What I knew about Andrew Jackson, the seventh president, was pretty much confined to the popular image of him: he was the hero of the battle of New Orleans and a “man of the people.” After reading Jon Meacham’s American Lion: Andrew Jackson in the White House, I have new appreciation for Jackson and a new understanding of how critical his presidency was.
This week's texts tell the story of deliverance from our many troubles.
They deliver us from the oppression of self-consciousness. They deliver
us from that sinking feeling, that sense that the boat is going down and
that we are beyond the reach of peace. Jesus all but scoffs at fear and
faithlessness: "Why are you so afraid? Have you still no faith?"
The Incas, at the peak of their civilization, had 150 varieties of corn.
When the Spanish came, they wiped most of these out—even destroying
much of the seed corn, so that a civilization of extraordinary vitality
and diversity became an impoverished one.
In March, when Pope Benedict XVI, on a flight to Cameroon, declared that the use of condoms is not the answer to the AIDS epidemic in Africa—that, on the contrary, it “increases the problem”—I thought immediately of Francis Ntowe. I met Ntowe years ago when he came to the U.S. from Cameroon. He became an elder in the Presbyterian Church.
We could accuse this week's texts of setting up dichotomies: Romans
wants us to live by the spirit, not the flesh. Nicodemus and Jesus trade
stories about being born from above rather than below. A bush burns and
life changes; unnatural things abound. Everyone knows that when bushes
burn, they are consumed. Everybody knows where babies come from, and
it's not from "up there."
"I eventually realized that leaders are not made by books or workshops," says Lisa Yebuah of Edenton Street United Methodist Church in Raleigh, North Carolina. "Leaders are people who marry their knowledge to action."
"I've been given an opportunity to color outside the lines," says Nanette Sawyer of Grace Commons and St James Presbyterian Church in Chicago, "the permission and charge to be creative and experimental."
"Progressive Christians do a good job with issues like LGBT rights," says Dennis Sanders of First Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in Minneapolis. "But we're less good at helping people become disciples of Jesus."
"Religious commitments are no longer taken for
granted as part of North American people's lives," says Scott Kershner of Holden Village, a Lutheran retreat center in Washington State. "So space opens up to
ask very basic and interesting questions."
Nov 30, 2011
| An interview with Carol Howard Merritt
"What would happen," asks Carol Howard Merritt of Western Presbyterian Church in Washington, D.C., "if we coupled baby boomers' prophetic focus with the pragmatism of my generation? What if the church unleashed us to plant churches?"
Jul 28, 2011
| An interview with Katherine Willis Pershey
"People need to hear the good news," says Katherine Willis Pershey of First Congregational Church in Western Springs, Illinois. "If the church doesn't take on this
mission, I'm afraid—well, that's where that sentence can end. I'm afraid."
"We have rejected much of our immediate [evangelical] past," says Josh Carney of his church, University Baptist Church in Waco, Texas. Looking to older traditions, "we found that some of our objections had already been
Pope Francis recently appeared in a video addressing Pentecostal Christians in friendly terms. He suggested that Pentecostals and Catholics are “brothers” in Christ and called for a relationship in which they embrace each other and together worship Jesus Christ as the only Lord of history. There has long been distrust between the two groups, and in some parts of the world Pentecostals are drawing large numbers of former Catholics. The video has gone viral among Pentecostals, and at least one Pentecostal expert has said the pope’s words have reset the relationship. When the pope was archbishop of Buenos Aires, he was criticized by some Catholics for being too cozy with Pentecostals (AP).