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Messages - Dan Fienen

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Your Turn / Re: LCMS Inc 2020 Report
« on: Yesterday at 09:10:04 PM »
Our congregation voted and we have registered our vote, to delay.

Your Turn / Re: Inauguration Day
« on: January 21, 2021, 10:51:20 PM »
Pastor Fienen:
 I am troubled by your assertion that when those of us on the conservative/traditional side of issues are in a minority somehow we should accept that as making us wrong.
The issue has nothing to do with whether you are right or wrong. It has to do with whether or not your particular set of convictions prevail when it comes to laws and regulations.
Everyone in public office might have to make decisions that impact their church. That possible impact cannot be their main concern. The president has said he will be the president of all of us. If he acts only in accord with the teachings of his own church, he will not be that.
Majority or minority, I know what I believe is right or wrong, although I might become convinced that I was mistaken about that, but not just by having it pointed out that the opinion on right and wrong that I hold is the minority position. And yes, I do realize that just because I think a position is right, if it is a minority position, it likely will not be enshrined in laws and regulations. Our political system is set up so that the majority position prevails. It is also set up to protect minority positions from the tyranny of the majority. There are certain rights baked into our Constitution that give some protection to those holding minority positions from being run roughshod over merely because the position they hold is unpopular.

I also understand that law must be upheld even if it goes against our personal beliefs or those taught by our church. After Obergefell there was the county clerk in Kentucky who refused to issue marriage licesnses to same-gender couples because it went against her personal beliefs and that of the church she belonged to. I agreed that she either needed to make peace to doing her duty as county clerk and issue those licenses as an official as the county (despite her personal disagreement, she was not issuing licenses as an individual but in an official capacity) or find other responsibilities in county government. But the abortion issue that I would have with the position that Pres. Biden has taken is a bit different. As President, it will be his responsibility, among other things, to see that the duly enacted laws of the United States are enforced. If laws are enacted by Congress supporting providing abortions in cases other than when a mother's life is imperiled by continuing her pregnancy, then he has no right to impose his own beliefs or that of his church to contravene those laws. But my concern is for what laws and regulations he will seek to have enacted. Pres. Biden pledged to advocate and work for pro-choice laws and regulations and to remove protections for the unborn. That is not imposing the Roman Catholic position on abortion on other people, it is working to remove that position from consideration. If he is thereby going advocating against his beliefs as a Roman Catholic because he thinks those beliefs will hinder his election, I do not think that would reflect honor to him. If he honestly believes that the Roman Catholic teaching is wrong, then he own up to his rejection of the teaching of his church. Doesn't necessarily make him not a Roman Catholic but it does reveal a disagreement that he has with his church. What he cannot do is pretend that he is allowing his Roman Catholic faith to be informing and inspiring his actions in this matter.

Your Turn / Re: Inauguration Day
« on: January 21, 2021, 05:43:03 PM »
Peter writes:
Judgmental and mean words about the president? Questioning his sincerity? What is the forum coming to? Please stay on topic and not let this degenerate into another locked thread.
I muse:
Someone raised the issue of President Biden's "credentials" as a Roman Catholic; and it seems clear that at least one, possibly two or three people here believe that he cannot be truly Roman Catholic and hold the views he holds on laws and regulations relating to abortions. They therefore question his references to his faith as insincere, cynical or lacking proper "credentials."
Hard reality, folks. Millions and millions of active, practicing, Roman Catholics, people who go to mass regularly, have their children baptized and confirmed, respect their priests and love watching the Christmas Eve mass from the Vatican hold "pro choice" views on abortion legislation. Who are we to make that one issue a test of one's "credentials" as a Roman Catholic?
President Biden's Roman Catholic faith was referenced in the inauguration, and clergy from other parts of the One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church also took part. Let it go at that.
It is emphatically not for me to opine as to Pres. Biden's credentials as a Roman Catholic or the sincerity of his Catholic faith or his sincerity as a Catholic. If anyone is in a position to do so it would be his priest or his priest's ecclesiastical superiors in the diocese in which he holds membership. (I could point out that you, Charles, have questioned the Christian sincerity of those who voted for or in any way supported President Trump, but I digress.)

