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Topics - D. Engebretson

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1
Your Turn / Mental Health Awareness Month
« on: May 17, 2021, 10:29:09 AM »
Since 1948 May has been designated as Mental Health Awareness Month.

With the pandemic we certainly had a greater than usual need for mental health professionals and their services.  These men and women were also essential front line workers. 

As a pastor I have ministered to or interacted with people with a variety of mental disorders including depression, schizophrenia, and bipolar disorder, which includes over 18% of Americans.  I have also ministered to a member with DID, formerly known as Multiple Personality Disorder.  As a chaplain I have dealt with depression and suicide, among other stresses.  I took training in Critical Incident Stress Management early in my chaplain service, recognizing the unique mental health strains of first responders who sometimes suffer from PTSD. 

There was a time when mental disorders were stigmatized in church settings, and even in my earlier years it was quite common to hear people speak disparagingly of "going to the shrink."  Pastors and chaplains often serve as front line mental health workers out of necessity, so they know firsthand the real world challenges in this area. 

So a prayer is in order for those who work with these troubled people.  May the mercy of Christ always be extended and evidenced as we reach out in love and care!


2
Your Turn / Finish Bishop Elect Charged With Incitment
« on: May 04, 2021, 09:50:22 PM »
Although there are discussion topics on or involving the Rev. Dr. Juhana Pohjola of Finland going back to 2009 (see esp.: http://alpb.org/Forum/index.php?topic=5546.msg340571#msg340571), I decided to start a new one given the seriousness of this charge by the Finish government. It is clearly an issue of the freedom of speech and is a chilling development of where some countries are going with respect to the LGBTQ+ community.  Here is an article recently published by the International Lutheran Council entitled "Finnish Bishop Elect charged over historic Christian teachings on human sexuality": https://ilc-online.org/2021/04/30/finnish-bishop-elect-charged-over-historic-christian-teachings-on-human-sexuality/?fbclid=IwAR0fNpSGzAq-uRwLSt3snkgvYggT6cj9_deiCBMNLrYAkQEZdOaBd0rPK48&bblinkid=250913508&bbemailid=31170339&bbejrid=1956945205


3
Your Turn / Hans Küng Has Died at Age 93
« on: April 06, 2021, 07:00:04 PM »
BERLIN (AP) — Hans Kueng, a Roman Catholic theologian who was an early colleague and friend of the future Pope Benedict XVI but later fell foul of the Vatican for challenging church doctrine and became a vocal critic of the pontiff, has died. He was 93.

Kueng died Tuesday at his home in Tuebingen, according to the Global Ethic Foundation, or Stiftung Weltethos in German, which he established in 1995.

Though forbidden by the Vatican to teach theology, Kueng was an influential voice for liberal Catholics and a prolific author, challenging Catholic doctrines on papal authority, birth control, divorce and other issues.

Kueng’s career was lived in opposition to Benedict and his predecessor, Pope John Paul II, but in retirement Kueng was delighted by “the new reform-friendly atmosphere” inspired by the election of Pope Francis.

The career of the Swiss-born Kueng intertwined with that of Joseph Ratzinger, the future Benedict. Kueng, then a professor at the University of Tuebingen, urged the university’s theology department to hire the young Ratzinger in 1966.

The pair participated in the Second Vatican Council in the 1960s as “periti,” or advisers. Kueng later wrote that he and Ratzinger were known there as the “teenage theologians,” though they were then in their 30s.

Later, they took different paths.

Ratzinger left Tuebingen in 1969 after left-wing student upheavals rocked the campus, and his classes were at one point interrupted by sit-ins. Kueng was stripped of the right to teach Catholic theology at Tuebingen in 1979 after challenging Catholic doctrine — most significantly papal infallibility, which holds that the pope can never be mistaken when he makes “infallible” pronouncements.

Ratzinger, by then a cardinal, was the Vatican’s chief guardian of orthodoxy from 1981 to 2005. While Benedict was not at the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith at the time Kueng was disciplined, he was reportedly involved in the decision in his role as archbishop of Munich and Freising.

Ratzinger defended the Vatican’s treatment of Kueng, saying in his 1997 book “Salt of the Earth” that he respected the path Kueng had taken but that Kueng “should not then demand the church’s seal of approval.”

