Thoughts On Pentecost Sunday


A Meditation for 15 May 2016, Pentecost Sunday (Year C). The meditation is based on Acts 2: 1 – 21, Romans 8: 14 – 17, and John 14: 8 – 17 (25 – 27.

Today is Pentecost Sunday, the time when the Holy Spirit came to those gathered in Jerusalem some two thousand years ago. And on this Pentecost Sunday, 2016, representatives of the United Methodist Church are gathered in Portland, Oregon, for the 2016 General Conference. I cannot help but think that, from all that I have read and heard, what is taking place in Portland cannot be, in any sense of the thought, be comparable to what transpired in Jerusalem two thousands years ago.

On a day when those gathered were united by the Holy Spirit, why are we so intent on dividing the people? Are we, as it is written in Genesis, all created in the image of God? Why is it that some people, who insist that some people do not fit that definition.

And why, when the Holy Spirit opened both the minds and spirits of the people, are so many intent on closing minds and diminishing spirit?

Why, when Jesus pointed out that He was the fulfillment of the Law, are so many people intent on maintaining the law, even when it is clear that the law is both discriminatory and out-of-date.

On this date, when the church became the church, why does it look so clearly that the United Methodist Church is soon to be simply a footnote to history.

Is it more important to maintain what we have or is it more important that we look at how to make the Gospel message reality in today’s and tomorrow’s society? Shall we deny the reality of today simply to maintain an illusion of reality?

We who have answered the call of Christ to walk with Him and who have opened our hearts and minds to the Holy Spirit are challenged today to not simply keep the Spirit that we celebrate today alive but to take it out into the world. Our task is not to shut the door on those unlike us but, as Jesus outlined it when He began the Galilean ministry is to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, help the stranger, the widow, the orphans and relieve the wants of the world.

“Science Issues For The 2016 Political Season”


I first posted this in June, 2015 but feel, in light of the current political campaign, that it needs to be reposted.


Please note that this is currently a “work in progress”. I would be interested in knowing what other issues you think might be worthy of putting in.


This has been edited since it was first posted.


As we get into the 2016 political season, we need consider a few science issues. One thing that you will note is that there are other issues, such as economics and taxation, intertwined in this piece. That’s because we do not live in a world where we cannot place our knowledge in separate categories.

To the best of my knowledge, every candidate running for President, declared or undeclared, Democrat or Republican, is a college graduate. As such, and unless this has changed, there was a small science component in their degree. This means that each of these individuals is, by definition, scientifically literate. But it is quite obvious that many of these same individuals do not utilize that knowledge in a way that reflects what they learned (unless, of course, they either didn’t attend or slept through the lecture).

Now, science literacy can be defined as the ability to use science knowledge in every day situations (“In Pursuit of Learning: The Rediscovery of Scientific Literacy”, 79th Annual Meeting, Illinois State Academy of Science, Southern Illinois University – Edwardsville, April 18, 1986). The need for a scientifically literate citizenry can be seen in the many political debates in this country. The politics of many issues have been simplified to the point of scientific irrelevance.

As I first pointed out in 2008,

“The United States is not only facing a dearth of future homegrown scientists and engineers . . . but increasingly, everyday citizens need science literacy.” (from “Have We Learned Anything Yet?”)

Only when the populace, as a whole, has the capability and the ability to understand and evaluate the issues being discussed can reasonable debate and solutions be achieved. When the populace does not understand the issue or is prevent from understanding the issue, a limited number of individuals are able to control the outcome for their own purposes, be they good or bad.

The Need For Science Literacy

The first science issue, then, that must be addressed is the scientific literacy, not only of the candidates, but how it will be achieved in the populace as well. This is being partially addressed at the pre-college level with an increase in the mathematics and science requirements for graduation from high school and admittance into college. The former (graduation from high school) clearly is of a higher priority than the latter simply because not every individual is going to college, especially with college costs continuing to rise.

Addressing the issue of science (and mathematics) literacy means reevaluating how we look at education funding. I recognize that we are dealing with what is known as the “fixed and limited volume” problem.

There is only so much money available and right now the majority of that money is directed towards other areas. So there must be 1) a restructuring of our priorities for the future and 2) an understanding that our source of funds must increase. And with regards to that latter point, I know that there are some who are not going to like that idea, just as the idea of funding education over other programs will not go well.
But in the end, if we do not increase the funding for education and we do not increase the amount of revenue in total, we will arrive at a situation where our populace is neither educated or able to be educated and all of that which we rely on today in terms of technology will be rather useless. If people do not know how to fix the technology being used, what good is the technology? And that is part of scientific literacy as well.

