We have the right, perhaps, but we have to be very, very careful

One thing to consider: A democracy is a messy proposition, and at times more messy than other times. The Founding Fathers, in their wisdom, did not create a direct-democracy but a republican form of democratic state. This helps mitigate some of the craziness. An assembly of sane, rational, even if at times passionate, representatives of the People are to make decisions for the good of the People.
 
We need to remember that the Constitution, that profoundly liberal and radical document of its time, was preceded by the Declaration of Independence. When a government no longer responds to the wishes or needs of the citizenry, men and women have the right and obligation to take affairs into their own hands.
 
Can we understand that the rise in popularity of Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders may be further explained as the result of a citizenry absolutely at their wits end with the Washington status quo? Nothing the People do – who they elect – seems to change the perceived fact that “representatives of the people” consider less and less the wishes and needs of the People.
 
The People believe the Government as it is, is broken. What then shall they do – shall we do? Would we rather have plutocracy? meritocracy? oligarchy? authoritarianism?
 
While these times are not the same kind of times as where the mid-to-late 1700’s, the People in these times may be ready to throw off caution in order to bring the Government back down to earth. We need to be vary careful… very careful!
 
From the Declaration of Independence:
 
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security. — Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States.”

The times and politics…

The Republican Party apparatus has to realize that this trash-Trump tactic is simply not going to work. The reasons people are showing support for Trump have little to do with whether they think he is virtuous or not – most know he is not. They express their support for Trump out of protest – they are sick and tired of “politics as usual,” whether from conservatives or liberals.
Nothing else has stopped “politics as usual” so far, so why not try Trump.

Someone said to me, recently, that we have Trump as the natural progression of decades of forced political correctness – this phenomenon is the natural result of it. If the “political correctness” juggernaut results in simply shutting-up people who attempt to express opinions that are not currently in vogue (liberal vogue or conservative vogue) without actually changing hearts and minds, this is the kind of end result. Out of pure frustration and insult, people will support someone who forcibly does the opposite of the demands of the current arbiters of political correctness (or accepted respectability).

I don’t believe that the majority of people who express support for Trump are unthinking, bigoted, misogynist, etc., idiots as Trump opponents like to assert. (Some are, but, some liberals are, too.) And, of course, the popular media feeds the controversy.

This is protest, and we are foolish if we don’t heed the tea leaves. The more the Party apparatus or others try to bring Trump down the presumed “usual way,” the more they are going to fail. Keep piling it on – it just makes the protest more fun for those protesting.

Can hipster Christianity save churches from decline?

“Christianity’s true relevance lies not in the gospel’s comfortable trendiness but in its uncomfortable transcendence, as a truth with the power to rebuff, renew and restore wayward humanity at every epoch in history.

“Research also indicates that millennials do prefer ‘real’ churches over ‘cool’ ones. Contrary to the belief that churches must downplay their churchiness and meet in breweries or warehouses in order to appeal to millennials, a 2014 Barna study showed that millennials actually prefer church spaces that are straightforward and overtly Christian. The same study reported that when millennials described their ‘ideal church,’ they preferred ‘classic’ (67 percent) over ‘trendy’ (33 percent).”

Read the entire article: Can hipster Christianity save churches from decline? (source: Washington Post)

Can hipster Christianity save the church?

Can hipster Christianity save the church?

How are we influenced?

American exceptionalism today – the same as or similar to American “messianism” of the mid-nineteenth century… right before the Civil War? Yes, I think – and what it does, negatively, to the religion, the common perception of it all, and the spiritual welfare of Americans.

Professor Mark Noll in his book, “The Civil War as a Theological Crisis,” writes about the debates going on between pro- and anti-slavery theologians and biblical scholars leading up to the Civil War. The following quote comes from his analysis of Moses Stuart, considered one of America’s most competent biblical scholars of the time, a Reformed theologian, and how Stuart allowed his American citizenship (American messianism/exceptionalism) to overwhelm his scholarship and common application of scripture.

According to Noll, Stuart was compromised and thus blantantly inconsistent – his advocacy for slavery within his sense of “America” clouded his exegesis to the point of believing in the scriptural allowance of it. Are we are doing the same, today, in allowing notions of “America” to infringe upon and cloud what we are supposed to be and do as citizens of a different kingdom? We (many of us who claim Christ) make an idol of this nation-state and this notion of American exceptionalism. (This need not infringe upon the imagination of the American Ideal grasped by so many around the world and often forgotten by us, the supposed holders of it.)

From Noll, dealing with the specific debate over returning escaped slaves to their owners:

“Stuart, however, did not seem to feel that escaped slaves – considered as either Christians or potential Christians – had a higher claim on fellow believers than did Southern slaveholders considered as fellow American citizens. Rather, by overriding his commitment to standard Reformed theology, Stuart’s strong sense of American national messianism constrained his interpretation of Scripture. Even for this rightly honored defender of strict biblical exegesis, race exerted a powerful sway. White fellow Americans counted far more than black fellow Christians. Analogical Israel meant more than Spiritual Israel. A dubious theological warrant (treating America as the chosen people) exerted more force than a strong theological warrant (including blacks in the fellowship of the Church.” (Noll, p. 61)

General Theological Seminary

From the Dean of Bexley Hall Seminary (Ohio), in his personal blog, “Crusty Old Dean,” on the situation at the General Theological Seminary after the Board of Trusties refused to reconsider their decision to rid the seminary of the eight professors. Click the link to read the post.

