Coronavirus 2019, COVID-2019, known on the Internet by many names, originated in Wuhan Province, the People's Republic of China (PRC) about 3 months ago. The first efforts in Wuhan were to contain the virus while also containing news about the virus, because every new flu-type virus has effects on both health and economies. If the economic impact is serious enough it can also have a political impact.
As of today (as I write this) there have been 2,700 Coronavirus deaths in China and 41 outside of China. The worldwide death-rate of those getting the disease is 2.3%, compared to 0.1% death-rate for those who get other types of flu. Furthermore, how the disease spreads is still uncertain, so how to protect one’s self is a question. We are warned to wear masks, wash hands, and avoid crowds. Antiseptic, surgical protection is impractical.
For the first two months the main emphasis has been on containment. Wuhan was put in quarantine, the entire province and anyone coming or going from there. The PRC government acted aggressively to build a large hospital in 10 days, to shut down businesses and travel, and to identify and isolate cases. On the one hand this strategy has worked to bring about a sharp dip in new cases in Wuhan. On the other hand the virus was not contained.
It has spread to several other countries. Thailand was the first country outside China to see confirmed cases, but South Korea is now in the lead. The news these last couple of days is about the virus spreading in Italy, from Milan, and clearly into Europe.
Apparently, epidemiologists are expecting the Coronavirus to spread around the world. They are working frantically to identify its origin, and they have not yet done so. Bats, again (poor beasts, never get a break), were thought to be at fault. That was just a rumor – maybe. But the medical strategy is first to decide how to deal with the inevitable spread, that is, how to protect people from getting the disease and how to treat them if they seem to have gotten it, and also to develop effective immunization programs, which will take years to perfect.
Meanwhile, the virus is just about the only news worth talking about. It absorbs attention to such an extent that other things matter less than they would otherwise. It is the top news story even in the USA where the Democrats are struggling to come to terms with Bernie Sanders’s ascendency as the candidate to enter the ring against Trump. But the virus’s impact on world economies, particularly in travel industries, caused the stock market in the USA alone, to lose 1.7 trillion dollars yesterday. That’s a stunning blow that simply means 2020 will NOT be a year of economic improvement. Economy always impacts politics.
Here in Chiang Mai, hotels are struggling to stay open, sites that rely on tourist traffic are empty and employees are beginning to panic, and even markets and malls are seeing 30% less business with the percentages rising. This comes on top of an already sluggish local economy due to depressed tourism caused by other things, including terrible air pollution and stiffer competition from other tourist destinations. Tourism is a fickle industry.
Our university cancelled a work camp yesterday, scheduled to bring a score of students from Japan as it has for 30 years. A hundred Chinese students are unable to come to begin work next week, and we don’t know when they will be able to come. This is a big disruption for them and for our university.
Nationwide, the virus is “one more thing,” but it is a big thing on top of everything else. Thailand’s economic picture is not as rosy as had been hoped. Several major companies are leaving. Chevrolet announced a couple of days ago that they are closing operations here in Thailand. The Prime Minister is dealing with a no-confidence motion this week, which he will probably survive, but his popularity, never very great, is declining over revelations that leak out about shocking financial deals, and now the dissolution of the third largest political party in Thailand. This has resulted in student protests on university campuses all over the country. Those protests may simply “blow off steam” since they are not spreading beyond university campuses. Exams are coming very soon. Student protests will end before they bring any change to the way the government operates. In fact, the virus affects even these things. If a large rally were to be held, say in the center of Bangkok, attendance would be smaller than otherwise because of the virus. Crowds are to be avoided.
Even here in our village, in a spur on the valley, back behind the mountain, everyone knows about the Coronavirus. They are thinking about it all the time. They are keeping track of where “cases” (confirmed, unconfirmed, suspected, and rumored) are being talked about. The news sources are public and social media. The virus is viral.
Witch-izards and Wiz-itches Join LGTBIQAK-SOGI-WZ PRIDE 2020
“Gender diversity now includes half the population, alphabetically speaking,” the Wizitch Sunshine commented proudly. “We don’t mind bringing along the last few letters. It’s important for us to be included. We have been discriminated against for centuries, and that has to end.”
There is no denying the suffering imposed on witches of all genders and cultures throughout history. Once in a while exceptional individuals worked their way into the office of Grand Vizier or Vestal Priestess, but all too often it was “to the stake with them” and a fiery end.
“We thought about having a Pride Parade of our own” Sunshine (a nom-de-broom) admitted. “It’s the thing to do, these days. I was inspired by the Islamic Pride Parade reported this week. If there has ever been a persecuted gay community it’s them.”
The fall-out from this report is that some non-Muslim gay protesters wanted to know why the Islamic Pride group couldn’t just join the rest of the LGBT+ people in big Pride Parades being planned. It would show we’re united.”
Sunshine told our reporter, “Obviously those protesters don’t understand what Pride is all about. Those who are threatened and driven into hiding have their sense of self-worth eroded. It takes courage to march. Marching restores pride as well as community. Identifying with a specific persecuted group enhances pride that may be diluted by joining a massive march.”
“Have you been persecuted?” our reporter asked.
“Not me, personally, as such. Witches where hunted nearly to extinction as recently as 150 years ago right around here in Chiang Mai, but this gender transition part is what our generation is dealing with.”
“We, and by that, so far, I mean ‘I’, I decided not to have a separate Witch-izard-Wiz-itch Pride Parade here in Chiang Mai , however,” Sunshine sighed and then brightened.
“What do you indicate by calling yourself a Wiz-itch?”
Sunshine glowed, “These days we affirm our diversity by being precise about our identity. That’s how we establish our unity in the realm of sexual exceptions.”
When our reporter didn’t quite understand this, Sunshine explained, “I’m neither 100% Wizard nor Witch. Society would like to force me into one or the other box, but I’m trying to help non-binary, intermediate and transitional terms gain traction. I’m a Wizitch, a Wizard who is tentatively moving toward the Witch side of the spectrum.”
“How many transgender Witch-to-Wiz and Wiz-to-Witch individuals do you estimate there to be in Chiang Mai?” Sunshine was asked.
“So far there’s just me that I know of (and I’m often nor sure about me), but after this Saturday there may be others who come out onto their brooms in the daylight. I’m what you could call the Wizitch vanguard.”
[NOTE: Chiang Mai Pride 2020 really is taking place on Saturday 22/02/2020. A march through the city is scheduled to begin at 7 p.m. To find details search the Internet for Chiang Mai Pride 2020 or check the Chiang Mai Pride Facebook page.]
