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Friday
Dec282012

Bill Would Exempt S.C. from Federal Gun Laws

State Sen. Lee Bright, R-Roebuck, has reintroduced a bill that would exempt firearms, ammunition and gun accessories made in South Carolina from federal regulation.

The Firearms Freedom Act was first passed in Montana, where it is tied up in litigation currently before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit. It’s been passed in eight states and introduced in more than 20, including once by Bright during South Carolina’s 2011-2012 legislative session.

That bill died in committee.

This year, he pre-filed the same bill on Dec. 13, a day before the Newtown, Conn., shooting in which 26 people, including 20 children, were killed in a shooting rampage at Sandy Hook Elementary School. Citing national scorecards issued by the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, Bright said Connecticut has the fifth strongest gun laws in the nation, “so there’s not a real strong correlation between gun laws and safety.”

“There are a lot of folks that are against the Second Amendment and want to restrict people’s guns rights, and this is just one they seized,” he said.

While the federal government may regulate interstate commerce, Bright said his bill would allow South Carolina manufacturers to skirt federal regulations because the guns, gun parts and ammunition would not cross state lines.

As a matter of state’s rights, Bright said South Carolina residents would be able to own whatever guns manufacturers in South Carolina made, despite any federal regulations.

Full Story Here

Friday
Dec282012

G News: State Moving to Replace School Buses

The state has made its first purchase of new school buses in four years, marking what officials said is the initial step in modernizing the nation’s oldest school bus fleet.

State Superintendent of Education Mick Zais said Thursday that after all deliveries are completed, 342 new school buses, equipped to transport students with and without disabilities, will be in service in state-owned bus shops across South Carolina.

The two state-owned facilities that service the Greenville County school system – in Greenville and Taylors – will receive 39 new buses, state officials said.

“Transporting students safely to and from school is a priority for the (Education) Department and school districts,” Zais said. “These buses are more fuel efficient, less expensive to maintain, and are equipped to transport students with disabilities. Today marks the first step in modernizing the nation’s oldest school bus fleet.”

Oby Lyles, a spokesman for the Greenville County school district, said, “We certainly appreciate the efforts to replace any buses, but the state remains years behind in its replacement cycle of school buses.”

State officials said the new school buses will replace all buses from model years 1984-1987, as well as some 1988 models.

Each bus cost $82,030, and the Education Department spent more than $28 million from lottery revenues, general fund carry-forward revenues, and revenues from the sale of scrap metal from decommissioned school buses, the officials said.

Full Story Here

Thursday
Dec272012

Clemson Turtle Project Shows Dark Side of Humans

Clemson University student Nathan Weaver set out to determine how to help turtles cross the road. He ended up getting a glimpse into the dark souls of some humans.

Weaver put a realistic rubber turtle in the middle of a lane on a busy road near campus. Then he got out of the way and watched over the next hour as seven drivers swerved and deliberately ran over the animal. Several more apparently tried to hit it but missed.

“I’ve heard of people and from friends who knew people that ran over turtles. But to see it out here like this was a bit shocking,” said Weaver, a 22-year-old senior in Clemson’s School of Agricultural, Forest and Environmental Sciences.

To seasoned researchers, the practice wasn’t surprising.

The number of box turtles is in slow decline, and one big reason is that many wind up as roadkill while crossing the asphalt, a slow-and-steady trip that can take several minutes.

Sometimes humans feel a need to prove they are the dominant species on this planet by taking a two-ton metal vehicle and squishing a defenseless creature under the tires, said Hal Herzog, a Western Carolina University psychology professor.

“They aren’t thinking, really. It is not something people think about. It just seems fun at the time,” Herzog said. “It is the dark side of human nature.”

Full Story Here

Thursday
Dec272012

Top National Political Stories of 2012

With the presidential and congressional elections, battles over the federal budget, debates over immigration and same-sex marriage, and one of the most watched Supreme Court cases in a generation, 2012 was an eventful year for U.S. politics. Here is The Christian Post's list of the top 10 moments in U.S. politics for 2012.

1. Barack Obama Re-Elected

President Barack Obama once again won the biggest prize in American politics. The Obama campaign's "get out the vote" effort surpassed any previous presidential campaign in its sophistication and use of new technologies and will become a model for future campaigns.

