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Good Morning Nanty Glo!
                 Wednesday, September 17 2003 

Jon Kennedy, webmaster

Gospel and politics

My late summer reading is What Saint Paul Really Said: Was Paul of Tarsus the Real Founder of Christianity? by N. T. Wright. Ironically, as I had recently almost concluded that the Episcopalians can hardly even be considered a church based on some of their recent innovations, Wright is an Anglican (the mother church of the Episcopalians) and in fact, since the publication of this book he has been elevated to Bishop of Durham in the Church of England. The second clause of the title of this book is intended to catch the eyes of skeptics and seekers into some of the arcane or "hidden" aspects of Christianity. There have been a lot of "scholarly" books in the past century arguing, in fact, that St. Paul, not Jesus Christ, is the founder of Christianity. I was taught in a comparative religion class at the University of Pennsylvania that many Jewish rabbis and scholars have long considered Paul the lynchpin of Christianity. He was the faith's first towering intellect, its first great theologian, and as the author of about half of the whole New Testament, the one whose words get preached even more, arguably, than the words of Jesus. It's a fascinating topic and worth considering.

However, that claim wasn't new to me, and was not the eye-opener it will be to many others. But another major leitmotif in Wright's study of St. Paul, "Saul of Tarsus and the Apostle Paul," as he frequently names him, rang through as, if not "new truth," at least validation of something I've been pondering for many years. In opposition to many other works on Paul that try to show him as influenced mainly by the Greek pagan thinking of his time rather than Judaism, Wright carefully argues that Paul's own assertion that he was "a pharisee of the pharisees," that is, a member of First Century Judaism's most devote, best educated, and most effective inner circle, is spot-on true. But from that basis, though he appeals constantly to Israel to see its Messiah and its destiny in Jesus Christ, he more pointedly aims his ministry, after his life-revolutionizing conversion through a visitation, personally, from the crucified and ascended Jesus, to the pagan world of the Roman Empire.

And whereas before his conversion he persecuted the members of the new sect of Christians in the hope that nipping it in the bud would help bring the fulfillment of Israel's destiny as the savior of the surrounding world, once he saw the light, both physically and metaphysically speaking, he saw the Gospel of Jesus Christ as challenging headon the paganism of his generation. When he refers to Jesus, scores, hundreds, probably thousands of times in his epistles, as "Lord," Wright argues, Paul is challenging the divinity and the sovereignty of Caesar himself who, in the Roman mythology, was the "lord and savior" of the whole civilized world of the time. No, Paul is saying in his reassertion of what he had always believed should be the Jews' first loyalty to God, it is Jesus, only, who is the Lord, the Savior, and the only King. He alone is the one to whom every knee shall bow.

Thus the most influential teacher in the generation following the earthly ministry of Jesus Christ challenged the political establishment of his time at its very roots, and put himself squarely among those who have generally said there's no separation between true Christian religion and politics. If your politics is not Christian (that is, formed and motivated by first loyaty to the Kingdom of Christ), neither is your religion...in Paul's opinion, in Tom Wright's book. And as I've been inclined to say for most of my adult life, in mine, too.

Webmaster Jon Kennedy

Flying humor - 4

In light of all the recent air security that has been put in place, crew members try to lighten the mood once folks get on board. Here's how they make the in-flight "safety lecture" and their other announcements a bit more entertaining. These are real examples that have been heard or reported.

From a Southwest Airlines employee, continued: "Weather at our destination is 50 degrees with some broken clouds, but we'll try to have them fixed before we arrive. Thank you, and remember, nobody loves you, or your money, more than Southwest Airlines.

"Your seat cushions can be used for flotation; and, in the event of an emergency water landing, please paddle to shore and take them with our compliments."

—Sent by Trudy Myers 

Thought for today

Being in politics is like being a football coach. You have to be smart enough to understand the game, and dumb enough to think it's important.

— Eugene McCarthy

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