which christians

I wrote this in response to a comment Jackie added to my post, “Good Stuff.” I decided to make part of it a post all its own…
It has been interesting to notice the different kinds of people that the different churches attract. I spent most of my life in the Evangelical side of the church, and while the Evangelical/Pentecostal/Charismatic denominations and churches grew dramatically in many cases, the people who came into those churches by-and-large where Christians who were simply changing churches, or perhaps lapsed Christians coming back to the church. There were not many un-churched, non-believers who began for the first time attending these churches, with obvious exceptions. The large charismatic Episcopal Church in my town grew, but I know that most of the new growth came from Christians changing churches, not from new un-churched, non-believers who accepted Christ for the first time.
I have found, however, that the Episcopal Church is drawing many un-churched people who are curious about Christ and His Way and seeking truth. They do not feel comfortable attending an Evangelical church, but they are comfortable to begin their journey to Jesus Christ in this context. I have found, through observation, that the Episcopal Church attracts more un-churched non-believers to its ranks than does Evangelicalism. No, that does mean that the sinners can feel comfortable remaining in their sin because they attend an apostate Episcopal church that says they don稚 have to change anything to be a Christian! Who has the greatest effect on un-churched, non-believers who are seeking God? From my personal experience and observations, I think the Episcopal Church does.

CPE-11 – the art and science of medicine and communication

I had a run-in with a resident-doctor last Friday. The doctor and the patient were speaking past each other, and at times the resident was speaking in a condescending and demeaning way to the patient. I called him on it. He didn’t like it. He got his Attending and accused me of a variety of things. We worked it all out (at least I hope it is all worked out!).
This whole affair brought to mind the idea of the Art of Medicine and the Science of Medicine, and those who function within each domain of medicine and how they communicate to patients. The resident-doctor spoke well within the Science of Medicine – very technical, very specific, very dry with little or no emotion (accept when we was condescending, that is). The patient couldn’t hear that, because the patient was in the Art of Medicine domain – feeling, sensing, etc. The resident, wanting to effectively communicate to the patient, needed to recognize this, but he did not. He needed to communicate within the Art of Medicine for the patient to truly understand what he was saying. Likewise, he needed to listen within the Art of Medicine so that he could hear what the patient was actually telling him. It is the doctorç—´ responsibility to bear the burden of understanding the best way to get his or her point across, and then doing so.
Anyway, the Art and Science of Medicine. To be effective, doctors need to be able to discern within which domain they need to faction to effectively communicate to patients. Just like we do, too, as chaplains!

good stuff

I was reading Kendall Harmon’s blog this morning and the post he included from an article by Dan Savage. The responses to an article were many and furious. This is a response to “Jackie” from John Wilkins that I particularly like. It isn’t necessary to know the context or what Jackie wrote, I don’t believe. Anyway, here is John’s post:

