Opinion | Reverend- You Say the Virgin Birth Is ‘a Bizarre Claim’? – By Nicholas Kristof – The New York Times

Nicholas Kristof

By Nicholas Kristof

Opinion Columnist

This is the latest in my occasional series of conversations about Christianity. Here’s my interview, edited for space, with Serene Jones, a Protestant minister, president of Union Theological Seminary and author of a new memoir, “Call It Grace.”

KRISTOF Happy Easter, Reverend Jones! To start, do you think of Easter as a literal flesh-and-blood resurrection? I have problems with that.

JONES When you look in the Gospels, the stories are all over the place. There’s no resurrection story in Mark, just an empty tomb. Those who claim to know whether or not it happened are kidding themselves. But that empty tomb symbolizes that the ultimate love in our lives cannot be crucified and killed.

For me it’s impossible to tell the story of Easter without also telling the story of the cross. The crucifixion is a first-century lynching. It couldn’t be more pertinent to our world today.”

. . . . .

Kristof and Serene Jones end:

I’ve asked this of other interviewees in this religion series: For someone like myself who is drawn to Jesus’ teaching but doesn’t believe in the virgin birth or the physical resurrection, what am I? Am I a Christian?

Well, you sound an awful lot like me, and I’m a Christian minister.

I often feel like we are in the middle of another reformation in a 500-year cycle. John Calvin and Martin Luther had no idea they were in the middle of a reformation, but they knew that church structures were breaking down, new forms of communication were emerging, new scientific discoveries were being made, new kinds of authorities and states and economic systems arising — all like this moment in time. This creates a spiritual crisis and a spiritual flexibility.

Christianity is at something of a turning point, but I think that this questioning and this reaching is even bigger than Christianity. It reaches into many religious traditions. This wrestling with climate change, and wrestling with the levels of violence in our world, wrestling with authoritarianism and the intractable character of gender oppression — it’s forcing communities within all religions to say, “Something is horribly wrong here.” It’s a spiritual crisis. Many nonreligious people feel it, too. We need a new way entirely to think about what it means to be a human being and what the purpose of our lives is. For me, this moment feels apocalyptic, as if something new is struggling to be born.

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Like 2,000 years ago?

Yes. Something was struggling to be born on that first Easter. It burst forth in ways that changed the world forever. Today I feel that spiritual ground around us shaking again. The structures of religion as we know it have come up bankrupt and are collapsing. What will emerge? That is for our children and our children’s children to envision and build.

Opinion | From the Ashes of Notre-Dame – The New York Times

Quote

David Lindsay:

I read Ross Douthat for the same reason I floss, to practice fighting plaque. I love the power of his prose, and can get mesmerized by it.
Here is a commenter, that explains my beef with many Christians.

R Calhoun
Oxford UK2h ago
“…liberal Christianities usually end up resembling a post-inferno cathedral, with the still-grand exterior concealing emptiness within.”

My goodness. If that is how you describe your fellow believers I shudder to think of how you would describe my family—married 25 years, two daughters, supporters of our community and institutions, but devout atheists—“a vast void of emptiness within”? “a supermassive black hole of emptiness within”?

Notre Dame is a monument to the glory of God, but also to the shear audacity of a human society willing to embark on a construction project taking generations to complete. It embodies an ability to work on long-term goals that is sorely needed to address the problems we face as a human culture—economic inequality, climate change, extirpation of species beyond those we raise for food. This is why the burning of Notre Dame is a calamity for all of us; our medieval forebears built this cathedral not as a momument to themselves but to their culture, and they built it to last.

In your columns you frequently and, in my opinion, unfairly, decry the spiritual vacuum of all but the most conservative believers. One can have meaning in one’s life without the supernatural. Consider if you will Earth as the most beautiful cathedral of them all; it too is on fire, albeit a slow smoldering one. As with Notre Dame we must quench those fires, and like Notre Dame we must rebuild, carving and setting each stone for the benefit of generations yet to come.

