What's Tony Thinking

Fast Takes


Our next webinar, “Help My Unbelief” starts tomorrow. Registration is free. Use the link on the right side at bottom to sign up. You don’t have to attend every week. Come when you can. Registering will mean you get a follow-up email with audio/ video tape so you can listen to a session you miss or prefer to get at another time. For week one, read the “Introduction” and the 3 sermons in the first section. The book came out in 2000, so some references are dated, but the underlying issues and the faith proclaimed are, if anything, even more relevant now.

We got back Friday from a short but good week in the South, visiting Atlanta and Greenville, South Carolina. Downtowns in both were vibrant, quite a contrast to Seattle, alas. Greenville, especially, was inviting. It is one of those mid-size cities (pop. 70,000+) that seem attractive these days. The photo at right shows the Reedy River that runs right through downtown crossed by a lovely pedestrian bridge overlooking the falls. We were there on a Thursday night. A couple of outside venues were offering live music. Greenville has paid a lot of attention to urban design — and it shows. I also noticed quite a few racially mixed groups in restaurants and pubs — nice.

No tent encampments in either downtown. That may be because both have more affordable housing stock, e.g. trailer parks, rental houses near town and in outlying areas. Seattle is such a limited geographical area. Rental housing that is being built is for people working at Amazon offices and other software businesses, not low-income people. Gas prices in Georgia and South Carolina were $1.30 less per gallon than Seattle.

Laura and Noah will be living in Greenville for the next two years. He’s doing a graduate program at Furman University, which has a beautiful campus. Laura will be the pastor of Peace UCC in nearby Clemson, S. C.

And now we’re off for the Spring Bird Migration Festival in Harney County and at the Malheur Wildlife Refuge in southeastern Oregon.

Malheur is on the major north to south flyway for thousands of birds including songbirds, ducks, geese, and the fascinating Sandhill Cranes doing their ballet-like mating dance.

I first went to Malheur on Field Zoology trips when I was a student at Willamette University. I returned a couple years ago with my friend, Dave Regnier. Now Dave has organized a group of us for several days at the 187,000 acre refuge, a fair bit of which is marsh — which makes it ideal for migratory birds to take a rest and refuel. This will be Linda’s first trip.

My friend David Brewster, a co-founder of the Post Alley site, contacted a bunch of us writers after the Kevin McCarthy revelations this week. David invited us to submit pieces speculating on who will be next in line for Speaker of the House now that McCarthy had shot himself in the foot.

My reaction was that this will prove to be only a flesh wound and that McCarthy ain’t going away. In today’s GOP out-and-out, bald-faced lying and deception aren’t really a problem. They are kind of the norm, just one more political strategy justified by how awful the opposition is.

Which seems to be stock-in-trade for the opponents of democracy, foreign and domestic. The false narrative propagated by Putin calls to mind my recent sermon on the “Myth of Innocence.” Putin wants Russians to believe he had no choice, that he has been forced to war by the west. He’s innocent! We’re innocent victims! “Self-justification,” observed theologian H.Richard Niebuhr, “is the greatest source of error.” Christian faith tells us we aren’t innocent but are justified by God’s grace — and nothing else.

Birds seem to me a sign of grace. Onward to the birds!



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