Spiritual corruption begins with an unremitting terror that sinks so completely into one’s being that it can transmogrify. That terror gradually becomes the opposite. There it festers and insinuates itself into other areas of one’s existence like a cancer.
When it reemerges it is in such a dissipated spiritual state that it will either take what seems to be desperate measures to survive or heroic measures to achieve some magnificent illusion.
One way to assess the nature of a manifestation of spiritual corruption is to consider its two basic myths.
First, there is a formative or POSITIVE MYTH about what is or what may be. To function as a powerful positive myth it must have three basic aspects:
1. It must be ATTRACTIVE. It must express what is passionately desired.
2. It must be RICH. It must be endowed with heritage, nobility, and essence.
3. It must be WORTHY. It must describe a state that is valuable and worth effort, even though it requires a term of sacrifice. In fact, it is likely to be in the achievement of the goals of this transition to glory that the dynamics are set into motion which brings about the end.
But this mythical destiny is essentially the opposite of what it proposes to be.
Second, there is a NEGATIVE MYTH about an enemy that stands in the way. This enemy is thought of as the real danger, the essential problem, and the basic obstacle. The enemy is traditional, always there throughout conscious history, but now this old enemy is radicalized, magnified, and utilized to rally excessive protective and proactive defensive measures. However, when the enemy in this myth is analyzed it can be seen:
1. The enemy is essentially imaginary, not a viable, actual threat
2. The enemy is actually a personification of one’s own dysfunctionality.
But, ironically, this presumed enemy, now considered mythically, has really been one of the contributors to the authentic destiny that could have been realized for the individual, society or nation that has now vilified it.
Corrupt spirituality is either a deadly cancer or a ticking time bomb. It will kill sooner rather than later, one way or another.
One scenario is for the spiritual corruption to “mature,” its corruption spreading to ever- widening areas of spirituality, increasingly consuming all one’s spiritual energy until the deterioration and decay expire into doom and extinction, sometimes with a final spectacular eruption, but sometimes not.
The other scenario is for outside forces to undertake AN INVASION. (There are countless forms of invasive action – surgical, military, reformative, and other interventions – initiated and carried out by entities acting without the cooperation and sometimes against the will of the afflicted individual.) This intervention will be either to eradicate the expanding threat or to redeem the elemental aspects of the corrupt entity in order to create a new order, society, or national entity.
The dynamics that will most often tend to coalesce the external forces that lead to the invasion and consequent decimation of the old entity, society, or nation are:
1. A reaction to some great aggression that was undertaken to advance the positive myth.
2. A reaction to some great abomination that was motivated by the negative myth.
3. A reaction to both.
German National Socialism from 1925-1945
Their foundational story was that Teutonic-Germanic people were the descendants of the Aryan supermen of Atlantis; the survivors from an Atlantis-like island named Thule immigrated to Tibet; and then migrated back to Germany holding onto certain key encoded truths. These German-Aryans were the race of founders of civilization. The Nazi myth was that the genetic heritage of the Aryans was retained in the Nordic-Aryan race, and the Aryan wisdom and knowledge was available through esoteric and occult means to those with special abilities. The Aryan race would again attain their leadership of the world when their time came and the messianic leader appeared. Their long-expected Leader was not a mere mortal, but the incarnation of the perfection that the Aryan heritage had preserved, and he and a caste of special highly-select pure-blood Aryans would carry forward the reestablishment of the Aryan race. The Nazis’ “positive myth” provided the rationale the Nazis used to inspire their initiates to take over other lands, particularly those to the east.
This foundational myth was about physicality (blood and land), but it was expressed in meta-cultural terms, with the Aryans as heroes. A hero is brave in the service of others. This was corrupted in Nazism. The heroic class of Nazis, as they celebrated their heroes with songs and festivals, was dedicated, not to the service of others, but to the Fuhrer, one of their own, and to the Volk, their own people, and the Vaterland, their homeland. Patriotism very often constricts and contorts heroism in this self-serving, egocentric way. It is politically expedient and often popular, but it is a spiritual corruption.
The anti-heroes of the negative myth the Nazis propounded were the “destroyers” of civilization; they were the dark races and Semites led by the Jews. The Jews had insinuated themselves into the most critical points of society where they held key roles in banking, industry, science and intellectual enterprises. What’s more, they played sinister roles in much else, such as religion, medicine and geo-politics. It was Hitler’s plan from the beginning to eradicate the Jews from the German Fatherland. It was to be his legacy that the Jews were removed from Europe. But, by the latter stages of the Second World War, Hitler dreamed of trying to eradicate the memory that the Jews had ever existed in Europe.
The myth of the adversary was the opposite of the foundational myth of the Nazis. It posited that the Jews were demonic (the reverse of heroes), rather than being holders of key service roles in every level of society, which was a more apt description of their role in nineteenth and twentieth century Germany and middle Europe. The Nazis imagined a great conspiracy afoot, with the Jews in league with satanic forces behind it all. Since the roots of the danger could not be discerned, and the extent of the danger could not be exaggerated, any effort to thwart the enemy was justified, and needed to be carried out at every level: the Jewish genetic pool had to be eradicated; the Jewish intellectual heritage had to be expunged, and so forth. The Nazis’ “negative myth” justified wiping out the Jews. It is equally chilling to consider how ridding society of the Jews was largely acceptable to such a large percentage of the Germans as well as the Nazis.
It is characteristic of corrupted spirituality that the individual (person, society or nation) cannot heal itself, largely because healing involves initiatives that appear to be insidious. To heal would involve the unthinkable removal of both the positive and the negative myths, and therefore the destruction of the reason for being. Yielding would lead to an unimaginable outcome and back into terror. The very opposite kind of courage and leadership than the heroic sort being celebrated would be called for. Left to its own devices, if actions being undertaken are allowed to reach their final conclusion, corrupted spirituality expires in a final Ragnarok sort of Gotterdammerung, or simply becomes too much to sustain and then withers and putrefies.