2. 47 Percent

Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney's "47 percent" gaffe reinforced the image that the Obama campaign had spent millions of dollars over the summer to create: Romney is a wealthy plutocrat who is out of touch with the concerns of ordinary Americans.

"There are 47 percent of the people who will vote for the president no matter what," Romney said to a meeting a wealthy donors that was secretly videotaped.

In one of the greatest ironies of the election, Romney received 47 percent of the votes cast.

3. Fiscal Cliff

In acts of self-preservation, Congress and President Obama pushed a series of difficult decisions past the November election and into 2013. While the U.S. government is on an unsustainable course with its current rate of deficit spending, economists warn that the combination of spending cuts and tax increases that are all coming at the same time will cause a recession. Thus far, political leaders have been unable to come to an agreement that will both avoid the fiscal cliff and reduce deficit spending for the long term.

4. Supreme Court Upholds "Obamacare"

In one of the most anticipated Supreme Court decisions in a generation, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld most of the provisions of the Affordable Care Act, or "Obamacare."

In a surprise to many, Chief Justice John Roberts joined the four liberals on the court to rule in favor of the most controversial component of the new law -- the individual mandate to purchase insurance. Conservatives argued that the federal government did not have the authority to require Americans to purchase health insurance. Roberts said the authority can be found in Congress' taxing power because the penalty for not purchasing health insurance is a type of tax.

5. Birth Control Mandate

Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius announced in January that all employers would be required to provide contraception, sterilization and abortifacient drugs in their employees' health care plans. There was a religious exemption written into the rule, but it is so narrow that most religious groups do not qualify.

So far, there have been about 40 lawsuits from religious groups and companies founded upon religious principles arguing that the mandate violates their religious freedom.

The Obama administration has promised to make an accommodation for the nonprofit groups, but no accommodation has been made even as these organizations must renegotiate their health care plans for next year. A court recently ruled that it will hold the administration to its promise and required regular updates on the progress toward an accommodation.

6. Obama Changes Mind on Same-Sex Marriage

President Obama announced in May that he changed his mind about same-sex marriage. Citing the "golden rule," he said he was no longer opposed to government recognition of gay marriages. He was preparing to make the announcement later in the year, White House officials said, but after Vice President Joe Biden argued in favor of gay marriage on a Sunday talk show, they felt compelled to make the announcement earlier.

7. GOP Presidential Candidates Tone Deaf on Immigration

The Republican presidential nominees damaged the Republican brand among Latino voters with their often harsh rhetoric on immigration. Only Newt Gingrich and Rick Perry supported immigration reform policies, often to the sound of boos from Republican audiences during the debates. Moving to the right of Gingrich and Perry during the primaries may have helped Romney secure the nomination, but it ultimately hurt his chances with the growing Latino vote during the general election. Romney's use of the phrase "self deport" to describe his immigration policy was, in particular, viewed as highly insensitive.

8. Benghazi

On the anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, terrorists attacked a U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya, killing Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans. Two separate scandals arose in the aftermath of the attack. Requests for additional security were denied before the attack. Plus, the Obama administration spent two weeks misleading the public on what led to the attack. They claimed it was a spontaneous attack sparked by a demonstration in response to an anti-Muslim YouTube video. There was, however, no demonstration before the attack.

9. Romney Wins First Debate

Democrats were in panic mode after the first presidential debate on Oct. 3 in Denver, Colo. Romney's exceptional performance combined with Obama's lackluster performance helped Romney gain some much needed momentum. While it was ultimately not enough to secure the presidency for Romney, it created a much tighter race in early October.

10. War on Women

Throughout much of 2012, Democrats accused Republicans of waging a "war on women." As evidence of this "war," three events were most often cited. First, they accused Republicans of wanting to restrict access to contraceptives (because, supposedly, opposing a mandate that requires insurance companies to provide contraceptives for free is the same as denying access). Second, they accused Republicans of opposing equal pay for equal work for women (because of opposition to the Lilly Ledbetter Act, even though the act is not an equal pay for equal work law, but changes the statute of limitations for the law). And third, they brought attention to two Republican senate candidates who made insensitive and misinformed remarks about rape (though those remarks were universally condemned by Republican Party leaders).