Kueng’s estrangement from the Vatican took place under Pope John Paul II, and the theologian sharply criticized the Polish-born pontiff’s approach to running the church — though he voiced admiration for the globe-trotting John Paul’s wider impact on the world stage.

“There is a blatant contradiction between the foreign policy of this pope and his domestic policy,” Kueng told The Associated Press on the 25th anniversary of John Paul’s papacy in 2003.

“I find it remarkable how the pope spoke out for human rights, freedom and democracy and especially against the war in Iraq, and also for the dialogue of religions,” he said. “But, on the other hand, he represses freedom in the Catholic Church, he supports the inquisition against reformist theologians and bishops. He holds intolerant positions on questions like birth control and abortion.”

Two years later, Kueng said of Benedict’s election that it was “an enormous disappointment for all those who hoped for a reformist and pastoral pope.”

Still, he said the new pope should be allowed 100 days to “learn.”

A reconciliation seemed possible in September 2005, a few months after Benedict’s election, when the pope granted Kueng an audience.

The Vatican said the two spent several hours together and had a friendly theological discussion — though they skirted the differences that divided Kueng and the church.

Kueng said they had previously met only once, in Bavaria in 1983, since he was stripped of his license to teach, and that was a “rather tense situation.”

But the 2005 meeting was “a very significant event” and a step forward after he spent 25 years asking to see John Paul, he said — “now I got the impression that he was the same person I knew from the happy Tuebingen years.”

However much that meeting may have mended personal fences, Kueng became a vocal public critic of Benedict’s traditionalist papacy over the following years.

In 2010, as the church in the pope’s German homeland and elsewhere reeled from revelations of decades of sexual abuse of children by clerics, Kueng wrote in an open letter to bishops that Benedict’s papacy was increasingly “one of missed opportunities and unused chances.”

The church, he said, was “in the deepest crisis of confidence since the Reformation.” He faulted the pope, among other things, for failing to reach out more to Protestants and achieve a “lasting understanding” with Jews; stirring mistrust among Muslims with a 2006 speech; failing to help people in Africa combat AIDS by allowing the use of condoms; and failing to push forward the reforms of the Second Vatican Council.

Kueng was irked by Benedict’s decision to lift, “without preconditions,” the excommunication of four bishops consecrated without papal consent by the traditionalist Society of St. Pius X — one of them a Holocaust denier whose rehabilitation sparked outrage among Jews and Catholics alike.

Kueng said that efforts to cover up sexual abuse were steered by Ratzinger’s Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith, and he regretted that the pope hadn’t delivered a “personal mea culpa.” And he called on bishops to demand change: “Don’t send messages of devotion to Rome, but demands for reform!”

Kueng was born on March 19, 1928 in Sursee, central Switzerland. After graduating from high school in Lucerne, he studied philosophy and theology at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome.

He was consecrated as a priest in 1954 and later continued his studies in Paris, at the Sorbonne and the Institut Catholique, where he gained his doctorate with a dissertation on the doctrine of justification — the subject of a long dispute between Catholics and Protestants over how people achieve salvation.

Kueng worked as a priest in Lucerne in the late 1950s, before moving to the theology faculty of Germany’s University of Muenster and later to Tuebingen. He remained in Tuebingen for the rest of his life.

https://apnews.com/article/pope-john-paul-ii-pope-francis-pope-benedict-xvi-3936a37046622446925d05f4c8b88e38

4
Your Turn / A Blessed Easter to All!
« on: April 03, 2021, 09:56:27 PM »
Now that the Easter Vigils have been celebrated or are being celebrated, I thought that I would take the opportunity to wish all of the participants on ALPB Forum Online a blessed and joy-filled Easter! It has been a difficult and challenging year, which makes the celebration of the Resurrection of Our Lord all the more sweet and comforting. 

Christ is risen! He has risen, indeed!  Alleluia!

