Monthly Archives: December 2016

Seeking Christmas

 It isn’t with the Christmas tree
Or presents wrapped for all to see
St.Nick, he didn’t bring it here
Nor Frosty of the Grinch I fear
It isn’t in the shopping mall
Nor songs that sing our ‘Deck the Hall’
Or houses decked in Christmas lights
Or people packed on holiday flights
Family and friends, feast and gift
Do comfort and my spirits lift
Yet sometimes all the noise and light
Distracts me on this silent night
From Joseph’s trip from Galilee
And his new wife, blessed Mary
From Jesus in a manger lay
For no room was found on his birthday
Messiah, the Word of God, the Light
That came upon that Holy Night
When the angel proclamation began
Peace on earth, good will to man
Come let us go and seek and tell
This child who is Emmanuel
The creator to creation come
A new covenant of grace begun
To seek with Magi Bethlehem
To see the king or the great ‘I am’
To ponder deep within our heart
The words the shepherd did impart
For that is what I seek this year
In the middle of the holiday cheer
The place where heaven comes to earth
To fill our hearts and souls with mirth

Mosaic in the Rosary Basilica, Lourdes

Mosaic in the Rosary Basilica, Lourdes

Psalm 27- Faith in an Age of Anxiety

The Temple by

The Temple by

Psalm 27
<Of David.>
 1 The LORD is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The LORD is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?
 2 When evildoers assail me to devour my flesh– my adversaries and foes– they shall stumble and fall.
 3 Though an army encamp against me, my heart shall not fear; though war rise up against me, yet I will be confident.
 4 One thing I asked of the LORD, that will I seek after: to live in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the LORD, and to inquire in his temple.
 5 For he will hide me in his shelter in the day of trouble; he will conceal me under the cover of his tent; he will set me high on a rock.
 6 Now my head is lifted up above my enemies all around me, and I will offer in his tent sacrifices with shouts of joy; I will sing and make melody to the LORD.
 7 Hear, O LORD, when I cry aloud, be gracious to me and answer me!
 8 “Come,” my heart says, “seek his face!” Your face, LORD, do I seek.
 9 Do not hide your face from me. Do not turn your servant away in anger, you who have been my help. Do not cast me off, do not forsake me, O God of my salvation!
 10 If my father and mother forsake me, the LORD will take me up.
 11 Teach me your way, O LORD, and lead me on a level path because of my enemies.
 12 Do not give me up to the will of my adversaries, for false witnesses have risen against me, and they are breathing out violence.
 13 I believe that I shall see the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living.
 14 Wait for the LORD; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the LORD!

The fear of the LORD is the antidote to the fear of the things that produce anxiety in the world around the Psalmist. One of the most common commands when there is a divine revelation through a dream, an angel or a prophecy is “Do not be afraid.” Often these words come in situations that would produce fear and yet the one who calls the Psalmist, the prophets and poets, the kings and the shepherds, the young women like Mary and old men like Zechariah becomes their light and salvation throughout their life and journey. As the apostle Paul can write to the church in Rome, “What then are we to say about these things? If God is for us, who is against us?” Or as Martin Luther could explain when talking about what it means to follow the first commandment of having no other Gods, “We are to fear, love and trust God above all things.” The Psalmists faith in God becomes such a central part of their life that they can enter into the darkest valleys without being paralyzed by fear because their LORD is indeed guiding them through those places and times.

The fear of the LORD is not an immunization against bad things happening to the faithful one, the Psalms and even the theology of books like Deuteronomy are not some simple prosperity gospel where trust in the LORD guarantees a return on investment in wealth, happiness, children, flocks and fields. There is a sense in which that trust is rewarded and validated but the Psalmist and those throughout scripture who are lifted up as models of faith often live challenging lives. Job, for example, would continue to believe that he would be vindicated by the LORD even when his household and health were all destroyed and yet, defiantly, Job would trust that God would answer his plea. The martial imagery of enemies that attack in cannibalistic fashion or an army that encamps around the faithful one may be metaphors for the great struggles or, if the Psalm refers backwards into David’s experience, it may reflect the reality of being one who is hunted for. Faith doesn’t make life easy but it may make the incredible struggle that one goes through bearable because faith becomes the antidote to the overwhelming fear and anxiety that may be present otherwise in the Psalmist’s life.

