Thursday, March 31, 2016

Yamm (Sea) strikes again!

The prophet Daniel had a disturbing vision in which he saw four great beasts come up out of the sea. Each was composed of the parts of various animals blended in unnatural combinations, and each represented a human political kingdom that was more animalistic than human. The beastly kingdoms stand in contrast to “one like a son of man” (Dan 7:13), a human figure who represents “the saints of the Most High” (Dan 7:18, i.e., Israel). His rule was truly human. We do not need to understand the details of the vision. We simply need to observe the understandable symbolic origin of the beasts—the sea. As such, they are forces of chaos and opponents for the divine warrior.

In Revelation this image of Daniel’s is picked up and reapplied to a new situation. In chapter 13 John has a vision of a blasphemous beast with seven horns and ten heads that rises out of the sea. As with Daniel’s beasts, this ugly brute was composite, like a leopard with bear’s feet and a lion’s mouth. This sea monster was a symbol for Rome and its emperor, a great political power, granted temporary authority by the dragon (Satan), and in opposition to the church and God. As in Daniel’s vision, this was not a literal monster, but the imagery used by both Daniel and Revelation draws on the longstanding tradition of God’s battle with chaos monsters from the sea.

Perhaps now we can understand a peculiar comment near the end of the book of Revelation to the effect that in the new creation there will be no more sea. We might think of that as a disappointing idea—no more beach holidays, scuba diving, or wind surfing. That is not the point. This is not about water as such. This is about the ever-present danger of chaos and its eventual permanent removal.— The Biblical Cosmos, page 45

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Did Jesus walk on the water?

We all know the story of Jesus walking on water. And for most of us it is simply a great show of his power and authority but, truth be told, we don’t really see the point of it. However, Jesus did not actually walk on water. You did read that correctly. Jesus did not walk on the water . . . he walked on the sea. There’s a difference and it is important. Here is Mark’s version:
And when evening came, the boat was out on the sea, and he was alone on the land. And he saw that they were making headway painfully, for the wind was against them. And about the fourth watch of the night he came to them, walking on the sea. He meant to pass by them, but when they saw him walking on the sea they thought it was a ghost, and cried out, for they all saw him and were terrified. But immediately he spoke to them and said, “Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid.” And he got into the boat with them, and the wind ceased. And they were utterly astounded, for they did not understand about the loaves, but their hearts were hardened. When they had crossed over, they came to land at Gennesaret and moored to the shore. (Mark 6:47–53)
This is not simply a great party trick to show off his power. This is, in the words of John’s Gospel, a sign—a powerful deed with a meaning. And that meaning was very much tied up with the meaning of the sea. The Jewish Scriptures had spoken of God, the powerful creator, as the one who walks on the sea, exercising his great power over it: “[God] who alone stretched out the heavens/ and trampled the waves of the sea” (Job 9:8). The Greek translation of Job 9:8 says that God “walks about on the sea as on the ground.” Mark uses this same word for Jesus walking about (peripateō) on the sea. Jesus is acting out the role of God in Job 9!

Jesus, like Jehovah, exercises complete control over the chaotic sea and walks upon its waves as on the dry ground. And in case ancient readers were dumb enough to miss the point, Jesus’ words of comfort to his disciples in verse 50 should clarify things. Jesus says, literally, “Be confident, I am.”This is deliberately ambiguous. On the one hand, it simply means “Take heart, it is me, Jesus.” On the other, it is an allusion to God’s self-designation, “I am.” In other words, in this story Jesus is acting as Jehovah himself, Lord of the Sea.— The Biblical Cosmos, pages 43–44

<idle musing>
So, when did Jesus become God in the eyes of the disciples? A lot earlier than many scholars think! That's part of the reason why the crucifixion was such a shock to their theology.
</idle musing>

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Now you know

It is quite possible that the fish was a cosmic sea monster of the kind we have considered above. It is interesting to note that when the Hebrew text was translated into Greek the word chosen to translate dāg was not ichthus (fish), nor enalion (sea creature), but kētos, meaning gargantuan fish or sea monster. This was a word with dark and scary connotations. When Jesus in Matthew’s Gospel speaks of the beast that swallowed Jonah it is, of course, a kētos (Matt 12:39–40), a vast and lethal sea monster. This is not the friendly whale of modern children’s Bibles, smiling sweetly as it rescues Jonah.— The Biblical Cosmos, page 42

<idle musing>
Now you know! If they put that picture in a children's Bible, it probably wouldn't be published. But far scarier covers can be found on kid's books...can you say dichotomy?

