Archive for the ‘Faith, Philosophy, Worldview’ Category

More about civility

Wednesday, March 30th, 2011

Several months ago I blogged about the first article in a series on civility being published in the Covenant Companion.

With house renovations, a trip to Europe, and the ongoing attempts to find a reasonable work/life balance, I hadn’t made a point of following the entire series.  However I finally dug through my stack of magazines and read all of the articles (some for the first time, some for the second time), and I think that all of them are worth the read.

The series includes:

1. May 2010. Civility and the Road Less Travelled, by Daniel de Roulet.  I previously posted about this article here.

2. June 2010. A Crisis of Civility, by Kurt Peterson.

3. July 2010. A Bad Day at the Office: Dealing with incivility in the workplace, by Sonia C. Solomonson.

4. August 2010. Who Are the People in Your Neighborhood: Practicing Civility in Our Daily Encounters, by Cathy Norman Peterson.

5. September 2010. Seeking Wisdom at the Public Café: Lessons on civility from the blogging community, by Scot McKnight.

6. October 2010. Rules of Engagement: Negotiating civility in the political process, by Carl Hawkinson.

7. November 2010. Rude Reality: Although we complain about the state of mass media, the truth is, incivility sells, by Quentin J. Schultze.

8. December 2010. By our Words: A critical look at the power of our speech, by C. John Weborg.

9. February 2011. With Respect to Nature: How do we apply a civic ethic to creation?, by Justin Topp.

10. March 2011. Holy Manners: Learning to be civil, compassionate, and Christ-honoring in the church, by Richard Lucco.

Unfortunately not all articles in the series seem to available for download on the Companion website.  I’m not sure if they will be posted in the coming months.  If you’re in Prince Albert I could loan you a hardcopy.

Here in Canada another federal election campaign is underway, and it’s all too easy to lose sight of civility, so this seemed like an especially good time to review these articles.

Some rambling thoughts on creation care

Thursday, January 13th, 2011

The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it.
The world and all its people belong to him.

Psalm 24:1 (New Living Translation)

I remember my dad telling me that although he spent most of his waking hours in the bush as a child, he never saw a deer in the Shell Lake area until he was an adult.  That’s because he was born in 1919.  That was before the introduction of game laws based on conservation biology.  The early settlers basically shot any animals they could, and as a consequence wildlife populations were reduced to dangerously low levels.

Fast forward 80-odd years, and every fall I go back out to the Shell Lake area and hunt in the area my dad spent his childhood in.  I typically see several deer in a day of hunting.

So why are there so many more deer in that area now than when Dad was a boy?  There are probably several factors at play, including warmer winters with less snowfall, but I believe the most significant to be the introduction of science-based wildlife management.  Game laws were introduced, setting limits and seasons, and subsequently the populations of most game animals are at much higher levels now than they were 80 years ago.

As in most other jurisdictions in the developed world, Saskatchewan has moved from an era of exploitation to one of conservation and active management of those species considered most desirable by humans.  More recently the trend has been to ecosystem-based management, which takes a more holistic view of the connections between wildlife and their environment, instead of trying to manage individual species in isolation.

Considering those advances in natural resource management, it always amazes me when I encounter people who think that deer are endangered, or that all most of our forests should be preserved in parks without ever seeing axe or saw, instead of being sustainably managed for products that people require.

I guess my thinking on the topic is largely influenced by my Christian faith.  My belief in God as creator (albeit over millions of years rather than a literal 7 days)* of this beautiful earth doesn’t leave room for selfish exploitation.  I suppose that makes me an environmentalist.  I also believe that humans have a special role in God’s creation, and it’s OK to use the rich resources for our needs (and yes, for our wants).  I suppose that makes me pro-development.  A word that ties together those two concepts is stewardship.  I believe that this beautiful world isn’t ours to rape and pillage,  but it is God’s creation, and we ought to be good stewards of it.

* NOTE: Terminology of intelligent design, theistic evolution etc. aside, yes I believe that the God of the Bible is behind it all, and sustains it all.  However I don’t see Genesis as science.

Uncivil discourse

Sunday, June 6th, 2010

In a culture where the sarcastic put-down is so greatly admired, is it possible to regain civility?  The May 2010 issue of The Covenant Companion is introducing a new series on civility.  The article  “Civility and the Road Less Travelled” by Daniel de Roulet is worth a read.