Read more at http://www.christianpost.com/news/top-10-us-politics-moments-of-2012-87304/#j0cwK0Fx6AHJHTq9.99 

Thursday
Dec272012

Lobbyists Push for S.C. Gas Tax Hike

A onetime educational group has hired two lobbyists – including a nine-year veteran of the state Department of Transportation – to push for an increase in South Carolina’s 16-cents-a-gallon gas tax, the third-lowest in the country.

The group, the S.C. Alliance to Fix Our Roads, says the tax hike is needed to pay for almost $50 billion in road construction and repairs that will be needed over the next 20 years. But the alliance faces considerable opposition, including from Gov. Nikki Haley, who came out against increasing the gas tax as part of her executive budget proposal earlier this month.

The S.C. Alliance to Fix Our Roads has been around since 1981, when it was founded as South Carolinians for Better Highways. It changed its name in 1991 to the Transportation Policy and Research Council and again in 2007 to the S.C. Alliance to Fix Our Roads.

The group previously had focused on education, not lobbying lawmakers. But that changed in September, when the alliance’s board hired new executive director Bill Ross, who spent 28 years as the head of the S.C. Petroleum Council and later worked for the S.C. Trucking Association.

The group also hired Kristen Lominack, who for the past nine years was the chief lobbyist for the S.C. Department of Transportation.

“We have just really neglected the state’s greatest assets,” Ross said, referring to roads. “When they approached me (about) working with them I agreed to do that.”

Wednesday
Dec262012

S.C. Teachers Fighting Being Given Letter Grades

State education superintendent Mick Zais and educators are fighting bitterly over a proposal to give letter grades to teachers based, in part, on how students improve on standardized testing.

The proposal by Zais, a retired Army general and former college president who is in his first term as the state’s Republican schools superintendent, has led to accusations of ill will.

Teachers say Zais does not understand the challenges they face. Zais says the teachers — and school administrators and the state Board of Education, who also object to parts of the plan — are threatening South Carolina’s next big move to improve public education.

Some teachers say Zais’ plan is unfair because it would evaluate them, in part, on students’ test scores in courses that they don’t teach.

“That’s really alarming to me,” said Kent Riddle, a child development and kindergarten teacher at Angel Oak Elementary on Johns Island in Charleston County. “If I’m going to be evaluated, I want to be evaluated on what I do, on my results, not someone else’s.”

Riddle and other educators also are upset because they say they have had no input in shaping the plan.

Teachers’ groups, allied with the S.C. Association of School Administrators, are working on an alternative plan, recently presented to the S.C. Board of Education. It’s still “a work in progress,” as the group seeks “buy in” from educators, the organization’s executive director Molly Spearman said.

Wednesday
Dec262012

These Tips for Returning Gifts Might Save Frustration

No matter how carefully you shop for the perfect gift, occasionally it simply doesn't meet the recipient's desires or needs.

Before you head back to the stores, here are some ways to minimize the hassle of post-holiday returns.

If you plan to return items, you'll want to have a receipt to avoid a long wait at register lines.

"Sometimes we can look it up depending on the method of payment but we ask for the receipt," said Shawntay Robinson with Best Buy.

"It makes things a little but smoother."

Keep stickers, labels and tags intact.

Some stores will take open items.

"Bring the complete packaging it can be open make sure you have all the contents in the box," said Robinson.

Most retailers list the terms of their return policy on your receipt.

And if that still doesn't make it clear, ask someone in the store when you checkout.

Maybe you don't have any returns or exchanges to make but you have a gift card or cash to burn.

Lots of "after Christmas" sales start today.

You'll get a lot of bang for your gift card buck along with crowded stores.

"It gets pretty busy I would say maybe a 15 to 20 minute wait in line," said Robinson.

But unless you like long lines don't make the return on the day after Christmas.

"It would be better to wait a couple days maybe towards the weekend," said Robinson.

Full Story Here

Wednesday
Dec262012

ObamaCare Blamed for Jobs Cuts

From coal companies to home retailers to pizza makers to community colleges, employers across the United States have taken measures to fire workers, reduce their hours or postpone corporate expansion plans.

The reason, some of them say, is the re-election of President Barack Obama and the assured implementation of his 2010 health care reform law. And while some businesses have been more diplomatic in expressing concern with how Affordable Care Act compliance will affect costs, others are attacking the president more directly.

Papa John's CEO, John Schnatter, said the Affordable Care Act and the re-election of Mr. Obama would cost his business about $5 million to $8 million per year, meaning he'd have to increase the price of pizza and cut workers' hours so they don't qualify as "full-time" employees and become eligible for employer-provided health care coverage.