We tame down God and make him a nice, easily controllable deity—who can't really help us. But all the while, we magnify the evil, the scary.
</idle musing>

Monday, March 28, 2016

The Exodus as Creation

The sea was Pharaoh’s weapon against Israel, blocking their escape. But Jehovah turned that weapon back against Egypt. God defeated the sea by controlling it, and in so doing defeated Egypt. The exodus is spoken of here in terms of an act of creation. This may seem weird to us. We can appreciate that it is an act of salvation, but how can it be an act of creation? Well, the reason is that salvation is being understood as an act of new creation in the midst of the old creation. It is an act of holding back chaos so that life and order can flourish.— The Biblical Cosmos, page 40

In the end, dialogue and respect

While we take some of the steps above and are convinced we are 
following God’s call, we must never demonize our Christian brothers and sisters whose views about guns are the polar opposite of our own. We must never claim we are closer to God than they for there are earnest Christians on both sides of this issue. We need to walk together into the future in order to build the America we all want for our children and grandchildren. Neither side can have what it most desires for our society without respecting and accommodating the other. But again, isn’t that how God made the world? We must learn to speak the truth in love to those whose views are different. We must take heart because the polls tell us the vast majority of Americans are not far apart on guns and gun violence. Eighty-six percent of all gun owners and NRA members agree that Second Amendment rights and keeping guns from criminals and terrorists are complementary, not contradictory. What are we waiting for? Let the discussions and the healing begin!—America and Its Guns: A Theological Expose, page 217

<idle musing>
And may it be so. But I have found that mutual respect is a product woefully lacking, even among Christians.

That's the final excerpt from the book. I hope you enjoyed it. It's well worth your time to read—even if you disagree with him!
</idle musing>

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Happy Easter

Easter thought: Isn't it significant that Jesus was crucified on Passover and not Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement)?

To listen to some people's theology, you would think that Jesus was crucified on the Day of Atonement, but he wasn't. Think about that for a minute. Passover is about freedom from bondage. The Day of Atonement is about covering up the past. Passover is about the future.

Yes, Christ's death and resurrection accomplished atonement; scripture is clear about that, although the mechanics aren't. But, the fact that Jesus was crucified on Passover sends us a clear message that we are free!

Saturday, March 26, 2016


Piled Higher and Deeper seems especially relevant today:

Friday, March 25, 2016

The return of the chaos monster?

The significance of the flood story is that it is told as a story of the undoing of Genesis 1, as a move towards de-creation. God is unraveling the separations he had put in place between the waters above and the waters below, and between the land and the sea. The terrifying story of Noah’s flood—and to the ancient mind it really was terrifying—is almost a return to the primeval chaos of Gen 1:2.

And it would have been the end of the world had God not “remembered Noah” and shut up the fountains of the deep and closed the windows of the heavens, promising never to flood the earth again. As a sign of this end to hostility 
God reversed his archer’s bow and extended it away from himself towards 
the earth as a sign of peace. Genesis speaks merely of a “bow” in the sky, but we call this divine archer’s bow a rainbow.— The Biblical Cosmos, page 39

These things ought not to be!

