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Lent, Fish, and the Feast of the Gentiles

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(First, if you aren’t quite sure how to think about Lent, start here)

I like eating. Eating is glorious and it’s at the heart of the Christian life, so I think about it a lot. That being the case, I recently got to thinking about the historical practice of eating fish during Lent and about the possible rationale behind it. Aside from an apocryphal story about a corrupt pope who owned a fishing business, I didn’t find much to satisfy my Protestant curiosity. Still I came to the ultimate conclusion that regardless of one’s particular Lenten practices, we could afford to eat more fish during the season. Let me tell you why.

Some arms of the Church, Romans in particular, have a longstanding tradition of observing the Fridays in Lent as days of particular penance, marked by abstinence from the eating of meat. Historically, fish has served as a popular meat substitute on these days, distinguished from other prohibited meats because the fish is a cold-blooded creature (Lev. 7:26 seems to back this up). Excepting a sometimes-but-seldom-invoked acronymic relationship between the Greek word for fish—ἰχθύς—and the name of Jesus—Iesous ChristosTheou Yios, Sotor—the choice of fish, in practice, is mostly arbitrary or pragmatic (it is filling and satisfying like meat). But there better, deeper-rooted reasons to make fish a part of our Lenten diet.

In Scripture, the seas and waters under the earth are commonly a symbol of the gentile nations, and likewise the fish dwelling in them. The rulers of Tyre are called “the princes of the sea” (Ez.26:16), Nebuchadnezzar is pictured as a great sea monster (Jer. 51:34), the nation of Egypt is called a nation of fish and river-dwellers (Ez. 29:4). (for more on this, see Through New Eyes or pretty much anything else Jim Jordan has ever written…ever…probably even his grocery lists). In contrast, Israel is seen as a people of the land, and in the Old Testament the prominent men of God are farmers and keepers of livestock, not fisherman. That changes when Jesus comes calling fishermen into his service. With me so far? Okay, here’s where the ride speeds up.

The forty days of Lent are taken from the forty-day period our Lord spent in the Wilderness after his baptism, which in turn shares a typological relationship with other ”forty” periods in Israel’s (or protoIsrael’s) history—most notably the forty days on the ark after Noah’s flood and the forty years of exile after crossing the Red Sea. These earlier events culminated in further separation from and/or victory over the gentile “nations.” Jesus’ forty days, however, orient Israel in the opposite direction. He comes out of the Wilderness and departs immediately to Galilee of the Gentiles, the first order of business being to recruit experienced fish-catchers. Unlike the conquest of Canaan, Jesus doesn’t slay gentiles and drive them away, but begins drawing them to himself by the net-full.

In fact, after Jesus’ forty days of fasting, the first food mentioned in each of the synoptic gospels is fish. While the first Joshua supplanted the nations and took possession of their land and their vineyards, the final and greater Joshua desires to possess the nations themselves—fish is the sign of the gentile peoples being incorporated into the body of Christ. Throughout the gospels, fish is one of the few foods explicitly named as something Jesus ate, and he is always feeding it to his disciples. Alongside bread it is the food given to the multitudes in all the gospel accounts of miraculous feedings. Jesus not only tells Israel to embrace the nations (to love her enemies and be a light shining before all nations), he has them practicing it through meals of fish. Finally, the Lord’s “feed my sheep” admonition to Peter in Jn. 21 follows immediately on the heels of his preparing a breakfast of fish for his disciples and bidding them “come and eat,” a possible sign that the life and health of the Church will be bound up with the pursuit and inclusion of the gentile nations.

So, how should we then eat? As we—the Church, a mixed multitude—move through this season that appropriately culminates in both Jesus’ calling of the gentiles and his death and resurrection (if you aren’t already thinking about the Sign of Jonah, start now), giving thanks to God that the work of Christ is for all the world, we have a boat load of reasons to have fish on the table. Do my comments and observations translate into a biblical imperative to consume fish? No, of course not.. But, all things considered—whether feast, fast, or famine—I can’t help but find it beautifully appropriate.*

*Unless you’re eating fish sticks, which should only be served to children (as punishment for being picky) or to convicts (as punishment for being convicts).<>текстыреклама в интернет сми

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By In Politics

Failed Filibuster Reforms

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Even while they mesmerized and romanticized me as a boy I knew in my heart of hearts that Frank Capra movies never quite approximated real life. Thanks to that healthy cynicism I was not deeply shaken by the recent hubbub over filibuster reforms, but it doesn’t bode well for the state of the union.

Discussion of the proposed reforms has been somewhat overshadowed by more visible issues (i.e. guns, etc.), but forecasts better than most the difficulties facing the American democratic process in the coming years.