Creationism/Evolution Debate

I would list the creation/evolution issue as part of the science literacy issue, not so much for the content of the debate but because the debate centers on our ability to think independently and creatively. Those who seek to include creationism in the science classroom do not do it because it is viable science (which it is not) but because they want to control what students learn and in controlling what students learn, they wish to control creativity and independent learning.

I think a second part of this debate is the move by many to limit the boundaries of academic freedom, the right to teach as one feels is appropriate. Academic freedom is not necessarily a science issue but being able to teach science, or any subject for that matter, without interference is an issue of academic freedom. But as I have noted in the past, being able to teach what you want does not necessarily give you carte blanch to teach anything you want. (A summary of my blog posts dealing with academic freedom is at “Notes On Academic Freedom”.)

As a follow-up to this, we also have to consider various pseudo-science issues that seem to pervade societal discussions. For the sake of brevity, let us just say that topics in the area of pseudo-science are topics which may seem to be scientific but are more likely to bad interpretations of the information. Many times, a person will be opposed to an idea because of some scientific study that, in actuality, has no basis. Differentiating between “good” and “bad” science is necessary component of a scientifically literate populace.

Science Issues

There are several issues that require that the populace understand science.

The Environment and Energy

Perhaps the first area is that of the environment simply because there are several issues in that area, such as:

  • Air quality – is our air clean? What are we doing to keep it clean?
  • Water quality – Is our water clean? Do we have enough clean water?

I would place climate change in this category. We need to understand that we, as an inhabitants of this planet, are doing things to the climate that are not necessarily for the good. This means understanding what is meant by climate change, because not understanding what climate change is about is part of the problem today.

Addressing climate change means addressing the continued use and reliance of fossil fuels as our primary energy resource. The interdependence of our national foreign policy and our nation’s energy resources dependence on fossil fuels has placed us in a very precarious position.

The options that we have for a continued use of fossil fuels illustrate 1) the need for an increased science literacy and 2) the need to include alternative energy resources in the debate.

Consider the following questions:

  • Is natural gas an alternative?
  • There are those who say natural gas is a “cleaner” alternative.
  • Is the energy output obtained from natural gas better, on par, or worse than that from coal and oil?
  • Are the products obtained from the burning of natural gas better or worse than what comes from the burning of coal and gasoline? (If you have ever taken high school chemistry, you know how to figure out the answers to this question.)
  • How do these figures compare to similar calculations for the alternative energy resources?
  • What are the costs associated with each process?
  • Is natural gas a viable replacement for other fossil fuels?
  • Are their “cleaner” or alternative methods for obtaining fossil fuels? There is a great discussion taking place about “fracking” but do the benefits of this method outweigh the risks? Is what is gained by obtaining energy from this method worth the cost? – see “What Is Fracking?”

Alternative Energy Resources

We must, therefore, begin looking at other alternative energy resources such as nuclear power, solar energy, wind power, geothermal energy, hydroelectric energy, and fuel cells, Each of these has it own pros and cons and each has to be weighed against the other in terms of efficiency and cost. It is most likely that ultimate answer is a combination of all the possibilities that considers not only the present situation but the long-term situation as well.

Other Topics

I would think that the exploration of space has to be a bigger topic in the science debate of this country. I don’t believe that there has been a candidate who has not given “lip service” to the idea of going to Mars or putting a long-term human presence on the Moon. But when other factors come into play, such discussions are pushed aside or the suggestion is made that private enterprise should deal with it. Space cannot be the property of some corporation but must be the place where the people of this planet can work together cooperatively. If that means resolving the conflicts on this planet for the betterment of society, so be it.

Conclusion

In the end, any discussion of science issues cannot be simply a discussion of the science involved. Economics and politics will be a part as well. It seems to me that science has always played a secondary role in our political debate. Perhaps it is time for science to be at the forefront of the discussion, because it is through science that we will find a way to the future.

Election year economic issue questions


I do not pretend to be an economist so the only part of economic theory that interests me is the part that allows me to know if I can pay my bills and live a reasonable (important adjective there) life.

