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Showing posts from February, 2014

"The Coach Sutton Rule" and The Falls Church

Today seems a good day to share an idea I've had for years, but have never before written about, and that's what I'm going to call the "Coach Sutton Rule." My "Coach Sutton Rule" is based on something that Mr. Mark Sutton, my high school psychology teacher and wrestling coach, taught us wrestlers. It has to do with how we were to conduct ourselves at the end of our wrestling matches. As you may know, at the end of a high school or college  wrestling match, it's the custom for both wrestlers to walk to the center of the mat and for the referee to hold up the winner's arm, thus signifying who won. Coach Sutton told us that when we walked to the center of the mat, we were to imagine someone taking a photograph of that moment. And based on our facial expressions and our body language - the way we conducted ourselves - that " no one looking at that picture is to be able to tell, based on how you're acti

"Be perfect" -- a horrible translation, and even more horrible theology

This Sunday, we hear a couple more "tough saying" of Jesus in a continuation of Jesus' "sermon on the mount."   Unfortunately, the Gospel lesson concludes with our hearing Jesus saying -- seeming to say -- "Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect."    The reason I say that's unfortunate (and that Jesus is only seeming to say "be perfect") is that "be perfect" is a terrible translation -- one of the worst in the whole English Bible -- of what was being said. Biblical scholars point out that the word Jesus is using here (in Hebrew, tam ) means "be whole" (or "be wholesome"), or "be mature," or "be complete."    We tend to think, however, of "perfection" as "without blemish" or "completely free from faults or defects," such as when we say a student a "perfect score" or when a pitcher pitches a "perfect game.

When Jesus' tough sayings don't sound like "good news"

The gospel reading on Sundays always concludes with the reader saying "The Gospel of the Lord" which means "The good news of the Lord." And the congregation always responds "Thanks be to God."   Well, this Sunday's gospel contains a number of Jesus' "tough sayings," with Jesus zeroing right in on the heart of several matters of human behavior: murder, adultery, divorce, and lying. We'll hear Jesus' teaching that managing to avoid actual physical murder, actual physical adultery, actual literal lying, or managing to divorce for the right legal reasons does not give any of us a leg to stand on. Rather, he sets the bar a lot higher, focusing on the anger, lust, and other intentions we carry with us 24/7.   In case this image is copyrighted, here's where I found it: When the Gospel sayings are as tough as they are this Sunday (" if you say, 'you

A statement that changed my life...

"John, every criticism you make about 'organized religion' is found somewhere in the Bible itself. Read Isaiah. Read Amos; read Hosea, not to mention Jesus: you'll find that everything that bothers you about religion bothered them, too, and that all the same criticisms you are making were made by them, thousands of years ago - they're all right there in the Bible. They were saying the same things you are saying. Except they were saying it even more strongly than you are. And certainly more eloquently."   That was Eric Dean, a professor of Philosophy and Religion at Wabash College , and it was said to me in my sophomore year of college during one of my rants against organized religion. Like many people - like you perhaps - when I was young (late high school and early college), I went through a rebellious "I don't want to have anything to do with organized religion" stage. This was a stage when I couldn't stand Christianity, or bein