Fear leads to believing control works. Fear leads to flailing around attempting to find a solution, any solution, any shiny thing, whether based on rational, calm consideration or not and if not generally only leads to continued failure. Wisdom is set down and forgotten. Laudable assertions and beliefs and convictions fall by the wayside. We are in the midst of chaos born of fear in this Church of ours.

The institutional decisions and directions I’ve seen over the last decade within my Church make me believe that we are in an eddy swirling around and around and having no clue how to get out of it. I don’t know whether we honestly want to get out… whether we want to succeed… whether we want to be a part of what God is doing all around. I hope, truly, that I am very wrong.

Last week I attended a conference full of young pastors of congregations in New York City that are thriving – tens of thousands in their congregations and dramatically growing. (It is good to learn from those who are succeeding in these new contexts!) They are joyful, excited about the Gospel and their people, and they pastor congregations that are the same. My inclination is to want to be a part of them – in all their disjointed glory. The Body of Christ is alive and well, but the question is whether we want to be a part of it or not. Thankfully, my parish decides to to be a part, even if imperfectly. I choose to be a part, even if imperfectly, but there are consequences.

The very sad thing is that I have heard from a number of priests, alumni of GTS, who are afraid – yes afraid – to say anything publicly for fear of what will come their way from ecclesiastical authorities. I well understand this! How ironic. The very people in this Church who screamed through the ’70’s, ’80’s, ’90’s, “Speak truth to power”… well, they did until those screaming found themselves to be “the power”, and, well, there goes any tolerance for “Speaking truth…”

Oh yes, we will come through this. We will be an example. We will teach, something. The decision is ours as to what we will example and teach. What we decide will determine whether what we example and teach lead to the good or the bad.

http://crustyoldean.blogspot.com/2014/10/requiem-for-seminary-requiem-for-church.html

 

Deep Trends & Christian Institutions

For those who have ears to hear… What do you think?  It is my experience, and from what I witness and read concerning leadership in many denominational and even “emergent” structures, that we honestly only want to gather around us those who scratch our itching ears… we don’t want to step back and carefully consider what is going on around us and what then is necessary to do.  If it fits our preconception and personal want, fine, but it if doesn’t, we ignore or reject it – to our own peril.  Click on the link, below, for the article.

Deep trends affecting Christian institutions

What do you think?

Affordable Care Act, Individual Liberty, and Socialized Medicine

So, my 2-cents on the ACA (Obamacare), the Federal Gov’t, and individual liberty.  A couple disclaimers: 1. Occupationally, I work for a company that provides health insurance – a VEBA; 2. Politically, I tend to be drawn to Libertarianism (which is not Neo-Conservatism or plain old Conservatism); 3. Socially, I’m a person who has set my life within the Way of Christ, no matter how imperfectly I succeed.

Now onward… Since the early debates of whether our form of government should be central or local – Federal-centric or State-centric – the battle has raged.  More State-centric seems to have won out in our Constitutional form.  So, I think the Federal government should not take up stuff not specifically provided for it in the Constitution – like medicine.  No socialized medicine!  Therefore, like the ACA (which really is of a different kind, but anyway…) Congress should immediately end the Federal government’s socialized medicine programs – Medicare and Medicaid – which are government controlled and dictated systems.

Secondly, people have the right to not have insurance if they don’t want it! Since we know that lots of uninsured people show up at Emergency Rooms seeking care for everything from what would otherwise be a primary-care check-up to a hang-nail, these uninsured visits drive up the cost of healthcare and drive hospitals into financial insolvency since these people can’t pay their bills, then this needs to stop!  Why should regular-people’s insurance premiums, co-pays, and co-insurance charges continually rise because we have to make up for other people’s decisions? It is our individual American right to not have health insurance, but if you don’t have insurance or don’t have the cash – no care!  Why should I have to subsidize other people’s Constitutionally granted decisions or their inefficiency, irresponsibility, or bad luck?

So, if you don’t plan well during your life and you’re old and have no healthcare coverage, tough luck.  If you are young and invincible and get into a drunken care crash without insurance, tough luck.  If your baby is in trouble and you chose to exercise your Constitutional right to not have health insurance, tough luck. Individual liberty, individual responsibility! After all, that’s the American Way of allowing us all to make our own, private, individualized decisions, right?  Now, if a privately funded charity wants to pay for those people’s healthycare bills, great, they can be enablers if they want to, just don’t make me pay for it.  (The “American Way” is looking more and more like “Social Darwinism.”)

