Recently in thoughts Category

Considering what is going on in the 2012 General Convention of the Episcopal Church right now with regard to resolutions related to changing the Church's reaching to official acceptance of the unbaptized being given Holy Communion, I want to make more accessible the piece I recently wrote on the topic.

The piece that I wrote focuses to how emerging generations (younger folks) may or may not engage this issue (topic, point of contention, disagreement, fight, or whatever-else-it-might-be-called).  Primarily, what I say is that if we make this change for reasons related to "welcome" or "inclusion" or the removal of supposed "obstacles" to new people coming to our churches, that such reasons for such a fundamental change may play well with liberal-minded, Baby-Boomer sentiments, but it will be irrelevant for younger people.  Younger people deal with such issues from very different perspectives.

So that anyone who may want to read the essay/commentary without wading through irrelevent stuff, I have made a "Page" for my 2-cents worth of commentary.  Of course, you could just scroll down.

Here is the link:
http://www.hypersync.net/mt/communion-without-baptism-emer.html

The Millennial generation does not imagine they are accepting or rejecting the Christian Faith--they imagine they are entering into formation for a new way of life, and they expect the Church to initiate, guide, teach, equip, and send them. 

What follows delves into how this may play out when considering the practice of "communion without baptism."

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

The Lord GOD has given me

the tongue of a teacher,

that I may know how to sustain

the weary with a word.

Morning by morning he wakens--

wakens my ear

to listen as those who are taught. (Isaiah 50:4-9a)

 

Isaiah's words ring loudly if we take up the challenge to understand our times forthrightly and consider candidly the looming debates within the Church. I humbly pray that we as a Church may be as one who knows how to "sustain the weary with a word." I pray that we all are awakened daily by the Lord with ears "to listen as those who are taught."

We should recognize, even if unable at present to understand, that within Western culture and particularly American culture, we are undergoing a profound, long-term change.   This is absolutely true for the Church and Christianity in general, also. One advantage we have in the enduring Christian Church is that we've been around for a very long time and have seen this all before. The question is whether we will learn from the past or whether we will simply repeat the past mistakes and be subsumed by the present, temporary, and thin zeitgeist. Change is inevitable, and can be very good, but we have to question and examine the reasons and means for change - why, why now, how, to what degree, what might be the unforeseen consequences?, and so forth.

One of the current travails within the Church is how to stem the tide of decline so that we might again thrive. One of the aspects of change we are examining for the Church (and here I am speaking specifically of the Episcopal Church, the institutional expression of Anglicanism in the United States) is how to engage younger generations (really, for too many people it revolves are how to "appeal to") younger generations.  One way proposed to appeal to younger folks is to remove all assumed "barriers," including the need for baptism before the reception of Holy Communion, the body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ. Who are we, after all, to deny them something that doesn't belong to us, anyway, right? The problem is - that plays well with Baby Boomer sentimental thinking, but not particularly well with younger generations in the aggregate.

So, what follows are some thoughts I have about "communion without baptism" as the issue plays out in the upcoming General Convention of the Episcopal Church USA this summer.

 

Introduction:

communion from the cup2.jpgThe focus of this commentary deals with how the debate within the Episcopal Church over "communion without baptism" may be conceived of within the cultural melee experienced by "emerging generations"[i] and the place, needs, and hopes of younger people. The demographic we are primarily considering is the generation known as the "Millennials" or "Generation Y" - those who are roughly 11-29 years-of-age. This is a complex generation, and even while we are all still figuring out what makes them a coherent generation, there are reliable generational characteristics that can be generalized.

When dealing with the many theological, sociological, and pedagogical considerations concerning communion of the unbaptized, within the context of Millennials there are additional considerations that need to be taken into account: 1.) The influences of previous generations on the upbringing of this group of people; 2.) The general cultural context that this generation now inhabits and how they function within it; and 3.) The foundation upon which this generation builds its understanding of life, humanity, personhood, and the world and their engagement with it - their default "faith" or worldview. Each of these will be briefly dealt with below.

These additional considerations are couched within the overarching goals of being present with young people within their constantly changing contexts so to be a witness of God's reconciling and regenerative presence and love, to learn how to translate the enduring,[ii] living Christian Faith in ways that will resonate with them, and to discover the best means for bringing the emerging generation into the mystical Body of Christ and ultimately the parish community.

Finally, over the last ten years, I have repeatedly heard and read from young people that the older "leadership of the Church does not listen to us!" We are continually trying to reconfigure the Church and its worship attempting to be relevant and accessible in ways we presume younger people will like. Yet, they are not impressed, literally. We recognize this by their growing absence. What they are seeking is something worthwhile to live for - something that proves to them that it is important enough, big enough, and hopeful enough for their consideration and devotion.[iii] Many are finding this in other expressions of Christianity, even as studies and anecdotal evidence suggest that the hope and life of historic Anglicanism is primed to take advantage of the spiritual disposition of Millennials.

"The mind of a person with understanding gets knowledge; the wise person listens to learn more." (Proverbs 18:15)

 

Influence of Previous Generations:

It has been said of Baby-Boomers (born between 1946 to around 1960[iv]) that they are the first generation to reject lessons learned from the past. There was and continues to be a generational suspicion of, if not outright rejection of, established institutions, convention, and what came before them. The generation untethered itself from the past in order to create a new world. A continuing example of this can be seen in TV commercials extolling how the Baby-Boomers are overthrowing traditional thinking and remaking retirement for themselves. Yet, Baby-Boomers were enculturated and formed as children within a society that still valued the sense of continuity and understanding that rests with tradition and elder-wisdom. There was a collective rejection of how they were raised.

It has been said of Generation X (those born around 1961 through 1981) that they are the first generation to draw meaning from popular culture. They are the "MTV" generation. This seems to be a natural progression from the Baby-Boomer rejection of lessons learned from past generations and their values. Where else are GenX'ers to find meaning, if the past is moot and untrustworthy - even dangerous? They find meaning from what is - now. Of course, the "now" is constantly morphing, particularly when considering the advent of the Internet and the continual re-framing of what is and can be known as true or final or valid - all ideas, all theories, and all concepts are equal on the Internet. Generation X is the first generation to be raised with the growing sense of being unconnected to anything sure and trustworthy.

Research reveals that the Millennial Generation (those born after around 1982 until somewhere from 2001through 2004) is the first generation where social networking and technology predominate in their everyday lives. They have access to more information and the ability for connectivity than any other generation. Members express a strong sense of abandonment by adults. As a result, Millennials have created for themselves a hidden subculture that most adults do not see or understand.[vi] Their lives revolve around fast changing, capricious, and often-manipulative fads perpetuated through a pervasive media. Underneath all the hype and hoopla, our young people are weary and wary even as they express hope for the future.

