Saturday, May 31, 2014

Book Recommendation: The Trace of God by Joseph Hinman

I don't remember what year it was or exactly how old I was when it happened.  The kids were young: that much I remember, so I must have been in my mid-40s.  It was summer-- I remember that, too.   
I was standing in our tiny back yard behind the kitchen door, under a sky filled with stars. I think it was about 10 or 11 pm.  I was alone. For some reason more stars were showing than usual; maybe some of the street lights were out.  It was very quiet.
I looked up into the stars and thought of God.
And then. . .  
Something indescribable fell away from my ordinary sense of things.  Perhaps it was the careful, reasoned categories I was accustomed to use to frame my thoughts.  I had a sensation of being lifted up and up, though I also knew I was still standing solidly in the night-sweet grass.  Over the horizon the moon swept up; it was a gibbous moon, about two-thirds full.  And I saw. 
Saw that all things were part of a serene and purposeful whole.  Saw that I myself was a valued and necessary part of that whole, as were the trees, the grass, the stars, the moon, and the minuscule flying creatures that brushed my face.  Felt a tender, loving purpose guiding it all towards some unknowable but beautiful end.    
"All is well. All is one.  I am here."
It wasn't a message spoken in words, but an indescribable knowing that was frankly impossible to doubt or question.  I didn't question it.  I breathed quickly, flutteringly-- completely astonished yet completely at ease, completely accepted and accepting. 
Slowly, slowly the feeling faded, drained away.  I was left there in the dark grass again, myself again, and I turned and drifted back through the door and into bed and sleep.
But I have never forgotten, and I have never been the same.  The memory of joy-- joy present in part now and expectant of fullness in time to come, has ever since held in peace the foundations of my soul. 

"There is no proof of your god."

Several years before the experience I have shared above, I had a crisis of faith.  In my early 40s I encountered on the Internet people who knew a lot more about science than I did and who insisted that if something was real, science would support that it was real.  I found I didn't know how to answer them.  "There is no proof," the atheists said, and I knew they were right.  Anything that seemed to me to be a good enough reason to believe, was never going to be enough for scientific rationalism.  So what if they were right, and I was wrong?  Supposing I was only deluding myself about the existence of God?

I remember my frustration, how I cried to the heavens, "God, couldn't you just give one incontrovertible proof? Something so we could be sure?"

But there was no answer.  God, it seemed-- if he existed-- felt no need to answer such a prayer.  Or maybe he couldn't, because he wasn't really there. . .

For months I struggled, suspended between faith and doubt.  And then an online friend directed me to the Doxa website.  "Doxa" means "glory," and the website author, scholar/theologian Joe Hinman (who calls himself "Metacrock" online) showed me that the real problem was that I was letting the skeptics determine the rules of engagement, playing the rationalists' game on their own playing field.

They said my God was a big imaginary friend in the sky.  They made it sound so silly. But Doxa helped me see that I didn't-- and needn't-- believe in that little straw-man deity anyway.

The scientific rationalists said I needed to question all my assumptions.  But I began to understand that they were leaving most of their own assumptions unquestioned.  Could their assertion that everything that is real can be scientifically verified, itself be scientifically verified?

If I must doubt my faith, couldn't I also doubt their skepticism?

"Why should  I mistrust my own experiences of God's presence?" Joe Hinman taught me to ask. After all, we don't mistrust other things we experience.  We don't doubt that the chair we're sitting in will hold us, unless we have some good reason to think something has gone wrong with our senses.  We don't have to accept the self-proclaimed expert in science as an expert in metaphysics.  Nor need we accept the standard of "absolute proof" in terms of scientific categories that may be inadequate for the phenomenon in the first place.  We can have good, reasonable reasons -- what Hinman calls a "rational warrant" to believe.  His newer website, The Religious A Priori, explores belief and rational warrant from a number of different angles.

And now Joe Hinman has encapsulated some of his best thinking into a new book: The Trace of God: A Rational Warrant for Belief.

The Trace of God is a scholarly work, but written in a style that a layperson can follow.  Its main point is that experiences like the one I describe above (called "religious experiences" or "peak experiences"*) do constitute good evidence, even from a scientific point of view, of the existence of God.