In 2010, my state and others passed laws that permit gun owners to take their weapons into bars and other places that serve alcohol provided they do not drink. (And just why is it people go to bars?) I wonder why some pastors in Virginia and elsewhere are unable to say, “In the name of God, Jack Daniels, Virginia Gentleman, Samuel Adams, and a Glock 19 should not be seen together in a bar; Friends, martinis and guns do not mix.” Even the NRA would agree with that. If the shepherds of Jesus’ flock are unable to make such an innocuous statement, I wonder if they have anything else of consequence to say to their people.—America and Its Guns: A Theological Expose, page 211 (emphasis original)

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Floating away

The story of Noah’s flood is a story in which the waters of chaos were no longer held at bay and the world ended! Modern people struggle making sense of the story because we cannot understand how there could be a global flood in which the tops of the highest mountains were submerged. Where on earth could so much water come from, and what happened to it afterwards? But we are trying to understand the story from the wrong cosmology. In our understanding of the earth there isn’t enough water for the job, but in a biblical cosmology there most certainly is, for the world is surrounded by water. The book of Genesis tells its audience exactly where the water came from: “In the six hundredth year of Noah’s life, in the second month, on the seventeenth day of the month, on that day all the fountains of the great deep burst forth, and the windows of the heavens were opened” (Gen 7:11).

Contrary to common claims, even by scholars, biblical authors did not think that the rain came from holes in the sky. They were well aware that rain came from clouds. However, this was no ordinary rain. On this occasion—and only on this occasion—the rain did come through holes in the sky-dome. Water also burst forth from the subterranean ocean beneath the earth. That is how there was enough water to flood the earth.— The Biblical Cosmos, pages 38–39 (emphasis original)

Bring on the schmaltz

I hope I’m wrong, but I sense within many churches a kind of dumbing down on God’s command to love God and neighbor today. I’ve seen too many churches that are governed by a kind of creeping sentimentalism that pretends to be love. Are we permitting Jesus’ world-changing agape love to morph into schmaltziness and the gushy stuff of greeting cards?—America and Its Guns: A Theological Expose, pages 209–10

<idle musing>
An especially relevant question this time year! Is the cross about gushy, sentimentalism? No way! The cross shows the depth of God's love for humanity.
>/idle musing>

Wednesday, March 23, 2016


From the final chapter in the forthcoming The Greek Verb Revisited. This chapter is contributed by Geoffrey Horrocks:
Another crucial issue is the long-term disinclination of those who study Greek in different institutional environments to communicate effectively with one another, or indeed with linguists who have a more general interest in grammatical and semantic categories that happen to have instantiations in Greek. It is still not unusual, for example, for Classicists to have no real sense of the evolution of the language in postclassical periods (whether ancient, medieval, or modern), or for New Testament scholars largely to ignore what was happening more generally to Greek in the Roman period, or for Hellenists collectively to lack any clear theoretical or typological perspective when framing their analyses of specifically Greek phenomena. . . Nothing, after all, breeds cant and gibberish more rapidly than a closed circle of devotees who are certain they have all the answers.
<idle musing>
Amen and amen!
</idle musing>

Product placement, biblical style

This balance between the conflict and the no-conflict motifs is important. In terms of the way that the biblical material was compiled and organized into a canonical whole, the no-conflict Genesis 1 story is placed first and becomes the lens through which the other passages are to be understood. In other words, the primeval waters are a powerful and chaotic force in God’s creation but are only a bad thing when not constrained, when out of control. But God can command them and compel them to serve good purposes. Indeed, they praise God in their submission to his will. Leviathan, God’s ferocious pet, represents the forces of chaos woven into the very fabric of God’s good creation. These forces are dangerous to humans and beyond human control, but they are not beyond divine control.— The Biblical Cosmos, page 37


The most pathetic words I ever hear are from people who listen to the innumerable ways the Gun Empire deceives us and perpetuates murder and mayhem, only to sigh: “The only thing we can do is pray.” That is code for “there is nothing we can do.” What a denial of God’s love. What a rejection of discipleship and the power of Christ in our lives. Prayer unaccompanied by attempts to awaken listless people or congregations, or pouring out one’s blood, sweat, and tears to stop the violence, will never satisfy the imperatives of love. The church’s prayer without accompanying action is really a cop-out.—America and Its Guns: A Theological Expose, page 208 (emphasis original)

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Monsters are good?

