Opinions expressed here are my own and do not represent the views of the congregation I joyfully serve. But my congregation loves me!

Friday, February 29, 2008

Vote for the Next PC(USA) Moderator!

Only delegates to the PC(USA) general assembly get to vote for moderator. Thanks to widgets, you can cast your vote! And you don't even need to be Presbyterian! Here are the webpages and pics of the four candidates for moderator for the 2008 General Assembly.

Cast your ballot on the sidebar! You can vote until June 21st!


Roger Shoemaker

Roger is an elder who is the co-convener of the PC(USA) Czech Mission Network. He is endorsed by Homestead Presbytery. (PC(USA) news story for Roger)







Bill Teng

Bill is the pastor of Heritage Presbyterian Church, Alexandria, VA. He is endorsed by National Capitol Presbytery. (PC(USA) news story for Bill)











Carl Mazza

Carl is a minister and founder of a homeless ministry. He is endorsed by New Castle Presbytery. (PC(USA) news story for Carl)








Bruce Reyes-Chow

Bruce is pastor of Mission Bay Community Church. He is endorsed by San Francisco Presbytery. (PC(USA) news story for Bruce)



Jesus is a Funny, Gnaughty Guy

I am looking forward to reading the new book by Timothy Freke and Peter Gandy, The Gospel of the Second Coming: Jesus is back...and this time he's funny!



I posted on their work here. Here is a radio interview with Timothy Freke and Peter Gandy.

This latest is the story of Jesus with an interesting twist. On the back cover it says: "A post-modern Gnostic gospel for the 21st century. Irreverently serious and profoundly satirical."

To get an idea, here is how it opens:

"And so it came to pass that Jesus spoke to the twelve, saying: "I will reveal to you the mystery of mysteries, which it is my ministry to disclose. The good news that leads to eternal life. The truth that will set you free. Be not afraid when I tell you that I am not who you think I am. I am not a man of flesh and blood. In fact, I don't really exist at all. I am the fictional hero of an allegorical myth."

A great silence fell upon the disciples, and Jesus added, "I know it's a bit of a shock."
It looks like a wild read. Here is the editorial review:

In 2005, a disgruntled archivist at the Vatican Library made contact with revisionist historians Timothy Freke and Peter Gandy, claiming that the Vatican was secretly housing a number of unpublished “heretical” Gnostic Christian texts. He presented Freke and Gandy with a facsimile copy of an ancient manuscript, which is presented to the public for the first time in this book.

This gospel will shock academics and Christians alike. It makes the extraordinary claim that the long-awaited “Second Coming of Christ” has already happened; and it also explores the intimate relationship between Mary Magdalene and Jesus, his “Beloved Disciple.”

And, perhaps most controversial of all, it reveals Jesus as a Gnostic master with a zany sense of humor and an upbeat message. As Jesus says himself in the text: “Death is coming. Life is foreplay.”



Juno for Juniors

We are taking the youth group to see Juno tonight. Word is that it is a pretty good film.

I was personally rooting for the Rocky Horror Picture Show tonight at the Real to Reel, but the youth just gave me a look--like that look I have seen so many times before. It is the look that says, "Why did we get stuck with the weird minister?"

Pasta for Peace

Let's hear it for ETSU students! 

A fundraiser for ETSU's new "Students for Justice & Peace" group will be held this Saturday, March 1, starting at 7:00 p.m., at the Holston Valley Unitarian Universalist Church, 136 Bob Jobe Road, Gray, TN.


For a donation of just $5.00, you can enjoy good, homemade spaghetti, as well as salad, desert, and beverage. You will also enjoy great fellowship with students working their way to Washington, DC, to attend the March 19 events on the fifth anniversary of the US invasion of Iraq.

Please support the newest peace & justice effort in our area, this Saturday night, and enjoy some pasta for peace!

For more information, contact Students for Justice & Peace representative Celeste Meade. For directions to the venue please visit the Holston Valley Unitarian Universalist Church website.




Michael Morgan in the Star!

Thanks to Greg Miller of the Elizabethton Star for publicizing our 225th anniversary concert that features Michael Morgan this Sunday.

Morgan to perform at First Presbyterian

Michael Morgan, CCM, organist, will perform at First Presbyterian Church of Elizabethton, 119 W. F St., on Sunday, March 2, as part of the church's yearlong 225th Heritage Jubilee Celebration.

Morgan will display his collection of rare Bibles during the 9:45 a.m. adult forum.

According to a press release, the development of the English Bible is one of the most interesting and exciting stories in the history of the Church. The press release states, "Its translation is marked by such colorful figures as Archbishop Cranmer, Henry the Eighth, 'Bloody Mary,' Oliver Cromwell, Queen Elizabeth, John Calvin, Martin Luther dedicated men like John Wycliffe, William Tyndale, Miles Coverdale and John Rogers."

The English Bible at various times was derived from the Vulgate Bible of St. Jerome, the German Bible of Martin Luther, the original and early versions, and the French, Italian and Dutch Bibles which flourished at the dawn of the Reformation. In its pages are reflected all aspects of the culture.

As Enlightenment spread and theological insights deepened, as doctrine and dogma of Catholic and Protestant became distinct, so did the translation of the Bible develop and improve, according to the news release. "Old verses took on new meaning. Re-translation of single words changed meanings. Annotations and prologues came and were soon replaced by others more in keeping with the time," the news release states.

