Saturday, December 13, 2014

Movie Recommendation: "Everlasting Moments"


Carol and I viewed this film on Amazon Prime last night.  Wonderful and, in a way, so counter-cultural in its values, especially now.

UPDATE:  Here is Roger Ebert's review. (Thanks, Carol.)

Thursday, December 04, 2014

"Grow Your Savings" - What a Joke

Carol pointed out an ad in this week's Gazette by Compass Financial Federal Credit Union (headquarters, Medley, FL) which trumpets "Grow Your Savings" and features a "Special 15 month CD 1.10% APY" with a "Minimum Deposit of $25,000."

The Inflation rate for the 12 month period ending October 31, 2014 was 1.7%.  If that should be the rate going forward, then there would be a negative actual return on that CD of -.4%.  But that's not all.

The 1.10% that the CD would "earn" is subject to the income tax.  Let's assume one is in a 25% bracket.  After taxes, then, the rate is .825%.

Now add in the inflation, and the negative return is -1.225%.

If one hides the cash in his mattress, the negative return is -1.7%, so there is a bit of an advantage to the CD.
But you are hardly growing your savings.

Thus, the stock market booms. Vanguard's 500 Index Fund (VFIAX) returned 16.81% for the 12 month period ending November 30, 2014.

Our nest egg is invested 60% in stocks and 40% in bonds.  Even our trusty investment adviser is now suggesting we increase the allocation to stocks, because the fixed-income sector is paying so poorly and the equity sector so well.  He's late to that party, obviously.  Does his arrival presage a stock market bust?

College Football: But Money is the Issue

Normally, money isn’t an issue at Florida, but the [UF]UAA could be on the hook for nearly $14 million — Muschamp’s and McElwain’s buyouts — before the Rams coach ever begins roaming the sidelines for the Gators. 

-from this morning's Miami Herald.  Muschamp is the UF coach that the Gators just fired.  McElwain is the Colorado State coach the Gators want.  To make this change, the Gators must pay Muschamp $7.5 million and Colorado State about $6.5 million.  That's a bump in the road that the Gators are grappling with today.

To think that the players can't even sell their autographs without bringing down the wrath of the NCAA.

Read more here: http://www.miamiherald.com/sports/college/sec/university-of-florida/article4267572.html#storylink=cpy

Thursday, November 27, 2014

More on Not Complaining; Finding a Job

In my recent post on Jack Downey, I commented that it is a good practice not to complain to the people who have you under their control.

This was more or less the view of one of my mentors at Smathers & Thompson, Roland Parent, a seasoned litigator and former FBI special agent.  I'm sure he didn't mean to discourage what we now call respectful "push-back" in a given situation, where the subordinate has something to say to the superior that is important to resolving the situation.

But his view was that if you don't like the situation you are in, then start looking around for somewhere else to work.  He had this view about compensation.  He thought that if you didn't like your raise or bonus, (or lack of those things) then get ready to leave and then leave.  This wasn't all that one-sided, because in terms of raises and bonuses he was generous.  He didn't want to give any room for well-founded disappointment.

Several years ago, a friend of ours from overseas had just received his Green Card.  He was looking for a particular job for which he was well prepared.  There were few of those jobs in Florida.  I told him about the shale boom in North Dakota.  He was from a Northern European country about the same latitude as North Dakota.  There would be plenty of jobs there, I said - or least look and see.  He thought I was kidding.  People get set in a place, comfortable there, and there they want to sit.

And this is advice from someone who has lived nearly all his life in Miami Springs!  But I was fortunate in finding a good job early on.  We don't usually have to tell a person to stay where he is  happy enough, although we can tell him to make the most of it there.

What is "enough?"  That's another question.  I suppose it depends on the extent and nature of one's ambition - and ambition is a very complex element of one's character.  Furthermore, the nature and extent of one's ambition circles back on whether he is happy enough.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

NY Times writes on World Magazine

Now and then they get something close to right.  (Thanks, Mary.)

