Monday, April 27, 2020

Book Write-Up: Demonic, by Ann Coulter

Ann Coulter. Demonic: How the Liberal Mob Is Endangering America. Crown Forum, 2011. See here to purchase the book.

Ann Coulter is a conservative columnist and bestselling author. She has a background in law.

In Demonic, Coulter essentially argues that liberals have a mob-like mentality. They idolize liberal leaders as messiahs, viciously attack anyone who disagrees with them, engage in violence, embrace conspiracy theories, think themselves intellectually superior, and rely on images rather than reasonable, factual arguments. Conservatives are not perfect, but at least they have a realistic view of political leaders, back off when they are found to be factually inaccurate (i.e., on birtherism), and refuse to treat conspiracy theorists and disruptive activists as mainstream, celebrated members of their movement. In addition, while liberals have accused conservatives of violence, either there are no facts backing up the accusations, or the “conservatives” who engaged in violence are not conservative at all but have liberal viewpoints.

Coulter draws from Gustav Le Bond, a French physician, scientist, and social psychologist, who in the late nineteenth century wrote a critique of mob behavior entitled The Crowd: A Study of the Popular Mind. Coulter also contrasts the French Revolution with the American Revolution. The French Revolution, which is an example of a liberal mob, was a violent, chaotic, and bloody outburst against a system that actually provided a voice for the middle and lower classes. The characterization of Louis XVI as a tyrant and of Marie Antoinette as a spoiled brat who said “let them eat cake” is a lie, Coulter argues. The French Revolution resulted from a food shortage, and it rested on atheism and a belief in the “general will” rather than the rule of law, so it came to eat its own. The American Revolution, by contrast, was led largely by theists, was orderly, and was even polite, at times. While there was a Boston Tea Party, leaders of the American Revolution distanced themselves from that. The American Revolution, in short, was not a mob.

Coulter applies her analysis to concrete examples, as she describes liberal conspiracy theories and uprisings. Her critique covers factual errors on MSNBC, liberal smugness, Al Sharpton, the attempt to rehabilitate the Central Park Five in the mass media, Southern racism, the Civil Rights movement, the anti-war movement, and the alleged Duke lacrosse rape.

The book is a rant, unsurprisingly, but, as is usually the case, Coulter raises facts that deserve consideration and maybe even some place in the historical narrative. Coulter lays out what she believes are indications of the Central Park Five’s guilt and critiques the legal report that contradicted that. She critiques the conspiracy theory that Ronald Reagan in 1980 struck a deal with Iran so that President Jimmy Carter would not get the hostages released. On racism in the South, Coulter points out that Republicans in the twentieth century had a strong record of supporting civil rights, while many supporters of segregation were liberal Democrats who remained Democrats until their death. She attributes to South’s switch to the Republican Party, not so much to racism, but rather to the increasingly radical positions of the Democratic Party. Then there are other factoids, here and there: George W. Bush made better grades than Al Gore, not many people knew what the “Bush Doctrine” was after Charlie Gibson grilled Sarah Palin on it, many Vietnam vets testify that anti-war protesters did spit on them after they returned (“fact-checkers” notwithstanding), and many more.

It is on account of the book’s facts and arguments that I am giving the book five stars, not because I accept Ann Coulter’s narrative as the end-all-be-all. There are facts that one can cite that seem to support some of the narratives that Coulter critiques, or at least indicate that there is something to them. In terms of the “Southern Strategy” on the part of the Republican Party, there are the factors of conservative rhetoric about states’ rights and Nixon’s opposition to busing. While liberals have made factual errors in support of their grand narrative, that does not mean that their grand narrative is wholly inaccurate, for there are inequities in society, and a government that fails to provide sufficient funds for infrastructure places people at risk. Liberals indeed can be mob-like, as they shout down speakers at college campuses, yet there are many liberals who appeal to facts.

On some topics, I am open to more information. Coulter argues, for example, that some of Martin Luther King’s marches were unnecessary, for Bull Connor’s career had come to an end. She also points out that Thurgood Marshall saw MLK as an opportunist and supported using the courts rather than the streets to address civil rights problems. MLK probably had reasons for his approach, however, plus I recall reading a book in a poli sci class that argued that courts were largely ineffective in implementing civil rights; in addition, whereas Coulter presents the legal approach and the street approach as at odds, NAACP lawyers provided legal assistance to people in the civil rights movement who were arrested.

On some of what Coulter says, I wonder how it holds up eight years later. For instance, Coulter argues that liberals are adulatory towards their leaders, treating them as messiahs. They did that with Bill Clinton, and they especially did that for Barack Obama in 2008. Since 2016, however, there have been a number of Democrats who see establishment Democrats as not sufficiently progressive; Coulter herself in the book briefly refers to liberals who turn on their own. At the same time, progressive Democrats do tend to idolize their own leaders: AOC, Bernie.

I do not want to read too many books, at one time, that sarcastically demonize and shred an entire group of people. Liberals, like everyone, are made in God’s image. Coulter still raises thought-provoking considerations, however, and does well to question prevalent narratives.

I checked this book out from the library. My review is honest.

Sunday, April 26, 2020

Church Write-Up: Class on Psalms; Psalm 23:2

The theme of the church service this morning was Psalm 23:2. The pastor also started a class on the Psalms. Here are some items.

A. The pastor said that we should not be confused when the Psalmist, David, talks about the Temple, even though the Temple had not yet been built because David’s son, Solomon, would be the one to build it. The reason is that the Tabernacle in the Torah is sometimes called the house of God, or a temple. I did a search online, and, indeed, there are cases in which the Tabernacle is called the house of the LORD (Joshua 6:24; I Samuel 1:7, 24) and the Temple (I Samuel 1:9; 3:3). The pastor was arguing against commentators who contend that David could not possibly have written the Psalms because they refer to the Temple. The Psalms also refer to exile, however, which took place long after the time of David. But traditionalists have a way to get around that: David was referring to the captivity of Israelite POWs by the Philistines or other Canaanites.

B. The pastor said that “Psalms” comes from a Greek word that relates to stringed instruments. Back then, he said, they did not have organs, which were later brought to various countries by the Romans.

C. Some of the Psalms are attributed to the sons of Korah. The pastor said that these were not literal sons of a man named Korah but were singers at the sanctuary. He dated them to the eighth century B.C.E. This somewhat took me aback. I assumed that the conventional view was that the sons of Korah were believed in the Hebrew Bible to be descended from the Korah of the Book of Numbers, the Levite who led a rebellion against Moses and Aaron, long before the eighth century. Scholars have argued that those stories in Numbers reflect conflict between the Aaronides and the levitical Korahites, the sons of Korah mentioned in the Psalms. The pastor is probably basing what he said on something within scholarship. The eighth century date actually is significant because of an archaeological finding from Arad, dated to the eighth century, that refers to the sons of Korah.

