Archive for the ‘Faith and Television’ Category

The Importance of Being Morally Fit for Triumph   1 comment

Above:  The Confession of Captain Benjamin Sisko in In the Pale Moonlight (1998)

A Screen Capture I Took Via PowerDVD


Or, What Reinhold Niebuhr Has to Do With Star Trek:  Deep Space Nine


So… I lied. I cheated. I bribed men to cover the crimes of other men. I am an accessory to murder. But the most damning thing of all… I think I can live with it. And if I had to do it all over again, I would. Garak was right about one thing, a guilty conscience is a small price to pay for the safety of the Alpha Quadrant. So I will learn to live with it. Because I can live with it. I can live with it… Computer, erase that entire personal log.

–Captain Benjamin Sisko, In the Pale Moonlight (1998)


Recently I completed my rewatch of Star Trek:  Deep Space Nine (1993-1999), the best of the Star Trek series.  I had recorded most of the episodes from 1993 to 1999, but I had not sat down and watched the series from beginning to end, skipping certain really bad episodes.  DS9 was the last great Star Trek series–certainly heads and shoulders over Voyager (1995-2001) and Enterprise (2001-2005), two series notable for, among other faults, playing it safe and ignoring continuity much of the time.  DS9 did not play it safe, especially after its troubled first season.  The Dominion War arc certainly took the series into dark and morally ambiguous territory, only part of which I consider in this post.

The Neo-Orthodox theologian Reinhold Niebuhr (1892-1971), a Cold War liberal, had a strong moral compass and an awareness of human sinfulness.  He opened The Irony of American History (1952) with a statement of the possibility that the means by which the free world, led by the United States, might have to win the Cold War might leave the victors morally unfit to govern.  The use of atomic weapons would not only endanger civilization, kill many people,  and cause much physical destruction, he wrote, but lead to moral complications for the victors:

The victors would also face the “imperial” problem of using power in global terms but from one particular center of authority, so preponderant and unchallenged that its world rule would almost certainly violate basic standards of justice.

–Page 2

As Commander William Adama stated in Resurrection Ship, Part II (2006), an episode of the reimagined Battlestar Galactica (2003-2008),

It’s not enough to survive; one must be worthy of surviving.

In the story lines of Star Trek:  Deep Space Nine the Dominion War raged for years and endangered the great powers of the Alpha and  Beta Quadrants–the Klingon Empire, the Romulan Star Empire, and the United Federation of Planets.  (Aside:  The scripts tended not to mention the Beta Quadrant, but, according to official Star Trek lore, the Klingon Empire, the Romulan Star Empire, and much of the Federation were in the Beta Quadrant.)  Forces of the Dominion, an empire presided over by the shape-shifting Founders, fought to conquer the Alpha and Beta Quadrants.  The body counts were staggering and the Dominion seemed to be on the verge of victory.  Times were desperate.

In In the Pale Moonlight (1998) Captain Benjamin Sisko, with the approval of the Federation Council, conspired to trick the Romulan Star Empire into abandoning its non-aggression treaty with the Dominion.  The plan was to convince one Romulan senator, Vreenak, that the Dominion was plotting to invade the Romulan Star Empire.  There was no evidence of this, so Sisko, with Federation approval, arranged for the forging of evidence.  Certainly the Dominion would invade the Romulan Star Empire in time, given the nature of the Dominion and the Founders’ sense of superiority to solids.  Furthermore, the Federation needed for the Romulans to enter the war on its side.  Vreenak recognized the forgery as such, but Elim Garak, who hired the forger then killed him or had him killed, planted a bomb on Vreenak’s shuttle craft.  The leadership of the Romulan Star Empire blamed the Dominion for Vreenak’s death and declared war.  The Federation had a new ally.  Sisko admitted his crimes in private and confessed that he could live with his guilty conscience.

As I have pondered this episode and others, all the way through the end of the series, I have realized that, as the writers presented the story of the Dominion War, Sisko was correct; his crimes were necessary.  The Romulans were crucial to the defeat of the Dominion, after all.

In The Maquis, Part II (1994) Sisko analyzed the difficult situation of a group rebels-terrorists succinctly:

On Earth, there is no poverty, no crime, no war. You look out the window of Starfleet Headquarters and you see paradise. Well, it’s easy to be a saint in paradise, but the Maquis do not live in paradise. Out there in the Demilitarized Zone, all the problems haven’t been solved yet. Out there, there are no saints — just people. Angry, scared, determined people who are going to do whatever it takes to survive, whether it meets with Federation approval or not!

However, later, in For the Uniform (1997), Sisko poisoned the atmosphere of  Maquis colony world and prepared to do the same to other Maquis colonies.  A vendetta against one Maquis leader, Michael Eddington, inspired this plan.

