February 2006 Archives

The Arguments

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I'm reading N.T. Wright's "The Last Word: Beyond the Bible Wars to a New Understanding of the Authority of Scripture" right now. A wonderful book.

You know, it can be fairly easy to go through the few and various verses that are used to condemn all forms of same-sex relationship and present a rational and faithful interpretation that does not come to the same conclusion, to the point where the thread used to tie them all together to sustain the traditional condemnation of all forms of same-sex relationship is frayed beyond its ability to hold up such an interpretation.

For example, one of the favorite arguments used to support the use of the Leviticus condemnation is that while the ceremonial and dietary laws are put aside for Christians, the moral law is not. N.T. Wright decimates that argument (that we Christians are somehow still under this part of the Levitical Code - at least the part that seems to speak to homosexuality) from pages 54-58. I've often wondered how anyone can read Galatians and Hebrews and still make the argument that Leviticus 18:22; 20:13 is binding for Christians today.

New Identity

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It is difficult attempting to live into my new identity when I am surrounded by my old one. It is hard to realize the coming completion of a long process when the current situation does not encourage its realization.

I remember a movie I saw a few years ago. I don't remember the title, but it was about the final few Carolingian monks and their fight against evil (or some such thing). There was a scene where the protagonist Carolingian priest was fighting against his attraction to a women and the temptation to stray from his vows. While talking to his mentor about what he should do, the mentor asked him, "Are you a man?" His response was something like, "I am not a man; I am a priest."

There is an element of truth or reality in that kind of response. Over the last several years, I have gone through a process that has set me aside for a purpose that is fundamentally different than that of most people. Not that I am any better or more enabled or whatever than anyone else in this new identity or purpose, but it is different. It is difficult to really feel the reality of it all when I am not doing the work - much, anyway. It is frustrating. What does it mean to say, “I am not a man; I am a priest!”?

What is Communion?

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Some important theological work is going on by The Inter-Anglican Theological and Doctrinal Commission (IATDC) concerning communion - what it means, how we abide within it, etc. I have heard it often said the Anglicanism presents no unique theological perspectives to world Christianity. I don't think I agree with that, although perhaps our contribution is the way we approach the issues rather than making declarative statements pertaining to the issues.

Some of the work being done now, however, shows great potential for an Anglican contribution to world Christianity's understanding of issues pertaining to communion.

There are four Key Questions presented by the commission:

Following the publication of The Virginia Report in 1997, the Inter-Anglican Theological and Doctrinal Commission has been charged to study "The nature, basis and sustaining of communion in the Church, with particular reference to the Anglican Communion". Four questions have been identified which appear to underlie this issue:

1. When we speak of the Anglican Communion, what do we mean by the word "communion"?

2. What is it that makes some disputes so crucial that failure to resolve them threatens a break in communion?

3. In what ways are Christian teachings about moral behavior integral to the maintenance of communion?

4. In answering these questions we shall be asking how far does the Virginia Report meet the relevant situations that have arisen in the Anglican Communion since its publication?

There are six Propositions that they offer for consideration. These are more detailed and well worth a read-through if these issues are of interest.

A Nation of Addicts

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This is an interesting article. Whether everything said is real and true, the idea that we truly are a nation of addicts is, IMHO.

Here is the article from MarketWatch:

Oil? America's addicted to everything!
And our denial is sabotaging the economy and markets

By Paul B. Farrell, MarketWatch
Last Update: 1:43 PM ET Feb 14, 2006

ARROYO GRANDE, Calif. (MarketWatch) -- Addicted to oil? Just oil? You're joking? No, we're a "nation of addicts," doing what addicts do best: Denying reality.

In denial the brain can rationalize anything. The more self-destructive an addict's behavior, the stronger their denial, louder their protests, arrogance, bravado, even optimism: "I'm fine, everything's under control!"
So when a Texas oilman admits 295 million Americans are addicted to oil, as President Bush did in his State of the Union address, that's historic!