D. The pastor referred to the so-called Elohistic Psalms (Psalms 42-83), which use “Elohim” for God instead of YHWH. At first, the pastor dismissed this as no big deal, since Christians today use different names for God. But then the pastor asked why Psalms 42-83 prefers Elohim, and he admitted that he has no idea. The pastor was probably responding to a Documentary Hypothesis sort of view on Psalms, which attributes Psalms 42-83 to an Elohistic school or sanctuary, perhaps from the same Northern Israelite milieu that produced the “E” source in the Pentateuch. Another view is that Psalms 42-83 prefers Elohim because it sought to protect the sacred name of God, YHWH, from becoming cheapened through overuse; such a concern is commonly dated later in Jewish history, at least to the third century B.C.E., when the LXX uses “kurios” for YHWH. Then there are traditionalists who think that “Elohim” and “YHWH” convey distinct nuances about God: “Elohim” refers to God in his transcendent majesty, whereas “YHWH” is God’s personal, covenantal, relational name. I found an abstract of a 2010 article by Laura Joffe, “The Elohistic Psalter: What, How and Why?”, which states: “The author concludes that the Elohistic Psalter is the result of highly skilled editorial activity which was unrelated to any reluctance to pronounce the tetragrammaton.” Some of those Psalms in the Elohistic Psalter are attributed to David, which could pose a challenge to the traditionalist perspective: Psalms attributed to David use “LORD,” so why would David prefer “Elohim” in certain Psalms? Could the Northern Israelites have adapted Davidic Psalms to their Elohistic sanctuaries? And why did the Northerners prefer “Elohim”? Were they seeking to differentiate themselves from the Southerners?

E. Someone in the group said that the Psalms seem very personal and he feels that he is intruding into someone else’s personal relationship with God when he reads them. His comment stood out to me because the Psalms, to me, seem personal, and I struggle to reconcile that with the scholarly views that the Psalms were formal prayers manufactured for corporate worship in sanctuaries. Not to mention that they mention extreme perils, and how many people actually experience those extreme perils at the hands of enemies? David did, though. But there are other things to consider: what are ancient Near Eastern psalms outside of Israel like? Reading through my blog’s archives, it appears that John Walton states that the biblical Psalter complains about life’s injustices far more than ancient Near Eastern psalms. But I am hesitant to take that to the bank: there are a lot of times when Christian scholars say “the Bible is distinct” in such-and-such a thing, then I find such-and-such a thing in ancient Near Eastern and Greco-Roman writings.

F. Someone else in the group said that he read that the Psalms can be effectively translated into various languages, unlike other poetry. Other poetry relies on rhyme, which may not translate into other languages. The Bible, however, relies on emphasis, repetition, and parallelism, which can be rendered and understood.

G. The pastor commented on the imprecatory Psalms. Reading them in light of Jesus, the pastor said, we can interpret the “enemies,” not as literal people we want God to smite, but as the Christian’s enemies, namely, the world, the flesh, and the devil. If we experience revenge, for example, we can ask Jesus to take that to the cross. The pastor said that reading the Psalms in light of Jesus is more helpful than doing otherwise. That brings me to the next item.

H. The service was about Psalm 23:2: “He makes me lie down in green pastures; he leads me beside still waters.” The pastor talked about the pits in which sheep find themselves, and how the shepherds lead them and guide them out of that. A sheep may eat so deeply into the ground that he destroys the roots and thus deprives himself of future food. Similarly, we can find ourselves in spiritual ruts, and God wants to lead us from them. This relates to “G” because I am reluctant to trust God to deliver me from my own spiritual ruts—-sexual desire, dislike of people, extreme introversion, impatience—-so I resign myself to them, or at least hope that they can be tamed, if not defeated. Should I eagerly wait for God’s deliverance, or is that a lost cause, one that will disappoint me if I dwell on it too much?

I. The pastor said that God gives us what we need. A shepherd leads sheep beside still waters because turbulent waters will scare the sheep. That can raise “problem of evil” questions: why did God allow me to experience this horror? But does that mean that God never leads people beside still waters? God himself can be a source of peace and rest. God gives people times of refreshment and relief. One person in church was worried about cancer, but his surgery has removed that problem. What a relief.

J. Jesus in John 10:27 affirms that his sheep hear his voice. The pastor told about different sheep being placed in the same bin, yet, the next morning, each sheep knows the voice of its own shepherd, even though the sheep have different shepherds. John 10:27 has been applied to God’s personal guidance of people; I rarely experience that. The pastor seemed to relate it to God’s general proclamation of the Gospel: Jesus calls his sheep to himself by extending mercy on the cross. The pastor told a story about a woman who shied away from Christianity because of her harsh Christian father, yet she felt something in her mind and her heart that was drawing her to Jesus. I, too, have felt that pull, even though I have also had plenty of times of confusion in whatever faith life I have.

K. The youth pastor said that the shepherd rescues his sheep from dangerous situations into which they get themselves. God may not always do that for us, he said, but Jesus experienced God’s rod on the cross (or something to that effect). God can deliver us from potential peril through God’s commands in God’s word. If we, like sheep, are dumb, then does that help us, necessarily? We may misapply the word, plus God often does not seem to be as overbearing as a shepherd is: God can let us fall into dangerous traps. But do I dismiss the concept completely? God is the Christian’s shepherd in a spiritual sense, protecting one’s soul in this life and eternity.

L. The youth pastor said that the shepherd prepares the way for the sheep, looking for pastures then guiding the sheep to them. What we know about God is due to God’s revelation to us. We build on what God has already done. We participate in what God has laid out.

Monday, April 20, 2020

Book Write-Up: Including the Stranger, by David G. Firth

David G. Firth. Including the Stranger: Foreigners in the Former Prophets. IVP Academic, 2019. See here to purchase the book.