5
Your Turn / HR 1 - For the People Act - A Religious Test To Serve?
« on: March 15, 2021, 09:32:23 AM »
HR 1 - For the People Act - 2019 can be found here: https://www.congress.gov/bill/116th-congress/house-bill/1/text#toc-H9A16C8D88A7A403D88B78A1D9F583993

Section 2412, Establishment of selection pool of individuals eligible to serve as members of commission.
1) IN GENERAL.—An individual is eligible to serve as a member of an independent redistricting commission if the individual meets each of the following criteria:....
C) The individual submits to the nonpartisan agency established or designated by a State under section 2413, at such time and in such form as the agency may require, an application for inclusion in the selection pool under this section, and includes with the application a written statement, with an attestation under penalty of perjury, containing the following information and assurances:....
(iv) The reason or reasons the individual desires to serve on the independent redistricting commission, the individual’s qualifications, and information relevant to the ability of the individual to be fair and impartial, including, but not limited to—

(I) any involvement with, or financial support of, professional, social, political, religious, or community organizations or causes;....


Article VI, Section 3 of the United States Constitution:
The Senators and Representatives before mentioned, and the Members of the several State Legislatures, and all executive and judicial Officers, both of the United States and of the several States, shall be bound by Oath or Affirmation, to support this Constitution; but no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States.


So, do we have a problem here?  Why do those who drafted the bill want to know if I have involvement in or financial support a religious organization before I can serve on this commission?  And what specific organizations do they have in mind?

I hope someone asks this question when it goes to the Senate.

6
Your Turn / CTS-FW Receives Highest Ratings from Accrediting Agencies
« on: February 18, 2021, 09:52:42 AM »
This came through in my FB news feed today.  In light of our previous discussions of the need for two seminaries and the viability of two seminaries during these times of academic institutional uncertainty, this was very good news for Ft. Wayne. 

Exciting news! Thank you for all of your support! Join us in praising the Lord!
Concordia Theological Seminary, Fort Wayne, Indiana Receives Highest Ratings from Accrediting Agencies
The administration and Board of Regents of Concordia Theological Seminary in Fort Wayne, Indiana (CTSFW) are pleased to announce that CTSFW has again received full accreditation from the Association of Theological Schools (ATS) and the Higher Learning Commission (HLC) for the next ten years – the longest term the accrediting agencies can approve. “This ten-year reaffirmation of accreditation builds upon the strength of the ten-year reaffirmation achieved in 2010,” said President Lawrence R. Rast, Jr. “Both commissions recognized CTSFW’s strong sense of mission and identity.”
“Both visitation teams commended the culture of assessment that informs integrated planning,” noted Prof. Robert Roethemeyer, Vice President of Strategic Planning and Mission Execution and self-study chair. “These are great characteristics to celebrate in this 175th year of forming pastors, deaconesses, and other servants of Jesus Christ for the congregations and service organizations of The LCMS and beyond.”
The accreditors noted that CTSFW’s “mission and [Lutheran] identity permeate, animate, and guide the school and are supported by a strong sense of community.” They also complimented the seminary for “exceptional financial stewardship and generosity of the seminary’s constituency (both local and global) that make it possible for students to graduate with manageable debt.”
The tremendous amount of work that goes into preparing an institutional self-study of this magnitude allows the Seminary to celebrate and build upon its strengths and recognize areas for potential growth and improvement. President Rast commented, “The 2020 Institutional Self-Study provides a foundation for our next deep dive into strategic planning, which will align the seminary’s budget to the plan and engage the full seminary community in its creation and implementation. This cycle of planning and assessment frees CTSFW to embrace new opportunities and challenges and build on what it means to be distinctively Lutheran, community-oriented, and committed to excellence.” Rast further noted, “CTSFW is planning for the future by assessing broad external influences and partnerships. In the coming years, CTSFW will engage the broader Synod to partner in the development of a plan for the future of pastoral and diaconal formation in the LCMS.”
“In spite of the challenges we have all experienced this past year, there is much to celebrate,” said Dr. Charles A. Gieschen, Academic Dean. “The reports that we have received from ATS and HLC are great affirmations from widely-respected accreditors of the excellence and integrity of all that God is doing through CTSFW on a daily basis to form more servants in Jesus Christ who teach the faithful, reach the lost, and care for all.”
For more information on how you can support the work and mission of Concordia Theological Seminary, visit www.ctsfw.edu.

7
Your Turn / The Church's Response to Government and Governing
« on: January 11, 2021, 09:58:49 AM »
Looking at the existing threads I wasn't sure if this fit comfortably in any of them, so in the interest of not derailing those topics I decided to start a new one.

