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Messages - Richard Johnson

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Your Turn / Re: Recent Surpreme Court Decision Concerning Churches
« on: Yesterday at 10:22:27 PM »

It is interesting to find out that when imposing restrictions on worship services and possibly closing churches Gov. Cuomo and Gavin and various Mayors simply were following what Trump said.

That's Gov. Newsom. Unless you are on a first-name basis with him.

Your Turn / Re: Recent Surpreme Court Decision Concerning Churches
« on: November 28, 2020, 09:11:15 PM »
When the various powers that be utterly failed to condemn the mass protests, they forfeit the right to condemn worship services. All they really showed is that socio-political power is their religion, and their religion must have free reign even in a pandemic. Itís just everyone elseís that can be compromised, what with the health emergency and all.

The new shutdown order in Los Angeles specifically excludes religious services and protests--apparently taking the cue from the recent Supreme Court decision but extrapolating to say "If freedom of religion warrants an exclusion from the regulation, so does freedom of speech."

Your Turn / Re: Recent Surpreme Court Decision Concerning Churches
« on: November 28, 2020, 04:29:31 PM »
I understand your concern. Does "just let the adults and responsible family members make decisions" apply only to religious services? Or would you ask that the public health officials not prescribe any restrictions on anybody?

And if it is all about freedom to make responsible decisions, are there any public health and safety restrictions that are acceptable? Seat belts? Fire exits? Speed limits? Restaurant kitchen safety? At what point does the larger society (by which I mean the public health and safety advisors, in conjunction with government officials) have a legitimate responsibility to ensure that the broader public is protected? Where is the line?

Your Turn / Re: Recent Surpreme Court Decision Concerning Churches
« on: November 28, 2020, 03:11:23 PM »
I find myself quite conflicted about the Supreme Court ruling. On the one hand, I believe that the free exercise of religion is one of the bedrocks of our nation, and from one point of view, a ruling that affirms this as an absolute right is good and salutary. On the other hand, in a public health crisis it seems there are reasonable restrictions that might be made that in some way inhibit what a church would ordinarily do. This is nothing new; a while back our congregational historian wrote about an incident in 1918 when the rector of our church was arrested because he had failed to follow the flu pandemic restrictions for a funeral he conducted.

So the nub of the issue seems to be what is "reasonable" for safety. I think the complaints about "why is an acupuncture office essential but a church isn't" is really a red herring, and it is unfortunate that the pandemic experts chose the word "essential" (just as many of us wish they hand't used "social distancing"). The real issue is whether churches are being treated differently from "comparable businesses." Not many businesses are really comparable to churches. In an acupuncture office, for instance (just because I'm familiar with this option), you don't have large groups of people sitting in an enclosed space for long periods of time. Same with a retail store. The simple fact is that a church service, as "essential" as we think it is, has many risk factors that most other businesses don't have.

The closest parallel I can think of is a venue like a movie theater. And actually, just looking at California restrictions, the provisions for churches and movie theaters are pretty much the same for the "--outdoor only, with modifications (like masks and spacing). Live theater is completely closed, interestingly--so more restrictive than worship.

I have little patience for the hysteria of people who are trying to claim that "politicians" (especially, of course, Democrats) are trying to "persecute" churches by restrictions that are more onerous than tattoo parlors or liquor stores. Apples and oranges in terms of risk. The "politicians" are listening to the public health people. Do they get it right all the time? No; who does? But crying "anti-Christian persecution" doesn't really help any of us as we navigate an unprecedented situation.

I do tend to agree, though, with those who criticize the "one size fits all" regulations. A building that seats 100 is not comparable to a building that seats 1000, and a rule that says "25% or 25 people, whichever is smaller" is really not well considered.