God can't be absolutely proven, Hinman says, because God is "not just another thing in the universe." God is the source and foundation of everything material and empirical; God is not material himself, nor is the sense of God conveyed in human empirical senses such as sight or hearing.  Instead we must look for the "co-determinate":
The co-determinate is like. . . a fingerprint.  The trace is the sign that always accompanies the thing itself.  In other words, you can't see the invisible man, but you can see his footprints, and wherever he is in the snow his footprints will always follow.  We cannot directly observe God, but we can find the "trace," the co-determinate, the effect of God in the world. [p. 67]
Religious experience, and especially "peak" experience, is that footprint in the snow.  Hinman spends several chapters detailing the methodology and findings of the many careful scientific/sociological studies that have measured and quantified religious experience.  He details the real, empirical effects of these studies on those who experience them, in terms of their "ultimate, transformative effects":
The effects of these experiences are dramatic, positive and long-term. . . There is data to suggest that religious experience has enabled addicts to get off of heroin, alcoholics to stop drinking and even helps people quit smoking. . . [there is] a clear feeling of meaning in life. Many speak of losing their fear of death. [p. 85]
Hinman goes on (pp. 88-89) to highlight the findings of several studies showing that those who have peak experiences:

  • Are less likely to value material possessions and money or status
  • Give greater value to work for social change, solving social problems, helping the needy
  • Are reflective, inner-directed, self-aware, self-confident
  • Are less authoritarian and dogmatic**
  • Exhibit integration, allocentrism
  • Exhibit psychological maturity
  • Show self-acceptance, self-worth
  • Exhibit autonomy, authenticity
  • Experience increased love and compassion

Hinman then spends several more chapters exploring the views of dissenting thinkers and alternate explanations for these transformative effects, and explaining why authentic experience of the divine is the explanation that most reasonably fits the phenomena.  For instance, the fact that children often have spontaneous peak experiences precludes the idea that this is a specialized state of mind caused by the self-discipline of meditation.

Finally, at the end of the book he addresses how his understanding of religious and peak experience (which can and does occur in all religious traditions and even happens at times to the non-religious) fits into a Christian viewpoint.  Hinman is himself an orthodox Christian, though he does not identify with the evangelical tradition.

I found the book enlightening and uplifting, and was also intrigued to find that the incident in my backyard under the stars was a quintessential "peak experience."  It certainly has had transformative effects on my life! I am less fearful of the future, more anchored and confident, and better able to navigate the trials of life (not that I never doubt or have disappointments in my faith, but that my memories of that time are something I can always fall back on).

As Hinman puts it:
[R]eligious experience enables us to know who we are and where we are going, fills us with purpose and gives us the sense that our lives are on track. . . It also enables us to face life's trammels and bitter experiences.  The upshot of the argument is that RE [religious experience] works for navigation in the world. . . it helps us live and make choices and keep going in a complex world. . . . [ p. 100]
I was honored to be one of those who got to preview this exciting book (which is now available for purchase).  I hope many of my readers will enjoy it too.


*Note: Hinman uses the term "religious experience" to describe a variety of experiences on a sliding scale from the frequently felt sensation of a presence in prayer or worship, to the more rare, apex-type experience (what happened to me in my backyard is an example). This latter type he calls "peak experience" after Abraham Maslow's "M-scale" studies; see for instance p. 86.

**Note: The Trace of God is not concerned with cultic, authoritarian or spiritually abusive forms of religious involvement; indeed, my only real criticism of the book is that I think Hinman should have spent a little more time on the existence of this type of religious practice and its nearly opposite, negative effects, in order to differentiate this from normative religious experience.  However, he does briefly mention (as I myself have experienced) that often it is genuine religious experience that helps people endure and move out of authoritarian religious control.


*** UPDATE:  Other bloggers' reviews of this terrific book are also now online.

N. K. Johel at Bollywood Storm

Jason Pratt at Evangelical Universalist

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Male Headship and the Problem of Power

Several people have asked me privately to follow up on the radio conversation I participated in on Up For Debate last weekend on the topic "Does God Expect Men to be Spiritual Leaders?"  They asked me to focus specifically on what was said by the caller-in named "Linda."

The comments on my blog post about the radio show also were focused on that portion of the broadcast-- so I will say now what I wish I had been prepared and had time to say then.