However, in the face of the Nazi aggression against the nations of Europe, and their being in league with other aggressors, more decisive action was decided upon. An alliance of nations was formed to not only oppose Nazi military moves, but to reverse them and then to obliterate the threat of them re-emerging. The first motive for invading Nazi-held lands was to oppose Nazi aggression. Meanwhile, Nazi atrocities not only (nor primarily) against military targets, but against civilian populations, gnawed at the consciences of the Allied nations. Even though many people in those Allied nations agreed with some of the stereotype stories about Jews, the treatment of Jews through mass murder and the gradual truth about the concentration and death camps, further motivated the invasion. In the end, it was not just the elimination of the ability of the Nazis to wage war that purged Germany of its toxic spiritual corruption, but the exposure of the rottenness of its enabling myths. That effect was greatly speeded up, of course, by conclusive military action.
Finally, it would be unrealistic to think that all the seeds of those myths have been completely and utterly obliterated. Friends in Austria and Germany report that there are neo-Nazi factions alive and growing again with variations of those same empowering myths. Other friends in the Americas and England, as well as elsewhere scattered around the world, tell of nationalistic groups (sometimes actually employing Nazi titles and regalia) who have revised the myths and gain energy from them to undertake action plans.
There are also movements and groups who deny any affinity with the Nazis and the content of their myths, who have other corrupted narratives of an endangered society or nation beset by people bent on disempowering and destroying their entitlements, who are rallying around an inward-looking charismatic leader.
The time comes when vigilance is not enough.
[Note on the picture above: The Dadaist artist John Heartfield was a fearless critic of Hitler and his movement. His montages showed the spiritual corruption inherent in militant nationalism.]
In the two countries most important to me personally, Thailand and the USA, one of the most enigmatic controversies is about disappearing monuments. And in both cases the underlying issue is, “What is our significant history, really?” To be sure, monuments disappear all the time, sometimes long after whatever they were celebrating has been forgotten. This fact, and the hubris that led to the erection of the monument in the first place, was the subject of one of Shelly’s most famous poems, the most memorable stanza of which brags, “My name is Ozymandias, king of kings. Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair.” All that was left of those works was a shattered statue.
We will return to the more recent disappearing statues shortly. First, a bit about monuments.
There are various reasons for erecting monumental statuary. Some of the main reasons are: (1) to serve as a venue and stage for a great celebration. The Arc de Triomphe in Paris and the Arch of Titus in Rome are examples. Conquering heroes need suitable backdrops for their victory celebrations and they build those sites impressively because they expect praise of their conquests to be lasting. (2) An even larger number are erected to memorialize persons who are significant to the cultural heritage of a people. At the present time that is what is supposedly being memorialized in the world’s largest bas relief statuary on Stone Mountain, Georgia (USA), and the tallest free-standing one, the Statue of Unity in India. Using heroes as metaphors was also the purpose of the sculptures on Mount Rushmore, South Dakota (which is likely to be the last trace of human habitation on earth when the human race becomes extinct, according to a pundit whose speculation I read on-line, so it must be true). (3) A third category is of people whom later descendants or beneficiaries do not want to be forgotten. Soldier and Sailor memorials and statuary of former kings or celebrities do this.
The Statue of Unity is an immense likeness of Vallabhbhai Patel, a leader of the independence movement of India. The statue is 597 feet high, higher than any other statue, even religious ones. Patel remarkably united the hundreds of principalities in India into the united nation of India. The statue is 2 years old. It is so young that controversy about it is just getting started.
On the other hand controversy is main feature of the huge Stone Mountain bas relief sculpture honoring Jefferson Davis, Stonewall Jackson, and Robert E. Lee. It is immense and it has more visitors than any other site in Georgia. Controversy is due to what the sculpture stands for. Defenders of the monument say it is a marker of the historical fact that at one time those three men lived, served heroically, and were appreciated by people of the South. Opponents say that, as with all public monuments lauding leaders of the Confederacy during the War Between the States, Stone Mountain Park ignores the basic facts that those men and the war they led were to sustain slavery, and to energize movements to retain racial divisions. It cannot be a mere coincidence that the official opening of the park was delayed several years so it could be held on the very day of the 100th anniversary of the assassination of Abraham Lincoln. The park and the sculpture were constructed as the US Civil Rights Movement was beginning to succeed. Stone Mountain was in defiance of that movement. [For more about this aspect of the removal of Confederate statues see an earlier blog essay entitled “Confederate Statues”: www.kendobson.asia/blog/confederate-statues ]
Reasons for removing monuments are as varied as the ones for erecting them. Some are removed to better preserve them, or to make way for something more important (such as an expressway or condominium) as the monument has lost importance, or to dull collective memory about why there used to be these heroes. Since there can be conflicting opinions about just how important those memories are, arguments can arise about why the monuments are being removed. To get at the bottom of that, it is necessary to be clear about why the monuments were put up and who wants them taken down.
Removing or simply moving monuments to heroes of the Confederacy is contentious in this regard. They are historic, say the preservationists. They were put up to validate the fiction that “the Confederacy was a grand idea and the subjection of inferior races was just fine,” say the ones offended by the monuments.
Here in Thailand monument removal is going on right now.
Khaosot-english newspaper carried the latest of several articles by senior staff writer Pravit Rojanaphruk on January 27, 2020 reporting on the removal of two statues of heroes being demoted.
Background: in 1932 a revolution in Siam replaced the absolute monarchy with a constitutional monarchy and elected parliament, called a democracy. The two main leaders of the revolution were Field Marshal Plaek Pibulsongkram and his colleague Phraya Phahol Pholphayuhasena. In the years following, various monuments to this revolution and to its leaders were erected, including the largest, the Democracy Monument, in the middle of the royal boulevard connecting several royal palaces. Democracy Monument has been the rallying point for several political movements including deadly ones in 1973 and 1976.
What happened late last month is that a statue of Field Marshal Pibul who founded the National Defense College was removed from its place of honor on the college campus. It was first reported gone on January 20. Then on the 27th both Field Marshal Pibul’s and Phraya Phahol’s statues were removed from an army camp in Lopburi and the camp was renamed, stripping any mention of the revolutionary leaders. This followed the removal on December 28, 2018 of a monument commemorating the government’s victory over a pro-royalist counter-revolution attempt in 1933.
The first democracy monument to be bulldozed was in Buriram Province on 7 November 2014 right after the military coup removed the last fully-elected parliament and installed an ultra-royalist military government. They said the monument was removed to make way for a highway.
The most controversial removal was also the smallest. In April 2017 a small brass marker disappeared in the night after having been imbedded in the pavement of the Royal Plaza in Bangkok for 80 years marking the spot where the Democracy Revolution began. It was replaced with one praising the monarchy, just after the new King ascended the throne.