Worship becomes a foundational piece of the faithful life. The desire of the Psalmist is to live their life in the house of the LORD. The temple or tabernacle becomes a place to seek God’s presence, God’s voice and guidance, to reaffirm one’s trust in their God and a place where prayers can go forth. It is a place where defiant shouts of joy and joyous songs and praises can be offered. It becomes a continual reminder that the Psalmist does not journey alone, but that the LORD their God and other faithful ones, perhaps many other faithful ones also join in these defiant shouts and songs. Faith is strengthened in the continual dwelling in the house of the LORD.

Their God to the faithful one becomes shelter, the one who conceals them under the cover of the tent and the one who sets them upon a rock. Shelter, while used only here in the Psalms, reflects a common idea of the LORD sheltering the people of Israel and is the word behind the Feast of Sukkoth (Festival of Booths) remembering how the LORD cared for the people during their Exodus journey. The LORD has been the rock and foundation before, as in Psalm 18, but now the LORD places the Psalmist upon a rock where they are safe and sheltered from their enemies. As Rolf Jacobson can point out the tent can be a reference to the tabernacle or temple but it also has the element of being God’s protective presence. (Nancy deClaisse-Walford, 2014, p. 269) Within the hospitality culture of the ancient world being concealed under the cover of the tent may also allude to the expectation of protection provided for the guest that has been welcomed into one’s home and there are numerous stories throughout the bible, probably the most famous being that of Lot and the two angels that he shields within his house in Genesis 19 (a text often misinterpreted). In the ancient world if someone comes to your house and you extend them hospitality then their lives are entrusted to your care.

Yet, even the faith that knows that the LORD is their light and salvation may have to convince itself to trust in the midst of the challenges of life. For me verses eight through fourteen may be this type of internal dialogue of faithfulness in the midst of challenge. There is the plea to be heard and the reminder spoken to oneself to seek the face of the Lord and a reaffirmation of this seeking followed by a plea not to hide or turn away, a plea not to cast one off or forsake. There is the continual struggle to remember the character of God and yet the falling back into the language of commitment, deeper commitment to the faithful one than even a parental bond may yield. This Psalm has been a Psalm of commitment and trust and the Psalmist calls upon God in the midst of their struggles to uphold that trust: not to give them up to their adversaries and to lead them on the level paths. The Psalm ends on that note of trust as the wait for the LORD and the belief that in the midst of their time of trial the LORD will somehow deliver them or give them the strength and courage to endure.

Understanding the Constitution of the United States: Article 1 the Legislative Branch, Section 7: The process of making laws:

Section 7: The process of making laws:

The making of laws for the nation is a complicated process and in the past congress only two percent of bills became laws. Section seven of the constitution is fairly concise but the actual process of passing a bill into law is much more challenging. Unlike the School House Rock bill sitting there on capitol hill, most bills never do become law for various reasons. Below is a quick introduction based on the Constitution and the U.S. Senate’s flowchart and attachments for how a senate bill becomes law.

Bills must pass both houses before they become law and then must be presented to the president for their signature. The passage of a law can be a messy process since both houses of congress must agree to the same provisions in the bill for it to pass both houses. A bill may be proposed by a senator, representative, may come for the White House, be referred to the House or Senate by a State Legislature, Organization, Scholar, or Constituent. A bill will need a sponsoring Representative or Senator to introduce the bill into the Senate and the bill once introduced begins its long process of consideration. The one major qualification that the constitution stipulates is that any bill raising revenue must begin in the House of Representatives

If there are no objections to a bill being considered it is referred to an appropriate committee within the House or Senate, logged in the appropriate house’s journal, given a number, entered into the Legislative Information System (LIS) and made available in the Senate and House document rooms. The committee is then required to conduct hearings and is expected to hear witnesses from both called by the committee chair and the minority party members. Once the hearings are concluded the committee debates and considers amendments to the bill and determines whether the bill will be recommended to the full senate or house of representatives. A vast majority of bills never make it out of committee, in the 114th Congress (our latest congress, which began on January 6, 2015, only has had 6% of the bills make it to the floor for a vote). A bill that makes it through the process of committee markup a member of the committee may move the order the measure reported to the Senate or House of Representatives. It takes a physical majority of the committee to report a measure to the Senate or House of Representatives. The bill may be reported with no changes, with amendments in various sections or in one amendment as a substitute. What this means is that the bill if it comes out of committee may be the same, may have individual portions of the bill altered or amended, or the entire bill may be rewritten as one amendment.