"Some of these translations were scholarly; some were obscure; others were theologically good, bad, or indifferent. But all served the common goal of providing to the English-speaking Christians and Jews who would read them the sacred Scriptures in a language and idiom that would speak to them in their time and place."

Morgan will play the organ during the 11 a.m. worship service. He will perform an organ recital, "Hebrew Songs For Christian Seasons: Psalms for the Church Year," at 3 p.m. A "thanks offering" will be received.

For more information, call the church at 543-7737 or 542-1171 or visit the Rev. John Shuck's blog, www.shuckandjive.blogspot.com.


You Say You Want Some Evolution...

Here is a letter that I found helpful in today's Elizabethton Star:

Reader: Same God over all

Response to recent letters regarding evolution vs. creationism.

Whose God do I believe in? The God of Abraham. And, the God of Darwin. They are and can be one and the same.


Thursday, February 28, 2008

Hey! I Gotta Good Letter!

This is a letter to the editor in today's Johnson City Press.

Evolution and Christianity
I am writing to express my support for Pastor John Shuck of Elizabethton and his Evolution Sunday. It takes great courage to have an event like this in an area where so many have been falsely led to believe that the Bible is a scientific text to be taken literally, and are downright vicious to anyone who believes otherwise.

Pastor Shuck proves that you do not have to remain purposely ignorant of scientific fact in order to have Christian faith. And yes, evolution is a scientific fact, not just a theory. All reputable scien
tists agree that evolution happened and is still happening; the only debate is over its exact mechanisms. Funny how these Christian fundamentalists love science when it makes their cars run, lights their homes, or cures a loved one of a serious illness, but that same science is completely wrong when it comes to evolution.

If you need every word in the Bible to be true in order to be a Christian, you’re in big trouble, considering that the Bible contradicts itself repeatedly — for instance, there are two different versions of creation in Genesis. Plus I don’t see any biblical literalists killing adulterers or mouthy sons, as the Bible also commands. If you must have every word in the Bible be true for you to believe, then you have no real faith.
I could not be more thrilled that Elizabethton has someone like Pastor Shuck. Go John.

AMY WILSON
Elizabethton



Gotta Love the Monkey


Dr. Monkey made my day. I'll hold his hand anytime.



Christian Peace Witness for Iraq

The March 2008 issue of our church newsletter, the White Spire, is on-line. I have also been snooping over at Witherspoon and discovered that they have information about the Christian Peace Witness for Iraq.

A group of us went to DC last year for that important event. Here is a post from last year's trip. Here is a story with photos on our church website.



This year we are doing something a little different. We are staying home and participating in Creating a Culture of Peace. The 18+ hour workshop will provide the 30 participants training for non-violence for personal and social change.

The response has been so awesome that we have scheduled two more weekends, April 4-6 and April 18-20. A group of students from UNC Asheville and their professor were going to come up for one of the trainings. Then they decided to get in touch with Janet Chisolm to schedule one in Asheville!

You can schedule one in your area.

Back to us. If you are near our mountain, please consider participating! Fill out the registration form and enclose your check. On the form indicate which weekend you would like to participate. Remember, March 7-9 is full, but both April dates have openings. Hurry, first come, first served.

Thanks to our sponsors, we are able to offer these workshops at a very reasonable rate!


Turning Over a New LEAF

I am liking this organization Lindquist-Environmental Appalachian Fellowship (LEAF).

What is LEAF?

LEAF is a Christian fellowship of Tennesseans whose faith leads them to take action for Tennessee’s environment. Concern for God’s Creation is not a matter of being liberal or conservative, a Republican or a Democrat. We believe people of faith can look beyond such distinctions and do the Lord’s work together.

The Lindquist Environmental Appalachian Fellowship was established by members of Church of the Savior, United Church of Christ, as a memorial to Kathy Lindquist’s deep religious faith and her dedication to environmental stewardship.

To learn more about LEAF's mission, click here.

Another Loss for Campfield

NASHVILLE (AP) — A proposal that would have banned teaching about homosexuality in public schools failed in a House subcommittee mainly because state officials say it’s not necessary. Members of the House Education K-12 Subcommittee on Tuesday voted to allow the state Board of Education to examine the bill sponsored by Rep. Stacey Campfield.

The Knoxville Republican says he proposed the measure after receiving complaints from parents that two schools were advocating homosexuality. Campfield refused when asked by lawmakers to provide the names of the schools. Bruce Opie is legislative director for the Tennessee Department of Education. He told lawmakers he didn’t know of any state curriculum that involved teaching about homosexuality.


Just Call Me Satan's Little Helper


Yet another juicy letter to the editor of the Elizabethton Star about Evil-ution. This writer says that I am holding hands "with atheists and the devil."

Not true. I prefer to hold pasta with the Flying Spaghetti Monster:


Here is the letter:

Pastor challenged to publicly defend his stand on evolution

I would like to comment concerning an article appearing in the Friday, Feb. 8 edition concerning the "First Presbyterian Church to Celebrate Evolution Weekend." Compromise! That is exactly what you call trying to harmonize the theory of evolution with the truth of God's Holy Word. You cannot have it both ways at the same time. It cannot be evolution and creation at the same time. The theory of evolution denies the existence of God. To try to hold to both is simply to compromise.