The Former Prophets refers to the biblical books from Joshua through II Kings, with the exception of Ruth. There are plenty of cases in which these books appear to be anti-foreigner. There is the biblical Conquest, which entails the slaughter of the Canaanites, as well as the frequent warning that the Israelites are to avoid foreign religion. But, as David G. Firth points out, there are also many places in which the Former Prophets are inclusive towards foreigners. Rahab, the Gibeonites, and Naaman come to mind as non-Israelites who were either accepted in the community of Israel or who embraced the God of Israel. There were the foreigners who guarded David. And Firth highlights examples that may not be immediately evident. Shamgar, the non-Israelite judge and devotee of the goddess Anath, was used by God to deliver Israel from her oppressors. Elijah is calls a Tishbite, or inhabitant, possibly a resident alien. Does that mean that Elijah, the renowned prophet of Israel, was not actually an Israelite?

The back cover of the book states that “the Former Prophets subvert the exclusivist approach in order to show that the people of God are not defined by ethnicity, but rather by their willingness to commit themselves to God’s purposes.”

On the one hand, Firth believes this is evident in the inclusion of non-Israelites in Israel. They become part of the covenant people of God. The extent of their commitment to God is not exactly defined: are they converts, or are they like God-fearers, worshipers of God who do not embrace all of the laws that the Israelites observe? Uriah comes to mind: he is called a “Hittite,” yet the “Jah” at the end of his name indicates that he is a worshiper of the Israelite God. The book perhaps would have been stronger had it addressed the extent of the non-Israelites’ integration into Israel. The challenge is doing that in a manner that does not allow the author to become sidetracked, or trapped in technical weeds.

On the other hand, Firth believes that the principle that the people of God is spiritual rather than ethnic is evident in the exclusion of certain Israelites from Israel. Some ethnic Israelites are treated as Canaanites, not as Israelites. Due to his sin, the Israelite Achan was subject to the cherem, just like the Canaanites. Israelites in the latter part of the Book of Judges are behaving like the Canaanites, specifically the Sodomites whom God destroyed. Perhaps, but do not the other Israelites embrace those sinners as their brothers, showing that Israelite identity is also ethnic?

The back cover of the book also states that the Former Prophets have “frequently been regarded as having a negative attitude towards foreigners.” The book does not really engage biblical scholars who think this, but rather people like Richard Dawkins, who contend that the God of the Old Testament is a xenophobic, genocidal maniac. Firth does well to highlight the numerous examples to the contrary: the times when God in the Former Prophets is benevolent towards non-Israelites, even going so far as to welcome them into the community of Israel. In focusing on the Former Prophets, however, Firth dodges some particularly troubling texts: the foreigners in Deuteronomy 23 who are excluded from the Israelite qahal due to the sins of their ancestors, for example.

This book is helpful to me in terms of my current Bible reading. Over the past few months, I have been reading Joshua through II Samuel. Firth addresses questions that I have had. Suppose that the Israelites in Joshua 9 had asked God whether the Gibeonites were who they said they were. Would God have told the Israelites to spare the Gibeonites, or to slaughter them, like the other Canaanites? Firth raises a consideration that indicates God would have spared them: did not God, in God’s grace, spare them from the hardening that the other Canaanites experienced, indicating God intended to show the Gibeonites mercy (Joshua 11:19-20)?

Another interesting point Firth makes is that God opposed Saul because Saul sought to absorb Canaanite conceptions of the monarchy.

Where the book falls short is that it fails to engage the Former Prophets’ contempt for the Amalekites. Firth examines the relevant passages, but why are the Amalekites depicted as consistently bad? Is this racism: thinking that some ethnic groups are simply inherently evil?
Much of what the book says is pretty obvious, but it has some interesting observations.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher. My review is honest.

Sunday, April 19, 2020

Church Write-Up: The Lord Is My Shepherd

The church that I attend is doing a series on Psalm 23. The subject today was “The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.”

The pastor highlighted that sheep in the ancient world were dependent on their shepherd. Sheep were not particularly bright. They wandered off. They would fall down sideways or on their backs and be unable to get back up. Feces and dirt would get caught in their wool. They needed their shepherd, as we need God and God’s love and grace.

The pastor asked if God being our shepherd means that we will not get the Coronavirus. He answered “no”: God being our shepherd means that God delivers us from sin and death, not necessarily earthly sickness and problems. We have forgiveness from God and the hope of eternal life.

I felt that the pastor was projecting Christian ideas onto Psalm 23. My impression is that David was hoping God would deliver him from peril in this life. As a professor of mine said years ago in a class on Psalms, if David believed in divine reward and punishment in the afterlife, the Psalms would not read as they do. David hoped for peace, prosperity, and healing in this life, and his hope was that God would provide it. When God did not provide it, David either waited for it, protested his innocence, or felt as if God were punishing him for some sin.

At the same time, I do take what the pastor says seriously. He is an educated man. In his Bible studies, he takes original context and scholarship seriously, even as he reads the Old Testament Christocentrically. He is planning to offer a class on how to read the Psalms through Zoom on 9 am on Sundays, and I hope to take it. I am hoping that Zoom does not require me to show my face online, since, in this age of Corona, I tend to crawl out of bed at 9 am on Sunday mornings, even later, without having bathed, combed my hair, shaved, or changed out of my pajamas. I also hope the pastor remembers to send me an invite. Then there is learning to use Zoom. Zoom has my audio, but I do not have a microphone. I hope it does not require me to have that, since I plan to listen rather than talk.

Current Events Write-Up: Oil Wars; Pro-WHO and Anti-Taiwan Articles; Unfair Criticisms of Conservative Christians; Wisconsin Voter Suppression…by Democrats!

Some links:

The Last American Vagabond: “Driven by the Dramatic Collapse of US Shale, the Trump Administration Takes Aim at Venezuela,” by Whitney Webb.

Webb argues that the Trump Administration is trying to link Venezuela in the public mind with the illicit drug trade, as a way to take over Venezuela’s oil. A comparison is made with George H.W. Bush’s invasion of Panama. Bush did so on the pretense that Noriega was involved in drug-trafficking, even though Noriega trafficked drugs on behalf of the U.S., and America’s lackeys and puppets themselves were tied with narco-gangs. Largely unreported in the mainstream media, Bush’s invasion of Panama killed numerous Panamanian civilians. Webb believes that the invasion had an economic motivation: the Panama Canal was about to belong to Panama, and the U.S. sought to eliminate Panama’s military ability to safeguard it for itself. Webb also questions the narrative that the U.S. has finally arrived at a state of energy independence.

Unz: “The Russia-Saudi Oil-Price War Is a Fraud and a Farce,” by Mike Whitney.