Evolutionary Creation

In World Magazine's November 29, 2014, issue, writer Daniel James Devine reports on the work of the BioLogos Foundation, whose president, Deb Haarsma,

former chair of Calvin’s physics and astronomy department, says churches that support evolution will be more effective witnesses in a culture that reveres science, and will help college students avoid a crisis of faith when biology professors argue for evolution. The BioLogos website states, “Genetic evidence shows that humans descended from a group of several thousand individuals who lived about 150,000 years ago.” 

Thus, BioLogos is, according to Devine, 

now spending now spending $3.6 million (primary funder [sic]: Templeton) on thirty-seven projects in the United States and around the world, with grants ranging from $23,000-$300,000.  According to the BioLogos website, funds go to "projects that explore consonance between evolution and Christian faith."  Projects must not "reject the conclusions of mainstream science (e.g. old Earth, common descent, etc.)."

The Biologos website is worth examining.  On the home page, it quotes N.T. Wright, as follows:

Christians and secularists alike are in danger of treating 'Darwin vs the Bible' as just another battlefront in the polarized 'culture wars'. This grossly misrepresents both science and faith. The BioLogos Foundation not only shows that there is an alternative, but actually models it. God's world and God's word go together in a rich, living harmony.

The site includes an article entitled "Pope Francis view on Evolution, Creation, and Magic" (an interesting progression - or regression) in which the Rev. Nicanor Pier Giorgio Austriaco, O.P., writes, in part, that

In his speech to the Pontifical Academy of Sciences on October 27, Pope Francis made several comments on evolution and creation that have generated significant controversy. As a priest and scientist, I would like to make two observations about the Pope’s comments to put them into perspective.

First, the Pope’s proposal that Christian faith is compatible with an evolutionary understanding of life’s history is not as radical as the mainstream media is suggesting. In fact, the Pope’s comments are in continuity with a papal tradition, at least sixty years old, that affirms the legitimacy of evolutionary creation.

Obviously, there are some heavy hitters arrayed on the side of "evolutionary creation."  

My working take on the controversy is that the traditional view of creation is a necessary position in a Reformed Christian theology.  Others, obviously, would disagree, at least if one defines "a Reformed Christian theology" broad enough.  Here are questions that one might ask in exploring this controversy.  Could God make creation, perhaps with important evolutionary aspects, and then set man in it, that is, set a couple in it, Adam and Eve?  I think that one has to answer yes to that question, putting aside the question of what God actually did.  The next question is, Would God proceed in such a way?  This puts us in the position of second guessing God's wisdom, it seems to me.  But I make that comment from the point of view of a traditional Protestant.  From an "objective" point of view, one might answer simply, "Why not?," although I am not sure how far that gets us.  At least that answer doesn't serve to limit God, and it may well be worth exploring.

Then we get to the question, Did God proceed in such a way?  Scripture says that he did, and we rely very heavily on scripture - that is, Scripture we hold to be the very Word of God.

Finally, we get to the question addressed by BioLogos:  Just How did God proceed in the way described by Scripture?  Those who subscribe to evolutionary creation have an alternate view to the plain meaning of the text of Genesis.

I think it is probably worth examining the case for EC.  But just because one is a very bright Christian, even certified bright by academia, various Christian communities, and the market place, does not mean that he or she is without hubris.  I concede that is an ad hominem statement, but knowing how people are - especially people on top of their respective heaps, I have to make it.

I think of one characteristic of God that is not much discussed,  that of his unknowability, although knowable sufficiently through his Word.  The Word applies to his creation in a special way, as he spoke it into existence.  So, of course, science is a worthy study.  But the Word through which he spoke is the Son, and Scripture is the testimony of that.  So, fine, we are to explore the creation side of the How.  But cuidado.


Tuesday, November 25, 2014

"I just pulled myself together and said, 'Enough of this crap.'"

From the Washington Post obit for John Downey, the CIA agent captured and held prisoner in Communist China for 20 years.  The context of the quote is as follows:

Based on an internal CIA documentary that was ultimately made public, a turning point in his psychological state occurred after about four years of captivity.

“I just pulled myself together and said, ‘Enough of this crap,’ ” he later told the filmmakers. “I really found the most pernicious thing in prison was feeling sorry for yourself.”

I would say that the most pernicious thing out-of-prison is also that feeling.