First of all, science cannot prove our origin. Mr. John Shuck, "pastor" of the First Presbyterian Church in Elizabethton, referred to the "fact of evolution." To say something is a fact is the same as saying it is a proven scientific law. What is the scientific process that is used to arrive at a law? Let us first set forth some basic definitions. The word science is defined as a "Systematized knowledge derived from observation, study, and experimentation carried on in order to determine the nature or principles of what is being studied" (Webster, emp. added). Mr. Henry Morris wrote, "science thus involves facts which are observed and laws which have been demonstrated" (Morris, Studies in the Bible & Science, 151). Mr. Morris also stated: "Science (the very meaning of which is knowledge) necessarily can deal only with those things which exist at present. The scientific method involves reproducibility, the study of present natural processes. When men attempt to interpret the events of the prehistoric past...they must necessarily leave the domain of true science (whose measurements can be made only in the present) and enter the realm of faith (Morris, 99-100).

Based on these definitions, science cannot explain our origin! True science, however, can and does harmonize with the scientific principles in the Bible. Has any scientist ever "observed," "studied" or "demonstrated" any one thing evolving into another (from one species to another, eg., a fish into another animal)? If we have evolved from some other, lower life form into what we are today, then into what are we evolving? Why have we not yet evolved into that form?

To say this world evolved is to say God does not exist. God has revealed in his inerrant, infallible Word that he created all things that exist in six literal days (not long periods of time). Consider the logical argument of design (also known as the teleological argument), which states: If there is such a design in man, the world or universe, which must ultimately be a result of any infinite designer, then God exists. There is such design in man, the world and the universe which must ultimately be the result of an infinite designer. Therefore, God exists! David said in Psalm 139:14, "I will praise thee; for I am fearfully and wonderfully made..."

When we try to harmonize the truth of God's Word with man's theory (which no one has ever been able to prove scientifically) we engage in compromise to the highest degree! The theory of evolution has never been proven, period. In fact, it cannot be proven scientifically or any other way. Every single shred of evidence we have points to the fact that this world (and all things in it) was created exactly as it is recorded in Genesis chapter one. We must honor the law of rationality, which states: "We ought to justify our conclusions based on adequate evidences." It seems that Mr. Shuck wants to hold hands with atheists and the devil (cf. I Timothy 4: 1-1). I kindly challenge him to stand in public defense of his position, which he has stated publicly in the Feb. 8 edition of the paper. Let the citizens of Elizabethton see both sides and consider the evidence for themselves -- Evolution or Creation?

The readers are encouraged to read such books as "The Collapse of Evolution" by Scott M. Huse; "Evolution and Christian Faith" by Bolton Davidheiser, or "Rock Solid Faith -- Volumes 1 and 2" by Dr. Bert Thompson. Another book of great value in this area is "The Other Side of Evolution" by John Gary Williams. To obtain a free copy of this book, contact the Stoney Creek Church of Christ at 1162 Hwy 91, Elizabethton, TN 37643 or by calling 474-2622.


Preview of Our Forthcoming Evolution Debate


I thought I would give you a little preview of the evolution/creation debate forthcoming between a colleague and myself. Should be great fun.




Click here
and scroll down to watch "Just a monkey, folks. Just a monkey."

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Moderator of PC(USA) in Kingsport

Moderator of the Presbyterian Church (USA), Rev. Joan Gray, will be in Kingsport, Wednesday, March 5th at Waverly Road Presbyterian Church. She will share her thoughts about the future of our denomination. Everyone is invited to gather in the Sanctuary from 6:30-7:15 p.m.



I don't think I have ever seen a moderator up close. I don't get around much. I like her. She has a kind face. I bet she is glad to be nearly finished with that role.






Where is the Church?

OXNARD, Calif. Hundreds of mourners gathered at a church here on Friday to remember an eighth-grade boy who was shot to death inside a junior high school computer lab by a fellow student in what prosecutors are calling a hate crime.

In recent weeks, the victim, Lawrence King, 15, had said publicly that he was gay, classmates said, enduring harassment from a group of schoolmates, including the 14-year-old boy charged in his death. (Read More)


Michael Adee of More Light Presbyterians wrote this important piece,
"Where is the Church?"

The Church is not blameless in these tragic situations. What are we teaching in our congregations, Christian Education classes and in our homes about human sexuality, gender identity and gender expression? What are we teaching about same-gender love and lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender persons? How do our church laws and mistranslations of Scripture contribute to homophobia; therefore, providing sanction for such fears and hate crimes?

Finally, how does heterosexism and heterosexual privilege silence these life-giving and life-saving questions?

Those of us who are gay, or transgender, lesbian, bisexual or questioning, whether we are out or not, know deep in our bones that this could have been me, it could have been us. Our parents and families know and fear this, too.

Because of the LGBT-Affirming Overtures on ordination and marriage equality being sent to the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (USA) the silence of heterosexism and heterosexual privilege will be broken. Moreover, homophobia will be challenged and a life-saving word of love, acceptance and grace can be offered to all children and families... including those who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, same-gender loving, and questioning.

Sadly, Lawrence King does not get a second chance to life on this earth. The Presbyterian Church (USA), however, does get another chance to get it right in San Jose this June. May this be so.

From the Save Me from the Christians Department...