Above:  Dr. Julian Bashir Confronts Admiral William Ross in Inter Arma Enim Silent Leges (1999)

A Screen Capture via PowerDVD

Sisko, the greatest of all the Star Trek captains, did not live in paradise, neither was he a saint.  Neither was Admiral William Ross, as in Inter Arma Enim Silent Leges (1999).  In a story reminiscent of The Spy Who Came in From the Cold,  a great Cold War thriller, Admiral Ross plotted with Section 31, the Federation’s black operations agency that officially does not exist, to frame an innocent and  patriotic Romulan senator and thereby improve the political standing of a double agent.  After all, as Ross said in Latin, quoting Cicero,

In time of war the law falls silent.

Later in the series Dr. Julian Bashir, who takes his Hippocratic Oath seriously, learns that Section 31 was responsible for infecting the Founders of the Dominion with a fatal virus–that the Federation was responsible for attempted genocide.  The Federation, as Gene Roddenberry conceived of it in the 1960s, was a noble and idealistic organization.  DS9 did more to expose the dark underbelly of the Federation than did any other filmed incarnation of Star Trek.  DS9 gave us Section 31, for example.  The writers seemed to present Section 31 in such a way as to make plain its moral dubiousness as well as its practical necessity.

Roddenberry’s Federation is an analog for the United States of America, just as the Klingon Empire is an analog for the Soviet Union.  Thus, in Star Trek VI:  The Undiscovered Country (1991) the two powers begin to end their cold war.  Since the Federation stands in for the U.S.A., the moral questions the Federation faces during the Dominion War might remind one of morally questionable policies of the U.S. Government over time, especially in the context of the Cold War and events since September 11, 2001.   Overthrowing democratically elected governments that are merely inconvenient to U.S. business interests and installing military dictatorships that victimize their own citizenry for decades contradicts U.S. ideals, does it not?  Supporting brutal regimes–whether fascist or military dictatorships–because they are not communist should trouble one’s conscience, should it not?  Also, committing and condoning torture makes one morally unfit.  Whom would Jesus torture?  As Niebuhr reminds us down the corridors of time, we must be morally fit, not just victorious.

All of this brings me to a point:  How can we defend ideals that are in peril by violating those ideals?  We cannot, of course.  Yes, we might have to get our hands dirty, so to speak, but, if we get them too dirty, we compromise ourselves morally and render ourselves morally unfit to serve the interests of justice.   How we treat others is about our character, not theirs.  We may not live in paradise, but how close to the standard of sainthood can we live?








Adapted from this post:


Three Temples   1 comment

Jerusalem and the Second Temple--James Tissot

Above:  Jerusalem and the Second Temple, by James Tissot

Image in the Public Domain


The Collect:

Almighty God, you gave us your only Son

to take on our human nature and to illumine the world with your light.

By your grace adopt us as your children and enlighten us with your Spirit,

through Jesus Christ, our Redeemer and Lord, who lives and reigns

with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 20


The Assigned Readings:

1 Chronicles 28:1-10

Psalm 147:12-20

1 Corinthians 3:10-17


[The Lord] sends forth his word and melts them;

he blows within his wind and the waters flow.

He declares his word to Jacob,

his statutes and judgments to Israel.

He has not dealt so with any other nation;

they do not know his laws.  Alleluia.

–Psalm 147:19-21, The Book of Common Prayer (2004)


The pericope from 1 Chronicles, true to the pro-Davidic Dynasty bias of 1-2 Chronicles, omits certain unflattering details and depicts King David as a champion of fidelity to God.  It does, however, say that David’s bloodshed made him unfit to build a temple for YHWH at Jerusalem.

St. Paul the Apostle, writing while the Second Temple still stood, argued that those who trust in God are the Temple of God:

Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you?  If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy that person.  For God’s temple is holy, and you are that temple.

–1 Corinthians 3:16-17, The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

“You” is plural.

I wonder how much better the world would be if more people treated others as parts of the Temple of God–as individuals to respect, if not get along with all the time.  Yet each person has God-given dignity as a bearer of the image of God.  This concept of people–believers, in particular–as the Temple teaches us to treat one another properly.  Even non-believers bear the image of God, and therefore deserve good treatment and basic respect.

I admit that I have an easier time extending basic respect to favored cats and to people I like and who mostly agree with me than to those who annoy me and who seldom agree with me.  Some people think so differently from me that, given the opportunity, they argue about even objective matters, such as what the weather forecast says.  They seem like characters from the great Argument Clinic sketch from Monty Python’s Flying Circus.  (Statement:  “I came here for an argument.”  Reply:  “No, you didn’t.”)  So I have some spiritual work to do, via grace.  You, O reader, might not be so different from me in that regard.  The good news here is that we need not rely on our own power to accomplish this goal, for we have access to divine grace.