He and Fecteau [his CIA colleague who was captured with him] also told the CIA that they learned not to complain about treatment. When Fecteau said tomatoes gave him indigestion, he’d get more tomatoes. If he said the weekly bath didn’t have enough water, he’d get less water next time.

As a rule, complaining about what is handed to you by those who control you is probably not a good policy on the outside either.

The CIA documentary is on the CIA Website.  It is entitled "Extraordinary Fidelity."

There is also a written narrative on the website about the captivity of Downey and Fecteau here.

Zuckerman Hosts Cruz

Drudge links to this article in The New York Observer, entitled "Sen. Ted Cruz, ’16 Presidential Hopeful, Woos New York Jewish Donors."  From the article:

Another surprise is that Mort Zuckerman, the developer and owner of the New York Daily News who usually backs moderate Democrats, hosted Mr. Cruz for a lunch yesterday before the ZOA [Zionist Organization of America] dinner.

Carol and I watch The McLaughlin Group regularly, and Zuckerman is my favorite panelist on that show.  It has been interesting to watch him move away from Obama over the last six years. Zuckerman, a moderate Democrat, initially supported Obama with a great deal of hope and, to my mind, uncharacteristic naivete.  But he certainly is a very bright and informed person with an ego healthy enough to allow himself to change his mind, unlike the other Democrat to McLaughlin's right. 

Amazon in the 'hood

The new [Amazon] facility, at 1900 NW 132nd Pl., in the far western reaches of Miami-Dade County, [12 miles from our house] opened Oct. 31 and has about 300 employees with a goal of expediting deliveries in densely populated South Florida.

Amazon customers’ orders arriving from fulfillment centers — or giant warehouses — in places such as Tampa are sorted and consolidated by ZIP code for final delivery, according to Amazon spokeswoman Nina Lindsey. Packages then are delivered to the U.S. Postal Service, which makes the deliveries to customers seven days a week. 

-from this morning's Miami Herald.

Can Amplifier be far behind?

Read more here: http://www.miamiherald.com/news/business/article4125518.html#storylink=cpy

Friday, November 21, 2014

A Criminal Defense Lawyer who is a Muslim becomes a Muslim Defense Lawyer

One of us on the "Keeping the Faith" panel was a Muslim, Khurrum Wahid, a distinguished criminal defense lawyer.  The moderator asked him what made him decide to go to law school.  He didn't exactly answer the question, but he did say that, as we "undoubtedly already knew," if one is a young person from a South Asian family (he referred to himself as a Pak-Asian, as his family was apparently from Pakistan), then of course you go to medical school.

But not him.

He said there was great consternation in his family and his faith community with his decision.  An uncle said to him that, "Back home, lawyers are liars."  (As the American public seems to preceive lawyers, we obviously have more in common with the Pakistani public than we might think.)  But Khurrum went to law school anyway, and from there into criminal defense work.

Then, he said, 9-11 occurred.  He overnight went from being a criminal defense lawyer who was a Muslim to a Muslim criminal defense lawyer.  Mothers, wives, sisters, daughters called him because their male family members had been "detained" by federal agents - not arrested, because that would have required charges to be filed - but "detained."   Suddenly, his family and community were very glad to have a lawyer in the midst.

I discovered that one can laugh and be appalled at the same time.  One can laugh at the irony.  And be appalled at what the government did.   I'm also glad that Khurrum went to law school.

Nasty Business, Probate Litigation

I had a case once where the beneficiaries of a large estate were at war with one another.  The housekeeper of the decedent, a person who had faithfully worked for the decedent for many years and who served the decedent well during a long illness before the decedent died, turned out to be an "illegal."  While she was here, she had married someone, had a family, house, car, paid taxes - the American dream, except for the Citizenship or Green Card.

One of the beneficiaries perceived - wrongly - that the housekeeper was on the side of the other beneficiary in their bitter, bitter fight.  So he called the immigration authorities.  They picked up the housekeeper, and took her to "Krome," the name around here of the federal detention center where "illegals" were warehoused.  I don't know whatever happened to her, but the whole thing made me sick.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

A Very Pleasant Time at the FIU College of Law "Keeping the Faith" Panel

Here are two photos from the FIU College of Law Keeping the Faith Panel event today.  The first photo is of me standing with three students from the Religious Studies  program.  A number of them attended and the chairperson of the Religious Studies department, Erik Larson, moderated.  (Do read Dr. Larson's bio at the link.  Amazing man.)

