JB Phillips

Many moons ago, my mother was given a little book by JB Phillips called Ring of Truth. This is the JB who produced those marvelous modern translations of the New Testament. He reflects in the book on what it was like to be a translator and the effect on him of getting close to the text. And then he picks out seven verses that stuck in his mind. They are an unusual selection (I think). I’ve typed them out and given a one-sentence summary of why they stuck in his head. Enjoy his list. Continue reading

Was Marx right?

Thomas Piketty in Capital shows that the rate of return on capital tends to exceed the rate of growth with the inevitable result that inequality is going to increase, possibly sharply. This tends to confirm Marx’s fears about capitalism. This inequality can be curbed by political means but the political will to do anything about it seems to be lacking, particularly as elites appear to control the levers of political power. I am rather intrigued by the role of the church in all this. Their focus on sexual issues to the exclusion of economic issues has led many to vote for a party that does not act in their economic interest. Others, such as Thomas Frank, have long since noticed this.

Healthcare & Prisons

Newsweek has a fascinating article about how our prisons are full of people who essentially lack healthcare — and we pay a fortune to keep them there. Apparently over 60% of those booked for a crime are mentally ill and another whole segment are suffering from addictions. If, and I suppose it is a big IF, healthcare reforms can connect to these people then the author suggests that we could (a) empty the prisons and (b) save a bundle of money.

Alabama prisons

A shocking article about conditions in prisons in Alabama in the New York Times — see http://nyti.ms/1eNXy3s — leaves one wondering just where the church is these days. Jesus was quite clear, “If you do this unto the least, then you do it unto me.” And yet, these appalling conditions continue in a state that is part of the Bible belt. No wonder more and more people are finding the church irrelevant.

Growing down

I have just been watching a series of young musical performers on a site called Flixxy, an alternative to YouTube that was new to me. One example can be found at http://www.flixxy.com/trumpet-solo-melissa-venema.htm. I was reminded as I watched of the notion that we grown down – from heaven – not up. Judy Garland and Elvis Presley along with Mozart are among the many examples of individuals who seem to have come into our world with their talents already fully-formed. They came to give; not to get. We can only stand in awe and wonder from what celestial realm these children came. And what that tells us about the world in which we live.

Beautiful Souls

The NY Times Book Review today talked about a book called Beautiful Souls by Eyal Press and, in particular, about a Swiss policeman who broke the Swiss law by allowing Jewish refugees to cross the border. It struck me as I read the review that we have a tendency to focus on the people who did bad and to not pay enough attention to those who did good. The book, so the review says, talks about a number of people who decided to stand against the tide — and about the price they paid (in this world — my addition).  Where do we fit the gospel into a tragedy like the Holocaust? And what was it that was different about the heroes — in Germany, in Poland, in modern-day Israel where slaughtering Palestinians seems to be OK, in Africa, and on and on. When asked, the Swiss policemen Paul Grunninger apparently said, “I could not do anything else.” I wonder at times like these whether “Christ in us” can perhaps apply to people who may not have said the right words that we seem to think necessary to be a Christian. Maybe we should recognize Christians by their deeds rather than their professions? Maybe we should acknowledge that God can choose to work through many different people? Maybe we in the church are just a tiny, little, bit arrogant when we think that WE are the only hands doing God’s work. Maybe?!

Michael

Personal pronouns

When I was a youngster, says my cousin John, we had a minister who would go ballistic if anyone deigned to put a Bible on the ground. This fetish was particularly difficult to respect when (for example) we were sitting round a campfire. His reasoning was that this was the Word of God and should be respected as such. Today he would probably be mocked as an eccentric, but his vehemence on the issue has stuck with me all these decades on. Continue reading

American Christians

“We briefly celebrated one of the few clear-cut military victories we’ve had in a long time, a win that made us feel like Americans again — smart and strong and capable of finding our enemies and striking back at them without getting trapped in multitrillion-dollar Groundhog Day occupations.” Maureen Dowd, New York Times, May 8, 2011 Continue reading