Monthly Archives: July 2008


The Meaning of Christian Brotherhood

One of the very finest books written by Joseph Ratzinger, who would later become Pope Benedict XVI, was titled: The Meaning of Christian Brotherhood (San Francisco: Ignatius, 1993). The original German edition was published in 1960 when Ratzinger was still a young man in his thirties. Thus this book is also pre-Vatican II. And it happens to be one of the most important things Ratzinger ever wrote, so far as I am concerned.

Ratzinger’s treatise argues that a true Christian brotherhood exists between all were believers in the one Christ. He gives us the biblical grounds for real cooperation and does it in a way that remains Roman Catholic at the same time. Many Catholics and Protestants would do well to read this precious little book.

Ratzinger establishes a Christian brotherhood from the perspective of salvation history by opening up both the Old and New Testaments on the subject. He shows that there is a distinctively Christian sense of brotherhood

By |July 31st, 2008|Categories: Unity of the Church|

Take Me Out to the Ball Game

The well-known American song, "Take Me Out to the Ball Game," is 100 years old this year. It trails only "Happy Birthday" and "The Star-Spangled Banner" as the most frequently performed song in America, at least according to the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers. (I wonder where "Amazing Grace" is on this list. I would think it has to be the highest ranking religious song!)

What most people do not know is that this song was not always sung at baseball games and it was most certainly not a seventh inning ritual, as it now is, until much more recently. Hc
It was in 1976 that the infamous Harry Caray, while working for
Bill Veeck and the Chicago White Sox at that time, decided to sing it in the seventh inning stretch. Harry could not sing at all and that seemed to make

By |July 30th, 2008|Categories: Baseball|

How the U. S. Army Learns from Mistakes

David Ignatius, Washington Post syndicated columnist, recently wrote that the U. S. Army was better able to admit its mistakes and change its ways than almost any institution in our society. Intuitively this seems preposterous until you think about it.

For eighteen months the army messed up the plan in Iraq very badly. While civilian leaders and politicians are still assigning blame all around for what did not work in Iraq the Army has faced its numerous mistakes, in tactics and judgment, and made serious changes. Ignatius suggests the reason is that the Army can’t afford to inflict self-justification or blame like the civilian leadership. The Army must learn or it truly fails. Recent Army publications show how the Army failed in not reacting properly after its initial assault on Baghdad. And then it failed again in the follow-up over the next few years. But, and this is the interesting part, the Army learned and made recommendations that led to the "surge"

By |July 29th, 2008|Categories: America and Americanism|

How Bout Those Cubbies?

I write ever so often about the Chicago Cubs. I am open about my feelings that I do not much care for the Cubs. This was not always true. When I came to Chicago in 1969 and Ron Santo, Billy Williams, Ferguson Jenkins and Ernie Banks were leading the Cubs to what seemed to be destiny in the World Series I made my first visit to Wrigley Field and got on the bandwagon. I had been a lifelong Braves fun but hey, it was Wrigley Field and the Cubs never won so why not celebrate?

But I then went back again and again to the "hallowed vines" and grew weary of the place and the fans. Wf
Local writers even refer to Cubs fans as "inmates" who want to run the asylum in our newspapers. And blog spots on the Cubs abound. A recent

By |July 28th, 2008|Categories: Baseball|

What on Earth Do We Make of Jesse Jackson?

Jesse Jackson cannot avoid the news cycle. He is either running here or there in an attempt to free prisoners overseas or he’s making another "racist" statement that should offend millions of black Americans. I am not sure that his statements offend large numbers of black people but they do offend me!

Not only did Rev. Jackson mock Senator Obama, in a recently captured private statement, but he also used the N-word during a break in the same TV interview. Jackson apologized to Obama for the first statement and then apologized again last week for his use of the N-word. People ask, "How can he do this?" Simply put: "Out of the heart the mouth speaks." Basic biblical principle 101: Jackson thinks this way or he wouldn’t speak this way. This is the same person who referred to the Jews with similarly offensive language some years ago. And this is a Baptist minister who covered-up a long-standing sexual indiscretion that produced a child.