The second photo is of the panelists, the moderator, the student association representatives who planned the event (one from each of the Muslim, Roman Catholic, Jewish, and CLS law student organizations), and Gary Cameron, the IVCF staff member for the FIU graduate programs, who is an adviser for the CLS group.

It has been many years since my last visit to the FIU Campus.  The place is simply transformed!  Dr. Larson told me that there are over 54,000 FIU students and the university is number 5 on the list of America's largest public universities.

The College of Law has a very impressive building, all its own.

The President of the CLS chapter at the FIU College of Law is Jesica Geevarghese, who is Indian Orthodox.  (She is second from the left in the second photo.) She told me that the Indian Orthodox Church is from the Eastern side of Christendom and has a history that goes back to the Apostle Thomas.  Her church in Broward is St. Thomas Orthodox Church.

"Give us some real world advice: what is in store for us, as persons of religious faith, once we graduate and start practicing? Does being a person of faith make it easier or harder to be a good lawyer? What advice would you give a new, beginning lawyer?"

To my mind, being a person of faith makes it easier to be a lawyer. We are not all alone in dealing with reality. God is a God of Love. He created us with a purpose. He loves us. He has made provision for our shortcomings by sending his son, Jesus, so that we could, despite those shortcomings, be transformed through the work of the Holy Spirit into the sort of person, even the sort of lawyer, God meant us to be.

Here is some advice I might give:

1. Be a part of a faith community, study the Word, and have an active prayer life.

2. Study hard while one is in law school, and work hard in the profession.

3. Find a practice situation where there are older lawyers who can mentor you and whom you can admire, both as practitioners and people.

4. Get out of a practice situation in which you are unhappy as soon as you can.

5. Live a modest life, spend only what you must. Live below the standard of living at which you might otherwise be able to live or at which your peers appear to live. Do not borrow money to support an immodest life-style.

4. If God brings a person into your life who would make a supportive spouse and a good parent and who shares your faith, then by all means get that person to marry you and then, after a reasonable period of time, start a family with that person. God calls most of us into marriage and direct family formation. However, he calls some very special people into singleness. Jesus himself was single, as was the Apostle Paul.

"How does your religious faith affect the way you act towards other lawyers and clients?"

As to my clients, I hope it means that I have their best interests at heart and not my own. As to my partners and associates, I have the same hope.  Really, if I have eternity with the Lord to look forward to, why shouldn’t I seek the best interests of the people whom I serve?

As to my adversaries, whether opposing counsel or their clients, I owe them ethical behavior, respect, and courtesy.  In a way, by my being a reasonable, competent advocate, I am serving their best interests as well as the best interests of my clients, because I am being faithful to the system that we have of settling disputes.  In this way, one serves one's enemy, one expresses a kind of love even to them, approaching the standard that Jesus taught when he enjoined us to love our enemies.

"Tell us stories: do you have an example when your beliefs helped you perform as a professional, helped you be an effective advocate or counselor, and contributed to your success?"

I hate to make mistakes as a lawyer, but I have made some whoppers. How does one deal with them? I think that being a good neighbor, as God calls us to be, means that we disclose our professional mistakes and deal with them directly and in good faith.

In one case, I had recommended what I thought was brilliant, if original, tax-saving estate planning strategy to a client.  She and her attorney son in New England agreed with it and it was implemented. When she died, I asked my partner Juan to handle the settlement. In the course of his review, he came across that estate planning strategy, and he told me that he believed that it did not work. I reviewed the matter again and, with the benefit of hindsight, it looked like a problem to me too.  A big problem.

I called the decedent’s son and told him about the matter. He promptly hired a New England malpractice lawyer who wrote me a nasty letter. He also hired a Palm Beach probate lawyer to handle the rest of the estate.

I met with the malpractice lawyer, the new probate lawyer, and two of my NY partners at the NY offices of my firm. It was a dreadful trip to take from Miami to NY, for the estate stood to lose over a million dollars, if I had indeed been mistaken.