Consider that in the aggregate, the parents of Millennials (generally Baby-Boomers) are not raising their children in any particular kind of faith.  Many parents do not want their kids to be unduly influenced by what they consider to be antiquated and confining past religious expectations. This generational sensibility continues to compel adults to want young people to develop their own personal religious faith in their own time, if any religious belief at all. Yet, parents do not give much guidance or instruction to their children with respect to spiritual development generally or Christian formation specifically. A consequence is that adolescents without any formal religious education or experience arrive on college campuses or into the adult world without an understanding for making sound judgments of what is a legitimate faith expression or what is cultic, spiritually manipulative, or emotionally harmful. Thus, it is reasonable that a default, culturally generated faith such as "Moralistic, Therapeutic, Deism"[vii] has developed to fill the void.

Consider that even for the Millennials who are being raised within institutional religious settings, particularly Mainline Protestantism, the general zeitgeist compels parents and adults to attempt to be more like coordinators who want to help young people discover their own beliefs rather than teachers of an enduring, consistent Christian faith. For their own good, we make our children take music lessons or attend athletic practices, but we do not make them be a part of the church. Thus, the example set by Baby-Boomer parents and adults generally does not convey to young people that this Christian Faith is important enough to teach and pass-on to the next generation. They believe Christian life is, therefore, not worthy enough for their consideration and involvement.

Consider that Millennials report having very good and important relationships with their parents. They believe in a positive future and have a sense of confidence in their abilities. They believe that the existence of the institutional Church is good and important, yet they do not believe that the Church has any relevance for their own lives. Ironically, part of the reason for this is that young people do not believe that most of those who go to church are in fact particularly Christian.[viii]

Adults rarely perceive their engagement with young people in these ways, but this is what younger people generally report experiencing.

Questions that might be helpful to ponder: Have parents abandoned their responsibility to be engaged as the primary movers in the spiritual formation of their children? Has the institutional Church relinquished its obligation to teach the enduring Christian Faith handed down from generation to generation? Has the institutional Church itself been overwhelmed and usurped by prevailing culture?  Why do we find ourselves in a situation where fewer people among the emerging generations find any relevance or alternative within the Church to what they experience in the world? 

 

The Cultural Dynamic:

The cultural environment within which Millennials have and are growing up is substantially different than any other generation in the history of the U.S. Family dynamics, the ubiquitous use of technology that enables instantaneous access to entertainment and communication, relationships that are not bound by geography or tactile presence, and the omnipresence of information and opinion are but a few significant considerations. There is the extension of the "latch-key" phenomenon of the 1980's and 90's where parents exert less and less formal oversight of and casual engagement with their children. For many Millennials, the parental project of raising their children and instilling an ethical system has been turned over to the schools. This same dynamic is occurring as parents turn over the Christian formation of their children to the institutional Church, if they engage any religious practice at all. Children are less likely to have family traditions, generational wisdom, or religious beliefs passed on to them by their parents. Finally, constant change has bred a sense of being disconnected to anything sure and a chaos that seems to rule their lives.

We are all enculturated from birth into ways of thinking and being within our social environs and within common culture. Enculturation normally occurs unconsciously as the prevailing social norms and expectations are conveyed through media, educational systems, family influence, and peer relationships. Religious institutions are playing far less of a positive role than in the past. Enculturation can "form" us positively and negatively. We are "formed" unknowingly, but for the Christian a process of intentional "re-formation" is important in order to identify and heal those aspects of enculturation that are negative and harmful to our individual and social good.

The reality we face as Christians living in the second decade of 21st Century America is that young people are "formed" by aspects of popular culture that work contrary to their spiritual health - the way of life we are called to by Jesus Christ that enables a sustainable society full of beauty and at peace. This is most significant because they lack basic understandings of Christian truths formerly communicated through the common culture of Christendom that mitigated aspects of negative enculturation.

Taking into account the coming and going of various Christian movements over the past sixty-odd years, we have seen great change in American Christianity. We are now reaping the results of Mainline Protestantism of the '60's through 70's and American-Evangelicalism of the 1980's with the resulting politicization and polarization of religion coupled with the ending of Christendom.[ix]  Church practice has developed into a kind of "therapy" church - within the churches it has become more important to try to make people feel good about themselves (and the Church) than to teach the enduring Faith tradition or challenge people to strive for the amendment of life through Christ. This kind of "church" has resulted in little Christian growth and maturation.[x]

We are well past the "Seeker/Church Growth Movement" of the 1990's as a phenomenon primarily among Baby-Boomers with its reaction against institutional Christianity and tradition. We are now beyond the "Emergent Movement" coming into its own during the 2000's, which was and continues to be a phenomenon among primarily GenX 'ers engaged in figuring out how to be the Church within Postmodernism, which among other things opens again an acceptance of mystery. 

Among Millennials, we are realizing the phenomenon of the end of the "Constantinian-Era" of Western Christianity - a "Post-Constantinianism." Aside from changes in technology and some social structures, we have entered into a social construct that has much in common with the way early Christians experienced life within prevailing cultures that were at best indifferent and at worst hostile to Christian faith and life.

The questions to ponder within current cultural contexts are these: How does the Church respond within a culture that no longer supports Christian notions of the human being, of ethics, of our world, and of our place in the world?  How does the Church respond to a generation of which the majority of members have no formal religious education and very little meaningful religious experience? How should the Church respond to younger people who seek a kind of "spirituality," but have little notion of what that means or how to attain it outside of cultural trend, whim, or fickle personal feelings?

 

The Default Faith of the Millennials:

The "National Study of Youth and Religion"[xi] reveals that younger people have developed a sense of spirituality that the authors define as "Moralistic, Therapeutic, Deism." This is not just another variant of the Christian Faith, the authors stress. It is an uncritical something-else that has developed among younger people as a result of their enculturation. They are usually not able to coherently articulate this as a spiritual belief-system, yet it well describes their sense of a supreme-being and how they engage with such a supreme-being and how that supreme-being engages them, including how they are to behave. This god is out there somewhere, doesn't really have concern for human affairs, but is expected to hopefully bail us out of trouble when we need it, and the highest moral ideal is to be nice (which is not the same as loving your neighbor as yourself).

Regrettably, the authors write that this default "faith" of younger people is not a result of churches teaching the Christian Faith badly. This is, in fact, the "faith" that primarily Mainline Protestantism is now teaching by example to its young people.[xii] As a priest recently said, "My church is full of unconverted people." It is very difficult for those who do not effectively know the Christian Faith and the life resulting from such a Faith to instill in the emerging generation a meaningful and consequential Christian understanding and experience. We are collectively living a deficient form of Christianity, and young people know it.

Consider that with respect to religious or spiritual beliefs, an understanding of the self, and knowledge of Christian faith and praxis among emerging generations, research reveals the dire need for clear and consistent teaching from the Church. We need to reengage our teaching ministry - the process of catechetical formation among people who know little about the Faith. In these days, an institution that cannot clearly articulate its beliefs, its purpose, and its uniqueness will quickly lose the interest of younger people. Too many other things are gaming for their attention.

