This from the House of Bishops/House of Deputies listserv. It is a portion of a sermon concerning the rise of Fundamentalism in the early part of the 20th century.
The following I find an apt, if short, commentary on the Defense of Marriage Age, and more particular the proposed Constitutional amendment opposing gay marriage:
“Paul Bradshaw, a scholar of liturgy and the history of the early church, has published ten principles for interpreting early Christian liturgical evidence. One of these seems particularly germane to the present-day efforts to prohibit gay marriage. It says: ‘Legislation is better evidence for what it proposes to prohibit than for what it seeks to promote.’* The Celtic tradition in Britain serves as a case in point. If the so-called Synod of Whitby (663 AD) created a standardized form of Christianity throughout Britain, why did other gatherings, meetings, and synods need to repeat over and over again this same demand for standardization? Answer: the legislation requiring uniformity actually serves as evidence that things were not, in fact, uniform! You don’t have to make a law against something that is not actually happening, right? Given this principle, what do you think future historians will think of the Defense of Marriage Act and similar legislation?”**
I suspect historians will conclude that gay-marriages were already being conducted, and the new laws or amendments were to stop and condemn them, not so much as the proponents of the laws claimed them to be about the positive elevation of the institution of heterosexual marriage and family. However, in the same way subsequent meetings, synods, and gatherings had to continually demand uniformity in British Christianity, because there continued not to be, those opposed to gay-marriage will continually have to demand by force the prohibition of gay-marriages, because they will continue to occur! Slaves found ways to marry, even when their masters and society denied them the legal recognition – marriage was a covenant based on mutual adult intent acknowledged and supported by their peers, not on pieces of paper. It wasn’t until much later that their marriages were recognized by law and society with all the legal rights and responsibilities provided for the rest of the citizenry.
Of course, since the DMA has already passed nationally and in most states, and with the possibility that an amendment might be successfully added to the Constitution, historians will decide the rightness or wrongness of the laws and amendments depending on who gets to write the history, and when.
Much of what I hear and read from the politicized Religious Right prohibitionists claim to positively uplift the institution of heterosexual marriage, as we understand it in the late 20th and beginning of the 21st centuries, for the sake of families and society, but if we apply the standard suggested by Bradshaw and emphasized by Bates, then it seems to be more about their negative demand to rid the nation of gay-marriages.
* Paul Bradshaw, The Search for the Origins of Christian Worship: Sources and Methods for the Study of Liturgy (New York: Oxford, 1992), 68.
**Father Barrie Bates, A Rhetorical Editorial, Life at Ascension Parish Newsletter, vol 35, no 1 (New York: Church of the Ascension, 2004), 2.
comments? e-mail me
“Prayer is the meeting of eternity and time…” from Easter, by Michael Arditti. I have heard a number of things like this. From this past semester’s liturgy class: the idea that the liturgy is meant to bring us out of our time and into God’s time, from kronos into kairos. In much the same way that a church – full of stained glass, statuary, candles, beautiful architecture, icons, etc. – brings us out of our human ‘space’ and into God’s ‘space.’ This idea of the church environment, its ‘space,’ is made very real as one enters St. Thomas Episcopal Church on 5th Ave. in New York City. Coming from the hustle and bustle, the noise, the frenzied and frantic crowds of 5th Ave., and entering into St. Thomas, where it is quite, serene, peaceful, and very beautiful is almost like entering a different world. The only place to find quite in New York City is within a church. Time stops in those places, if for only a moment, and I am able to hear myself think, I am able to meditation and contemplate, and I listen attentively for the still small voice of God.
comments? e-mail me
I had an interesting conversation with a man seated next to me on one leg of my flight back to New York, yesterday. He noticed the book I’m reading (Easter) on my lap while buckling in and asked me about it. He went to Asbury Seminary and is now pastoring a “Missionary Church.” I’ve never heard of that denomination, although he said it is Wesleyan. Anyway, he asked me what I thought about the recent happenings within the Episcopal Church, which got us off onto a whole variety of topics, most specifically homosexuality and the Church’s response to the whole issue. He is opposed to homosexuality and the Church’s acceptance and inclusion of gays in relationships.
He made a number of statements that were typical (typically incorrect!), and a couple that I thought were interesting (although not unexpected). The statements confirmed that really there is no compromise between those who believe in inclusion and those who do not – the only thing that will change peoples’ minds is confronting, face-to-face, people who do not fit into their neat categorizations or stereotypes.
At one point, he said that we Christians get ourselves in trouble when we begin to use philosophy to explain our beliefs – he is apposed to Christians using philosophy. Of course, theology is simply the philosophy of God. I understand, I think, that he believes that relying too much on philosophical arguments will lead to relativism or disbelief.
He talked about the plain reading of scripture. I agree with the idea, in theory, but the problem is that the plain reading can only really happen in the original languages when they were written. When we get into the art and science of translating ancient languages into modern languages, we are engaged in interpretation. I can read an English Bible, but what I am reading is an interpretation, not the “plain” script of the original language. Moreover, of course, if depends on which English translation I read. I have read numerous times, which I really have to do some research to confirm, that the actual word “homosexual” did not appear in an English translation of the Bible until the mid-50’s. Before that, the world could not be found. The plain reading prior to the 1950’s would not have included the word “homosexual,” whereas the plain reading in various English translations after the 1950’s does. Finding the word “homosexual” in scripture is not the primary rational for the sinfulness of homosexuality, however.
Then, of course, he could not conceive that I have a high-view of scripture because I did not agree with him (and truthfully with the force of interpretative history and tradition of those few verses used to condemn homosexuals) on the meaning of the few verses or pericope that are said to pertain to homosexuals. Because I came to a different interpretive conclusion (not based on my own want but from study), I could not view scripture as authoritative. Because I did not agree with his interpretation, I was deceived or at least refusing to acknowledge the “plain-reading” of scripture. In his comments, he always kept coming back to his acceptance of scripture as authoritative, which I always had to remind him that I held the same belief. He didn’t believe me. He would allow for difference of interpretation with other things, such as between Calvinism and Arminianism, or between Pentecostals and non-Pentecostals, but not with the issue of homosexuality. To him, I am a biblical relativist.
He does not believe that conservative and liberal (the terms never fit and always confuse the issue, frankly) can remain in the same Church. Even as I tried to explain the ethos of Anglicanism – that despite the differences, there remains unity and an allowance for difference of opinion – he just didn’t get it. In order for the two groups to live in integrity, they had to split apart. Of course, it all depends on where one’s focus is directed. If there is a belief that Christ can be seen in others who disagree with us, then unity is possible. If there is an allowance for God to determine who is in and who is out, if there is an allowance for legitimate interpretive differences and a saying of “I don’t know for sure,” then there can be unity.
While I recognize that pride is an ever present companion, I am amazed at the self-righteous pride that has developed within Evangelicalism. Why do any of us think that at this day-in-age, that we suddenly have it all correct, when throughout the 2,000 plus years of Christians history, there has never been unanimity of belief! We don’t have all the answers right now, nor will we ever. We see in part, we understand in part, as looking through a glass dimly. Only when we are face-to-face with Jesus will we know. Why, then, do Evangelicals find it increasingly necessary to demand that they now know everything pertaining to God’s truth when that has never been the case throughout history?
I just don’t know where to go with all this stuff right now. There is so much more I need to know and learn before I can make any type of honest and legitimate argument.
comments? e-mail me