Meanwhile, phrases from the official swearing-in ceremony for government officials have been removed that mentioned their duty to the constitution rather than the monarch. Control of royal funds of several kinds has been moved from government to palace officials. A new parliament has been installed with entire blocks simply appointed by the military, and important branches of the military have been put back under the King’s command.
This week the government scurried to deny a rumor spreading on social media that the next to go would be the Democracy Monument itself. A major expansion and improvement of the boulevard “will not touch the Democracy Monument” which sits in the middle of the street, the government spokesperson insisted.
The model of the democratic constitution still resides prominently on its three layers of ceremonial basin atop the Democracy Monument, although the actual constitution has been replaced at least 19 times.
It takes a special kind of blindness not to see how the idea of constitutional democracy is being removed one monument and one step at a time. But there are other ways to dilute the rule of law and hand it over to rulers. Refusing to let courts of justice function impartially is one of them. Fixing it so that elections no longer put the people in office that the majority of citizens want to be their representatives is another.
History is harder to manipulate, but people’s memories are easier to deceive when historical reminders are removed. Start with the oncoming generation. Remove the statues, then shorten mentions of inconvenient events in text books, and pretty soon history is all fixed.
There seems to be a rule that governments will not act on social issues until societies have demanded action. It is probably more complicated than that. SOME social issues will be politicized and then action will be determined by political expediency. At that point political action will no longer primarily respond to social demand.
A year ago it seemed likely that here in Thailand some form of civil partnership law would be passed, perhaps in a few weeks. Now, a whole year later, we are further away from that prospect, as limited as it was. It seems that one government entity passes it off to another, hearings are held, documents produced, legal opinions emerge, and then we wait. Meanwhile excitement cools. Pressure diminishes, but never quite disappears. Some further step is still on the horizon.
Fortunately, LGBT rights as human rights, including the right for same-sex couples to register their relationship, has not been politicized. So far, here in Thailand, no political group, in order to garner votes and support, has openly declared its opposition to civil partnerships or even marriage. None of the three essential Thai institutions of culture has mounted a campaign against same-sex relationships, LGBT rights, or protection of gender diverse people. That is, the Buddhist hierarchy has not issued an edict on this, as have other religious hierarchies around the world, including the Church of England this week (the Archbishop announcing that sex outside of marriage is contrary to God’s will and same sex couples should practice sexual abstinence). The “palace” has said nothing in this regard. And the government has not acted against normalizing same-sex relationships, as it has sometimes in the past.
That does not mean there has been no progress at all. Official action is not the only form of important action.
In many ways, public media is a better gauge of social opinion. In the past few years there has been a shift away from stereotyping gender diverse people. In television serialized movies, for example, gay and lesbian, and sometimes transgender people, are not always ludicrous or tragic. That’s progress. The number of appearances of gay characters who are just there because they’re there is greater, and the number of gender diverse media personalities (such as emcees on game shows or news announcers) is greater than ever.
An innovation in the last few years, indicating expanded acceptance of gender diversity, is the development of gender-awareness and support organizations. HIV-AIDS used to be just about the only issue that could get an organization going and keep it funded. Now there are organizations and NGOs operating on a number of issues such as human trafficking, theater arts, and academic programs.
New initiatives are being utilized to keep awareness of LGTBKQIA diversity strong. Later in February Chiang Mai Pride will again lead hundreds of us through the city to a rally organized and promoted by the new-bold generation. We are confident of police protection and assistance, whereas ten years ago the police prevented a pride parade and impounded marchers for hours. Earlier in January Dhanareeswara Awards were presented at Chulalongkorn University to those being recognized for outstanding dedication to the “Sexual Diversity Community.” Our friend, Sirisak (pictured above), a tireless human rights advocate was presented one of the statuettes. Sirisak is a leader in using social media and public performance to promote awareness of diversity issues nearly every day. These opportunities were unheard of until recently.
Simultaneously, the ever-rotating cycle of government control of such enterprises as gay and lesbian businesses, even sex-oriented businesses such as massage shops and saunas, seems to have revolved toward less restriction again. But the most noteworthy shift has been toward main-streaming social options for LGKT (Lesbian, Gay, Kathoey, and Trans) people in even smaller cities and towns.
Here in our chain of villages a new generation is entering adulthood, that is, they are exercising their prerogatives. I have noticed that they are doing this cautiously, as the generation before them did, but they are encountering less family resistance. There is not the same anguish to be overcome by several years of patient easing of parental concern. It is easier to get a same-sex spouse or “fan” (boyfriend or girlfriend) welcome and expected at family and clan gatherings. Even more clearly, social circles for emerging new adults are growing gender-blind. It just doesn’t matter as it once did when gay guys had to flock together or hide. They did form social groups, but non-gays weren’t included in any numbers. For the 20-somethings I see around here, the gay-straight binary is not as rigid, the social groups are inclusive, and stress is less. (In the group photo accompanying this essay it’s impossible to guess who’s what). It is still a major decision to transition into Trans, however. [This is a personal observation based on no scientific study].
So, although government action is stalled, the social foundation for government action continues its slow expansion.
Heresy, as we know it in the 21st Century, is departure from the established doctrine of a religious group. So, one group’s orthodoxy might be another group’s heresy. In our modern age, the penalty for heresy tends to be far less than in former centuries. Even arch-conservatives would only expel you from their list of benefits, some supposedly eternal, for advocating heresy. Thus expelled, you would probably be welcome into another group.
Nevertheless, I would like to propose that for every authentic extensive Christian denomination there are at least FIVE HERESIES most of us could agree are unacceptable.
First, a theology is heretical that uses theological rationale to justify leaders who are con-artists, charlatans, or demagogues. In fact, there are other types of leaders who might also be included on the list of those who ought to be excluded from leadership and the theological justification for them exposed as heretical. Impossible as it might seem to disagree with this, in Christianity and every other world-wide religion such leaders have emerged. Theology has always been cited to validate those rogues.
The leader of this type who comes most readily to mind is Jim Jones, who, in the summer of 1977 led about a thousand members of his San Francisco Peoples Temple to build a commune in Guyana. Many studies and investigations conclude that Jones became a demagogue, which enabled him to execute a plan a year later that led to 918 of his commune being murdered or committing suicide by poison. The teaching and prescribed doctrine that Jones used would surely be branded as heresy by all religions.
