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Topics - Brian Stoffregen

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Your Turn / Poll: Change of doctors or insurance
« on: September 12, 2020, 08:39:44 PM »
The claim has been made that Obamacare, contrary to then President Obama, forced people to change doctors and insurance companies. I'm wondering how many in this forum had to change (or not) because of this program.

Your Turn / … and rare.
« on: September 03, 2020, 02:30:18 PM »

Some of the voting discussions have centered on abortion. For some, it seems, that is the single issue or most important issue concerning the candidates they will vote for (or against). I'd like to approach it from another angle.

Bill Clinton used this phrase about abortions: "Safe, legal, and rare."

I suspect that no one is in favor of unsafe abortions.

Many seek making abortions illegal, which some experts say will not happen; and others indicate that greater anti-abortion legislation does not reduce the number of abortions.

This leaves working at making abortions rare. Statistics indicate that they are becoming the rarest they have been since Roe v. Wade was passed in 1973.

The following article as well as some others indicate the two key ways of reducing abortions:
1. Proper sex education
2. Free birth control

The following article adds a third:
3. Tackling the subject of rape culture

Rather that arguing pro-life vs. pro-choice positions; I think a discussion about ways of making abortions rarer will be more fruitful.

Some additional issues besides those above.

4. How do we help women turn an unwanted pregnancy into a wanted pregnancy? This would include issues such as paid maternity leaves, adequate health care for the mother and child, salaries that are sufficient not just to live on, but also would pay for child care when needed.

Your Turn / One God, Three Persons
« on: July 18, 2020, 05:20:01 PM »
Once again I was charged with heresy.

In a similar way, I dislike the language: "Jesus rose from the dead." That makes it sound like Jesus made himself rise. If he were truly dead, he could do nothing for himself. I prefer the passive, "Jesus was raised from the dead." The Father, the Creator, who gave life to dirt, was the power behind raising the corpse of Jesus.
The ole Stoffregen heresy gratuitously rears its ugly head again.   ::)

I chose my language very carefully. Our God is three persons: Father, Son/Jesus, Holy Spirit. Jesus is not the Father. Jesus is not the Holy Spirit. The Father is not the Holy Spirit. To mix up these terms for the distinct persons is heresy.

Did Jesus raise himself from the dead? I say, "No." If Jesus had even a minute ability to do something for himself, then he wasn't truly dead. A part of him was still able to function. Then the analogy would be that when we are dead in our trespasses and sins, we still have a smidgeon of ability to bring ourselves back to the new life. I believe that our theology says that we are helpless - as helpless as Lazarus or Jesus being dead in their tombs.

Your Turn / I Am a Liberal
« on: June 13, 2020, 01:42:00 PM »
The following article has appeared on Facebook as coming from actor/director Ron Howard. It did not. The real author's name is included at the end of this post. It pretty much reflects my "liberal" positions.

An open letter to friends and family who are/were shocked to discover I'm a liberal...

This is going to be VERY long, so: TL;DR: I'm a liberal, I've always been a liberal, but that doesn't mean what a lot of you apparently think it does.

Some of you suspected. Some of you were shocked. Many of you have known me for years, even the majority of my life. We either steadfastly avoided political topics, or I carefully steered conversations away from the more incendiary subjects in the name of keeping the peace. "I'm a liberal" isn't really something you broadcast in social circles where "the liberals" can't be said without wrinkling one's nose.

But then the 2016 election happened, and staying quiet wasn't an option anymore. Since then, I've received no shortage of emails and comments from people who were shocked, horrified, disappointed, disgusted, or otherwise displeased to realize I am *wrinkles nose* a liberal. Yep. I'm one of those bleeding heart commies who hates anyone who's white, straight, or conservative, and who wants the government to dictate everything you do while taking your money and giving it to people who don't work.

Or am I?

Let's break it down, shall we? Because quite frankly, I'm getting a little tired of being told what I believe and what I stand for. Spoiler alert: Not every liberal is the same, though the majority of liberals I know think along roughly these same lines.

