Monthly Archives: November 2006

The Pope’s Visit to Turkey: Two Views

Pope Benedict is carefully treading the political/religious ground of Turkey this week in an attempt to bring healing to his rifts with Muslims and to also offer the olive branch to the Eastern Orthodox Church.

So far it seems that he is playing his cards right, but here are two perspectives on this important visit:

Eastern
Western

Hope for Exiles: Preliminary Thoughts on Daniel

As we near the season in which we anticipate the birth of Christ and celebrate the redemption that he brings to the world, I would like to begin with some preliminary thoughts on the book of Daniel that will be helpful in our first week of meditations.

Daniel is far more than a book with half history and half off-the-wall visions. Though it sometimes brings up the topic of the end times, I don’t believe the primary concern of Daniel is that either, if at all.

The first trick is to consider the dating of Daniel. And while I’m sure he was a popular guy in the Babylonian courts, I’m talking about the time in which his book was written.

Conservative scholars favor a date in the range of 500 BCE. In other words, Daniel was written to chronicle the events of this important figure in the nation of Israel and to give hope in the face of exile.

While this is possible, in whole or in part, there is another option that a few conservatives and the majority of liberal scholars favor. They state that Daniel was written around 200 BCE.

This later date does not mean that Daniel is fictional, only that the oral tradition was transferred to written form at this time. Perhaps the strongest evidence for this is the second half of the book (which may open the door for a theory that Daniel is two separate works joined together) which abandons the historical narrative of the first half and adopts the exact same style as apocalyptic literature. Daniel bears a striking resemblance to this kind of literature that was thriving in 200 BCE and involved visions, angelic beings, and commentaries on world events.

Where does all of this lead us? In order to grasp part of the meaning of Daniel, I think we need a handle on what the author was aiming to do.

The author was first and foremost writing about God’s care for his people in the midst of exile and foreign rule. This is a message that could have been written and applied in 500 BCE. Nevertheless, under the rule of the Greeks, the second half of the book fits into the history all too well. The Hellenization of Israel, the oppression of Judaism, and the temptation for compromise were all historical elements in the 200 BCE time frame that are addressed specifically in Daniel.

It seems to me that the book of Daniel is two parts. One was originally addressed to Israel in exile. The other was addressed to Israel under a foreign rule. Both parts are important and address how followers of the Lord should live in a land that is not their own.

Advent: a Brief Look

This Sunday (December 3rd) will be the first week of Advent. The meaning and focus of Advent varies depending on your Christian tradition and your place in history.

Wikipedia says: “Advent (from the Latin Adventus, sc. Redemptoris, “the coming of the Saviour”) is a holy season of the Christian church, the period of preparation for the celebration of the Nativity of Christ, or Christmas. It is the beginning of the Christian year”

CRI says: “Historically, the primary sanctuary color of Advent is Purple. This is the color of penitence and fasting as well as the color of royalty to welcome the Advent of the King. Purple is still used in Catholic churches. The purple of Advent is also the color of suffering used during Lent and Holy Week. This points to an important connection between Jesus’ birth and death. The nativity, the Incarnation, cannot be separated from the crucifixion. The purpose of Jesus’ coming into the world, of the “Word made flesh” and dwelling among us, is to reveal God and His grace to the world through Jesus’ life and teaching, but also through his suffering, death, and resurrection. To reflect this emphasis, originally Advent was a time of penitence and fasting, much as the Season of Lent and so shared the color of Lent.”

And then adds, “In recent times, however, Advent has undergone a shift in emphasis, reflected in a change of colors used in many churches. Except in the Eastern churches, the penitential aspect of the Season has been almost totally replaced by an emphasis on hope and anticipation.”

Advent is the one season that I always felt the Protestants, in my case Evangelicals, could find so much more significance and meaning. Beyond lighting candles on the advent wreath, there is an opportunity to focus on the implications of the birth of Jesus, a story we have heard too often, but rarely listened to.

My Latest Writing Projects

Though I cannot share my current writing projects because publishers must know they have first dibs on the material, I sent a few articles to the local Manchester papers. I don’t usually keep tabs on all of them at this site, I usually have them over at my writing blog edcyz.com. Just look for the writing link.

Nevertheless, the articles in this week’s paper are available online at the Manchester Journal’s web site. In case you were wondering what’s happening in my little corner of Vermont, my articles cover some of what’s happening in the non-profit scene:

The Groundbreaking at First Congregational Church
The December Meeting of the Northshire Non-Profit Network

Other Announcements
Advent: I thought I should mention that I’ll be starting a series of posts for the Advent season. My theme will be the exile. Since Jesus is God’s ultimate answer to our exile from Him and since the exile was basically the context of Jesus’ coming, it seemed to be a suitable theme.