Check out this video:



Here is a list of the Top Ten Moments in the Race for Pastor in Chief:

10. Mitt Romney is asked if he believes "every word" of the Bible (CNN/You Tube debate (11-28-07).

9. CNN's Soledad O'Brien asks John Edwards to "name his greatest sin"
(CNN/Sojourners town hall 6-26-07).

8. James Dobson tells a reporter he does not think that Fred Thompson is a Christian
(3-27-07).

7. Barack Obama distributes a campaign flier describing himself as a "Committed Christian" (1-21-08).

6. Hillary Clinton said we need to "inject faith into policy" (CNN/Sojourners town hall 6-26-07).

5. Mike Huckabee explains his rise in the polls by invoking the Biblical story of two fish and five loaves feeding a crowd of 5,000 people (11-28-07).

4. Tim Russert asks all the Democratic candidates to "name their favorite Bible verse" (MSNBC 9-26-07).

3. John McCain says the Constitution established the United States as a Christian nation and that he would prefer a Christian president (9-27-07).

2. Barack Obama asked a congregation to help him "become an instrument of God" and join him in creating "a Kingdom right here on Earth" (10-17-07).

1. Mike Huckabee tells a crowd: "What we need to do is to amend the Constitution so it's in God's standards rather than try to change God's standards" (1-14-08).


Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Is This America?

FORT LAUDERDALE - A gay man was beaten outside a popular 24-hour restaurant Saturday morning by a man who shouted anti-gay obscenities at him, authorities said.

Melbourne Brunner, 37, was eating with his partner at the Floridian restaurant, at 1410 E. Las Olas Blvd., around 3 a.m. when a man walked by their table and started shouting at the two men, said Sgt. Frank Sousa, spokesman for the Fort Lauderdale Police Department. Sousa said the man continued to verbally abuse the two men and made a violent motion with his hands, claiming, "this is how I break (gay people's) necks."

He said Brunner and his partner left the restaurant, but as Brunner tried to get into his car, the man blocked him and punched him in the face several times. Brunner fell and struck his head on the ground, Sousa said. He said the man then threatened to kill Brunner's partner, who attempted to get the man's license plate. (Read More)

Some have argued (including me) that the attitudes of the church create an atmosphere for this violence. Those who claim that it is "biblical" to deny freedoms and protections to our citizens and to deny full membership of the church and the blessing of relationships need to answer for this violence.

I think it is time NOT to be "biblical."

If a man lies with a male as with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination; they shall be put to death; their blood is upon them. Lev. 20:13

The 'liberal' interpretation is this:

"If a man sits at a lunch counter with a male, both of them have committed an abomination; they shall be beaten by a thug of the church; their blood is upon them."

Their blood is upon us.

This is a "litany" I created from the statements of the Presbyterian Church (USA) Authoritative Interpretation. This is a policy the General Assembly could overturn this summer.

We believe…

“…that homosexuality is not God’s wish for humanity. This we affirm, despite the fact that some of its forms may be deeply rooted in an individual’s personality structure.”

We believe…

“In many cases homosexuality is more a sign of the brokenness of God’s world than of willful rebellion. In other cases homosexual behavior is freely chosen or learned in environments where normal development is thwarted.”

We believe…

“Even where the homosexual orientation has not been consciously sought or chosen, it is neither a gift from God nor a state nor a condition like race; it is a result of our living in a fallen world.”

We believe…

“As we examine the whole framework of teaching bearing upon our sexuality from Genesis onward, we find that homosexuality is a contradiction of God’s wise and beautiful pattern for human sexual relationships revealed in Scripture and affirmed in God’s ongoing will for our life in the Spirit of Christ.”

We believe…

“Homosexual persons who will strive toward God’s revealed will in this area of their lives, and make use of all the resources of grace, can receive God’s power to transform their desires or arrest their active expression.”

We believe…

“…the New Testament declares that all homosexual practice is incompatible with Christian faith and life.”

We believe…

“On the basis of our understanding that the practice of homosexuality is sin, we are concerned that homosexual believers and the observing world should not be left in doubt about the church’s mind on this issue during any further period of study.”


It is time for the PCUSA to take a stand and make a change. Our policies are not only mistaken, but harmful.

Thanks Scott. Be safe.


Banned By Toby AWARD!




Let's hear it for Alan! He is the first to be banned by Toby just for commenting on Shuck and Jive!





This Banned by Toby AWARD presented by Your Flirtatious, Apostate, Con-Artist!
Yours Truly,
Mr. Shuck and Jive



God, the Devil, and Darwin

There was a debate at ETSU in 1996 regarding Evolution and Intelligent Design.



The ID person was Duane Gish of the Institute for Creation Research.






Speaking for science was ETSU professor, Niall Shanks. Here is an account of the debate by Shanks in an article of his:
Fighting for Our Sanity in Tennessee: Life on the Front Lines. He offers a flavor of East Tennessee.


Back in 1996, when the state legislature was considering the Burks-Whitson Bill to restrict the teaching of evolution in Tennessee schools, I was invited to debate Dr. Duane Gish of the Institute for Creation Research. The debate was held here on campus in an auditorium that seated about nine hundred people. We had a full house, with about three hundred more folks listening on loudspeakers outside. Gish had insisted that I go first. Sensing that this was a cunning strategy to put me at some form of disadvantage, I took the trouble to obtain some videos of his previous debates from Eugenie Scott of the National Center for Science Education. (By the way, I learned that Gish is nothing if not consistent; his presentation did not appear to have evolved over time. The same arguments were stated in the same way, time after time. No punctuation, just equilibrium.)

