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Why Share?

You may remember the Garrison Keillor story of why shopping at Ralph’s Pretty Good Grocery in Lake Wobegon is preferable to shopping in St. Cloud at the new Higgledy-Piggledy. Ralph’s Pretty Good Grocery has just gotten in a case of fresh cod. “Frozen, but it’s fresher than what’s been in his freezer for months. In the grocery business, you have to throw out stuff sometimes, but Ralph is Norwegian and it goes against his principles.” On the other hand, more and more people have been “sneaking off to the Higgledy-Piggledy in St. Cloud, where you find two acres of food, a meat counter a block long with huge walloping roasts and steaks big enough to choke a cow, and exotic fish lying on crushed ice.”

Keillor goes on to explain that Lake Wobegon does not run on free enterprise, which is based upon self-interest. It is run on loyalty. He goes on to say you can shop at the St. Cloud Mall instead of Lake Wobegon but the St. Cloud Mall isn’t going to come with the Rescue Squad and they aren’t going to teach your children redemption by grace. Read more

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Choosing the Evil of Two Lessers

Months ago, at the beginning of the presidential rutting season, I reflected here on the comment of a Jewish friend of mine, who said he never felt more alien in the United States than at Christmas. I’m nearly with him on that, seeing how far the consumer capitalist Winter Holiday runs from the appalling mystery of the Incarnation. Yet it’s hard to blame this culture and economy from avoiding that unprofitable Jesus business which, in the words of the late great British sitcom, Blackadder, “always spoils the Xmas atmos.” We may still call it Christ-mas, but Yuletide in America makes us all anonymous pagans. Read more

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Immigration and the Crumbs from Our Table

“You speak of signs and wonders / I need something other / I would believe if I was able / But I’m waiting on the crumbs from your table. (“Crumbs From Your Table,” U2, How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb)

It’s become something of a tradition: I start a conversation via email with a large distribution list I have, made up mostly of fellow church members but also including some far-flung friends and colleagues. Often, I share my bLOGOS reflections on the lectionary or make a plea for help with a project or program; sometimes I simply direct folks to an interesting website or blog. The point is not to court controversy for its own sake, but sometimes the topics and the ensuing conversation take us into complex social, political, or theological issues where the moral murkiness can be difficult to navigate. Read more

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The Most Segregated Hour in America

While longer on sociology than theology or ecclesiology (what can one expect from the news industry?), a recent CNN story on the difficulties inherent in integrating churches resonates with much said at the recent EP gathering.

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Gospel Nonviolence, Untranslated

I won’t weigh in on the latest election year “religion and politics” silliness involving Focus on the Family’s James Dobson and the Obama campaign except to note that Mr. Obama, who could easily have been much harder on Mr. Dobson, has said what any respectable candidate for the office of Commander in Chief must, namely: “Democracy demands that the religiously motivated translate their concerns into universal rather than religion-specific values.” (“Universal” in this case presumably means “Early 21st century consumerist North American,” but I may be missing something.) Read more