Thursday, August 31, 2006

Euthanasia and Oaths

Ordinary Time
Bishop Aidan of Lindisfarne

Here's another one for discussion, this time from Jesse.

I was asked by one of my undergrad professors (whom I respect greatly) a very challenging question prior to my graduation. He asked me if I were his physician and he were dying of a terminal illness, if I would ease his passage at his request with a lethal drug.

I was reminded of this the other day while skimming the Hippocratic oath posted on the wall of the med center library and I was particularly struck by the line: “I will neither give a deadly drug to anybody who asked for it, nor will I make a suggestion to this effect.”

At the time I told him that I felt that as a physician that it will be my job to improve quality and duration of life, and not artificially shorten it when it seems convenient. He countered that his wishes as a competent human being ought to be respected over the scruples of the doctor, who is not personally affected by his decision not to terminate life.

This begs the question, when would it NOT be appropriate to shorten someone’s life? Certainly we shouldn’t when depressed, angst-ridden 15-year-old boys are dumped by their girlfriends and sing emo songs wishing for death. They clearly aren’t competent to make such a decision. Or are they?

I stand by my answer to my professor. I still feel that my job will be to improve life, not terminate it, and I feel that being able to do both creates a conflict of interest in a physician dealing with any patient in pain. However, I do not feel that any and all means ought to be applied to extend life beyond its natural duration. Technology has given us the power almost to live indefinitely at huge cost to society, and I think that there comes a time when the caring physician should withhold his hand and allow death to overcome the patient. After all, medicine cannot and should not bring everlasting life; Jesus will do that.

What do you think? Do you think you should have the right to end your life when the end seems close anyway? Do you think the doctor has an obligation to help you to this end?

Wednesday, August 30, 2006


Ordinary Time

Time to be interactive again. I've been thinking like a pastoral theologian.

Okay, I talk often about about the practice known as "praying the hours," or alternatively, "the liturgy of the hours," "fixed hour prayer," and "the Daily Office," or simply, "the Office." For a short definition, go here.

I have questions. I'd like to know whether or not you engage this discipline.

If so:

How did you discover the practice? Who introduced you?
How long have you done it? What version do you pray?
What's your assessment of it as a helpful practice, in terms of your own experience?

If not:

Have you heard of this practice before? What were/are your first impressions?
Have you tried it? Did you at one time practice it and stop?
Would you consider beginning the practice? Why or why not?

I want to hear. Go nuts.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Another Day...

Ordinary Time LTS. I'm working though my Bible notes as I draft my essay. Watch this space for interesting litte tidbits, as well as things I'm thinking about.

Yesterday was Saint Augustine's feast day. Mike Aquilina did a little piece on him.

Aside: I only know a couple of people who do this, but sometimes folks send me e-mails telling me to call them. I never do. Matt suggested that some people do this in order to get credit for making contact while still putting the onus of real communication on the other person. I wondered if it's not just because they think I'm busier than they are. Do any of you do that? What do you think it means?

Notes: What is this notion about an objective, methodical approach to Scripture? As if we could be objective readers, never bringing our own presuppositions or perspectives to it. Chris Roland pointed out one day that it seemed very odd that in a modernist view, an Oxford professor has the dignity of claiming a "method" when he reads scripture, but a poor woman from the global South merely has an "approach."

Aside: We continue to pray for those affected by Sunday's plane crash. The word on the street is that two local chain restaurants refused requests to help feed the emergency workers on the scene, but a couple of local restaurants offered a heck of a lot of food. Is it a positive thing for names to be named?

Okay, the people around me are done talking. Back to my notes!

Monday, August 28, 2006


Ordinary Time
Augustine of Hippo

Anybody notice that I've stopped writing so much about theology and quite a bit more about what I do all day? I think it's because when I'm studying all day, I don't really want to write about it, as well. It just seems like altogether too much work. Oh well, we'll get back around to that stuff before long.