Well, I thought, if I have to go first, I may as well state Gish’s main arguments clearly for him, making sure they were equally clearly refuted. And to keep the attention of the audience, I also used most of his one-liners and jokes—so he had to quote me to work them back in again. All in all it was tremendous fun. And even a representative of Campus Crusade admitted that Gish had been disappointing and that I was clearly “well prepared” (I assume this is a Christian euphemism for doing an excellent job of baloney eradication). Not bad for a day’s work. And I am happy to say that the Burks-Whitson Bill also failed to get legislative support, thereby preventing Tennessee from becoming an international laughingstock again.

Shanks has moved on to Kansas. But while at ETSU he did some great work.



He wrote one of the first books to provide a critique of Intelligent Design, entitled,
God, the Devil, and Darwin. Here is a review.




In his acknowledgments, he credits the adult forum of First Presbyterian Church of Elizabethton. Here is what he wrote about us:

"I am also grateful to Julia Wade and the members of the adult Sunday school at First Presbyterian Church in Elizabethton, Tennessee. These good people made an unbeliever welcome and kindly commented on a series of lectures I gave on these matters in the long, hot summer of 2002."
That was before I arrived.

Creating a Culture of Peace Update

We have some spaces for both the April 4-6 and the April 18-20 Creating a Culture of Peace workshops. The March 7-9 workshop is filled. Now is the time to get your registration form and check to the church to reserve your spot. Don't dally! Get on the peace train!

Opinion from Star Editor

This was the opinion of the Elizabethton Star editor. This is to what the youth minister was responding. I rather liked this piece:
Evolution Vs. Creationism
As evangelical Christianity gains popularity in Europe, so does the notion that evolution theory is evil and schoolchildren must be exposed to the belief that God created the universe. A Kentucky-based organization called Answers in Genesis is trying to bring creationist theory to Europe. Secularists are fighting back. Controversies have erupted in Italy, Germany, Poland and Britain, according to The Associated Press. Britain has a delicate problem as it takes over funding of about 100 Islamic schools, which teach a Muslim version of creationism. Officials fear that if they put evolution in the curriculum, they will be seen as anti-Islamic. Let’s see, now: Which version of religious theory should we teach in science classes? There’s more than one, you know. It’s better to leave public schools free to teach what scientific evidence supports, and to let religious people teach what they believe is the truth. Don’t mix the two. Many people don’t believe evolution contradicts religion, anyway. These debates generate more heat than light, and they will never be resolved.



Satan is Responsible for Evolution

It is tough keeping up with letters to the editor about Evil-ution. Here is one in today's Elizabethton Star:

After reading your article on Feb. 11, 2008, titled "Evolution vs. creationism" I felt compelled as a Christian to respond.

Your article describes the theory of evolution as "Evil" and rightly so. This theory is a deceiving conclusion to man's existence propelled by Satan, the author of all lies. The Holy Bible clearly states in Gen. 1:27 "God created man in his own image."

Our constitution grants us the freedom of religion. This freedom gives us the right to worship God, not to worship false idols or to teach our children false doctrines.

As for the problem that is facing Britain, the fear of putting evolution in their teaching. They should omit this false teaching entirely. What should be taught to our children is the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the only begotten Son of God, born of a virgin, crucified for our sins, arose in three days and now sits on the right hand of God.

The Bible also instructs us in Gal. 1:8 "That if any man, even an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you, let him be accursed."

Christians, stand up and be heard. Tell your educators and lawmakers that we want our children to be taught the true Word of God. In Luke 12:8, Christ says, "Whosever shall confess me before men, him shall the Son of Man confess before the angels of God."

Evil-ution, That's What It Is!!

How is it that this guy gets an article and a letter to the editor? My colleague down the street (the same one who got an article about himself on Saturday) wrote a letter to the Elizabethton Star. It was published yesterday. Here is a portion of his wisdom:

For thousands of years man has been smart enough to accept what the Bible says in Genesis 1 and 2 about the beginning of the universe. Just because a man named Charles Darwin had some sort of epiphany as he watched a bear swimming across a lake and came up with the survival of the fittest, natural selection and the theory of evolution does not mean we should toss out what we know to be the truth and heritage of the Word of God. Besides, it is said that Charles Darwin before he died regretted and rescinded his theory of evolution. Last I checked, evolution is still just a theory. No one has ever come up with an actual fact that proves evolution to be true. For those of you who continually call evolution a fact of science, then show us the facts! We need true facts, not just someone's speculation or some far out postulation.

First Presbyterian Church in recent days has pushed to recognize evolution as a fact of science and for that reason have even decided to take what man says over God's infallible Word. To this we say how foolish and anti-God that position is. It is not our job as Christians to discredit the Word of God, neither is it our place to attempt to back up man's theories. (Read More--if you dare!)

Monday, February 25, 2008

Witherspoon Network News On-Line

Reese sez:

You can catch the latest issue of Network News from the Witherspoon Society on-line! Although, Doug would really like it if you would subscribe!

Overcoming Attraction to the LayMAN

The LayMAN is publishing stories of poor, guilt-ridden, and brain-washed souls who have supposedly "overcome" their same-sex attraction with the aid of One by One. The LayMAN needs to do this of course to justify their homophobia. Rather than just condemn gays they think they can "cure" them.

This is from One by One's web page:

OneByOne's mission is to educate and equip the church to minister the transforming grace and power of Jesus Christ to those in conflict with their sexuality.

In other words, we will give you an imaginary friend (Jesus) who we have decided hates gays as much as we do. If you pray to him really hard, he will turn you into a gay-hating Christian just like us!

