The Least, First

Monte Asbury's blog

Whose conversion is this?

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Here’s a story of a Christian conversion.  Can you guess who’s talking?

So one Sunday, I put on one of the few clean jackets I had, and went over to [a church]. And I heard [a pastor] deliver a sermon …  And during the course of that sermon, he introduced me to someone named Jesus Christ. I learned that my sins could be redeemed. I learned that those things I was too weak to accomplish myself, He would accomplish with me if I placed my trust in Him. And in time, I came to see faith as more than just a comfort to the weary or a hedge against death, but rather as an active, palpable agent in the world and in my own life.

It was because of these newfound understandings that I was finally able to walk down the aisle of [this church] one day and affirm my Christian faith. It came about as a choice, and not an epiphany. I didn’t fall out in church, as folks sometimes do. The questions I had didn’t magically disappear. The skeptical bent of my mind didn’t suddenly vanish. But kneeling beneath that cross [at the church], I felt I heard God’s spirit beckoning me. I submitted myself to His will, and dedicated myself to discovering His truth and carrying out His works […]

Answer after the break. Read the rest of this entry »

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Responding to Concerned Nazarenes

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For my Nazarene friends, here’s an index to some thoughts about the “Concerned Nazarenes” DVD that was distributed at General Assembly.  CN is a fundamentalist group with strong ideas about the emergent church phenomenon and its relationship to the Church of the Nazarene.  Their DVD is reviewed by a fellow named Jeffrey at A Considered Response to the Concerned Nazarenes.  The comments seem thoughtful and respectfull.

Index to the Review of the Concerned Nazarene’s DVD

Given the fact that the review I posted of the Concerned Nazarenes’ DVD was posted in five separate parts, I wanted to provide a post that would give users easy sequential access to the information. Below you will find links to each of the five posts. The entire review was written by Ryan Scott and provides helpful information and what seem to me to be valid critiques and concerns without resorting to personal attacks or diatribes.

  1. Introduction and Chapter 1 of the DVD
  2. Chapter 2 and 3 of the DVD
  3. Chapter 4 of the DVD
  4. Chapter 5 of the DVD
  5. General Critiques and Final Conclusions
What’cha think?
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Written by Monte

August 31, 2009 at 9:55 am

Which states have the most Medicaid-funded births?

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I wonder why it is that the states that most decry government spending are the ones that take the most federal money per capita to deliver their babies? Note Huckabee’s Arkansas and Palin’s Alaska and McCain’s Arizona and Barbour’s Mississippi and Jindal’s Louisiana and Demint’s S. Carolina:
clipped from facts.kff.org

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N.T. Wright’s definition of evangelism

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N.T. Wright, Bishop of Durham

N.T. Wright, Bishop of Durham

“When the church is seen to move straight from worship of the God we see in Jesus to making a difference and effecting much-needed change in the real world;

when it becomes clear that the people who feast at Jesus’ table are the ones in the forefront of work to eliminate hunger and famine;

when people realize that those who pray for the Spirit to work in and through them are the people who seem to have extra resources of love and patience in caring for those whose lives are damaged, bruised, and shamed;

then it is not only natural to speak of Jesus himself and to encourage others to worship him for themselves and find out what belonging to his family is all about but it is also natural for people, however irreligious they may think of themselves as being, to recognize that something is going on that they want to be part of.

In terms that the author of Acts might have used, when the church is living out the kingdom of God, the word of God will spread powerfully and do its own work.”

Surprised By Hope, p. 267  (h/t Lon Marshall)

Written by Monte

August 23, 2009 at 5:32 pm

Gender identification: not as simple as it seems

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BERLIN - AUGUST 16:  (L-R) Tetiana Petlyuk of ...

Image by Getty Images via Daylife

Perhaps you’ve heard of the world-class South African runner Caster Semenva (on the right in photo).  Last week, she won the gold medal in the women’s 800 meters at the world championship games in Berlin.   And then, someone—no one’s saying who—challenged her victory on the basis of gender.  In other words, “She’s not a woman, he’s a man.”

Now to we non-scientists, this seems like a simple question.  Turns out it’s difficult (not to mention humiliating for an 18 year old girl).  From the New York Times:

It requires a physical medical evaluation, and includes reports from a gynecologist, an endocrinologist, a psychologist, an internal medicine specialist and an expert on gender. The effort, coordinated by Dr. Harold Adams, a South African on the I.A.A.F. medical panel, is being conducted at hospitals in Berlin and South Africa.