Investigators are still trying to sort out yesterday's crash in Lexington. We continue to pray for all the folks who've been affected.

I had dinner with my sister and uncle on Friday, and had some folks over to hang out and watch House afterwards. Yah, we're pretty exciting people. The other Kyle and I went to the Greek Festival on Saturday, which was pretty nice. We caught up with friends at Common Grounds afterwards. I've spent quite a bit of the weekend at the bookstore. Inventory was last night, so I'm dragging a bit today.

At the moment I'm at the Honey Bean in Tate's Creek Centre pouring over my Use of the Bible notes and composing the outline for my essay. Yah, I should have been doing this long ago, but sometimes things happen.

Today we have another blog post from Jesse...

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Friday, August 25, 2006


Ordinary Time

I'm reading today. And writing. And scribbling. Wheee!

Somebody give me a writing prompt.

Meanwhile, Josh the Youth Pastor (another one!) asked me to introduce you to his discussion blog, Eternal Dialogue. Go check it out. His latest prompt:

"Should Church be Formal?"

'Course, y'all probably already know what I think about that. Don't you?

P.S. I meant that I'm boring today, not Josh's blog. Now go on and play...

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Friday, August 18, 2006

What Would Jesus Say?

Ordinary Time

Rob the Cuban is having a chat on Historical Jesus issues; if you're interested, you might check out the comments, as Rob and Stephen Peltz and I go at it.

Meanwhile, I'm reading at LTS again today. I found something interesting in Richard Bauckham's essay, "Reading Scripture as a Coherent Story," in Hays and Davis, The Art of Reading Scripture:
The existence of the four Gospels, not to mention commentary in the apostolic letters, keeps readers aware that Jesus is neither captured in the text nor existent only as a textual contruction but that he had and has his own reality to which the texts witness.
I'm thinking about this in the context of the differences between the Jesus of the Synoptic Gospels and John's Jesus. If you've read the Bible for any period of time, you might have noticed that the Johannine Jesus is a little more esoteric and mystical, and spends more time talking, particularly about who he is. The Jesus the other evangelists talk about does more stuff and tells stories and talks a whole lot about the Kingdom and quotes Scripture all over the place. These are uncontestable facts: if you actually read this stuff, you have to say, "Golly gee, the way John describes Jesus is really very awfully different than the way the others do!"

Now here's what that doesn't mean: it doesn't mean that one is "wrong." If the gospels are bearing witness to the truth of Jesus the Christ as experienced by the apostolic communities (and indeed the people who hung out with Jesus) it's okay for them to care about different things. If we need these things to be straight-up and complete histories in and of themselves, one of them is definately "wrong." For example, the synoptics execute Jesus on Friday. John kills him on Saturday. Who's right? For John, Jesus performed his temple action at the beginning of his ministry, and according to the others, he did it at the end - which for my money is the most likely reason for both the blasphemy charge, and ultimately his execution. John moves it around, however, and has to credit another reason for his death: calling himself the "Son of God." However, this was actually a Davidic title and even a common designation for miracle workers: it implied nothing about being "divine." However, for John, it does - because John has a more developed, and even a proto-Trinitarian Christology. But you know what? John was written later. John is more theologically developed, and has more to say about the "essence" of who Jesus was as the incarnate logos, while the others didn't have quite the time to think about it in the course of editing and story-telling (and yes, I am for the moment ignoring things like "Johannine community" as opposed to John - one thing at a time). That's really okay. If you treat the Bible like it's relating straight history in the modern sense, it will disappoint you, frustrate you, and just generally freak you out, because it simply won't work that way.

The gospels bear witness to the truth about Jesus. I think the synoptics are more "historical accounts" while John is more "metaphysical." That doesn't make John "historically unreliable," but it does limit how much you can use John and what you can use John for when "doing history."