Questions to ponder as we think about faith development among younger people: If the culturally inspired, default spiritual understanding of a growing majority of Millennials is no longer built upon a foundation of historic Christian thought and practice, how must the Church respond? What is the teaching responsibility of the Church when approached by those who know little or nothing about the Christian understanding of humanity, the world, and God's call to us? How do we live in ways that bear witness to a God who is personal and comes among us, who is engaged with us through history, and who desires us to come into the fullness of Christ?

 

Final Considerations:

Consider that there is a difference between respectful listening so to learn how to better engage and teach emerging generations and, alternately, a kind of listening that ends up relinquishing the obligation to teach so to avoid controversy or perceived affront. It is always easier and less controversial to be an impassive spiritual guild rather than a forthright teacher.  We tend to think that being less demanding and more vague will mean more interest and participation. This way of thinking is continually shown to be false.

Consider, too, that there is a difference between giving the consecrated elements of Holy Communion to unbaptized people for pastoral reasons and the giving of the elements to unbaptized people as a matter of course for reasons surrounding hospitality or inclusivity. As is evident in the aggregate, that emerging generations are not responding to an increased focus on "hospitality" and "inclusivity." There is a desire for community, fellowship, and diverse environments assuredly, but these things are not understood by Millennials within the same concept of "hospitality" or "inclusivity" that is proffered by many leaders within the Church at this time.

Consider that notions that emerging generations are not interested in their spiritual lives, in church attendance, or learning about the enduring Christian Faith are all simply myth, often used by leadership to make excuses for the absence of young people from the Church. There are a plethora of churches and Christian groups that are growing and thriving among Millennials. The problem is that our Church, along with many, have all lost the collective ability to not only experience the fullness of the Life in Christ among present members, but have relinquished the project of learning how to translate and pass on the enduring Christian Faith and practice to the next generation in ways that resonate with them.

Could it be that we no longer listen to learn, effectively? Could it be that we no longer are able to give comfort with a word in ways that emerging generations can receive?

 

Conclusion: Bringing it all together -

The churches in which I grew up considered both baptism and the Lord's Supper to be only symbolic. We were baptized at an age of accountability only as an outward sign of a decision already made. We received communion crackers and grape juice only as a remembrance of Jesus' sacrifice and resurrection. There was no sacramental understanding and no "means of grace" held within the elements. The church in which I spent eight years as a lay campus pastor before becoming an Episcopalian is growing with over a million more members in the U.S. than the Episcopal Church (with probably two million more showing up on Sundays) and approximately 70 million members worldwide - nearly as large as the entire Anglican Communion. Yet I can say authoritatively that the continued growth in these kinds of churches is not because people have a warm feeling of welcome as a result of being allowed to take communion regardless of where they are in their personal or spiritual lives. And, these are not churches where the members leave their brains at the door.

Most all indicators among younger people point in a direction where clear teaching, rigorous yet fair expectation, and deeply held beliefs-proven-over-time are what they are seeking. They do not want to be told what to believe out-of-hand. This can help explain their declining interest in Evangelical and Roman churches. Yet, they seek something efficacious by which to be challenged - not just the same, old thing they experience in a wearying common culture.

We know that there is an increasing sense of loneliness and narcissism among emerging generations.[xiii] Technology is passé. Moving forward, an important ministry of the Church will be to re-teach in word and by example how to have and maintain low-tech, tactile, supportive, and multigenerational relationships.

Millennials are seeking something that is not bound by the chaos of constant change. Those who are truly trying to find God and develop a spiritual understanding of life are seeking examples of real alternatives to the morass of prevailing culture among people who claim this enduring Faith. They are seeking something that is not trite or superficial and something that proves to be profoundly consequential.

Changing the Canons and teaching of this Church to provide as normative communion without baptism will have profound consequence concerning what this Church has taught and lived for centuries as part of the One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church and for our ecumenical relationships, but such change will not cause a re-engagement of Millennials with this Church. It will not provide for younger people collectively an example of vibrant and significant belief. It will have little consequence for the Church as it tries to attract a new generation of faithful Christians.

By providing an open invitation to come and explore this radical Christian reality, we give young people who have little real knowledge of Christian belief and practice the freedom to seek and question and wrestle with the implications of this Faith. When they believe themselves ready to heed the call of Jesus to enter into more formal relationships with God and other parishioners in the context of the mystical Body of Christ, we make available to them baptism - the initiation into the Church. Finally, when they believe that they are ready to take upon themselves the profound significance of Christ's death and resurrection through the reception of the consecrated elements of Holy Communion, they have a good understanding of what they are getting themselves into. They have then determined for themselves that this life in Christ is truly what they seek.  This is not an effort to usher them into an exclusive club, but to meet them where they are as they seek that which remains sure and true over time and demonstrates a way of being that is life altering, with immense and eternal consequences. Centered on Christ, this is a word that sustains the weary.

(Special thanks to The Rev. Amy Coultas for the beginning summation!)

Respectfully submitted for consideration by:
The Rev. Robert Griffith, SCP
Imago Dei Initiative
Brooklyn, NY



[i] By using the term "emerging," there is recognition and expectation that the process of understanding a new generation is forever a process in flux, always emerging along with the young people who are growing up.

[ii] By using the word "enduring," there is the recognition that within the deep and ancient stream of Christian Tradition are aspects that remain constant over time, through trial and persecution, within a plethora of cultures and languages, and that always inspire the worship of and relationship with Almighty God.

[iii] Research studies are numerous, but consider the "National Study of Youth and Religion" (NSYR) and the Barna Research Group findings as examples. For a brief list of research organizations and for a short bibliography of articles and books pertaining to changing culture and emerging generations, see http://imagodeiinitiative.org/inquiry.  (Last accessed April 19, 2012)

[iv] Dates based on Strauss-Howe Generational Theory. See for more information: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Strauss-Howe_generational_theory (Last accessed April 19, 2012)

[v] See the research findings reported in the books: Clark, Chap (2005). Hurt: Inside the World of Today's Teenagers; and (2011) Hurt 2.0. Grand Rapids: Backer Academic.

[vi] Ibid.

[vii] See below for a fuller explanation of this default "faith."

[viii] See the report from the Barna Research Group: Kinnaman, David, & Lyons, Gabe (2007).  unChristian: What a New Generation Really Thinks about Christianity and Why It Matters. Grand Rapids: Baker Books. See: http://www.unchristian.com/ (Last accessed April 19, 2012)

[ix] For our purposes, we are defining: "Post-Christendom" as the end of official social institutions supporting and encouraging a Christian worldview; "Postmodernism" as the philosophical system that has come to predominate educational and social understanding, but more specifically expressed on-the-ground and within everyday life; and "Post-Constantinianism" is recognized when even the culture and social-fabric no longer support or encourage a Christian worldview and when within local contexts Christianity becomes the minority belief system.

