The Bible In One Hand, A Newspaper In The Other

When Simon and Garfunkel recorded this song, they were doing some of the best Biblical hermeneutics imaginable.  Practicing what Karl Barth allegedly said about theology – that it’s done with the Bible in one hand and a daily paper in the other – they confronted Christmas 1966 with the realities of the day opposed directly with the sweet German Christmas song, “Silent Night”.  I’m about to be as unoriginal as possible, doing much the same thing, with portions of the Magnificat, the song of Mary as she greets her elderly cousin Elizabeth.

When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the child leapt in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit and exclaimed with a loud cry, ‘Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. – Luke 1:41-42

What you will rarely, or never, see is a divorced woman, or a single mother with children, being allowed to minister in any fashion, especially in a leadership role.-

They are not considered ministry material, but instead, are considered in need of being ministered to themselves.-

They are spiritually deficient, and incomplete. They are not qualified. They are many times portrayed as women who have failed spiritually, or who are on the prowl for other women’s husbands. – The Jezebel Spirit and the Single Woman in the Church

 

 And Mary said,
‘My soul magnifies the Lord,
and my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour,
for he has looked with favour on the lowliness of his servant.
Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed – Luke 1:46-48

There is absolutely NOTHING in the Bible leading Christians to recognize Mary, adore Mary, or talk to Mary.  Although most Catholics deny worshipping Mary, a picture is worth 1,000 words. 

The picture of Pope John Paul II adoring Our Lady of Fatima to the right, and the photo of Catholics bowing to Mary at the left, are clear irrefutable evidences of idolatry.  Look up the word “worship” in any dictionary and you’ll find that Catholics do indeed WORSHIP Mary and other hordes of dead saints.  Those who want to fellowship with the Roman Catholic Church and accept it as a true “church” are ignoring its blasphemous teachings concerning Mary.   The Catholic religion is straight out of the pits of Hell! – David A. Stewart, “Catholicism Verses [sic] The Bible

His mercy is for those who fear him
from generation to generation. – Luke 1:50

Clearly, the Church is dying. Do your research, Mr. Stetzer. According to the Hartford Institute of Religion Research, more than 40 percent of Americans “say” they go to church weekly. As it turns out, however, less than 20 percent are actually in church. In other words, more than 80 percent of Americans are finding more fulfilling things to do on weekends.

Furthermore, somewhere between 4,000 and 7,000 churches close their doors every year. Southern Baptist researcher, Thom Rainer, in a recent article entitled “13 Issues for Churches in 2013” puts the estimate higher. He says between 8,000 and 10,000 churches will likely close this year.

Between the years 2010 and 2012, more than half of all churches in America added not one new member. Each year, nearly 3 million more previous churchgoers enter the ranks of the “religiously unaffiliated.” – Steve McSwain, “Why Nobody Wants To Go To Church Anymore”

 

He has shown strength with his arm;
he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts.
He has brought down the powerful from their thrones, – Luke 1:51-52a

To be consistent with the polling, which covers Congress broadly, we’ll lump together the incumbent winning percentages in both the House and Senate. There are a few contests still to be decided, but there are enough settled that we can make a pretty close count.

In the House, we counted 390 incumbents who ran on Election Day. Of those, four haven’t had their races called as of Nov. 10, so we’ll set them aside. Of the remaining 386 incumbents, 373 won, for a winning percentage of 96.6 percent.

If you add in three incumbents who ran but lost in primaries, the incumbent winning percentage drops to 95.9 percent.

Meanwhile, in the Senate, 23 out of 26 incumbents won, with one more (Alaska’s Mark Begich, a Democrat) trailing in a race that has not yet been called, and another (Louisiana’s Mary Landrieu, also a Democrat) heading into a runoff.

If you don’t include Begich and Landrieu, the combined House-Senate incumbent winning percentage is 95.4 percent. If you do include them, it falls slightly to 95 percent. – Nai Issa, Louis Jacobson, “Congress has 11% Approval Ratings But 96% Incumbent Reelection Rate, Meme Says”, Politifact.com, November 11, 2014

 

and lifted up the lowly;
he has filled the hungry with good things, – Luke 1:52b-53a

Arnold Abbott handed out four plates of food to homeless people in a South Florida park. Then police stopped the 90-year-old from serving up another bite.

“An officer said, ‘Drop that plate right now — like I had a weapon,'” Abbott said.

Abbott and two pastors in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, were charged for feeding the homeless in public on Sunday, the city’s first crackdowns under a new ordinance banning public food sharing,CNN affiliate WPLG reported.

Now they face possible jail time and a $500 fine, WPLG said. – Kevin Conlon and Catherine Shoichet, “90-year-old Florida man charged for feeding homeless people,” Cnn.com, Nov. 5, 2014

This past winter, the Apostolic Pentecostal Church in Rockford, Illinois opened a shelter and warming center for the city’s homeless. For understandable reasons — record freezing temperatures and a need for more shelter — their services were in high demand. Pastor Dave Frederick tells AlterNet that up to 50 people filled the church’s pews some nights. They only shut their doors for three days in December, because his wife had a heart attack.

“Anyone who wanted to spend the night got blankets and pillows. Ladies would make dinner,” he says.

Now, the city’s homeless will have to find other arrangements. As Rockford’s WIFR 23 News first reported, last week city officials told the Pastor that using the space as a shelter breaks zoning laws. His options include spending a lot of money on renovations or spending a lot of money — $300,000 — to buy a new building.

The only other shelter in town, Rockford Rescue Mission, is often full and doesn’t allow alcohol and drugs, so people who drink or do drugs can’t go there anyway.

“Everybody that left is back out on the street,” says Thomas Stirling, who volunteers at the shelter. “It still drops below freezing at night. It’s a really sad thing.”  – Tana Ganeva, “Church Ordered to Stop Giving Homeless People a Warm Place to Stay in Freezing Cold Weather”, alternet.org, March 24, 2014

Clearly, the present-tense of Mary’s song is as much hope as it is descriptive; a statement of faith as much as an honest recounting of the world as we know it.  How we deal with these conflicting realities, how we make sense of Mary’s song of joy and faith in the midst of our present reality, that is the task of the church each and every day.  It is just that, during Advent, specifically when we read and hear and recall the joyous song of St. Mary when greeted by her cousin St. Elizabeth, we need to do the work of holding that section accountable to the world as it is.  We also need to hold the world accountable to the words of the Magnificat.  We as the people called the Body of Christ must work to bring the two closer together.

It seems we still have a long way to go.

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About gksafford

I'm a middle-aged theologically educated clergy spouse, living in the Midwest. My children are the most important thing in my life. Right behind them and my wife is music. I'm most interested in teaching people to listen to contemporary music with ears of faith. Everything else you read on here is straw.
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