According to Whitney, the Russia-Saudi oil war was not about the Saudis trying to attack Russia economically. Rather, the Saudis sought to undermine the U.S., and for good reason. The U.S. relies on the Saudis to keep up the price of oil, while refusing to reduce oil production itself. Essentially, the U.S. piggybacks and freeloads off of the Saudi inflation of the oil price. The Saudis responded by dramatically decreasing the price of oil through flooding the market.

World Affairs: “Did the World Health Organization (WHO) Drop the Ball on Coronavirus?”

This article argues “no.” I know, I have been posting anti-WHO links for a few weeks. Now that the anti-WHO narrative is gaining prominence, I want to post an alternative voice. Same with the next link:

Digital Empire: “New Cambridge Research Puts Taiwan and Hong Kong to Shame.”

“A new research paper by Peter Forster and Lucy Forster reveals that the Corona Virus was successfully mitigated by Chinese Authorities, subsequently sparing HK and Taiwan from disastrous fatalities…The Ministry of foreign affairs of Taiwan will never admit to hubris, but you only need to take one look at the research to understand that Wuhan’s strict lockdown was what prevented Strain B from spreading much faster and at greater magnitude.”

Federalist: “4 Times LGBT Media Turned Coronavirus Coverage into Attacks on Christians,” by Chad Felix Greene.

Greene fact-checks the web site LGBTQ Nation, but what Greene says is relevant to what a lot of liberals have said online. You know that pastor who died of coronavirus after holding a church service, and the gloating that occurred after that? The pastor was not defying social distancing. To quote Greene: “What they left out, detailed by local news CBS 6 News Richmond, is that the March 22 sermon, regularly aired on the news channel, occurred a day before the state of Virginia officially banned gatherings of 10 or more people. The church has held drive-in sermons since.” You know how liberals say that Franklin Graham’s Samaritan’s Purse refuses to treat gay people? Wrong! It refuses to hire people in same-sex unions because that violates its religious beliefs. Regarding who gets help, let’s quote Franklin Graham: “We don’t discriminate against anybody we help. We provide our services to everyone regardless of race, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation. We don’t discriminate. Period.”

Federalist: “What The MSM Won’t Tell You About Democrats’ Voter Suppression In The Wisconsin Election,” by Kylee Zempel.

We are hearing that the Republicans suppressed voting in Wisconsin. Zempel says it was the other way around. The Republicans were open to extending Election Day in light of the Coronavirus. The Democratic Governor was the one who delayed on this until the very last minute. In terms of how the Democrats suppressed voters, a conservative operative explains: “The early voting that went on in Madison and Milwaukee for a week and a half before any of the areas that typically vote more conservative — that is just a week and a half where liberal precincts get to turn out their voters in droves in their biggest strongholds. And then you get into the thick of the election itself, and you’ve got the voter ID stuff, and you’ve got the lawsuits, and … the shifting rules and the fighting over it and everything…And then you close it with the governor basically the day before the election doing nothing other than cause confusion and make it so that people in part of the state that haven’t had the chance to vote yet may think they can’t vote on election day — the people that disadvantages is conservatives because as is shown time and again election after election, conservatives turn out on Election Day.”

Wednesday, April 15, 2020

Current Events Write-Up: 4/15/20

Here is a Current Events Write-Up for today. There will be four categories of articles in this post. First, there will be right-wing articles. I have had to watch CNN and MSNBC in the lunchroom at work this week, and I have gotten tired of the one-sided anti-Trump rhetoric. I have had an appetite for reasonable right-wing analysis of current events. Second, there will be a specific category of right-wing article: ones critiquing the FX/Hulu Mrs. America hatchet-job about the late Phyllis Schlafly.  Third, there will be one left-wing article. Fourth, there will be articles I have been sitting on for a while but have not yet posted because the sites are controversial. Still, the articles make some valuable points. Not all of these articles are strictly about “current events,” for some are more historical.

Right-Wing Articles

Federalist: “Why Trump Is Right Not To Cede Power Over The Lockdowns,” by David Marcus.

“So why at this juncture would Trump concede that he has no authority over the lockdowns? Does he get any advantage from it? Do we even know that it’s true? This is completely uncharted territory. Who knows how interstate commerce plays into a state-by-state national lockdown? Trump can force companies to switch to making medical supplies, but he can’t tell dentists or restaurants to open? Are we sure? Do we have any basis upon which to know with certainty?

“It is entirely appropriate for the Trump administration to want some leverage here. The president has been clear day after day and week after week that he prefers the heavy lifting to be done by governors closest to the situation, with his help from Washington. But that is not inconsistent with maintaining a position that the executive branch has some cards to play. That it is not some powerless dispassionate observer.”

American Thinker: “Yes, Trump Can Open America,” by Frank Friday.

“Trump is also right on his authority to override the various governors and their public health orders. Under the Supremacy clause, federal law beats state laws, and boy, is the Defense Production Act a law. By the terms of 50 USC 55, Sect. 4533, there is a general power to ‘create, maintain, protect, expand, or restore domestic industrial base capabilities essential for the national defense…’  and by which ‘…the President may make provision — for the development of production capabilities.'”

Daily Caller: “Cuomo: ‘We Don’t Need Any Additional Ventilators,” by Mary Margaret Olohan.

I didn’t care for Governor Cuomo’s grandstanding.

Daily Signal: “The Left Is Calling for Mail-In Voting. Here’s Why It’s a Bad Idea.”

I live in a state that uses mail-in voting rather than polling sites, and I like that system. It bypasses the problem of people not being able to go to the polls because they have to work on Election Day. It also may be apropos amidst the Corona-virus pandemic, when people cannot gather at polling locations in large numbers. Still, this interview raises thoughtful considerations against the idea. First, there is the question of where the ballots will end up. Are some of them going to dead voters? Can voters be more easily intimidated outside of the voting booth? If political organizations can mail people’s ballots for them, is that not a conflict-of-interest, since they can dispense with ballots that do not fit their agenda? Second, the article argues that absentee ballots can address the problem of people needing to vote from home due to the Corona-virus. The article also discusses how a mail-in system could work well, provided there are safeguards. And it critiques early voting, since, were the results to be leaked, that could impact party strategy, the options before the voters, and how voters will vote.

Reason: “WHO Cares?”, by Brian Doherty.

This is actually a libertarian article and is from 2002, but it is relevant to the President’s recent call for the U.S. to defund WHO. According to this article, WHO initially had a decent track record in eradicating diseases, but it has shifted its focus towards First World concerns, socio-political engineering, and reinforcing its plush bureaucracy. It is also rife with cronyism.