I've worked professionally with people in and out of recovery; politicians, doctors, celebrities, rock stars, pro athletes and royalty, some in the Middle East, many from the Betty Ford Center. Addicts will do anything to get the next fix or drink, oblivious of the destruction around them. They create living hells, losing health, family, kids, careers, wealth, and most of all, their freedom.

Nations are no different! This is not news. Two decades ago psychologist Anne Wilson Schaef wrote "When Society Becomes an Addict." Her opening line: "Our society is deteriorating at an alarming rate." The symptoms: Greed, arrogance, ethical deterioration, obsessiveness, rationalism, self-centeredness, tunnel vision. We're out of touch, living with an illusion of control.

I just started reading this article, which I found this morning on Kendall Harmon's weblog, titusonenine. Thus far, a good critique of the Bush administration's foreign policy, our involvement in Iraq, and the consequences of both for the United States on the world stage and at home. I will see whether the whole, long commentary is worthwhile (from my humble perspective, that is). It is timely for me considering my last post.

You can find the full article at The New York Times website. Or, below.

I am an American

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I am an American, and I do not want the continuation of the propagation of the worst of us at home and abroad. I am a conservative (albeit a progressive one), and I am tired of the bitter rancor, the intentional polarization for the sake of ideology, and a zero-sum mentality. I am a Christian, and I am tired of arrogant fundamentalism (whether from the liberal or conservative perspective).

I am an American, but what am I first?


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on the train moving forward
morning commute
looking out the windows
this side and that

three trains riding on different tracks
moving forward swiftly, slowing to the same destination
people sitting, staring, reading, listening

where are we going, really?

cars and trucks and vans go by
out the window they pass us by
all different directions, going, moving

rising, rising
look right!
the sun shines through clouds streaming
people watch

again and again
Bird York and In the Deep
"thought you had
all the answers
to rest your heart upon.
but something happens
don't see it coming, now
you can't stop yourself.
now you're out there swimming
in the deep."

over, over and again
U2 and Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For
"You broke the bonds and you
Loosed the chains
Carried the cross
Of my shame
All my shame
You know I believed it
But I still haven't found what I'm looking for”

even if for only a moment
even if only by the din of an iPod gently
in the midst of a sea

in the deep,
I still haven't found what I'm looking for
but, I'm still swimming
I'm still sitting
I'm still moving
I'm still wondering
I believe it… You!


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"Rats and roaches live by competition under the laws of supply and
demand; it is the privilege of human beings to live under the laws of
justice and mercy."

- Wendell Berry


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Blanket Lyrics

Desperate for changing
Starving For truth
Closer than where i started
And chasing after you

I'm falling even more in love with you
Letting go of all i've held onto
I'm standing here until you make me move
I'm hanging by a moment here with you

Forgetting all i'm lacking
Completely and complete
I'll take your invitation
You take all of me

I'm falling even more in love with you
Letting go of all i've held onto
I'm standing here until you make me move
I'm hanging by a moment here with you

I'm living for all that i think i know
I'm running here i'll crash you into go
I'm tired of all the love divide in two
Just thinking about a moment here with you

'cuz nothing else evolves
There's nothing else to find
There's nothing in the world
That could change my mind
There is nothing else
There is nothing else
There is nothing else

Desperate for changing
Starving For truth
Closer than where i started
And chasing after you

I'm falling even more in love with you
Letting go of what i've held onto
I'm standing here until you make me move
I'm thinking about a moment here with you

I'm living for all that i think i know
I'm running here i'll crash you into go
I'm tired of all the love divide in two
Just thinking about a moment here with you
Just thinking about a moment
Thinking about a moment (here with you)
Thinking about a moment (here with you)
Thinking about a moment here with you.

What is love?

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So, a day after Valentine's Day and many people are now wondering - What is love, anyway?

So, here is a possibility for consideration:

"If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing.

