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Messages - Russ Saltzman

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My ELCA friends remain deeply upset by the "social statement" for being so wishy-washy, but they are even more upset that in spite of that social statement, the ELCA's health care plans provide abortions for any reason, or no reason at all, to any woman: in other words, the ELCA pays for unlimited abortions on demand.

Your friends have not read our health care plan. They are incorrect.


I'd rather say that our statement and health care policy puts the onus on the people most directly involved to make the right decision. The aim of our Statement is to help people make the right decision.

You are wrong.

The BOP health plan treats abortion for any cause as a reimbursable medical expense. They do not examine intentions, motives, or circumstances. They do match insurance codes with procedural codes (the procedural code for a broken arm cannot be matched, say, with the insurance code for a kidney transplant). If the codes match, the insurance is paid.

Elective abortion falls under several procedural codes, most notably D&C procedure, but the health plan reimburses all.

I've heard this stuff before: "The ELCA health plan does not pay for elective abortions." It is an absolute falsehood. Usually, the assertion is presented as: The ELCA pays for no abortion that is not medically indicated - meaning, where codes do not match. But the codes will always match.

It was this that prompted me in the early 1990's to leave the ELCA pension and health plan. Period.

Under my private insurance, elective abortion is not reimbursable, nor is an elective nose job. Guess which elective procedure the health plan for ELCA clergy will cover.


I would contend that since social statements are guidelines, not rules or canon law, anyone can disagree with it, even bishops.

That's true until the enabling resolutions bind the divisions to certain actions envisioned by the social statement. That, 'round about through a working group, is how the ELCA church council came to direct the Board of Pensions to treat abortion as a reimbursable medical expense under the health plan for pastors and their dependents. I was ever so happy to register permissible disagreement, while while my pension and health contributions continued (to whatever small degree) to pay for elective abortion in the Church of Christ that was once the ELCA.

Your Turn / Senseless Sermons
« on: October 11, 2012, 11:49:52 AM »
My original title was "Stuntman Preaching" but my editor switched it to "Senseless Sermons," supposing it simply sounded significantly more scintillating.

Your Turn / Re: Why Did God Create?
« on: August 11, 2012, 06:33:15 PM »
There is no theology or biblical account that satisfactorily answers "Why Did God Create?" Not that I've found, at any rate.

Replies to the question, here and elsewhere, run two directions. One runs out of God's need. An evangelical web page argues God creates "to bring glory to himself, to make his name BIG [sic], proving that our God is an awesome God!" This suggests God essentially is an egoist, driven by some self-need for 1) our awe and 2) our love.

The other suggests God must exercise his "instinct" or nature to be true to himself. He is an entity with creative power--and he creates just because he can; because he can do it, he did it.

Neither seem adequate and both seem extreme on the spectrum.

In any case, the arena is open for speculation.

A small point, maybe. Humanity reflects the imago dei. So does all creation (though groaning for redemption) as a reflection of God's will seeking perfection.

So creation is a reflection of an aspect of God, showing something of his own love for order, design and complexity. We can describe creation, measure it, discover how it works right down to the Higgs boson. But we will never understand the cosmos at its heart until we understand first, it is God's self-portrait.

Your Turn / Re: Why Did God Create?
« on: August 10, 2012, 04:32:19 PM »
If you Google, "Why is there something rather than nothing?" you'll get all kinds of answers vegetable, animal and mineral -- from scientists, theologians, philosophers, Bible scholars, cosmologists, charlatans -- including even a few helpful ones.  You could also look up a pair of somewhat renowned articles by Norman Kretzmann: "A General Problem of Creation: Why Would God Create Anything At All?" and "A Particular Problem of Creation: Why Would God Create This World?"  They're reprinted in Being and Goodness, an anthology edited by Scott MacDonald and published by Cornell University Press (1991).  They're really pretty good.  I don't know if they're available electronically, but I wouldn't bet against it.

If you've got any more sophomoric questions, I'm your man.

Tom Pearson

Sure. And "Why is there something rather than nothing" was a 2004 book by Bede Rundle. He called the question “philosophy’s central, and most perplexing, question." But after eliminating theistic and scientism responses, his essential point seems to be "absolute nothing" makes no sense. But if that is the reason there is "something" rather than "nothing," we're back to a 600-page tautology. We have "something" because there can never be a "nothing."

Yet it does nothing in answering "Why Did God Create?" But I'll look up Kretzmann. Thanks.

Your Turn / Why Did God Create?
« on: August 10, 2012, 02:48:03 PM »
At my age you might think these sophomoric questions wouldn’t matter. Likely they wouldn’t if I hadn’t I slept through religion, logic and philosophy when I was an actual sophomore (the real action was over at history, journalism and poly-sci, should you ask). Besides, it is my age. These things take on a keener edge as time advances.