[x] See the article: "When Are We Going to Grow Up? The Juvenilization of American Christianity," Christianity Today Online; posted June 8, 2012. http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2012/june/when-are-we-going-to-grow-up.html?utm_source=connection-html&utm_medium=Newsletter&utm_term=2407189&utm_content=128084430&utm_campaign=2012 (Last accessed 6/16/12)

[xi] NSYR website: http://www.youthandreligion.org/ (Last accessed Apirl 19, 2012)

[xii] See - Dean, Kenda Creasey (2010). Almost Christian: What the Faith of Our Teenagers Is Telling the American Church. Oxford: Oxford University Press. For more information: http://kendadean.com/almost-christian/ (Last accessed April 19, 2012)

[xiii]Marche, S. (May 2012).  Is Facebook Making Us Lonely? Atlantic Magazine. Retrieved April 13, 2012, from http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2012/05/is-facebook-making-us-lonely/8930/

When does it all end?

| Comments | No TrackBacks
When God sets about renewing his Church (whether a part of the One, Holy and Apostolic Church or a Protestant denomination - or all of it as the Body of Christ), it is more often than not a very messy, nasty undertaking. Entrenched interests, "conservative" or "liberal", fight mightily to stop it (look how the religious leaders of Jesus' day tried to stop him and the Apostles). There comes a point through the name calling, the casting of dispersions, the casting into outer darkness, and the utter unChrist-like actions, when those most entrenched in the fighting become irreverent to the new thing that God is doing. This happens because, I think, those most enamored with their own positions become blind to what is really going on around them, under them, above them - anywhere but with them. Renewal may mean the death of everything - the end of it all. No more money! Then, perhaps, the reshaping - starting in the very hearts of very real folk - can begin in earnest.

This little rant of mine comes out of this news report of a parish that was once an Episcopal parish that decided to pull-out of the Episcopal Church, tried to keep the property that did not belong to them (according to the very Canons that they agreed to and lived under for for nearly 30-years, particularly considering the vow taken by the then Episcopal priest in charge).  They lost the court battle, were told to vacate the original Episcopal congregations building, but couldn't leave it at that.

Now, I think that much of the way all this has been handled by the national Episcopal Church, dioceses, bishop, priests, and the laity in many of these conflicts has been terrible, but this kind of thing takes the cake, so to speak.

Here is an article describing what happened in: Diocese says Elm Grove's church's alter vandalized by evicted group ( ElmGroveNow)
Here is the photo on Facebook of the proud perpetrator of the action: the apse and alter - (Kelsie J. Wendelberger)

Religion vs. Faith

| Comments | No TrackBacks
I'm starting to make a distinction between the "Christian Faith" and the "Christian Religion."

The "Religion" deals more with cultic practices and asking what I must know about stuff. The "Faith" deals with being - who must I be & how must I be with God, with one another, and with myself.

Perhaps, too, this deals with a too intense focus on "revelation" in our understanding of God's dealing with humanity (or even if there is anything to such statements). Too much of a focus on revelation can too easily lead us to simply asking the question of what we must know in order to be right with God, rather than how we must be or what we must do to be right with God. I think the focus on being is much more in line with the great commands of Jesus - and even the Law.

"I am a practitioner of the Christian Faith," which in my mind places the emphasis on being and relationship. I don't think it is the same as saying, "I am a practitioner of the Christian Religion," with all is rituals, dogmas, etc.  (Believe me, this is not an attempt to downplay the importance of such things as ritual or doctrine, etc., in human life or in the practice of the Faith.)

This may touch on the divide between being "spiritual" vs. being "religious."

I find it a bit ironic that during the mid-1980's and '90's when businesses and the financial industries clambered for deregulation to allow us to "flourish" and better compete on the world stage, that they now find themselves devastated and on the eve of far greater government scrutiny and control then before deregulation. Government has been complicit. On the whole, have we really flourished? Some have made lots of money, but have even they "flourished," regardless of the rest of us? When wealth and materialism are equated to "flourishing" in the minds of people, we become lessened, diminished, and made less hole.

In the end, I think, they were coming not from a place of reasoned, philosophical, economic argument, but frankly greed. Yes, competition, but the financial industry wanted to do whatever it wanted to do without accountability or government oversight. "The market will take care of itself," they might have said.

Well, yes, and now we see it. The problem is that if we really want the market to take care of these kinds of the things then the swings will always be dramatic, the consequences dire. We are seeing the result. Great wealth and great disaster - the problem is that the "lest of these" are always the ones how suffer the most. Government, while not acting judiciously or often wisely, has to step in to avert even greater disaster. Now, the re-regulation or out-right control of the industry will be profound. I wonder, truly, how long it will be before the U.S. will be in the same kind of state as is Iceland?

Coupled with all this is the assertion, which I frankly find as near fact, that greed will not and does not provide for a good foundation upon which to base a sustainable and ethical economy. "Greed" is considered one of the Seven Deadly sins for a reason.

I think that we really are in a new "time," entering a new "era" of some sort. On the grand scheme of things, there is nothing new under the Sun even if the repeating-of-all-things takes centuries. We are reaping what we have sown - every one of us! Financial, political, social empires always collapse under their own weight and hubris.

I think Bush will be remembered as the President that presided over the downfall of the American Empire. I never wanted Empire, despite on the insistence by the Neo-Con's that this is exactly what Ameeeericans want or on the politicized Religious Right's insistence that this country has a divine mandate. It all is akin to the "divine right of Kings," in a new sort and by new "kings." I don't mind if this empire falls (and that does not mean that I do not want to live in a free country; just look at Canada, Switzerland or the Scandinavia countries: free, independent, and economically secure, but not empires).

So, we are in a financial crises, the latest manifestation of our deep cultural problems. We are in an ethical and moral crisis (although not as the Religious Right asserts). Because of the greed of people and the financial industry and the government's complacency or even their culpability, we find ourselves in this situation. (Yes, I know it is all very complex.) Government steps in when it is too late. We are all worse off.

Is government regulation the answer? No, not necessarily. Is laissez-faire capitalism the answer? No. Social or economic-Darwinism is not the answer, but that is were we are headed. Will we end up in a new form of barbarism? Nothing guarantees that we can remain a civilized people, nationally or world-wide. The Modernist notion of constant, forward-progression of humanity continues to be shown to be unfounded.

All of this does not mean that I or we should not be without hope. I am hopeful, I look forward to the future and come what may. But, my sense of hope does not rest in wealth or poverty, freedom or oppression, weakness or might, self-actualization or defeatism, and whatever else may fit here. As a Christian, my hope does not rest in the Systems-of-this-World. Nothing that I have witnessed or personally experienced leads me to believe that my hope is unfounded or placed in the wrong place. Life may be far more difficult, far more oppressive and I don't want that, but my hope does not rest is such things. Easy for me to say, I know, in my profoundly privileged American existence.