Did the real live Jesus who walked around Palestine 2,000 years ago necessarily say the things attributed to him in John's gospel? No. Are the things spoken by the Johannine Christ true of Jesus? Yes.

Don't make me get started on those infancy narratives...

Thursday, August 17, 2006

My Day

Ordinary Time

6:30am. Make coffee.

6:45. Breakfast with med student.

7:15. Kroger. Gotta eat this weekend.

8:20. Coffeeshop. I'm out of beans.

8:30. Putting away groceries.

9am. Parking at LTS. Gonna get stuff done!

10am. Gettin' stuff done.

10:30. Reading book reviews in Christian Century.

11am. Back to the Cambridge Companion to Biblical Interpretation. Starting chapter 9, "Biblical Studies and Linguistics."

11:30. Looking up a book in the catalog. Discovered WorldCat link. Decided to blog about it. Some old guy keeps bringing in his stuff for 15 minute work sessions during which he mumbles to himself. Hmm. Time for "Aspects of the Jewish Contribution to Biblical Interpretation."

The Cherrix kid won his case.

60 days? And a 500 word essay? With football outings? You have got to be kidding me... There's more here.

12:30pm. Okay, the first half of the book is finished. Time to go seek my fortune abroad.

2:30pm. Except for the power outage on Nicholasville Road, my Secret Project was moderately successful. Well, I made progress, anyway. Danny's coming over to hang out. Hooray!

4pm. I think I'll chop some veggies. We're talking about jobs, common friends, what the churches think and do about gay people, seminary, and finally the Eucharist. He brought it up, I swear!

5:30. We have a coffee table now. Did I tell you this? I'm very excited about it. It makes me feel all grown up.

Finding Books

Ordinary Time

Okay, it's time for a nerd moment, but I'm pretty excited about this. Of course everybody knows they can get lots of information on a book from Amazon, and little features that let you view the covers and table of contents are the next best thing to browsing in a shop and the "Search this Book" feature is great for those of us who just want to find obscure references in a volume without finding the actual book first. (Of course, you know that if you order from Bean Books, you get comparable prices and get to deal with a real person, right? Bill is my book source...).

However, if you're on a tighter budget and need to track down particular books in a library, WorldCat will help you out. Check out Type in a title or author, and select the book you're looking for. Enter your zip code, and then you'll be offered a list of nearby libraries that carry the selection. Isn't that amazing?

Hooray for librarians!

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Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Disconnected Rants and Links

Ordinary Time

CNN: Teen Battles State Over Cancer Treatment. Jesse put this one across my desk over the weekend; apparently, a 16 year old in Virginia could be forced by the government to go through a second round of chemotherapy after the first failed. Starchild Abraham Cherrix (huh?) has Hodgkins Disease, and while the normal survival rate is 80%, it's far less - between 33 and 50% over 5 years - when the initial round of chemotherapy is unsuccessful. He wants to try some herbalist treatment or another and take his chances rather than go through another, stronger round of chemo that doctors can't even say would probably work. Arthur "Caplan, [a] University of Pennsylvania bioethicist, said it seems likely the judge will order Abraham back to the hospital for chemotherapy and radiation, but said "the reality-check question" is whether a tall 16-year-old can be made to cooperate. "Are they going to shackle him? There is a physical reality that has to be grappled with here."

I've never been a cancer patient, but I've been hospitalized before, and had to consider "long term prospects." I'd have to side with the kid in this: even if it's a matter of "giving up" (and it's not quite that), should he be allowed to do so? Will they take him into custody at a juvenile facility? Will they administer chemotherapy in the medical ward there? What would it look like to force a young adult to take cancer treatment?

Any other perspectives? The family's back in court on this today...

Josh is getting snarky about church signs.

And at Ben Myer's Faith and Theology blog, we have "Theology for Beginners":
1. Faith
2. Theology
3. Gospel

Mike Aquilina recommends "8 Books on Ancient Christian Art" and an online tour of the Egyptian Coptic Church.