Adapted from this post:


Listening to God   1 comment

Silas Benjamin

Above:  God Speaking to King Silas Benjamin Through a Storm in New King, Part 2, the Final Episode of Kings (2009)

A Screen Capture via PowerDVD


The Collect:

O God of creation, eternal majesty,

you preside over land and sea, sunshine and storm.

By your strength pilot us,

by your power preserve us,

by your wisdom instruct us,

and by your hand protect us,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 40


The Assigned Readings:

Job 37:1-13

Psalm 107:1-3, 23-32

Luke 21:25-28


Some went down to the sea in ships

and plied their trade in deep waters;

They beheld the works of the LORD

and his wonders in the deep.

Then he spoke, and a stormy wind arose,

which tossed high the waves of the sea.

They mounted up to the heavens and fell back to the depths;

their hearts melted because of their peril.

they reeled and staggered like drunkards and were at their wits’ end.

Then they cried to the LORD in their trouble,

and he delivered them from their distress.

He stilled the storm to a whisper

and quieted the waves of the sea.

Then they were glad because of the calm,

and he brought them to the harbor they were bound for.

Let them give thanks to the LORD for his mercy

and the wonders he does for his children.

Let them exalt him in the congregation of his people

and praise him in the council of the elders.

–Psalm 107:23-32, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)


The imagery of the storm god, common in the ancient Near East, appears in the Bible.  We find this imagery in the three readings for today, in fact.  Elihu, speaking in Job 37, uses it.  Later, in Chapters 38-41, God speaks out of the tempest.  Psalm 107 (the reading from which I extended) describes a storm at sea.  And we read of natural disasters and of Jesus descending on a cloud in Luke 21.  (Cue “Lo, He Comes with Clouds Descending,” everyone.)  The imagery of clouds associated with God is rich in the Bible, from the Book of Exodus to the Transfiguration, Ascension, and Second Coming of Jesus.  And, in the NBC series Kings (2009), based on stories of David and Saul yet set in contemporary times, God speaks to King Silas Benjamin (the Saul figure) from storm clouds.

Nevertheless, another passage of scripture comes to my mind.  In 1 Kings 19 the prophet Elijah is hiding from King Ahab and Queen Jezebel, who want to kill him.  God speaks to Elijah, but not from any storm or natural disaster:

The LORD was passing by:  a great and strong wind came, rending mountains and shattering rocks before him, but the LORD was not in the wind; and after the wind there was an earthquake, but the LORD was not in the earthquake; and after the earthquake fire, but the LORD was not in the fire; and after the fire a faint murmuring sound.

–1 Kings 19:11b-12, The Revised English Bible (1989)

Then God spoke to Elijah.

I extended the reading from Psalm 107 to include the calmed waters of the sea because doing so works well with the reading from 1 Kings 19.

God does some of God’s best speaking in the quietness, I am convinced.  Certainly some occasions justify dramatic demonstrations, but we mere mortals will miss God’s still, small voice if we focus on God’s booming voice.  God speaks to us often via a range of channels, from the spectacular to the mundane.  My experience has taught me that God has spoken most profoundly to me in the silence and in the conversational speaking tones of people around me.  Sometimes God has whispered to me, but usually God has simply spoken to me.  Those messages have proven most spiritually helpful in my life.

I invite you, O reader, to make a habit of being quiet and listening for whatever God says to you.





Adapted from this post:


Vindication, Part I   1 comment

Triumph of Mordecai

Above:  The Triumph of Mordecai, by Pieter Lastman

Image in the Public Domain


The Collect:

God of power and might, your Son shows us the way of service,

and in him we inherit the riches of your grace.

Give us the wisdom to know what is right and

the strength to serve the world you have made,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 53


The Assigned Readings:

Esther 8:3-17

Psalm 7

Revelation 19:1-9


Let the malice of the wicked come to an end,

but establish the righteous;

for you test the mind and heart, O righteous God.

–Psalm 7:10, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)


Haman’s plot to kill the Jews fails in Esther 7.  Haman dies by impaling–the means of death he had planned for Mordecai.  King Ahasuerus bestows Haman’s property upon Queen Esther and grants Mordecai and Esther the authority to countermand the order to kill the Jews.  Then, in Chapter 9, Jews massacre their enemies, numbered in the tens of thousands.  Ahasuerus becomes a monarch who does not sanction genocide and Mordecai receives a major promotion.

In Revelation much rejoicing in Heaven follows the fall of Rome, for God has avenged those whom the empire had victimized.