I do not question Biden's sincerity. What I note is that some of the positions that he positively advocates are at variance with the official positions of the Roman Catholic Church, and that while he makes mention of his faith as a Catholic and credits his faith for informing the morality of his positions, suddenly his Catholicism drops from view when he talks about abortion.

Hard reality, folks. Millions and millions of active, practicing, Roman Catholics, people who go to mass regularly, have their children baptized and confirmed, respect their priests and love watching the Christmas Eve mass from the Vatican hold "pro choice" views on abortion legislation. Who are we to make that one issue a test of one's "credentials" as a Roman Catholic? President Biden's Roman Catholic faith was referenced in the inauguration, and clergy from other parts of the One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church also took part.

Again, it is not for me to judge the sincerity or "credentials" of the millions and millions of good Catholics who are pro-choice. That is between them and their church. I would simply point out that on that point they are at variance with the official and reaffirmed teaching of their church. How they deal with that dissonance is a matter for them, their conscience, and their church to deal with.  But the fact that so many do not uphold established church teaching is not an opinion, nor a slam on my part, it is simply a fact.

Who established the official teaching of the Roman Catholic Church? You may think that they should put it to a vote of American Catholics and let them establish official teaching, but the fact is that is not how the church has been established.

In general, should a church or a church body make final definitive determinations of church doctrine on the basis of polls or even a popular vote? When the ELCA in convention voted down proposals to accept for ordination individuals in same-gender sexual relationships, did that establish the rejection of the same as proper church teaching? If a poll of American Roman Catholics accept abortion on demand as proper and moral would that establish the essential morality of the pro-choice position as official Catholic teaching for Roman Catholics? Should it? If/when a majority of Americans supported the war in Viet Nam as a moral war, did that make it so? I am troubled by your assertion that when those of us on the conservative/traditional side of issues are in a minority somehow we should accept that as making us wrong.

Your Turn / Re: Inauguration Day
« on: January 21, 2021, 04:34:20 PM »
At the risk of being mean and judgmental, Am I wrong to state that official Roman Catholic teaching is explicitly against abortion except in those cases where the life of the mother is endangered by continuing the pregnancy? Am I wrong in stating that Pres. Biden has explicitly pledged to support a pro-choice governmental agenda that includes repealing prohibitions on the use of Federal moneys for abortion? Am I wrong in seeing that as a conflict between the teachings of his church and his actions as president?

There have been repeated posts on ALPB over the past four years questioning the faith of Pres. Trump and questioning how Christians could support him. Now that a Democrat is Occupant of the White House, is seeing a conflict between the president's church's teachings as his public actions now off limits.

In a more general vein, How do we reconcile public actions in our secular nation and the teachings of the church? This is by no means a new question but this conflict has existed since there has been Christians. In our life time, this was a major conflict, for example during the time of the Viet Nam war.

Your Turn / Re: Church and weddings...
« on: January 21, 2021, 03:18:33 PM »
How should we define "marry?" One suggestion would be to take a page from the discussions in the later years of the 2000s in the ELCA when discussing same gender relationships. Publicly Accountable Lifelong Monogamous or PALM. (In the ELCA discussion Same-Gender Relationship was added to the end but the PALM was to be the marriage equivalent in an era before the legalization of same-sex marriage.) A major difference between marriage, however defined, and a simple at will living, sleeping, and recreational arrangement is the commitment to continue the arrangement for better or for worse. A simple living/sleeping together arrangement commits to nothing more than so long as the arrangement pleases me. Marriage implies some sort of commitment to be there for the other person even when there are difficulties.

The state has an interest in such arrangements for several reasons. One is that, especially in the modern welfare state, the state is likely to have to take up some of the burden of the fallout from when such an arrangement disintegrates. Especially since there is the possibility of children to take into account. One of the higher predictors of childhood and female poverty is single parenting. Making it easier for partners who want to bail on their parental responsibilities is not a good way to fight poverty.

If we are to take the state out of what we consider marriage, we remove the laws that would hold partners publicly accountable when they run out on their responsibilities to to their partners and any offspring that might result from their partnering. How will we hold people Publicly Accountable for their actions towards their unlegal spouses in the church?

Your Turn / Re: Inauguration Day
« on: January 21, 2021, 03:00:29 PM »
It is always easier to enjoy jokes about people you don't like and appreciate whimsey poked at those you oppose than it is to appreciate it when on the receiving end.

