A Hell in Every Human Heart

One of my jobs is edit a devotional journal called the Covenant Home Altar, and today I came across some writings by a old Swedish preacher named Thure A. Jacobson (1881-1945), which were translated and published in the 1970s.

The first thing that caught me eye was this line--"Salvation is not won easily because the devil sings his lullaby to the soul." I am not sure exactly what he meant by that, but there are certainly plenty of siren songs in my life that compete for my attentions and keep me from doing what's right.

But it was this sectionthat really got my attention today, especially with all the news coming out of Washington and Iraq.

The counsel to watchfulness is continually affirmed in the New Testament. It is addressed to all who seek salvation. It is a counsel to watch over the enemies within our own minds and hearts. There is a slumbering hell is every human heart. Beware of the fire that sets off the explosion.

It reminded me of something that Richard Mouw, president of Fuller Seminary, wrote in his book "Uncommon Civility: Christian Civility in an Uncivil World. He said that Saint Augustine knew that war “was a dangerous business,” for Christians--and must not be waged “without kindness,” without acknowledging that our enemies are human beings made in the image of God.

The real threat for Augustine, says Mouw, was that Christians “will succeed in conquering our external enemies, only to be destroyed by ‘the enemy within’—our own ‘depraved and distorted hearts.’”

If these reports from the US Army or from Christian Peacemaker Teams than our modern hearts--even Red, White, and Blue "God Bless America" ones-- are as depraved and distorted as any Augustine imagined.


Betraying Our Readers

This post got lost somewhere in cyberspace but I recently found it--and thought it was still worthy of posting, though it's hopelessly out of date (a month--gasp!) by blogging standards.

With Jayson Blair's new book out and more bad news about Jack Kelley and his journalism sins, it seemed fitting this weekend that the Lenten readings were about the two great traitors in the Christian tradition.

First, Judas who betrayed Jesus with a kiss

Then Peter, who betrayed Jesus three times, denying that he even knew him.ˇˇ
Those biblical figures make me wonder if there's any hope of redemption for Blair, and Kelley, and others fallen journalists like them.

It seems to me that they need to decide if they want to be Judas or Peter. If they fess up, like Peter, there's some hope for them. After all, Peter recovered and becomes the leader of the early church and, according to Catholic tradition, the first pope.

If not, if they can't come clean and make amends, then they end up as Judas did--always seen as betrayers--and with no future.

But if they do, can they be rehabilitated, given another chance?

Or should they, like Mike Barnicle, hang around long enough for people to forget-- and then they too can get a column with the Boston Herald?

A couple of other thoughts.

Editor and Publisher makes the point that the editors at USA Today should have known better. They point out that in the case of unnamed sources Gannett's guidlines say that an editor "will at times flat-out need to talk to the source, to look him or her in the eye, to get the feel for the conviction of the source and the depth of knowledge behind the information."

Perhaps so. But they failed because they trusted David Kelley. And they gave him enough rope to hang himself, as the saying goes.

Asking hard questions of the people we trust is difficult. But in journalism (or in church finances, as this piece points out), repairing the damage is even harder.


A miracle every Sunday

Ask and you shall receive, Jesus said.

IThis is probably not exactly what he had in mind, but I blogged yesterday about a dearth of news on Pentecostals and behold, in this morning's Chicago Tribune a story about a Pentecostal minister who allegedly stole $180,00 from his church by skimming $1,000 a week from the collection.

A local Catholic priest was indicted as well, but for only $32,000--he reportedly took only $100 a week.

Giving that it really is easy to embezzle from churches it really is a miracle that this doesn't happen more often.

Consider this. In US Catholic parishes, a little over a billion dollars on average is collected each week. I don't have statistics for Protestants, but let's say it's another billion. That's 2 billion collected every week, counted by volunteers, and put in the bank, and very little of it--$1,000 here, a $100 there--goes missing.

Now that's what I call a miracle.


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