Lutherans to write it. 



“New” music doesn’t have to be loud or rock or any of the things that set the generations apart.

Saturday, June 24, 2006

Liberal or Conservative

I'm not telling you how I came out on this simplistic quiz. Lets just say I don't like either/or questions and so, when I had to make the choice, I did tend to lean a bit.
How Liberal or Conservative are you?

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Like a Mustard Seed

"What shall we say the kindom of God is like?....It is like a mustard seed.....when it is planted, it grows and becoms the largest of all the garden plants, with such big branches that the birds of the air can perch in its shade."

People in farm country know that the mustard is a weed. It is from the family Cruciferae, so named because their 4 petals form a cross. There are 138 species in our area.

We don't know which species Jesus had in mind, but we don't have one here that grows into a bush.

Our pastor pointed out that Jesus often turned conventional wisdom up side down, and in this case, we could conclude from the context of the previous section of the Gospel of Mark that Jesus may have been saying, "The kingdom of God is like a weed." The seed sprouts and grows even though the farmer doesn't know how.

We need to plant the good seed, but God through the Spirit grows it, and then we need to be ready for the harvest.
Posted by Picasa

Another flower with Three Petals

This flower has the inelegant name of Spiderwort. Posted by Picasa

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

New Hymnal

ELCA synod leaders prepare to introduce 'Evangelical Lutheran Worship'

My national church body is an the verge of publishing a new hymnal.  I've read that there is some controversy about the new hymnal, which, in some respects has seemed a bit strange to me because some of the people with 'issues' haven't seen this book because it hadn't yet been published  when they were complaining. 
Our church has used some of the liturgical prayers and some of the hymns from the trial material.  The hymns were fine, but, of course, I don't know how representative they are.  Our church likes to use music from a variety of cultural backgrounds, so this was nothing revolutionary for us.  We are currently using hymns from the ELCA's green book, blue book, maroon book [African American hymnal], modern RC hymns composed by Lutherans, as well as occasional hymns from the Family of God hymnal. 
Regarding the liturgy and prayers, seemed that if you liked to say something with 5 words instead of two, then the new prayers were for you.  But again, I don't know how representative this is of the book as a whole.  The pastor that was using those prayers also preached in the same mode. 
I've read through the whole trial edition of the new hymnal.  I didn't see anything in there that was all that revolutionary.  I did see that it says it contains quite a bit from our old green hymnal. 
I'm wondering why would we want to put money into a new hymnal if we already have these other resources?  Our books aren't worn out.  Sure, it might be nice to have the same hymnal in all ELCA churches so that there is something familiar when a person is visiting. 
Here's another thought if a church has some money to spend on their music program:  send the organist and pianist to some of the sessions to learn more about the new music.  Help them to become acquainted with and learn to play music from some of the other cultures that are represented in the new hymnal.  Help them learn to play the liturgy and the hymns of praise as they are meant to be played. 
I'm not trying to make a blanket negative judgment about church organists.  I'm reacting to some things I've experienced and heard.  For example, when we were using the green hymnal exclusively, our very accomplished organist played the hymns of praise in a praiseful, glorious way, but I've heard them played like funeral dirges in other churches.  Our organist said that she went to the sessions introducing the green hymnal and learned how these pieces were meant to be played and sung.  When the blue book was introduced, she played most of that music on the piano.  She said that much of that music, which our church really likes, isn't written as organ music.
Maybe the leadership for musical issues isn't entirely with the church's musicians, if the pastors are  picking the liturgy and hymns.  There are churches that still use only the green hymnal.  While there is nothing inherently wrong with that, it does seem like only shopping at the same store for 20 years. 

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Solve the world's problems....

I get news links on myYahoo under various topics that interest me. One today said,
"Christian Book Solves World Problems"

It went on to say,

A book entitled “The Unveiling of the Trinity,” provides the foundation for a common ground platform between the three major monotheistic world religions; Islam, Judaism and Christianity. The book offers a new look at the Trinity that could bring them closer to unity than any other source.

and it also said,

Bible scholars have searched for centuries for the answer to the mystery of the Trinity. "The Unveiling of the Trinity" is the one book that finally and completely does away with that so-called mystery commonly associated with the Trinity. It uncovers the element of God that the framers of the doctrine of the Trinity failed to document at the Nicene Council and it answers all the hard questions of the skeptic and non-believer with down-to-earth biblical answers.">PRWeb

Monday, June 19, 2006

Follow-up to the post about the NEWS

Here are a few more terms for uncritical thinking and bad arguments:
red herring, straw may, irrelevant response, insufficient evidence (including omission of key evidence or ignoring contrary evidence.)