For those bills that make it to floor consideration they are now considered by the entire House of Representatives or Senate (based on which body they are moving through). The floor consideration typically begins with opening statements by the chair and ranking minority member of the reporting committee and appropriate subcommittees. The first amendments are typically those offered by the committee. Each amendment must be disposed of either by agreeing to vote on it directly or to table it (tabling an amendment effectively works as a vote to defeat the amendment if the motion to table passes). While an amendment is on the floor a Senator/Representative may propose an amendment to the amendment (second-degree amendment) and the second-degree amendment must be voted on before the original amendment (first-degree amendment) can change. This can become a complicated process but once all the amendments are acted upon the bill itself can be moved to the voting process.

One fifth of those present can ask for a roll call or recorded vote, otherwise a vote can be by voice vote, unanimous consent or by division (a process for obtaining a more accurate count of a voice vote). For example, if a bill is approved by the Senate then a final copy of the bill (reflecting all the amendments) is prepared, signed by the Secretary of the Senate, and delivered to the House of Representative (if the bill comes from the House then this process is the same except that it goes through the House and is delivered to the Senate).

Following the example of a bill that comes from the Senate and is referred to the House of Representatives, the House will then act upon the bill in a similar manner to what the Senate has. If the bill makes it through the House of Representatives and it has no amendments to the bill the Senate passed (it is exactly the same bill) it is returned to the Senate to be enrolled (this is the final copy of the bill that passes the House and Senate) and is signed by the President Pro Tempore of the Senate and the Speaker of the House to be delivered to the White House. If the House has amended the bill the Senate may either agree with the amendment or request a conference. If the House and Senate go to conference, then designated members of both will negotiate to resolve the differences between the two proposed versions of the bill. Once a majority of House and Senate conferees agree to a conference report (a final version of the bill negotiated in the conference committee). Both houses must vote to approve the conference report before it is enrolled, signed by the President Pro Tempore of the Senate and the Speaker of the House to be delivered to the White House.

Once the bill finally passes both houses it is sent to the President who has ten days to act, or it they do not act it becomes law in 10 days (Sundays excepted). If the president disapproves a bill (veto), that disapproval may be overridden by a 2/3 vote of both the Senate and the House of Representatives. This does not happen very often (of 2,574 vetoes only 111 have been overridden).

The making of laws for the nation is a complicated process and in the past congress only two percent of bills became laws and yet it is a process that slow down the process to consider the impact of the proposed legislation. It is a process that by nature requires compromise for legislation to become enacted. In theory it should ensure that voice both in favor of and opposed to the legislation should be considered prior to a piece of legislation being voted upon.

Image of the U.S. Constitution from

Image of the U.S. Constitution from

Understanding the Constitution of the United States: Article 1 the Legislative Branch Sections 1-6

Image of the U.S. Constitution from

Image of the U.S. Constitution from

Even though most people in the United States at some point took a government class where the basics of the constitution and the U.S. form of government were taught, I am aware that often things learned in high school or college are easily forgotten. I often find myself in conversations with individuals, even those who may speak emphatically about defending the constitution, who speak in ways that show they do not understand the U.S. Constitution and the form of government it establishes. This has not been helped by the proliferation of opinions put out across multiple media seem either unaware or who willfully deceive those following them on how the U.S. system of government and legal system works.

I am not a constitutional scholar but I am a person who does have a profound respect for the work of the original crafters of the constitution as well as the long process of amending the constitution. This is both a refresher for me as I re-examine these foundational documents of our republic and an attempt to make the constitution itself easier to understand for those who read it. Also for those who want to effect change within our society it is essential to understand how at a basic level how our government and legal system is structured. If you would like to look at the text of the constitution it can be found at

Article 1 of the U.S. Constitution in summary

Section 1: The first branch of the U.S. government laid out in the constitution is the legislative branch, which is responsible for the establishing of laws to govern the country. The formation of the bicameral (two house) legislative branch was a compromise to address the concerns of both the smaller states who feared that they would not be fairly heard if population was the only means of representation and larger states who wanted greater representation based upon their larger populations.