4 Replies152 Recommended

I read Ross Douthat for the same reason I floss, to practice fighting plaque. I love the power of his prose, and can get mesmerized by it.
Here is a commenter, that explains my beef with many Christians.

R Calhoun
Oxford UK2h ago
“…liberal Christianities usually end up resembling a post-inferno cathedral, with the still-grand exterior concealing emptiness within.”

My goodness. If that is how you describe your fellow believers I shudder to think of how you would describe my family—married 25 years, two daughters, supporters of our community and institutions, but devout atheists—“a vast void of emptiness within”? “a supermassive black hole of emptiness within”?

Notre Dame is a monument to the glory of God, but also to the shear audacity of a human society willing to embark on a construction project taking generations to complete. It embodies an ability to work on long-term goals that is sorely needed to address the problems we face as a human culture—economic inequality, climate change, extirpation of species beyond those we raise for food. This is why the burning of Notre Dame is a calamity for all of us; our medieval forebears built this cathedral not as a momument to themselves but to their culture, and they built it to last.

In your columns you frequently and, in my opinion, unfairly, decry the spiritual vacuum of all but the most conservative believers. One can have meaning in one’s life without the supernatural. Consider if you will Earth as the most beautiful cathedral of them all; it too is on fire, albeit a slow smoldering one. As with Notre Dame we must quench those fires, and like Notre Dame we must rebuild, carving and setting each stone for the benefit of generations yet to come.

4 Replies152 Recommended

 

A first draft of this column was written before flames engulfed the Cathedral of Notre-Dame de Paris, before its spire fell in one of the most dreadful live images since Sept. 11, 2001, before a blazing fire went further than any of France’s anticlerical revolutionaries ever dared.

My original subject was the latest controversy in Catholicism’s now-years-long Lent, in which conflicts over theology and sex abuse have merged into one festering, suppurating mess. The instigator of controversy, this time, was the former pope, the 92-year-old Benedict XVI, who late last week surprised the Catholic intelligentsia with a 6,000-word reflection on the sex abuse crisis.

Portions of the document were edifying, but there was little edifying in its reception. It was passed first to conservative Catholic outlets, whose palpable Benedict nostalgia was soon matched by fierce criticism from Francis partisans, plus sneers from the secular press at the retired pope’s insistence that the sex abuse epidemic was linked to the cultural revolution of the 1960s and the 1970s.

The column I was writing before the fire was mostly a lament for what the document’s reception betokened: A general inability, Catholic and secular, to recognize that both the “conservative” and “liberal” accounts of the sex abuse crisis are partially correct, that the spirits of liberation and clericalism each contributed their part, that the abuse problem dramatically worsened during the sexual revolution (a boring empirical fact if you spend any time with the data or the history) even as it also had roots in more traditional patterns of clerical chauvinism, hierarchical arrogance, institutional self-protection.

via Opinion | From the Ashes of Notre-Dame – The New York Times

Opinion | Rapists Presented by Their Church as Men of God – By Nicholas Kristof – The New York Times

Nicholas Kristof

By Nicholas Kristof

Opinion Columnist

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CreditLoren Elliott/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images
“When a journalist for the Illinois Baptist newspaper reported in 2002 on a Baptist pastor who had sexually assaulted two teenage girls in his church, one apparently just 13 years old, he received a furious reprimand.

Glenn L. Akins, then running the Illinois Baptist State Association, offered a bizarre objection: that writing about one pastor who committed sex crimes was unfair because that “ignores many others who have done the same thing.” Akins cited “several other prominent churches where the same sort of sexual misconduct has occurred recently in our state.”

In the end, the Baptists ousted the journalist, Michael W. Leathers, while the pastor who had committed the crimes, Leslie Mason, received a seven-year prison sentence and then, as a registered sex offender, returned to the pulpit at a series of Baptist churches nearby. So Leathers is no longer a journalist, and Mason remained a pastor.