1. I believe a country should take care of its weakest members. A country cannot call itself civilized when its children, disabled, sick, and elderly are neglected. Period.

2. I believe healthcare is a right, not a privilege. Somehow that's interpreted as "I believe Obamacare is the end-all, be-all." This is not the case. I'm fully aware that the ACA has problems, that a national healthcare system would require everyone to chip in, and that it's impossible to create one that is devoid of flaws, but I have yet to hear an argument against it that makes "let people die because they can't afford healthcare" a better alternative. I believe healthcare should be far cheaper than it is, and that everyone should have access to it. And no, I'm not opposed to paying higher taxes in the name of making that happen.

3. I believe education should be affordable and accessible to everyone. It doesn't necessarily have to be free (though it works in other countries so I'm mystified as to why it can't work in the US), but at the end of the day, there is no excuse for students graduating college saddled with five- or six-figure debt.

4. I don't believe your money should be taken from you and given to people who don't want to work. I have literally never encountered anyone who believes this. Ever. I just have a massive moral problem with a society where a handful of people can possess the majority of the wealth while there are people literally starving to death, freezing to death, or dying because they can't afford to go to the doctor. Fair wages, lower housing costs, universal healthcare, affordable education, and the wealthy actually paying their share would go a long way toward alleviating this. Somehow believing that makes me a communist.

5. I don't throw around "I'm willing to pay higher taxes" lightly. I'm self-employed, so I already pay a shitload of taxes. If I'm suggesting something that involves paying more, that means increasing my already eye-watering tax bill. I'm fine with paying my share as long as it's actually going to something besides lining corporate pockets or bombing other countries while Americans die without healthcare.

6. I believe companies should be required to pay their employees a decent, livable wage. Somehow this is always interpreted as me wanting burger flippers to be able to afford a penthouse apartment and a Mercedes. What it actually means is that no one should have to work three full-time jobs just to keep their head above water. Restaurant servers should not have to rely on tips, multibillion dollar companies should not have employees on food stamps, workers shouldn't have to work themselves into the ground just to barely make ends meet, and minimum wage should be enough for someone to work 40 hours and live.

7. I am not anti-Christian. I have no desire to stop Christians from being Christians, to close churches, to ban the Bible, to forbid prayer in school, etc. (BTW, prayer in school is NOT illegal; *compulsory* prayer in school is - and should be - illegal) All I ask is that Christians recognize *my* right to live according to *my* beliefs. When I get pissed off that a politician is trying to legislate Scripture into law, I'm not "offended by Christianity" -- I'm offended that you're trying to force me to live by your religion's rules. You know how you get really upset at the thought of Muslims imposing Sharia on you? That's how I feel about Christians trying to impose biblical law on me. Be a Christian. Do your thing. Just don't force it on me or mine.

8. I don't believe LGBT people should have more rights than you. I just believe we should have the *same* rights as you.

9. I don't believe illegal immigrants should come to America and have the world at their feet, especially since THIS ISN'T WHAT THEY DO (spoiler: undocumented immigrants are ineligible for all those programs they're supposed to be abusing, and if they're "stealing" your job it's because your employer is hiring illegally.). I'm not opposed to deporting people who are here illegally, but I believe there are far more humane ways to handle undocumented immigration than our current practices (i.e., detaining children, splitting up families, ending DACA, etc).

10. I believe we should take in refugees, or at the very least not turn them away without due consideration. Turning thousands of people away because a terrorist might slip through is inhumane, especially when we consider what has happened historically to refugees who were turned away (see: MS St. Louis). If we're so opposed to taking in refugees, maybe we should consider not causing them to become refugees in the first place. Because we're fooling ourselves if we think that somewhere in the chain of events leading to these people becoming refugees, there isn't a line describing something the US did.