As an aside, when we were worshiping in person in our fellowship hall, the rule was 25% and then it was 40% for a while when we were in the orange tier. The fellowship hall was built in the 1940s, and there had never been a reason for the public safety people to set an occupancy limit (which happens with any new construction, but usually not otherwise, at least here). So we just ballparked it. When the limit was raised to 40%, we decided that we really couldn't go that high and still be safe, given the configuration of the room. So we basically said, "OK, 25%, but if a few extra people show up, we'll make it work." And an attitude like that is precisely the kind of problem the public health people are dealing with: give some leeway, and somebody will take advantage of it--not maliciously, but just in trying to do what's right but without thoroughly thinking through the implications. (Fortunately, only one Sunday during the four months of in-person did we come anywhere near a problematic number of attendees. The rector that Sunday said "Maybe we need to go to two services"; I said "Let's wait a couple of weeks; I suspect this was a one time issue" which turned out to be right.)

Your Turn / Re: Check out the online articles section
« on: November 28, 2020, 12:23:28 PM »
I always just click "Show unread posts since your last visit," and that shows me every thread that has new posts.

Your Turn / Re: Life in Quarantine: One man's reflections
« on: November 26, 2020, 07:23:21 PM »
I've always thought it terribly ironic that the descendants of those Pilgrims morphed into some of the groups that strayed farthest from orthodox Christianity--the Unitarians, of course, and what is today the UCC (which, we used to joke, means "Unitarians Considering Christ").

Your Turn / Re: Life in Quarantine: One man's reflections
« on: November 26, 2020, 12:00:57 PM »
One positive thing about Pandemic Thanksgiving. Since we'll be alone, we mutually agreed last night that there was really no good reason not to break into the pumpkin pie a day early.   ;D

Your Turn / Re: Lutheran ethnic origins
« on: November 26, 2020, 11:57:00 AM »

LCA - Old German (Muhlenberg strain), Swedish, Danes (Happy Danes), Finns
ALC - German (old ALC, which was formerly Ohio, Buffalo, Iowa synods), Norwegian, Danes (Sober Danes)
ELS - "Little Norwegians"
LCMS - German
Suomi- Finnish (part of LCA)

If I am recalling correctly, in both the LCA and the ALC, the German component was actually larger than the Swedish and Norwegian components respectively.

Your Turn / Re: Rev. Paul T. McCain, RIP
« on: November 26, 2020, 11:49:00 AM »
Wow. Rest eternal grant him, O Lord.

Your Turn / Re: Coronavirus news
« on: November 25, 2020, 02:35:49 PM »
Can the state mandate that I have to have fire detectors in my house? The state does that.
Can the state mandate that I am required to clear the snow off my walks and driveway? The state does that.
Can the state mandate that my children must be vaccinated before I send them to school? The state does that.
And as noted upstream, and certain emergency situation, the state is given additional authority to exercise temporary control over certain things.
So long as some people are so idiotic as to not wear the mask or follow the guidelines, these emergency actions are needed.

Speaking of idiotic people:

Democrat Mayor of Denver, Michael Hancock, sent out a tweet today, telling people to stay home, avoid travel, host virtual dinners, and only socialize with people you live with.

Within an hour, he was on a plane flying to spend Thanksgiving at his daughter's home in Mississippi.

I'm sure Brian will argue that the mayor is just following "other rules."

But now we see why people are rejecting being told what to do. The people making the rules see no reason to follow them, so the peons see no reason to follow them either.

There is indeed no shortage of hypocrisy on the Thanksgiving table.

On-line Articles / Re: Thanksgiving 2020
« on: November 25, 2020, 02:31:11 PM »

And when an issue of FL arrives in the mail, I read the lead article and try to guess if it was written by you or Richard.  I usually get it right. 