Right-Wing Mrs. America Articles

Federalist: “Elites Hate Phyllis Schlafly Because She Defeated Them From Home With Six Kids In Tow,” by Colleen Holcomb.

“‘Mrs. America’ portrays Schlafly as the consummate victim, persecuted by her own conservative ideology and even by God, as she desperately inquires of her priest why God ‘put this fire in her’ to fight a political battle — as if it were wrong to do so. They show her belittled by the chauvinist men in the conservative movement, and oppressed, scolded, and even raped by her own husband.

“The characterization is intentionally false and would be laughable if it weren’t so patently offensive. Schlafly biographer Don Critchlow — who, in addition to interviewing Schlafly, her family, and associates, had full access to her archives, financial records, correspondence, and family letters — called the series’ depiction of Schlafly’s marriage, ‘So inaccurate, it’s absolutely shocking.’

“Producers never bothered to ask family members or any of the hundreds of living people who actually knew Schlafly about her real experiences, her true character, and her marriage. Instead of risking pushback by depicting any of Schlafly’s supporters who are still alive, producers went the cowardly route, choosing to create fictional characters bearing the names of only deceased ERA opponents.”

Federalist: “Phyllis Schlafly’s Daughter On Why ‘Mrs. America’ Gets Her Mother Wrong,” by Emily Jashinsky.

“Here’s one example of how that does a disservice to viewers. I asked Cori what it was like to see Blanchett play her mother in the trailers. ‘She has the hair, and the makeup, and the costuming correct,’ Cori said. ‘What she misses is the warmth in my mother’s eyes.’

“‘She plays her as a cold, calculating, power-hungry woman. My mother led a volunteer group of women, and I don’t think she could lead volunteer women unless she was warm and inspiring. And she was. She was encouraging, she got women to do things, and you can’t do it if you bark and order it around. You do it by building up leadership. And that’s what she did. She said, ‘Nobody is born a leader, leaders are made.’ And she made it her mission to make a multitude of leaders.'”

Left-Wing Article

The Nation: “No, Italy Is Not the Case Against Medicare for All,” by Vale Disamistade.

Subtitle: “The Americanization of Italian health care plays a part in the country’s disastrous coronavirus outbreak.” But the article also tries to argue that Italy’s response was more effective than is commonly thought.

Articles from Controversial Sites

National Justice: “Yes Rabbi, the Impossible Burger is a Conspiracy Against White Working People,” by Erik Striker.

“There is only an issue when technocratic ghouls begin pushing austerity through the back door by suggesting turning meat and dairy products into sin-taxxed luxury items in the name of fighting climate change.

“This is no conspiracy theory, it is documented in depth by Elaine Graham-Leigh in her 2015 book, A Diet of Austerity. Graham-Leigh, not a Nazi but a Marxist, meticulously documents why billionaires and neo-liberal think-tanks they fund would much rather place the blame for environmental degradation on ordinary people who have to drive to work and enjoy the simple pleasure of a hamburger instead of big business.

“Critics, in other words, believe the world’s robber barons are pouring billions into climate change think-tanks with the long-term goal of extracting more wealth upwards by lowering our living standards even further. The green figleaf is their cover.”

American Renaissance: “Brown v. Board: The Real Story,” by Jared Taylor.

Taylor talks about the back-door political machinations behind the decision, and the misleading usage of the “dolls” study. Particularly interesting is this:

“Today, even some of those who cheered the loudest for Brown have second thoughts. Derrick Bell is a black lawyer and former Harvard Law School professor. During the 1960s, he worked for the NAACP, trying to short circuit the legislative process, arguing dozens of school cases before dozens of judges. By 1976, he had concluded that integration was a false goal and that blacks should have instead petitioned for the ‘equal’ in the ‘separate but equal,’ established in 1896 in Plessy v. Ferguson. ‘Civil rights lawyers were misguided in requiring racial balance of each school’s student population as a measure of compliance and the guarantee of effective schooling,’ he wrote. ‘In short, while the rhetoric of integration promised much, court orders to ensure that black youngsters received the education they needed to progress would have achieved much more.’ This year, the 50th anniversary of Brown, Prof. Bell put the case even more bluntly. ‘From the standpoint of education,” he says, “we would have been better served had the court in Brown rejected the petitioners’ arguments to overrule Plessy v. Ferguson.'”

Mintpress: “How a Hidden Parliamentary Session Revealed Trump’s True Motives in Iraq,” by Whitney Webb.

Essentially: the Trump Administration promises to help Iraq rebuild its infrastructure in exchange for Iraq giving up 50 percent of its oil exports then fails to help adequately, Iraq receives a better offer from China, and the Trump Administration threatens to engineer an uprising against the Iraqi government.

Revolutionary Left Radio: “A Coup in Venezuela: Imperialism, Fascism, and Class War.”

A Marxist defends Marduro against the usual American talking-points.

Monday, April 13, 2020

Book Write-Up: Righteous by Promise, by Karl Deenick

Karl Deenick. Righteous by Promise: A Biblical Theology of Circumcision. IVP Academic, 2018. See here to purchase the book.

Karl Deenick looks at circumcision in the Bible. According to Deenick, the biblical requirement that Israelites be physically circumcised was a reminder that Abraham’s offspring would bless the nations. Circumcision marks the male genitalia, and it is from the male genitalia that offspring come. Within the New Testament, Abraham’s offspring finds its fulfillment in Jesus Christ. But circumcision of the heart also recurs in the Hebrew Bible, and that refers to people humbling their hearts.

Deenick examines biblical passages about circumcision, in both the Hebrew Bible and also the New Testament. Some of his treatments are rather terse. When Deenick argues that Isaiah 52:1 says that not merely the circumcised will enter the restored Jerusalem but those who pursue righteousness and receive righteousness by faith, I thought “huh?” The passage, after all, states that the uncircumcised shall not enter the restored Jerusalem. Deenick may treat that uncircumcision as spiritual rather than physical, but there is also Ezekiel 44:9, which affirms that foreigners uncircumcised in flesh or heart shall not enter God’s sanctuary. Physical circumcision, within the Hebrew Bible, is often regarded as crucial.

But several of Deenick’s treatments of biblical passages are exhaustive, such that other topics overshadow circumcision. This is not a negative feature of the book, for Deenick gets into interesting territory.