11. I don't believe the government should regulate everything, but since greed is such a driving force in our country, we NEED regulations to prevent cut corners, environmental destruction, tainted food/water, unsafe materials in consumable goods or medical equipment, etc. It's not that I want the government's hands in everything -- I just don't trust people trying to make money to ensure that their products/practices/etc are actually SAFE. Is the government devoid of shadiness? Of course not. But with those regulations in place, consumers have recourse if they're harmed and companies are liable for medical bills, environmental cleanup, etc. Just kind of seems like common sense when the alternative to government regulation is letting companies bring their bottom line into the equation.

12. I believe our current administration is fascist. Not because I dislike them or because I'm butthurt over an election, but because I've spent too many years reading and learning about the Third Reich to miss the similarities. Not because any administration I dislike must be Nazis, but because things are actually mirroring authoritarian and fascist regimes of the past.

13. I believe the systemic racism and misogyny in our society is much worse than many people think, and desperately needs to be addressed. Which means those with privilege -- white, straight, male, economic, etc -- need to start listening, even if you don't like what you're hearing, so we can start dismantling everything that's causing people to be marginalized.

14. I believe in so-called political correctness. Not because everyone is a delicate snowflake, but because as Maya Angelou put it, when we know better, we do better. When someone tells you that a term or phrase is more accurate/less hurtful than the one you're using, you now know better. So why not do better? How does it hurt you to NOT hurt another person? Your refusal to adjust your vocabulary in the name of not being an asshole kind of makes YOU the snowflake.

15. I believe in funding sustainable energy, including offering education to people currently working in coal or oil so they can change jobs. There are too many sustainable options available for us to continue with coal and oil. Sorry, billionaires. Maybe try investing in something else.

I think that about covers it. Bottom line is that I'm a liberal because I think we should take care of each other. That doesn't mean you should work 80 hours a week so your lazy neighbor can get all your money. It just means I don't believe there is any scenario in which preventable suffering is an acceptable outcome as long as money is saved.

So, I'm a liberal.

(c) 2018 Lori Gallagher Witt. Feel free to share, but please give me credit, and if you add or change anything, please note accordingly.

Your Turn / Justice and Forgiveness
« on: June 01, 2020, 12:39:02 PM »
How do we as Christians navigate Jesus’ call to forgive, (not seek revenge; not punish others as their sins deserve); and the call for justice, (to punish others as their crimes warrant)?

This is a more general discuss rather than specifically about justice for George Floyd.

Your Turn / What's a bishop?
« on: May 27, 2020, 02:07:32 PM »
So as to not cause further thread drift in the coronavirus discussion, I decided to move a discussion about "bishops" and/or "presidents" here.

While it is true that our ELCA bishops do not function quite the same way as bishops in other denominations, I still believe that they fulfill the biblical role of ἐπίσκοπος. Most literally, the word means "overseer". From Latin, "supervisor" carries the same idea.

Our bishops and their offices are responsible for the candidates for ordained ministry, the ordination of those endorsed for and Called to a congregation, the discipline of rostered folks, and the status of folks on the roster. They also oversee the health of congregations.

"Bishop" is a biblical term and one used throughout church history.

"President" is not a biblical term. However, it is used (at least in translation) by Justin in his Apology. It's a translation of a perfect active participle of προΐστημι = lit. "to stand before" or "to be placed before."

Your Turn / Sweet Magnolias - Netflix
« on: May 19, 2020, 06:05:06 PM »
Sweet Magnolias is a new series on Netflix.
The trailer:

Eric Christopher Shafer wrote about it on Facebook and its connection with Lutheranism.

Sheryl Anderson is an active member of my congregation, Mt. Olive, Santa Monica. Her new ten episode television series, "Sweet Magnolias" debuts on Netflix TODAY. Sheryl is the Showrunner and Head Writer for this series (also an Executive Producer). With her writing team, Sheryl wrote into the series that her three leading ladies attend Prince of Peace Lutheran Church, a fictional South Carolina ELCA congregation. (The series was filmed in Georgia). Their pastor offers counsel to all three during the first season. Sheryl writes that in the series "Church is an important part of the life of this community and I made the church an ELCA congregation so I could share our message of grace and inclusivity with the audience. Our ladies talk about grace, redemption and service They pray together and lift each other up as sisters in faith."