The LayMAN is an organization of false prophets. They are sick perverts who do harm to the human race. So-called reparative therapy as practiced by One by One has been condemned by "all the major mental health professions."

Read
Just the Facts. An excerpt:
Because of the aggressive promotion of efforts to change sexual orientation through therapy, a number of medical, health, and mental health professional organizations have issued public statements about the dangers of this approach. The American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Counseling Association, the American Psychiatric Association, the American Psychological Association, the American School Counselor Association, the National Association of School Psychologists, and the National Association of SocialWorkers, together representing more than 480,000 mental health professionals, have all taken the position that homosexuality is not a mental disorder and thus is not something that needs to or can be “cured.”

If the church cared at all about lgbt people, it would advocate for equal rights for and an end to spiritual violence against gay people. Organizations that really do care include

PFLAG and now PFLAG Tri-Cities
SoulForce
GayChurch
Human Rights Campaign




God is Too Small

I have been thinking about this possible debate with my colleague about science and creationism. I am certainly not interested in explaining the theory of evolution. I am interested in talking about the need for Christianity to expand its awareness.




A parishioner lent me an interesting book: The Varieties of Scientific Experience: A Personal View of the Search for God by Carl Sagan. This was edited by Ann Druyan. It is a publication of his 1985 Gifford Lectures.







I have been trying to say the same thing that Carl Sagan has been saying since I was in junior high. That is, Christian theology's God is too small. Here is an excerpt:

"Let me read a passage from Thomas Paine, from the Age of Reason. Paine was an Englishman who played a major role in both the American and French revolutions. "From whence," Paine asks--"From whence, then, could arise the solitary and strange conceit that the Almighty, who had millions of worlds equally dependent on his protection, should quit the care of all the rest, and come to die in our world because, they say, one man and one woman ate an apple? And, on the other hand, are we to suppose that every world in the boundless creation had an Eve, an apple, a serpent, and a redeemer?"

Paine is saying that we have a theology that is Earth-centered and involves a tiny piece of space, and when we step back, when we attain a broader cosmic perspective, some of it seems very small in scale.

And in fact a general problem with much of Western theology in my view is that the God portrayed is too small. It is a god of a tiny world and not a god of a galaxy, much less a universe. (p. 30)


Sunday, February 24, 2008

Elijah: A Troubler of Israel

Here is Sunday's sermon. We are making our way through the Bible. Today we visit Elijah. We played the Joni Mitchell song, "Shine" for our meditation.


Elijah: A Troubler of Israel
John Shuck

First Presbyterian Church
Elizabethton, Tennessee
February 24, 2008


Then the word of the Lord came to him, saying, ‘What are you doing here, Elijah?’ 10He answered, ‘I have been very zealous for the Lord, the God of hosts; for the Israelites have forsaken your covenant, thrown down your altars, and killed your prophets with the sword. I alone am left, and they are seeking my life, to take it away.’

11 He said, ‘Go out and stand on the mountain before the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by.’ Now there was a great wind, so strong that it was splitting mountains and breaking rocks in pieces before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind; and after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake; 12and after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire; and after the fire a sound of sheer silence. 13When Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his mantle and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave. Then there came a voice to him… I Kings 19:9-13

‘You are the light of the world. A city built on a hill cannot be hidden. 15No one after lighting a lamp puts it under the bushel basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all in the house. 16In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven. Matthew 5:14-16


Shine
by Joni Mitchell


Oh let your little light shine

Let your little light shine
Shine on Vegas and Wall Street
Place your bets
Shine on the fishermen
With nothing in their nets
Shine on rising oceans and evaporating seas
Shine on our Frankenstein technologies
Shine on science
With its tunnel vision
Shine on fertile farmland
Buried under subdivisions

Let your little light shine
Let your little light shine
Shine on the dazzling darkness
That restores us in deep sleep
Shine on what we throw away
And what we keep

Shine on Reverend Pearson
Who threw away
The vain old God
kept Dickens and Rembrandt and Beethoven
And fresh plowed sod
Shine on good earth, good air, good water
And a safe place
For kids to play
Shine on bombs exploding
Half a mile away

Let your little light shine
Let your little light shine
Shine on world-wide traffic jams
Honking day and night
Shine on another asshole
Passing on the right!
Shine on the red light runners
Busy talking on their cell phones
Shine on the Catholic Church
And the prisons that it owns
Shine on all the Churches
They all love less and less
Shine on a hopeful girl
In a dreamy dress

Let your little light shine
Let your little light shine
Shine on good humor
Shine on good will
Shine on lousy leadership
Licensed to kill
Shine on dying soldiers
In patriotic pain
Shine on mass destruction
In some God's name!
Shine on the pioneers
Those seekers of mental health
Craving simplicity
They traveled inward
Past themselves...
May all their little lights shine

May your little light shine.

May your little light shine.

In Joni Mitchell’s song, Shine, she makes a reference to Rev. Pearson. The line goes:

Shine on Reverend Pearson
Who threw away
The vain old God
kept Dickens and Rembrandt and Beethoven
And fresh plowed sod

I didn’t know who this Rev. Pearson was. With the magic of the internet

Shine on the internet, by the way…
May it be a vehicle of liberation
…not exploitation.