Second, a theology is heretical that employs selective literalism in interpreting holy literature. Here, the situation is nearly the reverse of the first type of heresy. Almost every religion in the world has some collection of holy literature that is used to identify the doctrinal position of the religion, and in all cases the use of scripture is selective. Since most “holy literature” is centuries old and is a collection of writings that must be interpreted to apply to present circumstances, the interpretive method is key. In some religions there are interpreters (councils, gurus, etc.) who have authority, whereas in other religions some interpretive framework has been established. Arguments, of course, are to be expected. It is when a group has declared that all of its scripture is equally true, infallible, literally accurate, and wholly to be believed that trouble comes when the group is forced to select some perspectives and exclude others. Heresy happens when a group affirms that scripture is 100% true but some of it must be ignored. Selective literalism is the heresy.
Third, a theology is heretical that contradicts the principle that love is the motive for action in behalf of the endangered, oppressed, victimized, and powerless in the world. A theological position which does that is completely exposed and undeniably heretical when the operating principle is privilege, vengeance, wealth, or glory.
It’s not that such heresy rarely happens. It happens frequently, but is rarely called heretical. Prosperity theologies are widespread and diverse. The groups that espouse them tend to be both those who need them to justify their opulent wealth and those who need them to hope for relief through obedience. Theologies that justify revenge are roundly denounced but stubbornly persistent. Murder of adulterers, or of girls who are raped to defend a clan’s honor are appalling. But theological permission to undertake vengeance is facile. For example, it is disguised as pursuing purity, insisting on morality, or defending the faith, but always against others (unless it is used confessionally to avoid being declared one of the others).
Fourth, a theology is heretical that asserts a fixed and final knowledge of the will of God, a limited and exclusive number of those who can know that will, and an egocentric (we/us) declaration of who alone can fulfill God’s will.
The most pervasive heresy is this: that we alone know and do what God wants. We are exceptional in that regard. We are the exclusive owners of the truth. We are right, but more importantly, others are wrong. None get to God but by and due to us.
Here I feel called to defend Christianity. It is one thing for Christians to insist that Jesus declared himself to be the Way, the Truth, and the Life and that none get to the Father God but by me, and it is quite another thing to insist we followers of Jesus also possess such far-reaching prerogatives. Heresy is on the way when religious people become content with their status, and also when they become convinced of their exclusive claim on the truth. It is not only polite to listen to others; it is inevitably productive of expanded wisdom. I believe the distinction between conservative Christians and heretical conservative Christians is clear. To put it simply, Jesus Christ may be the way to God but that does not mean we are.
Fifth, a theology is heretical that refuses to acknowledge the possibility and consequences of heresy.
Christ Hedges put it this way, “The greatest moral failing of the liberal Christian church was its refusal, justified in the name of tolerance and dialogue, to denounce … heretics.”*
It is nice to just be kind to everyone, but failure to oppose those who are dangerous and destructive does not solve any of the world’s threats. Rising fascism and militant nationalism are potentially lethal, beginning with the marginalized and those targeted for destruction. That is why a theology that validates such ideas is heretical. When a political power declares its intent to demonize those who are helpless, no matter how they are helpless or who they are, religious spokespersons and advocates are heretics. Their heresy should be exposed and their religious pretences opposed. It will not likely cause them to change their minds, but it will rally those who are not yet impotent and feckless to oppose them.
The largest reason why people see religion as useless is because the heretics are so destructive and others are so passive.
*Chris Hedges, “Onward, Christian Fascists” in truthdig, Dec. 30, 2019.
[A previous essay in this short series was “Wrong Theology” posted November 8, 2019, http://www.kendobson.asia/blog/wrong-theology ]
REFLECTIONS ON REAL HISTORY
In one of the most famous speeches in the twentieth century, on March 6, 1946 at Presbyterian-related Westminster College in Fulton, Missouri, Winston Churchill declared, “Beware … time may be short …. From Stettin in the Baltic to Trieste in the Adriatic, an Iron Curtain has descended across the continent [of Europe].”
At the time, scarcely six months after the peace treaty signed on the deck of the Missouri had ended World War II, no one wanted to hear that some of the agreements between former allies were tragically flawed, or that Josef Stalin had become a force in Europe more hideous than Hitler. But Albania, then Yugoslavia, and later East Germany, Poland, Bulgaria, Romania, Hungary, and Czechoslovakia each found herself imprisoned, as Churchill had warned, behind a wall of iron.
Every voice of opposition was smothered as intellectual, political, and economic life in these countries of the “Second World” fell in line to serve communism controlled by Stalin. As the Iron Curtain descended, victims mounted, soon equaling and then exceeding those of the war just ended. Those who refused to turn their creativity, their devotion, and their will over to the state were tortured, brainwashed, or deported to the Stalags of Siberia. Millions were simply buried, dead or alive, in immense graves carved out of pine forests; while all the rest of the people of Eastern Europe slaved to produce ships, food, coal, trucks, and everything else at prices Stalin set, while subsisting on scraps for themselves. Life behind the Iron Curtain was grim and gray, with the tap root of incentive severed, and the increasingly rare flowers of hope for a better life chopped off.
Still, here and there, defying the intimidation of the secret police, people plotted and planned to risk everything to escape. Several tried to twist through the tangled barbed wire or scaled the concrete walls, some swam, a few tried to fly to freedom. A handful escaped, most did not. Others applied for exit visas and emigration permits, trying to pry tiny gaps through communist red-tape. Some were branded lunatics for their efforts. A few whose names became known in the West were expelled to Israel or America.
From time to time, the conditions of survival became so unbearable that a popular protest, a labor strike, or political demonstration attempted to pressure the Socialist bureaucracies into a measure of decentralization. The response was rapid, tanks firing on unarmed crowds, the public protestors publicly repressed, and in the silence that followed, thick with darkness, a massive round-up of people who had ever dared to think deviant thoughts of freedom, self-determination, and relief.
The Iron Curtain was possibly more awful than even Churchill had imagined.
However, the descent of the Iron Curtain across Europe also marked the beginning of a tragic chapter in the history of Western Europe, countries of America, and the rest of the “First World.” As the curtain descended on nations now under Soviet domination, the first world shuddered. The specter of war haunted the halls of Washington, London, Paris and Geneva. And the reality of the threat was demonstrated repeatedly, as Mao Tze Tung completed the Communist seizure of China, as North Korean communists tried to conquer the rest of the peninsula, as Khruschev sat defiantly at the Soviet desk at the United Nations pounding his shoe on the table and announcing, “We will bury you.” America believed John Foster Dulles who predicted that the nations of South East Asia or Central America would fall like dominoes if any one of them toppled to Communism. J. Edgar Hoover began uncovering the Red Threat much closer to home during those days. Spies had wormed their way into every sector of American industry and government.