Anyway, my internet search finds nothing about why God created. The hits always connect to us. Google the question and the suggested links always return “Why did God create us.” Google is hardly an authoritative source for answers to impossible questions, but it is suggestive of being the sort of question nobody much bothers with if you can't find it on the internet in the first one hundred hits. If the answer isn't on Google, does the question even exist?

Point is, I don't want to know about us. I want to know about God. Did he wake up one morning and say, like me, "I think I'll make a three-shelf bookcase"? I could make use of the bookcase; of what use is creation to God?

The closest I've hit is an Islamic site that indulges in tautology: "You can't very well have a creation without a creator, therefore, God creates." Nothing about why, though.

So, Why did God create? Fill me in on it, huh.


Your Turn / Re: Jesus a Muslim?
« on: August 09, 2012, 04:31:11 PM »
A small contribution to the subject.

A meditation on St. Luke 1:26-38 and the Qur’an 19:16-21 (The Chapter of Mary)

Huh? Quoting the Qur’an for the Annunciation of Our Lord?

Well, there are things to be done here this day in proclaiming Mary, Mother of Our Lord, and I don’t much care who does the proclaiming, so long as it happens and so long as it is true to the Christian faith I hold.

If there is truth in the Qur’an, who is to complain? Not me.

Besides, if Moslems and Christians are going to talk together theologically—as we should—maybe the place to start our conversation is not in any of the usual places we might think, but with Mary.

More at:

Your Turn / Re: Favorite quotations
« on: August 09, 2012, 04:21:10 PM »
"There are two kinds of women in this world: Those who expect a man to bring them chocolate, and those who are man enough to go get their own."

Source: Myself

Russ: You offer an interesting quote.

Not that it is expected, but my good husband is known to bring me dark chocolate with great regularity. On rare occasions when the supply is diminished I am "man enough" to walk to the local chocolate shop and get my own chocolate covered orange peels. 

Might one women fit into both kinds? 


One might, but not the one I know best.

Your Turn / Re: Favorite quotations
« on: August 08, 2012, 05:03:16 PM »
"There are two kinds of women in this world: Those who expect a man to bring them chocolate, and those who are man enough to go get their own."

Source: Myself

Your Turn / The Jesus Newspaper in Topeka
« on: August 02, 2012, 11:57:20 AM »
Today's essay at First Things.

Walt Disney. Marceline, Missouri. News reporters praying on assignment. And no tobacco spitting in the newsroom.

Your Turn / Re: Bachelorettes and Humanae Vitae
« on: July 25, 2012, 04:03:01 PM »
Someone asked if they might use this.

Anyone wishing to reproduce or quote extensively is certainly invited to make free with any and all of my essays at First Things <> with, of course, proper attribution of author and publisher.

Your Turn / Re: personal announcements
« on: July 19, 2012, 07:38:08 PM »
Of course we are ten minutes from the Kansas City International Airport with many, many bedrooms, some of which are vacant.

Your Turn / Bachelorettes and Humanae Vitae
« on: July 19, 2012, 07:35:23 PM »
From the article at First Things

"I am rethinking Humanae Vitae, Pope Paul VI’s 1968 encyclical condemning artificial birth control. Well, actually not rethinking since I cannot remember ever thinking about it much at all, ever, except dismissively. So best to say, I am considering it seriously for the first time. I actually sat down to read it."

Thanks for clicking the link. I'm in a hits war with another unnamed author. I get lunch with you're help.

Your Turn / Biblical Entertainment
« on: July 10, 2012, 08:24:02 PM »
An earlier First Things column on entertainment bibles, particularly something called - drum roll - The Voice.

". . . what I’ve learned is just ever so astonishing. The vitality and importance of The Voice, I am led to infer, is almost level with the Coming Consummation of Time. If you want to read God’s story, this, at the very least, is the best thing since Moses took dictation for the Pentateuch. I am perhaps exaggerating the exaggerations promoters are making."

Read here

Your Turn / Because Spontaneous Creation Made You
« on: July 10, 2012, 08:14:11 PM »
This appeared at First Things near the day the so-called "God particle" was discovered. This column addressed whether God is necessary at all to make a successful universe.

Did God create?

"There is another possibility. A panel discussion of physicists, entitled “The Universe: No God Required” at the recent SETIcon II conference, offered a different conclusion. It’s just the laws of physics. Why do the stars shine? 'Because with the laws of physics,' astrophysicist Alex Filippenko of the University of California, Berkeley, is quoted, 'you can get universes.'"

See the rest at

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