Why all the fuss?  Either she is or she isn’t, right? Read on:

clipped from www.nytimes.com
To be fair, the biology of sex is a lot more complicated than the average fan believes […] f the person has XY chromosomes, you declare him a man. If XX, she’s a woman. Right?
Wrong. A little biology: On the Y chromosome, a gene called SRY usually makes a fetus grow as a male. It turns out, though, that SRY can show up on an X, turning an XX fetus essentially male. And if the SRY gene does not work on the Y, the fetus develops essentially female.[…] Even an XY fetus with a functioning SRY can essentially develop female […]
In the case of Androgen Insensitivity Syndrome […] the genitals and the rest of the external body look female-typical, except that these women lack body hair […]
Moreover, a person can look male-typical on the outside but be female-typical on the inside, or vice versa […]
Matthew, a 19-year-old who was born looking obviously male, was raised a boy, and had a girlfriend and a male-typical life. Then he found out […] that he had ovaries and a uterus […] he had XX chromosomes […] his body developed[…] male-typical […]
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In the end, it’s a judgment call.

Which brings to mind the subject of sexual orientation (though, far as I know, it’s not a question Semenva has raised). Many of my good friends are convinced that gay men and lesbian women should remain celibate, for (they say) homosexual sex is “un-natural.”

But if an individual has both male and female characteristics, with which gender, my friends,  is he or she to be prohibited from marriage? What is natural?

Even more, what dozens of unknown psychological aspects of sexual identity and behavior might this combined physical identity bring about?  What aspects of it might never appear physically but influence sexual preference?

So I wonder.  How can we, who understand all this so very little, legitimately insist upon legal or theological control over the sexual destiny of people who are personally—perhaps even unknowingly—involved in these mysteries?  If scientists can’t conclusively say whether an athlete should race as a male or a female, how could we amateur theologians possibly know enough to judge who should be attracted to whom?

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Death by profit

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Long after midnight, some years ago, I found my son in the fetal position on the floor outside our bedroom door, in intense pain.  We rushed him to the hospital.  Pancreatitis, it was.  He received good treatment.  And in some days, he mostly recovered.

The Hurting
Image by Marquette La via Flickr

That night came to mind just now as I read these paragraphs from Sojourners:

Two weeks ago, Sam* died suddenly. He was only 21 years old, strong and healthy, preparing for a life ministering to youth. Cause of death: acute pancreatitis and previously undiagnosed diabetes. Reason for death: no access to health care to treat the incredible pain in his stomach – until it was too late. The bottom line: While angry protesters disrupt town hall meetings and national organizations spread fear-based lies, lives are lost.

The current health-care system leaves you and me just as vulnerable to lack of care as Sam was. Health-care reform is just as much an issue of justice, of preserving and celebrating life, as it is an issue of caring for the vulnerable. […]

[T]he current system “renders the best health care to the wealthiest, depletes the savings of solidly middle-class Americans, and leaves 46 million with no health-care coverage at all.” […]

[A]t Sam’s funeral there were no angry shouts or accusations. There was only shock and grief among the 400 friends and family members who attended.

Had I been born in a different situation, that death would have happened at my house; that shock and grief at my church. I would still know it today.

How long will we tolerate the fact that profits are more important than lives in America?  How did we become so hard-hearted as to turn our backs on the victims of such perversion?  What kind of monsters have we become?

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* Name changed to protect the privacy of his family.


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Dazzling: Olbermann indicts elected officials on healthcare-funded campaigns

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Watch this video!

Keith Olbermann reveals the numbers behind those Senators and Congressmen and women who have funded their elections with health industry money, and who now deliver the goods by killing the public option.

I believe that Iowa’s own Chuck Grassley (who lately has joined in the “death panels” fabrication)  is among the top ten recipients of health industry contributions in the Senate.  Sen. Max Baucus, chair of the Senate Finance Committee, received more campaign money from the industry than from his home state.

The public option is the single greatest cost-cutting measure of this entire process.  It creates competition for an industry that operates in near-monopoly conditions. It takes the need to make a profit out of the choices doctors offer their patients.

It is good for Americans but bad for health industry millionaires.  And the CEOs are calling in their debts.

The politicians who rode industry money into office know what’s at stake:  choke the the public option, or find other money to fund your re-election.

Write your elected officials today.  Tell them you want the option to choose insurance that doesn’t connect care with profits.  You can find their addresses in the right sidebar, under the heading “E-mail.”

They’ve got the money.  But we cast the votes.

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