Linda said she had been in a complementarian marriage to the same man for 50 years, but she had found that male headship "does not work without the husband loving the wife as Christ loves the church."  I got the impression that Linda believed in male headship, but in her own marriage it was not working-- because, she said, "he needs to lay down his ego, which my husband will not... He doesn't listen to anything I say, and we've been through great sorrow, because he doesn't value my opinions-- on anything.  So if he isn't loving her, that way, it doesn't work!"  I could hear the tears in this poor woman's voice, and I felt such deep sympathy as I tried to respond.

What I was seeing, and what I tried to address off the cuff in that broadcast, was the terrible position a wife was in when neither her husband nor she herself perceived that she had any power in the relationship.  I said that this was also not good for the man-- to have a wife who could not confront him because he didn't really feel, deep down in his heart, that he needed to listen to her.  In short, in a marriage where the man is considered the God-appointed leader of the wife, he is the only person with any real power in the marriage.  And in that case, whether the marriage is good or bad is entirely dependent on the character of the man.

This, as far as I can see, is the real weakness of the male headship teaching.

Jesus spoke several times during His ministry on the issue of power.  He said in Acts 1:8, just before His ascension into heaven, "But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth."  He also said in Luke 10:19, "Behold, I give unto you power to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy: and nothing shall by any means hurt you."  

Jesus was happy to give His followers "power-to."  Power to be His witnesses.  Power to tread on the power of the enemy.  But the one thing He never gave anyone was what I would call "power-over."  Yes, He said the disciples had "power over" the power of the devil.  But He never endorsed any of His followers having "power over" other human beings.  He said, "You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great men exercise authority over them. Not so with you.  But instead, whoever wishes to become great among you shall be your servant."  Matthew 20-25-26.

In Paul's advice to Christian marriages in the first-century Roman world-- a culture where only the husbands had any real power-- Paul told husbands in Ephesians 5:25-33 to treat their wives as their own bodies-- to imitate Christ in laying down their power and emptying themselves, in order to raise their wives up out of their lowly, powerless position, to stand with them in honor and glory.  That was what the head-to-body relationship meant for Christ and the church.  That was what he wanted it to mean for husbands and wives.  In effect, he was telling husbands to stop using power-over and to grant their wives power-to.  

The modern Christian male-headship teaching, on the other hand, gives power-over to husbands-- and then simply asks them to use it wisely.  To be kind and loving masters-- who also serve.

But what if the husband is not wise?  What if he likes power too much? What if he hears "be head, be master, be in charge" much louder than he hears "be kind, be loving, and serve"?

Then he should repent, the male-headship doctrine says.  Or he just shouldn't get married, the male-headship doctrine says.  And it counsels women not to marry such a man.  But then out of the other side of its mouth, it tells her to look for a man who can lead her spiritually.

So that is what the woman is going to look for-- someone who seems spiritual, who seems to have leadership potential.  How is she going to be able to tell, before his power over her is granted in marriage, whether he will be able to use it wisely or with character?  He has not yet been tried.  If it's their first marriage, he is almost certainly a young man, and she is a young woman.  How is either of them to know how well he can handle this power that is being handed to him for no other reason than that he is male?

When Paul wrote, the imbalance of power in marriage was an established fact of life that could not simply be changed-- any more than slavery could be changed, or the godlike status of the Emperor could be changed.  It was up to later civilizations to figure out ways to change these structures which were built on inequity and systemic injustice.

After all, how well a monarchy works is entirely dependent on how good the king or queen is.  And when the king's authority to rule is based only on his birth-- whose son he is-- then the kingdom will do well if the son who is born happens to have intelligence, moral strength, leadership ability and basic humility.  If he doesn't, the kingdom-- and the people-- suffer.

Unless they find a way to make the royal succession dependent on the heir having these skills. Or unless they limit the power of the monarch and give real leadership authority to those who have proven themselves.  Or unless they do away with monarchy altogether.

Our modern Western systems, in fact, are largely based on a balance of power.  We divide the rule of a country between different branches of government, each checking the power of the others.  We give our leaders power-to -- to stop each other from abusing power-over.

But Christian male-headship doctrine abandons this wisdom, to return to a system where one person has power over the other based only on his birth-- what sex he is.  So if the person given headship in the marriage happens to have intelligence, moral strength, leadership ability and basic humility, the marriage will do well.  If he doesn't, the marriage-- and the wife-- suffers.

Unless they find a way to limit his power by sharing it with her.  But then they are likely to be told that he is "wimping out" or "not stepping up," and that she is being unsubmissive and ungodly.