One result was that both the first and second worlds, both the industrialized nations of the West and the nations behind the Iron Curtain, had to devote incredible percentages of their gross national products to armaments in the name of national defense. Every menace, real, potential, or imaginary, had to be prepared for. More money was spent on armaments in the name of national defense than ever had been spent on the military before, leading to temptations to use the weapons and the technology to make preemptive attacks against targets that were presumed to be on the way to becoming a threat.
As much because of nervousness and the proximity of arms as anything, proxy wars and military strikes blew up in Angola, Pakistan, Indonesia, Nicaragua, Lebanon, the Sudan, the Falkland Islands, Chad, the Persian Gulf, and, of course, in Vietnam and Afghanistan.
Instead of the benefits of peace at the end of the Second World War, the world on both sides of the Iron curtain knew the iron grip of four decades of Cold War.
A second result of the Iron Curtain has been what it has done to people. Even human respect has been destroyed. People on both sides of the Iron Curtain grew to forget that beneath all the political rhetoric and behind all the machines of war and defense were PEOPLE. At any moment this monstrous forgetfulness could have turned into nuclear tragedy. It already amounted to a tragedy of international paranoia, fed by a climate that made no allowance for one universal fact. It is one of the ironic triumphs of the Cold War that even in the United States, the country that should be first to trumpet the innate irrepressible nature of the human spirit, even in the USA nearly everyone forgot to count on the power of the idea of freedom, the power of human dignity, and the force of people whose wills are fused.
We were amazed and unprepared when the Communist Party lost an open election in Poland and stepped aside for a Solidarity government. We were mystified when Czechoslovakia refused to send thousands of vacationing East Germans back home at the end of summer in 1989, and when soldiers began snipping the barbed wire fences along the Hungarian frontier. We did not really catch up with the tide of events until the East German government announced that the Berlin Wall would be opened, and then tens of thousands of people started to chip away at the concrete barrier, and $10 chunks of it began showing up for sale as Christmas presents in New York and Chicago.
Then it hit us that the Iron Curtain which Churchill saw descending on Europe in 1946 had disappeared. It was being dismantled even as the Berlin Wall was crumbling and the barbed wire was being cut between Hungary and Austria. The Iron Curtain was removed and no Soviet tanks rolled into Sophia, Bulgaria to keep the Communist Party from being swept aside and no Russian MIGs on Christmas Eve strafed Belgrade to save the life of Ceausescu in Romania.
The Iron Curtain which rumbled down so visibly and terribly across thousands of miles of Europe was never anything more substantial than the willingness of the Soviet Red Army to go to war for their Communist underlings. It took nothing more than the will of Mikhail Gorbachev to divert military spending away from the Cold War into industrial and commercial development of Russia, and then millions of people were free.
The world, as it turns out, was not ready for this to happen.
The sudden end of Communism in East Germany, advocated so effectively by pastors, brought about the collapse of industry and businesses and the grim, but reliable, stability of people’s incomes. It has taken another 30 years to recover.
As the Cold War ended thirty years ago, a preacher in the East Liberty Presbyterian Church in Pittsburgh, prophetically asked, “What enemy will America imagine next?” That shocking question has resonated across the decades.
America, it seems, cannot do without an enemy to oppose. Nor can America’s European ancestral nations. Against all odds and common values, the world has evolved a new sort of war, a continuation of the Cold War that flourished.
In 1989 we did not imagine how the Cold War would evolve. We did not foresee how the territorial issues between Israel and Palestine would expand into something like an emergence of the Medieval Crusades, but without marching armies focused on recapturing or defending Holy Land. Instead, the motives are revenge, that ravenous and insatiable beast that insinuates itself in human souls. Instead of walled citadels, the targets of the new Cold War are ever shifting and unpredictable. One act of revenge, by a renegade perhaps, leads to a larger one. A downed plane at Lockerbie led to revenge against the nation of Lybia. The attack on America on 9/11 2001 has led to twenty years of unending and expanding battles from Lebanon to Afghanistan costing trillions of dollars, with tangential battles as far-flung and diverse as those in Mindanao, Nigeria, and Xinjiang. The form of the newly evolved Cold War is also new, employing information technology, cyber terrorism, unmanned weapons run by artificial intelligence, ethnic cleansing, and political alliances more surreptitious than at any time since the age of empires that led to World War I.
In 1945 and again in 1990 peace was won, and rejected.
Friends in First Presbyterian Church of Alton, Illinois: greetings from Chiang Mai, Thailand as we enter the Year of Our Lord 2020. This begins the two hundredth year since the Presbyterian form of Christianity began to shed its influence on the several Altons between where the Illinois River and the Missouri River flow into the mighty and sometimes terrible Mississippi.
Presbyterian preachers found hospitality with pioneer farmer Enoch Long in 1820 and formed a church in June 1821. That church did not thrive but Enoch Long and his family testified ever after that they remained loyal Presbyterians in Upper Alton and joined a second attempt that was more successful. In 1831 a second First Presbyterian Church was organized of which you are the present members.
Threats to Presbyterian ministry and mission recurred. The most dire began in 1837 when opposition to abolition of slavery along with land speculation threatened the church and the martyrdom of the Rev. Elijah Lovejoy led to a financial crisis that nearly wiped out the town and bankrupted the state.
Still the church endured, boosted by several revivals.
During the century 1870 to 1970 First Presbyterian Church of Alton was one of the leading churches in Alton, with community leaders and gentry among its 1200 members at its peak. This congregation was the presbytery’s largest contributor to the world-wide work of the Presbyterian Church for many years in a row. First Presbyterian Church was instrumental in establishing 7 other churches. There were more than 400 children in Sunday school, more than 30 women’s meetings a month, and five large choirs. Perhaps most impressive was the influence of the church on such community enterprises as the YMCA, YWCA, Chautauqua, and later organizations providing services to the community.
Throughout these years of influence and accomplishment there were slumps: the Great Depression, the departure of glass and steel industries, and then the fire that destroyed the sanctuary in 1988.
Meanwhile, the tide was turning for Presbyterians everywhere in America. First came the split over ordination of women, then shifts of priorities that eroded the importance of Sunday morning, and pretty soon churches began to close.
