Friday, November 11, 2016

Ann Althouse and "lightweight religion"

I happened to look at Ann Althouse's blog today, just because she usually posts things about newly-deceased musicians and Leonard Cohen passed away yesterday.

True to form, Althouse had embedded a video clip from a Leonard Cohen press conference, one held last month to promote the release of his last LP, You Want It Darker.

In the clip, Cohen explains how Biblical language and imagery was part of his "vocabulary" and that, while he tries to avoid being too obscure for general audiences, he leans on the Biblical landscape in his lyrics.

Cohen then goes on to explain that he's experienced "grace from elsewhere," but that there's no "structure" to his religious impulses and that there was certainly nothing along religious lines that he dared to share with anyone.

It sounded like mush, the kind of pablum, unoffensive and unexceptionable fluff, that some people try to palm off as thoughtful spirituality--along the lines of the oft-repeated refrain, "I'm spiritual, not religious," whatever that means. (Hint: It means nothing. People who say it may as well be talking like the adults in a Charlie Brown TV special.)

I laughed out loud when I saw one of the labels Althouse gave to the post with the Cohen embed: lightweight religion. Althouse demonstrated here that you can even use labels to say something. I was sure that this must be the only post in the Althouse archives that bore the label lightweight religion.

Actually, no. Althouse has applied the title to quite a few of her posts. They make for somewhat interesting light reading. I haven't looked to see if she's got a heavyweight religion label.

[Blogger Mark Daniels is pastor of Living Water Lutheran Church in Centerville, Ohio.]

Wednesday, November 09, 2016

All This for a Piece of Fruit by Dogs of Peace

Kristallnacht: May we never forget

Antisemitism and other forms of bigotry are a blight on the human race. We must remember the horrors unleashed when people pick groups to marginalize, menace, and kill. It is always wrong, more dehumanizing to perpetrators as well as victims.

Kristallnacht, the Night of the Broken Glass, should remind us of these grim and important truths.

Each of us is created in the image of God (Genesis 1:27).

Each of us has been carefully crafted in our mothers' wombs (Psalm 139:13-14).

And God took on flesh in the person of Jesus Christ in order to accept our rightful punishment for sin, death, so that in rising, He could give life to all who turn from sin and trust in Him (John 1:14; Romans 5:7-9; Romans 4:25-5:1; 2 Timothy 2:11-13).

In other words, every human life is precious to God and every other human being is our kin, created by God.

And every human being is someone for whom Jesus, God in the flesh, died and rose, able to receive freedom from sin, death, and darkness through faith in Jesus Christ (John 8:36; Acts 2:36-39).

Bigotry and the violence it incites are abominations to God and stains on the human race. Kristallnacht happens again every time the humanity of others is disdained simply because they don't look or believe "like us."

There is a horrible irony when it comes to antisemitism, Kristallnacht, and the Holocaust. The whole human race, in fact, owes the Jews a special debt of gratitude. And Christians, saved by their faith in Jesus, God, Who came into the world a Jew and a rabbi, owe the Jews their eternal lives!

As imperfect and fitful in faith as all of us when it comes to following God and obeying His command to love Him and love others, the Jews nonetheless returned again and again to God, recorded and maintained God's Word of promise, and family into which God in the flesh was born and nurtured in His humanity. The first Christians, the first to share the Good News (Gospel) of new life for all who believe in Jesus--Paul, Peter, John, Luke, Mark, Thomas, Mary Magdalene, Mary of Nazareth, Stephen, James, Philip the Evangelist, and others--were all Jews who understood that in Christ, God was giving Jews and Gentiles a new covenant predicated and built on the old one that God made through Abraham and Moses.

Kristallnacht was an early indicator of what Hitler and the Nazis were about to unleash on the Jews and the world. Today, bigotry and the discrimination, persecution, and violence they spawn still exist. May we learn the awful lessons of Kristallnacht and the Holocaust and let God reign over us through King Jesus so that we learn to truly love God and love others.

[Blogger Mark Daniels is pastor of Living Water Lutheran Church in Centerville, Ohio.]