At the meeting, my NY partners said that they did not necessarily agree that I had made a mistake and instead believed that I had, in fact, saved the family a lot of money. They demanded that the new probate lawyer take my position on the Estate Tax Return, while making a full disclosure on that return of the suspect strategy. They were not asking that anything be covered up.

After I got home to Miami,  the Palm Beach lawyer called me. He said that he was impressed that I had spoken up about the problem and not attempted to hide it from the client or the IRS.  He said that he saw in the matter a mistake that he could very well have made. He also said the he would present the strategy fairly on the estate tax return, and that we would see what would happen.

About six months later he called me. My secretary told me he was on the telephone, and with trepidation I picked up the call. He said that the return had been accepted by the IRS fully and completely. He was nearly as happy as I was, and since then he and I have become great friends.

"Tell us stories: do you have an example of a time when your beliefs conflicted with the professional expectations of your firm, judicial position, etc.? How did you deal with the conflict? What did the experience teach you?"

What immediately comes to mind is an experience I had on a trip to the New York headquarters of the firm with which my Miami firm had merged during the 1980s. I flew up to New York City early on a Monday morning, expecting the meetings I was to attend to last all day, and that I would return late that night.

Instead, the meetings ended just after lunch. I spoke to people at the travel desk of the firm about my getting an earlier flight back to Miami. I said that if I could get home by six or so, I would be able to attend a board meeting at my church.

The person I was speaking to stopped what she was doing, put her pencil down, looked at me, and said, “What? You have another life?”

Thus, the main problem I have had with the profession has been balancing my family life and my professional life. I remember going to Washington DC and then to Tampa on a series of depositions in a case with several parties and, so, several lawyers. We were at least two days on this junket. At the end of the last day, I found myself in the airport bar, waiting for a flight back to Miami, and having a beer with one of the other lawyers, a younger lawyer, a senior associate in a big New York firm.

He told me that two huge things had happened to him that day. He had gotten a phone call from one of the senior partners of his firm who told him that the firm had just voted him in as a partner. The other thing was a call from his secretary to tell him that she had just accepted service of process on his behalf in divorce proceedings initiated by his wife.

As a result of trying to achieve a reasonable work-family balance (and also trying to tell the truth on my timeslips), I have always been at the very bottom of the billable hour derby with my fellow associates and partners. It was always a miracle to me that I was tolerated as a partner by the national firm in which I was a partner, although I took some serious financial hits along the way.

But, while my children were small, I made a point to be home for supper time during the week. We took vacations during which I seemed to spend a great deal of time worrying about my cases, at least during the first several days of them. I tried to remain attentive to my wife and to honor her. I took the entire family to church each Sunday, that is, I supplied a sort of spiritual leadership in our family. I was an active member of our church, took on leadership responsibilities, and taught a high school Sunday School class as my children moved through their high school years. I think it made a huge difference in our family’s life, whatever it did to my legal career. Sunday remained a day of church-going and of rest. Church participation still remains a priority for my wife and me, long after the children have left home.

As to worldly success, Jesus teaches that we should seek first God’s kingdom and his righteousness and that all the other important things in life will be added to us as well.

"How has your religious faith prepared you or benefited you in your professional life?"

There is an ethical dimension of the Christian faith, of course. That dimension has certainly informed my professional life. Truth telling and competence, treating all people as neighbors, not just people who look like me and think like me, having courage and taking risks, leading by serving, all of these things Jesus taught. They have made me a better lawyer.

My Christian faith defines a particular reality that has informed my practice. First, I believe that there is a just, all-powerful and gracious God, one whose spirit empowers me to follow his will to the extent I choose to be so empowered, and a God to whom I will account at some point in the future, either during my lifetime, if the Messiah returns during my lifetime, or after my death when, at the Second coming, I will be raised from the dead and among the first to greet the Messiah at that coming. In connection with that coming, there will be a judgment day at which God will set everything straight.

This belief helps me deal with the big questions, such as why a loving and sovereign God would tolerate such suffering in our present world, and the small questions about how I am to deal with suffering and joy in my personal life and with my successes and failures as a lawyer.

