Daily Archives: February 2, 2021

(CT) Our Attraction to Idols Remains the Same, Even When the Names Change

Are the temptations to idolatry faced by God’s people in the Old Testament the same ones Christians encounter today?

Obviously, we give the idols different names. But as you analyze Baal worship in the Old Testament, comparisons aren’t hard to find.

Baal was the god of fertility, of both women and the land itself—the things on which one’s wealth and social significance depended. And Baal worship involved ritualized sexual prostitution to ensure such fertility. Of course, it also produced babies, but you could sacrifice them for added benefit. The sacralizing of sex and the sacrificing of babies led to a civilization so debauched that God “vomited” out its inhabitants (Lev. 18:25). These sins remain very much with us today, even if they tend to take different forms.

Baal was also the god of business deals, the kind a greedy king like Ahab and his Baal-worshiping wife Jezebel could invoke to bypass the land laws that protected Israel’s ordinary farmers. It is hard not to see their land-grabbing example reflected in the idolatry of greed and excessive wealth accumulation today, alongside growing inequality and dispossession of the poor.

The Old Testament exposes idolatries of greed, sex, arrogance, and abuse of political and economic power, and there is much that gets replicated right up to modern times. From the Book of Judges onward, it points out the consequences of idolatry with painful repetition—as if God were saying, “Don’t you get the message yet?”

Read it all.

Posted in Theology, Theology: Scripture

Tuesday Mental Health Break–Life is Better when you watch Pandas in the Snow

Posted in * General Interest, Animals

(NYT) The Case of the Serial Sperm Donor–One man, hundreds of children and a burning question: Why?

In 2015, Vanessa van Ewijk, a carpenter in the Netherlands, decided that she wanted to have a child. She was 34 and single, and so, like many women, she sought out a sperm donor.

She considered conceiving through a fertility clinic, but the cost was prohibitive for her. Instead, she found an ideal candidate through a website called Desire for a Child, one of a growing number of online sperm markets that match candidate donors directly with potential recipients. Ms. van Ewijk was drawn to one profile in particular, that of Jonathan Jacob Meijer, a Dutch musician in his 30s.

Mr. Meijer was handsome, with blue eyes and a mane of curly blond hair. Ms. van Ewijk liked how genuine he appeared. “I spoke to him on the phone and he seemed gentle and kind and well-behaved,” she said. “He liked music, and he talked about his thoughts on life. He didn’t come on strong in any sense. He seemed like the boy next door.”

About a month later, after some back-and-forth, she and Mr. Meijer arranged to meet at Central Station, a busy railway hub in The Hague. He provided her with his sperm, and in return she paid him 165 euros, about $200, and covered his travel costs. Months later she gave birth to a daughter — her first child and, Mr. Meijer told her, his eighth….

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Posted in Anthropology, Children, Ethics / Moral Theology, Men, Science & Technology, Sexuality, Theology

Bishop Nicholas Holtam of Salisbury to retire in July 2021

“Being the Bishop of Salisbury has been a privilege and a joy”, the Bishop said. “In present circumstances, the timing of my retirement has not been an easy decision but it feels right to me and to those I have consulted. The impact of the pandemic is going to be felt for a long time. The Diocese is developing a Mission and Pastoral Plan and we have an agreed financial framework with which to face the future with confidence. We continue to be about Renewing Hope as we Pray, Serve and Grow.

“In Bishops Karen and Andrew and the four archdeacons, the Diocese of Salisbury has excellent leadership. Our Diocesan Secretary, David Pain, is well established and Joy Tubbs is an outstanding Director of Education. The Diocesan Board of Finance and the Diocesan Board of Education are people of faith, commitment, skill and expertise. I am enormously grateful to them and to the Diocesan Synod. When the pandemic subsides, the scale of what faces us will benefit from a new diocesan bishop with whom to make decisions about the future.

“This is a testing time and the life of the Church has never been more important as a witness to Christian beliefs and values for the sake of God’s world. In many ways the Diocese of Salisbury is one of God’s small miracles. The energy, variety and resourcefulness of our churches, chaplaincies and schools are just three of the reasons why being the Bishop is a joy. I am full of admiration for our cathedral, for clergy colleagues and for the people of the Diocese who have been extraordinarily resilient and creative in the adaptation of continued ministry and mission….