But, the American Way is not the Christ-like Way.  And, for all those people who claim to be Christians – whether conservative or liberal, Evangelical, Mainline, or Catholic (Roman, Orthodox, Anglican, or some Lutherans) – hyper-individualism is counter to God’s call to us to be about caring for the lest-of-these, to considering others needs before our own, and to love not just our neighbors but our enemies as well.

That doesn’t mean we have to give everything over to the Federal or State governments to control or administer (I am enamored with Libertarianism, after all), but it does mean we cannot dump our responsibility to care for the poor, the widow, the orphan, and the alien!  We can democratically decide whether to take up that responsibility through our government, private associations, or individually.  We can collectively decide the means within our representative democracy, but we can never decide to ignore those least able to make it.

The Church

“The Church, in common with the whole redemptive process, does not exist as the fruit of human endeavour, which has shown time and again by the bloody collapse of ‘civilized’ rationality to be incapable of attaining anything that is lastingly healing. Thus the Church cannot be reformed by human effort and ingenuity, any more than sin can be reformed by good will. We must hear the gospel of the incarnation as a summons to self-abandonment before all else, not as a reassuring endorsement of the best we can humanity do.”

– Rowan Williams in his book, “Anglican Identities”, p. 89-90, writing on on Michael Ramsey’s theology of the Church.

This is the problem we have today – those who still rely on Modernist notions for their base foundation of what can be known for sure are still trying to reform the Church by human endeavor and some kind of human ingenuity – and it isn’t working. There is too often a reliance on late 20th-Century American socio-political ideology (of the Left or Right) rather than what the enduring Tradition reveals to be the ways-and-means of the Kingdom of God. For example, demanding “rights” is not at all the same as living into “loving your neighbor as yourself.”

With respect to the “reform” of our Church (in this case, the Episcopal Church), what is needed is self-abandonment to the gospel-of-the-incarnation (understood in a Postmodern way), which is completely tied to the deep and flowing stream of the enduring Tradition (for us in its Anglican form) taken up  by us from generations past, experienced anew in our own day, and if we are faithful we will strive to understand how to pass it on to the next generations.

What will we do in this Anglican form of the Tradition of ours when we think about issues of a numerically and financially declining Church – a Church that has nearly lost what once was significant influence for the good within society – within a culture that no longer thinks and acts within a Christian worldview?

We’re rethinking…

So, I’m in the midst of rethinking the “Imago Dei Initiative.”  Part of our DNA is an understanding that rethinking has to occur regularly and constantly.  As folks engaging with emerging generations and culture, what else can we do?

Up-front-and-center is the need to refocus ministry development in the midst of parish life. After nearly 20-years of observing “Emergent” or “Fresh Expressions” models of being “the church” – at least that part that eschews larger gatherings of people for the “intimate-alternative” – I find that those models tend to be transient and temporary.  As valuable as they may be for the people in them, such small groups over time are not particularly sustainable and certainly do not do things like pay diocesan assessments. I fully support those trying alternative things – that’s what we are doing, frankly. It just depends on how “alternative” is conceptualized and experienced. 😉

There are reasons why aspects of the Christian Faith and Tradition have endured for nearly 2,000 years, even as our understanding and experience of society, humanity, and technology have changed.  The institutional Church must realize that those experimental forms of “church”, as valuable as they may be, are not the future. The fringe never is.  The fringe, however, will inevitably change us!  Yet, that which has endured will continue to endure no matter how radically-whatever we try to be, and the rest will fall away.

The current Church bureaucracy of technocrats still function under a perceptional framework based in Modernism and Christendom – no matter how much they try, otherwise.  It is obvious to anyone who was not formed to perceive in such ways. So, the real re-invigoration of the institutional Church will rest with those younger – so shall it be as it always has been. The holders of elder-wisdom who get-it will be there to guild and support.  Those who don’t – well, they will hinder until they can hinder no more. Thankfully, the emerging generations at present have a keener understanding of and value for that which endures.

So then, how do we perpetually put aside our own “stuff” for the sake of the Church-becoming… for the sake of the Gospel of Jesus Christ in present contexts… for the sake of those who do not yet have a knowledge of God?

Thoughts on “marriage”

Reading through Genesis and considering recent Supreme Court decisions – Abraham married a second time and sired more children… but also had children by his “concubines” (plural), to whom he gave gifts upon his approaching death. (Gen. 25) No negative commentary on this form of coupling from the biblical record, thus far anyway.

We all like to think God is on our side, don’t we? The demand that God’s definition of marriage must look just like late 20th Century, American, Culture War notions of marriage isn’t faring so well when one actually reads Scripture. For better or for worse, the Biblical record does not support notions of marriage based on romantic love or of one single man and one single woman or on the sanctioning of a centralized State.

The attempts to force Scripture to support what one group or another wants (or imagine God demands) is nothing new.

The profound opposition to gay marriage by certain groups (which is their civic right to do), has caused them to so bend Scripture to support their cause that even a cursory reading makes obvious that their attempts fail – again, for better or for worse.

via The Imago Dei Initiative Blog.