BishopBlogging

The Rt. Rev. Pierre Whalon, the Bishop over the Convocation of Episcopal Churches in Europe, is blogging about his experience at this decade's Anglican Lambeth Conference.

A couple days ago, he wrote this, and I think it is just about my favorite quote so far:

I must say I awaken to think, “Oh boy, Bible study!” (Really!) Each day has brought new learnings from my brothers (the boys’ club), the study guide, and of course, the Scripture itself.

I love it, particularly because I just listened to today's episode of "Speaking of Faith" on NPR and the topic was "Play, Spirit, and Character" and the importance of play to good human development. Krista Tippett interviewed play researcher Stuart Brown. The point was made that in real play risk needs to be possible in order for us to realize our abilities and potential, particularly for children to learn.

Whenever we delve into Scripture, we put ourselves at risk if we take seriously the lessons for life and love that God brings to us through the written Word of God. If we move within Scripture for the purpose of learning, changing, growing in wisdom rather than attempting to find proofs or justifications for what we already believe or want to believe, the cannot help but be made into a new creation. In the lessons for tomorrow, Jesus keeps saying, "The kingdom of God is like..." We will not move from the confusion of parable to the realization of God's lesson unless we are will to risk, willing to play with this thing called "life in the Kingdom of God."

This is not frivolous - all one needs to do is watch children play can be a very determined endeavor. Kids can be dead serious in their joyful play. So should we. Bishop Whalon - read again what he wrote and realize what joyfulness is present. He is playing for his benefit, for the benefit of those in his bible study group, and for us all in the Church.

How better to approach God, our Father in Heaven, with a joyful playfulness. For those who have had bad fathers or no fathers, this may be difficult to accept/understand, but the Father we have in heaven is as a father should be (as much as fallible, human fathers can be)! After all, Jesus said that we must be like the children if we are to realize the Kingdom of God. " The Kingdom of God is like..."

My prayer is that we WILL has such an attitude (I didn't use the word CAN, because all can if only we are willing). I pray we all can wake up in the morning and say, "Oh Boy..." bible study... or worship... or discipleship... or feeding the hungry... or being a witness for the sake of our friends and co-workers that do not know the love of God.

The Kingdom of God is like children playing in free revelry. Are we willing to take such a risk? A risk for the sake of the world and our own souls.

I must confess that I've lost much of this playfulness. I've actually thought a lot about this of late. I've come to live in my head and am far too serious, far too busy for my own good. I've always been a serious kind of person, but before seminary, before the battles that are tearing the Church apart, I was able to have balance and simply have fun. I recognize that to a great degree I've lost that. I need to get it back.

I don't know whether this is simply spin in order to rile the "faithful" to action, or whether it is simply ignorance by a group of American Evangelicals/Fundamentalists commenting on the actions of a Church Catholic (meaning the ecclesiastical structures and workings of the Episcopal Church USA). My better side wants to believe that it is ignorance of the how and the why we do things, but I have too much experience with the distortion and misrepresentation of facts dished out by this and other politicized Religious Right groups in order to attempt to prove or bolster their arguments to think that it is purely ignorance.

Anyway, from Focus-on-the_Family's daily e-mail update, CitizenLink, this comment on the dismissal of 20 Episcopal priests in the Diocese of Virginia by Bishop Peter Lee. The article refers to Lee as a "liberal revisionist bishop." Anyone who knows Peter Lee knows he is not a "liberal revisionist," so is the statement spin, intentional misinformation, ignorance, blatant lie, or what?

Plus, the priests were not inhibited and deposed because they are against homosexuals being bishops (or priests or deacons or even lay-leaders of the Church for that matter), they were deposed because the "abandoned communion with this Church." They could have asked Lee for Letters Dismissory (the canonical way to do rightly what they attempted to do rebelliously) and joined the Nigerian Church, but they didn't. They chose to follow a certain path and this is the result. Plain and simply. Again, lies, misunderstanding of the workings of an episcopal church, spin, or what?

It sure sounds good, doesn't it? It sure makes their followers all the more fearful of the evil they perceive as attaching them, the true holders and defenders of the Gospel of Christ, and the Gospel itself, doesn't it? It sure makes the leadership of these organizations all the more powerful - send more money, do what we tell you to do, and all will be well, doesn't it?

I don't know. I am immensely frustrated with what passes for Christianity in this country, particularly as presented and lived-out by those who have a high responsibility to the non-Christian world due to their visibility - they are examples and prophets of a very deficient kind of Kingdom of God.

Anyway, here is the short comment from Focus-on-the-Family:

Twenty Priests Defrocked over Opposition to Homosexuality (8-30-2007)

Virginia Episcopal Bishop Peter J. Lee ejected 20 of his former clergy from the priesthood this week after they quit the denomination in December over the 2003 consecration of New Hampshire Bishop V. Gene Robinson, who is openly homosexual.

The Washington Times reports that the move comes seven months after 11 churches — along with their clergy — voted to leave the diocese and the denomination. The departing churches have formed the Anglican District of Virginia.

Most mainline Protestant denominations, including the United Methodist Church and Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, take the opposite tack by defrocking sexually active homosexual clergy.

"The action by Bishop Lee comes as no surprise," said Caleb H. Price, research analyst for Focus on the Family. "In diocese after diocese throughout the United States, liberal revisionist bishops like Lee are persecuting priests, vestry members and the laity for seeking to faithfully adhere to the historic and apostolic faith once delivered.

"The fact of the matter is that it's not these priests who have abandoned the church, it's Lee and the hierarchy of the Episcopal Church USA who have abandoned the faith."

It makes me think of -

Micah 6:7-12 (New International Version)

7 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?

8 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.

The City #14 & Thoughts

I was getting ready to exit the subway this morning on 32nd St. A small crowd of people was waiting to get into the train car, but instead of standing back and waiting for everyone to get off and then getting on, they held back for just a moment and then began to push their way in.

Entering and exiting subway trains has always been problematic, but the problem is getting worse, particularly as the population increases and more people ride. Unless there is a return to a common sense understanding that all things will be much more efficient and expedient if those wanting to get on the train wait until all those getting off are in fact off. As it stands, the chaos and gosling that results from everyone trying to do their OWN thing all at the same time accomplishes nothing but frazzled nerves and longer waits. (Just to let you know that I am not venting because I feel put upon, this incident really didn't effect me. This is just an observation.)

Here is the problem, and the worst is yet to come. As the result of the drive for rabid individualism marches on in this country, ideas of the common good and a community sense are lost. Selfishness, self-centeredness, personal greed, narcissism, and the loss of concern for anyone else are the outcomes of hyper-individualism. Much of our pop-culture, including the almighty advertising dollar, have encouraged hyper-individualism for the past 35 odd years. Get what YOU can, get what you DESERVE, YOU can have it ALL and to hell with those who don't, these ideas represent the mantra of the past few generations. We get what we deserve.