That saga was cited in a searing investigation by The Houston Chronicle and The San Antonio Express-News that found that the Southern Baptist Convention repeatedly tolerated sexual assaults by clergymen and church volunteers. The Chronicle found 380 credible cases of church leaders and volunteers engaging in sexual misconduct, with the victims sometimes shunned by churches, urged to forgive abusers or advised to get abortions.”

Opinion | The Fourth Great Awakening – by David Brooks – NYT

“There are certain melodies that waft through history. One is the cultural contrast between Athens and Jerusalem. This contrast has many meanings, but the most germane one for our day is the contrast between the competitive virtues and the compassionate virtues.Athens — think of Achilles — stands for the competitive virtues: strength, toughness, prowess, righteous indignation, the capacity to smite your foes and win eternal fame. Jerusalem — think of Moses or Jesus — stands for the cooperative virtues: humility, love, faithfulness, grace, mercy, forgiveness, answering a harsh word with a gentle response.These two sets of virtues get communicated in different literary forms. The competitive virtues of Athens are usually narrated in myth while the compassionate virtues of Jerusalem often get narrated in parable.Myth is a specific kind of story. Myths are generally set in a timeless Perilous Realm. The Perilous Realm usually has different rules than the normal world. Creatures have different superpowers, like the ability to fly or throw shafts of lightning. And those rules are taken very seriously. Within the Perilous Realm everything that happens in myth is “true,” in the sense that everything obeys the rules of that other world.

The Vatican’s America Problem – by Ross Douthat – NYT

“In 1892, Pope Leo XIII addressed a letter to the Catholics of France. For a century French politics had been divided between mostly Catholic monarchists and mostly anticlericalist republicans, and the church had championed royalists against the secular republic. But now the pope urged French Catholics to take a different approach — to rally to the republic, a strategy called “ralliement,” and work through republican institutions to protect the church’s liberties and promote the common good.

In European politics this was a novel gambit, but for American Catholics at the time it amounted to a tacit endorsement of what they were already doing. In the United States there was no ancien regime to imagine restoring, no plausible scenario in which the integration of church and state might be achieved — and Catholics had been trying to prove their patriotism in a largely Protestant country by rallying to the republic since the founding era.

So Leo’s letter began a long (and complicated) process of harmonization between America and Rome, sealed in the 1960s at the Second Vatican Council, in which the church’s political thought was tacitly Americanized. No more would the Vatican emphasize the necessity, for Catholics, of supporting an “integralist” relationship between their government and church. Instead the American way of doing religious politics — in which a secular political framework allowed a great deal of room for religiously inspired activism — was blessed and accepted as the Catholic way as well.”

Ouch. Ross, none of this makes any sense to me. I’m a simple environmentalist, and find this discussion untethered from the reality of the threat of the 6th extinction. Humans have grown from 2 billion to 7.5 billion in just about 100 years. According to EO Wilson of Harvard, scientists are predicting that in the next 100 years, we will see 80% of the species in the world diminish or disappear. These facts and forecasts make discussions like this one seem like pathetic nonsense. If there are important ideas here in this column beyond my comprehension, please link them to the real world today, or at least, important moments in history. Respectfully, DL

My defence of President Trump’s refugee ban by aussiconservativeblog

My comment to the aussiconservativeblog:

Well articulated. I’m not sure you have this right. Modern Islamic clerics, especially here in the U.S., say that this was never set in stone. That most modern Islamists do not hold the views of all jihad all the time. From Wikipedia:
“Islam has never had any officially recognized tradition of pacifism, and throughout its history warfare has been an integral part of the Islamic theological system. Since the time of Muhammad, Islam has considered warfare to be a legitimate expression of religious faith, and has accepted its use for the defense of Islam. While the use of warfare for the propagation and dissemination of Islam is forbidden, still during approximately the first 1,000 years of its existence, the use of warfare by Muslim majority governments often resulted in the defacto propagation of Islam.

