Archive for July, 2017

Words Fail

Monday, July 31st, 2017

Even the bleep-friendly media have been shocked by the language emanating recently from the White House. One such speaker terms his vocabulary, “colorful.” Christians are appalled; non-puritanical unbelievers are upset or, at best, amused.

Many appropriate Scripture verses suggest themselves. Jesus: “Let your yes be a plain yes, and your no no.” (Mt. 5.37) “Speak the truth in love.” (Eph. 4.15)

But the only verses that seem relevant to the current administration seem the many passages about conflict and brother being set against brother (Lk 12.53, etc).

Meanwhile, beyond all the White House psycho-drama, there are “wars, and rumors of wars.” (Mt. 24.6)–J. Douglas Ousley


Sapiens

Monday, July 24th, 2017

On the recommendation of a friend, I recently read Yuval Noah Hariri’s Sapiens–a long and fascinating look at humanity, past, present, and future. Although it does not, in my view, treat religion fairly, the book is well worth reading.

As far as the future of Homo sapiens, Harari makes an interesting observation about the brave new world of bioengineering. He notes that if it becomes possible to bioengineer the human body to eliminate the effects of aging, that development won’t automatically lead to human happiness. For the first people to live indefinitely will be envied by those still age normally. And the elite who profit from bioengineering will still be afraid of accidental death.

Even utopias have their downsides. At least, this side of Heaven. —J. Douglas Ousley


Religion is Local

Tuesday, July 11th, 2017

“I am not a believer, but I still go to services at the church around the corner from my apartment, the Church of the Incarnation, not far from where I’m walking now. A free show. A museum, practically, with work by Louis Comfort Tiffany and Augustus Saint-Gaudens. Something to do, and some people who know me. My son, Johnny, learned to play the stately and formidable Aeolian-Skinner pipe organ there.”

This quotation comes from a lovely new novel by Kathleen Rooney entitled, Lillian Boxfish Takes a Walk. The novel was recommended to me by the Rev. Amanda Kucik, a former Associate Rector of Incarnation. (As an aside, I would mention that Amanda is now expecting her first child in Charlotte, North Carolina.)

Ms. Rooney’s character is not entirely positive in her comment on Incarnation, but the remark does give an indication of how people sometimes see our church: great art and music, formal liturgy–lots to see and hear. On the other hand, the idea that we are a “museum” isn’t entirely complimentary! We may hope that we aren’t just preserving relics of the past, and we will want to look forward to the future and to whatever ministry God is calling us to.

But still, Lillian Boxfish reminds us that we have a local presence to numerous people who are not on our membership rolls. We have a duty to preserve our building, to present the finest worship we can, and to be open to those who are walking by. —J. Douglas Ousley


North Korea

Wednesday, July 5th, 2017

This past Sunday, I spoke at some length about the North Korean Christians and their suffering. I mentioned for example a report that they must pray with their eyes open; if they close their eyes and are caught praying, they can be sent to prison.

Two days later, the North Korean government launched what is apparently their first inter-continental ballistic missile. Christian peacemakers in America are now faced with the very difficult question of what to do in response to what is now a serious threat to our future peace.

If, for example, the North Koreans should send a nuclear warhead to Alaska, what would we do? A pacifist response wouldn’t seem sustainable. So is a pacifist solution possible now–or must we do something military to eliminate the threat?

I have no idea; I hope that our leaders think of something. While I pray with my eyes closed, I hope they will be acting with their eyes wide open. —J. Douglas Ousley