Thursday, May 31, 2012

The Death of a Biblical Literalist

I began life as a Baptist and I studied at a Baptist college and a Baptist seminary.  Back in the late 1970‘s and all through the 1980‘s, it was popular amongst prominent Baptist preachers to claim to be biblical literalists.  Having been born on Sand Mountain, in Northeast Alabama, in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains, the only biblical literalists I knew were snake handlers.  The rest, as far as I was could tell, were pretenders to the title “biblical literalist.”

The Rev. Mack Wolford was a true biblical literalist.  Wolford, a Pentecostal preacher, was known in Appalachia as a man of his convictions. He believed that Christians, such as himself, should handle serpents to test their faith in God.  Further, if they were bitten, they were to trust God to heal them.

Wolford searched the woods of Appalachia for the snakes he kept for worship services at the Church of the Lord Jesus where Pentecostal Christians, like himself, handled poisonous snakes, drank strychnine and played with fire as required by their faith.

The Gospel According to Mark, chapter 16, verse 18 clearly states that Christians are to  "take up serpents.”  A biblical literalist who is true to his convictions could do nothing else.  The passage reads (verses 17 & 18):  “And these signs shall follow them that believe; In my name shall they cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues;  They shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them; they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover” (King James Version).  Those verses are a pretty good description of the worship services at the Church of the Lord Jesus Christ.

If worshipers are bitten and they do not recover, like Wolford did not recover, then it is believed by the other worshipers at the Church of the Lord Jesus Christ that it was “simply their time to go and God took them.”  Mark Wolford, like his father before him, died from the bite of a rattlesnake.  Such is the price some of the biblical literalists at the Church of the Lord Jesus Christ pay for their convictions.

I am not, and have never claimed to be, a biblical literalist.  I do not share Wolford’s convictions.  I, in fact, believe he was mistaken in the way he read Holy Scripture and wrong-headed in the way he practiced his faith.  I do, however, admire a believer who practices his faith even when that faith is likely to cost him something.  It seems to me hypocritical to call yourself a biblical literalist, and then not pick up snakes in worship.  Wolford was misguided but, he was no hypocrite.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Senator Rand Paul in the news talking religion.

Rand Paul, my senator from Kentucky, recently gave a critique of President Obama’s religious views.  In reference to Obama’s support of same-sex marriage, he said, "It did kind of bother me though that he used the justification for it in a biblical reference. He said the biblical golden rule caused him to be for gay marriage. And I'm like, what version of the Bible is he reading?"
President Obama told ABC's Robin Roberts that he treats others as he would want to be treated because he's a Christian, and he said that contributed to his support for marriage equality. 
Paul said, "I don't know what version he's getting that from."
Obama got it from the Gospel according to Matthew, chapter 7, verse 12.  The Gospel’s writer is quoting Jesus.  The King James Version (KJV) reads, “Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them: for this is the law and the prophets.”
The New International Version reads, “So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.”
The New Revised Standard Version reads, “In everything do to others as you would have them do to you; for this is the law and the prophets.”
I checked several versions and they all conformed to Obama’s use of the verse.  Whatever version of the Bible the President used, the message was the same.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Tech and Me

I was asked by some clergy colleagues recently what software-apps-computer-smart I was currently using. Such things change too regularly, but as of today here is my list (in no particular order):

(1) Rite Stuff. I was a Beta tester for Rite Stuff and despite the fact that they ignored all my suggestions, it is still a "work horse" for me. I run it on my MacBook using the "snow leopard" operating system (Rite Stuff does not yet have a "Lion" update).

(2) iCal (now called "Calendar"). Of all the programs/apps I use, none gets more work than iCal. My life is organized in iCal. As forgetful as I am, I would never be anywhere I was supposed to be if I didn't have iCal. It runs on all my electronic devises: MacBook, iPhone, and iPad (via "mobile me"--I haven't yet updated to iCloud, but soon I must).

(3) Pages. Pages is the Apple equivalent of MicroSoft Word. Once I create liturgy in Rite Stuff, I edit in Pages. I write my sermons in Pages. I write letters in Pages. You get the idea. It gets lots of work.

(4) Mail. Along with iCal above, I couldn't survive without email these days. Apple's email program named "Mail" syncs across all my devices (see iCal above) and keeps me in contact with tons of people that need to let me know something. The great thing about email vs. phone is that with email, I get to respond on my schedule. With the phone, I have to answer when the call comes in, or...

(5) Voice Mail. Old School, not an app, but still a techno marvel. The modern equivalent of the "Answering Machine," Voice Mail with your "smart phone" is wonderful. When you can't answer, it answers for you and lets you take a message. When I am with someone, I can turn off my ringer and know that as soon as I am free, I'll be able to return calls.

