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1163Friday's Belfast blog - Geotheology

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  • Jon Kennedy
    Aug 1, 2014
       
       
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      Belfast blog - Jon Kennedy
      The Jonal, Jon Kennedy's blog on the Nanty Glo, Pa. Home Page.
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       JONAL ENTRY 1558 | FRIDAY, AUGUST 1 2014

      Today's Scripture: . . . all the saints through faith conquered kingdoms, enforced justice, received promises, stopped the mouths of lions, quenched raging fire, escaped the edge of the sword, won strength out of weakness, became mighty in war, put foreign armies to flight. Women received their dead by resurrection. Some were tortured, refusing to accept release, that they might rise again to a better life. Others suffered mocking and scourging, and even chains and imprisonment. They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were tempted, they were killed with the sword; they went about in skins of sheep and goats, destitute, afflicted, ill-treated - of whom the world was not worthy - wandering over deserts and mountains and in dens and caves of the earth. And all these, though well attested by their faith, did not receive what was promised, since God had foreseen something better for us, that apart from us they should not be made perfect. Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfection of our faith.
      — St. Paul's letter to the Hebrews, chapters 11:33-40; 12:1-2,
      from today's Orthodox lectionary readings.
      See the homiletical thought below. «

      Today's diary - life in Northern Ireland

      The tall ship at anchor in the dock in Belfast's Titanic Quarter harkens back to a kinder, bluer summer than we've been having for the past week. I took the photo above when I was on my way to work at the Dock Cafe a week ago.
      I did not make it to work at the cafe today, sorry to say, because while I was in Donegal earlier this week I developed a sharp pain in a toe on my left foot. By yesterday the limp on the left side seemed to be reawakening the arthritis I'd experienced over a year ago in the right foot (favoring one side puts too much stress on the other), so I took today off to call a foot doctor about it.
      The rest of the day has been spent on preparing for tonight's first writers group meeting here at the Loom. I've put my talking points on a Powerpoint-type slide presentation, which makes it much easier to face my first "class" in more years than I've figured out. We've been having encouraging responses to the announcement of the first meeting so are hoping for a turnout of at least half a dozen.
      Jack Lamb and I began the day with the 174 Trust clergy meeting at the Duncairn Arts and Culture Center on Antrim Road. Colin Duncan, new pastor of the Shankill and Woodvale Methodist churches, was with us for the first time. «
      A closer look
      Formerly "In the news"; links to news, features, and opinion pieces. See Caveat, below.
      9/11 cross is safe from atheist group's lawsuit by Judge's ruling
      Neither side got what It wanted in petitions for religious excmptions
      Best-selling author Dean Koontz makes surprising reading recommendations
      UN rally tomorrow, August 2, will support Iraqi, Middle East Christians
      Southern Baptist leader Russell Moore is answering questions about sex
      Carl Trueman writes on divisions among feminists over trans-genders
      Christian worldview
      (This department alternates with Writing stuff)
      During my visit to friends and fellow parishioners of St. Ignatius Church, the Williamsons, last Saturday, Colin gave me a copy of a talk given by an American geography professor at the University of the Cumberlands, Kentucky, Barry Aron Vann, PhD, EdD. Professor Vann, a long-time friend of the Williamsons, recently visited the Queens University in Belfast where he spoke on the same topic as this paper, "Natural liberty in the Bible belt: Ulster-Scots emigration and explaining voting patterns in Southern Appalachia." A lot of my hot button topics are touched in that simple title. Geography may have been my favorite subject both in grammar school and again in college, voting patterns always get my attention, the Bible belt overlaps in some noticeable ways with where I grew up in Appalachian Western Pennsvylania, Ulster-Scots are "my people," and theology is, in some measure, my life. ("Apologetics" is my writing specialization, and apologetics is a division of theology, academically.) Not to mention the overlap it has with this department, "Christian worldview."
      Vann introduced a term in his paper that was new to me, which I will introduce here and possibly revisit in future discussions. The term is "geotheological." It suggests that geography either influences or reflects certain theological conceptions, doctrines, or commitments of the people of a region. The thesis of the paper, which you can decipher from its title, is one that was also treated in the past year in a three-part BBC documentary about the Presbyterians of Ulster, also known as "the Ulster-Scots." A main thesis of that BBC series was that Ulster-Scots Presbyterians who had immigrated to the American colonies in the hundreds of thousands in the latter half of the 1700s, making them one of the largest and most dedicated cross-sections of the population during the American Revolutionary War period and the founding of the United States that was a result of that war, had a special commitment to liberty and a more democratic society.
      Both Vann and the BBC programs propose that the Presbyterians who fled Northern Ireland to get away from interference by the Church of England which was the established (and highly favored) church of all of Ireland at that time, had ideas about human liberty that molded American principles more than any other group. The Deist founding fathers had the great scheme and overview of where they wanted the nation to go, but they knew that the Ulster-Scots with their special dedication to the cause were a bulwark that gave them confidence their grand schemes had a chance of standing the tests of time.
      Vann's Ulster-Scots, having migrated to Appalachia away from the highly educated Presbyterian centers like Princeton and Philadelphia and even Pittsburgh, are much simpler people than the higher class Presbyterians (quickly migrating to Baptist and Methodist congregations, mainly), but they still preserve the attitude that led their ancestors to emigrate to America in the first place. Vann repeats the often mentioned fact that "hillbilly" derives from the fact that "Billy" was the favorite male name among this population, after William of Orange, known affectionately in these parts as "King Billy," the great hero of Irish Protestants in general but the Ulster-Scots in particular. The fact that so many of them found refuge in the hills of Western Pennsylvania, West and Western Virginia, North Carolina, Tennessee, Kentucky, and Georgia, is why they came to be known as hillbillies. Bluegrass music and moonshine whiskey (direct from Bushmills on Ireland's northern coast and other distilleries all over Scotland) came later. «
      Today's video
       «
      Chuckle (with edits)
       «
      Today's quotes
       «
      If anyone, says St. John, come to you and bring not this doctrine. What doctrine? What but the catholic and universal doctrine, which has continued one and the same through the several successions of ages by the uncorrupt tradition of the truth and so will continue for ever – "Receive him not into your house, neither bid him Godspeed, for he that bids him Godspeed communicates with him in his evil deeds" (2 John 10).
      — St. Vincent of Lerins «
      Truth and falsehood are opposed; but truth is the norm not of truth only but of falsehood also.
      — C.S. Lewis «
      Homiletical thought: Both of today's passages speak of the price, which is to be seen as a privilege, to be paid by those who faithfully follow their Father God and make themselves available for the sake of His kingdom coming. This epistle reading is the "saints' hall of fame" passage, where the Apostle recounts the deeds of the Old Testament saints and calls them a "great cloud of witnesses," keeping watch over our endeavors to follow in their footsteps in our generation. In today's Gospel passage Jesus tells His followers that they can expect to suffer scorn and persecution, ranging from rejection from loved ones to being stoned in the public square. It's not a light privilege to be among God's chosen ones. «
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      Jon R. Kennedy, C. S. Lewis Writer in Residence
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