Since starting seminary I've had the opportunity to read
through the Old Testament with a thoroughness I haven't used since my
evangelical youth group days. While building biblical literacy is something
evangelicals do very well, reading the Old Testament now reminds me how my context
shaped how I read the Bible. And it all had to do with sex.
I grew up around evangelical church leaders who were hardcore
about spiritual fasting, sometimes going a week on just water or 40 days on
just fruit juice. (I never made it more than a day.) When I started running in mainline
circles, I was thrown by the way people used the word "fast" to mean giving up
chocolate or beer or television.
On Ash Wednesday, Illinois governor Pat Quinn signed a bill banning capital punishment. A member of my congregation offers a powerful Lenten lesson for the year the death penalty was abolished in Illinois.
Arthur George Weidenfeld credits Christians for helping him escape to Britain in 1938 from German-occupied Austria. As a way of showing his gratitude, Weidenfeld, a Jew, is helping to rescue up to 2,000 Christians from Syria and Iraq. He said it was Quakers and Plymouth Brethren who fed and clothed him and helped him to get to Britain. Baron Weidenfeld is the founder of the Weidenfeld and Nicolson publishing company. His fund to support Christians in war-torn regions in the Middle East recently sponsored a flight of 150 Syrian Christians to Poland (Independent, July 20).