While the early spread of Islam was often borne on the back of military conquest, within Christianity its early spread was often a matter of political expediency.[16] The minority Sufi movement within Islam, which includes certain pacifist elements, has often been officially “tolerated” by many Muslim majority governments. Additionally, some notable Muslim clerics, such as Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan have developed alternative non-violent Muslim theologies. Some hold that the formal juristic definition of war in Islam constitutes an irrevokable and permanent link within Islam between the political and religious justifications for war.[17] The Quranic concept of Jihad includes aspects of both a physical and an internal struggle.[18]”
From the writings of Thomas Friedman at the NYT, I’ve learned that the majority of modern Islamic clerics even in the middle east, do not support or agree with the radical militants who argue that their killing is supported by their religion. It would be wrong to assume that the many are the same as, for instance, the Wahhabists of Saudi Arabia, who are certainly supportive of jihad against all non-muslims.

Aussie Nationalist Blog

I recall back in December 2015, when Republican Presidential candidate Donald Trump, called for a blanket ban on Muslim immigration.

During this time, I supported Trump’s proposed Muslim ban, and 18 months later, I also support the evolved ban, which has moved to prevent immigration from 7 Islamic countries riddled with terrorism, instead of all 57.

Predictably, Trump has taken tremendous heat both in American media and across the world.

But there are many issues in the arguments of these armchair critics.

First, critics of Trump’s immigration ban generally lack a basic understanding of Islam. Certainly, I am open to debating any idea put forward while discussing how to counter Islamic terrorism.

But without first acknowledging the fact that Islam compels its followers to wage war against disbelievers, and pushes towards establishing Islamic supremacy with the ultimate goal of installing Sharia law, they are unqualified to meaningfully discuss this subject.  Because these pundits don’t understand Islam, they…

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Is God Transgender? – The New York Times

 

“In the 1970s a cousin of mine, Paula Grossman, became one of the first people in America to undergo sex-reassignment surgery. As Paul Monroe Grossman, Cousin Paula had been a beloved music teacher in New Jersey. She was fired after her surgery, and she subsequently lost her lawsuit for wrongful termination based on sex discrimination (though a court did rule that she could receive a disability pension). The story was all over the news back then; I’d like to think it would have ended differently today.

Forty years after the Supreme Court refused to hear Paula’s appeal in 1976, the transgender story is still unfolding. This month, a transgender high school student in Virginia lost the right to use the restroom of his choice when the Supreme Court temporarily blocked a lower court’s order. Still, for the first time it is possible to imagine a ruling from a fully seated Supreme Court to comprehensively outlaw discrimination against transgender people. There is real reason to be hopeful, even if social prejudices don’t disappear overnight.

I’m a rabbi, and so I’m particularly saddened whenever religious arguments are brought in to defend social prejudices — as they often are in the discussion about transgender rights. In fact, the Hebrew Bible, when read in its original language, offers a highly elastic view of gender. And I do mean highly elastic: In Genesis 3:12, Eve is referred to as “he.” In Genesis 9:21, after the flood, Noah repairs to “her” tent. Genesis 24:16 refers to Rebecca as a “young man.” And Genesis 1:27 refers to Adam as “them.”Surprising, I know. And there are many other, even more vivid examples: In Esther 2:7, Mordecai is pictured as nursing his niece Esther. In a similar way, in Isaiah 49:23, the future kings of Israel are prophesied to be “nursing kings.” ”

…….

“The Israelites took the transgender trope from their surrounding cultures and wove it into their own sacred scripture. The four-Hebrew-letter name of God, which scholars refer to as the Tetragrammaton, YHWH, was probably not pronounced “Jehovah” or “Yahweh,” as some have guessed. The Israelite priests would have read the letters in reverse as Hu/Hi — in other words, the hidden name of God was Hebrew for “He/She.” Counter to everything we grew up believing, the God of Israel — the God of the three monotheistic, Abrahamic religions to which fully half the people on the planet today belong — was understood by its earliest worshipers to be a dual-gendered deity.”

Source: Is God Transgender? – The New York Times