Archive for May, 2016

Church Tourists

Tuesday, May 31st, 2016

Summer brings visitors from all over the world to Incarnation, and it’s interesting to get their impressions of our church. Their first words are almost always: “What a beautiful church you have!” Accustomed ourselves to our church’s appearance, it’s good to be reminded how fortunate we are.

Summer is also a good time for us at Incarnation to take advantage of vacation travel to visit other churches. I often pick up new ideas when I attend other parishes. And I’m reminded of the breadth and extent of the Christian world.

Happily, Christians the world over are laboring in the vineyards of the Lord. —J. Douglas Ousley

Delusion of Grandeur?

Tuesday, May 24th, 2016

The Presiding Bishop has just announced a search for a new staff person to be director of government relations. Based in Washington, one can only imagine the cost to the Episcopal Church of salary, housing, office rental, and support staff.

The price seems hard to justify when one considers that the Episcopal Church represents less than 1% of the U.S. population. And the expense seems even more extravagant when one realizes that the positions our church leaders take on the various political issues are unfailingly predictable.

The six figure sum that underwrites this governmental office could keep half a dozen churches from going under. Maybe that would be a better way to spend the church’s money. —J. Douglas Ousley

Jesus Lives

Wednesday, May 18th, 2016

Last night, an overflow gathering of the Men’s and Women’s Groups at Incarnation discussed the Historical Jesus–that is, what we know of the actual man, Jesus of Nazareth, who lived at the beginning of the first century, A.D.

My associate and I discussed a recent book by Reza Aslan entitled, Zealot. I emphatically do NOT recommend the book, which rehashes old claims that Jesus was a political rebel who never intended to preach a theological message, much less leave behind a church.

For me, the most interesting aspect of the evening was the fact that our parishioners didn’t seem at all disturbed by the skeptical claims of Aslan’s book. It’s clear that in New York City, at least, the faithful aren’t upset by the attempts to undermine their views of Jesus.

Why is this? Perhaps laypeople have been so often disappointed by “experts” that they no longer rely automatically on their opinions. If one expert says Y today, another expert will say Z tomorrow. Laypeople realize that after 200 years of biblical criticism, the number of Christians still grows daily.

Meanwhile, after the meeting, as I walked to a restaurant for dinner, I glimpsed a glorious sunset. For me, this was an adequate rebuke of skepticism–and one that holds, whatever scholars say about the historical Jesus. —J. Douglas Ousley

Not Much Religion Left

Wednesday, May 11th, 2016

With the departure of Ted Cruz from the presidential race, the religious component now seems minimal. Hillary Clinton (Methodist) appears to be the most serious religious person in the contest but speaks little about family values and is resolutely pro-choice. Bernie Sanders (Jewish) seems pretty lukewarm about religion, and Donald Trump’s (Presbyterian) faith–like most aspects of his personality–is a matter of controversy.

If I were a card-carrying Evangelical or pro-life Roman Catholic, I would have no one to support. Some conservative Christians are urging a vote for Trump as “not-Hillary,” but many others find this too contrary to their principles.

Yet one more twist in a mystifying political season. —J. Douglas Ousley

Dark Matter and Dinosaurs

Monday, May 2nd, 2016

A new book by Harvard physicist, Lisa Randall, Dark Matter and the Dinosaurs proposes a link between the mysterious “dark matter” near our galaxy and the extinction of the dinosaurs. The argument is complicated but, in essence, Randall argues that the dark matter occasionally (every 30 million years or so!) knocks asteroids orbiting our sun off course. It was one of these asteroids that hit the earth and caused the massive global cooling that killed off the large dinosaurs.

Randall’s book is straight (and very clearly-written) science. But the religious reader can’t help noting that once again, an apparent advance in science has made the universe look even more complicated than we thought. Professor Randall apologizes for the complication–but Christians may suspect that the marvels of creation will lead to wonder at the universe God has made. —J. Douglas Ousley