Many of psalms contain prayers for vindication.  Esther 9 and Revelation 19 reflect the same desire.  I recall also an episode of Hunter (1984-1991) I watched on DVD recently.  A stereotypically White trash criminal, upon learning of the death of his wife, prays in one scene for the aid of Jesus in killing the man who took her life.

The desire for vindication is a natural and predictable one.  Indeed, I know it well.  Yet I know also that there would be less violence and more peace in the world if fewer people sought vindication and left that matter to God.







Adapted from this post:


1 Samuel and Acts, Part II: Answering the Call of God   1 comment


Above:  Shiloh, 1898-1914

Image Source = Library of Congress



Blessed Lord, who caused all holy scriptures to be written for our learning:

Grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them,

that we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of everlasting life,

which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ;

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 236


The Assigned Readings:

1 Samuel 3:1-21

Psalm 104 (Morning)

Psalms 118 and 111 (Evening)

Acts 16:1-22


Some Related Posts:

1 Samuel 3:

Acts 16:


When God speaks to us, do we recognize this reality?  And, if we do, how do we respond?  Samuel came to know that God was calling him.  Eli accepted the harsh news regarding his family.  Paul, Silas, and Timothy responded to God’s call by preaching to others.  Lydia and her husband responded by extending hospitality to those who had converted them.

The Larger Westminster Catechism begins:

Q:  What is the chief and highest end of man?

A:  Man’s chief and highest end is to glorify God, and fully to enjoy him forever.

That is an excellent summary of Christian vocation.  It is also a general statement.  Particulars depend on circumstances and other factors, such as who one is, where one is, and when one is there.

Recently I have been watching the Ronald D. Moore version of Battlestar Galactica from beginning to end again.  In one of the last episodes President Laura Roslin tells Lee Adama that she has one concern about him:  He is so determined to do the right thing that he does not always do the smart thing.  Indeed, managing to be wise yet innocent can prove difficult.  And, once one has lost innocence, can one regain it?  And how dirty can one get while trying to perform good deeds (or at least the best ones possible) in the real world before one becomes corrupted?

I lack good answers to these important questions.  They are hard questions, so easy answers will not suffice.  But, by grace, we can shed light in the real world, enjoy and glorify God, do the right and smart thing, and obey the call of God as it plays out where and when we are.  God has the answers; look there for them, O reader.







Adapted from this post:


Kings (2009)   4 comments

Above:  The Royal Family of Gilboa with Captain David Shepherd

Image Source = NBC

KINGS (2009)


The Royal Family and Close Relations:

Ian McShane as King Silas Benjamin

Susanna Thompson as Queen Rose Cross Benjamin

Allison Miller as Princess Michelle Benjamin

Sebastian Stan as Prince Jonathan “Jack” Benjamin

Dylan Baker as William Cross

Macaulay Culkin as Andrew Cross

Sarita Choudhury as Helen Pardis

Other Principal Characters:

Chris Egan as Captain David Shepherd

Becky Ann Baker as Jessie Shepherd

Eamonn Walker as Reverend Ephram Samuels

Wes Studi as General Linus Abner


The Bible is full of excellent stories ripe for modern adaptations, not just costume dramas.  The former is frequently the best way to go, I am convinced, for such an approach makes the story in question fresher than it would be otherwise.  Consider, for example the power of Clarence Jordan’s Cotton Patch versions of New Testament books, including Gospels. Transplanting the world of first century CE Roman-occupied Palestine to the U.S. South of the twentieth century works well.

To that column we can add Kings (2009), a short-lived (a two-hour pilot plus eleven other episodes) series from NBC.  The writers and producers rearranged elements from 1 Samuel and 2 Samuel (mostly from the former) and set the series in the Kingdom of Gilboa, based on the Kingdom of Israel yet resembling the United States of America.  Gilboa, in its current form, is a new nation, just three decades old.  Its new capital city, a gleaming metropolis complete with skyscrapers, is the rebuilt Shiloh, which resembles a CGI-altered New York City.  (The series did film in the Big Apple.)  Silas Benjamin, once a general, united three kingdoms–Gilboa, Carmel, and Selah–via war.  He is now the absolute monarch.  Yet he is not all powerful.  His brother-in-law, industrialist William Cross, is a leader in the military-industrial complex and an ardent opponent for peace with the neighboring Republic of Gath.  Peace is bad for business.  Yes, this is the story of Saul and David updated and told with allusions to the Second Iraq War.  There are even allusions to the Israel-Palestine conflict, for a land-for-peace deal is a plot element throughout the series’ brief run.