I won't say that Pres. Biden is the only politician whose adherence to the teachings of the church he claims is selective and who likes to wrap himself in the robes of his religion only when it seems advantageous. Neither is that a trait peculiar to the political or religious left. It is also much easier to detect and call out hypocrisy in those you oppose than in your friends, allies, or yourself.

Babylon Bee does at times stray over the line from whimsey and sarcasm to just being nasty. Again, something much more easily detected in others than oneself or ones allies. Holding up a bloodied Trump mask like it was a severed head was heralded by many as biting political humor and actually funny. If it had been an Obama mask a couple of years earlier?

Your Turn / Re: Church and weddings...
« on: January 21, 2021, 12:40:10 PM »
As for the other issue being discussed, whether we should participate in a couple's attempt to be married "in the eyes of God" but not in the eyes of the state in order to avoid some financial disqualifications such as loss of spousal pension benefits. A couple of thoughts.

If we agree that loss of pension and other benefits because one remarries is unfair and should be changed, is assisting couple commit what is arguably fraud the proper way for us to react to that? Would it not be more honest to protest those arrangements directly?

I would also point out that the payout of pensions are set up with certain actuarial assumptions. I know that pensions with continuing spousal benefit after the death of the principal is less than if the benefit is only for the life of the principal since with spousal benefits the payout period is likely to be longer. The amount being paid each month with continuing spousal benefit is calculated based on the assumptions of average lifespan of the spouse after the death of the principal and also factored in is the likelihood of remarriage. If remarriage is eliminated as factor, then the payout should be recalculated and would I assume be less overall. So yes, to "remarry" without legally remarrying would be fraud.

Both church and state have an interest in marriage. The current practice where couples who wish to have a religious ceremony can get it all done at one time by a pastor without having to also be married at the courthouse recognizes the dual interest and acknowledges that those interests are not necessarily competing.

Your Turn / Re: Church and weddings...
« on: January 21, 2021, 12:23:46 PM »
A while back this topic was being discussed. I expressed my opinion that if possible we should not retreat from involvement in marriage, and even had my opinion included in the Forum Letter. Here is what I said.

Lawsuits brought against providers of wedding services such as wedding photographers and wedding cake bakers have been much in the news lately.  The objective of these lawsuits has been to force them to provide their services for same sex weddings even though they have religious objections to them.  Some are concerned that sooner or later pastors and churches will be sued or otherwise legally coerced into performing same sex weddings.  A simple solution to such a push has been suggested -- stop performing weddings!  Let all our people get married in a civil ceremony and if they want the church's blessing then come to the church for that.  We already have liturgical forms for that.

There may be good reasons to get out of the wedding business; several have been suggested with Luther, the example of European churches, and concerns over pastors becoming entangled with the state by acting as an agent of the state being mentioned.  These reasons may ultimately be found to be valid and sufficient to get out of the wedding business.  However, if that move is seen as way to solve a problem with those who would coerce the church into same sex weddings, I have a couple of problems with that.

It has long been observed that for a significant number of people, religion is something that should be excluded from society’s public space.  This concern was expressed in Richard John Neuhaus’ 1984 The Naked Public Square and before that in William F. Buckley's 1951 God and Man at Yale.  Stephen L. Carter in his 1993 The Culture of Disbelief: How American Law and Politics Trivialize Religious Devotion observed that the effort to keep religion from becoming a political tool has resulted in pressure on religious people to act in public as though their faith does not matter to them.  One example could be the contraceptive mandates put into the ACA, provisions of which would exempt churches, who primarily deal with the faithful, from the mandates but not other religiously based institutions that deal not only with coreligionists but also with the public at large -- hospitals and the like.  The rationale seems to be that when dealing with the public at large, the religion of religious institutions should take a back seat to the secular government’s mandates and goals.  To cede marriage as a concern for the state not the church furthers such a retreat from public space.

Both the state and the church have legitimate interests in the founding of families through marriage.  In the current curious hybrid ceremony the pastor acts not only to represent the state’s interest in the matter but also God’s creative power to join the two into one new family.  If we succumb to intimidation and retreat from being a vital part of this important life transition and allow ourselves to become an optional frill on a secular ceremony or a curious nostalgic throwback to an earlier day, do we not lose?  At the least it would take very serious education to convince even our own people that we are more than an unnecessary but quaint decoration, a bump on the way from the real ceremony to the serious party.  We also could weaken an important part of our teaching on marriage and family.