In terms of that thought, I have the following questions:

  1. Is there a minimum living wage?

  2. Do employers have an obligation (moral and economic) to pay such a wage?

  3. What are the responsibilities of the worker?

  4. Is health care a necessity?

  5. Who should pay for health care?

  6. Should health insurance companies be private or public corporations? Should they be “for profit” or “non-profit” corporations?

It has been said that John Wesley opposed the rich and the powerful. I know that he wasn’t happy about the power structure of the church that seemed more interested in self-preservation than spreading the Gospel but I am not sure that he necessarily opposed the rich.

I do know that he was not opposed to anyone earning the maximum that they could. Often he said earn as much as you could. But I think that he would have also add, just don’t earn your money through the exploitation of others. He also encouraged everyone to save all that they could and, give all that they could.

John Wesley wanted to make sure that everyone understood that poverty was not a condition of sin. It is unfortunate that this lesson has still not been learned. Too many people today still feel that wealth is a sign of God’s grace and poverty a sin of God’s damnation. For such, charity is a non-engaging task, designed to sooth their own consciousness. But should we not consider that, as I think Wesley did, put our faith into action. (adapted from https://heartontheleft.wordpress.com/2011/03/17/how-will-you-get-there/)

Wesley also said,

Do you not know that God entrusted you with that money (all above what buys necessities for your families) to feed the hungry, to clothe the naked, to help the stranger, the widow, the fatherless; and, indeed, as far as it will go, to relieve the wants of all mankind? How can you, how dare you, defraud the Lord, by applying it to any other purpose?” (from http://www.goodreads.com/author/quotes/151350.John_Wesley)

I do not wish to interject religion into a political debate (we have enough of that as it is) but if a politician is going to say that they are a Christian or if they believe in God or if they hold onto a humanist view of the world, don’t you think that their actions should reflect what they believe?

Monthly Clergy Letter Project Newsletter


The new issue of Clergy Project Newsletter is now available on-line. I urge you all to check this out as it has information related to the teaching of science and academic freedom.  

There is a section in this month’s newsletter for you to sign up for the 2017 Evolution Weekend.

No matter whether you are clergy or laity, I urge you to check it out and get involved in the project.

A New Vision Of The World


A Meditation for 24 April 2016, the 5th Sunday of Easter (Year C). The meditation is based on Acts 11: 1 – 18, Revelation 21: 1 – 16, and John 13: 31 – 35.


Here are my thoughts for this past Sunday.  Got a little bit behind in my work and struggling to catch up.


Let’s begin by expanding on the thoughts behind Peter’s refusal to eat certain foods. Peter was undoubtedly an observant Jew so he had grown up obeying those dietary laws, rules, and regulations.

But it was very likely that he and everyone else at that time what those laws, rules, and regulations were the way they were. There were foods that you could not eat with other foods and there were foods that you could not eat at all and that was they way it was. The reason or reasons for these laws, rules, and regulations was lost in the passage of time but were based on the early days of the Exodus when food storage and preservation were at a premium. The people who began the Exodus understood this but this understanding got lost over time.

How many of us hold onto attitudes and behaviors that we grew up without understanding why we do? How many times do our actions towards others reflect “old” thinking?

The problem for so many people today is that they remain locked in this “old” way of thinking, often times without realizing it. There are those who read the words of John the Seer in the Book of Revelation and see a fulfillment of the past, of the actions of a vengeful and hateful God. But the Seer’s words are a new vision of the world, a new beginning, an opportunity to begin anew and not a continuation of the old. The Seer’s Revelation was never, as President John Kennedy said in the concluding part of his speech to the nation on 22 October 1962, a victory of might but a vindication of what was right. The Book of Revelation is not a justification of the old ways but the knowledge of the new ways.

But how do we achieve the Kingdom the Seer foresaw? How do we establish the Kingdom of Heaven here on earth as Christ so many times proclaimed He had come to establish?

Do we create military armies that will destroy our armies? Do we create laws, rules, and regulations that echo our prejudices and hatred, which reap vengeance on those we hate and despise?

Or do we do as Jesus told those who heard Him that day two thousand years ago that we are to love each other as He loved us? Are we to act in such a way that when others see us, they will see Christ?

It is very hard to throw away the old ideas, the old ways. We heard that in Peter’s thoughts written in the Book of Acts. But Peter understood what he had to do.

The assurance and presence of God through Christ gives us the same comfort and strength that Peter received so that we can cast aside the old and claim the new, so that we can have a new vision of the world.