Open Question: Tithing

Q.  Is it robbing God to tithe on your after-tax (not gross) income? A.  My husband and I were in seminary and still newly-Christian when a friend told us about tithing. She stressed the importance of giving the full 10% before taxes, before anything else, so that we would be giving God the “first fruits” of our labor. We recoiled at the thought of such an unexpected expense, but she said that, in her experience, it had given God room to work miracles in her life; once she and her husband had put their last dollar in the plate, only to have the pastor turn around and give them the whole collection.

Tomorrowland

“When I was a kid, the future was different.” So says George Clooney at the beginning of “Tomorrowland,” looking directly into the camera. Before you can wonder what he means, you see it: the 1964 New York World’s Fair, where everything is shiny, sunny, and rocket-shaped. Clooney’s character, young Frank Walker, has arrived with his homemade jetpack (powered by twin Electrolux canister vacuums), and waits in line for an expert’s evaluation. But the jetpack suffers from the technical flaw of not, actually, working. The sour evaluator, Nix (Hugh Laurie), sends Frank off with a discouraging word.

Welcome to the Orthodox Church excerpt (What does it mean to be unchanging?)

…Next come three short hymns known as the “Antiphons.” In the earliest centuries, these hymns were sung by people as they were on their way to worship, or waiting outside church for the official entrance of the clergy. The hymns (which, despite the name, aren’t necessarily sung antiphonally) are composed of verses from the Psalms or Beatitudes, or offer brief prayers of intercession (such as, “Save us, O Son of God, who rose from the dead”). After the second antiphon we sing a hymn attributed to the emperor Justinian (AD 483–565). O Only-begotten Son and immortal Word of God, Who for our salvation willed to become incarnate

Why I Haven’t Spoken Out — More Thoughts

Here are some other points, which didn’t find a place in the main essay. They are just random thoughts, and not arranged in any particular order. (I’ve included here the main points from three rambling essays on the topic that I posted in 2013, and taken down the latter.) 1. After Rod Dreher posted a link to my essay, “Why I Haven’t Spoken Out on Gay Marriage—Till Now,” a flood of comments flowed in to his blog. Several people rejected my statement that gay sex is damaging to the soul, saying that there was no reason people in a gay marriage couldn’t have a close relationship with God.

Why I Haven’t Spoken Out on Gay Marriage–till Now

With some kind of genius for stupidity, I said on my Facebook page recently that I am not particularly opposed to gay marriage. No, it was worse than that; what I said was, “I was asked why I don’t oppose gay marriage, and I’ll try to make this brief. It’s because I don’t agree that gay marriage harms society, or harms marriage.” I’m no big-time writer, but it caused an outsized stir. My readers are mostly Christian and conservative, and the comments overflowed. Clearly, I struck a nerve.

A Sacrifice for a Friend

 I recently received an email from a young man, an Orthodox catechumen, who is concerned about his best friend. This friend recently came out as gay and, after being scolded by family and church friends, has joined an “affirming” church that will endorse his choices. The young man writing to me said he was encouraged by something in one of my podcasts. I had said that there is room in our faith for people of the same sex to form loving relationships. This kind of love is called “friendship.” It has always been held in honor, and appears in the Bible and throughout Church history.

Bibleworks 9

[Leadership Journal; Fall 2012] Shoppers are funny. We want our tech purchases to come with all the bells and whistles, but once we bring the product home, we don’t do as much whistling and bell-ringing as we thought. One study showed that, when offered a hypothetical cell phone, consumers wanted every possible feature to be included; when queried about their actual cell phone use, they admitted they were not using most of the features they already had. So it’s worth thinking about what you really want, in a comprehensive bible software program. I’d used a previous version of BibleWorks some years ago, then made a leap to a much more complicated program. Never did hang of it. I was glad to give BibleWorks 9 a try.

Karen Armstrong’s “Fields of Blood”

Well, good for her. I’ve often thought what Karen Armstrong states in her new book, “Fields of Blood”: that people don’t go to war for religious reasons, but for property. If there’s no property to be seized from another people, there’s no motive to fight. (I’ve read James Fallows’s review in the New York Times, not the book itself.)

Psalms 152 and 200

My son Steve (Fr Steve Mathewes, pastor of Christ the Savior Orthodox Church in Bluff City, TN), was putting the kids to bed, and Ruthie (who turned 7 yesterday) asked him how many psalms are in the Bible.  He told her that there are 151 in the book of Psalms (according to the numbering in the ancient Greek Old Testament, the Septuagint). Ruthie said, “I bet I could make the 152nd Psalm.” She wrote the following.

Magic in the Moonlight

[National Review; July 25, 2014] When they invent a really reliable time machine, I’m going back to the day I graduated from college. I was an English major who took electives like “German Film of the 1930s” and dreamed of being a movie critic for The Village Voice. (How did I end up here instead? It’s a long story.) One thing graduation-day me will ask is “How have movies changed in 40 years?” I’ll say, “You can’t imagine how much better the visuals are.” Not only because of improved cameras, and not even considering the advent of CGI, but because such meticulous care is now taken with color design, costumes, lighting, locations, and set dressing. Even crummy movies provide an immersive, atmospheric experience. Modern-day filmmaking is consistently a feast for the eyes.