(6) Notes. I take "Notes" on my iPad with "Notes." Simple. Exactly what I need for staff meetings, vestry meetings, clergy conferences, etc., "Notes" is an app that comes with your iPad (already installed).

(7) Maps. Google's "Maps" comes already installed on your iPad and iPhone. When making pastoral calls, it is indispensable for getting me from wherever I am to wherever I need to be. In the old days I used a Garmin manufactured devise for navigation. I still have a "Tom Tom" app for my iPad and iPhone, but I find myself almost always using "Maps." (Which is odd, because, in all honesty, "Tom Tom" is a better app.)

(8) Twitter, Hootsuite, and Tweetie. I tweet. The parish has a twitter account for happenings, news, etc. The parish also has an "devotional" or "inspirational" twitter account. I have a personal twitter account. With all that "tweeting" I find myself using the app built by Twitter for my iPhone. I use Hootsuite on my iPad and I use Tweetie on my MacBook. I do the "heavy lifting" with Hootsuite on my iPad.

(9) Facebook has become a means for information dissemination and pastoral care updates, etc. Just as the advent of the telephone made possible a quick call to "check-in" as a tool for pastoral care, Facebook has likewise become such a tool for me. I know so much more now than I did before about what is going on with those who Facebook by watching my "news feed." To "Facebook" I use the apps provided by Facebook. I also have my "tweets" repost on my "wall" on Facebook. The parish has both a "group" page and a "Fan" page. The "Fan" page is also integrated with the parish's twitter account, so that what gets posted on Facebook automatically is reposted on Twitter.

(10) iBCP. iBCP is an app for the Book of Common Prayer. I keep the app on both my iPhone and my iPad. It is amazing how often I turn to it. Now, I have my Prayerbook with me everywhere I go.

(11) BizXpensTrkr. Business Expense Tracker is how I log my mileage and other reimbursable expenses. It is an app for both iPhone and iPad.

(12) I do a great deal of news reading on my iPad. My favorite way to do so is to use an app called "Flipboard." I really enjoy "Flipboard" and highly recommend it. I am convinced that "Flipboard" is representative of magazines of the future. I read "The Economist," "The New Yorker," "The Atlantic," "Time," "Salon," "Wired," "Mashable," "Newsweek" (called "The Daily Beast), and "Slate" from Flipboard. I can also read Facebook and Twitter with Flipboard for a change of pace.

(13) Contacts. I could not function without my "Address Book." Names, phone numbers, email addresses, street addresses. Everything I have, all in one place. When I think back to the days of paper address books, I wonder at how inefficient it was!

(14) iBooks. I carry my library with me now. Its like Hermione Granger's purse. If I have my iPad with me (and I always do), I have a good book to read (or reference).

(15) Things. "Things" is my electronic to-do list. It helps keep me focused and on task, aiding in my prioritizing and scheduling projects and tracking their development. Much better than my scribbled "to do list" on the back of a napkin.

(16) Evernote. Whether I am collecting material for my next sermon or the book I will never actually write or the diocesan project upon which I am presently working, "Evernote" helps me keep it all organized and sync'd across my various devices. Whether I am on my laptop or smartphone or tablet, I can add to or retrieve from my virtual "filing cabinet."

(17) Logos Bible. Ministers, on rare occasions, actually get to read or at least reference Holy Scripture. When I need to do so on the go, I have found "Logos Bible" to be useful. Whenever feasible, however, I tend to use the Oremus Bible Reader online.

(18) Dropbox. All my documents, backed up and in one place and sync'd across all my devices. Way cool. Colleague called me at 9 at night for a document they needed first thing in the morning. It was one of those: "Do you remember three years ago when we were working on...." Yes, I remembered it, but no I had no idea where it was now. I figured it was probably on my desktop at work. I could have gotten dressed, gone to the office, etc. But, thanks to "Dropbox" I didn't have to leave me seat. I searched my documents in "Dropbox" quickly located the document in question (a document that I had not touched in three years), and emailed it to my colleague. I could have just given her a link to it and she could have gotten it herself. Dropbox--way cool.

What Motivates Doing Good?

Jesus said to them, "I tell you the truth, the tax collectors and the prostitutes are entering the kingdom of God ahead of you." In a new study by the University of California at Berkley, the "religious" do good motivated by doctrine and the non-religious do good motivated by compassion. On the surface of it, the study seems to be confirmation of the continuing prevalence of the affliction Jesus noted amongst the religious of his day. You will recall his railing against the behavior of some Pharisees (read "the identifiably religious). However, the study could also be read to indicate that religious people do good because of a sense of duty (a Kantian Deontological morality), rather than acting purely on feelings; that is, doing good even when they don't feel like. Another study needs to be done of the "religious" to separate the Kantians from the Pharisees.