Your Turn / The Ten Words
« on: April 26, 2020, 02:30:08 PM »
"The Ten Words" as the Hebrew Bible calls them, עֲשֶׂרת הַדְּבָרִים (Exodus 34:28; Deuteronomy 4:13; 10:4, even though translators often use "ten commandments.").

For the most part, except for "remember" and "honor," the verbs are not imperatives, but the Hebrew imperfect. "You shall not murder" or "You didn't/don't/will not ever murder," rather than "Don't murder." The same is true with the Greek verbs in the LXX.

One of the issues is that Exodus 34:27 has the LORD telling Moses: "Write down these words …," while Exodus 34:1 (and others) state that the LORD will write the words …. Did Moses or the LORD write down the words? One explanation is that there were two traditions that were not harmonized. Another is that the LORD rewrote what was on the first tablets, then Moses wrote down the new instructions that were part of the second tablets.

Another issue is that if the Ten were written in stone, we would expect each account of them to be exactly the same. They are not. There are a few differences between the account in Exodus 20 and in Deuteronomy 5. Attached is a chart that compares the two (NRSV translation). The largest difference is the reason given for keeping/observing the sabbath day. There was some freedom when writing down these "words" in what became the Torah.

Further posts and attachments will compare the Hebrew with the LXX.

Your Turn / Words of Institution
« on: March 26, 2020, 07:04:06 PM »
Attached charts of the Words of Institution as found in the four places in scriptures, Justin Martyr, and the Liturgy of St. Chrysostom.

The first chart is the Greek texts from these sources. The second chart are my crude English translations except for St. Chrysostom where I used the translation from the Greek Orthodox Diocese of Australia. (That was also the source of the Greek text.)

These are presented for your study and discussion about the similarities and differences; not only among the biblical texts, but also within our liturgies. I have another chart that compares the words in ELW and LSB. There are differences.

Your Turn / Fruit of the Vine
« on: March 12, 2020, 04:07:34 AM »
After our discussion about the use of wine (and not grape juice) in communion, I decided to take a closer look at the phrase "fruit of the vine" used in Scriptures. It occurs in three verses: Matthew 26:29; Mark 14:25; and Luke 22:18. Luke has Jesus saying it before the words of institution the others have it after the words of institution.

In all of them, although the exact language is slightly different Jesus states that he will not drink from the fruit of the vine from now until he drinks it new in the Kingdom of his Father/God. (Luke has "when the kingdom of God comes.")

First of all, we can't claim that Jesus is drinking with us when he said that he won't drink it again. Mark Allen Powell states that this verse reminds us of the absence of Jesus in the sacrament. The presence of Jesus in the sacrament is not the same kind of presence that the disciples had at the supper. It is not the same kind of presence we will have when Jesus returns with the kingdom of God.

Secondly, the Greek of the phrase is not what I expected. The usual word for "fruit" is καρπός. In fact, that's the word used every other time "fruit" occurs in the New Testament. In the three passages above the word γένημα is used. It also occurs in 2 Corinthians 9:10 where it is translated "harvest". It is a noun based on the verb, γίνομαι = "to be" or "to become." It is used of "crops" from the field. It is what the vine produces, which, most literally, are grapes. It seems to me that grape juice is just as much a product of the vine as wine is.

Thirdly, the "fruit of the vine" does not have to be fermented juice. The ancient Greeks had a word for "wine," οἶνος. They also have a word for unfermented grape juice, τρύξ. The same is true in Hebrew. There are words for the fermented wine, and also words for "must" - the juice before it ferments. Their language indicates that they knew of the juice of grapes before they were fermented. So, it seems to me that the use of "fruit of the vine" (rather than the specific οἶνος) could refer to the new juice from the grapes before it had fermented, or afterwards, when it had become alcoholic.