Section 2: The House of Representatives, the larger of the two parts of the legislative branch where the representation is based upon the population.

Qualifications to be eligible to be elected to the House of Representatives: 25 years of age, citizen of the United States for seven years and an inhabitant of the state where they have been chosen. The Representatives serve two year terms, elected on even number years, and do not have a limit on the number of times they can be re-elected.

The number of members in the House of Representatives is fixed at 435. This number was fixed in the Apportionment Act of 1911 and then tied to the U.S. census in the Reapportionment Act of 1929. Originally within the constitution Native Americans were not counted and African Americans (primarily slaves when the constitution was written) were counted as 3/5 of a person. The constitution was not a perfect document and so individual pieces, like this, had to be amended later. (In this case Ammendment 14 in 1866 readjusted the method for counting for representation, several ammendments to the constitution are specifically working to expand the right to vote and participate in the legal system due to discriminatory practices).

The House of Representatives has the sole Power of Impeachment, the ability to bring charges against a civil officer or government and can do this by a majority vote of the House of Representatives. The House of Representatives does not try the Impeachment, that is outlined in section 3 with respect to the Senate. The division of power within the legislative branch for impeachment proceedings is one of the checks and balances built into the system of government we have inherited.

Section 3: The Senate, the smaller of the two parts of the legislative branch where each state is entitled to two representatives.

Qualifications to be eligible to be elected as a Senator: 30 years of age, a citizen of the United States for nine years and an inhabitant of the state where they are elected.  Senators serve for a six year term (1/3 of the senate is up for re-election at each even number year and do not have a limit on the number of times they can be re-elected).

Since there are two senators for each state the senate has 100 members. The Vice President of the United States serves as the President of the Senate but has no vote except in the case of a tie.

If articles of impeachment are brought from the House of Representative the Senate will try the impeachment proceedings. If the President is tried then the Chief Justice of the United States will preside and it takes 2/3 of the Senate to vote in favor of conviction for the impeached individual to be convicted. Andrew Jackson and Bill Clinton were both impeached but were acquitted in the Senate and therefore had no action taken against them. Richard Nixon technically was never impeached because he resigned before the House could vote on impeachment. The maximum penalty that impeachment proceedings can lead to is removal from office and disqualification for hold any high office in the United States. Impeachment does not remove the possibility of civil or legal proceedings after impeachment, but except in rare cases legal proceedings can’t be brought against a person in and Office of Honor (Representative, Senator, Judge, President, etc. see for example Section 6 below).

Section 4:  Refers to the election of Senators and Representatives which is primarily left to the states to determine the time, place and manner of the elections and it requires the congress to assemble at least once a year. In the seventeenth amendment the treatment of senators and representatives is fixed to occur in the same manner (now a part of our national elections). The Twentieth amendment will fix the time of initial assembly of the congress for the year as January 3rd at noon.

Section 5: Sets the quorum for each house at a majority of its membership and allows for the houses to compel the attendance of absent members. Each house determines its own rules of meeting, can punish members who act disorderly and even expel a member with a 2/3 vote (censure and lesser punishments require only a majority vote). Each house is required to keep a journal of its proceedings that will be published, but may exempt parts that require secrecy. It also requires both houses to not break for longer than three days while congress is in session (so that one house doesn’t by inaction delay the action of the other house).

Section 6: Requires that Senators and Representatives are compensated for their services. Since 2009 the basic salary for a Senator or Representative has been $174,000. It also exempts Senators and Representatives from arrest except in cases of Treason, Felony and Breach of Peace while attending at session of their house, returning to or from their respective house, and they may not be arrested for any speech or debate in those houses. This is also an important concept within the balances of power because it prevents the Executive branch or state or federal authorities from threatening members of the legislative branch with imprisonment for dissenting. Senators and Representatives to preserve the separation of powers cannot at the same time as they serve in the House or Senate assume a role within the executive or judicial branch.

The first six articles provide the foundation for the senators and representatives to do the primary work they are appointed for: the process of making laws and raising and appropriating funds for the functioning of the republic. The process of creating laws, the responsibilities and limits of the legislative authority and the limiting of the authority of the states closes out this article but these topics are detailed enough that they will constitute their own post in this series.

