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News from the Center: Digest

News from the Center: Digest (11)

 

by Gregory Seltz

By now you may have heard of two Finnish citizens, Bishop Juhana Pohjola and Cabinet Minister Päivi Räsänen. If you haven’t, you need to know their names. Why? They are about to be put on trial in Finland for the crime of teaching marriage and sexual fidelity from a biblical perspective. The trial date is January 24, 2022. Yes, the Bible is now considered “hate speech” in Finland, a Western country, home to my maternal grandparents, Rudy and Elizabeth Kilponen. They would be aghast at what has become of their homeland, which is now publicly declaring war on Christians for actually being Christian, faithful to the Word of God for the sake of others. When libertinism overcomes liberty in a culture, when equity of outcome replaces equality of access, when governments start to dictate even the thoughts of people rather than limiting their coercive, curbing power to people’s outward, unruly, actions alone, one gets the kind of “secular blasphemy laws” of Finland. Such laws not only curb dissent, but they also eventually attack the Bible’s claim to be the moral conscience of a civilized people.  

Jesus says in Matthew chapter 10: “He who receives you receives Me, and he who receives Me receives Him who sent Me. He who receives a prophet in the name of a prophet shall receive a prophet’s reward. And he who receives a righteous man in the name of a righteous man shall receive a righteous man’s reward” (Matt. 10:40-41).  

That's a good question. We are miracles, each and every one of us. The more we learn about ourselves, the less we seem to understand. Our bodies are not only symphonies, but a series of symphonies, so many parts working in harmony, in biological melodies and counter melodies, opposable thumbs, senses of sight, smell, and hearing, a cardio-vascular system, digestive, immune, nervous and circulatory systems. All working together, and in a kind of beauty, dignity, even majesty.

 

In Washington DC, in one of the most beautiful neighborhoods in all of America, there is a small park near Connecticut Avenue in the northwest part of the city.  Tall trees provide a kind of natural canopy above, and in the near-center of that vest-pocket park is a bust of one of America’s most illustrious Lutherans who is now largely forgotten.

A few years ago there was a PEW research study that reported sobering results concerning the sources of peoples’ happiness. It seems that more and more Americans are listing things other than religion and/or faith as keys to happiness and fulfillment in life. (See http://www.pewforum.org/2018/11/20/where-americans-find-meaning-in-life/ for the study). That’s not unusual in this highly secularizing time in our history. Authentic expressions of faith are virtually absent in our culture whether in the news, in media, or in entertainment. We live in a culture that rarely references the unique significance or distinctiveness of the Bible’s message or the Judeo/Christian worldview, even during the Christmas or Easter holidays. Today, it is rarely noted that people actually, yes actually, go to a Christian church on these days. If you were to watch our movies, read our newspapers, or attend our plays and concerts during these times, you are likely to leave such activities without knowing anything about the real message of these “holy” days (holidays) and why they have been so impactful in this culture down through the years. Though many still profess faith in God, our culture has decided that such things are publicly meaningless or even publicly detrimental, reserved for private opinion if at all.

In the LSB, the minister prays, "You have had mercy on those whom you created." In the Lutheran Worship, we hear the pastor intone "for you have had mercy on us children of men." In this instance, LW seems to get it right, not only in terms of poetry, but in tone and depth of meaning. Our Lord created all things, angels and animals included, but in the feast we thank God for the mercy he has shown to us, children of men. It is much more human.

 

Mary Eberstadt, senior research fellow at the Faith and Reason Institute in Washington, D.C. wrote several years ago, “The new wealth in America is familial wealth, and the new poverty, familial poverty.”  I was reminded of those words as I studied a new report by W. Bradford Wilcox and the Institute for Family Studies looking at the state of marriage and family in America as we reach (hopefully) the last stages of the COVID pandemic.

True conservativism depends on an appreciation of natural law. That is, no law can be deemed legitimate if it runs contrary to the deeper and natural law. So, a society may come up with different punishments for murder, theft, battery, and the like, but every society must recognize that these behaviors run contrary to the natural law and must be dealt with. So, we may take this idea to think about children and how they fit into society. Children are not the property of the parents, as if land or animals, but they do belong to their mom and dad. Any kind of trading of children, selling of children, and this includes sperm and egg donation, is contrary to natural law and inherently exploitative.

NEWS FROM THE CENTER FRIDAY DIGEST November 26

Jesus says, “In this world you will have trouble. But, take heart, I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33-34)

On November 11, 1620, the Pilgrims, along with others who came along for the journey, arrived on the Massachusetts shore after sailing across the Atlantic Ocean in a leaky and overcrowded ship rife with disease, with the hope of coming to a new world where they could freely practice their faith and exercise their rights of conscience.

We talk about racial justice, social justice, gender justice, ethnic justice, economic justice, and don't forget climate justice. And it all sounds good until you think about what's going on. For it ends up in equity rather than equality, and to accomplish that true justice must be trampled underfoot, for equity can only be accomplished by force.