In Alton the list of closed churches now includes all the Presbyterian churches except this one. It is the same all over. In my home town where there were 3 Presbyterian churches, now there is one; all the rural Methodist churches are closed and the three United Methodist Churches in town are also reduced to one.
For a while it looked like mega-churches would emerge to meet the needs of a new generation, but there are no mega churches drawing 10 thousand participants anywhere between the south suburbs of Chicago and Little Rock. That and many other hopes are fading.
As we look at our empty pews and aging faithful, it is tempting to despair about the Christian enterprise in America. This brings me back to an inspiring insight from the Old Testament prophet Haggai.
In about the year 520 BC the prophet persuaded the refugees who lived on the rubble of the destroyed city of Jerusalem to re-build a temple. Not long into this project, depression again overwhelmed the builders. The oldest among them could probably remember the splendor of Solomon’s wonderful temple. Even the youngest could see the immense foundation stones of that temple on which they were erecting nothing more than a holy hut.
“Yet now take courage, O Zerubbabel, says the Lord; take courage, O Joshua, son of Jehozadak, the high priest; take courage, all you people of the land, says the Lord … for I am with you. …My Spirit abides among you, fear not.”
Take courage, fear not.
That is not easy advice to take, nor should it be glibly given. Anyone looking around Alton today can see almost a score of closed churches. No one can promise that any particular church will survive the next 50 years. What has happened to churches in Alton in the past 50 years was unexpected and would have been unthinkable in 1970.
Still, “fear not.” Thirty years ago these words were proclaimed from the pulpit of First Presbyterian Church, “There is no evidence at all, that God has ever abrogated the promise of his presence from us. There is not a shred of proof that God has decided to withdraw his Spirit, and let us drift into insignificance. Quite the contrary. Time after time in the history of this congregation God has intervened to rescue it. God has proved his love for this church in every generation. In ways that witnesses professed to be miraculous, God has inspired people to contribute money for a succession of buildings. In every decade God has moved people and initiated groups in this church to accomplish work that has changed the course of lives and even nudged the city and the region. On a daily basis we have seen the hand of God working to guide, to correct, to affirm and to encourage this church. There is no sensible conclusion, then, that God’s promise is less believable than any temporary evidence of decline. The substantial fact is God’s irrevocable word, backed by decades of repeated confirmation, that God loves this church.”
If I were to speak of this now, after thirty years, I would add, “The four buildings that housed First Presbyterian Church since 1820 have been useful, but they are not what God was doing. Nor, is all that God was doing called “Presbyterian.” It is God’s work, begun here long before settlers migrated here, that will continue. It is enough that we know we have an important share of that work to do in our time.”
What God is going to do with this church is “beyond our ken,” as our Scottish forebears put it. We can hope that this lovely building will continue to be useful and appreciated. We can imagine still another “season of revivals” as we had at the turn of the 20th century. But we cannot foresee what God has foreordained and set in motion. We entirely over-rate the importance of what we think we see. For, of all the inscrutable mysteries that engulf us, the ability of our senses to deceive us is perhaps the greatest.
We can succumb to pessimism or we can affirm the promise of Scripture and the evidence of the past two centuries.
“I am [still] with you,” the Lord says. “My Spirit abides with you. Fear not.”
Postscript: Although this is an unsolicited sermon being sent to the congregation I served as pastor thirty years ago, in a larger sense it is a metaphor for all churches in Europe, North America, and elsewhere.
A year ago I made several “grim predictions.” It was my plan to review them on New Year’s Day and see if my track record was as good as Prof. Trelawney’s was in predicting Harry Potter’s demise, including foreseeing a deadly “Grim” in his tea leaves.
PREDICTIONS FOR 2019
1. The coronation of the King of Thailand on May 4-6, together with national elections and the ratification of a new constitution will consolidate the power of the military-royal alliance.
This prediction was more than fulfilled. Thailand now has a complete military-royalist government with many constitutional balances of power and restrictions set aside.
2. The US government will enter a time of crisis ... Donald Trump is losing the support he needs to stay on top. Time is running out on Trump and his dwindling backers.
Although investigations strongly indicate that the Trump administration is flawed and US foreign policy is a shambles, and the US House of Representatives passed articles of impeachment, significant crumbling of Trump’s support has not materialized.
3. 2019 will feature a major re-eruption of abortion battles but the swing is away from the radical right in Europe and America.
No major new initiatives on abortion “erupted” during the past year.
4. My grim prediction for 2019 is that the USA [economy] will pass a tipping point from which it will not recover. This may not be the onset of another economic depression, but it could be a big policy blunder like letting the national debt escalate to the point that borrowers of US dollars disappear and creditors begin to collect US gold, or failure (again) to hold financial magnates accountable at some critical juncture.
My score on this is C: the US economy remains apparently strong and China’s economy is weaker than years past, posing no immediate threat to the USA. But the US debt is skyrocketing under the present administration. Only the Brexit shadow over the European Union has kept investors cautious about withdrawing from the USA.
5. As for Christianity, 2019 will bring still more shift from the northern to the southern hemisphere. In 2019 the United Methodist Church will have its turn. It will be the year they make the choice of which side to take.
Sadly, the United Methodist Church voted to split (not in so many words, of course). The UM conferences in the northern hemisphere were outnumbered by Methodists in Africa and the Philippines when votes were counted on allowing LGBT members to have equity. Splits are inevitable. Adam Hamilton, pastor of the largest UMC in the USA estimated in a September 2019 speech that the UMC would lose between 3400 and 7500 churches of a total of some 42,000.
6. Higher education is in jeopardy. 2019 will see several closures or mergers of high-profile institutions of higher education.
The decline is slower than I predicted. After decades of increasing numbers of colleges and universities, the USA is now losing about 100 degree granting institutions of higher education a year, and the rate is accelerating. But no high-profile closures or mergers were reported in 2019.
THINGS I FAILED TO PREDICT FOR 2019
1. Public support for action on climate change has been building all year. First, Greta Thunberg swept into the spotlight on center stage and mobilized millions of marchers while getting a Nobel Prize nomination and being named Time Magazine’s “Person of the Year.” Despite government reluctance and even obstacles, public support has grown. Second, historic wildfires and heat in Australia have moved that country into the front line.
2. The Conservative Tory Party in Great Britain won a stunning election and reinforced their mandate to leave the European Union. Nationalist populism shows no signs of diminishing. Hungary, Turkey, India – the list is growing rather than shrinking.