Is this really what God wants?  Hasn't He blessed us to be able to change our systems of government so that power is checked and balanced?  Why then, would He refuse us any such ability to change our systems of marriage?

Sarah Bessey, in her beautiful book Jesus Feminist, thinks otherwise:
In Christ, and because of Christ, we are invited to participate in the Kingdom of God through redemptive movement-- for both men and women-- towards equality and freedom. We can choose to move with God, further into justice and wholeness, or we can choose to prop up the world's dead systems, baptizing injustice and power in sacred language. (p. 14)
Male-headship marriage is a relic of a dead world system of power-over.  It's time to stop treating it like a mandate from above.  It's time we let it go, and started giving all God's people, male and female alike, power-to be free.

Power to a wife to be able to say, "Enough."  Power to tell her husband, "You're being selfish, and it's not my job to cater to that" -- and have enough clout of her own that he will respect her enough to listen. Power to stand up and say, "What you want of me violates my personhood, and the image of God in me is sacred.  Your whims are not."  Power to walk away from emotional, economic, spiritual or physical abuse.

Because let's face it.  Unless we empower spouses to say "no" to abuse in all its forms, we're enabling abuse.  Yes, men can be abused in marriage too.  But churches aren't telling men they have to submit. And churches aren't telling women they have God-given power and authority over their spouses, so please just be nice when you use it.

I didn't know what I could or should say to Linda on the radio last week, because I didn't know enough about her circumstances or what she wants to happen.  Telling her she should try to gain power in the relationship could be dangerous if she has no support systems, no expectation of backing by her church, nowhere to go if she should try to flee.  After 50 years of the status-quo in her male-headship marriage, her situation is too complicated to address in a sound-bite.  But I will say that when the moderator and Mr. Arnold on the show spoke to the husband as if he were listening (if he had been, would Linda have felt free to say any of that?) and told him he needed to repent and stop being selfish, that probably didn't do any real good.

So what I will say is this.  Anyone who knows Linda personally and could offer her support and a place of safety if she needs it, please do.  Readers who have found a way out of suffering like Linda's-- whether it's through a repentant spouse or through escape-- please share whatever you can that might help people in her situation.

And church leaders who are reading this-- you can bet there's at least one "Linda" in your congregation.  What can you do to stop power-over used against her?  How can you give her power-to become all God created her to be?  If you're going to insist that the man is the spiritual leader of the wife, at least come up with some way to give her power to check and balance his.  After all, the church has never had to submit to selfishness in Christ, or neglect, or cruelty, or refusal to listen. Shouldn't a wife's submission end here too?

Whether her husband likes it or not.  Because giving her only the power that he allows her to have, isn't enough.  That's really still just his power.

And it's not good enough, either, to say, "We, the church, will exercise our power to stop the husband from abusing his power in the marriage." Because unless there is power-to resist him in the wife's hands, he's still got no reason to respect her. The church needs to back her up, but it shouldn't take over.  That's bad for both the marriage and the church.

Unrestricted power is safe in Christ's hands.  But it's not safe in our human hands.  Our own basic Christian doctrines tell us so.

So let's stop giving power like that to mortal men, and then being surprised when they misuse it.

Friday, May 16, 2014

I'm Going to Be on the Radio!

UPDATE: Well, I did it!  And wow, it looks like the recorded show is already available for listening! Currently it is on the This Week's Program tab at Up for Debate. I'm sure that by next week it will be at the Past Programs link as I mentioned below. If you listen to it, I'd love to hear what you think!


I was recently contacted by a major Christian radio broadcaster called Moody Bible Radio (a branch of Moody Bible Institute). They have a radio show called Up For Debate, which airs every Saturday morning, and they want me to be a featured speaker on one side of the topic, "Does God Expect Men to Be Leaders in Their Homes?" Of all the people who could cover the egalitarian side, they chose me! The other side is being taken by a guy named Carlton Arnold, who has a ministry of mentoring men and has written several books on how to apply the Bible to one's personal life, including God and Men: No Holds Barred.

The format is that we each get a short bio and then a presentation of our major talking points. Then we engage with each other, and then there's a call-in question and answer period. It's an hour-long show that begins at 8:00 am Chicago time. It's on live tomorrow-- the morning of May 17th. Because I'm on Pacific time, I have to be on the air at 6:00 am.!

