06.11.2021 – This Bud’s For You

You don’t have to agree with any or all of what I say, but I’m going to say it anyway. I think the covid vaccines are wonderfully good things, and we owe a debt of gratitude to former President Trump and his team members who oversaw their development at warp speed and to President Biden and his team members who have overseen their quick and effective distribution. I think, too, that everyone who is able to receive the vaccine ought to receive the vaccine – for their own good and for the common good.

If you’re not angry yet, keep on reading. (We do love our anger.)

As it turns out, virtue is not enough of its own reward.

President Biden has set a goal of having 70% of us (adults) vaccinated, or at least on our way to full vaccination, by July 4. Though we may not make it, I think it would be a good thing if we did – for our own good and for the common good.  Call it vaccine virtue.

18 percent of us say we will never be inoculated with one of the covid vaccines.  Simple math, then, says that over 80 percent of us are at least open to the idea, so the 70% goal is hypothetically reachable. As of today, we are at about 64% fully or partially vaccinated.  Again, simple math says nearly 20% of us could, and I think should, receive one of the vaccines. Reaching the goal is not so much a problem of the availability of vaccines as it is of the motivation to put up with the poke. While they don’t think it is a bad idea, at least a portion of those in the yet-to-be-inoculated crowd just don’t seem to be able to get around to it.

Since virtue is not enough of its own reward, we’ve introduced a variety of incentives, rewards more rewarding than virtue, to motivate those slackers.

The Founders may not have anticipated this manifestation of the glories of federalism, but depending on where you live, the rewards of vaccine virtue vary.  Several states are offering tickets for a lottery reserved for the vaccinated.  Across the state line in Ohio, vaccine virtue is rewarded by a chance at the Vax-a-Million million-dollar prize for those recently vaccinated. They are giving away guns in West Virginia. Prisoners in Delaware are given good behavior credits for getting the shot.  You can see some of the state-by-state rewards for virtue here.

Note that those of us who live in Indiana may be eligible to receive a box of Girl Scout cookies.  If they allow a retroactive reward for my virtue, please make mine Do-si-dos.

Washington state seems to have found the most – what shall we say? – innovative reward for vaccine virtue in its Joints for Jabs program. As the news story explains, “state-licensed cannabis retailers are permitted to give one free pre-rolled joint to customers who are 21 or older when they receive their first or second dose of a COVID-19 vaccine.”

The traditionalists among us may opt for a free Budweiser beer. Even in Indiana, though I am not sure I want to mix my Do-si-dos with a bottle of Bud.

Maybe we should forgo the rewards, however.

We Protestants rightly, but sometimes too quickly, reject works righteousness.  By grace through faith, we say, and, yes, rightly so.  While good works may not get us to heaven, they are, nevertheless, if not their own reward, to be done for the sake of their good.  We do justice and love mercy not for a joint, a Bud, or a Do-si-do, but because it is right and good. We visit orphans and widows in their affliction and keep ourselves unstained from the world not for a good behavior credit, but because it is good work God desires of all people.

I am not more deeply loved by God for having gotten a vaccination. Deeply loved by God, I took the jab for the sake of doing good, perhaps its own reward.

If you haven’t been vaccinated yet, take a pass on the joint, the Bud, and the Girl Scout cookies. Do it for the common good – and for your own good.

*Apologies to those of you who are under 40.  The title of the post comes from a very long-ago ad campaign you would not remember.  “For all you do, this Bud’s for you.

06.07.2021 – The Little Camry that Could

We spent last week on the road.  We had flown out to Washington state on Friday, and then Sunday through Thursday we helped our son Christopher, his wife Katie, and their six children with the drive from Washington to western Missouri where Christopher has begun his work as an active-duty Air Force Chaplain at Whiteman Air Force Base.

The days were not long distance-wise, about 350 miles per day, but suffice it to say, rest stops with six children ten and under are not quick ins and outs.  It was a good trip. Three cars, two children per car, and we arrived in Missouri on schedule.  Washington, Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, South Dakota, Iowa, and Missouri.