Last month, Robert Murray, chief executive of Murray Energy Co. in Pepper Pike, Ohio, laid off 150 employees, then blamed the layoffs on the president in a memo to employees. "The American people have made their choice," Mr. Murray said at the time.

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And home-improvement retailer Menards decided not to open a new store in Missouri, saying, "We are a family-owned business and with the Obama administration scaring the dickens out of all small businesses in the U.S.A. at present, we have decided not to risk expansion until things are more settled."

Why make it a point to call out the Obama administration two years after the law was passed by Congress and months after the bulk of the law was upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court?

"Some of it's politics," said Larry Levitt, senior vice president for the Kaiser Family Foundation, a public health policy group based in Menlo Park, Calif. "But some of it's to keep the pressure on the administration as they write the regulations for the law."

While the law has been in place since 2010, regulations that support its implementation are still being drafted and issued, a process that will continue through 2013. Pressing the president on various issues could, Mr. Levitt said, result in some regulations that are more favorable to businesses as they go about trying to comply with the new law.

For example, the policy that most reliably "scares the dickens" out of businesses is the Affordable Care Act provision requiring companies with 51 or more full-time or full-time-equivalent employees to make health insurance available for full-time employees and their families -- or else pay a penalty of $2,000 or more per employee.

For the purposes of the law, any employee who works 30 or more hours a week, on average, is considered full-time, starting in 2014. If just one of the company's full-time employees is dumped onto the health insurance exchanges, or obtains a "premium credit" toward a private policy because the employer's health care offerings are not comprehensive enough, the penalties take effect.

Read more: http://medcitynews.com/2012/12/healthcare-reform-blame-game-scores-of-job-cuts-blamed-on-obamacare/#ixzz2GB9T5x2D

Tuesday
Dec252012

Merry Christmas

Luke 2

The Birth of Jesus

 1 In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. 2 (This was the first census that took place while[a] Quirinius was governor of Syria.) 3 And everyone went to their own town to register.

 4 So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. 5 He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. 6 While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, 7 and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them.

 8 And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. 9 An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. 11 Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. 12 This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”

 13 Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,

 14 “Glory to God in the highest heaven, 
   and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”

 15 When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”

 16 So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. 17 When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, 18 and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. 19 But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. 20 The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.

Tuesday
Dec252012

Making a Case for Christmas

While still an atheist and crime reporter for The Chicago Tribune, Christian apologist and best-selling author Lee Strobel says a story he covered decades ago about a "poverty-wracked" family and how they showed him the true meaning of Christmas through their actions still resonates with him. Strobel gave The Christian Post an exclusive on his "Making the Case for Christmas" story.

More than 14 years ago, Strobel authored The Case for Christ, a book about how as an atheist he first set out to disprove the existence of Jesus only to find irrefutable evidence for the Son of God. He then became a Christian. His Christian wife, Leslie, had been praying for his salvation all the while.

In writing about the Delgados – 60-year-old Perfecta and her granddaughters Lydia and Jenny – Strobel tells about having a yearning "to know Jesus" during his experience.

"To her, this child in the manger was the undeserved gift that meant everything – more than material possessions, more than comfort, more than security. And at that moment, something inside of me wanted desperately to know this Jesus – because, in a sense, I saw him in Perfecta and her granddaughters."

He writes about how the Delgados "sacrificially reached out to their neighbors with a tangible expression of Christ's love."

Full Story Here 

Monday
Dec242012

Pope Pardons Butler Who Leaked Documents

Pope Benedict XVI granted his former butler a Christmas pardon Saturday, forgiving him in person during a jailhouse meeting for stealing and leaking his private papers in one of the gravest Vatican security breaches in recent times.

After the 15-minute meeting, Paolo Gabriele was freed and returned to his Vatican City apartment where he lives with his wife and three children. The Vatican said he couldn't continue living or working in the Vatican, but said it would find him housing and a job elsewhere soon.

"This is a paternal gesture toward someone with whom the pope for many years shared daily life," according to a statement from the Vatican secretariat of state.

The pardon closes a painful and embarrassing chapter for the Vatican, capping a sensational, Hollywood-like scandal that exposed power struggles, intrigue and allegations of corruption and homosexual liaisons in the highest levels of the Catholic Church.

