29 November 2009

Food Stamp Statistics

"A program once scorned as a failed welfare scheme now feeds one in eight adults and one in four children." (NYT)

One interesting thing in this article is the credit it gives the Bush administration for removing the stigma associated with food stamp usage, which they accomplished in part by adopting the language of "nutritional aid" for the program. What I remember about food stamps in the 2000's are the repeated efforts by House Republicans to cut assistance programs like TANF and WIC.

Just think about those numbers. One in eight adults. One in four children.

23 November 2009

Thy word is a lamp unto my feet.

Getting back in the saddle with a flurry of posts today, apparently!

I have a professor this semester who has repeatedly expressed an insistence that pastors and worship leaders must know how to speak "in the language of the people, where they are." He generally goes on to say some variation of the following: "When you listen to your people pray, if they immediately revert to the language of the King James Bible, that is a clear signal to you that they are praying to a God who, in their perception, does not know them or have anything to do with them." They are praying, he says, to the God of stained glass windows and "Bible times," but not a God who is living and present today.

This strikes me as entirely wrong. I don't have a whole lot of use for the KJV, but many people do, and it isn't because they believe God is absent. It's because they understand that the Word of God is different from all other words in our society.

Steve linked to an interesting post that calls our attention to Wendell Berry's reasoning for continuing to use the KJV in his books. Following Berry's lead, the writer suggests that "We must learn to express new ideas in old language; then we will not be speaking past each other, but speaking poetry."

By all means, the pastoral responsibility is to help people know that God is with them, that God understands and cares about even the smallest details of their lives. But we have to attend to the balance/tension between God's immanence and God's transcendence. The great pastoral challenge is to be able to speak of the intimate love of God and the personal worth of each person using language that inspires a sense of awe towards the God who is the same yesterday, today, and forever. Expressing new ideas using the "old language" of another era is one way to remind us that these truths are not of our creation; they are spoken by a distinctive Word and have been passed down through faithful generations.

THIS Bible is about justice. Unlike the other Bibles.

People always used to ask Sojourners when they were going to publish a "Sojourners Bible," or a "Justice Bible," or something along those lines. It seemed to me like a thoroughly poor idea: doesn't the idea of a special "Justice Bible" undermine the contention that the regular Bible already is about justice? Are colored inks and bonus materials necessary to make that clear?

Of course, the desire for such a publication comes, in part, as a reaction to the proliferation of niche Bibles of a more conservative evangelical variety. The foremost example of progressives' entrance into this market is last year's Green Bible.

In any event, zealous Sojo fans may finally be getting what they wanted, albeit from another source: The American Bible Society and World Vision have partnered to publish The Poverty and Justice Bible. (Apparently this Bible was first released in summer 2008, but is now being reprinted with a wider distribution.)

I'm sure this will be a helpful resource for some, so that's good. I also think that Sojo could've made a lot of money off of a product like this, and perhaps they still will someday. I still think the best idea (though certainly a production nightmare) would be for Sojo to sell a Jim Wallis-approved "Bible full of holes" for demonstration purposes.

It seems to me that the acceptability of niche-published Bibles highlighting specific biblical themes (or demographic groups) is inversely proportional to our biblical literacy. If we all had more robust habits of studying scripture, we wouldn't need to buy Bibles that use green or orange ink to draw our attention to the "good stuff".

November rolls on

It's been over four weeks since I last posted! I can't claim to have been unbelievably busy during that time, if for no other reason than that I know the next two and a half weeks are going to be the busiest of the semester. But I have been on the road a lot this month: The last three weekends, I've traveled to Lawrence, KS, Dallas, and D.C., respectively. So, while it is sad that this is the first year of my life that I will not celebrate Thanksgiving in New Jersey with my beloved family, I am also relieved beyond words to be staying put in Durham this week.

Heather's parents are coming down, and we have rounded up a half-dozen other friends to share Thanksgiving dinner with us at the Wesley House. This morning Heather special-ordered a local turkey from the Weaver Street Market in Carrboro. We're gearing up for some awesome sweet potato side dishes.

Speaking of sides, I could never have dreamt up something as phenomenal as this.