Full Church

Our pastor has been here less than a year.  It was obvious yesterday that the pastor was surprised to see a full church on a beautiful summer Sunday.   (Actually, I counted 1.5 empty pews. )
The Good News is what God has done for us in Christ.  The further good news is that people do take time from their Sundays to worship God. 

There ARE good people!

My son, who lives in a big city, just called to tell me that he lost something valuable on Friday and it was turned in today, so he can go and reclaim it. 

Friday, June 16, 2006


I've been looking for representations of the cross in nature to photograph, but they haven't been readily evident. But nature comes in three-in-one frequently. I can already think of other things to photograph: the leaves of the jack-in-the-pulpit are three-in-one, for example. I'll be posting more pictures on this topic. Posted by Picasa

Thursday, June 15, 2006

What passes for NEWS these days....

I tend to be a news junkie and then when I overdo it, I draw back and tell myself that what has happened/is happening isn't changed because I turn on CNN or ABC or MPR whatever. I do believe in being an informed citizen, so I do try to keep up with the "NEWS," such as it is.

I remember being taught about news and journalism in high school (see previous post) and learning that there was (supposed to be) a difference between the news reporting and the editorials. I don't see that difference anymore. While it would be humanly impossible to keep all bias out of reporting, I believe there should be an attempt at separation.

But, at least on the news on my satellite TV stations, we have anchor persons who are well known to have a certain slant to their reporting as well as anchors who bait their interviewees. My personal pet peeve is when there are "experts" discussing an issue who constantly interrupt the other person. Louder isn't more correct.

Fortunately, there are other anchors/reporters on other stations who report on some misstatements and lies others have made. And some of the news shows are made fun of on talk shows for their slants.

What to do? Well, keep an open mind, for one thing. Check out several sources. Look for news on the internet that comes from many sources. There are blogs which supposedly give the "other" side of just about any issue you may want to read about. [One of the problems with the blogs, I've found in my limited reading, is that some of these are also very slanted and won't allow comments by people who disagree with their "facts"or viewpoints.]

And it wouldn't hurt to let the news stations know that we want editorials separated from reporting. Yet we have to applaud investigative reporting, so we don't just accept what seems to be superficially true or what is handed out by politicians trying to be reelected.

But who has time for all of this? Not people who are working and thinking and raising families, that's for sure.

But we do have to hone the skills necessary to see biases and slants. The following was lifted from a discussion on an internet group I belong to.

"Another excellent book is With Good Reason: An Introduction to Informal Fallacies by S. Morris Engel."

<< If we could get everyone in the country to read something like this, what passes for modern journalism would be in deep trouble!>>

"Ain't that the truth. I was pondering recently which fallacies are most common amongst the talk show crowd, but there are so many it's hard to say for sure. Ad hominem attacks (on the speaker rather than the argument); bifurcation (saying it's either this or that, when there may be other alternatives); equivocation (changing the meaning of a key word); omission of relevant facts; false cause; hasty generalization... it's endless! My husband and I have fun playing "Name That Fallacy" when listening to political commentators, especially."

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

A Prayer in song.

Singer/Songwriter, Laura Cohn Adds The Name Allah To Her Spiritual Song “Wakantanka” In Response To Anti-Semitic And Anti-Israel Muslim Politics

Full Article Here

"About Laura Cohn:
Laura Cohn is an advocate of new thinking and takes issue when unconscious behavior is being promoted in the news. She particularly seeks to infuse accepted beliefs with new ideas so that people will not automatically buy into what they are being “sold” as necessary in society that does not serve the greater good for all people living on the planet now and in future generations. She is currently performing around LA."
Knowing nothing about this song or songwriter, I am not endorsing her or the song or the prayer. But I thought that the concept is interesting and worthy of thought and consideration.
I am grateful for a class in high school that taught me to look for bias and slant in the news and other media by looking at the words chosen to portray an issue. Too often we are asked to accept a slanted version of something as the whole truth. Too often we are asked to label groups of people as Other, so that we can put them on a step lower than our step. It sure isn't always easy, but I try to remember that all people were made by "my God."

