Whom Shall I Fear?

The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid? (Psalm 27:1) There’s way too much fear in the land, and ironically, a good deal of it seems to be concentrated among folk who think of themselves as people of faith. It may be that a certain kind of fearful temperament drives some people to both a panicky politics and a r…

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Confession

Have mercy on me, O God, according to your steadfast love…. For I know my transgressions, and my sin is ever before more (Psalm 51:1-2) A member of our congregation said not long ago that, much as he likes the church, he thinks we don’t do enough with confession. He’s right. We need to focus more on the practice of confession, and the first day of Lent is an ideal time to begin. Part of the probl…

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Chosen People

I’m teaching the undergraduate Introduction to Religion course at Carnegie Mellon University this semester, where we’re looking at a number of traditions—Hindu, Buddhist, Jewish, Christian, and Muslim—and reflecting on the kinds of issues raised by religion in general. When we came to Judaism, one thoughtful student from another country asked about the idea of a “chosen people.” The Hebrew Bible focuses on …

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God and Country

When I was in Boy Scouts I worked to earn a medal called “God and Country.” Most of the things we achieved in Scouting were either merit badges to wear on a sash or a step up in rank, where the highest rank was Eagle (I stopped at Life, just below Eagle). The fact that “God and Country” was a medal, and not just another cloth badge, suggests that encouraging devotion to both was a high priority for the…

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Facts and Truth

There seems to be considerable confusion in our day about the whole notion of facts and truth, and how anybody can tell what they are, and why exactly they matter. In the last of this month’s reflections on our heritage, I want to note that part of what we’ve inherited in the church is a commitment to seeking and telling the truth, and it’s essential that we maintain that commitment now and pass it on…

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