In the pilot episode, Goliath, we meet David Shepherd, a farm boy whose father died in the Unification War.  David is in military uniform during a follow-up border war with Gath when he rescues the captured Prince Jonathan “Jack” Benjamin from the forces of Gath and destroys a Gath tank, a Goliath, with a well-thrown wrench.  This is a retelling of sorts of 1 Samuel 17.  David, now a national hero, goes to Shiloh and becomes an unwilling pawn in the hands of King Silas, whose glory, he is stealing.  And David falls in love with Princess Michelle (1 Samuel 18:17-30) and even plays the piano.  (The biblical David played the lyre in 1 Samuel 16:14-23.)  The troubled Silas-David relationship in the series ends with David having to flee to Gath (1 Samuel 27:1-28:2) for fear of his life.  The story would have continued had the network not cancelled the series.  (The ratings were low.)

Other interesting parallels occur in the series.  Silas makes an unlawful sacrifice, as in 1 Samuel 13:1-22, but in the show the sacrifice is allowing soldiers to die needlessly.  So the Reverend Ephram Samuels, who helped Silas forge the united Gilboa and install him in power, relates God’s rejection of the monarch.  And Silas has a mistress, Helen Pardis, as Saul had a concubine, Rizpah (2 Samuel 3:7).  Instead of the spirit of Samuel (1 Samuel 28:3-25) Silas consults the deposed King of Carmel, officially dead yet imprisoned at a location code-named Gehenna.  Furthermore, the head of the military is General Linus Abner, a warmonger who betrays Silas and dies by the monarch’s hand.  (Joab killed Abner in 2 Samuel 3:22-39).

There is a Jonathan analog, but Prince Jack in the series is more like Absalom than the biblical Jonathan in some ways.  This Jonathan, like his biblical counterpart, has a troubled relationship with his father.  In the series he resents his father, who dislikes the fact that the crown prince is a homosexual.  That would be acceptable in a second son, Silas says, but those who would have power must surrender what they want.  And Jack is not willing to do that.  The Prince Jack of the series is also a sulking, back-stabbing character who is willing to kill innocents and to frame David for treason–until he is not.  But the guiding rule for Prince Jack is his perceived best interest.

I encourage you, O reader, to find the series and watch it legally.  So I will not reveal all the plot lines.  I also urge you to think deeply about the moral implications of decisions the characters make.  The characters in Kings are flawed; David Shepherd is especially flawed while being very heroic.  These characters make bad decisions.  Sometimes they reap the consequences of these decisions; on other occasions other people do.  But God still acts through many of these same characters.

King Silas, in the pilot episode, tells Reverend Samuels, who has just announced God’s rejection of the monarch,

To hell with God.

In the last episode Silas informs the ghost of Samuels (Silas does not know that he is speaking to the Reverend’s spirit) that he (Silas) and God are at war.  Silas, the rejected chosen one of God, has embraced his rebellion against God.  He does not even labor under the illusion of being on God’s side.  And, with actor Ian McShane playing the part, the scenes are a pleasure to watch.  Yet that pleasure comes mixed with the knowledge that the monarch’s fate did not have to come down to this.









Hearers and Doers of the Word   1 comment

Above:  Tanya Allen (as Audrey) and Ken Finkleman (as George Findlay) from Campaign (1997), Episode #13 of The Newsroom (1996-1997)

This image is a screen captures I took via PowerDVD and a legal, purchased disc.

Hearers and Doers of the Word

The Sunday Closest to August 31

Fourteenth Sunday After Pentecost




Song of Solomon 2:8-13 (New Revised Standard Version):

The voice of my beloved!

Look, he comes,

leaping upon the mountains,

bounding over the hills.

My beloved is like a gazelle

or a young stag.

Look, there he stands

behind our wall,

gazing in at the windows,

looking through the lattice.

My beloved speaks and says to me:

Arise, my love, my fair one,

and come away;

for now the winter is past,

the rain is over and gone.

The flowers appear on the earth;

the time of singing has come,

and the voice of the turtledove

is heard in our land.

The fig tree puts forth its figs,

and the vines are in blossom;

they give forth fragrance.

Arise, my love, my fair one,

and come away.

Psalm 45:1-2, 7-10 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1  My heart is stirring with a noble song;

let me recite what I have fashioned for the king;

my tongue shall be the pen of a skilled writer.

2  You are the fairest of men;

grace flows from your lips,

because God has blessed you for ever.

7  You throne, O God, endures for ever and ever,

a scepter of righteousness is the scepter of your kingdom;

you love righteousness and hate iniquity.

8  Therefore God, your God, has anointed you

with the oil of gladness above your fellows.

9  All your garments are fragrant with myrrh, aloes, and cassia,

and the music of strings from ivory palaces makes you glad.

10  Kings’ daughters stand among the ladies of the court;

on your right hand is the queen,

adorned with the gold of Ophir.