According to the Episcopal News Service: "Presiding Bishop Michael Curry added his name Jan. 8 to an open letter addressed to Vice President Mike Pence, members of Congress and the U.S. Cabinet, calling for the removal of President Donald Trump from office." The letter, to which his name was added, came from the National Council the Churches.  Others who signed it included the ELCA bishop and a list of additional leaders which can be viewed at the provided link.

They state in the letter: "For the good of the nation, so that we might end the current horror and prepare the way for binding up the nation’s wounds, we, as leaders of the member communions of the National Council of Churches of Christ in the USA (NCC), believe the time has come for the President of the United States, Donald J. Trump, to resign his position immediately. If he is unwilling to resign, we urge you to exercise the options provided by our democratic system.

In addition, we recognize the need to hold responsible not only those who invaded the Capitol, but also those who supported and/or promoted the President’s false claims about the election, or made their own false accusations."


https://www.episcopalnewsservice.org/2021/01/08/presiding-bishop-joins-other-ncc-leaders-in-call-for-trumps-removal-from-office/

My point here is not to argue with the content of the letter.  I think we all have been rightly disturbed by the recent violence in Washington and have expressed it here on other threads.  My concern has to do with the role of churches in directly addressing government leaders regarding procedures we believe they should take in how they govern.  And I am not referring to our right to speak out on moral issues, as my church body has, such as abortion or persecution of Christians, etc. I am referring to involving ourselves in the actual governing of the nation, in this case, concerning the removing of one of its leaders. 

I believe there is an issue here of the roles of church and state and to what degree one should be involved in the affairs of the other.  Again, I am not referring here to the right of individual Christians to participate in the governing of their nation, speaking out, voting, etc. I am speaking here of what the church itself does in that regard.  We would not want the state to interfere and dictate to us which leaders to have or to remove.  The only way they become involved is if there is illegal activity to which they must respond. The state does not require us, as the church, to tell it how or when to do its job, any more than they have the right to tell us how to govern our own internal affairs. 

Forcefully removing a sitting president is a very serious affair which we have entrusted to our elected leaders, not the church.  There is currently a division of opinion within government on what to do.  As far as I can tell VP Pence and the remaining cabinet members are not choosing to exercise the 25th amendment.  Speaker Pelosi has given them an ultimatum that if they do not act and Trump does not voluntarily resign she will proceed with impeachment.  Do, we, as the church, want to judge the rightness or wrongness of the choices of our leaders at this stage with a sense of moral certitude, essentially taking sides with one branch of government over the other? 

I think that it is an area that deserves careful thought.  The LCMS, of course, is not a member of the NCC, so Harrison would not be a signatory for that letter.  I doubt that we, as a church body, will speak out with regard to this.  So, in the eyes of other church bodies, then, are we being negligent in our duty as the church? 

8
Your Turn / A Blessed Feast of the Nativity of Our Lord to All!
« on: December 24, 2020, 09:10:59 AM »
As today now marks the eve of the Nativity of Our Lord, I wanted, first, to take time to wish a blessed feast day to all on this forum!  May this holy season bring you true joy and deep peace, such as the world can never give.  "For unto us a child is born, to us a son is given...and His name shall be Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace" (Is. 9:6).

In light of the ongoing pandemic my Christmas will be much different from past years, as I'm sure yours will be as well.  I will not be with my two eldest married children, but will content to 'see' them via Zoom on Christmas night.  I will celebrate the feast with my flock divided between 'in-person' and online via live-streaming.  Yet, beginning this evening, the Word will be proclaimed, the blessed Sacrament will be received, and the mystery of that Word becoming flesh in Christ will be celebrated as the only true source of peace and hope.  In the end, then, I will receive all that truly matters on this holy day. 

I pray that all on this forum remain in good health and good spirits in these truly trying times!

9
In my LinkedIn news feed today was an article entitled "24 Big Ideas that will change our world in 2021" (https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/24-big-ideas-change-our-world-2021-scott-olster/).  As with all forecasting some of it will be realized, some not. Forecasting is always risky. But it made me think about what will be different in the church in this new year and the ones to follow.  The pandemic has forever changed us. I'm curious what some of you anticipate might occur in the way of major changes to the church.  I think that some of the changes that will impact business and the world outside our churches will naturally impact us as well, but some of our changes may be unique. Technological changes are certainly going to be tied to our future.  The economic fallout will also impact us as well.