Psalm 26- A Liturgy for the Falsely Accused

The Temple by

The Temple by

Psalm 26

<Of David.>
 1 Vindicate me, O LORD, for I have walked in my integrity, and I have trusted in the LORD without wavering.
 2 Prove me, O LORD, and try me; test my heart and mind.
 3 For your steadfast love is before my eyes, and I walk in faithfulness to you.
 4 I do not sit with the worthless, nor do I consort with hypocrites;
 5 I hate the company of evildoers, and will not sit with the wicked.
 6 I wash my hands in innocence, and go around your altar, O LORD,
 7 singing aloud a song of thanksgiving, and telling all your wondrous deeds.
 8 O LORD, I love the house in which you dwell, and the place where your glory abides.
 9 Do not sweep me away with sinners, nor my life with the bloodthirsty,
 10 those in whose hands are evil devices, and whose right hands are full of bribes.
 11 But as for me, I walk in my integrity; redeem me, and be gracious to me.
 12 My foot stands on level ground; in the great congregation I will bless the LORD.

Many have stood in times where they felt unjustly accused by those in authority or those with power in their lives (whether friends, family, or perhaps in an educational, work or legal setting). In a familiar pattern from the Psalms in this part of the book of Psalms the petitioner and God stand against the judgment they experience from the forces around them. Martin Luther, for example, could reference his own struggles in attempting to be faithful to God’s Word and the persecution he is feeling in 1525 when he expounds upon the Psalm, (LW 12: 184) The Psalm invites us into that struggle with the difference between the life one expects in attempting to be faithful to God and the reality that the faithful one may experience.

The first two verses call upon God to act: to vindicate and to prove. Ultimately the crux of the Psalm is the trust that the speaker has for the LORD. They have tried to walk in a manner that reflects that faith and trust and it is that walk that has led them into this time of trial. The LORD is the one they call upon to act in setting the tables right and restoring the things that have been lost in this time where their way of life has been called into question. In parallel with this prayer to be vindicated is a parallel prayer to be evaluated. They cry on the LORD to weigh their life on the scales of justice and to see if their punishment is just. In the psalmist’s view the struggles they are going through do not fit the life they have tried to live and they open themselves up to God’s evaluation. This is perhaps a terrifying place for many people who are painfully aware of their sins or times they have not been completely faithful but as Beth Tanner can state about this text, “The point here is not to prove oneself, but to demonstrate one’s trust in God’s power of hesed and grace.” (Nancy deClaisse-Walford, 2014, p. 263)

It would be easy to become critical of the tone of this and many other Psalms where the psalmist places themselves in the position of the righteous one who is judged and yet that would miss the point in this Psalm. The Psalms are experienced theology put into prose rather than some type of systematic theology which needs to be consistent throughout. The freedom of the Psalms is the ability to give voice in a faithful way to the world one is experiencing. There will be moments where the Psalms will focus on the writer’s guilt or their need of redemption, but there are also times in the Psalms and in life where the speaker feels unjustly persecuted. The Psalms can provide us a ‘Liturgy for the Falsely Accused’ in the words of William Bellinger and Walter Brueggemann. (Brueggeman, 2014, p. 137) There are times where we need to know that we are innocent, or at least justified if we want to be dogmatic, where we haven’t associated with the wrong people or done the wrong things. Where our life has attempted to closely follow our values and where we do need a God who can judge between us and our persecutors. We want God to discriminate between us and the ones who we feel have acted unjustly. Maybe in the space of the prayer God acts, maybe in the space of the prayer our enemy changes, or maybe in the space of the prayer we are tested in heart and mind and we need to change. Yet, the speaker trusts that God will do something with their words and with their life. God will not remain silent and inactive.

Most of the prayer calls upon God to act on the psalmist’s behalf: to vindicate and to prove and not to sweep them away with the sinners. Yet, in the final two verses we return to the life the speaker is trying to live, a life that is in harmony with the trust they have in their LORD and the integrity in which they have attempted to walk. Even before God’s redemption they will continue to walk in integrity, and to bless the LORD in the worshipping community. They will continue to try to live the life they feel called to live, a life faithful to their calling as a person of the LORD.