Gabriele, 46, was arrested May 23 after Vatican police found what they called an "enormous" stash of papal documents in his Vatican City apartment. He was convicted of aggravated theft by a Vatican tribunal on Oct. 6 and has been serving his 18-month sentence in the Vatican police barracks.

Full Story Here

Monday
Dec242012

Christmas: What is this Word?

What Is This Word?

John 1.1–14

N. T. Wright 

One of the greatest journalists of the last generation, the late Bernard Levin, described how, when he was a small boy, a great celebrity came to visit his school.  The headmaster, thinking perhaps to impress, called the young Levin to the platform in front of the whole school.  The celebrity, thinking perhaps to be kind, asked the little boy what he’d had for breakfast.

That was easy, or so it seemed. ‘Matzobrei’, replied Levin.  It’s a typical central European Jewish dish, made of egg fried with matzo wafers, brown sugar and cinnamon; Levin’s immigrant mother had continued to make it even after years of living in London.  It was, to him, a perfectly ordinary word for a perfectly ordinary meal.

The celebrity, ignorant of such cuisine, thinks he must have misheard; he asks the question again.  Young Bernard, puzzled now and anxious, gives the same answer. The celebrity looks concerned, and glances at the headmaster.  What is this word he’s saying?  The headmaster, adopting a there-there-little-man tone, asks him once more what he had for breakfast.  Now dismayed, not knowing what he’s done wrong, and wanting to burst into tears, the boy says once more the only thing he can say, since it’s the truth: ‘Matzobrei’.  An exchange of strange glances on the platform, and the now terrified little boy is sent back to his place.  The incident is never referred to again, but it stays in his memory as a horrible ordeal.

The Jewish word spoken to an incomprehending world; the child’s word spoken to incomprehending adults; the word for food of which the others know nothing . . . it all feels very Johannine.  What is this Word?  ‘In the beginning was the Word . . . and the Word was made flesh.’  We are so used to it, to the great cadences, the solemn but glad message of the incarnation; and we risk skipping over the incomprehensibility, the oddness, the almost embarrassing strangeness, of the Word.  The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness didn’t comprehend it; the world was made through him but the world didn’t know him; he came to his own, and his own didn’t receive him.  John is saying two things simultaneously in his Prologue (well, two hundred actually, but let’s concentrate on two): first, that the incarnation of the eternal Word is the event for which the whole creation has been on tiptoe all along; second, that the whole creation, and even the carefully prepared people of God themselves, are quite unready for this event.  Jew and Gentile alike, hearing this strange Word, are casting anxious glances at one another, like the celebrity and the headmaster faced with a little boy telling the truth in a language they don’t understand.

That is the puzzle of Christmas.  And, to get to its heart, see how it works out in the rest of John’s gospel.  John’s Prologue is designed to stay in the mind and heart throughout the subsequent story.  Never again is Jesus himself referred to as the Word; but we are meant to look at each scene, from the call of the first disciples and the changing of water into wine right through to the confrontation with Pilate and the crucifixion and resurrection, and think to ourselves, this is what it looks like when the Word becomes flesh.  Or, if you like, look at this man of flesh and learn to see the living God.  But watch what happens as it all plays out.  He comes to his own and his own don’t receive him.  The light shines in the darkness, and though the darkness can’t overcome it it has a jolly good try.  He speaks the truth, the plain and simple words, like the little boy saying what he had for breakfast, and Caiaphas and Pilate, incomprehending, can’t decide whether he’s mad or wicked or both, and send him off to his fate.

But, though Jesus is never again referred to as the Word of God, we find the theme transposed, with endless variations.  The Living Word speaks living words, and the reaction is the same.  ‘This is a hard word,’ say his followers when he tells them that he is the bread come down from heaven (6.60).  ‘What is this word?’, asks the puzzled crowd in Jerusalem (7.36). ‘My word finds no place in you,’ says Jesus, ‘because you can’t hear it’ (8.37, 43).  ‘The word I spoke will be their judge on the last day’, he insists (12.48) as the crowds reject him and he knows his hour has come.  When Pilate hears the word, says John, he is the more afraid, since the word in question is Jesus’ reported claim to be the Son of God (19.8).  Unless we recognise this strange, dark strand running through the gospel we will domesticate John’s masterpiece (just as we’re always in danger of domesticating Christmas), and think it’s only about comfort and joy, not also about incomprehension and rejection and darkness and denial and stopping the ears and judgment.  Christmas is not about the living God coming to tell us everything’s all right.  John’s gospel isn’t about Jesus speaking the truth and everyone saying ‘Of course!  Why didn’t we realise it before?’  It is about God shining his clear, bright torch into the darkness of our world, our lives, our hearts, our imaginations, and the darkness not comprehending it.  It’s about God, God-as-a-little-child, speaking the word of truth, and nobody knowing what he’s talking about.