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

Love never fails. (1 Corinthians 13:1-8)

That last one - "Love never fails" - is a tough one. Those of us in these mortal bodies will always find ourselves failing. Yet, if we want to know what love is - this is it!

"Open Evangelicalism"

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Anglican Evangelicalism is different than "American Evangelicalism." Losts can be said concerning the differences. One of the primary differences is that Anglican Evangelicalism still finds itself resting squarely in a sacramental and liturgical "catholicism." Some refer to it as "Reformed Catholicism."

Within the current theological/cultural wars between the "orthodox" and the "heterodox," much of Evangelicalism, whether Anglican or American, is seen as a movement always against something. The image presented, I assume unintended, is negative, angry, bitter, and oppressive.

Stephen Kuhrt, Curate of Christ Church, New Malden and Administrative Secretary of Fulcrum, writes about what Evangelicalism has been doing and what it needs to do. Basically, he says that liberal theologians find problems and holes in "orthodox" theology and deal with them. Their conclusions or reformulations may be completely incorrect, but they do legitimately find problems. Evangelicals have been responding defensively and simply retorting that liberals are heretics who have capitulated to the culture at large and who wish to diminish the faith. Kuhrt says that Evangelicals need to respond differently, and an example of the good response can be found in the theology and writings of N.T. Wright. At one point towards the end, Kuhrt calls this process "Open Evangelicalism." I like it!

Here is the link to Kuhrt's essay. It is short and interesting.

How... can it be?

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How frightening it can be! What do I do? How can I handle this? There are times when I feel as it I am pressed against a skim, a thin thing that molds to the shape of my body. I can't help but press against it - I am compelled to do so. I feel as if I am about to break through... brake through to something, something new. It's a bit frightening, the unknown, the mysterious.

There are times when I feel as if I am in the thin-space where the dividing line between me and the presence of God is so less significant. It is a good time; it is a terrifying time, and I fail so.

Something is coming, I think. Something. Anticipation. Restlessness.

There comes a point when we begin to ask, despite the contrary pronouncements and assurances from so many, whether Islam has become an angry, violent, intolerant, and fanatical religion - not that it has always been so or must be, but right now it seems to be. Of course not all Muslims are burning down Danish embassies, or blowing themselves up to kill Jews (or any other 'infidel'). I believe most Muslims prefer to simply live out their lives in peace and have their children realize a better future. But, what are we to think?

The published images of Mohammad, and I've seen them, are very mild and aside from one or two, not offensive according to what I consider to be offensive. (Of course, this is the rub. We all have different definitions of what is offensive.) We have seen pictures published of the Virgin Mary covered in dung and urine, but I know of no Christians who are burning down embassies or shooting their opponents. Many complain strenuously, yes, but no one engages in mass destruction.

As troubling as this will sound, the very complex issues contributing to what is going on in the Middle East and why might be summed up by the word "insecurity." (Am I being condescending, in a very Western or American way?) Mary is defamed, but few Christians riot or even give much attention to it other than admitting that the "artist" may have some issues he needs to work through. Lord help him! It seems we simply are not very insecure about our religion – most of us, that is. (Perhaps we are just complacent? Like I say, doubt is not the enemy of faith, complacency is.)

How many of the problems faced and experienced by Muslims (and by association, us all) result not from Islam per se, but from a century of humiliation (percieved or actual) suffered by Arabs and Persians? Is Islam just the excuse or a means through which Arab and Persian humiliation and rage towards the colonizers and the multi-nationals and the hegemonists are expressed? Religion can obviously inflame the passions, as can cultural and political issues. Combine them, and we have a very, very volatile mix. During the World Wars and afterwards, Westerners have not done much to ingratiate themselves to Arabs and Persians or dispel the anger!

Are the problems cultural or religious? Yes, a mixture for sure, but is the primary factor religion or culture? If religion was removed from the equation concerning The Troubles in Northern Ireland, there would still be troubles! If Northern Ireland was re-incorporated into the rest of Ireland, I really doubt the religious animosities and problems would continue much longer. Who knows???