I'll start off with some ideas of what I think might transpire in the wake of our pandemic:
1.)  Many smaller congregations, which were already financially vulnerable and struggling, will consolidate and even fold. The rate of this will greatly accelerate. We will have less brick and mortar churches in the next two years. However, this may present new mission opportunities as well. What we put off in the last few years will be inevitable in the years to come. 
2.) Virtual, for all of its pluses and minuses, is here to stay.  Some churches will disconnect with live streaming, but the majority are going to discover that the expectation will be there that this service continues indefinitely. This virtual aspect of our church life will also have implications with the type and consistency of in person attendance, and how people 'church shop' in an anonymous way.  On the flip side I believe that some people will have a profoundly deeper appreciation for the fellowship they lost and access to the sacramental life of the church that was for a time greatly curtailed.  The virtual options will also allow us opportunities to remain connected with certain demographics we struggled with before - e.g. elderly, mentally ill, etc.
3.) Denominational structures will shrink and remain smaller.  I saw this trend in my district a while back, and we saw it impact the IC in St. Louis this year with a massive RIF.  But I don't think there will be a trend to grow the structure post-pandemic.  Smaller is here to say.
4.) Our schools, having gone through a very massive adjustment to online learning, will continue to refine their resources and techniques.  The post-secondary schools that adapted well will continue to build on their work, and those that did 'so-so' may eventually fall on harder times.  Like denominational structures I think that the number of universities and colleges will decline, but what remains will be more nimble in adapting to future changes. 
5.) Much of the above will depend on how well our communities and nation as a whole upgrade and expand high speed internet access, especially in rural areas.  I think that if such access was increased, the rural and inner-city churches would again be on much more equal footing with the larger, more financially stable churches. Quality and accessibility of internet access will be key to many changes and adaptations already initiated in 2020.
6.) Our people will be far more health conscious with regard to how we conduct services and activities.  The old custom of 'passing the plate' has probably disappeared for good, likewise the so-called 'sharing of the peace' (shaking hands).  Meals such Harvest Dinners and such may also disappear.  People will be far more sensitive to exposure to germs. And these changes will forever change the nature of smaller, rural churches for which these dinners were a cornerstone of their fellowship practices. 

Well, that's my start.  Curious what else you would like to predict and forecast.   

10
Your Turn / Recent Surpreme Court Decision Concerning Churches
« on: November 27, 2020, 11:38:34 AM »
Knowing the diversity of our forum, I know that this topic will probably be as divisive as it was on the court and in our country.  In a 5-4 vote late Wednesday, the Court voted in favor of requests by the Roman Catholic Diocese of Brooklyn and two Orthodox Jewish congregations for an injunction to block the restrictions from being enforced that limit numbers gathering indoors. As one might predict it was quickly noted that Justice Amy Coney Barrett cast a deciding vote in favor of the religious groups. Conservative Chief Justice John Roberts dissented along with the court's three liberal justices, so it wasn't a unanimous vote along 'conservative' lines.

As noted in U.S. News and World Reports:
The case stemmed from an Oct. 6 decision by Cuomo, a Democrat, to shut down non-essential businesses in targeted areas where infections have spiked, including some neighborhoods in Brooklyn.

New York has categorized areas where coronavirus infections are increasing in severity as yellow, orange or red. Under Cuomo's restrictions, houses of worship in red zones could remain open at 25% capacity up to a maximum of 10 people.

In a call with reporters on Thursday, Cuomo said the high court's ruling would have no impact on the state's virus control efforts because the red zone status for the area in question had expired last week.

"It's irrelevant from any practical impact because the zone that they were talking about has already been moot," the governor said. "I think this was really just an opportunity for the court to express its philosophy and politics."

He also pointed out that the decision, which now goes to the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, is not final and did not appear to affect New York state's rules for mass gatherings.

The houses of worship argued the limits imposed by the state violated religious freedoms protected by the U.S. Constitution’s First Amendment, and that their facilities were singled out for more stringent restrictions than essential businesses, such as food stores.

The Orthodox congregations Agudath Israel of Kew Garden Hills and Agudath Israel of Madison, as well as nationwide Orthodox Jewish group Agudath Israel of America, requested the injunction.