Anyway, with the magic of the internet, I discovered that Rev. Carlton Pearson is a minister in Tulsa, Oklahoma. This is from an NPR interview:

Carlton Pearson's church, Higher Dimensions, was once one of the biggest in the city, drawing crowds of 5,000 people every Sunday. But several years ago, scandal engulfed the reverend. He didn't have an affair. He didn't embezzle lots of money. His sin was something that to a lot of people is far worse: He stopped believing in Hell. http://www.thislife.org/Radio_Episode.aspx?episode=304

He was a Pentecostal preacher. His pals included Oral Roberts. He was on TV, visited the White House. Then he began to have second thoughts about what he was preaching. He wondered if a loving God would really condemn most of the human race to Hell. He decided no. Once he started preaching that, his church left him.

But then new folks started showing up, curious about his beliefs. So he has renamed his church, New Dimensions. http://www.newdimensions.us/index.cfm He now pastors a much more inclusive church.

I find it curious how we can read the same book and come up with such different ideas about God. I can see how. The Bible is a mixed bag. In it you can find justification, or at least people have, for Crusades, Hell, slavery, the oppression of women, gays, and anyone who is foreign, creationism, the “End Times,” and snake handling.

Also, in this same collection of writings, you can find justification, or at least people have, for abolition of slavery, the Civil Rights movement, women’s equality, gay rights, non-violence, justice for the poor, for the environment, and an inclusive, loving God.

I guess it depends upon the light we bring to the Bible.

May your little light shine.

I find myself feeling gratitude for teachers who have not given up on the Bible. They focused their little lights on these complex texts and found something powerful, beautiful, and life-affirming in them.

One such teacher who has been a helpful guide for me in reading the Hebrew scriptures is Walter Brueggemann. I have mentioned him before. I have not had him personally as a teacher. He taught at Columbia Theological Seminary near Atlanta. I did have his brother-in-law though, Patrick Miller, of Princeton. Both are excellent teachers.

Dr. Brueggemann has written and taught extensively on the Hebrew scriptures. He brings a light of liberation to these texts. He finds in these texts a devastating critique of systems of domination. His light doesn’t blind the text. He doesn’t blot out the dark stuff that is there. His light respects the complexity and the ambiguity of the texts and the God revealed there. His light comes at an angle to bring out what we could easily miss.

My sermon is not about Dr. Brueggemann. But I do need to acknowledge his influence in my thinking. He has helped me understand the role of the prophets in the Hebrew Scriptures. One of his books I find myself re-reading is The Prophetic Imagination. I first read this book in seminary. It is a book about prophetic ministry. He writes:

“The task of prophetic ministry is to nurture, nourish, and evoke a consciousness and perception of the dominant culture around us.”

I want to share a bit more about that from the conclusion of this book, The Prophetic Imagination:

“I have tried to say that prophetic ministry does not consist of spectacular acts of social crusading or of abrasive measures of indignation. Rather, prophetic ministry consists of offering an alternative perception of reality and in letting people see their own history in the light of God’s freedom and [God’s] will for justice. The issues of God’s freedom and [God’s] will for justice are not always and need not be expressed primarily in the big issues of the day. They can be discerned wherever people try to live together and worry about their future and their identity.

“The task of prophetic ministry is to evoke an alternative community that knows it is about different things in different ways….Prophetic ministry seeks to penetrate the numbness to face the body of death in which we are caught. Clearly, the numbness sometimes evokes from us rage and anger, but the numbness is more likely to be penetrated by grief and lament. Death, and that is our state, does not require indignation as much as it requires anguish and the sharing in the pain. The public sharing of pain is one way to let the reality sink in and let the death go.

Prophetic ministry seeks to penetrate despair so that new features can be believed in and embraced by us. There is a yearning for energy in a world grown weary. And we do know that the only act that energizes is a word, a gesture, an act that believes in our future and affirms it to us….” (pp. 110-1)

That is Walter Brueggemann, The Prophetic Imagination.

Let’s turn to the story of Elijah. The documents I and II Kings are not about the Kings of Israel and Judah. They are about the prophetic imagination. The documents, Joshua, Judges, Samuel, and Kings are called in the Hebrew Scriptures the Former Prophets. They are not history. They are written from a prophetic point of view.

You will read along and come to something like this: “Are not all of his deeds recorded in the annals of something or other.” The author knows that you can go and look up the official, royal history. Those documents are lost to us now. Then, presumably, they would have known about them.

The author is telling us, “Yeah, you can go visit the Reagan museum. You can get the dates of his activities and pronouncements and read about his conquests and his dashing personality. But here is the story you won’t find there. This is what his policies did to these people over here. This is his story in light of the God who proclaims justice for the widow and the orphan.”

I am not picking exclusively on Reagan. The prophets would have a devastating critique of the Clinton museum as well. The Books of Kings are commentary on the kings in light of the prophetic imagination. That commentary is rarely favorable.

Elijah the Tishbite enters the scene in chapter 17 of I Kings. He confronts Ahab, the king. “There will be no rain,” announces Elijah. The point for us is not to worry about what causes rain. We don’t need to go the way of the wacko television evangelists who claim that weather patterns are God’s judgment.

The storytellers want us to know that Ahab’s policies and personality will not make it rain, either. Ahab is not going to be able to care for the widows and orphans. The well-being of the people is not dependent on Ahab’s charm.

Ahab tells Elijah that he is a ‘troubler of Israel.’ We have heard that before, haven’t we. We were all just fine, before you troublemakers came in upsetting things. Elijah stands up straight and says, “No, you are the troubler of Israel. Your injustice has not gone unnoticed.”