Jackie asks: “You donÂ’t seek to counsel non-Christians from a biblical standard? If someone is not a Christian, this makes unacceptable behavior acceptable?” Jackie – if you are arguing with someone who says, “I think the bible is a set of myths, and that its holiness codes are ridiculous, and that the bible is inconsistent, encourages Genocide, and makes utterly false claims about the future” then itÂ’s very hard to argue from the bible. At that point it is the job of the priest or Christian to argue why the bible is credible – and not from the position “because God says it is so.” That simply brings you into circular reasoning. It almost makes God into a tyrant.
Brother, I wonder if we have two different ways of dealing with life. I live without needing to be certain that I know what God wants. I have a pretty good understanding from scripture, the traditions, common sense, civil law and experience. Savage may be right, but it makes me a bit uncomfortable. I know that I wouldnÂ’t recommend such relationships because I think they can break hearts. I think, also, Savage knows this which is why he claims to be “defacto” monogamous – he doesnÂ’t believe in monogamy, but it works out that way.
Strangely, this is precisely why scripture and the fathers are correct about monogamy. In an egalitarian society where women have some freedom and rights, monogamy is better. It restricts, while not eliminating, desire for the benefit of individual hearts. It requires some mutual sacrifice.
Granted, perhaps we, as Christians, need someone like Dan to repent for his sins. For who? For God? God will take care of Dan. He doesn’t need to repent for me. But personally, I find it strangely affirming that even though he doesn’t need, desire, or believe in monogamy, he’s decided that the general form, the general principle, the spirit behind it works. Perhaps you would rather that he sid, “well, we have orgies and sleep around a lot and have as much casual sex as we can.” That would, at least, reaffirm the stereotype.
I donÂ’t think the bible was meant to be used as the foundation for argument. It was meant to be a foundation for a bringing people in relationship to God.
I was asked to answer BeaconÂ’s question. Of course I believe that the Holy Bible is the Word of God. I think it contains all things necessary to salvation.
However, I do not think that the Holy Bible is inerrant. I think that the Word of God was written through human beings, and that human beings are fallen. Let me repeat:
Human beings use words to communicate.
Human beings are fallen.
One aspect of being fallen is misunderstanding or being misunderstood.
God used human beings, and their form of communication [language], to speak to humanity.
Human beings, in their fallenness [while doing the best that they could] cannot get things perfect [save Jesus, who was not fallen].
Neither did they need to get things perfect, for perfection is found in God.
My second point is that IN SCRIPTURE the word of God is Jesus Christ, the living God, of which one aspect of his nature is that he is perfectly free. God is not the words of the bible – only insofar as we see the spirit of Jesus Christ. This is the biblically / scripturally correct view – that Jesus, is the word of God.
I have heard a couple interesting things: that in fact God is not free to change his nature; God is not free to change his mind – even though scripture illustrates that He does. Noone has addressed the meaning of the stories where God does change his mind. Like liberals, “Orthodox” believers choose those parts of scripture that satisfy their theology while ignoring the “plain teaching” of other parts.
The problem is not with God, who may be, in some sense changeless, eternal and certain. It is with his medium, human beings, and words, which always conceal and reveal, which never get things perfect, but are usually good enough, and contain, at least, what is necessary to be saved. Fortunately, being certain, absolute, rigid, doctrinare, is not what is necessary. Merely the Word of God.
Which is Jesus, the one Holy and Living God.
Comment by John Wilkins — 7/19/2004 @ 10:26 am

evangelical

Commentary from Jim Wallis, from Sojourners:
As evangelical as an oak tree
by Jim Wallis
I debated Jerry Falwell yesterday on Tavis Smiley’s National Public Radio show. The subject was the current talk about “values” in the presidential election campaign. Tavis first asked Falwell to name a “short list” of the values issues that were important to him. It turned out to be a very short list indeed. All the Religious Right leader could talk about was the gay marriage amendment. That was it.
I pointed out that overcoming poverty was a values issue, as was protecting the environment, as was fighting unnecessary wars on false pretenses, as was the abuse of Iraqi prisoners. As he often does when he fears he might lose a debate, Falwell eventually began to interrupt what I was saying and moved into personal-attack mode, saying that I was “as much an evangelical as an oak tree.” The television preacher from Lynchburg has such a way with words.

Continue reading

Marriage Protection Act and Three Branches of Government

This from CitizenLink (from Focus on the Family) concerning The Marriage Protection Act, HR 3313, coming before the House of Representatives:

Charlie Jarvis of the United Seniors Association said our Founding Fathers would find today’s judicial tyranny an outrageous offense to the Constitution and their original intentions because they never intended the courts to be de facto policy-makers unaccountable to other branches of government.

