Welcome to my very first blog which has been setup to be used in my online Public Theology class at Chicago Theological Seminary

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Abortion is certainly a hot button topic. Once the issue is raised it generates a lot of dialogue from people on both sides of the issue. However, the issue is never resolved. It spawns more questions then answers. Who has the right to make the decsion to abort? Does the expectant father have any input in the decision? Is it the woman's decision alone? When does the fetus get its soul? When is the unborn child a person? Is abortion murder? At what point, during the pregnancy, is abortion unacceptable? And on and on and on!

The only thing that rivals the number of questions is the number of emotions that is inspired by the abortion debate. Many committed and well meaning supporters on both sides express a multitude of emotions for a topic about which they are passionate. Nevertheless, at the end of the day they are left wanting for an answer that will settle the matter.

It would be much easier if the issues of life were simple, but they are not. Humans are complex beings and the way that we interact is complicated. Also, God has allowed us to have agency which means that we can choose from a number of options when faced with a situation. As a result, we make a variety of decisions when faced with the same facts and it is left up to us to reconcile those decisions with the will of God. That can only be done on an individual rather than a communal basis. With that said, it is incumbent upon us to live and let live.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Over the weekend I had the opportunity to watch two separate stories about HIV/AIDS. They were both very distressing. One involved the people of Guatemala and Central America. The other was about the orphaned children of AIDS victims in Kenya and East Africa.

Though both stories were troubling, it was the innocence of the Kenyan children which upset me the most. Not only are they orphans, but some are also HIV positive.

It is said that six million died in the holocaust. How many have died and will die of AIDS before a cure is found? Will the world stand by and watch people die just as it did during the holocaust?

God surely can't be pleased with the apathy that has been exhibited thus far. What does it say about who's human when America spends billions for war against Iraq and throws pennies at Africa in the war against HIV/AIDS?

Are African and other non-white lives less valuable than white lives? Ultimately, the devaluation of some lives will have an impact on all lives if the AIDS pandemic isn't arrested. As much as we would like to construct partitions or barriers, we are still one community. And the weakened health in one area of the community will eventually affect the health of the entire community.

Someone had better wise up and take remedial action for the sake of all God's children or we are doomed.

Friday, December 01, 2006

"...Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me." (Matt. 25:40 NRSV)

In my most recent Public Theology class, two questions were raised, 1)Who gets to be human? and, 2) Is theological anthropology the most contested theological doctrine in the public square?

To question no. 1, I would respond that those with the might and the money make that decision. As for question no. 2, based on my observations, I would say yes. Ultimately the questions are closely related.

Although not aware that their actions are an indication of their theological anthropology, those who control the lion's share of the world's resources and who sit in the seats of power decide consciously and unconsciously who gets to be human. It is not necessary for them to verbalize their thoughts about the God-human relationship or the human-human relationship. One only needs to observe their behavior in order to make a determination regarding their thoughts.

What the influential and the wealthy believe about others is manifested in too many ways to mention them all. However, consider how those who control resources use or misuse them. In this country alone, financial resources in the millions and perhaps billions of dollars are spent on the construction and maintenance of sports arenas/complexes as well as the upkeep of golf courses and football and baseball fields. Apparently, it is much more desirable to entertain sports fans, than it is to provide food, water, shelter, or medicine to people around the world who are desperately in need. It was Sojourner Truth, who inquired while seeking equal treatment for black women, "Ain't I a woman?" Similarly, those in need can ask, "Ain't we human?"

Another misappropriation of resources takes place everyday in the kitchens of American restaurants. There are still restaurants who choose to discard excess food rather than make it available through some mechanism for the hungry. It appears that they would prefer that someone, who is looking for something to eat, eat the excess food from a dumpster instead of at a shelter, church or soup kitchen table. Doesn't the fact that these people have to eat in order to live say that the are human?

Lastly, medical care is another area in which the lack of regard for some indicates that those in control don't consider them human. The failure of large pharmaceutical companies to provide low or no cost drugs to the people of the world who are victims of HIV/AIDS must be considered a devaluation of their humanity by those companies. What other conclusion can be reached when the drugs are available, but only to those who can afford them? Likewise, what is one to think when these same companies price their drugs so that seniors have to decide whether or not to buy food or medicine?