For those who don't get a Moody Radio Station in your area, a recording will be available to listen to online at this link a week or two after the show.  There will be no regular blog post this Saturday morning, but I hope those of you who can, will tune in instead!

I'm very honored and proud to be chosen for this, and I hope those of my readers who pray will keep me in their prayers.  

Saturday, May 10, 2014

America is Not the New Israel

I'm reading a book for my book club this month that I wouldn't have chosen myself.  It's called The Harbinger by Jonathan Cahn, and it uses a Dan Brown-style fiction approach to communicate the author's idea that certain events in American history are foretold in ancient Bible prophecy.  I'm not going to give an in-depth critique of the book at this time (partly because I haven't finished it!), but I do want to talk about its main premise, because it's a viewpoint that I've heard many times and which I think is doing more harm than good to Christianity in America.

Here it is in a nutshell, quoted directly from the book:
Israel was unique among the nations in that it was conceived and dedicated at its foundation for the purposes of God. . . But there was one other-- a civilization also conceived and dedicated to the will of God from its conception. . . America. . . Long before the Founding Fathers[,] those who laid America's foundations saw it as a new Israel, an Israel of the New World.  And as with ancient Israel, they saw it as in covenant with God. . .  
Not that [America] was ever without fault or sin, but it would aspire to fulfill its calling. . . To be a vessel of redemption, an instrument of God's purposes, a light to the world. . . No nation in the modern world has ever been given so much. None has been so blessed. . .  
[But] America began ruling God out of its life, turning, step by step, against His ways. . . In the middle of the twentieth century America began officially removing God from its national life.  It abolished prayer and Scripture in the public schools. . . removing the Ten Commandments from public view, banning it from its public squares, and taking it down, by government decree, from its walls. . . God was progressively driven out of the nation's public life. . . The standards and values it had long upheld were now abandoned. . . [what we call "tolerance" is] a tolerance that mocked, marginalized and condemned those who remained faithful to the values now being discarded.
The idea that America is the new Israel, the new chosen, covenant nation for God, does indeed go back to the Puritans and Separatists who came to the New World in the 1600s.  It has been part of our national mentality since its inception, and it is one of the main forces behind Christian engagement in the "culture wars" that seek to uphold America's symbolic civil religion as if this outward and cultural religious consciousness were the same as the actual faith that Jesus taught.  The loss of the hegemony of America's civil religion is thus held to be tantamount to the nation's "turning away from God."

But as far as I can see, the whole of the New Testament is against any idea of a new nation taking on the position or status of Israel; indeed, the New Covenant precludes any such notion.  America cannot be the new Israel, nor can it enter into a covenant with God as a nation in the way Israel did, because the New Covenant is about the kingdom of God, not about any nation on earth.

As 1 Peter 2:9-10 says:
But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy. (Emphasis added)
To come to God through faith in Christ is to become part of a new, holy nation. The New Covenant is the covenant in Christ's blood (Mark 14:24) which makes us part of this spiritual nation; it simply does not envision covenants with earthly nations.  Ephesians 2:11-21 speaks of how all who are in Christ are part of one "new humanity" and "fellow citizens with God’s people and also members of his household."  The covenant God has made through Christ is sufficient; additional covenants with earthly nations are not envisioned.  Everything taught in the New Testament about God's covenant in Christ denies the concept of God making a new, Israel-type covenant with any earthly nation, America included. 

And of course, there's also the problem that despite what the Pilgrims hoped for their colony, the idea of America as dedicated to God from its inception is simply not true.  The first American settlement, Jamestown, was a secular colony established for profit and for the expansion of England's power.  The Dutch settlements in what would become northern New England tended towards religious pluralism and tolerance, and since the Dutch were eventually assimilated into the English colonial framework, their ideas became interwoven with the emerging nation's self-understanding:
By their actions, the Founding Fathers made clear that their primary concern was religious freedom, not the advancement of a state religion. Individuals, not the government, would define religious faith and practice in the United States. Thus the Founders ensured that in no official sense would America be a Christian Republic. Ten years after the Constitutional Convention ended its work, the country assured the world that the United States was a secular state, and that its negotiations would adhere to the rule of law, not the dictates of the Christian faith. The assurances were contained in the Treaty of Tripoli of 1797 and were intended to allay the fears of the Muslim state by insisting that religion would not govern how the treaty was interpreted and enforced.John Adams and the Senate made clear that the pact was between two sovereign states, not between two religious powers. (Frank Lambert, The Founding Fathers and the Place of Religion, summarized by Princeton University Press.  Emphasis added.)
The idea that America was founded as a Christian nation and is viewed by God as the new Israel leads to a number of practical problems.