First, Deenick explores the topic of blamelessness, since God in Genesis 17, the chapter introducing circumcision, exhorts Abraham to walk before him and be blameless. Deenick argues, on the basis of Scripture and Second Temple literature, that blamelessness means just that: being morally blameless. Because humans are not that, Deenick argues, God required the Israelites to offer perfect sacrifices so that they might be accepted by God. Essentially, it was justification by grace through faith in the Old Testament. While scholars today debate whether Old Testament sacrifices were believed to perform that sort of substitutionary, vicarious function, Deenick points out that the Testament of Benjamin articulates that understanding. Where Deenick’s discussion falls short is that it fails to deal adequately with those who are actually said to be blameless in the Bible, such as Noah (Genesis 6:9). If blamelessness is impossible for all humans except Christ, how was Noah blameless?

Second, Deenick discusses Romans 2, which values interior over exterior circumcision. A common evangelical interpretation of Romans 2 is that it is saying that people are sinners because they do not keep the law perfectly, and thus they need Christ. Deenick adopts that sort of concept in his discussion of the Hebrew Bible, but he departs from it in his consideration of Romans 2. Deenick argues that Romans 2 is not about perfect obedience to the law, but rather faithful obedience, which may be imperfect yet still finds acceptance with God. Romans 2, in short, is not describing the problem (sin) to set the stage for the solution (Christ) but rather is articulating the goal of the Christian life: sincere obedience to the law, motivated by inward circumcision performed by the Holy Spirit. Deenick makes a fairly convincing case that Romans 2 is not describing perfect obedience to the law. I think evangelicals in their Gospel presentations are missing something when they act as if we need a Savior because we fall short of pristine perfection, as if we would be fine if we could master that one little blemish. At the same time, my impression is that Romans 2 is setting the stage for Romans 3, meaning its ultimate point is that all have sinned and fall short of God’s glory, and we thus need a Savior. Romans 3:9 appears to articulate the point of the preceding discussion, Romans 2 included, when it affirms that all, Jews and Gentiles, are under the power of sin.

Third, Deenick talks about the circumcision of the new generation of Israelites in Joshua 5. Why had they not been circumcised in the wilderness? Why does v. 9 say that circumcision removed the reproach of Egypt from them? Deenick examines different proposals. He seems to settle on the suggestion that the new generations of Israelites were still uncircumcised due to the unfaithfulness of their parents. He entertains the proposal that the reproach of Egypt was rolled off in that the Israelites would finally enter the Promised Land: the Exodus (including freedom from the reproach of Egypt) is not complete until the Israelites enter the Promised Land, and now, free from God’s wrath and reaffirming God’s covenant, they are about to do that.

Some questions in my mind were not answered. Why, for example, does David in I Samuel 17 make a big deal about Goliath being uncircumcised? Did he think that God required circumcision of the Philistines, and that they were thus wrong to be uncircumcised?

The book still deserves five stars, in my opinion, on account of its intriguing discussions and its careful examination of Scripture.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher. My review is honest.

Sunday, April 12, 2020

Church Write-Up: Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, Easter Sunday 2020

Here is my Church Write-Up for this week. Last night, I watched the Maundy Thursday and Good Friday services. Sunday afternoon, I watched the Easter Sunday one.

Here are some items. That’s what these are: items. They are things that stood out to me, sometimes detached from their larger context.

A. Maundy Thursday, of course, commemorates the Lord’s Supper: Jesus’s last meal with his disciples. The pastor, youth pastor, and worship leader were setting the table. For the bread, they placed huge garlic bread loaves. I was reminded of how my Dad and I used to make fun of Pat Robertson for using huge garlic bread loaves as props when explaining the Lord’s supper. The mistake was that Jesus would have used unleavened bread (crackers), not leavened bread, since it was a Passover meal. The pastor is aware that it was a Passover meal, for he described it as a seder, albeit a radical seder, unlike what the disciples were accustomed to celebrating. In a class that I took over a decade ago, the professor was arguing that the bread of the Lord’s Supper actually was leavened. The Gospel authors, he argued, connected a regular church ritual to the Passover, in a rather awkward manner; the ritual originally was independent from the Passover. One aspect of his argument was that the Greek word that the synoptic Gospels employ for the bread at the Last Supper, artos, usually refers to the usual leavened bread, whereas the Septuagint prefers another noun, azuma, for the unleavened bread of the Jewish festival. I did a search on artos, and it turns out that artos can be used for unleavened bread (Leviticus 2:4l 8:26; etc.), but, in such cases, it is usually modified by azumos to convey that the bread is unleavened.

B. Jesus says at the Last Supper, “This is my blood, shed for you” as part of the new covenant. The pastor connected this with Exodus 24:8, in which Moses sprinkles blood on the Israelites and affirms: “Behold the blood of the covenant, which the LORD hath made with you concerning all these words” (KJV). The pastor said that the blood here sealed God’s covenant with Israel. His comment made me wonder about the significance of that blood. Were not the Israelites God’s people before Moses sprinkled the blood on them? Did the blood effect something that did not exist before, or did it make something official, or more official? The context is the Sinaitic covenant. The Israelites hear God’s law and promise to do all that the LORD tells them, then Moses sprinkles the blood on them. Something new is being effected here: the Sinaitic covenant, in which Israel is obligated to do the law. Israel was already God’s people, but now it is taking the first steps to becoming God’s nation, governed by a legal constitution. Perhaps the significance of the blood, assuming it has here an atoning function (i.e., Leviticus 17:11), is to highlight that the Israelites will fail to observe God’s law and thus need atonement; or it could be to reaffirm that, for God to make a covenant of any sort with the Israelites, the Israelites, as sinful and limited human beings, need atoning blood to stand before God. One can raise the point that blood, in Exodus 24 and at the Lord’s Supper, marks two different kinds of covenants. The first is by law, and the second is by grace. The first still has some grace, for the Israelites need grace because they will fail to obey the law. The second has law, for God continues to have moral standards for God’s people. What, then, is the difference between the two covenants, since both have law and grace? The second perhaps stresses grace more than the first one did, plus the second promises the transformation of the sinful flesh through the power of the Holy Spirit, whereas the Old Covenant largely sought to tame the flesh and to point, in a shadowy fashion, to what Christ would do later.