CAUTIOUS AND CHASTENED PREDICTIONS FOR 2020
1. I join Noam Chomsky in predicting that Donald Trump will win a second term as President of the United States. Chomsky and I would love to see Bernie Sanders’s momentum continue, but “THE FEAR” of socialism is too great. As long as that label sticks, as it is sticking and not even being fought, the reality is the vote against Sanders will prevail and suck the strength out of the vote against Trump.
2. In Thailand projects will multiply to normalize the reign of the new King despite royal confiscation of finances, and palace actions being taken to obliviate vestiges of democracy and remove memorials to those who brought about the end of absolute monarchy in 1932.
3. The Church of Christ in Thailand will face possible humiliation and governmental scrutiny as one after another of the present administration’s decisions are investigated. Already, administration of Bangkok Christian College has been taken over by a commission appointed by the Thai Ministry of Education. These threats have reduced the CCT’s ability to respond to its on-going mission.
4. Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s aggressive nationalism in India will either backfire as ethnic-religious minorities unite to oppose infringement of their civil rights and status, or international opposition will materialize as the specter of massive militant Hinduism again looms over South Asia.
On Christmas I “joined” the congregation of the Washington Cathedral for their midnight Eucharist at which the Episcopal Bishop of Washington DC, the Right Reverend Mariann Budde delivered the Christmas homily. It was inspirational, insightful, and interesting. It “worked,” I thought, reverting to my seminary-teacher mode.
But why did it work? Why do some sermons work and others do not?
This is a question I pose not only for Christian preachers but for Buddhist and other preachers, as well as those who listen to preaching.
There is one absolutely indispensible component for a successful preaching event: the listeners must be imbued with the foundational narrative as it relates to their existential context. In this case, the congregation in the cathedral and on-line (as was I) must know the Christmas story and find it currently and personally important. There is a link the preacher must make between the story that people know and how it relates to what’s going on.
As to the Christmas Story, we Christians have that memorized. We know it by heart, at least the outline. It’s about Mary and Joseph going to Bethlehem, having trouble finding lodging in the inn, birthing the baby Jesus in an animal shelter, shepherds hearing angels singing and visiting the holy family, and then three wise men (kings?) on camels seeing a star and coming to worship the new king they have read about, and then evil Herod trying to kill the baby but Joseph taking the family and escaping to Egypt in the nick of time.
The story can almost be taken for granted, as long as the audience is familiar with it. Christmas worship can then safely include symbolic references to the basic story. A star hanging from the rafters of a cathedral or stuck on top of a Christmas tree needs little explanation. Plaster sheep or children dressed as shepherds fit into the picture. Songs create a familiar emotional tone.
Nevertheless, there are levels of meaning that can be explored … or not. Many Christmas services and most other Christmas events do not explore very deeply beneath the surface. Oh, there is a predictable anguish about how the real meaning of Christmas has been diverted by Santa and by commercialism. We try to get back to that real story with our candles and carols. But if the story is to be successfully probed for deeper meaning (that is, if the sermon is to “work”) it must connect the dots between what happened in Bethlehem some 2020 years ago and what’s going on right here and now.
Bishop Budde’s homily was a splendid example of how to do it. She began by reminding everyone of Dietrich Bonheoffer’s heart-rending Christmas letter from prison to his family. She mentioned, then, her main point, that there is always a gap between what is and what could be. We feel that keenly on Christmas, but Christmas addresses that, because Christmas is all about a growth of awareness that God dwells with us. The STORY, she reminded us shows this gap, and how God comes to us to deal with it. The gap is seen in ourselves where we know we are not as we could be. It is in our family circle where there are divisions. In our community life we are polarized – ah, now she is particularizing a social condition. At the end she expanded her application to the whole world.
Her sermon was pastoral, befitting her office whose symbol is a shepherd’s staff. It was not prophetic, denouncing the causes of the gap, but persistently announcing the solution as the main fact of Christmas. When speaking to people who know the Christmas story, it is expected to go deeper into what it means that God has come among us. Christmas is the beginning point and the ending point of the Bishop’s sermon. It was the context and the content of the whole service and what had brought the congregation to fill the National Cathedral at midnight.
The sermon “worked” because the issue of gap and brokenness which is both universal and particular is consistent with the Story as everyone thinks of it. “Yes,” we respond, “there certainly was a gap between what God was doing in Bethlehem and what the government was doing.” And there still is this gap between what God is doing with Jesus and what governments are doing.
What would it be like to preach on Christmas to a congregation who did not have the shared narrative of Christmas instilled in their minds? I have done that. In that case the homiletical task is quite different. Without Christmas as the unifying context and without the Christmas story to build on, the elements of a typical Christmas remain fragmentary and attached to individuals’ random and diverse meanings. The dots stay mostly unconnected.
Most preachers would probably begin by introducing the Christmas story. “Christmas is the celebration of the birth of Jesus.” The idea would be to expand the audience’s knowledge, in hopes that some would “catch” or remember something. Maybe the benefit would be bridge-building between the audience and Christians living nearby. Preaching a Christmas sermon to a non-Christian audience would be a long-shot. It is hard to make it “work” at a deeper level because the audience does not have “the foundational narrative.”
It is the same reason that tourists in Thailand tend to miss the whole point of a Buddhist sermon. The narrative context is missing for them as well as the social context. A Buddhist sermon loses a large part of its purpose if the congregation does not imagine themselves to be an extension of audiences who gathered to implore the Buddha to tell them how to overcome suffering. A Buddhist preacher will be most successful if the audience is a cohesive community and the preacher is an integral part of it.
Most Buddhist funeral sermons, for example, assume that the fundamental story is shared by everyone, and that what is needed is an interpretation of how to overcome the multiple anxieties that death arouses. Both the sermon and the funeral event combine to do that. It is not strictly necessary for a Buddhist funeral sermon to be intellectually stimulating, or even fully understood. Some sermons are mostly chanted in a way that the congregation simply knows “that’s good, it’s just what it’s always been.” Anxiety subsides.
A Christian Christmas celebration works that way to some extent. It is not strictly necessary for there to be a sermon. A cantata or pageant can renew the narrative. The Eucharist is supposed to do that surpassingly. The sermon is only successful in a context of understanding. Life is messy, but there is help nearby. The whole worship event communicates “it’s going to turn out well.”
Rev. Dr. Kenneth Dobson posts his weekly reflections on this blog.