Again, the examples of how theological anthropology plays out in the world are numerous and they include the previously mentioned areas, as well as, issues of sexism, human sexuality, and so on. And make no mistake, one does not have to be devoutly or overtly religious in order for one's theological anthropology to be revealed. After all, you shall know a tree by its fruit. Or in other words, actions speak louder than words.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

The recent deaths of a young man on the eve of his wedding and an elderly woman at the hands of law enforcement officers are deeply troubling. The two apparently had very little in common. One male, the other female. Youth on one side and seniority on the other. He lived in New York City and she lived in Atlanta. However, it appears that the one thing that they did have in common cost both of them their lives. That one thing was their ethnicity. They were both African American.

Both tragic incidents raise questions about who is human and which lives matter. And the saddening fact is that the killing of these two are not remotely close to the first killings that have generated such questions. The fact remains (and the record will bear this out) that there have been too many incidents where usually unarmed African Americans have died as a result of the actions of those who were sworn, "To serve and to protect." Too often, African Americans have had there personhood and their property disrespected or overlooked. We were just recently reminded of this by a comedian who chose to unleash a caustic diatribe against the African Americans in the audience of one his shows. Is the implication that African Americans are less than or inferior?

Perhaps society will one day eliminate the artificially and arbitrarily constructed distinctions which are based on phenotypes. It would certainly be refreshing to see a time when all lives were valued equally.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

While watching the Nightline story which included Rev. Ahrens and Rev. Parsley, I was once again puzzled by the number of people who are drawn to megachurches like the one that Rev. Parsley pastors.

I find that most of their messages are superficial and antagonistic. Unless I'm missing something, I don't hear a message of love and tolerance for each other or one that demonstrates concern for someone other than oneself.

Again, I'm lost. Where is the appeal?

Thursday, October 12, 2006

I enjoyed tonight's discussion and found it very interesting. However, I did want to address the title of The Chicago Tribune article, "Can a Nation Lose Its Soul?" Implicit in the title is the idea that the United States has a soul to lose. If the premise of the article is that committing torture can cause a nation to forfeit its soul, one could ask, "Did the U.S. ever have a soul to relinquish?"

It is well documented that European settlers, in the course of reappropriating North America for their own purposes, engaged in numerous atrocities against the Indians who they considered to be, or at least said, were savages and uncivilized. It is not necessary to list the many offenses which were perpetrated on the Indians because they are a matter of public record and easily accessible for those who are not aware of them.

Equally well-known is the history of the settlers' abuse of kidnapped and enslaved Africans who were unfortunate enough to fall into their hands. A reading of the slave narratives paints a macabre and disgusting picture of the inhumane offenses to which the Africans were subjected. The devaluation of life was applied to the Africans just as it had been to the Indians. In fact, the U.S. Constitution defined them as three fifths human in Article I, Section 2. They were officially chattel to be inventoried with the livestock and the linen. Also notable in the legal records of the U.S. is the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850 which arose out of Scott v. Sandford, a case that was tried before the U.S. Supreme Court which, rather than deciding whether or not Scott was free now that he was in a free territory and his owner had died, ruled that as "property" he had no legal standing in a federal court.

For Indians and Africans, such treatment was dehumanizing as is all torture. The abuse and torture that was inflicted on them had debilitating effects on their humanity and their personhood and their wills were oftentimes weakened if not destroyed. Unfortunately, such mistreatment is not unique to the early history of America.

Even in the 20th century their is ample evidence of the disregard of human dignity. In general, there are multiple instances of government supported involuntary sterilizations of poor and/or non-whites, both male and female.

There is also the Tuskegee Syphilis Study which involved 600 black men who were initially supposed to be part of a six month study. 399 of them had syphilis but the others did not. The study was conducted by the United States Public Health Service and lasted 40 years (1932-1972). These men believed that they were being studied for "bad blood". In reality, they had unknowlingly agreed to participate in a study of the effects of syphilis ostensibly to develop better methods of treating it. However, even when penicillin was found to be effective in treating the disease in 1947, it was never made available to these men. Nor were they ever given the option of quitting the study.

Finally, a reading of William Blum's book, Rogue State: A Guide to the World's Only Superpower will alert the reader that the U.S. is actively involved in torture around the world.

With all that has been said in mind, it really begs the question, "Did the U.S. ever have a soul?"

Friday, September 29, 2006

I'm still trying to get the hang of this, but at least it appears that my link is working. However, I still have a few kinks to work out. I appreciate your patience.