Three years ago, we made a similar trip from Wichita, Kansas, to Ephrata, Washington via Grand Teton and Yellowstone National Parks. A pastor’s life can be a bit nomadic. Continue reading

05.28.2021 – On the Road Again

We are on the road again. Becky and I are flying to Washington state today and then on Sunday begin a five-day, 3-car, six-children, four-adult, 1800-mile trip to Missouri where our son Christopher begins his work as an active-duty chaplain in the U.S. Air Force  If all goes well, we will be back in Auburn on Saturday, June 5.

But I am thinking about being on the road in another sense.

I will run in the way of your commandments
    when you enlarge my heart! Psalm 119:32 (ESV)

I have been a runner of sorts most of my adult life. Typically in the morning. Typically around the neighborhood. Typically not very fast. I’ve run a few 5k or 10k races, and even won a medal once when the field was small and there were only two or three of us in my age category.

For the past eighteen months or so, however, I have not been running. The pandemic. Retirement. Moving. I have my excuses. In fact, I had been thinking about not returning to running. Becky and I have a nice walking routine, and with no knee or hip problems after having run most of my adult life, I thought it might be time to quit while I was ahead.

But I like running. Maybe it’s the endorphins. Continue reading

05.21.2021 – No V-C Day, and that’s too bad

Early in their retirement, my mother and father wrote autobiographies of a sort. 122 and 177 typed pages respectively, neither is a literary gem, but each reflects the personality of its author and is full of stories and recollections that are a wonderful link to the past.  While mostly telling family stories, world events appear in both narratives, none more so than the Second World War.

I thought of my parents and their stories of the end of the war as some people think maybe we have come to a possible end of the pandemic.  Even if it is the end, it doesn’t look as if we’ll have any Victory over Covid celebrations.

My mother had graduated from college a year earlier, and in May 1945, was living in New York City with some of her college friends.  They had found an apartment on the Upper Westside.  She tells the story of her May 7, V-E, Victory in Europe, Day: We all rode the subway down to Times Square where a milling mass of humanity was celebrating. Then we went to Radio City and got tickets to the Perry Como Show.  There he was sitting on his stool singing about when the lights go on all over the world. We took the Staten Island Ferry across the harbor and saw the Statue of Liberty lighted up for the first time since the war had begun.

My father was a Navy officer serving in the Mediterranean. He writes, Rumors began to spread that the war in Europe was soon coming to a conclusion, and that our ship would be returned to the States, converted into a rocket ship and sent to the Pacific War…All ships present began to prepare to leave the Mediterranean. We joined a large convoy and headed west. We passed through the Straits of Gibraltar and soon pulled into port in the Azores. Continue reading

05.14.2021 – The President’s Preposterous Proclamation about Prayer

As has every president since 1952, last week President Biden issued a proclamation about the National Day of Prayer.

I have been thinking about it and have a few thoughts to share, but before I do, some clarifications and disclaimers:

  • I am not sure that preposterous is the best word to the describe the proclamation – I think silly or inane work better, but I like alliteration, so I am sticking with preposterous.
  • I have watched a sufficient number of “West Wing” episodes to know that Joe Biden had little to do with the proclamation.  Some junior staffer got the assignment, and the President may not have seen the thing before the signature machine signed it.
  • It is difficult to offer official opinions about prayer in a religiously pluralistic culture with sometimes militant secularists looking over your shoulder.  I pity the poor junior staffer.
  • Perhaps most importantly, I don’t like the idea of a National Day of Prayer much at all. I am for the nation, as in its people, praying, but not for the congress setting aside the first Thursday in May as the designated day for prayer.  I would be happy to see the Congress repeal Public Law 100-307, but I do not think that will happen any time soon.  In the meantime, junior staffers are going to have to continue to write Prayer Proclamations.  They could do better than this one.

I have printed the proclamation below if you care to reference it.  Some observations: Continue reading