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Da Vinci Code

We had a discussion on the Da Vinci Code at church this evening, led by the pastor and by a man who used to be an English teacher who has read and researched some of this same material.

The pastor took the approach that rather than say this book was good or bad, true or false, let's discuss it and use it as an opportunity to learn about the history of the church. Most of the time was spent on early church history and the early Christian writings and how that became the canon, and how Dan Brown used this as fact or fiction in the book.

I think the pastor had an interesting approach. The first topic of discussion was what do we believe. So people contributed several central Christian beliefs and the pastor listed them. Later when some topics came up that were, perhaps, written up as truth in the novel, but may be just from Brown's imagination, the pastor asked, "if these things were true, how would that change our core beliefs?" The answer was clear: our beliefs would remain the same.

The pastor also made an interesting point about Mary Magdalene: If you take a more women-centered view of the Bible than has been traditional, then she is the apostle to the apostles (rather than a nobody or a prostitute.) But if she indeed married Jesus and bore his child, as the book's theme proposes, then she is a notable person because of her husband. In other words, she is "elevated" not for feminist reasons.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

"What Price Revenge?"

Out of the Middens, who obviously knows something of the Bible but is perhaps not a current believer, ponders the Biblical statement "Vengeance is mine" in her posting what prive revenge

Monday, June 05, 2006

Survey for Lutherans; Answering my own questions

Survey originally posted on 5/6/2006. Several people posted comments in answer to these questions. Others answered me privately.

1. What is the approximate numbers who worship on a Sunday morning? How many services? Are there midweek worship opportunities? Why? Are there any outreach worship services?

We have approximately 125 – 175 in church most Sundays. We have many visitors attend our services, especially in summer, so the summer attendance is similar in number to winter attendance, but almost like a different congregation. There is one service on Sunday morning. No outreach services now. There are other non-worship activities such as Bible studies, youth group, meetings, funerals, as well as non-religious functions that take place, giving an estimated use of the church of about 300 - 450 people per week.

Given that the nature of employment in our area has many people working on Sunday mornings, I think that providing an alternative worship time and day would serve the community. Our RC brothers and sisters usually have such an alternative. A church has to be committed to this for the long haul, regardless of attendance to make it work.

2. Do people travel a long way to this church? Are there other Lutheran churches people can choose from without traveling more than 15 miles? Is your church in a tiny town, rural area, small city, big city?

My church is in a tiny town in a rural area. Many people drive at least seven miles to attend church. The closest ELCA church is almost 20 miles away. According to the yellow pages, there are about 30 Lutheran churches of various kinds within about 50 miles.

3. What age groups does your church attract? Since younger adults often don’t attend church, if you do have lots of young adults, do you know what brings them to your church? Do you have a youth group? Do you have adults who volunteer to help? Do you pay a youth leader?

Most of the people who attend are older middle age and up, but there are some people of all ages. This used to be a church of lots of young couples who were very active, but we aged and the younger groups didn’t fill in. This is somewhat because of demographics [all the school populations are shrinking] and somewhat because of the general changes in society, but I can’t help but think that we must have had something lacking. I sense that another church in our community is attracting the young families with a stronger program for children and families.

We have a paid youth leader and have had one for a number of years. There are at least 4 youth leaders who volunteer to help every week as well. The youth program attracts a good following, although those kids seem to attend on Sunday only if their parents attend on Sunday.

The youth have a weekly meeting during the school year, retreats, conventions in the state, and camping trips.

Sunday School attendance is about 20 students, whereas at one time we often had about 60 children.

4. Does this church have a mixture of ethnic backgrounds? Does this church have mostly people who were always Lutheran or does it have many people who came from other types of denominations? If your church has people of mixed denominational backgrounds, do you know why they come to your church?

Most of the people are of N. European descent, with a very few non-white people. There is a mixture of cradle Lutherans and people who chose this church, including some who chose it as a compromise made by couples of two differing Christian backgrounds.

Making a very unscientific mental survey, I’d say that at least half of the very active people in this church, including past and present paid staff, have come from non-Lutheran backgrounds. Perhaps “choosing” a church is like choosing where to live rather than just living somewhere because that’s where mom and dad lived: the person actually compares and contrasts and likes the openness and acceptance of this church. We've had a number of baptisms of children, teens, and adults.