Your Turn / Marriage - biblical and contemporary
« on: January 08, 2020, 05:08:32 PM »
Rather than continue a discussion on marriage in the Methodist discussion, I am starting a new subject.

Attached is a sheet with the Hebrew and Greek interlinear versions of Genesis 2:24. The three NT quotes are presented with the LXX version.

The Hebrew, דָּבַק is a word that literally refers to being stuck or attached together, e.g., bone to skin, hand to sword, tongue to the roof of the mouth. Figuratively, it is a term of loyalty, affection, closeness, while retaining a sense of being in close proximity, Ruth "clinging" to Naomi (Ruth 1:14); Boaz telling Ruth to "stay close" to his women in the field (Ruth 2:8, 21, 23). It is used of the "attraction" Shechem had for Dinah (Genesis 34:3). It is used of "holding fast" to the LORD our God (Deuteronomy 10:20; 11:22; 13:4; 30:20, etc.).

I don't find any other verses where it refers to the relationship between a husband and wife, besides Genesis 2:24. In other context, it is not a sexual term. It is a term about having a close relationship with; a commitment towards.

The Greek terms: κολλάομαι and προσκολλάομαι originally referred to "being glued together." Then they took on the sense of being in close proximity and a close relationship with. κολλάομαι does become a euphemism for sexual intercourse when Paul uses it in 1 Corinthians 6:16 as something one does with a prostitute. However, in the next verse, he uses the word to refer to our "unity" with Christ - a non-sexual reference.

It is the joining together of two or more things in a close relationship. Outside of the quotes of Genesis 2:24; it is never used of a married couple's relationship in the New Testament, but of many other relationships.

Generally, like דָּבַק, it presents an image of a very close and long-lasting relationship.

Your Turn / A Method of Bible Study
« on: January 05, 2020, 01:22:06 PM »
Attached is a Method of Bible Study. It is based on and an expansion of The Joy of Discovery by Oletta Wald that we used at the Lutheran Bible Institute in Seattle in the late 60s when I went there. In my own work, the "literal translation" is the Greek text for the NT and often the Hebrew or Greek of the OT. The questions are the same: tense, mood, and voice of verbs; connecting words, type of sentences, etc.

At seminary, they said that the "critical method" was asking questions (and seeking answers) of the text. Most of this method are questions. When they are answered one better understands the text and how it enters into our lives.

Your Turn / Evangelicals and Abortion: the History
« on: November 18, 2019, 04:39:10 PM »
Nadia Bolz-Weber in Shameless presents the history of how abortion got on the Evangelical Christian agenda.

In 1968, Christianity Today, the flagship magazine for conservative Evangelicals, published a special feature on birth control. The article quoted Bruce Waltke, a professor from the famously conservative Dallas Theological Seminary, who said that the Bible plainly teaches that life begins at birth, not conception.

“God does not regard the fetus as a soul, no matter how far gestation has progressed,” Waltke claimed. “The Law plainly exacts, ‘if a man kills any human life he will be put to death (Leviticus 24:17). But according to Exodus 21:22-24, the destruction of the fetus is not a capital offense. … Clearly then in contrast to the mother, the fetus is not reckoned as a soul.’”[1]

Physician Jonathan Dudley later wrote an opinion piece for CNN’s Belief blog in which he noted that viewpoint was the “consensus among evangelical thinkers at the time.”[2]

What changed? you might as. Well, not the Bible, that’s for sure. In 1969, several black families in Mississippi filed suit against private Christian schools that had excluded black students from enrolling. That’s what changed.

How is that lawsuit connected to views on abortion? When it comes to the Religious Right, the commonly held origin story is that in 1973 American Evangelicals woke from their political malaise as a response to Roe v. Wade. It’s a compelling story, but it’s not entirely true.[3] The issue that originally galvanized Evangelical Christian voters was one of “religious freedom” – namely, the freedom for Christian institutions to remain deeply racist.