By |July 27th, 2008|Categories: Race and Racism|

Acts for Everyone

Readers of this blog know that I am appreciative and positive about the biblical theological contributions of Bishop N. T. Wright. They will also know that I profoundly disagree with his social and political views. I written about both in the past.

For those who do not yet know who Tom Wright is you owe it to yourself to get into his biblical theological material. If you are an ordinary reader, and thus not technically trained, you will find that he writes about 50% of his material for an academic audience and about 50% for the non-specialist audience. He is a churchman and thus he clearly feels a deep responsibility to feed ordinary people and to serve the whole church. I am deep grateful for this commitment and believe that Tom Wright is a rare gift.

Some readers only know about Tom Wright from negative reviews of his work on blog spots or through off-handed and off-putting comments by

By |July 26th, 2008|Categories: Biblical Theology|

Obama Got It Wrong About Language

A few weeks ago Senator Barack Obama, speaking in Georgia, said that: "Instead of worrying about whether immigrants can learn English, because they will learn English, you need to make sure your child can speak Spanish." This statement raises a number of compelling questions that must be a part of our cultural dialog at this important time in American history.

For example, when Barack Obama talks about change what does he really want to change? This kind of statement sounds like his view of change goes far beyond getting things done in Washington politically. He apparently wants to change the country in some rather profound ways in terms of culture and identity.

The remark came in the midst of a larger effort by the campaign to appeal for Hispanic support. And all of this is a part of the larger debate about illegal immigration. Both McCain and Obama have similar views about immigration, if the facts are studied carefully, but

By |July 25th, 2008|Categories: Culture|

On Living and Dying Well

I have told many friends, over many years, that nothing sobers and strengthens my soul like leading a funeral service. I remember many funny, unusual and delightful moments about scores of weddings I have conducted but I remember almost every funeral in a much more powerful way. I have preached a funeral service for friends of all sorts and for both my parents. I always know, as I stand by a grave, "Someday they will bring your body to such a place. Are you ready?" Nothing moves the mind and heart so powerfully.

I have conducted several funerals this summer. A recent service was for a dear friend whose husband I wrote an entire article about four and a half years ago. This appeared in one of my weekly articles. Her husband’s legacy marked my life profoundly. He was a mentor figure who helped me time and time again. He taught me how to get involved in the lives of men and

By |July 24th, 2008|Categories: Death|

Bleak House: A Dickens Novel on the Screen

I discovered Bleak House, as I do so many great film series, browsing in my local library. It seems to be an exceptional adaptation of a Charles Dickens’ novel written between 1851-53. I have seen a number of adaptations of Dickens’ works and I think this has to be the best film series of the bunch, at least of the several that I have seen to this point. This fifteen-part mini-series follows Dickens’ panoramic view of a great story line while it removes the sentimentality of the novel’s period and style. It is filled with eccentric characters and complex turns of plot, though some of them I did figure out quite ahead of the revelation itself.  It is a series that is loaded with suspense or momentum and once I got to episode five or six I was hooked and pressed on to the finish line over several days time.

The story begins, in early nineteenth century England, with two innocent young

By |July 23rd, 2008|Categories: Film|

Ecumenism: A Truly Good Word

As I work on my book, Your Church is Too Small, I find that I must again and again explain the proper understanding of the word "ecumenism." For so many it has an entirely negative tone about it. I grew up around people who felt the word was akin to a "Communist conspiracy" or something.

The word comes from the early church making reference to councils as "ecumenical councils" because the whole church was represented at the gathering. The idea of ecumenical is "the whole visible church." Clement of Alexandria, in A.D. 195, said, "The pre-eminence of the church is its oneness. It is the basis of union. In this, it surpasses all other things and has nothing like or equal to itself."

The ecumenical movement has been a movement of people and churches in dialog seeking to express their oneness in Christ for the sake of his mission in the world. The fact that this movement has gone wrong at some points does not mean the movement itself is wrong. It means sinful people mess things up. Those who sit-out

By |July 22nd, 2008|Categories: Unity of the Church|

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