I hear over and over again that the judiciary is “taking over the country” and acting in ways contrary to the Constitution. How? The courts rule on issues brought before them, and the U.S. Supreme Court rules on the constitutionality of laws already passed or actions already taken nationally. There will be people who disagree with the rulings, but that does not mean that the Court is acting contrary to the constitutional powers given it. If we do not like the ruling, our elected representatives can pass another law, they can change the make-up of the court, or they can impeach judges. There are plenty of options for the Executive and Legislative branches of government to reign in the court, if necessary and if they have the will to do so.
The problem with the Religious Right and those making accusations against “activist judges” who are ruling on laws restricting homosexual civil-marriage and relationships is not that the courts are ruling dictatorially, but that the Religious Right is loosing the culture war on this issue. Our elected officials are not doing what the Religious Right demands them to do to keep the courts from ruling on the constitutionality of laws enacted that promote their cultural/social agendas. They do not have the votes in the Legislative branch to confront the Judicial branch in constitutional ways. There are not the votes in the House or the Senate to change the courts, re-enact constitutionally sound legislation, or impeach the judges. The Religious Right has realized some successes, but many are short lived when they are analyzed constitutionally. The Religious Right is loosing the cultural-war on homosexuality, just like bigots lost the cultural-war on black civil-rights. The Religious Right cannot abide by this, so they attempt to spin the whole argument from their inability to garner the votes to impose their will or the constitutionality of some of their successes, but towards idea that the courts have gone beyond their constitutional bounds and are no longer acting according to their constitutional prerogatives.

Ex-gay or what?

I was reading Ex-Gay Watch this morning. Mike included information from the new Exodus ad campaign unvailed in Cincinnati. The “Question Homosexuality” campaign, which includes newspaper ads like the one appearing in the Cincinnati Enquirer, seems to be a good effort.
If I am honest, which I have no problem being, there are times when I still question whether I simply did not try hard enough, pray hard enough, get psychoanalyzed enough, or grit my teeth hard enough to resist the whole homosexual thing. Change did not come, despite all that I did. All one has to do is read the testimonials/auto-biographies of people year after year after year to realize that scores have tried and tried again to change their orientation to no avail. The success rate of Exodus and their methods are dismally low – and this fact comes from those involved with the methods/programs.
Have some changed? I don’t know. All we have to do is look at those who have claimed healing and change and later failed/fell/admitted the truth that they still have same-sex attraction to know that just because some say they have changed does not mean much! Yet, there are those few who do say they have no attraction to the same sex any longer. Are they lying or have they changed? If they have changed, then why or how? Did they prayer just the right amount of time? Did they cry to just that point where God figured He might as well do something? Did they grit their teeth hard enough and now are simply enduring an incongruent life? Is it because God truly zapped them and turned them into heterosexuals or enabled them to realize their true heterosexual selves? Is it because they were not truly homosexual to begin with? Is it because God wishes for all homosexuals to realize they aren’t really homosexual and that if we do just what Alan Chambers did that every one of us will be zapped, too?
There are simply too many individuals who have done everything and anything to change (relying upon God and everything) who have not experienced changed. What does that mean? Does God not love them, but does love Alan Chambers and his crew? Is God fickle? Does God play favorites? Did these people not have the guts or endurance to realize their change – they simply quite too soon? Maybe these homosexuals were predestined for hell by God, so they aren’t going to change no matter what anyone does (a good application of Calvinistic double-predestination!)?
There is nothing reliable, verifiable, and consistent that presents to me the honest notion that homosexuals are not homosexuals because that is what they are – that God changes homosexuals into heterosexuals, or that reparative-therapy actually works. Why are people homosexual? We don’t know, yet. Scripture does not support what the Church has traditionally claimed concerning homosexuality. Science does not support ex-gay ideology, theology, or psychosocial theory. Yet, sometimes I wonder whether I just didn’t pray enough, cry enough, study enough, grit my teeth enough, or get analyzed enough to change.

FMA

There is a lot of chatter going on this week over the Senate debate concerning the FMA – Federal Marriage Amendment. The vote on the Senate floor for or against the measure should take place very soon.
Here is an update sent by the Don Wildmon’s “OneMillionDads.” They lost, but they are trying to spin this into some sort of victory, in the sense that this is a very long-term project. They are in this for the long haul.