Chaos monsters pose no problem for Jehovah. Indeed, they are his servants. The famous Genesis 1 creation story tells the tale of creation without seeing God engaging in any combat with monsters. Now there may well be echoes of the monsters in Genesis 1. We do begin with dark watery chaos, and note that the Hebrew word for “the deep” (tĕhôm) in verse 2 may echo the name Tiamat, the sea dragon goddess of Enuma Elish. But if there is an echo here it is only very faint. There is no battle; God creates by issuing effortless commands. And the water and darkness are not removed from creation but incorporated into it. Indeed, they are described as good when, on Days One to Three, they are put in their right place and kept within bounds. There are great sea dragons (tannîn, the same word used to describe Leviathan in Psalm 74 and Isaiah 27) in Gen 1:21, but they are simply creatures that God created and their creation “was good.”— The Biblical Cosmos, page 37

Turning power on its head

Can we get our sophisticated twenty-first-century minds around that image of the triumphant Lamb of God, who “was led to the slaughter and did not open his mouth” (Isa 53:7)? Can we envision all the idols of power and deadly force lying silently at the feet of him who was crucified, dead and buried, but now is risen?

We don’t usually attribute victory and power to lambs, do we? Neither does the National Football League. It has Lions, Bears, Bengals, Broncos, Jaguars, Raiders, Buccaneers, Chiefs, Vikings, Cowboys, Giants, and Redskins, to name a few, but no lambs. Arena football, major league soccer, lacrosse, baseball, basketball, and hockey have no team called “the Lambs.” There is no street gang or United States Marine unit called “the Lambs.” Yet, when time is no more and all the books are closed and all the armies and navies of the world are mustered out forever and every government and parliament which ever sat is dismissed for all time, when all the nations gather at God Almighty’s throne to celebrate the final victory, every knee will bow down and fall prostrate before the gentle Lamb that was slain.—America and Its Guns: A Theological Expose, page 206 (emphasis original)

<idle musing>
Seems an appropriate post for Holy Week, doesn't it? We're celebrating the God who became man, suffered on our behalf (when he could have called a legion of heavenly warriors!), and conquered! And he didn't do it with an AK-47, either. The "Lamb that was slain" is to be our model. The early church got that, why can't we?
</idle musing>

Monday, March 21, 2016

Hold the water!

In the context of a world surrounded by water those Bible passages celebrating God’s setting of boundaries for the sea make sense. The sea was dangerous and should God ever stop holding these chaotic waters at bay the world would collapse.— The Biblical Cosmos, page 31

<idle musing>
We're starting a delightful little book today (with a hearty thanks to Wipf & Stock for the book!) by Robin Parry. If you know Robin, you know that he has a wonderful British sense of humor, which manages to slip into the book here and there—keep your eye open for it as we go along.

Enjoy the ride as we step inside the minds of the biblical authors and readers. I think you'll find it enlightening and scary all at the same time!
</idle musing>


To enhance its image the Gun Empire boasts of pure American values, yet preaches insurrection and plots the overthrow of a democratically elected government. It asks to be approached as one of the great religions of the world, yet lies to the American public. It claims God-given rights to be armed, but refuses any public responsibility for safety. Such pronouncements may in the short run wield significant power over a minority of gun zealots and a majority of apathetic citizens, but in God’s long run, it is doomed: “The Kingdoms of this world shall become the Kingdoms of our Lord and of His Christ and He shall reign forever and ever” (Rev 11:15).

The Gun Empire carries within the seeds of its own destruction, particularly in its classic overreach and promotion of violence. As it seeks more power through devious means and grasps for more exclusive privileges, it sets in motion undeniable and unconquerable spiritual forces that will inevitably lead to its own defeat. Its outrageous methods will eventually bring about its own demise. It will die as all Empires die, by claiming way too much. God still “scatters the proud in the imagination of their hearts, puts down the mighty from their thrones, exalts those of low degree, fills the hungry with good things, and sends the rich and powerful away—empty” (Luke 1:51–53).—America and Its Guns: A Theological Expose, page 204

Friday, March 18, 2016

Violence is the answer!