Grey Days        

There was a time when the rain fell softly every day
When the cool dampness soaked beyond flesh and bone
And the cold water dimmed the fire of my soul
While the earth around me seemed to drink in the drops
Bursting forth into forests of deep green that blocked out the sun
I am a creature of the sun baked plains and the heat of summer
And the life in the forest made the air too heavy to breathe
Now I’ve returned to my natural habitat, to the place where I can thrive
Perhaps a place to hot and dry for many but it warms my bones
And in this place the fire of my soul was rekindled and burns brightly
Yet, on those grey days where the thunder rumbles and clouds collect
And the lightning flashes across the sky announcing the coming
Of the large grey drops that drench the earth and flood the plains
For a time I am returned to the dampness of that forested place
And the fire within sputters under the impact of the downpour
But in this place of dust and sun the rains last only for a time
Shortly to be replace by the arid heat and the drying wind
But without the grey days, without the chilling rain and cool wind
The life of the plains shrivels and dies and even the creatures of the sun
Need those times of being soaked soul, flesh and bone
To enjoy the life in the midst of the valley of the sun

Technology, News and the Distorted View of Reality

When I was growing up in the 1970s and 1980s the way we received our news was very different from the way we currently consume our news about the world around us. The technology was beginning to change but it was still a time of the three primary commercial networks (NBC, CBS and ABC) with the Public Broadcast Channel. Later Fox would come in on the UHF channels and cable TV would begin to emerge. It was a world of newspapers which were published daily and news programming which would be on at regular morning, evening and nighttime schedules. Perhaps the world moved slower: there were no cell phones, no social media, no internet. It was a world my children wouldn’t recognize and while I don’t want to get caught in a nostalgic idealization of that period I do want to reflect upon the changes that technology and our use of technology has changed us and how the economic models behind these technologies have shaped the news media we consume.

In 1980 a change began within the existing media of television with the advent of CNN, a network devoted to around the clock news coverage. Through a number of events, like the explosion of the Space Shuttle Challenger, the Persian Gulf War and the expanded political coverage of Presidential campaigns CNN and then additional dedicated news channels, like MSNBC or Fox News, began to shift the consumption of news from dedicated news times within the day to more frequent viewing throughout the day. Many organizations began showing news programming throughout the day in their waiting areas instead of networks programming. In the 1990s, as more people began using cable TV, the continual availability of new programming and multiple news channels cause the evolution of new types of news programming designed to keep people tuning into the various stations to keep the revenues for those channels going (since advertising is the economic driver of network and cable news). When news is viewed as a consumer product and the purpose is to keep people continually tuning into new and new commentary programs it needs to generate some type of reaction to keep people engaged. The media long ago figured out that people are emotional creatures and that emotions like anxiety and shared disgust would keep people coming back to their channels. This has led to a distorted perception of reality based on what will continue to get people tuning in and increasing the ratings of the news programming rather than an accurate perception of reality. Most people believe, for example, that the world in which we live is less safe than the world they grew up in but statistically this is not true, but media presents to people a reality that is focused on the most violent and most memorable crimes and creates an anxiety that is not based on a balanced view of our world.

As we entered the 21st Century the age of digital information continues to alter the way we get out news and has continued to lower the threshold of review for publication. With the advent of the internet the average user now has access to incredible amounts of information but relatively few ways to effectively filter that information. Search engines like Google, Bing and Yahoo all use algorithms to attempt to bring relevant information to the searchers screen but just because a website may be relevant does not ensure it is accurate, honest or true. While websites, blogs, twitter feeds and other places have provided access to people who would not have been able to publish through newspapers, journals and print media they also have removed or significantly lowered the peer review process designed to help insure that information is accurate. Especially with the advent of social media sites like Facebook where people can share information and links and the Facebook algorithm attempts to compute what other people want to see based on likes and shares (and an economic model that pays on advertising on a per click basis) it has led to intentionally misleading or incorrect but ultimately profitable reporting that causes people to view articles based on their shared opinions, disgusts and paranoia. In the past election the proliferation of false and misleading articles based upon a person’s political persuasion continued to build the level of anxiety and mistrust in the political and electoral system. It has become increasingly easy to create echo chambers by surrounding ourselves digitally with people who reinforce or enhance our beliefs, biases and prejudices. It has become much easier to criticize another person’s views without ever having to encounter and experience the other person as a real person because of our digital technology. While the availability of information through the internet and the vast data it can provide is a remarkable technological breakthrough the economic engine of the digital reporting cycle and its continual reinforcement of the truth we want to see, rather than having some peer reviewed or other method to attempt to make the news we consume an accurate picture of reality has led to what many are beginning to term a post-truth reality.