There may be somebody here this morning who is aware of that puzzlement, that incomprehension, that sense of a word being spoken which seems as though it ought to mean something but which remains opaque to you.  If that’s where you are, the good news is that along with this theme of incomprehension and rejection there goes the parallel theme of people hearing and receiving Jesus’ words, believing them and discovering, as he says, that they are spirit and life (6.63), breathing into the dry, dead fabric of our being and producing new life, new birth, new creation.  ‘As many as received him, to them he gave the right to become God’s children, who were born not of human will or flesh, but of God’.  ‘If you abide in my words, you will know the truth and the truth shall set you free’ (8.31f.).  ‘If anyone keeps my words, that person will never see death’ (8.51).  ‘You are already made clean by the word which I have spoken to you’ (15.3).  Don’t imagine that the world divides naturally into those who can understand what Jesus is saying that those who can’t.  By ourselves, we none of us can.  Jesus is born into a world where everyone is deaf and blind to him and what he’s saying; but some, in fear and trembling, allow his words to challenge, rescue, heal and transform them.  That is what’s on offer at Christmas; not a better focussed religion for those who already like that sort of thing, but a Word which is incomprehensible in our language but which, when we learn to hear, understand and believe it, will transform our whole selves with its judgment and mercy.

Out of the thousand things which follow directly from this reading of John, I choose three as particularly urgent.

First, John’s view of the incarnation, of the Word becoming flesh, strikes at the very root of that liberal denial which characterised mainstream theology thirty years ago and whose long-term effects are with us still.  I grew up hearing lectures and sermons which declared that the idea of God becoming human was a category mistake.  No human being could actually be divine; Jesus must therefore have been simply a human being, albeit no doubt (the wonderful patronizing pat on the head of the headmaster to the little boy) a very brilliant one.  Phew; that’s all right then; he points to God but he isn’t actually God.  And a generation later, but growing straight out of that school of thought, I have had a clergyman writing to me this week to say that the church doesn’t know anything for certain, so what’s all the fuss about?  Remove the enfleshed and speaking Word from the centre of your theology, and gradually the whole thing will unravel until all you’re left with is the theological equivalent of the grin on the Cheshire Cat, a relativism whose only moral principle is that there are no moral principles; no words of judgment because nothing is really wrong except saying that things are wrong, no words of mercy because, if you’re all right as you are, you don’t need mercy, merely ‘affirmation’.

That’s where we are right now; and John’s Christmas message issues a sharp and timely reminder to re-learn the difference between mercy and affirmation, between a Jesus who both embodies and speaks God’s word of judgment and grace and a home-made Jesus (a Da Vinci Code Jesus, if you like) who gives us good advice about discovering who we really are.  No wonder John’s gospel has been so unfashionable in many circles.  There is a fashion in some quarters for speaking about a ‘theology of incarnation’ and meaning that our task is to discern what God is doing in the world and do it with him.  But that is only half the truth, and the wrong half to start with.  John’s theology of the incarnation is about God’s word coming as light into darkness, as a hammer that breaks the rock into pieces, as the fresh word of judgment and mercy.  You might as well say that an incarnational missiology is all about discovering what God is saying No to today, and finding out how to say it with him.  That was the lesson Barth and Bonhoeffer had to teach in Germany in the 1930s, and it’s all too relevant as today’s world becomes simultaneously, and at the same points, more liberal and more totalitarian.  This Christmas, let’s get real, let’s get Johannine, and let’s listen again to the strange words spoken by the Word made flesh.

