ViewpointNews that caught my attention recently

In clearing out my "Viewpoint" shoebox for June, I found a few items that might interest readers. Here are three.

Does God send terror attacks?

I'm no fan of fundamentalist evangelists, especially the flashy sort that have television shows and private jets. The one great exception to this over the years has been Billy Graham. All the more disappointing, then, when Graham's daughter, Anne Graham Lotz, herself a popular evangelist, recently told a conservative radio interviewer that God sends terror attacks because of all kinds of human evils. She named bathroom rights for transgender people as a sitting duck for divine wrath.

When we transgress the moral law, she says, "God abandons us," "he backs away and takes his hand of favor [and] blessings from us." Because of our sins, God let 9/11 happen; allowed the shootings in San Bernardino to take place; and generally punishes us because of our national sins.

Rubbish!

The really sad thing is that even many mainstream Christians (including Catholics) are inclined to believe that God acts in just this way, sending down calamities and disasters when he is angered.

To be crystal clear: God does not send disasters on people and nations. He does not abandon us in our sins. Like the Prodigal Father, he is always patient with us in our sins (personal and communal) and joyfully welcomes us back.

Rockstar Bono has some advice for church composers 

Bono is an Irish rock star and a great fan of Pope John Paul II.  He has slowly returned to the faith of his childhood (or some version thereof).

The singer has developed a great affection for the Psalms, finding in them an enormous range of human feeling: anger, irritation, sadness, and bliss.

By comparison, he finds most modern Christian worship music bland and lacking in strong emotion. He calls recent church music "dishonest" for the reason that it covers over much of the more painful aspects of life.

Modern church music, Bono says, is mediocre, has the same set of reliably inspirational words, and uses theological jargon that is tiresome. (He is also tired of the repetitive four-chord accompaniments.)

Bono holds that if the more dramatic and heart-rending psalms were used more frequently by composers we would have a more vital, moving, and dramatic body of church music.

Do I agree with Bono? Is the Pope Catholic?

Going to hell in a handbasket

John Calvin, the dour sixteenth-century founder of the Protestant Reformation in Geneva and his dour theological son John Knox, the founder of Scottish Presbyterianism, bequeathed to Christianity a rather severe, stoic, and grey form of the Christian faith. One doesn't expect much nonsense from it. 

Scottish Presbyterianism, like most mainstream churches, is today losing its people at an alarming rate, and is struggling to find solutions adapted to modern culture. So what to do? Well, the Presbyterian General Assembly, meeting in Edinburgh recently, had a brilliant idea: If the people don't come to church, then the church should go to the people. Fair enough. But one of the items on the General Assembly's agenda was the proposal of conducting the sacraments of baptism and Communion through the internet! 

More in Viewpoint

The most basic objection to this proposal is, of course, that the sacraments involve a community of faith gathered together to celebrate the sacraments tangibly with water, wine, and bread. Internet devotees may think that the medium creates community and gives grace, but that is pure fantasy.

If the staid Scottish Presbyterians go silly, what hope is there for the rest of us? 

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