We’ll start off with a bang in the book of Daniel. It’s time to look at exile from an apocalyptic point of view and put the dispensational escapism of the Left Behind Series to rest.

Ads: OK, I cracked. I have been resisting the placement of ads on this site for so long because I did not want this site to become about making money. After trying to make a little money on another web site and failing, it seems that the temptation and expectations are gone.

So you may notice a few ads hiding in the columns. I hope they don’t seem deceptive. I did not want to steal from the visual appeal of the site for the sake of having flashy ads that scream “click me.”

I will certainly need to keep an eye on myself. This is a blog about the intersection of Christianity and culture . . . with some thoughts thrown in about my life here in Vermont. If I start pushing products, like, oh, I don’t know, a LENOVO LAPTOP or a CANON POWERSHOT CAMERA, which I own and use all of the time and highly recommend, then I hope someone will challenge me on that . . .

In addition, if I start trying to bump up my stats by constantly covering politics and tabloid news, then it’s time to drop my posts about Barack Obama, Hilary Clinton, or even George W. Bush. There are enough bloggers covering these topics who do it better and know a lot more than I do.

Faith, culture, and Vermont: that’s what this blog is about.

Ed’s Rules for Driving in New Jersey

As a former resident of the “Garden State” and traveler of its highways over the weekend, I can assure my readers that the following tips are authoritative and accurate:

1. All traffic signs, especially “Yield” signs, are just friendly suggestions. If NJ drivers had to obey ALL of those signs they would never leave their cramped little developments.

2. Drivers Education is viewed as a hazing, not training. All NJ drivers must endure a course preaching the laughable doctrine of defensive driving in order to obtain a license. Once that laminated little card is in the NJ driver’s wallet, primal instincts take over and they go on the offensive.

3. If you miss your turn on a divided highway, just forget about it. You’ll NEVER find a way to turn around. Even in the unlikely circumstance that you can find a way to retrace your steps, there now is a huge concrete barrier and 5 roaring lanes of traffic separating you from your supposed destination.

If the turn is really, really important, your best course of action is to pull over, sell your car, and then hire a taxi driver to take you there.

4. The right of way belongs to whoever can get away with cutting you off. Any car that’s pulling out of a parking lot has the right to pull in front of oncoming traffic and proceed at whatever speed deemed suitable.

5. Never ever stop for gas at a rest stop on the NJ turnpike. The gas is more expensive and you’ll sit in line for at least half an hour.

I’m sure other NJ drivers could add to this list, but these were all impressed in my mind yesterday, especially while trying to find the IKEA (that happened to be closed) off the Garden State Parkway. We spent a lot of time on Route 4 trying to find a way to turn around, dodging idiots who would pulled in front of us, and then following misleading signs all over the place for the Parkway.

What a relief it is to be back in Vermont.

Bleak News on Black Friday

While inspections of China’s manufacturing facilities have been a positive step forward for companies involved in outsourcing, the regulation game has grown more challenging. Business Week reports:

“American importers have long answered criticism of conditions at their Chinese suppliers with labor rules and inspections. But many factories have just gotten better at concealing abuses.”

Consulting firms are now helping managers create duplicate records with false information and teaching them how to conceal worker abuse.

The Business Week article lists three obstacles to greater reform in China: the pressure to lower prices, absence of an alternative to China, and uninformed workers who are willing to work extra hours without overtime pay.

This is particularly important to consider during black Friday, our day to hunt for the best bargains around. Not that there’s anything wrong with looking for a good sale. The trend that drives prices down regardless of the means is deeply rooted in America and is particularly hard to isolate and weed out. I don’t have a clue about the correct course of action.

Perhaps one positive step forward this season is purchasing a gift from Ten Thousand Villages or similar companies. Another option is to buy something made locally.

Half-Empty Thankfulness

The focus of Thanksgiving often hones in on what we have. We think of experiences, people, and possessions.

Thankfulness for such things is all well and good, but here’s a little twist that doesn’t receive quite as much air time. I would like to be thankful for the things that have not happened and what I do not have.

We could take this in many directions. From a Christian perspective, I am thankful for God’s grace that makes me his child. Without him I know that I would be far more rotten than I already am.

I can’t imagine life without the presence of God and I am thankful that he has saved me from who knows how many mistakes.

And then there are the many things that have not happened to myself or to loved ones. We’ve never had a major auto accident, never been without sufficient food, never been attacked, and so forth. The list goes on.

If we can spend time thanking God for what we have and the things we have been spared from, then it is also appropriate to pray for those who are in need and who have suffered through what we have thus far avoided.

Thankfulness is good, but generosity is even greater. Perhaps Thanksgiving would be even more significant if we not only recognized how blessed we are, but also realized we blessed in order to bless others.

It’s easy to be thankful in a nation of plenty. The far greater act today is generosity with our time and resources.