Second, John’s Prologue by its very structure reaffirms the order of creation at the point where it is being challenged today.  John is consciously echoing the first chapter of Genesis: In the beginning God made heaven and earth; in the beginning was the Word.  When the Word becomes flesh, heaven and earth are joined together at last, as God always intended.  But the creation story which begins with the bipolarity of heaven and earth reaches its climax in in the bipolarity of male and female; and when heaven and earth are joined together in Jesus Christ, the glorious intention for the whole creation is unveiled, reaffirming the creation of male and female in God’s image. There is something about the enfleshment of the Word, the point in John 1 which stands in parallel to Genesis 1.26–8, which speaks of creation fulfilled; and in that other great Johannine writing, the Book of Revelation, we see what’s going on: Jesus Christ has come as the Bridegroom, the one for whom the Bride has been waiting.

Allow that insight to work its way out.  Not for nothing does Jesus’ first ‘sign’ transform a wedding from disaster to triumph.  Not for nothing do we find a man and a woman at the foot of the cross.  The same incipient gnosticism which says that true religion is about ‘discovering who we really are’ is all too ready to say that ‘who we really are’ may have nothing much to do with the way we have been physically created as male or female.  Christian ethics, you see, is not about stating, or for that matter bending, a few somewhat arbitrary rules.  It is about the redemption of God’s good world, his wonderful creation, so that it can be the glorious thing it was made to be.  This word is strange, even incomprehensible, in today’s culture; but if you have ears, then hear it.

Third, and finally, we return to the meal, the food whose very name is strange, forbidding, even incomprehensible to those outside, but the most natural thing to those who know it.  The little child comes out to the front this morning, and speaks to us of the food which he offers us: himself, his own body and blood.  It is a hard saying, and those of us who know it well may need to remind ourselves just how hard it is, lest we be dulled by familiarity into supposing that it’s easy and undemanding.  It isn’t.  It is the word which judges the world and saves the world, the word now turned into flesh, into matzo, passover bread, the bread which is the flesh of the Christchild, given for the life of the world because this flesh is the place where the living Word of God has come to dwell.  Listen, this morning, for the incomprehensible word the Child speaks to you.  Don’t patronize it; don’t reject it; don’t sentimentalize it; learn the language within which it makes sense.  And come to the table to enjoy the breakfast, the breakfast which is himself, the Word made flesh, the life which is our life, our light, our glory.

Monday
Dec242012

Salvation Army Praying Red Kettles Do Well

The Salvation Army's 122-year-old Red Kettle Campaign raised $147 million nationwide last year, but this year it's still not certain if the campaign ending Monday will bring in the $150 million hoped for to fund programs aiding needy families, seniors, and the homeless.

Limited number of kettle sites in all areas, including Anderson, have had an impact on giving.

The Eastern Territory, which covers 11 states in the northeastern United States, from Maine down to Delaware and out to Ohio, was down about $1 million in the fourth week compared to last year, the region's director of strategic communications and external relations, Trish Raines, told TheNonProfitTimes.

"It might be because people gave for (Hurricane) Sandy relief, and they're not so quick to give another gift," said Maj. John Hodgson, the territory's community relations and development secretary.

The fund-raising campaign starts each year on the Friday after Thanksgiving and ends on Christmas Eve. The Salvation Army serves about 30 million people every year, providing food, clothing and toys to poor families.

"Every year when all the dollars are counted we have had an increase, and I'm looking forward to that again this year. I believe we'll hit $150 million or more," hopes Hodgson.

The Western Territory, covering 11 states in the continental U.S. and Hawaii and Alaska, has witnessed fluctuations this season, said the territory's Executive Director of Development, Chaz Watson. After being up by as much as 8 percent and down by as much as 8 percent, the territory was up 2 percent or about $254,000, at $13.84 million as of Dec. 14.

"We're still seeing those same up and down trends," Watson said. "Weekends are the strongest time for giving because there's more pedestrian traffic at the retail locations where the kettles are. We have places that are up and places that are down, but hopefully things will pull in the right direction."

However, the Southern Territory, which consists of 15 states south of the Mason-Dixon Line and as far west as Texas, stood at more than $19 million as of Dec. 13, up more than $1 million from last year. "It's good news for us," said Chris Priest, territorial director of communications. "A small increase will allow us to provide more benefit to those seeking help."Salvation Army's territories normally rely on Red Kettle campaign funds for about half of their yearly budgets.


Read more at http://www.christianpost.com/news/salvation-armys-red-kettles-strive-to-meet-fundraising-goals-87121/#3FdprUUSyvFYs5Jb.99