1.  It distracts us from seeking first the kingdom of God.

Jesus said, "Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness (Matt. 6:33)."  When we focus on how America is supposedly falling away from its great destiny as God's chosen nation-- when we spend our energy on trying to restore the hegemony of American civil religion-- we can't pay much attention to building oneness as Christians, centered around love and service and the kingdom of God. And yet Jesus never prayed, "That they may all maintain Your Ten Commandments in public places and uphold traditional values throughout the land."  He prayed, "That they all may be one, so that the world may believe that You have sent Me (John 17:21)."

2.  It leads to spiritual pride.

Romans 12:3 says, "Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you."  To think of America as a chosen, covenant nation leads to thinking of ourselves as American Christians (intentionally or not) as somehow more chosen and in a better covenant relationship with God than other Christians.  And when the American civil religion begins to lose its former powerful monopolization of the public square, we begin to think of ourselves as virtuous victims of evil religious persecution-- whether that image is truly accurate or not.

3.  It focuses our attention on minor issues and passes over our nation's greatest sins.

This is the crux of the matter, I think.  When we get distracted by whether Christian "traditional values" have supremacy in the land, and when we decide that making room in the public square for other faiths means America has "abandoned God," we are actually majoring on the minors.  To Israel God once said that far more important than their sacrificial system was "To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God (Micah 6:8)."  But throughout its history, these things are exactly what America has failed to do, over and over again.  From the treaty-breaking appropriation of Native American lands and the genocide of Native peoples, to the enslaving of African captives and the disenfranchisement of their descendants, to the internment of Japanese Americans, to the strong-arming of American interests over weaker countries of the world, America has continually shown that it is not truly following Christ and His law of "do unto others as you would have them do unto you."

In fact, the "chosen nation" mentality can act as a justification for this very behavior. As Betty Wood said in The Origins of American Slavery,
In New England, Puritan settlers used slavery to reinforce their image of themselves as religious refugees. Those that could not enter into the covenant and be saved were subject to servitude as approved by Scripture.
And according to this Excerpt from "Joshua and the Promised Land" by Roy H. May, Jr. (on the Joshua Website of the United Methodist Church, Global Ministries):
The sense of divine election and the identification of the Americas with ancient Canaan were used to justify expelling America's Indigenous Peoples from their land. The colonists saw themselves as confronting "satanic forces" in the Native Americans. They were Canaanites to be destroyed or thrown out. . .

Land rights of Native Americans were never taken seriously. Rather, they were seen as obstacles to the colonists' need for land. The Puritans did not respect the farms of Native Americans. They sought "legal" ways to get their land. If a Native American broke one of the rigid Puritan religious laws, the fine was paid by giving up land. In this manner, some Puritans were able to amass large landholdings through the Massachusetts courts. John Winthrop, for example
[the same man who preached that the colony was to be God's "city on hill"!], obtained some 1,260 acres along the Concord River.
If we truly face ourselves, we have to admit that these are America's besetting sins from the time of its inception, and that we ourselves often still participate in systems that harm whole groups of people while even blaming them for what happens to them.  Whether or not children are praying a government-sponsored prayer in school, or whether a copy of the Ten Commandments hangs in our public buildings-- these are really beside the point, aren't they?

To act justly, love mercy and walk humbly with God.  To trust, believe in and follow Jesus, to love as He loved, to serve as He served.  This is what we are meant to be doing.

Not to be struggling and striving to keep America from "falling away" from something it never was in the first place.

America is not the new Israel.  No nation is, or should be.  This would be a good time to let go of the myth.

Saturday, May 3, 2014

No Post This Week: Working on a Project

This week I'm assisting a colleague with a book project; the book will be featured on this blog later this month.  For now, in order to help meet a hard publication deadline, I've been unable to write anything of my own.

Here are some pictures from my garden earlier this spring, for your enjoyment in the meantime.  (My garden's a mess now, but I was sure proud of it two weeks ago!)

See you next week!