Deuteronomy 4:1-2, 6-9 (New Revised Standard Version):

Moses said:

So now, Israel, give heed to the statutes and ordinances that I am teaching you to observe, so that you may live to enter and occupy the land that the LORD, the God of your ancestors, is giving you. You must neither add anything to what I command you nor take away anything from it, but keep the commandments of the LORD your God with which I am charging you.

You must observe them diligently, for this will show your wisdom and discernment to the peoples, who, when they hear all these statutes, will say, “Surely this great nation is a wise and discerning people!” For what other great nation has a god so near to it as the LORD our God is whenever we call to him? And what other great nation has statutes and ordinances as just as this entire law that I am setting before you today?

But take care and watch yourselves closely, so as neither to forget the things that your eyes have seen nor to let them slip from your mind all the days of your life; make them known to your children and your children’s children.

Psalm 15 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1 LORD, who may dwell in your tabernacle?

who may abide upon your holy hill?

Whoever leads a blameless life and does what is right,

who speaks the truth from his heart.

3 There is no guile upon his tongue;

he does no evil to his friend;

he does not heap contempt upon his neighbor.

In his sight the wicked is rejected,

but he honors those who fear the LORD.

5 He has sworn to do no wrong

and does not take back his word.

6 He does not give his money in hope of gain,

nor does he take a bribe against the innocent.

Whoever does these things

shall never be overthrown.


James 1:17-27 (New Revised Standard Version):

Every generous act of giving, with every perfect gift, is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change. In fulfillment of his own purpose he gave us birth by the word of truth, so that we would become a kind of first fruits of his creatures.

You must understand this, my beloved: let everyone be quick to listen, slow to speak, slow to anger; for your anger does not produce God’s righteousness. Therefore rid yourselves of all sordidness and rank growth of wickedness, and welcome with meekness the implanted word that has the power to save your souls.

But be doers of the word, and not merely hearers who deceive themselves. For if any are hearers of the word and not doers, they are like those who look at themselves in a mirror; for they look at themselves and, on going away, immediately forget what they were like. But those who look into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and persevere, being not hearers who forget but doers who act-they will be blessed in their doing.

If any think they are religious, and do not bridle their tongues but deceive their hearts, their religion is worthless. Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to care for orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world.


Mark 7:1-8, 14-15, 21-23 (New Revised Standard Version):

Now when the Pharisees and some of the scribes who had come from Jerusalemgathered around Jesus, they noticed that some of his disciples were eating with defiled hands, that is, without washing them. (For the Pharisees, and all the Jews, do not eat unless they thoroughly wash their hands, thus observing the tradition of the elders; and they do not eat anything from the market unless they wash it; and there are also many other traditions that they observe, the washing of cups, pots, and bronze kettles.) So the Pharisees and the scribes asked him,

Why do your disciples not live according to the tradition of the elders, but eat with defiled hands?

He said to them,

Isaiah prophesied rightly about you hypocrites, as it is written,

“This people honors me with their lips,

but their hearts are far from me;

in vain do they worship me,

teaching human precepts as doctrines.”

You abandon the commandment of God and hold to human tradition.

Then he called the crowd again and said to them,

Listen to me, all of you, and understand: there is nothing outside a person that by going in can defile, but the things that come out are what defile. For it is from within, from the human heart, that evil intentions come: fornication, theft, murder, adultery, avarice, wickedness, deceit, licentiousness, envy, slander, pride, folly. All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person.

The Collect:

Lord of all power and might, the author and giver of all good things: Graft in our hearts the love of your Name; increase in us true religion; nourish us with all goodness; and bring forth in us the fruit of good works; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God for ever and ever. Amen.


Some Related Posts:

Proper 17, Year A:

Deuteronomy 4:

James 1:

Mark 7:

Matthew 15 (Parallel to Mark 7):

1 Peter 4:

New Every Morning is the Love:


Consider this:

…for your anger does not produce God’s righteousness….But be doers of the word, and not merely hearers who deceive themselves….Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this:  to care for orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world.–James 1:20a, 22, 27, New Revised Standard Version

and this:

For it is within, from the human heart, that evil intentions come:  fornication, theft, murder, adultery, avarice, wickedness, deceit, licentiousness, envy, slander, pride, folly.  All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person.–Mark 7:21-23, New Revised Standard Version

and this:

But take care and watch yourselves closely, so as neither to forget the things that your eyes have seen nor to let them slip from your mind all the days of your life….–Deuteronomy 4:9a, New Revised Standard Version

and this:

Above all, maintain constant love for one another, for love covers a multitude of sins.–1 Peter 4:8, New Revised Standard Version

Among my favorite television series is The Newsroom, all of which I own of DVDs.  Set in a Toronto, Ontario, television newsroom, the series focuses on George Findlay, an amoral (if not immoral) News Director, and his staff, most of which is also weak.  People lie to each other constantly, stab each other in the back, and put out a nightly news broadcast with mostly sensational content.  If it bleeds, it leads.  If it scares, it leads.  If it is mindless, it leads.  The writing of the series is sharp (drawing even from European art films), there is (mercifully) no laugh track, and the acting is spectacular.