When violence and guns are destroying the character and moral fiber of our nation, it is of infinite importance that the faith community wake up and boldly negate the nonsense that is noised that guns do not kill and the answer to gun violence is more guns.

For citizens to carry their guns everywhere (homes, schools, college campuses, bars, churches, athletic contests, and courthouses) is not an acceptable solution. If the signs for gun free zones are removed from our schools, bedlam will ensue. Relying on more firepower to reduce violence is not a message that faith communities, peace fellowships, the majority of NRA members, or the general populace could embrace. Our faith traditions, should they be honestly consulted, provide much more effective alternatives.—America and Its Guns: A Theological Expose, page 203

<idle musing>
Ah, there's the rub. "Our faith traditions, should they be honestly consulted, provide much more effective alternatives." But they won't be. Why should we listen to those old dead things? After all, we have smartphones!

Maybe the phones are smart, but I doubt we are! When we think that we are the measure of all things, this is the logical result: violence and death. We reap what we sow—in spades! We sow the wind, we reap the whirlwind. Or, as I saw someone recently write, when you sow dragon's teeth, you shouldn't be surprised when dragons sprout!
</idle musing>

I'd say it is an epidemic

Every American today lives on the slippery slope of gun violence and each of us is endangered because public safety is not a national priority. Many Americans are armed with powerful guns and shoot their fellow citizens with increasing regularity. The total number of people shot in the United States each year has risen significantly from the beginning of the new century to 2008, the latest year for which complete federal data is available. Between 2000 and 2008, a total of 272,590 people died of gunshot injuries in the United States—an average of 30,288 per year, a number shocking by comparison to any other developed country. During that same time period, an estimated 617,488 people suffered nonfatal gunshot injuries in the United States. The total number of people shot in 2008 totaled 110,215—the highest total recorded during the nine-year period surveyed by the Violence Policy Center.—America and Its Guns: A Theological Expose, page 199

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Making the world safe...

Enough people believe more guns will resolve human conflicts to make this country the most dangerous in the developed world. With 300 million guns in private hands and three million more coming off our assembly lines every year, our citizens are armed and dangerous. The guns we purchase for self-defense inevitably become the instruments of murder and suicide among family and friends.—America and Its Guns: A Theological Expose, page 198

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Aorist or present imperative? Why?

Ronald Blankenborg, “The Grammarized Suggestion of Proximity or Distance,” in The Greek Verb: Morphology, Syntax, and Semantics, suggests that the use of the aorist imperative vs. present imperative is related to “the hearer’s immediate and accurate involvement, his proximity to the reaction required. Imperfective imperative is hence somewhat rude and impolite. Its usage suggests a situation in which the speaker implicitly holds a position that gives the right to command, and the privilege to expect his commands to be carried out without further ado. Imperfective imperative is also a reflection of social hierarchy. Aorist imperative reflects similar hierarchy, but the other way around: its usage appears to be more polite due to the distancing of the hearer from the required reaction.” (39)

A bit further down the page, he says “My concept of supposed distancing explains politeness as a result. If the speaker does not or cannot take hearer’s immediate involvement for granted, some distancing is unavoidable. . . . The pragmatic choice between aorist and imperfective imperative as distancing versus involving is also present in situations where the speaker hesitates as to whether his orders will be executed or not. A very clear example, and a comic reversal of hierarchical positions, is the discussion between Strepsiades and his son in Aristophanes’ Clouds 81–112. In an attempt to make his son take lessons with Socrates, Strepsiades gives him various commands (κύσον με, δός, εἰπε, πιθοῦ, ἔκτρεψον) that do not rouse his son’s suspicion. Only after an imperfective imperative (μάνθανε) does the son react: “What exactly do you want from me?” The son’s assertion that he will do as his father tells him (πείσομαι) makes the father continue in imperfective aspect (ἀπόβλεπε, σιώπα). Hesitation on the part of the son (“But these philosophers are madmen!”) leads to another aorist imperative (γενοῦ), only to be followed by an imperfective imperative (διδάσκου). The son’s surrender-like reaction (“What am I to learn then that may benefit you?”) shows that the father was right in his approach.” (39–40, emphasis original)

He also says that prayers tend to be in the aorist. I found that to be true. For example, the Lord's Prayer (Matt 6) is all aorists, as is Jesus prayer in John 17. Even in places where the imperfective aspect seems more appropriate, it is aorist.