There comes a point where the common cultural understanding of the common good, of altruism, of concern for the welfare of the other person becomes alien - this common sense has been breed out of us, so to speak. The outcome is chaos and a world that will not look much different than the Mad Max movies of the 1980's.

I know that people not waiting for others to get off a subway car is a minor kind of incident, but it represented to me this morning the outward manifestation of the virus of hyper/rabid-individualism. This virus will destroy our ability to function as a civil society all being together under the rule of law, common decency, and life-sustaining community.

What will happen? A loss of personal liberty - it has already begun (the Patriot Act, for example). When we no longer know our neighbors and when our personal, individual safety is threatened without a strong, inbreed culture sense the wellbeing of the whole community rather just the self, everyone becomes suspect. Well, we won't abide chaos for too long. What will happen is a clampdown on "rule breaking" and personal liberty. The end result will be far less freedom than when the whole "libertine" movement escallated beginning in the 1960's. They thought the 1950's were oppressive, just wait!

I thought this morning, "each subway car has a few burly men standing at each door. When the doors open, these men form a barrier to open a path for everyone to get off the train. Once everyone is off, then they allow people to get on. Now, some hyper-individualists will balk and try to fight their way through, but these burly men will have to basically beat then down. Taser, anyone? Kick in the groin?"

A far-fetched scenario? Perhaps, but in order to restore a sense of order intense means will have to be employed. We loose our liberty. We lose balanced individual expression, because during such times conformity becomes paramount. We lose it all in the name of hyper-individualism and the encouraged selfishness and greed that has always plagued humankind, and of which the zeit-qeist strives to deny the outcome.

The world changes, yes. Change is not a bad thing by any means. Yet, we have to be honest in perceiving and discerning the direction in which change is moving and whether that direction is beneficial or not. The end result is not guaranteed.

Good essay by Dan Gilliam over at Next-Wave e-zine.

Read it here.

Pentecost is coming, so what exactly is the "Church?"

The more I think about it, hear what people are saying (and I'm more interested in what un-churched people are saying, honestly), the more I read, the more I experience, I think Dan's list is a pretty good summation or at least a good foundation upon which to begin, even though his intent is not to present what the "Church" is.

Open or Free?

Is there a difference in being:

1. Open-minded

or

2. Free-minded

What did Jesus actually say?

This gets at the heart of how we perceive, interact with, interpret, and apply Scripture to issues of life. I don't really think we do a very good job.

On a recent blogging expedition (Titusonenine), a commenter posted a series of scripture verses that he claimed proved that Jesus indeed spoke on the subject of homosexuality. Most people who support the full inclusion of gay people in the Church today will say that Jesus never said a word about homosexuality. While I agree with that, the conclusion that, then, scripture should not be used as an authoritative contributor to the anti-inclusion arguments doesn't seem to me to be the next logical conclusion.

My response will be first, and then I will include the verses the commenter used.

---

My response to Jim the Puritan (#29) -

Jim, the verses you quote are absolutely correct, but your assumption is that all forms of same-sex relationships fall within the definition of what is immoral, automatically. The verses themselves, and thus Jesus, say nothing specific about homosexuality. I disagree with you as you attempt to say that Jesus said anything about homosexuality as recorded in the Gospels of our Lord.

What many people are asking is why the assumption? Then, when we go to Scripture and in light of what has been learned about the homosexual condition over the last 100 years or so, they say that there has been a mistake in our very human interpretation of God’s Holy Word with relation to homosexual people. They believe that a faithful biblical exegesis and hermeneutic of the few verses used to condemn all forms of same-sex relationships in light of all of Scripture cannot bear the weight of the argument against all forms of homosexual relationships. There has been a misinterpretation of Scripture, and the Tradition has supported this misinterpretation for a variety of reasons.

Even a growing number of Evangelical scholars are saying that there are great problems with the traditional interpretations, and many are changing their opinions. This isn’t God’s Word changing - it remains the same always - but our human understanding of God’s Holy Word. Is this the Holy Spirit casting new light on God’s Word? Time will tell, but we need to remember Gamaliel’s recommendation to the Sanhedrin as we work through these times.

-----
Jim the Puritan posted this:

#29 Jim the Puritan Says:
February 5th, 2007 at 1:29 pm

“I don’t find anywhere in Scripture where Jesus is talking about homosexuality as a sin,” says the Rev. Kim Smith King, senior pastor of North Decatur Presbyterian Church in Atlanta and co-moderator of More Light Presbyterians, a group supporting gay clergy.

Matthew 10:
14If anyone will not welcome you or listen to your words, shake the dust off your feet when you leave that home or town. 15I tell you the truth, it will be more bearable for Sodom and Gomorrah on the day of judgment than for that town. 16I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves.

Matthew 11:

22But I tell you, it will be more bearable for Tyre and Sidon on the day of judgment than for you. 23And you, Capernaum, will you be lifted up to the skies? No, you will go down to the depths.[a] If the miracles that were performed in you had been performed in Sodom, it would have remained to this day. 24But I tell you that it will be more bearable for Sodom on the day of judgment than for you.”

Luke 10:

11′Even the dust of your town that sticks to our feet we wipe off against you. Yet be sure of this: The kingdom of God is near.’ 12I tell you, it will be more bearable on that day for Sodom than for that town.

Luke 17:
28″It was the same in the days of Lot. People were eating and drinking, buying and selling, planting and building. 29But the day Lot left Sodom, fire and sulfur rained down from heaven and destroyed them all.
30″It will be just like this on the day the Son of Man is revealed.”

I’ve never understood this assertion that Jesus didn’t have a problem with homosexuality. If Jesus didn’t have a problem with homosexuality, why did he repeatedly use it as the example of the results of sin?

And no, they were not distroyed because of “inhospitality.” Every Jew then knew they were destroyed because of sexual perversion and immorality.

“In a similar way, Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding towns gave themselves up to sexual immorality and perversion. They serve as an example of those who suffer the punishment of eternal fire.” Jude 1:7

Random thoughts on stuff...

| No TrackBacks

Islam and American Women

I listened to a NPR interview yesterday morning of an American woman who converted to Islam. She is a self-described feminist. I think she was kidnapped (or something like that) and her captives let her go as she promised to read the Quran. When she did, she said that she found a most profoundly pro-women's liberation document that she has ever read. That is my take on her comments, as best I remember them. I heard recently that Islam is just about the fastest growing religious movement in the U.S., and primarily among American women.

Back in high school, I read a book entitled 1985. It was obviously a take off of Orwell's 1984, but with a different vision. The book was situated in a pre-Thatcher, 1970's Labor Party Britain, and Islam became a very influential force - really the only force that could enable any part of British society to go forward beyond the violence and labor strife that marred the day.