Read it all.

Posted in Church of England (CoE), CoE Bishops

(NLJ) Angela Franks–The Body as Totem in the Asexual Revolution

Legal theorist Helen Alvaré observes that the twentieth century saw a sea change in jurisprudence, whereby “certain forms of sexual expression achieved constitutional status and came to be identified with nothing less than a human being’s ‘identity.’”[1] Tracing this change, beginning with the early contraception cases Griswold v. Connecticut (1968) and Eisenstadt v. Baird (1972), Alvaré shows how the Supreme Court gradually came to embrace a constructivist view of personal identity that was inextricably linked to sexual activity. We become who we are, that is, through our sexual choices.

This is especially true for women, the Court held, because of the possibility of motherhood resulting from said sexual choices. If women are unduly burdened by children, which might disincentivize them to engage in sexual relationships, what happens to their identity? This identity-formation-through-sex rationale is especially clear in the notorious 1992 Planned Parenthood v. Casey decision. Since the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision legalizing abortion, the Court writes, women have “organized intimate relationships and made choices that define their views of themselves and their places in society, in reliance on the availability of abortion in the event that contraception should fail.”[2] Without contraception and abortion, what happens to women’s self-definition? This idea is driven home by the purplest of legal prose in the decision’s famous “mystery of human life” passage:

These matters [of reproduction], involving the most intimate and personal choices a person may make in a lifetime, choices central to personal dignity and autonomy, are central to the liberty protected by the Fourteenth Amendment. At the heart of liberty is the right to define one’s own concept of existence, of meaning, of the universe, and of the mystery of human life. Beliefs about these matters could not define the attributes of personhood were they formed under compulsion of the State.[3]

“While Casey’s soaring language is certainly subject to varying interpretations,” Alvaré observes, “at the very least it can be said that it firmly linked women’s ability to avoid childrearing following sexual intercourse, with her interest in forming her personal identity.”[4]

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, America/U.S.A., Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, Psychology, Sexuality, Supreme Court

Eleanor Parker–An Anglo-Saxon Sermon for Candlemas

‘The blessed Mary offered her sacrifice to God with the child, as it was appointed in God’s law. It was so appointed in the old law, by God’s command, that those who could afford it should bring a lamb of one year old with their child, as an offering to God, and a pigeon or a turtle-dove. But if any woman were so poor that she could not obtain those things, then she should bring two young pigeons or two turtle-doves.

This smaller offering was offered for Christ, that is, the birds, which were the offerings of the poor. The Almighty Son of God was very mindful of our needs in all things; not only did he choose to become man for us, though he was God, but he also chose to become needy for us, though he was mighty, so that he might give us a portion in his kingdom and communion with his divinity. A lamb betokens innocence and the greater kind of goodness; but if we are so wretched that we cannot offer to God that greater goodness, then we should bring him two turtle-doves or two young pigeons; that is, a twofold burgeoning of awe and love. A person experiences this burgeoning in two ways: first, he dreads the torments of hell, and mourns for his sins; then afterwards he feels love to God, and he begins to murmur, and it seems to him too long a time until he shall be taken from the afflictions of this life, and brought to eternal rest.’

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Posted in Church History, Church Year / Liturgical Seasons, Preaching / Homiletics

A Prayer for the Feast of the Presentation

Almighty and everliving God, we humbly beseech thee that, as thy only-begotten Son was this day presented in the temple, so we may be presented unto thee with pure and clean hearts by the same thy Son Jesus Christ our Lord; who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.

Posted in Church Year / Liturgical Seasons, Spirituality/Prayer

A Prayer to Begin the Day from Henry Alford

O thou who in the days of thy humiliation didst command the winds and waves, and they obeyed thee: Do thou so dwell within us, that we may be safe from all dangers, and steadfast in all temptations; and evermore keep us in thy peace, for thy holy name’s sake.

Posted in Spirituality/Prayer

From the Morning Bible Readings

Hear my cry, O God, listen to my prayer; from the end of the earth I call to thee, when my heart is faint. Lead thou me to the rock that is higher than I; for thou art my refuge, a strong tower against the enemy. Let me dwell in thy tent for ever! Oh to be safe under the shelter of thy wings!

–Psalm 61:1-4

Posted in Theology: Scripture