It's all around you

Violence is the ethos of our times. It is the spirituality of the modern world. It is accorded the status of a religion, demanding from its devotees an absolute obedience to death. Its followers are not aware, however, that the devotion they pay to violence is a form of religious piety. Violence is successful as a myth precisely because it does not seem to be mythic in the least. Violence simply appears to be the nature of things. It is what works. It is inevitable, the last, and often, the first resort in conflicts. It is embraced with equal alacrity by people on the left and on the right, by religious liberals and religious conservatives. The threat of violence, it is believed, alone can deter aggressors. Violence is thriving as never before in every sector of American popular culture, civil religion, nationalism, and foreign policy. Violence, not Christianity, is the real religion of America.—Walter Wink as quoted in America and Its Guns: A Theological Expose, page 198

<idle musing>
I would have to agree with him. Or, as Walter Brueggemann says, the unexamined metanarrative of our culture is militaristic consumerism—which really boils down to the same thing, just in a shorter phrase with bigger words : )
</idle musing>

Monday, March 14, 2016

It's a slippery slope, but not the direction you think...

Those who live in the mountains are most aware that every mountaintop has more than one slope. The purpose of this book is to alert people of faith and others of good will of another slippery slope on which we are living today and it is far more dangerous. It is a huge threat to our children and grandchildren because we as a society are obediently following the advice and counsel of the idols of power and deadly force. We are living as prisoners of the principalities and powers and have forsaken the ways of the loving God who has redeemed us and placed our trust in sophisticated weapons to “guarantee” our security and preserve our nation’s most cherished ideals. We live on this slippery slope because we as a people find it almost impossible to shake free of our fascination with and devotion to violence in all its forms. We say, “violence has worked for us in the past, why search for other ways to solve our human conflicts?” That is the slippery slope that scares me.—America and Its Guns: A Theological Expose, pages 197–98

<idle musing>
And one of the front-runners is a great fan of violence, and I don't hear any of the other ones denouncing violence as an option...slippery slope, indeed. And it leads straight to more violence and death. : (
</idle musing>

More gun violence—but it won't change anything

In the six years and nine months since the U.S. invasion of Iraq in March 2003, through December 2009, 4,400 American servicemen and women lost their lives. In the same timeframe approximately 202,500 Americans lost their lives through gun violence on our own streets.—America and Its Guns: A Theological Expose, page 194

Friday, March 11, 2016

And when money talks, death results

For decades church folk pleaded with elected leaders to enact balanced legislation, but they turned a deaf ear. They listened only to those whose guns had become idols and whose checks made it into their coffers. They believed supporting any restriction on guns was a losing political strategy. Knowing what we know today of the pervasive power of misinformation, we are not surprised when we learn that the total effect of Congress’ inattention to guns made it easier for violent people to buy guns and harder for law enforcement to arrest them or those who sold them weapons illegally.—America and Its Guns: A Theological Expose, page 193

Money talks

The United States Congress is presently in sync with a small, extreme minority of gun owners, who along with manufacturers, distributors, and dealers, consider any regulation on guns, no matter how wise, to be a denial of gun rights. Our Congress is out of sync with the majority of Americans who favor balanced gun laws, including the majority of NRA members.—America and Its Guns: A Theological Expose, page 192

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Which will it be?

I concede that stories of stopping a crime are more compelling. They are like an account of our Navy SEALs killing Osama bin Laden. People hear these accounts and they are energized; they want to cheer, “guns save lives.” On the other hand when people hear of gun tragedies they moan. These are “downers,” which remind the public that guns actually do kill. The former reveals our human desire to be in control of our life situations; the latter underscores our total lack of control and vulnerability. The facts are: there are between 150–200 justifiable homicides every year, largely carried out by law enforcement. But in 2007 there were 12,632 murders and hundreds of thousands of injuries.—America and Its Guns: A Theological Expose, page 189

<idle musing>
So, which will it be? The 1–2 compelling stories with the 12,000+ murders? Or the thought that maybe I'm mortal and guns actually kill people?