A federal judge in Brooklyn rejected separate requests made by the religious groups on Oct. 9. The New York City-based 2nd Circuit declined emergency requests filed by both sets of challengers on Nov. 9.

In two previous cases this year, the court, in 5-4 votes, turned away similar requests by churches in Nevada and California. Those votes occurred before the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, and saw her and the other three liberal members of the court joined by Roberts in the majority.


https://www.usnews.com/news/top-news/articles/2020-11-26/us-supreme-court-backs-religious-groups-over-new-york-virus-curbs

This decision will be noted especially as a bellwether of how the court will now consistently lean right, according to those who felt RBG would have held the more liberal direction if she had remained alive.

This also brings up the question of how the state will classify churches and houses of worship.  In the pandemic the word "essential" has become a key issue.  It has been pointed out how churches in some states received more stringent restrictions than even bars. Now, I suspect, there will be a cry that the emphasis will turn the opposite direction, and the court will favor religion, and that will be seen as a violation of the Establishment Clause.  I may be wrong, but that is my prediction.  I think, that if the run-off elections in Georgia favor the Democrats and the Senate tips their way, we will see a return to discussions about enlarging or "packing" the Supreme Court to either reestablish a 'balance' or guarantee its favoring of liberal causes.   

11
Your Turn / Halloween, All Saints, All Souls
« on: October 29, 2020, 09:58:54 AM »
In a few days Halloween will be here, the national holiday where folks in my part of the country love to decorate their houses in ways equaled only by Christmas, and have virtually caused a condition of 'orange fatigue.'  I can thank my Celtic forebears for making an otherwise religious occasion into one that obscures anything of the hope of heaven. 

I was surprised, however, that the triduum of this festival (All Hallow's Eve, All Hallow's Day, All Soul's Day) is not cut all of one cloth, and not all of the triduum of this festival is necessarily one of joy.  All Hallow's Eve, at least going back to medieval times, treated this part of the triduum as a more somber time.  In a missal from 1927 I noticed that the Catholic church designated purple for the altar and priestly vestments.  In James Monti's book A Sense of the Sacred - Roman Catholic Worship in the Middle Ages (Ignatius Press, 2012), we read that "the eve of All Saints is a 'day of affliction', that is, a day of fasting recalling the 'misery of the present life'...." (529).  There was also a tradition on this day to have a "Black Vespers," so named for the color of the vestments.  While not found in any of the church's official liturgical books, there was a Breton custom to hold such a service on All Hallow's Eve.  One article notes that the service "begins with the antiphon 'I will walk before the Lord in the land of the living'—and perhaps here we can see the origin of the idea that on Halloween the departed souls returned to earth."  (https://www.liturgicalartsjournal.com/2019/09/all-hallows-eve-halloween-in.html?fbclid=IwAR16hTC5VDN9r0FiZpFBrDUCCSRBPiSPOZEqhxQLrafsyv4qJpqTPfc06YQ&m=1)

The third day of the triuum, historically known as "All Soul's Day," is problematic for protestants.  Although also known for some time as "The Commemoration of the Faithful Departed," as it is called in the Lutheran tradition, it is connected with the teaching of purgatory.  Again, from a 1927 missal: "The feast of All Saints is intimately connected with the remembrance of the holy souls who, detained in purgatory to expiate their venial sins or to pay the temporal pains due to sin, are none the less confirmed in grace and shall one day enter heaven."  I suspect that masses are still said for those in purgatory, however, those more closely connected with the Roman church would know more of this.  The current RC catechism continues to teach the doctrine of purgatory, so I can't imagine that this custom would not persist. 

In my church, the entire triuum is compressed into one Sunday where we remember the 'great cloud of witnesses' who have preceded us into the presence of Christ, as well as remember the local saints who passed away during the previous twelve months.  The entire celebration is vested in white and retains none of its medieval heaviness. 

American traditions have in some ways kept a bit of the medieval tradition alive, albeit in a commercialized way devoid of any spirituality.  The idea of souls suddenly freed from purgatorial detention to wander the earth for a night, along with the Celtic addition of free floating evil spirits to terrorize all, continues in some way in the incessant stream of horror movies slotted on cable TV for October. 

Nonetheless, it is a wonderful festival with a much needed glimpse of the glory to come and a time to give thanks for the preservation of the faithful even in times of great duress. 