I usually get it right, too.  ;D  But, true confession, when Saltzman was editor and I associate editor, there were a couple of times when something one of us wrote was published over the byline of the other, for various reasons I won't reveal. Nobody ever figured it out. I still chuckle about it.  ;)

On-line Articles / Re: Thanksgiving 2020
« on: November 25, 2020, 02:28:45 PM »
Thanks for the interesting reflection, Peter. I have found myself particularly nostalgic this week, as we prepare to have Thanksgiving dinner alone. I have been thinking about all the years when the day before Thanksgiving was a flurry activity--trying to get the house ready for whomever was coming, trying to get a start on the cooking, maybe desperately trying to finish a sermon and then thinking, "Oh gosh, and Sunday is Advent 1." On our walk this morning, my wife and I were disagreeing about exactly how often it was my parents and how often her parents and how often both were here for Thanksgiving, but also thinking about other years when we did something different--either going to someone else's house (my aunt and uncle one year, some cousins another year) or having friends rather than family (others whose family lived far away and who would otherwise be alone). Always the meal took a primary place. I think the worst thanksgiving was one year when we went to my parents' and they had decided we'd all eat out rather than having the traditional dinner at home. If we'd known, we would have probably made other plans.

We'll have a video service tomorrow morning; all indoor services suspended here for now, and we don't have a facility allowing for outdoor services. Then we'll Zoom with the kids and grandkids. Then we'll have dinner, just the two of us; we talked with our usual "no family around" friends about what to do, but they are older and more health-compromised than we, and we mutually decided it just wasn't a good idea to get together this year. This will be the second time we've had Thanksgiving alone; two years ago, Lois had foot surgery the day before, so we couldn't go anywhere or entertain anyone. At least this time we can share the cooking. Between turkey and pie we'll go for a walk on what will likely be a beautiful autumn day--colors here just past their peak, but still glorious.

In my parishes, we always had a Thanksgiving morning service. I never quite "got" doing the service on "Thanksgiving Eve." First of all, there's no such thing as "Thanksgiving Eve." Secondly, it just felt like a "let's get church over with so we can concentrate on eating and football" kind of thing to me. Third, for me one of the pleasures of worship on that day was always driving to church and enjoying the fall colors in the sunshine. (I suppose there were years when it was raining, but not many.)

I've been reading William Law's Serious Call lately, and this morning he was writing about resignation--not in the sense of giving up, but in the sense of accepting every circumstance that comes from God's hand as part of his good and gracious will for us. It's a good reminder in this year when so many things seem to have been so difficult, and when for many of us one of the difficulties will be a radically different Thanksgiving. Nonetheless, what God ordains is always right, and we will give thanks with full and joyful hearts.

Your Turn / Re: Proud to be an American
« on: November 24, 2020, 08:29:53 PM »
The Radio News just carried quote introducing cabinet appointees ... including the statement that we can be proud to be an American.

I for one already am already proud to be an American and pray that nothing changes that.

And I am one who never thought that America had ceased to be great.
Apparently you forgot the immortal words of Michelle Obama ... perhaps someone who is not having an outdoor Thanksgiving meal with family can provide those immortal words that currently escape me.

I am not Michelle Obama, so I don't see what her words have to do with my comment.

Your Turn / Re: Coronavirus news
« on: November 24, 2020, 08:28:52 PM »
What I'm curious about--and I'm not sure any of you really know, but maybe--is who determines what vaccines get distributed to whom or where?

The Texas state health department has already published its priorities:
  • Healthcare personnel likely to be exposed to or treat people with COVID-19.
  • People at increased risk for severe illness from COVID-19, including those with underlying medical conditions and people 65 years of age and older (Residents of long term care facilities are first on this list.)
  • Other vulnerable, frontline workers

You have misread my question. Which of the three (or is it four now?) vaccines get given to whom, or distributed to where? I'm not asking what people get it first, I'm asking what vaccine they get.

Probably the first one available in their area. I don't plan to be picky. I know that I don't quiz my dr about who manufactured the flue shot that I receive.

We have a chimney sweep who takes care of our flue shot.

Your Turn / Re: Proud to be an American
« on: November 24, 2020, 07:00:37 PM »
The Radio News just carried quote introducing cabinet appointees ... including the statement that we can be proud to be an American.

I for one already am already proud to be an American and pray that nothing changes that.

And I am one who never thought that America had ceased to be great.

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