And, despite all the rhetoric by some Senators as to why they voted against the FMA, the bottom line is this: A vote against the FMA is a vote for homosexual marriage. A vote for the FMA is a vote for traditional marriage.

According to the Religious Right, there cannot be an opinion that voting against this amendment is made honestly because a Senator does not believe that it belongs in the Constitution, rather than the Senator voting FOR homosexual marriage or against traditional marriage.
They have lost. But, anything can happen.

CPE-10 – God Help Me

We are finishing our mid-term evaluations. Yesterday, we met in Central Park, the day before at Health Care Chaplaincy offices, today, back at Roosevelt. I am completely exhausted! I have been the lightening rod for the past two days, and probably will be today. Why? Well, I have a strong personality, I am self-assured, I like who I am, and I don’t think I am too off base in how I conduct myself. With certain people, all those things are bad things. According to some, I refuse to look at deeper issues because when critiqued I say, honestly, “I understand,” and leave it at that, because I do understand. Well, because I don’t use the right code words or gush emotionally I must be repressing something or denying some underlying pathology – who knows? So, I’ve been blasted the last two days (and one earlier time). And, of course, because I don’t respond in ways they want me to respond, they assume I cannot be an effective chaplain, even though they have never seen me in operation. Ask the patients I deal with whether I am effective. They all want me to come back, so I suspect I must be doing some things right.
I think it is time for some of them to learn how to deal with someone like me, rather than they expect me to completely change my personality and learning style to reflect what they thing I should be. If they expect me to be able to respond and react in ways that they can receive, then they need to do the same with those like me.

CPE-9 – Good Samaritan

Luke 10:25-37
“25 Just then a lawyer stood up to test Jesus. ‘Teacher,Â’ he said, ‘what must I do to inherit eternal life?Â’ 26He said to him, ‘What is written in the law? What do you read there?Â’ 27He answered, ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself.Â’ 28And he said to him, ‘You have given the right answer; do this, and you will live.Â’ 29But wanting to justify himself, he asked Jesus, ‘And who is my neighbor?Â’ 30Jesus replied, ‘A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell into the hands of robbers, who stripped him, beat him, and went away, leaving him half dead. 31Now by chance a priest was going down that road; and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. 32So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. 33But a Samaritan while traveling came near him; and when he saw him, he was moved with pity. 34He went to him and bandaged his wounds, having poured oil and wine on them. Then he put him on his own animal, brought him to an inn, and took care of him. 35The next day he took out two denarii, gave them to the innkeeper, and said, “Take care of him; and when I come back, I will repay you whatever more you spend.” 36Which of these three, do you think, was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of the robbers?Â’ 37He said, ‘The one who showed him mercy.Â’ Jesus said to him, ‘Go and do likewise.Â’”
I have been dealing with how to be a Christian hospital chaplain in a multi-faith ministry since beginning CPE. I have come to some sense of what feels somewhat comfortable, but still wrestle with this issue. To some degree, the issue has been moot because most of the patients I have encountered have been Christian. With a couple particular exceptions, I have had very good conversations dealing with their beliefs. My role has been more an inquisitive inquirer rather than giver of pastoral care (at least it seems this way), although in one particular example the patient seems invigorated by explaining his beliefs and the deep meaning he feels.
I can be, and really should be, however, in the hospital to ease the pain and help dissuade the fear and anxiety that some patients feel. While I may not be able to be about “the cure of souls” as I conceive of the ancient concept, I can ease their fear or loneliness. This will not apply to every patient, obviously. I can be of help with patients in the same way I can help feed the poor or cloth the naked. I can show the person that there are those in the world who do care.
This approach further demonstrates to me that this is not my ministry, but that is beside the point. All of us who claim Christ, and I can only speak for Christians, should be as was the Good Samaritan – helping the stranger when few others will. The patient is the stranger; we are the Samaritan. We should all be like the sheep at judgment – doing that which is loving and compassionate to our neighbors and not knowing nor caring whom that person may be to the point where we do not even realize what we are truly doing. (Matthew 25:31-46)