Odysseus wants nothing more than to get home. For the Greeks, as for
most ancient peoples, the house and city were islands of order in the
midst of a howling wilderness. They would do anything to stay home or,
having left, to get back.
Something Pope Benedict XVI said about immigration while he was in the U.S. sent CNN commentator Lou Dobbs into a rant that went something like, “We don’t need popes or preachers telling us what to think and how to vote. . . . Religion is about saving souls, isn’t it? . . . We have something called separation of church and state in this country, after all.”
When Jesus talks about making wealth our “master,” sometimes he is
speaking to the peasants who may not have bread to eat, and at other
times he is speaking to the collaborators with the Roman Empire who are
able to accumulate wealth for themselves. Somehow he addresses both
groups simultaneously and leads them all toward the justice and peace
of the kingdom of God.
Biblical language about God often reflects the patriarchal cultures
in which that language was crafted, but every once in a while we get a
glimpse of a God who transcends male identity. In Isaiah, God comforts
us like a nursing mother comforts her child. Jesus said that he wished
to gather up the people of Jerusalem like a mother hen gathers up her
Construction of religious buildings is at its lowest level since record keeping began in 1967. Declining participation and financial funding and a shift away from megachurches are cited as reasons for the decline. Congregations are also deciding to put more money into ministry rather than structures. The building of religious structures peaked in 2002 and has been decreasing ever since, though there are signs that it may have bottomed out in 2013. Mormons and Muslims, both with growing populations, are exceptions to this trend (Wall Street Journal, December 4).