Wednesday, March 29, 2017

My review of Aristotle's Rhetoric

RhetoricRhetoric by Aristotle
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Obviously this is a very important book, essentially class notes from Aristotle's class itself.
There are tons of lessons to be learned about both building up a case and tearing down an opponent's. That said, the book reads, as indicated, like class notes. It is a good resource to have, especially if you are heading into a particular argument, but at least for me, it lacked umph.

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A review of On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons for the Twentieth Century

On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth CenturyOn Tyranny: Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century by Timothy Snyder
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Snyder worries that the post-Cold War West has largely assumed "we won, now history doesn't matter" and in so doing left us dangerously open for the repetition of history. In order to inoculate us against such an eventuality he gives concrete examples of how both fascism and communism were resisted in the 20th century.
Here are the 20 points he fleshes out in this little, powerful, book:
1. Do not obey in advance.
2. Defend institutions.
3. Beware the one-party state.
4. Take responsibility for the face of the world.
5. Remember professional ethics.
6. Be wary of paramilitaries.
7. Be reflective if you must be armed.
8. Stand out.
9. Be kind to our language.
10. Believe in truth.
11. Investigate.
12. Make eye contact and small talk.
13. Practice corporeal politics.
14. Establish a private life.
15. Contribute to good causes.
16. Learn from peers in other countries.
17. Listen for dangerous words.
18. Be calm when the unthinkable arrives.
19. Be a patriot.
20. Be as courageous as you can.

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Sunday, March 26, 2017

Sermon: The Blind Man

         It is an interesting thing, 
John’s Gospel, 
the letters of John, 
and the Apocalypse by John the Revelator, 
all share the same repetitive, braided together way of communicating. 
-Why say a thing once, if you can say it a thousand times? 
-Why give an orderly account of what you mean, when you can let chaos reign and meaning ebb and flow?

         But, to untangle things a little, let’s look at three braids that will be threaded through today’s gospel lesson.
1. Sin.
2. Jesus reveals God.
3. We are found by Jesus.
Let us pray,

1. Sin.
         Throughout John’s Gospel we find Sin to be lack of relationship with Jesus, failed encounters, not seeing your Lord right before your eyes, encouraging others to forsake the Faithful One.
         The theme of Sin and sins—small s plural saturate this, the 9th chapter of John. 

         The Disciples start us off with a question about the connection between sin(s)—small s plural and …
sickness and disability and a rough lot in life?
         Is it generational? Does the son pay for the sin of the father? Is a daughter doomed by mother’s misdeeds?
         Or is it your own darn fault? Are we so personally responsible that every malady is our own?
         This debate raged in the time of the prophets—in fact both Ezekiel and Jeremiah weigh in in favor of the second option. And even today we talk about nature versus nurture, families of origin shape who we are, yet our decisions have consequences…

         But Jesus shifts the focus away from sins, to Salvation—saying essentially, “Hey guys, you’re burying the lede here! In this very moment, he who was blind, now will see—Look, this good thing is about to happen, and will point to God! Look, this man now gets to experience a full life!

         But, Sin continues to rear its head. The religious authorities insist that Jesus is a sinner, and when the man who was blind isn’t so sure about their assessment of Jesus, when he calls Jesus a prophet, they declare that from his birth he’s been filled with sin and they cast him out.

2. Jesus reveals God.
         Jesus, in John’s Gospel, is the One who comes into the world, who reveals the Invisible God made visible—he is sent for this very task. While he is in the world we can know God in a unique and unqualified way—he sheds light on all the things of God, for he is the Light of the World. God’s work is revealed in his acts of healing.
         In fact, this is Salvation—the enlightenment of the light of Christ. His transformational relationship with those he encounters—the Samaritan woman at the well, the Blind man, they are saved by experiencing Jesus Christ, the one sent by God.
         At the same time, Sin, Big S Singular, is being confronted by the dawning light of Christ and calling it night. If you cannot see what he is doing, you’re more than missing something, you are blind and will be judged as such.

3. Jesus finds the man
         Jesus is found to be among sinners—he is declared a sinner by the Pharisees.
         Maybe you didn’t catch that—but Jesus is said to be a sinner, he is identified as a sinner, for the sake of the world
—this light from God is seen as night because we aren’t seeing right, and he’s transforming it
—giving sight to the blind.
         Jesus becomes Sin for us, that is true. Jesus comes into the world not to condemn the world, but to save it, save us.
         And Jesus saves this particular man too
—he was thrown out…
Take a moment and imagine how strange it must be, seeing for the first time, but navigating that experience alone!
         Well, Jesus finds him twice, 
first to heal him of his blindness
and then to defend him, and re-define him. 
         Jesus seems to step between the formerly blind man and the Pharisees who are accosting him, in order to protect the man, and then Jesus insists that the Pharisees are the blind ones.
John’s Gospel braids 
-Jesus as Revealer of God, 
-being found by Jesus 
together into a winding, intertwined, repetitive, faithful, reflection upon who Jesus is for the sake of the whole world.