Do we really want to encourage the trend that when Christians interact with others not of their faith that they should deny their Christianity, take up a secular mantle and pretend that Christianity doesn't really matter in "real" life?  I think not.  Such a strategic retreat may eventually be necessary, but it should adopted reluctantly and minimally.

Another problem with getting out of the wedding business to avoid conflict is that ultimately it will not work.  This push to force the religious objectors to provide for same sex weddings is ideologically not practically driven.  Not many in the LGBT community are so anxious to have church weddings that they want to force them where they would not otherwise be welcome.  There are generally enough churches, bakers, photographers, etc. willing and even eager to celebrate same sex marriages that to force them upon the unwilling is hardly necessary.  It is the ideologues and activists who wish to make a point and force those reluctant to approve of same sex marriages to at least act as though they did.  That will be the point if it comes to attempts to coerce churches into performing same sex weddings.  If we retreat from performing weddings to avoid having to perform same sex weddings, it would be at best a temporary reprieve.  For those whose intent is to force all to accept as normal and good same sex activity other means will be found to push the issue.  Every retreat by Christians will be seen not only as a victory, but also as a stepping stone to the ultimate goal of forcing any and every institution, ideology, belief system, or association that does not accept same sex activity to do so or be destroyed.  Where do we make our stand?

Your Turn / Re: Church and weddings...
« on: January 20, 2021, 05:35:33 PM »
The question was about the origin of "marriage." They existed before scriptures were written. They exist in cultures that have no contact with Jews or Christians. One could argue that marriage is part of the nature that God built into humans, but that would also be before scriptures talked about marriages.

Sigh.  There absolute exists a biblical answer that says otherwise, if you were only willing to listen to what others tell you.  It's an odd thing to suggest that the creator of all things could not have acted before "scripture were written", when the first book of the Bible begins with the creation story.  I continue to reject your idiosyncratic definition of marriage which has no foundation beyond your personal scholarship.

Please share your biblical scholarship that supports your understanding.

Yes, the first book of the Bible begins with creation; but that's not when it was written. Writing didn't begin until about 1000 BC. The first 11 chapters of Genesis are usually called "prehistory." They are stories about life before written history began.
Point taken, but what is the significance of that point? Whenever Genesis was written, in it was written about God's creation of humanity and in that creation was God establishing the basis for what became marriage. Even though marriage was a part of many ancient cultures other than the Jewish culture, that may simply mean that God's establishment of the basis for marriage was passed along even among those cultures that had forgotten God. It does not indicate that marriage came into existence apart from God.

For every pericope there are several ways to approach the passage and a number of truths that can be derived from the text and ways to explicate those truths. A single sermon, or a single exposition will rarely exhaust the depths of the pericope. To force a topic on a text, I agree, would be bad homiletics. And there may well come a point where if that topic is to be the topic of the sermon, another text is indicated.

But many periscopes could speak to a topic like abortion, each offering it's own insights. When confronted with the assigned lessons for a certain Sunday, abortion may not be the first topic that comes to mind, but with some thought and careful study, often one could derive insights from the given reading that could naturally apply to that topic.

It's a find balance. Simply cramming a topic, any topic on to a passage that does not speak to it would be a misuse of Scripture. But we should not give up too easily and assume that the assigned texts have nothing to say to the topic assigned for the Sunday.

Reminds me of Rossow's Gospel Handles.

Your Turn / Re: Inauguration Day
« on: January 20, 2021, 04:15:59 PM »
Another presidential myth, that 9th President, William Henry Harrison, became ill at the inauguration and died from it. Perhaps. What is certain is that Wm. Harrison had the shortest term in office of any president, he served for 30 and 1/2 days before dying of pneumonia. At his inauguration he refused to wear a hat or coat even though it was a cold and rainy day. He also delivered the longest inaugural address, some 8,444 words (after having been edited for length) that took some 2 hours to give. Whether he actually caught his fatal illness that day is disputed. Still it does perhaps illustrate the wisdom of dressing warmly for inauguration and following the bikini principle of public speaking - make the speech large enough to adequately cover the subject but small enough to be interesting.