To get to Civility

That issue of the Companion also included a thought-provoking column “Why so hostile?” by John E. Phelan Jr.,  including this paragraph:

… differences of opinion do not distress or alarm me. Quite the contrary. Were our differences quashed, ignored, or minimized, then I would be alarmed. What alarms and distresses me is the hostility surrounding our differences of opinion. Our political and religious discourse has devolved into a wasteland of hostility. Murderous scorn is poured over opponents as if they deserved no respect or consideration for, if nothing else, their common humanity. Persons who temporize or try to see the good in another or their position are considered weak and contemptible. Ideological purity is required. Woe to the person who says something good about President Bush or President Obama, about Pope Benedict or Pat Robertson, about the Methodists or the Pentecostals, about the fundamentalists or the liberals. As poet Thomas John Carlisle put it: “I hate God’s enemies / with perfect hatred. / Why can’t God / do as much?

I’ve been as guilty as most of lacking civility in my discussions about issues about which I feel strongly, but articles like the above are convicting me, and hopefully tempering my speech.

Comedy Central’s brave response to intimidation

Saturday, May 15th, 2010

Suppose you believe that freedom is important and certain beliefs are dangerous, so you announce that you intend to make your point by using mockery as a weapon against folks that you think have dangerous beliefs.  However when a certain bully and his gang actually show up and double-dare you to mock, you grovel before them, lick their boots as instructed, and then slink back home.

How do you deal with the shame of losing face?

If you are Comedy Central, there is an easy answer.

Find a pacifict to push around.

Pro-life environmental stewardship

Monday, April 26th, 2010

The Covenant Church’s Annual Meeting has consistently spoken out against abortion. The indifference to human life implied in the gratuitous use of abortion deeply concerns and distresses many. Some of us are attracted to the “consistent pro-life” position that includes capital punishment and war in the list of concerns.
Oddly, I have seldom, if ever, heard anyone suggest that concern for the environment is a pro-life issue. And yet, human life itself depends on the proper stewardship of our beautiful, God-given creation. Without clean water, fertile soil, and clean air, life on earth is not possible.

So begins John E. Phelan Jr.’s column “Markings” in a recent issue of The Covenant Companion.

He goes on to say,

Many evangelicals are hostile to environmental stewardship in general and the question of global warming in particular. I am frankly perplexed by this. We are justly concerned about our culture’s indifference to human life. So how can we be indifferent to the enormous suffering and death of millions or even billions? Why refuse to address or even consider our contributions to the destruction of the earth’s health and fertility? If this is not a pro-life issue, what is? Among the virtues required to properly care for creation are frugality, self-discipline, generosity, compassion, and hope. Environmental stewardship requires harnessing our desires, addressing our greed, and “valuing others above ourselves” (Philippians 2:3). These are virtues and commitments embedded in our faith in Jesus Christ.

Phelan isn’t calling for government-imposed solutions, but for “a change of heart”, a “cultural revolution” of God’s people. He goes on to suggest that the judgements in the book of Revelation won’t need to be wrought by God directly, but may be brought upon us by ourselves.

I think he makes some good points.

A PDF of the article can be downloaded here.

Glenn Beck wants me to leave my church

Friday, March 12th, 2010

I must admit that, despite my right-of-centre political views, I never watch Fox news, so the only time I have ever seen Glenn Beck was in an entertaining Youtube video back in early December 2009, featuring him in his fevered indignation  over scientists using a trick of the trade to reconcile historical tree ring proxy data with data from weather stations.

I came across the latest gem from Glenn Beck while browsing through The Holy Post.   According to opinion columnist Charles Lewis,

Glenn Beck, the Fox News commentator known for his tearful rants in defence of American liberty and against the evils of liberalism, has told his audience that it may be time to abandon most of the Christian churches.

In a recent radio show, that was broadcast on more than 400 affiliates, he told his listeners to leave any church that uses the phrases “social justice” or “economic justice.” “I beg you, look for the words ’social justice’ or ‘economic justice’ on your church Web site,” he said.

“If you find it, run as fast as you can. Social justice and economic justice, they are code words. Now, am I advising people to leave their church? Yes!” He went on to say, “If you have a priest pushing social justice go find another parish. Go alert your bishop and tell them. [Ask them] are you down with this whole social justice thing?”

