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ourn in Northern Ireland'

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Today's Scripture: I am speaking to you Gentiles. Inasmuch then as I am an apostle to the Gentiles, I magnify my ministry in order to make my fellow Jews jealous, and thus save some of them. For if their rejection means the reconciliation of the world, what will their acceptance mean but life from the dead? If the dough offered as first fruits is holy, so is the whole lump; and if the root is holy, so are the branches. But if some of the branches were broken off, and you, a wild olive shoot, were grafted in their place to share the richness of the olive tree, do not boast over the branches. If you do boast, remember it is not you that support the root, but the root that supports you. You will say, "Branches were broken off so that I might be grafted in." That is true. They were broken off because of their unbelief, but you stand fast only through faith. So do not become proud, but stand in awe. For if God did not spare the natural branches, neither will he spare you. Note then the kindness and the severity of God: severity toward those who have fallen, but God's kindness to you, provided you continue in his kindness; otherwise you too will be cut off. And even the others, if they do not persist in their unbelief, will be grafted in, for God has the power to graft them in again. For if you have been cut from what is by nature a wild olive tree, and grafted, contrary to nature, into a cultivated olive tree, how much more will these natural branches be grafted back into their own olive tree.

From St. Paul's letter to the Romans, chapter 11:13-24,
from today's Orthodox lectionary readings.
See the homiletical thought below. 

Today's diary - life in Northern Ireland

Continuing the visit begun yesterday to Ireland's most Northerly point, Malin Head on the North Atlantic Ocean, besides its geographical interest, the point has some historical significance and is the site of a pilgrimage every August 15 to commemorate the Feast of the Assumption. The ruins of the church seen above date from the 16th century, and the cave seen to the left in the hillside, known as "the wee house of Malin," was inhabited by a hermit-monk who always invited visitors to enter his space and, according to legend, there was always room for all who came (the cave is barely deeper than it appears in the photo to be in height). There is also a well nearby, the waters of which are reputed to have healing powers.

Last night's catechism class at St. Ignatius was well attended. Misty weather when we finished dissuaded Jack Lamb from driving us to a loyalist parade in Sandy Row, which he wanted me to witness. Parading season is im full swing here, and though there have been no reported incidents of violence thus far, there are murmurs of worse things coming, with the high point of the season being July 12, the day that begins with the midnight bonfires.

This afternoon I attended a lunch that Jack hosted at Havana in Bank Square in downtown Belfast, with Melanie Grimsley, the survivor of a fire that claimed her sister's life when they were toddlers. She will give a talk and presentation about beauty, based on her biographical book Beauty for Ashes, at Townsend Presbyterian in September. Tonight we plan to attend the opening of a photo exhibition at Shankill Library. «

In the news
Links to articles on current issues—news and opinion that may signify how the cultural winds are blowing. Note that most 'news reports' are not 'objective' and if some are 'neutral' it's because the writers and editors are disinterested (could care less about the topic). Neither are 'news reports,' in general, highly accurate or unbiased; try to discern the bias of any report's source; always read aware and at your own risk.

Meriam Ibrahim says her baby is disabled because she gave birth with her legs chained while imprisoned in Sudan for being a Christian

Ted Cruz issues new report ennumerating many Obama lawless acts

Clinic gets Planned Parenthood award for increasing 'abortion visits'

Court restores free speech rights of protesters outside abortion clinics

Quinnipiac University poll: a majority say Obama is the worst President since WWII; think Romney would have been better

Christian worldview
(This department alternates with Writing stuff)

Without further introduction, I resume the discussion of quotable passages from Chapter 5 of Carl Trueman's little book, Republocrat, Confessions of a Liberal Conservative, with Trueman's text in italics and my responses in roman type.

Page 80: Why do those who have a great capacity for subtle thinking in matters of theology seem to prefer to think in terms of very straightforward, black-and-white, if not Manichaean, categories when it comes to politics? I can offer no definitive answer, but I want in this essay to make a few suggestions.

Manichaean=philosophically dualistic; for example, God and Satan are equal; spirit and material are opposite and opposing forces.

I think he's close to the answer in saying a few paragraphs later, "Representative democratic politics . . . is not conducive to subtlety." Which is so true that I want to restate is as, "it mitigates and militates against subtlety." The parties both try to reduce their whole campaigns to common-denominator issues, the biggest of which are economic considerations, character and, closest to home, "what (if anything) is in it for me in this candidate's election?" Almost all of the advertisements that attempt to maximize arguments based on these core issues are at best half truths and are often outright lies.

Page 82: To paraphrase Winston Churchill, democracy is a bad system, but it is better than any of the others that have been tried."

Page 85: Political debates are not really meant to be debates at all; they are rather vaudeville sketches that allow the players to make their pitch for public affection, rather like those balloon debates in school: "I don't think I should be thrown out of the balloon because my mother makes the best cookies."

Page 87: It is surely the case that the positive portrayal—in soap operas, movies, and sitcoms—of those pursuing particular sexual lifestyles that are antithetical both to the Bible's teaching and to traditional morality has had a more profound impact on how people think about these things than any argument.

He rightly cites this as a basis for the fact that political campaigns always try to come up with "stories" they can sell in order to promote their candidates and issues, rather than campaigining on the "issues," which are usually too complicated for voters who do little if any reading.

Thus far there is precious little in this chapter that I think most conservative Christians would argue with. When he takes up the discussion of the use of the terms "elite" and "elitists," however, it seems to me he may be missing the mark.