Palestinian Elections - Hamas

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Here is a statement issued by Sabeel: Ecumenical Liberation Theology Center concerning the Hamas victory in the recent Palestinian elections. I know next to nothing about this organization, but I think the statement seems fair, and frankly good.



"We know that all things work together for good for those who love God." (Romans 8:28)

Before we engage in both analysis and prognosis of the Palestinian election, it is important to humble oneself before God and to the way history moves and turns always surprising us with changes that on the surface may seem dangerous and threatening but eventually could be for our good. We believe in the sovereignty of God over the affairs of this world. God's thoughts are not our thoughts and God's ways are not our ways. We need to put our full confidence and trust in God. With the Psalmist we say,

"Trust in the Lord, and do good; so you will live in the land, and enjoy security. take delight in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart." (Psalm 37:3-4)

The so-called peace process between Israel and the Palestinians has often had to be resuscitated by shock treatment. The first and second Intifadas were such examples, and now this - Hamas is in power. All these earth-shaking tremors were sudden and completely unexpected. There has been no peace process going on for many years now, and Israel has been clamping down on the Palestinian people more and more oppressively to stop an explosion. Well, the explosion has nevertheless taken place but this time in a democratic and peaceful way.

Up to the last minute before the Palestinian election, the polls showed that Fatah, the main Palestinian party, and the party in government, would win by a small margin. On Wednesday, January 25, 2006, 77.69% of the Palestinian voters cast their ballots. To the shock of the Palestinian community, Hamas won a sweeping victory with 74 seats out of 132 in the Legislative Council, while Fatah obtained 45 seats. Four of the other competing parties by comparison, hardly won 2 or 3 seats each. It must be remembered that Fatah, under the leadership of Yasser Arafat, led the Palestinian struggle since the mid 1960's as the largest and most influential party. Hamas on the
other hand is less than 20 years old.

Who's there?

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When I started writing a blog, I wanted a place to dumb thoughts and ideas. I tend to 'process out loud' and this provided a means of doing just that, although through the written word rather than the spoken word. I also have a written journal, which is more personal but less convenient.

Anyway, from time-to-time I get an e-mail from someone (or perhaps a comment to one of my posts), and that person tells me that he or she reads this blog often and gets a lot out of it. Frankly, that surprises me - really! I'm not very eloquent… I'm a terrible proof-reader, etc. I do this for myself and don't think any of it would really be of much interest to other people.

Okay, so now I am kind of interested in whether there are in fact people who read this stuff on a regular or semi-regular basis. I'm not out for an ego boost or anything like that, but I am interested. If you read this blog from time-to-time, let me know. Just send me an e-mail that says something like, "Yup, I do."


Thanks. If there are in fact a good number of people who read this, well, that kind of makes me nervous. Kind of like chanting the Gospel during the liturgy makes me nervous.

"Anatomy of Reconciliation"

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I attended the Trinity Institute Conference on Theological Reflection, "The Anatomy of Reconciliation," a week or so ago. I was impressed (which isn't difficult for someone of my limited theological knowledge. Actually, that isn't really true - I was impressed by the way these four keynote speakers handled the topic and how the two theologians reframed many of the questions and assumptions about reconciliation, how God works within us and through us for His purposes in the world, and our response to God's call.) James Alison, British Roman Catholic theologian, who happens to be gay and Miroslov Volf - systematic theologian from Yale Divinity School (formerly of Fuller Theological Seminary) - were the two theologians. There is a lot I still have to process. Perhaps I will write more...

