Monday, April 03, 2017

Ecclesiastes and power

Ran across the following couplets while reading Ecclesiastes:

The quiet words of the wise are more to
       be heeded
than the shouting of a ruler among fools.
Wisdom is better than weapons of war,
but one bungler destroys much good.


Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Where Blessings Come From

A Christian writer recently posted an article in an online journal (To Save a Life) averring that we Christians should stop using the phrase "I have been blessed" in relationship to our vocation or job.  For example, 'my company has been blessed, our business was up 50 percent this year'.  His argument is that God does not view our accumulation of wealth as the primary goal of our lives.  Financial blessings are not the direct consequence of the Lord's grace.

This came to mind when I read the opening chapters in the Book of Job.  Satan and God are having a conversation about Job, who has led a very successful life.

Satan says, "Does Job fear God for nothing?  Have you not put a fence around him and his house and all that he has, on every side?  You have blessed the work of his hands and his possessions bave increased in the lands. But stretch out your hand now and touch all that he has, and he will curse you to your face."

The Lord then gives Satan permission.  "Very well, all that he has is in your power; only do not stretch out your hand against him!"

So Satan has Job's cattle and donkeys stolen, burns the sheep and servants, and kills all his children in a massive windstorm that collapses the house in which they are feasting.

Job's reaction:  he tore his robe, shaved his head, and fell on his knees in worship.  "Shall we receive the good at the hand of God, and not receive the bad?"  In a sense, his faith in God is so foundational, that all acts could be considered God's acts and are a blessing.

All of these thoughts come together solely because I read these two pieces within the same 48 hours, and it felt rather coincidental.  I have never read -- or heard of -- the Save a Live publication.  And to be honest, today was the first time I have ever read Job.  I am not a trained theologian.  So I am not sanguine or comfortable with any conclusion.

But the two readings raise plenty of issues around God's hand in daily living -- and the basic debate around free will vs. determinism.

Book of Job, Chapter 1

Friday, January 06, 2017

Picture Gallery

My Facebook newsfeed contains a great number of posts on Donald Trump.  A high percentage of my friends share the same opinion about our incoming President.  As a result, my Facebook feed is the inevitable echo chamber – a place where the same voices are heard, the same opinions are expressed, the same articles and posts are shared.

This is not the public square, where diverse opinions and feelings are shared should be shared.  As with so many social media sites where we each pick and choose our own crowd, each Facebook site tends to be the electronic version of a selective tribe, only talking to each other.

There has already been plenty written about this phenomenon and the social/political impact of Facebook and similar digital sharing sites.  “Echo chamber” even made the annual Lake Superior State University list of banished words for 2017.

I recently noted another consequence of all this sharing:  my Facebook newsfeed is a continuous stream of Donald Trump pictures.

Every shared article leads off with Trump’s picture, so it is immediately used as the lead picture of a post.  Each flick of my finger on my phone or tablet results in a moving montage of the man’s face.  Flick fast enough, and I have a movie short. Rather disconcerting.

I’m sure the data mavens at Facebook have the numbers that demonstrate the most prevalent pictures of people that appear in any 24-hour period.

Imagine the resulting movie shorts if all my friends were focused on Darth Vader for a day? or Brad Pitt? or Queen Elizabeth? or Vladimir Putin? or Edvard Munch’s “The Scream” painting?  or a cat?

Whoops.  Stale meme.  Way too many cats on Facebook already.