Page 92: One might add to this the language that often occurs on conservative talk radio and elsewhere about "elites"—whether Washington, Hollywood, law schools, or whatever. Indeed, while elite may in many contexts be a good word—does anyone, for example, want a less-than-elite brain surgeon to open his or her skull?—in political discourse on the Right it is used like the dreaded block spot of the pirates in Treasure Island. Just as in Britain the language of class always elicits a visceral reaction from the Left, even when on the lips of a socialist as quintessentially upper-class as Tony Benn, so use of the e word on the Right in America has much the same effect on its core constituency. . . .

It seems to me that Trueman is missing the point, though in his way perhaps he is admitting that, too. "Elite" is used by conservatives, virtually always, as ironic: how ironic that the party of "labor," the "common people" (the factory workers over against the main street shop owners which Democrats fashion as "hated capitalists" while heaping their special favors on the truly wealthy fatcats of Wall Street and the banking syndicates). Harvard-Yale-Princeton, the New York Times, the big-four television networks . . . all of these are hardcare elites, and elites who pretend to be by of and for "everyday working people"; elite institutions run by people who attended all the same schools, share the same religion (secular humanism) and think the same way about every social issue.

Though I am loathe to quote Rush Limbaugh, he nails it when he said of Bill and Hillary, "they think they're better than us." And in some ways, even we think they're better than we are . . . how many of us have even qualified to apply to Harvard or Yale, much less getting enrolled there and perhaps earning a degree from one of them? And a great majority of America's daily newspapers take their cues and make their obiesance to the New York Times, every midnight by checking to see how many of their front-page stories are about the same events and issues that the Times chose for that day. While claiming to represent "the every-day working class," most of them despise the working class. It's Obama's telling his San Francisco contributors that the unwashed masses in small-town Pennsylvania "cling to guns or religion or antipathy toward people who aren't like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment." I'm sure it sat well with his elitist crowd in San Francisco, but it certainly doesn't sound very demo- or Democratic.

I shared Trueman's preference that George W. Bush—certainly from an elite background himself, but not an elitist—I would prefer that he not overplay his "Texas good old boy" personna . . . but better that than that he play someone who knew what we all need whether we know it or not, as every Democrat from Adlai Stevenson (and that's as far back as I go on assessing Democrat candidates) has done, with partial exceptions going to John F. Kennedy (ironically) and Jimmy Carter, both of whom I believe tried to be populist.

Page 95: . . . only one country in the entire industrialized world does not have some form of universal health care. . .

By which he means the United States. As an Englishman, I'd think he'd know that Ireland does not have universal health care (the fact that it does not is a main reason the United Kingdom is confident that its Northern Ireland Province will not be uniting with the Republic of Ireland soon). Maybe he did not consider Ireland "industrialized," but that's a word that has changed for most of the world since 1975 or '80. It may be arguable that only China and India are "industrialized" countries now.

Page 96: . . . one suspects that . . . what one might call the sheer power of the Great Liberal Conspiracy Narrative, as promulgated on a myriad of talk-radio shows, whereby the fact that certain liberal figures believe it to be taking place is enough in and of itself to discredit the whole idea of climate change . . . .

I would not go that far, but . . . it's certainly legitimate to examine who is on the latest bandwagon (I wonder if Trueman remembers the days when the nightly news shows were beating our heads night after night over climate change resulting from nuclear bomb testing?) and whether they have ulterior motives that may lead them to skew "scientific findings," especially when we know for a fact that many of those findings were intentionally skewed. Certainly liberals—advocates of big governments with big spending budgets everywhere—stand to benefit in any programs they promote to curb "climate change," whether there's any substance to it or not. Be skeptical.

I can't argue with his main points on page 99: No Christian should parade around with a picture of the president as the Joker in Batman or associate with those whose idea of an argument is to scream obscenities at elected officials from behind a police barricade.


The Christian in civic society should set an example to others of what the best citizen looks like, not simply reinforce stereotypes of what the worst appears to be. And that applies across the political spectrum.

Next time: Trueman's final points and my conclusions. «

Today's video

The eagle's point of view




Today's quotes

— G.K. Chesterton «

Concepts create idols; only wonder understands anything.

— St. Gregory of Nyssa «

When all the suns and nebulae have passed away, each one of you will still be alive.

— C.S. Lewis «

Homiletical thought: Why does Paul say, "I magnify my ministry in order to make my fellow Jews jealous?" Maybe it's somewhat parallel to a saying of one of my old professors, "I exaggerate to make my point." I always liked that; it's saying, "you lot are so thick you won't get it unless I beat you over the head with it," but nicely. As a Jew, even as he said, "a Pharisee of the Pharisees," Paul may have been implying that, "if you're a real Jew, or if you want to experience the fullness of what being a Jew means, you must make the next step and embrace Jesus and what He teaches is the fullness of Judaism, the real meaning of all the metaphors, allegories, symbols and word pictures in the Old Testament and the Temple worship. «

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§ I have now uploaded over 2,700 photos and videos, mostly from my current visit to Northern Ireland, but also including several hundred photos and videos from my summer in Pennsylvania (2012), and some photos of the family, on my Flickr site. Most of these are now organized by sets. Click here for the Flicker site.

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Please pray for my mission to Northern Ireland. You can read my background overview of this undertaking here. My residence/postal address is The Loom, 227 Crumlin Road, Belfast, Northern Ireland BT14 7DY, UK. Mobile, international: 44 7455 980890; from within the UK, 07455 980890.

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This blog is just
an attempt to communicate
between an American lay missionary in Northern Ireland, his friends there, his friends in his home parish in Silicon Valley, California, and his friends in his native coalfields of Western Pennsylvania, and any others interested. When time for deeper reflection is lacking, this may consist mainly of reposts of things from online networks that seem to resonate with members of his circles.

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Glory to God for All Things

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The Belfast Lord Mayor's blog

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