This belief in such a spectacular end to history also gives teeth to what Jesus taught as the greatest commandment, that I am to love God with all my heart, soul, and strength, and that there is second commandment that amounts to the same thing, that I am to love my neighbor as myself.

That is the standard to which God will hold me at some point in my future and part of that accountability will be how I behaved as a lawyer.

"How, if at all, did your faith influence your decision to pursue the legal profession?"

I am appearing on a panel at the FIU law school today to discuss the application of faith to the practice of law.  The organizers of the event circulated some questions that the moderator may ask us.  To help prepare myself for this (to me) very unusual event, I wrote out answers to most of them.  The title of this post is the first question.  Here's what I wrote.

As an undergraduate, I majored in history and focused on the history of religion in America, more particularly in the antebellum South. With a sort of righteous indignation, I pursued the question of how people in the South who called themselves Christians could tolerate a slaveholding society.

In the course of the pursuit, I came across a minister from a slave-owning family who pastored a church in Midway, Georgia, during the 1830s. He founded an association called the Association for the Religious Instruction of the Negroes in Liberty County, Georgia. This minister, whose name was Charles Jones, promoted not only religious instruction but also literacy among the slaves, the provision, recognition, and protection of marriage among those people, their freedom to assemble, and their freedom to move from place to place. He condemned selling off members of slave families and, finally, he asserted that slaves were human beings who were so worthwhile to God that he sent his only begotten son, Jesus, to die for them, just as he had for everyone else.

I found this to be a surprising and potentially subversive application of the Gospel, and I explored how he got away with such a ministry. There were several factors. He came from what appeared to be a wealthy and economically secure family, so there was power there.  In addition, the congregation at Midway Church had been founded by New Englanders two generations or so before, so there was probably a different intellectual tradition still at work. Furthermore, a reform movement was sweeping the country generally. Finally, about 50 years before Mr. Jones’ ministry, a Midway Church member had established a foundation, and that entity helped support the ministry. In other words, there was a means of financial support independent of the contemporary situation.

It interested me that this foundation, a creature of the law, in the hands of a Christian minister who fully understood the implications of the Gospel, could work within a repressive culture and make a positive impact. This study helped push me to the decision to go to law school and not to graduate school, which was the other choice that seemed to be open to me at the time. It was not the only factor in my going to law school, but it was an important one. I had the idea that I could make a more positive impact on the culture as a lawyer than as a scholar cloistered in the university. My faith holds that God calls us to make such an impact.

Friday, November 14, 2014

AutoNation to go Online and Adopt Fixed-Pricing

It has been decades since we bought a new car.  Who wants to go through all that?  CarMax has had the bulk of our used car business for its enlightened approach.

This is either a huge breakthrough that heralds a new era in new car marketing.  Or just another way that dealers and their "factories" will attempt to flummox the public.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Global Banks Fined Billions for Rigging the Currency Markets

LONDON — Traders with such nicknames as the ‘‘Three Musketeers’’ and the ‘‘A-Team’’ plotted through Internet chat rooms to manipulate currency markets for years, profiting at the expense of clients and then congratulating themselves for their brilliance in profanity-laced banter, regulators said Wednesday, as they fined five banks $3.4 billion.

*   *   *

Citibank, JPMorgan Chase, Royal Bank of Scotland, HSBC Bank, and UBS agreed to the settlements with the US Commodity Futures Trading Commission, UK Financial Conduct Authority, and Swiss Financial Market Supervisory Authority. The British regulator said Barclays remains under investigation.  

*   *   *

Manipulation of the exchange rates has ‘‘a profound effect on the economy,’’ said Aitan Goelman, enforcement director for the Commodity Futures Trading Commission.

 -from the AP article in today's' newspapers by Danica Kirka and Marcy Gordon.  It is worth reading the entire article.  The article states that the Justice Department is conducting a criminal investigation and the the Federal Reserve is coordinating a "probe" with Justice and other agencies.  

I say go to it.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

But Who are the "Idlers and Slackers" in the Contemporary US Church?