After Elijah makes his pronouncement, the Word of YHWH comes to him and tells him to go to a creek. There he is fed by a raven. Elijah, the prophet, must be vulnerable and needy. You can imagine what food a raven might bring. It is less than appetizing.

Then the Word of YHWH tells Elijah to visit a widow and get food from her. She has nothing left but a little oil, a little meal, and after it is used up, she and her son plan to die of starvation. That is the reality. Ahab is not going to die of starvation. He is not going to die of thirst. Those who have learned how to manipulate production and consumption for their benefit will do fine in the drought.

YHWH instructs Elijah to go to the widow and to be vulnerable. He is to accept her hospitality. Elijah learns her story. Elijah tells her that the oil and the meal will not run out. It doesn’t. The storyteller wants us to know that YHWH hears the widow. YHWH knows her story whereas Ahab does not. The prophet needs to learn her story, too. If the prophet is going to shine any light worthy of trust, the prophet needs to experience the vulnerability.

Elijah returns and challenges the 450 prophets of Baal to a contest. Who can bring down fire on the altar? The prophets of Baal cannot. Elijah mocks them. These prophets who have controlled the king need a good mocking. The voice of the prophet of YHWH is the voice of ridicule of the status quo.

Elijah is outside the king’s house. Elijah is not in the inner circle. The prophets of Baal have the king’s ear. They are the ones who lead the prayer breakfasts at the White House. They are the ones who say the most important issues are abortion and banning gay marriage. They are the ones who encourage the king in all of his military exploits.

Elijah mocks these folks and their god. There is nothing that exposes the charade of false prophets like a good ridicule. Elijah laughs at them. “Maybe Baal is out for a walk. Maybe he is relieving himself!” Elijah taunts them.

Then Elijah calls down the fire and the altar is consumed. Then for good measure he has all the prophets of Baal killed. That may sound a little harsh. It’s only a story! The storyteller wants us to know that YHWH is cleaning house of the false prophets. Ahab and his policies of death and his prophets of Baal are no longer welcome. This is not a justification for killing people in God’s name. We have had enough of that.

In response to Elijah’s defeat of the king’s prophets, Jezebel, Ahab’s wife, declares a fatwah on Elijah. Elijah is on the run. Elijah gets depressed. Elijah complains to YHWH that he is trying his best and now his life is threatened and he would just as soon die before he gets killed. This is a good story for tired activists.

This is the story for the activists who work and work for the environment or for justice for the poor or against militarism or whatever. They feel that no one cares. No one is listening. The world is going to hell and I am all alone and everyone hates me. Waah, waah, waah.

Throughout the scriptures, the prophets need to be humbled again and again. They need to be told and shown that it is not about them. So Elijah is told to go and wait in a cave. Just sit there and shut up, says YHWH. Elijah sits there. There is an earthquake and a fire, and a great wind, but YHWH is in none of these things. Then there is the sound of sheer silence. Then Elijah is ready to hear the voice of YHWH.

YHWH gives him an assignment. He tells him that he is not alone. There will be others who will join him as he offers his prophetic message. After Elijah is gone, others will take his mantle, Elisha is one.

Elijah’s story ends with a chariot that swings low and carries him to heaven. That image is the reminder that the prophet is still alive. Elijah, the prophetic archetype, is still present.

The message of YHWH’s justice, the little flicker of candle light for human dignity will not go out completely. There will be dark times. The forces of oppression and ignorance will seem powerful beyond measure. The drums for war and destruction will beat louder and louder. The prophets of Baal will return again to the White House and to all the seats of power.

And YHWH will again call for a voice of compassion from a prophet just like you. This prophet, like you, will be called to care for those who are hurting. This prophet will be called to let her light shine in some way that may seem small, but is not.

That prophet will be called to feel the pain and anguish of suffering people. That prophet will be called to lament. That prophet will be called to cry with those who are crying. That prophet will be called to be vulnerable so that she will know that it is not up to her but to the light within her. That prophet will be called in his daily life to dream of another way to live, not to lose hope, but to let that little light shine.

May your little light shine.

May your little light shine.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

History or Theology?

In conversations regarding Christian origins issues of history and theology continue to surface.



A new book by Gerd Ludemann, Eyes That See Not: The Pope Looks At Jesus is a critique Pope Benedict's book on Jesus.




This is from the Jesus Seminar site regarding Ludemann's book:

"The Pope asked for this," says Arthur J. Dewey of Xavier University. "Taking up the papal invitation (of Pope Benedict XVI) to respond critically to his book Jesus of Nazareth, Gerd Lüdemann offers a meticulous and devastating critique."

"The historian," writes Lüdemann, "is obliged to present objective evidence for his or her assertions. The rules of the game do not permit one to rely on uncorroborated testimony or claims of authority." The chronicler who fails to challenge eyewitness testimony and to submit documentary sources to critical examination, Lüdemann points out, is not an historian. The so-called historical method used by the Pope, continues Lüdemann, "has the sole aim of proving the reliability of the gospels.” In fact, he concludes, the Pope “never examines their historical trustworthiness."

“Lüdemann’s brilliant, readable book dismantles the Pope’s argument and will open readers’ eyes to see who Jesus really was.” —James M. Robinson, author of The Gospel of Jesus

“Highly recommended for anyone interested in issues of who Jesus was, and why the academic portrayal of him differs from the doctrinal.” —April DeConick, author of The Thirteenth Apostle: What the Gospel of Judas Really Says