The faith community that I’m involved with is part of the Evangelical Covenant Church.  Our denomination has a “Department of Compassion, Mercy and Justice“.  I went to the denomination’s website and did a search on “social justice”, which resulted in several pages of hits.

Clearly my denomination is on Glenn Beck’s naughty list.  But I like it so I’m staying put.

But let justice roll on like a river, righteousness like a never-failing stream!  (Amos 5:24)

End Note 1: I don’t think that Beck is against justice, but is against “progressive liberal” ideas of justice involving government intervention.  Personally I believe that the primary responsibility of Christians is at the individual level, but the Bible also calls for the “king” to help those who need it;

End Note 2: Despite the fact that I’m a small-c conservative, I support “pinko” Canadian policies like universal health care and official bilingualism, so if I were ever transplanted to the U.S., I really don’t know how I’d vote.

An unaccountable “pastor”

Wednesday, March 3rd, 2010

I stumbled across this news story about a child pornography bust:

Tampa, Florida – Even veteran detectives call this crime “disgusting.” A Tampa man claiming to be a minister is behind bars, accused of selling child pornography out of his home.

43-year-old Eric Spandorf allegedly downloaded and sold dozens of DVD’s filled with horrific images of child pornography…

(full news article here)

Apparently the accused man claims to be a pastor at something called Biblical Ministries.

Since the article gave a link to their website, I checked it out.   Sure enough, it lists Reverend Eric M. Spandorf as Associate Pastor/Crisis Councilor (sp).

Naturally curious about where the Reverend had obtained his M. Div. degree, and where he had been ordained, I clicked on the link to “Church Staff”, where I found the following:

Eric Mitchell Spandorf was born in the year 1966 In Brooklyn N.Y.  He lived there up until the age of 2.  At which time he moved to Plainview long island.  He was one of three children he had an older sister and an identical twin brother that died at the age of 16.  He attended Plainview High School which he graduated in the year 1984.  At the age of 24 he made the move to Florida where he resided in Orlando for 12 years at which time he moved to Kissimmee and now finally laid down routes in Tampa Fl.  He turned to the church out of feeling despair and disappointment in life and he now is a teen counselor.

That’s it.  Nothing about seminary, nothing about the ordination process.

This guy wasn’t a pastor, but a predator taking advantage of a wide open Internet to take advantage of the defenceless. Unfortunately many people reading about this case will take the Reverend title at face value, and the reputation of the church of Jesus Christ takes another blow.

I don’t doubt that there is a place for online ministry.  But I also believe that pastors must be accountable.  Obtaining the title of Reverend in the denomination that I’m a part of is a long, hard process.  I think that is a good thing.

Haiti earthquake response

Thursday, January 14th, 2010

Over the past couple of days I’ve been deeply affected by the news reports about the suffering in Haiti caused by their massive earthquake.  Of course the fact that Haiti was already so needy, with so much abject poverty and a disfunctional government, doesn’t help matters.  They have a long recovery road ahead of them, and huge amounts of aid are required, not only in the short-term but until they can get back on their feet.  At some time in the future the discussion can shift from relief to development.

There are many relief agencies, some with better track records at actually getting most donor contributions to those in need (I chose to give to World Vision).  If you are reading this and haven’t yet contributed please consider it.

And of course, if you believe in a God who listens to his people, then pray.  But I do understand why many people have honest difficulty believing in a merciful God in times like these.

UPDATE 2009-01-16: Linea points out in the comments below that the Evangelical Covenant Church of Canada (ECCC) has a missionary working in Haiti.  Janelle Peterson helps at Ebenezer Clinic, located in the north part of the country, more than two hundred kilometres from Port au Prince, an area unaffected by the quake.  The clinic has been helping with the relief effort.  For information on donating through the ECCC or World Relief Canad, and a link to Janelle’s blog click here.

A former agnostic on coming to faith

Thursday, November 19th, 2009

“In the end, coming to faith remains for all a sense of homecoming, of picking up the threads of a lost life, of responding to a bell that had long been ringing, of taking a place at a table that had long been vacant.”
Malcolm Muggeridge

So many paths up the mountain? Part 2

Monday, August 31st, 2009

At the risk of seeming even more intolerant of other beliefs than I already appear, I’d like to state that I don’t believe that the teachings of THE MAN WHO SPOKE WITH HIS MIND, as revealed on his blog, constitute a valid path to God.

Lots of fodder for the “all religion is the root of all evil” folks here.