J. Patrick Briscoe suggests how we might help the terrorists win.

Rob the Cuban's talking about the historical Jesus, so of course I'm all over that.

Make sure you scroll down and read Katie's essay.

Okay, time's up, gotta get work done.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

59 Cents

Ordinary Time
The Assumption of Mary

Men and women are different. Everybody knows this, right? How well do we know this, and how much do we think about it, when it comes to theology - God talk? In much of the Church's development of theology, men have been asking the questions and formulating the answers. Men frame the rules of the debate. How many of the concerns we think of as "human" are more masculine than really human? I'm not assuming a particular answer to that question, and I don't think for a minute that (for example) our Christology needs to be uprooted and redone just because there weren't female bishops at the Council of Nicea. This isn't a "hermeneutic of suspicion," but a simple question. It's also a question that I'm not qualified to answer - I'm a dude.

Katie is a Master's student at Dallas Theological Seminary. I've asked her to consider the question and offer her reflections. It's not what I expected, but that was really the point - and I think it's a wonderful essay. Give it a read and let her know what you think - I'll add some of my own thoughts later on.

“So what’s the difference between the way men and women think about theology?” This is the 59 cent question of the hour. How do women “do” theology differently? Well, it’s really quite simple. . . we develop all of our theological constructs while soaking in bubble baths and eating chocolate. Then we write down all of our cute little ideas on pink stationary. 59 cents will buy you a sheet of some pretty decent pink stationary.

59 cents will also buy the can of corn that goes into my grandmothers squash casserole. She would never admit to being a theologian but she has a theory that we should help people before they have to ask. Fortunately she’s a pretty good cook and she knows a lot of sick people.

My best friend visits sick people too. Besides that she does theology in libraries with stacks of commentaries and in sanctuaries with stacks of people. And every now and then she and I get the chance to spend 59 cents on an ice cream cone and a conversation about life.

My whole life has been spent teaching Sunday school classes. My high school girls are huge theology nerds. We spend a lot of time sitting at Starbucks and chatting about boys. We ask a lot of questions and do goofy things. 59 cents will buy a Post-it pad that can be used to leave people “I love you” notes at 2 in the morning.

In the mornings I do my best theological thinking. It’s usually because the night before I rode my bike up onto a mountain and saw a vision. Maybe it was just the squash casserole I had for dinner but I’m pretty sure I saw a bible laying open in the library with a pink post-it note in it that said “I love you.” 59 cents will cover the late fees for the books that I neglected to turn in because I was daydreaming, ahem, “doing” theology.

So far this probably sounds like nonsense. 59 cents. My grandmother. Post-it notes.

What does this have to do with the female perspective on theology? I guess what I’m trying to say is that women do theology in all kinds of different ways. We come at it from all kinds of different places. It’s incredibly hard to make a list explaining exactly what it is that women contribute. It’s also hard to say in what ways we differ from men when it comes to theological thought. If I’m pushed to reflect upon my observations of the seminary classroom I will hesitantly say that women seem to be a little more emotional. There are more women criers and more women visibly moved by powerful discussions. It is often the women in the class that seem dissatisfied with purely logical arguments that lack compassion. This is either because I am surrounded by a certain type of woman or because women are just generally more emotionally expressive. We tend to think and care about things that we are linked to emotionally. This is what often motivates our desire to understand and enlivens our conversations with passion and practicality. Basically we think about stuff that we care about. My grandmother does, my friend does, and my high-schoolers do. I’m not convinced that this is a gender specific quality and I’m hesitant to make generalizations so if enough of you send me 59 cents I’ll consider revising my comments.

Don’t waste your money on me though. Take your 59 cents to 7-Eleven and you can get a pretty good understanding of what doing theology in a community should look like. It’s called a slurpie suicide. Pretend you’re 10 years old again and fill your cup with a little of each flavor. A healthy theological conversation consists of many different perspectives including men and women. For 59 cents you may find that it tastes pretty good to have a bunch of different flavors in the mix.