Your Turn / Re: The Church's Response to Government and Governing
« on: January 19, 2021, 03:48:00 PM »
Peter writes:
I would not have condoned breaching the Capitol even for symbolic reasons, but I would advice treading lightly with the assumptions about who was justified in doing what at a time of great cultural division.
I comment:
You would not have condoned breaching the Capitol, Peter, but I sense you believe that others might validly condone doing that.
As for “assumptions about who was justified“, here’s my assumption. Nothing in today’s situation justified the attack on our capital. Nothing. Nothing at all.I assume that those who attacked our Capitol  were intent on stopping the Congress from doing its job of certifying the election. That makes them and anyone who supports them or goes easy on them insurrectionists, possibly guilty of sedition, and serious threats to our democracy.
Does anyone here assume these people were acting in good faith, that they had a good cause? And does anyone here believe that something other than the words of the president inspired them to do this?
Could you point out where in his speech, President Trump told the people to violently break into the Capitol? Staging peaceful protests are a protected form of speech even if you do not agree with the cause that is being protested. Encouraging protests is not the same as encouraging insurrection, even if you disagree with the protests complaint.

There appears to be ample evidence that several groups prepared and planned to breech the Capitol and that these groups are planning further armed incursions not only in Washington D.C. but in other state capitals around the nation. This does not seem to have been a peaceful protest that was stirred up by violent rhetoric by the main speaker, got out of hand, and erupted in violence because of the speaker. The violence was planned and prepared for ahead of time by extremist groups and they planned to use Trump's rally as the occasion for their violence and probably hoping to draw cannon fodder from the protest.  So yes, I think that there was something other than the words of the President inspiring them to do this.

Extremist groups, White Nationalists and right wing extremist groups and "militias" existed long before Trump came on the scene and have planned and committed violence long before Trump contested the 2020 election. He did not inspire these groups to form or plot violence.

I do agree that Trump has been intemperate in his speech, has handled loosing the election very poorly, and reacted poorly and tardily to the violence. But the evidence seems to be against the narrative that this was a spontaneous uprising sparked by Trump's speech. Violent extremists have opportunistically taken advantage of the situation. Similarly, there was evidence this past summer that extremists plotted to take advantage of mainly peaceful protests this summer to promote violence and destruction.

And also far too many people do not keep such distinctions in mind when affirming abortion. The assumption is often made that anyone protesting abortion would not allow for or accept as necessary such medically necessary abortions where the life of the mother is in danger. The attitude seems to be that for the sake of those hard and tragic cases, all abortions need to be legal and accepted. The percentage of abortions that fit into those reasons is actually quite small.

Your Turn / Re: The Church's Response to Government and Governing
« on: January 18, 2021, 01:48:55 PM »
Check the book “one nation under God: how corporate America invented Christian America“ by Kevin Kruse.
Or see what other historians have written about adding “under God” to the Pledge of Allegiance.
It’s not always a pretty, pious, sincerely Christian story.
From what little I've read on the subject, there were a number of people and organizations involved in putting "under God" in the pledge from the Sons of the American Revolution to the sinister and disreputable Knights of Columbus, to the American Legion. Dwight David Eisenhower was also involved. Was he just a shill for the sinister forces of corporate America? Were some of those involved self-serving? Most likely. Was it all a right wing plot to foment trouble in the world and serve certain special interests? Well, I'll let you tell us all about the conspiracy to thereby subvert the very foundations of our democracy.

Your Turn / Re: The Church's Response to Government and Governing
« on: January 18, 2021, 11:05:51 AM »

Or the addition of “under God“ to the pledge was a cynical attempt by the Knights of Columbus and their allies to sneak a Christian claim into the pledge and to make a geo-political statement that would help stir up animosity towards other parts of the world during the heat of the cold war.
The Knights of Columbus was not the only organization to adopt the "under God" addition to the pledge, and they were not the first. It is not at all unlikely the at least some of the impetus behind the addition was to distinguish the United States from the official atheism of the Soviet Block.

I'm trying to parse your speculation here. You attribute nefarious cynical motivation for those who initially promoted the addition to the pledge. Do you have any evidence for your suspicions are is it part of your natural cynical rejection of public displays of piety? I also wonder if this is part of a greater reading of history that places the blame for the Cold War conflict on bellicose factions in the US while the benevolent Uncle Joe Stalin was simply looking out for the welfare of his people and countering Western aggression?

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