12
Your Turn / Angels and Archangels and all the Host of Heaven
« on: September 26, 2020, 07:39:55 PM »
It seems we have of late been a bit heavy on politics.  It can be tiring. And frustrating. And even depressing.  For a forum composed of religiously-minded people it seems that we might benefit from an option that takes us back to the roots of this group. 

This coming Tuesday is the festival of St. Michael and All Angels (Michaelmas), one of my favorite festivals.  In Christian freedom I have 'transferred' celebration of the day to the closest Sunday, which is tomorrow.  I discovered there's a bit of debate over this (that we shouldn't supplant the regular Sunday for an occasional festival but celebrate it instead on its appointed day), but it doesn't bother me.  I think setting aside one Sunday out of the year to talk about this special part of God's creation is not only appropriate, but needful, especially in these perilous times.  Angels appear hundreds of times throughout Holy Scripture and play a significant role in the story of the incarnation as well as the resurrection of our Lord. They attended to our Lord in Gethsemane as He prepared for His great passion.  Hebrews calls them "ministering spirits, sent out to render service for the sake of those who will inherit salvation." They are God's gifts to the church. Many Sundays we sing with them and use their very choruses in our praise. 

Unfortunately angels are either relegated to the dark corner of regretted superstitions, or they are popularized in ways we can no longer recognize them as heavenly servants of the Most High.  I think that the church would find great comfort in an increased awareness of their presence and work. The more I hear of riots and violence and hate-filled screaming in our streets, and angry attacks both in real time and in this virtual world, not to mention daily murders in our cities, terrorist attacks and wars, I have to believe that so much of this must be fueled by the ancient evil one and his host.  We try to find solutions to evil and forget the resources God has given already.  God has not abandoned His people to the "god of this world."  He has surrounded them with a heavenly army. 

I'm not sure if this is of great interest to many others, but as I said at the beginning, we need an option that is not political, but religious in nature, and not necessarily a deeply divisive topic in the realm of heated theological debates.  Perhaps this could be a short respite. 


13
Your Turn / 9-11 Remembrance
« on: September 11, 2020, 10:47:56 AM »
In the midst of our discussions I thought it appropriate on the 19th anniversary of this unique day to briefly pause in memory of the many whose lives were tragically lost on September 11, 2001. 

A total of 2,977 people died as a result of the attack on our country that day, and more than 6,000 were injured.  343 firefighters and 71 law enforcement officers were among those who perished responding to the incident.  Others also lost their lives that were part of the military, including 55 at the Pentagon.

Feel free to add to this list, as well as personal remembrances. 

We thank God that he preserved us during this tragic time.  We look to him for the hope of the resurrection in Christ in the midst of death.  May God continue to watch over the many first responders and military personnel who continue to serve and protect the citizens of this country.

TOA 03
AFD 03

14
Your Turn / Violent Protests and Riots - To What Purpose?
« on: September 05, 2020, 09:06:10 AM »
Protests on both coasts - Portland, OR and Rochester, NY.  And we have hit the 100 day mark for the Portland protests.  Apparently this is not going to go away soon.

Rioting in Manhattan caused $100,000 in damage.  "The protest had been advertised on Twitter by groups calling themselves the “New Afrikan Black Panther Party” and the “Revolutionary Abolitionist Movement.” One of the arrested protesters was from Portland, Ore., and another was from Iowa, the sources said. The protest began at 6 p.m. at Foley Square; protesters lit trash can fires and scrawled graffiti — including the word “Abolition” — as they made their way north. “Every city, every town, burn the precinct to the ground,” the group was recorded chanting at one point.
https://nypost.com/2020/09/05/black-lives-matter-protesters-riot-in-manhattan-cause-100000-damage/

The property damage these riots cause is staggering, and will take years to rebuild.  One article says that the economic damage in Minneapolis will haunt them for decades.  At least 1,500 businesses have been damaged in the greater Twin Cities area. 
https://www.nationalreview.com/2020/09/minneapolis-riots-economic-impact-will-haunt-city-for-decades/

We could tally up more, but we all know the damage done.

Some will say that all this has raised awareness of ongoing racism and will move people to finally make the changes they need to make.  But the violence and damage has clouded that message and turned the national discussion in many areas to a greater need for law and order. 