In one of the final panel discussions, Alison commented on part of Volf's presentation - Volf spoke for a long time on the process he went through in forgiving his military superior and severe interrogator when Volf was in the Yugoslav army. (As soon as he entered the military, he was immediately suspect because he had an American wife and studied in the West.) Alison said that as he listened to Volf’s presentation he found himself feeling envious because Volf’s enemy was so easily identified. I have to say, when Alison admitted that he sometimes wonders whether in fact HE is the enemy - in reference to Volf's enemy being easily identified as his interrogator - I was greatly impressed, and saddened. Anyone who is honestly seeking Truth must be able to admit s/he can be wrong. In Alison's admitting that, as most of the Church demands, as a gay man he could well be wrong and truly be 'the enemy' - I can relate! Look at all the terrible troubles ‘people like me’ have caused for our Church and the Communion. If I seek Truth, then I could well be wrong concerning any particular thing I may believe at this particular time, and what the anti-gay people say could well be true (at least theologically speaking... their demeaning stereotypes certainly don't apply!). Alison was painfully honest, and if true reconciliation can ever be realized there must be vulnerability, humility, honesty, and integrity on both sides. Perhaps this is too much to ask of most people, but in Alison's comments I see an example that is hopeful and helpful. Will the other side be willing to enter into conversation, or are they intent on... what?

In addition, Emergent conducted a theological conversation with Miroslav Volf this past week at Yale. One of the people who attended the conversation, Adam Cleaveland, commenting on his blog posted this template of Volf's:

Miroslav’s Theological Template

who is god.
what is god doing in the world.
how is god achieving this.

who are we.
where are we going.
how are we supposed to get there.

connecting the two.
what should we ultimately trust.
how should we order our trusts, provisional and ultimate.

Where does this lead? - to more pondering. Oh, if only I had time to truly ponder!! I do appreciate Volf.

There is and has been developing a number of people who can engage in current theological controversies in ways that belie the normal and polarized conflicts between liberal and conservative theologies. I want to be part of this process, which goes back to my long-time construct that "the way of Jesus is always a third way." I want to be part of the reconciliation that must, for the sake of the cause of Christ in this world, move forward in charity.

“Will the LORD be pleased with thousands of rams, with ten thousand rivers of oil? Shall I offer my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?
“He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” (Micah 6:7-9 (New International Version)

Fear of ruin. Fear of death.

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I attended the Trinity Institute "The Anatomy of Reconciliation" conference this past Monday - Wednesday. James Alison and Miroslav Volf were incredible - as was St. Helen Prejean, the practical one, who wrote "Dead Man Walking."

Some of the things I've been thinking over for the past couple of years or so were brought back into stark relief as a result of the stuff presented.

I think that so much of the conflict we see, both individually and corporately, comes from a place of fear - fear of ruin and fear of death.

We fear that our reputation, our nation, our way of life, all of our possessions will be ruined if....

We fear death.

As a result, we work to protect all our stuff and ourselves, which is normal as things go. Yet, for Christians we are not to be bound by concern and worry about all this because...

- Where is our security? In the systems of 'this world,' or in Christ? I just read this morning in Matthew 6,7 to be worried about what we will eat, what we will wear. We are not to be consumed with worry and concern about these things - where is our treasure? Are we free of materialism and consumerism and ???, or do they have us bound?

- Where is our end? If I believe what I profess to believe, I have to say with Paul that to be absent from the body is to be present with Christ. Why do I fear death? It makes sense to be concerned with the means of death. Do I believe that life ends at the expiration of the physical body? Do I believe in the beyond - beyond our concepts of space and time? Do I believe that I will be with Christ upon death? Why then should I fear death? If we can get past that fear of death, think of what is opened to us. Think...

Truly, the freedom Christ won for us is freedom from the constraints of this world and freedom from death! If my treasure - those things I value most - are not bound to temporality, why do I feel compelled to hoard or protect against the interests of the other? If my end is with Christ, why do I feel compelled to do violence to defend myself or my way of life?

We all have our preferences, but my hope is that I can be content in all things - whether rich or poor, with little or a lot. My hope is that I am freed from the need or compulsion to see this world as a competition between us against them, me against you, so that I will be freed from the fear of ruin or death!

Post-script: Jon commented about our fear of not being loved. I think that is a very important consideration to be added! Thanks, Jon.

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