I know. Why bother asking? Nobody wants to admit that they are mortal and not in control...and so the holocaust continues. And not just murder by uncontrolled weapons, but murder by abortion. Murder by drones. Murder by capital punishment. Murder by malicious thoughts that "other" people made in the image of God.

Did I leave anybody out? If so, it was unintentional; everybody is guilty of murder. But, even if we can't do anything about that—only God can, through Holy Spirit transformation—at least we should attempt to reduce the holocaust!

Just an
</idle musing>

Wednesday, March 09, 2016

Same old same old

At a mass shooting, the only germane question is how. How were thirty-two people killed and fifty-seven injured in just a few minutes? How was Cho able to follow through with this despicable crime? The answer is very simple: this terribly sick young man was able to buy two of the world’s most efficient killing machines and use them for the purposes for which they were made. That is how.

As long as we permit elected leaders to visibly hide on the irrelevant safe ground of speculation and avoid the pertinent questions of how dangerous individuals continue to get guns at the drop of a hat, other mass shootings are waiting to happen. It is not a matter of if they will happen; it is when. And when these disasters shock the country once more we will all be subject to the same lame speeches from those who refuse to act, but call us to pray fervently for the survivors.—America and Its Guns: A Theological Expose, page 187

Tuesday, March 08, 2016

The (not so) Wild West

Who cares if the gun fighter in the Old West was a figment of the imagination? Who cares if the infamous Wild West was actually the birthplace of strict gun control laws? Garry Wills writes, “Far from the gun being the tamer of the West, the West had to tame the gun in order to be civilized.” Famous Western gun cities such as Dodge City and Durango, required all the cowhands to leave their shooting irons with the sheriff before they could amble off to the saloon. Timid legislators in the Commonwealth of Virginia and other states with lax gun laws should take notes of what the town fathers did in Dodge City, Durango, and other cowtowns in the old West to save lives.—America and Its Guns: A Theological Expose, page 175

<idle musing>
We really do have a selective memory, don't we? And I mean all of us, no matter where we stand on any issue. We tend to only remember the past in a way that supports our foregone conclusions about the present.

That's why we need two things: Each other (especially those who disagree), and the Holy Spirit. Each other because we bring each other face-to-face with another viewpoint. And the Holy Spirit so we don't kill the other before listening to them!
</idle musing>

Monday, March 07, 2016

Loopholes that kill—Literally

Over 50 percent of guns found at crime scenes are traced to only 1 percent of gun dealers. This reveals two important facts:
Most gun dealers are honest and obey federal and state laws and would decline a profitable sale if they were aware of illegality. 

Fortunately, for the 1 percent of unscrupulous and dishonest gun dealers, the ATF, because of the Tiahrt amendment, cannot make public the records of gun dealers whose guns end up at crime scenes, nor can they arrest the seller whose sales were “legal.” Moreover, in those infrequent cases where the ATF closes down a licensed dealer for infractions of the law, he/she can sell the business to a family member or trusted employee and through a change of “legal ownership” continue to operate the business.—America and Its Guns: A Theological Expose, page 

Friday, March 04, 2016

I agree

Ted Gossard has summed up my feelings about this election year wonderfully well:
I am reticent to write on American politics for a good number of reasons. But the current debacle in the election process to the upcoming November 2016 presidential election is making me think and wonder.

I wonder if many of us Christians either already have, or are in danger of losing our souls over American politics. I’m not necessarily referring to our ultimate salvation. But I’m referring to the heart of our faith and the gospel in the present. Although I don’t think the deviation I perceive helps us at all to remain on the straight and narrow.

