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Conservatives of Jesus’ time were against him

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Remarkable conclusions of theologian Stanley Hauerwas:
clipped from
“The functional character of contemporary religious convictions is perhaps nowhere better revealed than in the upsurge of religious conservatism. While appearing to be a resurgence of `traditional’ religious conviction, some of these movements in fact give evidence of the loss of religious substance in our culture and in ourselves. Christianity is defended not so much because it is true, but because it reinforces the `American way of life.’ Such movements are thus unable to contemplate that there might be irresolvable tensions between being Christian and being `a good American.'”
Phillips Brooks, a Protestant pastor in the late nineteenth century, wrote: “In the best sense of the word, Jesus was a radical. … His religion has so long been identified with conservatism … that it is almost startling sometimes to remember that all the conservatives of his own times were against him; that it was the young, free, restless, sanguine, progressive part of the people who flocked to him.”
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So it seems.

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Written by Monte

January 3, 2008 at 3:48 pm

Changed from the inside out (readings for Aug 24, 2008)

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will my wife think it's hot?

The look: will my wife think it hot?

I’ve started shaving again.  Regrets.

Found out I had sleep apnea a few weeks ago, and have began using a CPAP at night.  It’s like sleeping with  a cool breeze (up your nostrils, anyway).  And my, sleep is delicious!  I’m awake!

I had to shave because the mask sits atop the whiskers under my nose, and that made that whisker-skin sore by morning.  Which woke me up, defeating the purpose.  So I shave.  And they grow back.  And I shave.

Friends of mine have had laser hair removal.  Something about the laser so zaps the whisker that, in many cases, it never comes back.  Something happens down in the follicle, inside your skin.  And there you are, smooth as a baby’s bottom.  No more stinky after-shave.

Shaving works outside-inIt’s never over.  Laser hair removal, I suppose you could say, works inside-out.  When it works, that one hair is gone for good.

The religious conservatives of Jesus’ day thought that God worked outside in.  You conform to the rules, God likes you better, good things happen.  But Jesus – and later, Paul – said “Uh, no!” about that.  Grace works – as an old fellow I knew used to say – “slow but fine:” inside out.  Watch how Paul says it in this Sunday’s Bible readings, just below.

I’ve got to go shave.

Proper 16 (21) August 24, 2008
Exodus 1:8-2:10; Psalm 124; Romans 12:1-8; Matthew 16:13-20

Romans 12:1-8

Place Your Life Before God

1So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life–your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life–and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. 2Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you. Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Monte

August 22, 2008 at 2:17 pm

Posted in Politics

My unrespectable hero (sermon of Sep 16, ’07)

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I loved preaching this sermon; even more, I loved preparing it. Discovering afresh who Jesus is and what his passions are still breathes life into my heart. May it serve you, so.

Two shepherds. Which best represents a Bible figure?

good-shepherd.jpgshepherd boy

Proper 19 (24) September 16, 2007
Luke 15:1-10; 1 Timothy 1:12-17; Jeremiah 4:11-12,22-28; Psalm 14

We sang Cry of My Heart; Shout to the North; Above All; Be the Centre

And the sermon:

[With the opening of the Luke verses on the video screen, I moved between parts of the congregation, asking the people on one side to be the group described in the first verse. The first group’s job was to appear disreputable, which was really pretty funny.] Read the rest of this entry »

CIA returns to Iran: Here we go again

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The CIA has returned to the scene of the crime. It was Tehran, 1953, where the CIA first toppled a democratically elected government (See Wikipedia’s Operation Ajax). Iran’s crime? Wanting 50% of its own oil profits. The revolution that brought religious conservatives into power was made possible by outrage in the Iranian public toward the subsequent corrupt, totalitarian, US-puppet regime.

America should apologize. Instead, according to the ABC News’ Blotter, the US government is back at it:

Bush Authorizes New Covert Action Against Iran

May 22, 2007 6:29 PM

Brian Ross and Richard Esposito Report:

Bush_authorizes_mnThe CIA has received secret presidential approval to mount a covert “black” operation to destabilize the Iranian government, current and former officials in the intelligence community tell the Blotter on

The sources, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitive nature of the subject, say President Bush has signed a “nonlethal presidential finding” that puts into motion a CIA plan that reportedly includes a coordinated campaign of propaganda, disinformation and manipulation of Iran’s currency and international financial transactions. […]

Ah, Mr. Bush. Please, not again. Don’t take us lower still.

Iran is changing; religious radicals—always a minority—are losing power. When America gives the Iranian public reasons for mistrust, Iranian radicals surge in popularity. Must we ever repeat our blunders? When will we learn that our aggressiveness is extremism’s life-blood?

Please, Mr. President: recall the CIA.
Please, Congress: require ethical dealing with Iran.
Please, Presidential candidates: offer alternatives. Speak up.

Forced submission means peace delayed. “Black ops” is demonstrably bankrupt.
Lead us to a better way.

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Written by Monte

May 23, 2007 at 6:14 pm

A brief history of Iran-US relations, part 2: Ahmedinejad, nukes, and weapons

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Cole Juan with captionOn February 27, my wife Lori and I were privileged to hear Juan Cole, the University of Michigan’s distinguished expert on Middle Eastern affairs, at a luncheon of the Iowa City Foreign Relations Council. It occured to me that notes from Prof. Cole’s brief lecture, with a few supporting resources, could provide a valuable structure for understanding the back-stories that make today’s crises add up.

Part 1 of this thread sketched Prof. Cole’s list of the foundational events of Iran-US relations during the 20th century. This post offers my notes from the remainder of the lecture, and Part 3 suggests an exit strategy from neighboring Iraq.

Quotation marks indicate quotes of Prof. Cole. Other comments contain links that serve as citations.

By all means, check out Prof. Cole’s Informed Comment: Thoughts on the Middle East, History, and Religion for scholarly reflection on news events as they happen.

* * *

2005: REFORMERS APPEAR IMPOTENT – HARDLINERS SURGE. As it became apparent that the reform movement was unable to make sweeping change (partly due to persistent resistance from the US), Iranians began to see it as impotent. [In a comment, (see below), a knowledgeable friend points out that the US President’s inclusion of Iran in his axis of evil comments – during a time of reform – unwittingly contributed to the downfall of the reform movement.] Hardliners closed it down, setting the stage for a resurgence of control by religious conservatives.

2005: AHMEDINEJAD ELECTED PRESIDENT. … A populist “dressed as a janitor,”… Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Monte

March 12, 2007 at 11:58 pm

Posted in Iran, Islam, Politics, Terrorism