How do we today apply Paul's declaration in 2 Thessalonians 3:10 that those who do not work, "shall not eat."  Who are today's idlers, slackers, and busy-bodies?  Is it appropriate to apply 2 Thessalonians 3 to church people who have no problem at all with securing all the physical nourishment they want (and beyond what they need) outside the church, regardless of whether their conduct adds value to the Kingdom.  Well, of course it applies.  In fact, Paul's declaration is simply devastating in its application.

"I choose a church on the basis of my needs getting met."  Such a consumer approach to church going refers to the needs of one's ego, at least in a significant number of cases.  (There are thoroughly legitimate needs that are met in the Christian community - or should be met, and we should seek healthy communities that can meet them for ourselves and our families.)  The idler and slacker consumes the social communion of the Christian community and the elements of the Lord's Supper and contributes little or nothing.  They "shall not eat," and, in fact, they do not eat.  That is, they do not grow into the person God created them to be.  Paul is hard on us.  But so was Jesus.  These are the facts of the Christian life.  No pain.  No gain.  Crossfit for the Christian life.

Monday, November 10, 2014

"If a man will not work, he shall not eat."

This is an adage that St. Paul quotes in 2 Thessalonians 3:10.  It is nowhere else in the Bible, so it must have been current and well known in the Mediterranean world at the time Paul wrote the letter to the Christians in Thessaloniki.  It is not a political statement addressed to a problem in the city, but a statement made to Christians about how they should treat each other.  In particular, Paul refers to a group of Christians in the church community who are "idlers" or "slackers."  (The English translation for the particular Greek word at issue depends on the version of 2 Thessalonians one consults.  But whatever version one consults, there is no mistaking the sort of behavior to which Paul refers.) 

How does this square with the admonition that we are to serve each other in the church community and those outside of it as well.  In this case, the best sort of service one can offer to the slacker or the idler is not to indulge him (or "enable" him, as the current jargon goes).  Usually it is far easier to buy someone off, - especially if one has the means - so maybe he will go away and leave us alone.   Coming to grips with destructive behavior is difficult, and being firm about the behavior opens us up to criticism that we are uncaring or unloving or "unChristian."   Not to take the buy-out gets us involved in the circumstances of the wrong-doer, because we remain called to treat with him, treat with him when we have other things we would prefer to do.  If we are honest, we really don't want that relationship after all.  Nevertheless, Jesus calls us into it.

Later in the passage, Paul writes that we are "not to regard him [the "slacker"] as an enemy, but warn him as a brother."  Frankly, I might very well prefer not to have him as a brother.  Maybe I can work it so that he will just go away.  Maybe I'll take the buy-out.

Compare Fred Grimm's excellent column yesterday in the Miami Herald to the problem of the homeless in Ft. Lauderdale.

Saturday, November 08, 2014

"Wow" is Right!

‘Wow. First off, I want to thank God for his abundant grace and mercy. Win or lose, it is more than sufficient for each and every one of us,” Scott Walker said, taking the podium on Tuesday night at the Wisconsin state fair grounds after being re-re-elected for governor.'

- from the interview of Scott Walker in today's WSJ.  The complete interview is well worth reading.

We can thank God that by his grace and mercy we live in America, where elections can be meaningful and effective for change, and that people like Governor Walker will run (and rerun) for office.


Sunday, November 02, 2014

God as Below and Above Logic

In 2 Thessalonians 3.1-5, Paul requests of the believers in Thessaloniki that they pray for him so that the word of the Lord "will go forward quickly and be glorified."  Almost immediately, Paul acknowledges that "the Lord will be faithful."

"Here is the paradox of Christian living: because the Lord is faithful and will guard us, therefore we pray that he will do so.  This always sounds illogical to those who aren't engaged in [preaching and praying, the work that apostles and churches share].  Those who are [so engaged] will know that prayer has a power and sense below and above logic.  Our praying hearts, minds and lives are put at the disposal of the living Lord, who remains sovereign, but who longs for our collaboration in his work of strengthening the church and guarding it from evil."

-from Wright, N.T., Paul for Everyone - Galatians and Thessalonians (Westminster John Knox Press 2002, 2004), p. 154.

Is it part of the essential character of God that God be logical?  Where does it say that?  God is love.