I see this tendency as equally a problem among Roman Catholics and Eastern Orthoodox, not just the evangelicals who routinely are picked on and beaten up in the press and by each other. There is a tendency to see the state as the vehicle for the good life, for flourishing, in American terms, “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” The right, the left, and everything in the spectrum of American politics have plenty to say on this. It’s not my intention in this post to address any of that. I have my own opinions in regard to such politics, certainly subject to revision, but that’s not the point of this post, either.

My point is simple: Christians are to live and die for nothing less than the good news found in God’s grace and kingdom come in King Jesus, realized and lived out through both the sacramental and common life of the church. Within and from and through that is our answer to the problems of society: the problem of abortion, helping the poor, racism, stopping the slave trade, etc. Our answer is unique, grounded in Jesus Christ and the gospel. (emphasis added)

Do read the whole thing!

Racking up the miles

On November 26 (Thanksgiving Day), I flew into Duluth on my return from AAR/SBL and drove home to Grand Marais. Since that day, 14 weeks ago, I have driven the car a total of 4 miles; I needed to get something from the Ace Hardware east of town and it was too bulky to fit in a backpack. During that same period, we have walked about 450 miles, about 4.5 miles per day.

We own a Prius, so the amount of pollution and gas saved is negligible. But it sure is more fun walking around, up and down the hills, to and from the stores.

Nothing important here, really, just a bit of trivia that popped into my head this morning...
</idle musing>

Of course it's logical—which is why it won't happen

The gun lobby will loudly proclaim that gun control will never work because “the criminals will always get their guns and good law abiding people will be always at their mercy.” To the contrary, keeping guns out of dangerous hands does work, not only in other countries but in our own. Indeed, it works very well! Strong intentional laws which keep guns out of the hands of felons, terrorists, and the mentally ill save lives. note the evidence in the chart below: The five states with the strongest gun laws have much fewer gun deaths and the five states with the weakest gun laws have far higher death rates. That not only makes sense; it works!—America and Its Guns: A Theological Expose, page 166 (emphasis original)

<idle musing>
Rule number one: Never use logic when discussing idols. It doesn't work. Witness Isaiah's critique of idols. Did the Israelites cease worshiping them? No. What about Habakkuk's scathing critique? Did they stop then? Nope!

Idolatry blinds people to logic. We're seeing that in this election season. Blind patriotism has become an idol, blinding people to logic. Don't touch my idols or you die!
</idle musing>

Thursday, March 03, 2016

Feel Safer?

A gun kept in the home for protection is at least 11 times more likely to kill or wound a family member or friend, or be stolen and used in a crime, than it is to stop an intruder.—America and Its Guns: A Theological Expose, page 

Wednesday, March 02, 2016

Yep. The US is in first place...

When all murders of civilians in all the developed countries of the world are tabulated, 86 percent occur in the United States.—America and Its Guns: A Theological Expose, page 

In the United States, we register births, marriages, divorces, and deaths; we register cars, trucks, boats, trailers, bicycles, houses, lands, dogs, and cats—everything but guns.—America and Its Guns: A Theological Expose, page 
161 (emphasis original)

<idle musing>
Think there's a correlation there?
</idle musing>

Tuesday, March 01, 2016

What were they thinking?

The Consumer Protection Act of 1972 prohibits the Consumer Protection Commission from examining the quality or safety of any gun or any piece of ammunition. Teddy bears, dolls, and toy guns must pass four sets of strict regulations before they can be sold.—America and Its Guns: A Theological Expose, page 156

In late 2005, the U.S. Congress and President George W. Bush passed the Protection of Lawful Commerce Act, which denies victims of gun violence the right to sue the manufacturers, distributors, or dealers for negligent, reckless, or irresponsible conduct. No other industry in America enjoys such blanket immunity and protection.—America and Its Guns: A Theological Expose, page 

The automobile industry, tobacco, the airlines, the funeral industry, oil, gas, and coal industries, and manufacturers and distributors of thousands of products are routinely examined by Congress. The gun industry is never examined.—America and Its Guns: A Theological Expose, page 

<idle musing>
Is there a pattern here? Protect your idols! Sacrifice your children, but protect your idols!
</idle musing>