5. How many pastors does your church have? Other employees who do ministry, such as a youth director or parish nurse?

One full time pastor, two part-time office people, a part-time parish nurse and part-time youth director.

6. Would you say that your church has a strong pastoral leadership style or a style of lots of lay leaders, committees, that are active and that the pastor can delegate to? Other styles? Does your church have any lay people who are willing to be the worship leader at a Sunday service? Lay people who preach? Lay people who visit the shut-ins? Lay people who help serve communion? Other opportunities for lay people? If you are in a church where the pastor is in charge of everything, what do you think would happen if a new pastor wanted the people to be part of the ministry? Is your pastor pulled in many directions, in danger of being over committed and worn out? Do you think that most people realize all that a pastor does?

Our church has strong and active lay leaders who look to the pastors we have had for guidance, opinions, and spiritual direction. There are a number of active committees (or teams, depending on the in-jargon of the moment.) Some of these meet regardless of the pastor’s attendance.

We had had lay readers in church for at least 25 years, as well as occasional lay preachers. There are probably close to a dozen people who have been lay preachers, and a few people who will lead a worship service and/or do the liturgy.

Lay people always help serve communion, and a few lay people take communion to the shut-ins. There has been an on-going effort for years to have more lay people do visiting of others, but it hasn’t been sustained. There is also a feeling among some of the older members that the (generic) pastor “should” do all the visiting, visit everybody, even magically decide who needs to be visited without an invitation.

No one ever knows all that the pastor does because the pastor is never at liberty to talk about the various visitations he/she does.

7. What is the worship style of your church? Green book? Blue book? Maroon book? Your own music or books? Liturgical? Formal? Informal? Mixed even in the same service? Different services for different types of styles? Do you have an organ, piano, guitar, other instruments? Does the pastor or worship leader sing the liturgy? Choir? Mostly traditional hymns? Newer praise music? Music from various ethnic backgrounds, even if your people are not of that background? Who decides what hymns will be sung and what liturgical setting will be used?

I tend to think of the style of our church as being informal because it is friendly and touches on real-world goings on of the community, with give and take and appropriate laughter. But we do use the liturgy and it is usually sung. [Aside: sung/chanted liturgy is supposedly “traditional” but I never experienced this (meaning the pastor singing) until I was in my 30’s, even though I’ve always been Lutheran.]

We use both the blue book and the green book. I think that the people tend to sing out more with the songs from the blue book (With One Voice.) We’ve also been using some music from the Renewing Worship materials, as well as some of the great new music that the Catholic Church is using, much of it composed by Lutherans. We've used music from the ELCA's African American hymnal (maroon book, sorry don't remember the name.) The musicians have been very interested in using the hymns that come from other cultures especially from the blue book, as well as some old gospel music. We don’t do them any better than we do old Bach and Schubert music, so I don’t see a problem with this. [Make a joyful noise unto the Lord.] There is a small choir and a bell choir.

There is a worship committee who makes the decisions as to what liturgies we will use for the seasons and also picks the hymns. There is a place for congregants to suggest songs. The worship committee includes the pastor, but this committee also works when there is no pastor.

The music is usually led by both the organ and piano, as is the custom in our area. Hymns that are better played on the piano without the organ are done that way. On occasion, there might be guitar or violin with the piano, and conga drums or rhythm instruments if they fit the song. I've noticed occassionally we've used a hymn that some people consider an old favorite that I've never heard before because it comes from a different tradition.

8. Is your church building a "traditional" style building? More modern style? Older building remodeled into a modern style? Explain. Do you think that the style of the building influences the style of the worship?

The building is set up in the traditional way, but it 30 years old with none of the old style architecture. It is a fairly straightforward, humble building, very serviceable. Several years ago the front interior of the church was remodeled for better function. One great change was that the furniture in the front, altar and altar rail are all moveable so that it is possible to meet changing needs and types of services.

9. Have you had a woman a president of the church or council? Have you had a woman pastor or in another leadership position?

The first woman council president was elected about 20 years ago, and we have had several since. We have had a woman pastor. This seems to be a non-issue for the council and pastor and lay preachers. We have had many strong male leaders on the council as well. On the other hand, the leadership and most teachers for Sunday School and Bible School have all been women. It has been harder to get men to volunteer to be the lector, but that has changed and they now participate about equally.