C. The pastor talked about how Jesus was eating a meal with his disciples on the night of his arrest. Something that Lutherans like to emphasize regarding communion is that Jesus Christ is actually and physically present with his people when they partake of it. It is not merely a memorial, but Jesus is right there. In some sense, in their conception, the bread and the wine contain and communicate a spiritual power to those who partake. This is important for Lutherans. The LCMS church that I attend, like many LCMS churches, requires people to believe that Christ is really present in the bread and the wine to even partake of communion. Last week, I mentioned a radical Lutheran group that is online. Whenever people complain that they cannot find a church void of legalistic preaching, someone advises them at least to find one that has the sacraments. You can tolerate legalistic preaching: maybe even bring an earpiece to listen to a grace podcast while the pastor is preaching! But make sure you do not go without communion, for that is a means of grace! I was thinking this week about whether I believe that. My conclusion was that communion is a symbol of the Gospel but is not the Gospel itself: what is important is faith in what Jesus did, and communion reminds us of what Jesus did. My own church background (Armstrongism) had communion only once a year (the night before Passover), so that shows how much it regarded communion as a necessary means of grace, to be eaten frequently. My position runs into challenges, particularly that the Christian church, from early times, seemed to believe in the real presence. And, from an emotional standpoint, there is something comforting about Jesus being physically present with people at communion: of actually eating with them. But should belief in that be a prerequisite for people even to partake of it? On first sight, it looks like it should merely be a bonus: you eat communion, and Christ is there while you do it, whether you believe that or not! So partake! Making it a prerequisite to partake, however, may be based on two assumptions. First, Paul in I Corinthians 11 said that those who partake of communion should discern the Lord’s body. The LCMS may take that literally. Second, there may be an Old Testament sort of mindset behind closed communion: if the holy God is actually present in communion, then you want to partake of communion knowing the implications and in a state of faith and relative holiness. In the Old Testament, people who mishandled God’s presence got killed by God. That may not happen immediately in New Testament times, but Paul in I Corinthians 11 refers to Christians who became sick and even died because they ate the Lord’s Supper in an unworthy fashion.

D. The Good Friday service this year, which was online, was actually better than the in-person ones of previous years. Previous services mainly had Scriptures and songs. This year, however, the pastor offered a brief commentary on each Scripture. Here, I want to focus on Judas. Judas was willing to betray Jesus for thirty pieces of silver. The pastor talked about materialism, how Jesus is worth more than money, and how all of us betray Jesus by giving in to the flesh. Initially, I wondered how accurate that was: thirty pieces of silver was not a lot in those days! Some seek a higher motivation for Judas’s betrayal of Jesus: that he wanted Jesus to get cornered so that Jesus would display his power and do what Messiahs are supposed to do, conquer Israel’s oppressors! But the Gospel of John highlights that Judas was a thief (John 12:6), so greed was a problem for Judas. And Judas did buy himself a field, according to Acts 1, so he was trying to benefit himself personally as a result of the betrayal. Speaking of Judas, I would like to share this quote from the radical Lutheran site. “Yet, the horror of the thing is that Judas reveals exactly what the desire of every sinner is when it comes to Christ, God in flesh. There is no other choice or desire Judas has than to kill Christ – and there isn’t for any of us either. The horror of Judas is not that we must learn to do better than him when our turn comes but that he is us.” – Luther’s Outlaw God by Dr. Steven Paulson, p. 135.

E. On Easter, the youth pastor observed that Jesus rose early in the morning. According to the youth pastor, Jesus was eager to get out of the tomb and be with his people.

F. The pastor talked about how we may find ourselves arriving at a point where we cannot go on, when we give up on what we are doing, for we lack the inner resources to continue. He referred to an NCIS episode that advised such a person to push through. I thought about my dissertation. I gave up. I could have pushed through, but I think that I would have pushed through to nowhere. If I had continued, I can see myself doing this for another ten years of my life, and even then not finishing! It was going nowhere. Now, I have a job and am earning money, and I am unburdened by that dissertation. I am happy.

Friday, April 10, 2020

Current Events Write-Up: Religious Liberty;”Buy American”; Easter Not Pagan; Alt-Right Defense of China

Here is a Current Events Write-Up, in which I post links to articles that I like. I used to do this once a week. Now, I’ll do it whenever I feel like it.

Here we go:

Federalist: “Recovering the Religious Liberty of the Founders,” by Tony Sumpter.

“[Religious liberty attorney] Luke Goodrich writes, ‘My thesis is simple. The government shouldn’t promote religion in the public square. Neither should it scrub religion from the public square. Instead, it should treat religion as a natural part of the public square’ (emphasis original). Elsewhere, he gives an example of what he means: ‘In short, in a society that is deeply divided over human sexuality, the abortion model does the best job of respecting both sides. Same-sex couples are free to live according to their views; religious people are free to live according to theirs. The government doesn’t force either side to violate their deeply held beliefs about human sexuality. Why would anyone object to this kind of compromise?'”

Opposing Viewpoints: Should the U.S. Government Have a ‘Buy American” Requirement on its Purchase of Pharmaceuticals and Medical Supplies?

Yes: Dr. Sanjai Baghat (Federalist)
No: Veronique De Rugy (Reason)

Townhall: “No, Easter Is Not Derived From an Ancient Pagan Holiday,” by Ashley Herzog.

My Armstrongite heritage notwithstanding!

Erik Striker: “International Finance’s Anti-China Crusade.”

A white nationalist’s defense of China as a bulwark against global capitalism and neoliberalism.

Monday, April 6, 2020

Book Write-Up: A Week in the Life of a Greco-Roman Woman

Holly Beers. A Week in the Life of a Greco-Roman Woman. IVP Academic, 2019. See here to purchase the book.

Holly Beers has a Ph.D. from London School of Theology and teaches religious studies at Westmont College.

This book is part of Intervarsity Academic’s “A Week in the Life of” series, each book of which profiles a particular fictional character in antiquity. The only other book of the series that I have read thus far is Gary Burge’s A Week in the Life of a Roman Centurion. A Week in the Life of a Greco-Roman Woman focuses on a pregnant Greco-Roman woman in Ephesus, who encounters the teachings of the apostle Paul.

A non-believer (I think) saw me reading this book and said that she wanted to read it. She likes women’s studies, but she recoils from anything that is “preachy” from a Christian perspective. There are aspects of this book that she would like. The side-bars in the book especially illustrate what life was like for people, particularly Greco-Roman women, in the first century C.E., for different economic classes. What did people eat, and how often? Where did they go to the bathroom? What was married life like?

But, overall, the book is very preachy. It is not as if the Greco-Roman woman swallows Christianity whole immediately after hearing it. She especially struggles with the Christian doctrine of bodily resurrection. But the woman is confronted with, and drawn to, the egalitarian, democratic nature of Christianity, which holds that all people, of different classes, can become spiritual siblings in Christ. She contrasts Christianity favorably with Artemis, the goddess who assists pregnant women. She gravitates towards Christianity, even though she is reluctant to believe in it overtly, since Greco-Roman antiquity required Greco-Roman women to honor and accept the deities of their husbands.