The Newsroom presents a (hopefully) exaggerated view of human foibles, including some of those which contribute to one’s self-defilement.  One, alas, does not need to resort to fiction to find examples of destructive and defiling behaviors.  Sometimes all one has to do is review one’s own past or even one’s own present.

Checklist morality is the easy and bad way out.  Moral living consists of far more than doing X, Y, and Z, and not not doing A, B, and C.  Jesus boiled the Law of Moses down to two commandments, both about how we think, and therefore how we act.  If we love God fully and love our neighbors as ourselves, we will keep the law.  We will want to do right by our neighbors and by God, so we will act accordingly.  And, as we read in 1 Peter,

Love covers a multitude of sins.

If we nurture love, we will not feed unrighteous anger.

Anger is a powerful emotion.  Sometimes it sustains us in the short term, but it becomes spiritually toxic as time passes.  I have reached a point in my spiritual development that anger repels me most of the time.  Yes, there is righteous anger, the sort which Jesus expressed and which propels social reform movements.  (One should be angry about the denial of basic human rights, for example.)  But the anger which fuels much of alleged news programming on television and radio repels me, so I choose not to consume it.  I do this in a positive way, not an angry one.

The most effective way to be a hearer and a doer of the word of God in Jesus is to love God fully and and to love our neighbors as we love ourselves.  This is active, not theoretical.  This is something we must do daily.  What tone of voice, for example, do we use?  What do we say, and what do we leave unsaid?   What do we write, and what do we leave unwritten?  And do we leave our corner of the world a better place, or do we opt for sensationalism and inanity?  Do we respect others with our words and deeds?

It is that simple–and that challenging.





Adapted from this post:


Liberation from Television   1 comment

Above:  Library Books

Image Source = Joe Crawford

I have, for the last few years, lived happily without television.  My local cable television company keeps sending me mail in vain attempts to persuade me to purchase what they offer.  And the corporation from which I buy DSL service tells me that I am such a good customer that I qualify for a low price on a package which includes television service.  I say “Thanks, but no thanks.”

Once, many moons ago, I liked very much to watch great amounts of television.  Television shows and commercial jingles from the late 1970s to the early 2000s fill my memory banks.  Yet, as time wore on, approaching the present day, I wanted to watch increasingly less television.  Much of what networks offered was vacuous.  There were videos, of course, and they were more interesting.  Or I might prefer to listen to the radio, read a book, or take a walk.  Nevertheless, I could not, for a long time, imagine living without television service.

Now I think differently.  When I want to watch something (which is less often that was true even a year ago), I can use a DVD player or go to a variety of websites.  I watched one network series last year, and NBC cancelled it.  All I had to do to  watch new episodes was wait less than one day from the initial broadcast time then visit Hulu.  I have, in fact, replaced most of the time I would otherwise spend of the passive activity of watching something on a screen with other activities, such as reading, writing, researching, and listening to BBC World Service and Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) radio online.  Melting into symphonies has become a more frequent hobby, and blogging is an inherently creative activity.

I do, from time to time, watch television–just not at my place.  Such times can prove entertaining and informative, but I still have no regrets about not having cable television service.  I do not want to return to my old television ways, for the sound of television has become mostly annoying, especially when I do not choose the programming.

I invite you, O reader, if you have not done so already, to liberate yourself from television.  Discover what more active and productive things you might do with much of your valuable time.




A Related Post:


Adapted from this post:


Posted April 18, 2012 by neatnik2009 in Faith and Television

Tagged with , , ,

Showing Mercy   1 comment

Above:  Commander William Adama, from the Second Season of Battlestar Galactica

(A screen capture I took via PowerDVD)


Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), of The Episcopal Church, contains an adapted two-years weekday lectionary for the Epiphany and Ordinary Time seasons from the Anglican Church of Canada.  I invite you to follow it with me.


1 Samuel 24:2-20 (Revised Standard Version–Second Catholic Edition):

Then Saul took three thousand chosen men out of all Israel, and went to seek David and his men in front of the Wildgoats’ Rocks.  And he came to the sheepfolds by the way, where there was a cave; and Saul went in to relieve himself.  Now David and his men were sitting in the innermost parts of the cave.  And the men of David said to him,

Here is the day of which the LORD said to you, “Behold, I will give your enemy into your hand, and you shall do to him as it shall seem to you.”

