Last year six men joined a string of theologians who are leaving their Protestant denominations for the church of Rome. They included three Lutherans, two Anglicans and a Mennonite. All of them had strong connections to mainline institutions. All fit the description “postliberal”—accepting such mainline practices as historical criticism and women’s ordination while wanting the church to exhibit more robust dogmatic commitments. All embraced an evangelical, catholic and orthodox vision of the church. And none of them could see a way to be all those things within mainline denominations.
How dare he? When retired Anglican archbishop Desmond Tutu spoke in a Seattle cathedral, the audience was prepared to applaud him for his part in ending the apartheid regime in South Africa. However, people were apparently miffed when Tutu criticized members of the congregation for not bringing their Bibles to church. Few shook his hand as they left the cathedral (Thomas Trzyna, Blessed Are the Pacifists, Herald Press, forthcoming).
It’s possible that Hezbollah was inviting a sharp Israeli response when it decided to cross into Israel, ambush an Israeli patrol and kidnap two soldiers. In any case, the Israelis’ decision to launch land and air strikes on Hezbollah strongholds and on Lebanon’s infrastructure has only burnished Hezbollah’s credentials.Far from turning the Lebanese against the “Party of God," Israel’s military response has bolstered Hezbollah’s self-appointed role as defender of the nation. In fact, it has made Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah a hero throughout the Arab and Muslim worlds.
Have you ever been in a conversation in which it seemed that you and another person were not talking about the same thing even though you were arguing about it strenuously? Something like that is going on in Mark. Jesus and the Pharisees are in conflict with one another but not necessarily about the same things and certainly not on the same terms.
For five weeks the lectionary journey through the Gospel of Mark is interrupted by a brief sojourn into the sixth chapter of John. The chapter opens with two familiar stories from the synoptic Gospels: the feeding of the multitude (a story so important that it appears six times in the four Gospels) and Jesus walking on the water. Then there are dialogues, first with the crowd and then with “the Jews” (probably better understood as Judean officials) about the meaning of the miracle of the feeding and about Jesus’ true identity.
If there is one sure curse in this world, it’s mineral wealth. Is there gold or diamonds or oil beneath the surface of your land? Then count on poverty, gross inequality and autocracy above. Of all the possibilities, coal is the worst, dirty in every way. When it’s burned, it fills the air with carbon, powering the global warming now unhinging the planet. But before that silent tragedy can take place, there’s a noisy horror—the kaboom of exploding mountains across the southern Appalachians.