Nine years before the suit against racist admission policies of Christian schools in Mississippi, Bob Jones Sr., an evangelist and the founder of the university that bears his name, claimed in a radio address that racial segregation was ordained by God, and that to oppose segregation was to oppose God and “God’s plan” for humanity.[4] It would not be until 1971, forty-four years after its founding, that Bob Jones University would admit its first African American student, and even then only because the federal government forced its hand.[5] That year, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Coit v. Green that private schools would be denied tax-exempt status if they maintained racially discriminatory policies.

Paul Weyrich, founder of the conservative think tank The heritage Foundation and one of the architects of the Religious Right, wanted to further rally American Christians as a moral force on the stage of 1970s American politics. So after mobilizing to defend Bob Jones University and its racially discriminatory policies, he and several other Evangelical leaders held a conference call to discuss their strategy going forward. The conversation is detailed by Dartmouth historian Randall Balmer in his book Thy Kingdom Come.

Someone suggested … that they had the makings of a broader political movement – something that Weyrich had been pushing for all along – and asked what other issues they might address. Several callers made suggestions, and then, according to Weyrich, a voice on the end of one of the lines said, “How about abortion?” And that is how abortion was cobbled into the political agenda of the Religious Right.[6]

After rallying to defend the religious freedom for conservative Christian institutions to remain racist and still retain tax-exempt status, a small coalition of Evangelical leaders wanted to keep the momentum going, and decided the issue that could build their movement was abortion. That was the day Evangelical started changing their minds around what the Bible says about when life begins.
[1] And in 1973, Robert L. Pettus Jr., a medical doctor, wrote a book titled As I See Sex Through the Bible, based on a series of classes he taught for his Church of Christ congregation in Madison, Tennessee. He painstakingly used scriptures to determine the answer to questions about sexuality and gender roles, most conclusions adhering to the conservative Christian thinking of the day. But when discussing what the Bible said about abortion, he concluded that a fetus does not have a soul because it was with breath that God gave Adam life.
[2] Jonathan Dudley, “My Take: When Evangelicals Were Pro-Choice,” Belief blog, CNN, October 20, 2012.
[3] Randall Balmer, Thy Kingdom Come: How the Religious Right Distorts Faith and Threatens America (New York: Basic Boos, 2006), Kindle ed., loc. 463-70.
[4] Daniel L. Turner, Standing Without Apology: The History of Bob Jones University (Greenville, SC: BJU Press, 2001), 225, 369.
[5] It was not until 2000 that interracial dating was no longer banned on the campus of Bob Jones University.
[6] Balmere, Thy Kingdom Come, Kindle loc. 481-532.

Your Turn / 2 Peter
« on: September 19, 2019, 11:08:01 AM »
2 Peter brings with it a whole host of issues. One that was brought up in another discussions is about the inspiration of "prophets" (2 Peter 1:20-21). These verses are part of an assigned pericope for Transfiguration A (2 Peter 1:16-21). My second post is a sermon I preached on that text back in 1984 - the only time in 43 years I preached on it. In it I raise issues of the authorship of 2 Peter (probably not Peter); and what vv. 20-21 might mean for us today.

Your Turn / Can we learn from good flag design?
« on: August 02, 2019, 03:22:40 AM »
I've enjoyed this TED talk on bad (and good) city flags.

The five good characteristics in the presentation are:
1. Keep it simple.
2. Use meaningful symbolisms.
3. Use two or three basic colors.
4. No lettering or seals.
5. Be distinctive (or be related)

Most of these guides I've also seen for banners. I've heard a liturgical artist say some of the same things about paraments and stoles. If one has to use words, then the symbols aren't clear enough.

Another interesting idea is to design the piece from the size as it will be seen. (For flags it means using a 1 inch by 1.5 inch space to design it; because that's how big it appears when people see a flag.) One might look at a banner or paraments from the back of the church; take a ruler, and measure how big it looks from there.

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