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."
Some of us are in Pentecost graduate school. We're seminary-educated and
steeped in the church. We understand the preacher's dilemma when Easter
comes early, before the earth has warmed up enough to take resurrection
seriously, and we've been there, done that when it comes to the mighty
rushing wind that appears seven weeks after Easter with great
Why aren’t we talking about guns? A week before Easter, three Pittsburgh police officers were shot and killed while responding to a domestic disturbance. Apparently they were met by a 22-year-old man wearing a bullet-proof vest and armed with several guns, including an AK-47 assault rifle.
We are in the interim between Easter and Pentecost. Of course, we live
in an interim in other ways: we anticipate graduations, new jobs, the
resolution of dilemmas. In the U.S., it is as if we are suspended
between an old world--a disintegrating empire--and the emergence of
James Fenimore Cooper Jr. and Margaret Bendroth are rummaging through church attics and basements in the New England states, especially Massachusetts, looking for records of early American life. Some churches are reticent to part with old documents, but the two historians point out how vulnerable the documents are and offer to keep them in a climate-controlled rare book room at the Congregational Library in Boston. Among their findings: a church in Middleboro possessed an application for membership submitted in 1773 by a slave (New York Times, July 29).