The book makes some assumptions about the development of Christian theology. Jesus was deemed to be a god and a man in the first century, as far as Beers is concerned, whereas there are scholars who would reject the idea that Paul or Luke/Acts held such a high Christology. But Beers herself is a scholar, who has written in the field of New Testament studies, so she likely has arguments for the assumptions that this book reflects.

In terms of the story, I followed it on and off in my mind. This may be just me, since, currently, my mind pays more attention to ideas than to who this and that character is. This book definitely gave me food in its presentation of ideas, as it contrasts Christianity with other religions and philosophies in Greco-Roman antiquity. Something that I like about this book, in terms of its storyline, is that it does not get overly dramatic. A Week in the Life of a Roman Centurion was too dramatic for my taste, but Beers’s book focuses more on what life was like for Greco-Roman women in antiquity, along with the place of Christianity then and there.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher. My review is honest.

Sunday, April 5, 2020

Church Write-Up: Suffering and New Life

Some items from the online church services on Wednesday and Sunday:

A. The Wednesday church service was about suffering. The youth pastor said that he did not want to talk about suffering, since it is such an unpleasant subject. He called the pastor, though, and the pastor said that he should talk about it, since everyone will suffer at some point. Sometimes, we can see good that came out of suffering. Sometimes, we bring suffering upon ourselves. The youth pastor brought in a bunch of stuff from the backseat of his car, thinking he could carry all of that, and he ended up falling after getting inside the door of his house. Adam and Eve brought suffering on the human race on account of their sin. Jesus, however, suffered even though he did no wrong.
I thought of two things:

—-The “everyone will suffer eventually” reminded me of an episode of “The Waltons,” entitled “An Easter Story.” Olivia is bedridden and paralyzed, so she may not be able to sing at the coming Easter service. Her oldest son, John-Boy, struggles to find where God is in all of this. His agnostic father does not offer him a theodicy but says: “You have to find your own answers, son. But the fact is that life has good times and bad. That’s the way life is.”

—-The “Adam and Eve” comment made me think of something Steve Hays said in his Triablogue post, “Plague and Providence”. He addresses the question of whether natural disasters existed before the Fall and answers in the affirmative: “Some Christians deny that natural evils or natural disasters preexisted the Fall. I disagree. I think they serve a necessary purpose to maintain the balance of nature. I think one effect of the fall is to expose humans to natural dangers that always existed, from the time of creation. In an unfallen world, humans would be divinely shielded from certain natural hazards, but due to the fall, God withdrew his providential protection.”

The question would then be whether God ever protects people in this day and age or consistently withholds protection. Roger Olson says that God may protect people sometimes in this day and age but not on a large-scale basis; that awaits the eschaton. In “Where Is God in This Pandemic?”, Olson states: “Personally, I do not believe that pandemics are directly God’s judgment, but with my theological mentor Wolfhart Pannenberg I do believe that they, together with all calamities, point to God’s absence. I don’t mean (and he didn’t mean) that God has literally ‘gone away,’ but that we humans, created in God’s own image and likeness, have shut God out of our world. Our hope (confident expectation) is that someday God will break down that door we have closed against God by our sinful rebellion, our collective decision to ‘go our own way,’ and remake this world. But that is not yet. There are signs of God’s future victory in Jesus Christ and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, in miracles of healing and in acts of deliverance of all kinds, but the whole of that victory is yet to come.”

B. The pastor’s sermon opened by talking about “The Sound of Music.” Maria is apprehensive about working with the von Trapps, but she reassures herself as she sings the song “I Have Confidence in Me.” “They will look up to me, and mind me!” But then she comes face to face with the grandeur of the von Trapp mansion, and her confidence vanishes. She feels overwhelmed. I thought about the times when I felt nervous in coming face to face with social encounters. I would be nervous as I tried to talk with people, or I would start getting resentful if people were not paying attention to me. Nowadays, Zoloft calms my nerves a lot. The social challenges (i.e., snarky people, my feelings of intimidation, unintentionally coming across to people in a way that puts them ill at ease) are still there, but the nervousness is not there as much.

C. On Palm Sunday, the youth pastor talked about frustrated expectations. He expected his team to make it to the basketball playoffs, but, now, due to Corona, it turns out that there will be no basketball playoffs this year. People expected Jesus to be a king as he entered Jerusalem on a donkey; instead, he was tortured and killed. I thought about how Corona overturned my expectations, albeit in a positive direction. I expected not to be able to attend the Maundy Thursday and Good Friday services, since I will be working on those days. Instead, due to the services being online due to Corona, I may be able to watch them (assuming they have services and those services are posted online for people to watch them later). I also thought about a comic on the site “Vridar.” A man complains, “Nobody knows what’s going to happen,” and a duck replies, “Nobody ever knows; this makes life interesting.”

D. The pastor’s sermon referred to an excellent sermon that he heard decades ago in which the speaker said that Christians are people moving from one place to another, as Abraham did. The pastor applied this to the Corona virus eventually coming to an end, but especially to Christian sanctification: Christians do not stay where they are but become more godly, due to where God brings them. The pastor also talked about how God brought life out of Christ’s suffering. Jesus in John 20 breathes on his disciples and tells them to receive the Holy Spirit, and the pastor likened that to God bringing Adam to life in Genesis 2 by breathing into him: Jesus breathes new life into us. Jesus also said “My peace I leave with you” and commissioned the disciples to convey God’s forgiveness, and the pastor said that our homes perhaps can use God’s peace, especially if we are all isolated with each other right now.

I thought about an online group in which I participate (or actually observe). The participants are mostly “radical Lutherans” but includes evangelicals who are disenchanted by what they call “Glawspel,” the discouraging mixture of law and Gospel in pulpits today. Many of them would probably qualify what my pastor said. According to them, we need not look for internal signs that we are progressing spiritually or that God has infused into us “new life.” Rather, we trust God’s word that he has done so, is doing so, and will do so; we also participate in hearing God’s word of God’s forgiveness and the sacraments, which are means by which God does so. Many of them appear to present this as an utterly passive process, and I am not entirely on board with that. It does resonate with me, though, particularly on bad days, when I look inside and feel as if I have regressed rather than progressed in my love for God and neighbor (i.e., “I despise people and I do not care what God thinks about that!”), or when I cannot identify “new life” in my attitudes, emotions, and actions. God’s word of forgiveness is refreshing to me, however.

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