In a surprising show of opposition to members of his own caucus, Harry Reid blocked the efforts of several freshman Democrat senators to reform the filibuster by rendering it impossible to initiate or, at the least, returning in practice to the “talking filibuster” of the last century. As it now stands, minority Republicans can force a 60-vote threshold on nearly any business that comes to the floor and, because the threat of a filibuster has come to carry the force of a filibuster, this can often be done by a single senator without his even needing to be present on the floor. No Mr. Smith reading the Constitution, no Bernie Sanders giving a marathon speech; just a stern phone call.

Debate on the issue has revealed that some on the left (at least implicitly) understand “democracy” to mean the licensing of a majority to railroad the political minority, and we obviously find ourselves at odds with such a notion. But neither should we be quick to look past the conduct of the Republican minority—effectively requiring a super-majority for all senate business. On the question of congressional super-majorities Alexander Hamilton had the following to say:

“its real operation is to embarrass the administration, to destroy the energy of government and to substitute the pleasure, caprice or artifices of an insignificant, turbulent or corrupt junta, to the regular deliberations and decisions of a respectable majority.” (Fed. 22)

James Madison likewise wrote that

“In all cases where justice or the general good might require new laws to be passed, or active measures to be pursued, the fundamental principle of free government would be reversed. It would be no longer the majority that would rule; the power would be transferred to the minority.” (Fed. 58)

The recent talks represented an opportunity to moderate between the two extremes. But reform didn’t come.

The likeliest motivation behind Reid’s decision to block most of the reforms is the consideration that his own party may soon lose their majority in the Senate. Rather than attempt to check a dangerous trend in congressional procedure, veteran Democratic senators want to hedge their bets, reserving their right to substitute their pleasure and caprice for “regular deliberations and decisions” and “embarrass a [Republican] administration” that will no doubt be looking to do some railroading of its own. Ostensibly the discussion of filibuster reforms ended in a compromise between Reid and the Senate minority leader, but the outcome presages only further breakdown of democracy.<>online gameпродвижение а прайс

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By In Politics

Why Kuyperians Won’t Secede

You say you want a secession; well you know, we all want to change the world. Hopefully, your reaction to the recent post-election secession petitions included at least a little laughter—after all, asking the white house for permission to secede is pretty funny. However, considered as acts of symbolical protest, the petitions are another significant indication of the deep dissatisfaction and division within our nation. And while the authors of some of those petitions may have conceived of them as nothing more than protests, there was and is a seriousness among some of the folks involved—a “wouldn’t it be nice if we could secede” kind of sentiment. The reality of state secession in the near future is probably very slim, especially considering the responses of some governors, but the principle may still warrant some consideration.

I call this little essay—or foray, or attempt, or what-you-will—“Why Kuyperians Won’t Secede” because Kuyperian thought seems to offer one of the more obvious challenges to the remarks I’m about to make. I want to claim that secession is at odds with the religious duty of a Christian. Immediately, the notion of sphere sovereignty could be invoked in order to argue that, in fact, secession is a question for the civil/political sphere while Christian duty is a question of the religious sphere; that our civil citizenship should be considered distinct from our (religious) Kingdom citizenship. This is only a problem on the surface, though. The important (Kuyperian) distinction between those two citizenships is precisely what makes the possibility of justifiable secession so unlikely.

Only when we begin to conflate our Kingdom citizenship with our civil citizenship can we seriously conceive of guarding the former (and the privileges thereof) with the intensity we ought to reserve for guarding the latter (and the privileges thereof). The discussion gets a little awkward, however, when we realize that our own nation was conceived out of something very closely resembling that conflation. A conviction that the state ought to safeguard life, liberty, etcetera is right and good, but our particular formulation of those goods as certain “inalienable rights” is a formulation that smacks of Deism—a belief system in which the political sphere takes on a truncated importance because God is not an immanent deity interested in defending or vindicating His Church. If the privileges safeguarded by our civil citizenship come to encompass not only life, liberty, etc. but the life of the soul, the liberty of the spirit, etc. then secession—trading a government that safeguards those privileges poorly for one that safeguards them well (we’re still assuming, for the sake of argument, that any civil govt. could safeguard them at all)—is not just an option, it’s an imperative. However, keeping the sphere-distinction in mind like good Kuyperians, we realize that civil citizenship only confers the kinds of privileges we are called to hold loosely.

Our civil citizenship is the gift that allows us to serve and bless the city. We don’t see St. Paul making use of his civil citizenship to hold property or to vote, but to get to Rome with the Gospel. And it’s no good nodding in agreement and then maintaining that secession is simply there as a “last resort,” because that does as much good for fostering good statesmanship as keeping a divorce attorney on retainer does for fostering marital cooperation. God is faithful; bless the city (excellent practical guidance for doing so can be found here) and the city will become (or return to being) a place worth living.<>for javaкак создать контекстную рекламу

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