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Weekend Update

Ordinary Time
The Assumption of Mary

Okay, so where was I? Oh yeah, Friday. I went down to Harrodsburg to have lunch with a couple of old friends - one of whom now teaches English at a Christian school in Virginia. He loves it though, and I was assured that it's one of those Christian schools that exists for the purpose of a good and holistic education, not to protect the little ones from Darwin. I always get a little freaked over that stuff...

Harrodsburg has seen some new businesses since I last visited, with the addition of a tavern and a few coffee and sandwich shoppes on the formerly empty Main Street. It's nice.

From there I moved on to Louisville to fetch Noakes. He'd been looking for a reason to go visit college friends and meet new folks, and our Liturgical Prayer Seminar with Dave Nixon and Saint Patrick's Church provided a good one. I got to meet David Brandt and see a little of Boyce and SBTS - a little surreal. I'm sure I was the the only Anglo-Catholic for many miles - and I'll have you know I was wearing a papal crucifix...

It was a cool time - we hung out with Jesse at the pool, found a pretty sweet used bookstore on Leestown Road, and spent some good time with the church, between Saturday's seminar and Sunday night Mass. I'll let Alan tell you about all that - he's got some sweet photos here and the mp3s here. Listen to them. I'm not kidding.

Saturday evening we watched Saw II - I was never going to, but I gave in, as no "hanging out with Kyle" experience is complete unless I embarrass myself watching a horror film. I usually try to avoid them, and the other Kyle refuses to watch any with me at all, because when I get startled, I jump and make a noise and that startles him, and he hates that. The worst was a couple of years ago in Georgetown when Rob B. leapt onto the sofa while we were watching the Texas Chainsaw Massacre remake. I screamed like I was getting my legs sawed off.

Ahem. Let's never speak of this again.

Mike hadn't been to the Abbey of Gethsemani, so we took a trip down there on Sunday afternoon. Apparently, golfers drop in for an office on Sundays, but don't actually chant with the monks (as visitors are expected to do!). I thought this odd, as prayer is not a spectator sport. Not only did five people sitting in front of me refuse to chant, but they were apparently so disturbed by my own participation, that they got up and moved to the other side of the chapel.

It sounded pretty funny - in a guest chapel of 12 people, only me and a couple of old guys were chanting every other line along with the brothers. Oh, well.

Anyway, I took Mike back to Louisville yesterday; we caught up with Darron and visited some big music shop and a couple of used bookstores. It was a pretty sweet day. In the evening it was dinner with my housemates and time well spent with the Cambridge Companion to Biblical Interpretation. Wheeee!

Okay, back to work...

Monday, August 07, 2006


Ordinary Time

I was a member of a conservative Baptist church in my late teenage years. (As a reminder, I had become a Christian when I was sixteen, and between then and my departure for college, had been involved with two churches. This was the second.) It was Rose Hill Missionary Baptist Church, and it had a reputation in the community. I'm not certain what that reputation was or is, but I did know that if I mentioned attending Rose Hill, people knew what I was talking about. But that's beside the point. They ran a Christian school which was pretty infamous, but I thought the church was alright. I was only really connected to the youth ministry anyway, and this only for my last year and a half before college.

I remember when it became known that I was considering attending Georgetown College. Georgetown was (at that time) one of three college's supported by the Kentucky Baptist Convention, the others being Cumberland and Campbellsville. The former was the one with "the best reputation for serving the Lord," and the latter was pretty good too, but Georgetown was considered more than a little out to lunch: it was liberal. That made no sense to me, and I'm not certain that it does now. No one who derided my prospective choice could tell me anything they knew about Georgetown, or any terrible stories or anecdotes of unfaithfulness, they merely insisted on calling it Liberal. And that ought to have been damning enough, they seemed to think.