To what end does all this rioting serve?  Evil, when freed from restraints, will consume itself and everything around it.  Anger, without restraint, will eventually turn to destruction, both of people and property.  Again and again we hear hate-filled chants screamed at people, both at protest lines and even at restaurants. 

So what will all this violence and destruction accomplish?  Burned out cities and destroyed economic infrastructure and at a time when we need to rebuild, not tear down.  Who is hurt?  Everyone, even minorities.  Law enforcement steps in to control it, and crowds turn against them.  Do we really want anarchy? What does that accomplish? 

In my little corner of the world I am seeing more and more law signs pop up that read: "Back the blue."  People want law and order. Despite the highly publicized problems, they still support their police departments. They want fairness and justice, but not at the hands of ruthless, angry mobs.

Those who want the election to focus on rebuilding and renewal will need to find a way to address this.  Right now they are seeing fire in the streets and they are not pleased.   

15
Your Turn / The Cancel Culture
« on: August 05, 2020, 02:15:00 PM »
I will admit that I had never heard of the "cancel culture" until recently.  And even now I struggle to completely understand it.  Recently Flannery O'Connor's name was removed from one of the buildings at Loyola University Maryland.  Again, the charge is racism.  But this need to 'cancel' people from monuments and buildings erected in their honor has spilled over into a closed mindedness that disturbs me.  In "The ‘Cancelling’ of Flannery O’Connor? It Never Should Have Happened" by Angela Alaimo O’Donnell (Commonweal, Aug. 3, 2020), the author notes a June 22 article in the New Yorker by Paul Elie that mines a book by O'Donnell to find incriminating evidence that O'Connor was a card-carrying racist and therefore needs to be shunned. 

O'Donnell writes:
Elie’s essay has caused a great deal of damage. As soon as it was released online, Twitter lit up with public denunciations of O’Connor and avowals from former admirers that they would never read—or teach—her books again. More than one declared dramatically, “Flannery O’Connor is dead to me.” Conversely, admirers of O’Connor, who know something about the reality of her life and the pernicious presence of racism in the mid-twentieth-century South, lamented Elie’s careless and cavalier treatment of this complex subject. But the most concrete expression of that damage arrived in my inbox the day after the article appeared. A student from Loyola University Maryland was moved to enlist my help with a movement she was organizing to have Flannery O’Connor’s name removed from one of the buildings on campus. She was horrified to read that O’Connor was a racist and lamented the “hate” she had expressed toward African Americans. (It is important to note that this is a word O’Connor never uses to describe her attitude toward African Americans, either in the passages quoted in the New Yorker or otherwise.) In our emails back and forth, I tried to explain to her that she was mistaken in her understanding of O’Connor’s writing and the reasons why I would not support such a campaign. I tried to explain that O’Connor was valuable to us precisely because of her experiential knowledge of racism. I tried to explain the ways in which her stories reveal and repudiate racism. I tried to explain to her that in her ambivalence about race, O’Connor’s inner war between her best (anti-racist) self and her worst (racist) self is the same war that all white people who are born into and (mal)formed by a racist culture fight, if they are honest enough to admit it. I tried to explain to her that O’Connor is the perfect writer for our moment. But she did not believe me.

The Loyola student initiated an inaccurately worded petition at change.org and garnered more than 1,000 signatures. Many of the signers admitted to not knowing who O’Connor was, but they heartily affirmed her erasure. The university president convened a small committee. No students were present. Only two faculty members participated, one from the theology department and one from the English department. They were the only two people familiar with O’Connor’s work. The committee arrived at a decision in what seems to be record time. And so little more than a month after the New Yorker essay appeared, the cherry-pickers showed up on campus.


What disturbs me is now quick some are to denounce those from the past, especially when they lack knowledge of the person, the complexities of their life, and the context in which they lived.  And the idea of "avowals from former admirers that they would never read—or teach—her books again" further disturbs me.  There is afoot, I fear, another form of censorship.  In another time books might have been removed from libraries out of righteous indignation over unacceptable content regarding sex and other such taboo topics.  But the idea then often involved children.  Now adults are asserting that they will refuse to read or teach books simply because the author is deemed to have expressed herself in a way unacceptable in today's charged climate. 

Is this the way forward for the "Cancel Culture"?  How sad for the education of many who will be encouraged to only read what is politically and culturally approved. 

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