In our society news is a consumer product and probably always will be and yet there are a number of ethical questions that we should be asking about the news that we consume. Is there a way to create a better system that provides a news media that reflects reality better than profitability? Are there ways to encourage people to become critical consumers, especially online, where the threshold for publication is incredibly low and there is no accountability for publishing dishonest or misleading information presented as news? Are we willing to settle for a smaller America where our tribe of people is only those who agree with us, who may look like us and believe the same way that we believe in or are we willing to experience the cognitive dissonance of engaging with someone whose reality may be very different than our own? With each new technology there is an ethical lag as we attempt to figure out the ethical implications of the new technology, what would an ethical consumption of digital media look like? What would be the expected ethics of media presented as factual reporting?

These are not easy questions but they are things that we need to wrestle with if we want a nation of citizens that can make informed decisions then we need the information they receive to be accurate. If we are only consuming media that feeds our anxieties, disgusts, prejudices and biases then we will continue to have an increasingly polarized and divided society. Perhaps it is my idealistic nature but I do believe an ethical media is possible, although difficult, in age of digital consumption.


Toward Healing a Broken Republic

Image of the U.S. Constitution from

Image of the U.S. Constitution from

As an inquisitive person I am constantly trying to understand what is happening in the world around me and how to describe and faithfully impact it. I try to pay attention to not only the religious tradition I am a part of but also the broader trends in society. In October of this year I was having a conversation with one of my colleagues about the political landscape nationally and locally and what that meant for the church. As a person who generally approaches the world in a positive way I was seeing the challenge as also an opportunity for the church to be a place where we can address some of the issues that have arisen within our society, particularly highlighted in the political elections of 2017. I would later write Wisdom of Story 4: Daring to Imagine a Bigger Story at the conclusion of my working through Brené Brown and Glennon Melton Doyle’s class on The Wisdom of Story and I Pray that I am Wrong… the day after the election of Donald Trump to serve as the President of the United States.

For me this blog is a kind of chalkboard or whiteboard for my mind, it is a place where I can wonder about things both secular and sacred. Over the past week I’ve been writing down things I want to reflect upon on pieces of paper but I’m, at least for now, going to put up some of the ideas here so that I can begin to work on them. A lot of these have emerged out of conversations I have either heard or been a part of in the past week and the list will probably grow. Some may be self-explanatory others are little more than reminders so I don’t forget.

Beyond a Politics of Disgust

Masculinity and Femininity: What Does it Mean to Be a Man or Woman Today and How Has That Changed (and why might it be different across generations)

A Fractured Republic: What are Democrats and Republicans Nostalgic For and Why has their vision diverged so drastically

Living With the Things One Can Change: The Wisdom of Ecclesiastes in an Unsettled Time

Gifts of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence and Why Knowing these Documents is so Important: Published as

Understanding the Constitution of the United States: Article 1 The Legislative Branch, Sections 1-6
Understanding the Constitution of the United States: Article 1 The Legislative Branch, Section 7: The Process of Making Laws
Understanding the Constitution of the United States: Article 1 The Legislative Branch, Section 8: The Powers of Congress
Understanding the Constitution of the United States: Article 1 The Legislative Branch, Section 9-10: Limiting the Powers of Congress and the Independent States

Expanding the Tribe we hear from: How do we hear the voices of another who differs from us? Perhaps exploring the book of Ruth compared to books like Ezra and Nehemiah

Political Correctness and Common Decency: Political Correctness has often been labeled as a bad thing, but what is it and did we ever have common decency?

What are the civil religions of the United States and is there still a civil religion in a secular, postmodern age

What do Postmodernity, Secularism, Pluralism, etc. have to speak to our current context

Does Digital pluralism necessarily lead to a Post-Truth era

From Nostalgia to Casting a New Dream

The 24 hour digital news cycle, the loss of review, the flood of data and the skewed perception of reality (Or is our addiction to news causing our anxiety on purpose) Coming on December 2, 2016 as Technology, News and the Distorted View of Reality

Shame and Anti-Racism Training

The Fall of Anakin Skywalker and the Rise of the Dark Side in American Culture and Politics