Do we realize that for many young women, Islam will become the next new thing? It will be the new way of living and will become a new way of liberation - although a very different vision of liberation from the 1960's-70's National Organization of Women type of women's lib. As the negative results of many of the 1960's 'revolutions' become more apparent, non-baby boomer women will look to other means of acquiring a sense of freedom, dignity, and respect.

Christianity is failing them. Conservative Christianity is looking back to a mythical 1950's sense of womanhood. Liberal Christianity desperately hangs onto the 1960's women's-lib kind of womanhood. Neither are right, neither work well, and neither will meet the needs of young women. Islam, at least as it will be conceived in an American form by American converts, present a very different and I think increasingly attractive alternative, unless Christians in this country can get their act together to realize what the New Covenant of Jesus really teaches.

The failed Bishop's Meeting in New York

The meeting of a few American Bishops from opposing sides and the representative of the Archbishop of Canterbury in New York City this past week ended with no resolution between the warring parties. Now, the commentaries and opinions are flying - spin for the most part.

Bishop Duncan of Pittsburg, the Moderator of the Network, posted a statement. Here is a bit of it:

“It was an honest meeting. It became clear that the division in the American church is so great that we are incapable of addressing the divide which has two distinctly different groups both claiming to be the Episcopal Church,” said Bishop Duncan..."

Notice what Duncan said? "...two distinctly different groups claiming to be the Episcopal Church." The onward march for control of the Pension Fund, the buildings, and the name Anglican continues.

It is hard...

| No TrackBacks

"Say what you want about the vices of the dogma of sin, one of its virtues has always been to remind us that we—all of us—live between the animals and the gods, that one of the underappreciated challenges of human life is to somehow become a human being."

In Prothero's review of the new Oxford University Press' new books series on the Seven Deadly Sins, he writes much about how each of the authors handle their respective sin. I find it interesting that the book written by the Columbia University Buddhist Studies professor Robert A. F. Thurman (Uma's father!) gets a good deal of attention and Prothero suggests that his book is the only one that treats the topic as "sin" - or what might be traditionally understood within Christianity as sin and the effects of sin. What does this tell us about current American culture? You know, this American culture of ours that if you heed the spin of poll-results from the politicized Religious Right suggests this good, wholesome, and particular kind of Christian nation, despite the evil, godless, and liberal American cultural elites who are trying their hardest to destroy Christian America.

Anyway, the quote above struck me. What does it mean to be truly "human?" Biologically? Psychologically? Communally or individually? And, particularly for me, Spiritually? Can any of the above really be separated without loosing the essence of what a "human being" really is – this thing between animals and the gods? I don't think so, but for many people the "spiritual" aspect is often removed from the equation - or at least any kind of defined and systematized understanding of "spirituality."

Then, there is this idea that it is quite challenging to actually become a "human being." Perhaps, to view the holistic nature the human is a good first step in understanding what it means to be a true "human being." The spiritual cannot be seperated from the physical from the psychological, etc.

I agree with Prothero's assertion that our cultural understanding of sin and sin's effect upon human life has been turned on its head - sin once seen as that thing which impinges upon our freedom has been turned to be understood as that which brings about our freedom. Where does the difference between freedom and license, liberty and libertinism?

From my Christian perspective, there are things that we do that originate from our inner-selves (what is unclean is not what we put into our bodies but what proceeds out from of our hearts) that distort our understandings of and relationships with God, our neighbors, and our own self-understanding. To live by license or a libertine existence seems to bring about true freedom, but often we become bound by and controlled by those behaviors. Our true freedom is hindered or even destroyed. Freedom is not the ability to do whatever we want whenever we want, but true freedom is the ability to step outside of our own wants and our own lusts. To give into or indulge our own wants and lust often leads to enslavement to those wants and lusts - materialism, greed, addictions, etc. To engage in the struggle and daily battle to resist the temptation of sin, I think, is the process of discovering true freedom.

We are to love our neighbors as ourselves. We don't deny ourselves, but we are enabled to move outside ourselves so that we can consider the wants and needs and betterment of our neighbors as a goal at least as important as self-indulgement - perhaps even more so. For me, this is a beginning point of discovering what it means to be a "human being." It is a challenge and it requires discipline, but the process brings freedom.

Read the review by Stephen Prothero (chairman of the Department of Religion at Boston University) of the new book series on The Seven Deadly Sins published by Oxford University Press at ChristianityToday.

Via: Titusonenine

We must humble ourselves!

| Comments

The 75th General Convention of The Episcopal Church in the United States comes to an end today, or at least is scheduled to end. Today we will see whether we can deal with the Windsor Report in ways very un-American – whether we can actually humble ourselves just a bit.

I have never used this phrase before because I do not engage in Identity Politics, but now I will for a reason: “As a gay man” all that happens at General Convention is not all about me or my “tribe.” My identity as a gay man is not paramount, but as a Christian (perhaps I should say “follower of Jesus” because self-identifying as a Christian is an identity in and of itself, I know). As a Christian my call is to a life of self-denial, to love others more than myself, to even love my enemy. To find life, I am to die to this life. If I honestly love my enemy, how can I do that which only causes them harm or hurt, regardless of whether they want to harm or hurt me? What is the example of Jesus on the cross, after all? This doesn’t mean I have to accept my opponents' interpretation of Scripture, their form of piety, or what they want to accomplish. I can be a strong advocate of my position, but when I see my brother or sister hurt and distressed by my actions or words when they specifically ask me to slow down, wait a bit, or allow their voice to be heard, how as a follower of Jesus can I say, “NO?” It is only in our hyper-individualized, arrogant American way can we simply say to world Anglicanism – those who agree with me (us) and those who don’t – “screw you,” I’m or we’re going to do what we want regardless of how it effects you.

So, we wait two years until Lambeth. So we agree to withhold the election of another gay bishop, so we wait to conduct blessings of same-gender unions, so we express our profound regret that what we did has caused such division, harm, and dismay among the vast majority of Anglicans and Christians worldwide. We humble ourselves and say we may have been wrong in how we did it, and we could be wrong in what we actually did. I can advocate for my position, but my position is not what is most important – loving my brother and sister is regardless of how they respond to me. When concepts of justice conflict with concepts of acting in love towards others, we have a profound misunderstanding of both and I believe completely miss the Gospel imperative of love and justice and how they work hand-in-hand. “As a gay man,” I’ve always been vilified, never had the opportunity of blessing, so what is two years if in those two years many people around the world may understand me a little better, my perspective, or my interpretation of Scripture, and perhaps come to see things the way I do, or at least we can come to a compromise. For the sake of crucified Jesus, I’m willing to wait. If I simply want to force others to do want I want them to do, or the hell with them, then I am not acting as a Christian, but I am certainly engaging in Identity Politics. I am certainly enslaved to the “Tyranny of NOW.”