So here's the thing. In that particular microculture, it was normal for folks not to go to college. What was especially worrisome (even then) was that it was most common for the graduates of the Christian school to attend Ashland Community College - likely not a private college or a public university. It was perfectly acceptable to attend ACC. Now if someone wanted to leave home and attend a university, there were two Best Options. For those seeking to Serve God in a religious profession ( e.g. missionary, preacher, Christian school teacher, youth pastor) the best possible option was Liberty University, the school founded by a preacher named Falwell in Lynchburg, VA. This was usually recommended in a slightly tongue-in-cheek fashion, phrased like, "When you decide to get right with God and go to Liberty..." or "When are you going to get your life straightened out and to go Liberty?" I was never really certain how much was serious, and how much was teasing. Since I was going to be a preacher (I am not making this up), for some folks my matriculation at this institution ought to have been a foregone conclusion.

My best friend at the time was determined to attend Liberty, and I actually completed an application. I didn't quite bring myself to submit it however. My high school teachers thought the idea was nuts, and I didn't have enough church mentors to turn the tide on that one. Mind you, I was also thinking at the time that a "Christian college" might not offer the best possible education and formation anyway - I'm just saying I could have been pushed.

Now the other Best Option was to attend the University of Kentucky. Because they have a popular basketball team. The fact that it was a secular school didn't matter; it was UK. It was UK, and that's what mattered.

I have never understood that.

My best friend did go to Liberty. We've not seen each other much since then. I visited him in Virginia once. He was giving me a tour of campus, and an RA stopped us because I was wearing shorts in a classroom building (after hours). He asked if I was a visitor, so I presented the paperwork to prove it: the Student Life office kept the white copy of the approval of my weekend visit to the campus, while I was left with the yellow copy to keep and the pink one to give to my friend's RA. I am not making this up.

He said he didn't need to see the paperwork, as I clearly wasn't a Liberty student.

Update: Lots more anecdotes in the comments section...


Ordinary Time

Clay's Mill Baptist Church is a large Fundamentalist congregation in Lexington. If you're local, you might remember them from the controversy over their "I Love America Patriotic Rally" a couple of years back. People assumed (somehow) from their advertising, which was not religiously oriented, that it was just a nice, "patriotic" thing they were doing for the community, and wouldn't be an open air religous meeting. Well, while that was a bit dishonest of the church, it was a pretty silly assumption on the part of the public. Anyway, the city and local paper were pretty irritated by the whole thing.

On a semi-regular basis, some of their members (perhaps they still do this?) would leave religious tracts in the bathroom stalls of Georgetown College's Student Center.

I'm thinking of going to their church and leaving my own tract.

Just a thought...

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Um. What?

An older woman came to the Help Desk the other day. She wanted to order a book. And to learn why "everyone around this place" writes Spanish sevens.


"Spanish sevens! Why do you use Spanish sevens? You just wrote one! I know they don't teach that in schools here, so I want to know where you people are learning it."

Honestly, at first I thought it was an odd question of some sexual nature, but it was actually a little stranger than that. I mean, it's not gnosticism, or something: "Where are you people learning about the Pleroma and the Demiurge? It's supposed to be secret knowledge!"

A "Spanish seven" has a little line through the stem.

"Uhhhh, I guess I just picked it up off the street somewhere, ma'am. I like to use it to more carefully differentiate my sevens from my Arabic 1's."

Spanish sevens are just sensible, mkay?

And check out The Archer: "Don't Mess with Undertakers."
If you're in a theological mood, I recommend this: "Ten Propositions on Penal Substitution."
How about something on the Eucharist? No, really, this is good.
Katie Hester: "Hot Chocolate."

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Thursday, August 03, 2006

"Even the mercy of the Lord burns"

Ordinary Time
Flannery O'Connor

Today we remember the Southern writer Flannery O'Connor. Check out my post at Faith and Theology, "Why I Love Flannery O'Connor."