The king of Egypt said to the Hebrew midwives, whose names were Shiphrah and Puah, “When you are helping the Hebrew women during childbirth on the delivery stool, if you see that the baby is a boy, kill him; but if it is a girl, let her live.”
Moses, Exodus 1:15-16
Exodus 1 records the first instance of antisemitism, but it’s noteworthy for more than that. A big deal should be made over who is named — the Hebrew midwives who refused to kill the Jewish boys — and who is not — the “king of Egypt.” Trust me, the king wanted to be remembered. However, he has been forgotten while the poor women are celebrated. Let’s score this: self-important Egyptian thugs 0, courageous female slaves 1.
I Can’t Resist: While I am celebrating the comeuppance of bullies, I can’t resist noting that while Nero and Caesar were being lauded — and Peter and Paul were being persecuted — today we name our sons Peter and Paul and our dogs Nero and Caesar.
WOTW: Honorable mention goes to deglobalization and decivilization, two words Peter Zeihan coins in his book, The End of the World is Just the Beginning. (FWIW, I think Zeihan makes some good points but channels too much Chicken Little.) I am also giving honorable mention to lethologica, which refers to “the ‘tip of the tongue’ feeling you get when you can’t retrieve a word but sense you’re about to.” I’m reserving WOTW honors for whoever coins the term for what you feel when you realize that, even with all of the safeguards you have in place, you are so technologically clumsy that you managed to lose the document you were working on, for example, a mostly written Friday Update. (Asking for a friend.)
Romans 3:23: RE: Zeihan’s book, in a footnote on page 72, he wrote, “I’m sure there are a few ideologues and/or economists reading this wondering what I think about “true” or “pure” communism: the idea that the state exists to be an impartial mechanism for distributing goods and services from those with ability to those with need. Since the time of Karl Marx, no one has tried it…and no one ever will, simply because people are people and under such a system those with the ability will either turn into sloths or defect. Disagree? Grow up. Or go off to your own planet and populate it with something that isn’t human.” Saying “people are people” and suggesting that if you want a world to work, you need to populate it with “something that isn’t human” is another way of saying, “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” The Gospel is Good News, but only to those who understand they have a problem.
Worth Noting: At the prompting of a friend, I asked ChatGPT to write two poems: one about George Soros and one about the Koch Brothers. Thinking that something had gone wrong — and ChatGPT had mistakenly written one about God and the other about Satan — I tried again. Intrigued with the results, I started playing around with names and keeping score. FWIW, ChatGPT likes Nancy Pelosi, Mike Pence, AOC, Amy Coney Barrett, Hillary Clinton, Chris Sununu, Stacey Abrams, and Chuck Schumer, but not Ted Cruz or Josh Hawley. It is neutral on Mitch McConnell and Chris Christie and slightly down on Kevin McCarthy. It has nice things to say about The New York Times, USA Today, CNN, MSNBC, and NPR but nasty things to say about FOX. It loves the ACLU and Planned Parenthood. It’s neutral on National Review and The Federalist Society. Try this exercise for yourself. Given the dynamic nature of AI, you may get different results. But be forewarned, the poetry is awful, and at some point, it all starts to sound the same.
Pentecost: Two weeks ago, we celebrated Pentecost — the day, fifty (pente) days after Passover, that is remembered for the arrival of the Holy Spirit and the birth of the church. Peter preached a brilliant sermon on the first Pentecost. It’s worth noting his approach. When asked by the non-Christian crowd to explain what was going on, Peter answered by unpacking the Bible, not by explaining how he felt about things.
Exodus Humor: In advance of the upcoming fall series, I’m spending a lot of time in Exodus. As previously noted, the book is profound, foundational, and suddenly trendy. FWIW, it’s also the subject of a lot of humor. This Exodus cartoon made me smile.
Reader Mail: 1) More than a few were unmoved by my appeal to The Hermeneutic of Embarrassment, and still think I messed up by citing Haidt’s claim that young, liberal, white girls are more depressed than others; 2) Everyone who cared enough to comment about Prohibition agreed that our common narrative about that era is misleading; and 3) A few forwarded commencement addresses they believe deserve another listen: a) Here is a link to Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts’ remarks at his son’s 6th-grade graduation; b) Here is a link to George Marshall’s 1947 Harvard address in which he laid out the Marshall Plan.
The Church in Action: Not since Dr. Seuss’s Yertle the Turtle has so much good theology come our way via turtles. I really, really, really wish this was more true of today’s church.
Screens Are Up, but TV Is Down: I’ve heard a lot about — but not seen any of — Succession. Including some who feel the need to rage about its importance and popularity. As a public service announcement, I want to note where it fits in the canon of “all-time most popular TV.” Of the 30 most-watched TV broadcasts of all time, 22 are Super Bowls, four are news events (e.g., 150M watched the Apollo 11 Moon landing), and only three are primetime television programs: the 1983 finale of M*A*S*H (106M viewers), Roots (Part VIII) and The Day After (tied at 100M), and Dallas’s 1980 Who Done It? episode garnered 83.6M. The 1993 finale of Cheers drew 80.5M, and the 1998 finale of Seinfeld got 76.3M. How many watched the finale of Succession? 2.9M.
Cain Killed Abel: Years ago, I learned that “Cain killed Abel because Abel wasn’t able to defend himself.” Yes, but no. Cain killed Abel because he let sin (anger and envy) fester in his heart. How are you managing those two character assassins? FWIW, I preached on the Spirit of Cain last weekend. It is here.
Prayer Request: This weekend marks the first of Renew Communities’ two Big Builds. If all goes well, we’ll frame and roof four of the eight houses we will be working on this summer. We have all the volunteers we need (skilled and otherwise). Please pray for: good weather, the safety of the workers, and a positive witness to neighbors — i.e., Matthew 5:16, “…let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” (Here is a two-minute video of our last Big Build.)
Closing Prayer: Let your goodness, Lord, appear to us, that we, made in your image, may conform ourselves to it. In our own strength we cannot imitate your majesty, power, and wonder; nor is it fitting for us to try. But your mercy reaches from the heavens, through the clouds, to the earth below. You have come to us as a small child, but you have brought us the greatest of all gifts, the gift of eternal love. Amen. (Bernard of Clairvaux, 1090-1153)