We have been in a limited way discussed this issue for thirty years in this Church. The clergy have done a terrible job in bringing the discussion to most parishioners. What we did three years ago has forced the issue and forced the conversation called for by Lambeth Resolution 1.10.3, so let us continue in a way that will include as many people around the world as we can. I know what it is to be excluded, and I don’t want to do to others what I have experienced myself! Pass the Commissions recommendations for Windsor as a beginning point. If in three years our opponents do not accept the conversation or do not listen, then we have gone the extra mile and we continue on as we feel we should – but we tried, again.

Below I go into this whole issue of Identity Politics a little more deeply.

Much of what we see going on at General Convention and within our Church in general, is the clash of various "cultures" all claiming "The Gospel."

What I see as a glory of Anglicanism is a recognition that various concepts of the Gospel come together to give us a more balanced and clearer view of its fullness. It is only when we lay claim to one form and become fundamentalist concerning our favorite “pet gospel” that irreconcilable differences and conflict have the day.

The Modernist inspired ideas of the "Social Gospel" taken up with full force by the mainline denominations during the 60's and 70's (and also reflected in the Liberation Theology initiated by South American Roman Catholics) still remains a powerful force in the Episcopal Church. While Modernism as a worldview/system has been waning for many years now, the primary undercurrent of general social understanding by those in power (the 60's Baby-Boomer generation) within this Church and many of our national institutions remain. The gospel has a primary focus on social justice and righting the wrongs of past generations with relation to marginalized peoples.

There is a gospel that has arisen over the last twenty years or so that takes its cue from the "self-esteem" pedagogies of academic educational theory. It might be described as the "Gospel of Affirmation." God is love, and all God wants to do is love us and enable us to love God's self and one another. God affirms us in our personhood and completely accepts us for who, what, and where we are. God esteems us as individual beings, and because God is all love we are all brought into God's loving embrace. This is probably a very inadequate description of this idea of the truths held within the Gospel as perceived by this group of people.

Then, there is what might be considered the long standing or traditional ideas of the Gospel of Christ, and at the moment no real term comes to mind to describe this perception of the Gospel. It might be termed the "Gospel of Transformation," although that may be different from this form. Different variations of this exist within the Evangelical side of the Church up through the Anglo-Catholic side of Anglicanism. Within this gospel are the notions held within the Creeds fully accepted and believed. There is the assertion that God revealed Himself through the prophets, through Holy Scripture, and most poignantly through His incarnation in Jesus. It is in the life, death, and resurrection (actual, historical events) of Jesus that we find our fullness as human beings. We are transformed from who we were as blind, lost, and sinful humans and made new by the power of the Holy Spirit into the fullness of God through Jesus the Christ.

There is what I term the "Liberal Gospel," although that is an absolutely inadequate term. It seems to me to be a rational extension of the Social Gospel. This form of the gospel might well be summed up in the teachings of Bishop Spong. Most of the gospel as seen is Scripture is metaphor and is absolutely anthropocentric. It deals with how we perceive and interact with the world around us and how we can move ever forward to achieving ideas of utopia.

Of course, various other "gospels" are out there, and I know what I have described above is quite inadequate. But, the reality is that we have competing ideas of what the "Gospel of Christ" really means as we live out our lives on this big, blue ball. As we align ourselves to one or another gospel, this determines where we place out emphasis in terms of legislation, piety, church policy, and the like.

My contention is that there are elements of truth in all the above. God does accept us where we are. God does not leave us where we are found, however, but transforms us as we yield our lives to His perfect will. In that transformation our objectives, our desires, and the focus of our lives are changed as we are enable to see the hurt and desperation of so many. As we are changed and renewed, we are enabled to love - God and one another - in new ways which compels us to fight for justice and the welfare of all people.

In my humble opinion, these gospels are not in competition. We force the competition because we are humans who know in part and see in part. My prayer is that as we seek God, we will be changed by God and made into new creations that are able to fulfill the two Great Comments of Jesus - Love God with our entire being and love our neighbor as ourselves.

"Fundamentalist"

| Comments

I keep running into walls when trying to describe stuff in politics, philosophy, theology, etc., concerning what is or isn't "liberal" or "conservative" or "fundamentalist" or "evangelical" – and so on.

I think, for myself and for now, I will define a "fundamentalist" (little 'f') as one who will not or cannot honestly consider or accommodate that there could be alternative opinions/ideas/theories other than that which s/he already accepts as "fact."

So, when the president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary makes statements like "no credible scholar" accepts the alternative interpretations of Scripture concerning what the Bible actually does or does not say about homosexuality, what he is saying is that a scholar can only be "credible," and therefore worthy of consideration, if s/he agrees with the president's already decided opinion of what is the truth. It is circular reasoning, and it is a hallmark of "fundamentalists."

By the way, a "fundamentalist" can be either a "conservative" or a "liberal!"

I will stand by the idea that if any of us truly want to know Truth we have to first acknowledge that what we have believed up to this point could be wrong. I am a fallible human and will always be prone to mistakes and deceptions. If we don't, all we want is confirmation of what we already believe to be true and the consolation that goes along with that pseudo-security. This isn't relativism. It is, I think and as much as I can determine, humility.

All we want to do is gather around us those who will scratch our itching ears - and to a "fundamentalist" this constitutes who is a "credible scholar" or not!

I am an American

| Comments

I AM AN AMERICAN AND...

- I WANT COMMUNITY
- I WANT NATIONAL SELF-SUFFICIENCY
- I WANT RESPECT FOR OTHERS DIFFERENT THAN OURSELVES
- I WANT FREEDOM FROM CULTURAL INSECURITY
- I WANT FREEDOM FROM GREED AS AN ECONOMIC M.O.
- I WANT PEACE!


- I DO NOT WANT EMPIRE! NO AMERICAN EMPIRE!
- I DO NOT WANT RABID-CONSUMERISM
- I DO NOT WANT HYPER-INDIVIDUALISM
- I DO NOT WANT ISOLATION


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?

sitting

| Comments

sitting,
on the train moving forward
morning commute
looking out the windows
this side and that
still?

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

wondering,
where are we going, really?
why?

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

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

listening,
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”

solitude,
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!

July 2012

Sun Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat
1 2 3 4 5 6 7
8 9 10 11 12 13 14
15 16 17 18 19 20 21
22 23 24 25 26 27 28
29 30 31        

About this Archive

This page is an archive of recent entries in the thoughts category.

theology is the previous category.

thoughts from reading is the next category.

Find recent content on the main index or look in the archives to find all content.

My Stuff

www.flickr.com
This is a Flickr badge showing public photos and videos from blgriffith. Make your own badge here.



Visit Anglimergent

Monthly Archives

OpenID accepted here Learn more about OpenID