Then David arose and stealthily cut off the skirt of Saul’s robe.  And afterward David’s heart struck him, because he had cut off Saul’s skirt.  He said to his men,

The LORD forbid that I should do this thing to my lord, the LORD’s anointed, to put forth my hand against him, seeing that he is the LORD’s anointed.

So David persuaded his men with these words, and did not permit them to attack Saul.  And Saul rose up and left the cave, and went upon his way.

Afterward David also arose, and went out of the cave, and called after Saul,

My lord the king!

And when Saul looked behind him, David bowed with his face to the earth, and did obesiance.  And David said to Saul,

Why do you listen to the words of men who say, “Behold, David seeks your hurt”?  Behold, this day your eyes have seen how the LORD gave you today into my hand in the cave and some bade me to kill you, but I spared you.  I said, “I will not put forth my hand against my lord; for he is the LORD’s anointed.  See, my father, see the skirt of your robe in my hand; for by the fact that I cut off the skirt of your robe, and did not kill you, you may know and see that there is no wrong or treason in my hands.  I have not sinned against you, though you hunt my life to take it.  May the LORD judge between me and you, may the LORD avenge me upon you; but my hand shall not be against you.  After whom has the king of Israel come out?  After whom do you pursue?  After a dead dog!  After a flea!  May the LORD therefore be judge, and give sentence between me and you, and see to it, and plead my cause, and deliver me from your hand.

When David had finished speaking these words to Saul, Saul said,

Is this your voice, my son David?

And Saul lifted up his voice and wept.  He said to David,

You are more righteous than I; for you have repaid me good, where as I have repaid you evil.  And you have declared this day how you have dealt well with me, in that you did not kill me when the LORD put me into your hands.  For if a man finds his enemy, will he let him go away safe?  So may the LORD reward you with good for what you have done to me this day.  And now, behold, I know you shall surely be king, and that the kingdom of Israel shall be established in your hand….

Psalm 57 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1  Be merciful to me, O God, be merciful,

for I have taken refuge in you;

in the shadow of your wings will I take refuge

until this time of trouble has gone by.

2  I will call upon the Most High God,

the God who maintains my cause.

3  He will send from heaven and save me;

he will confound those who trample upon me;

God will send forth his love and his faithfulness.

4  I lie in the midst of lions that devour the people;

their teeth are spears and arrows,

their tongue is a sharp sword.

5  They have laid a net for my feet,

and I am bowed low;

they have dug a pit before me,

but they have fallen into it themselves.

6  Exalt yourself above the heavens, O God,

and your glory over all the earth.

7  My heart is firmly fixed, O God, my heart is fixed;

I will sing and make melody.

8  Wake up, my spirit;

awake, lute and harp;

I myself will waken the dawn.

9  I will confess you among the peoples, O LORD;

I will sing praise to you among the nations.

10  For your loving-kindness is greater than the heavens,

and your faithfulness reaches to the clouds.

11  Exalt yourselves above the heavens, O God,

and your glory over all the earth.


The Collect:

Almighty God, whose Son our Savior Jesus Christ is the light of the world: Grant that your people, illumined by your Word and Sacraments, may shine with the radiance of Christ’s glory, that he may be known, worshipped, and obeyed to the ends of the earth; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, now and for ever.  Amen.


The lesson to forgive one’s enemies and leave judgment to God is consistent with the Bible.  However, like other Biblical lessons, it has insincere echoes on tee-shirts and bumper stickers.  So, in the same vein as “DO UNTO OTHERS BEFORE THEY DO UNTO YOU,” one might read, “FORGIVE YOUR ENEMIES–NOTHING ANNOYS THEM MORE.”  I prefer the Biblical version.

Saul had tried to kill David more than once.  When 1 Samuel 24 began, David found Saul in a rather vulnerable position in a cave and chose not to kill him or even to harm him.  David did, however, inform Saul of what he would have done, had he been inclined to do so.  This did not end the conflict between the two men, but it did have at least a momentary affect on the troubled monarch.

It can be difficult to choose not to wield the sword or another weapon; some might even call it being “soft,” as in “soft on defense.”  There are subcultures where being “hard,” as in the opposite of “soft,” is considered a virtue.  (Prisons and jails come to mind immediately.)  But consider this:  David, in 1 Samuel 24, was not being passive.  Nevertheless, he did choose not to assassinate his king and father-in-law, who had tried to murder him more than once.  David acted properly and informed Saul, thereby appealing to the conscience of the king.

As Commander William Adama said in Resurrection Ship, Part II, an episode of the reimagined Battlestar Galactica,

It’s not enough to survive; one must be worthy of surviving.

How much suffering would not have occurred in human history had someone, in a certain time and place, shown restraint and therefore broken the cycle of violence?  How much suffering might one prevent in contemporary times by demonstrating similar restraint?  I wonder.







Adapted from this post: