One does not equal the other

Well, actually, the phrase “people of faith” is another problematic quip.
According to those in the politicized Religious Right, a “person of faith” is only someone who is “born-again,” and then only according to their definition of “born-again.” One must adhere to a their particular understanding of the meaning and application of Scripture, and one must adhere to their political and social philosophy, which they claim is God’s also. If we do not adhere ourselves to their principles, then we are not “people of faith,” despite how we may order our whole lives around faith in God. At best, they may grant that we are “people of faith,” but our faith in corrupted and in violation of God’s precepts.

Richard Norris

Canon Dr. Richard A. Norris, Jr.
Died, Friday evening, April 22 at his home.
Graduate of The General Theological Seminary and Professor of History and Historical Theology 1964-1977. In recent years, Visiting Professor of History and Historical Theology. Professor Emeritus of Union Theological Seminary.
I noticed over the past few months that he seemed to be slowing down (even beyond his normal slow pace). He was a brilliant man, and this is a true lose for the Church. Now, I am sure he is lecturing up in heaven, after being straightened out a bit as we all shall be.
Remember thy servant, Richard, O Lord, according to the favor which thou bearest unto thy people; and grant that, increasing in knowledge and love of thee, he may go from strength to strength in the life of perfect service in thy heavenly kingdom; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

New Pope

There isn’t really any thing more I can say or want to say concerning the new pope, Benedict XVI. Andrew Sullivan say said many good things, and he is one who wants desperately to have hope.
I think we are now approaching a time that is very similar in some specific ways to that of England during the reign of Elizabeth I. The Reformers and the Catholics were warring against one another, and what emerged was the Elizabethan Settlement. A forced settlement, but one that enabled war to be averted.
Today, we are certainly in a different situation. I do think, however, that idea of Via Media, of the spirit of the Elizabethan Settlement, can be reasserted. To the Evangelicals who are sick of their leaders making an idol of America and political power, and to the Catholics who are very disturbed by the direction their church is taking (and perhaps the even faster push for a new inquisition), I say “come to the Via Media.”
Of course we have our own profound problems right now, but within Anglicanism we allow the problems to exist and we allow our dirty laundry to be aired-out before all. I have no desire to steel sheep from other flocks, but many Roman Catholics and Evangelicals will come (and are coming) to a point where they will not be able to abide by the continued politicalization of the faith or a new inquisition of questioning and differences in espoused theology.

Radical Moderates

Christi Todd-Whitman (the former Republican governor of New Jersey and former Bush appointee to head the EPA, who resigned) has written a new book: “It’s My Party, Too: The Battle for the Heart of the GOP and the Future of America.” She writes that the Republican Party is being “dictated to by a coalition of ideological extremists.” This group is made up of the Religious-Right (religious fundamentalists) and “social fundamentalists” (her term).
She is calling for “radical moderates” to reassert themselves and rescue the Republican Party from the fundamentalists, religious or social. This is a very sensitive time for internal Republican dynamics. The “fundamentalists” who are feeling flush with power, and in their minds vindication, are advancing in their attempt to purge the party of RINO’s (Republicans In Name Only). Any Republican who is moderate, traditionally conservative (proponents of fiscal restraint, limited government, individual liberty & responsibility, etc.) and who disagrees with their “fundamentalist” view of Christian theology and socio-political requirements are targeted. Who will ultimately win?
We see this dynamic repeating itself not only in politics but also within the country’s religious life. Religious fundamentalists are attempting to redefine what is meant by “Christian” (or Jewish, or Muslim, or Hindu, etc.). They are determined to instill in the public’s consciousness that only their understanding of theology, Scripture, and social dynamics are correct and therefore “Christian.” Only they are “people of faith.” If you are a religious progressive or liberal (even moderate), by definition you cannot be a Christian or a “person of faith.” In the public’s mind, will the word “Christian” come to mean only the faith of Dobson, Perkins, Kennedy, Farwell, and the like?
We see this dynamic being played out in our Church. If one is not a reactionary fundamentalist then one is not an Anglican. These people are squatters in Anglican-Evangelicalism and Anglo-Catholicism and perverted both of these well-established traditions, in my humble opinion. Will the concept of the Elizabethan Settlement, Hooker’s justifications, and the Via Media prevail?
You are not an American unless you accept the understanding of America as a nation instituted by God “himself” to accomplish God’s specific dictates and plans. You are not a Christian unless you agree with the theology and scriptural interpretations of James Dobson, Tony Perkins, Jerry Farwell, D. James Kennedy, Pat Robinson, and the like. You are not an Anglican unless you agree with the theology, ecclesiology, and tradition of Akinola, Duncan, Harman, and the like. You are not a German unless you agree with Hitler. You are not a Russian unless you agree with Stalin. You are not a Cambodian unless you agree with Pol Pot. You are not a Korean unless you agree with the Dear Leader. You are not a Muslim unless you are Arab (if you live in Darfur, that is).
“Radical Moderates” need to reassert themselves in all areas of our lives in this country, or else the fundamentalists (religious, social, or Anglican) will win, even if for only a short time. They understand themselves to be on a Crusade, a Jihad, and because they will to implement God’s plan the end justifies the means. What are we going to do?

Spin, spin, spin

The Oregon Supreme Court upheld the constitutional amendment narrowly passed by voters declaring marriage to be between two people of the opposite sex only.
James Dobson from Focus-on-the-Family comments:
“”This ruling underscores the appropriate role of judges:
to uphold and affirm the laws enacted by the people and
their elected representatives, not to foist a radical
social agenda on society. It is a welcome — and, sadly,
rare — example of judicial restraint.”

Dobson and his compatriots continue to attempt to twist and spin in the public’s mind what the role of the judiciary truly is, especially on the level of various Supreme Courts. The role of judges is not to “uphold and affirm” the laws enacted by the people or the people’s representatives. The constitutional role of the judges in these types of cases is to determine whether the laws passed by the people’s representatives or instituted through the people’s referenda are constitutional or not!
It seems to me that Dobson and his cohorts want us to believe that judges are to only approve and support (or rubber-stamp) the laws passed by the state assemblies or Congress. This is not the role of the courts – they are a check and balance to make sure the legislatures and executives of this country, or the people through the tyranny of the majority, do not act unconstitutionally.
If the courts declared Row v. Wade unconstitutional or if they declared homosexuality to be unlawful, Dobson and his ilk would hail the courts and their judges as acting in noble, Godly, and patriotic ways, not as judicial activism. Perhaps, since they believe abortion and homosexuality were forced upon the country by the out-of-control courts originally, this would restore their vision of the proper conduct of the courts.
I find it ironic, however, that most Religious and Social fundamentalist groups hailed the Supreme Court decisions that forced civil rights upon the country for the sake of blacks when most of the country – including anti-integration laws passed by legislatures – opposed it. They also supported court-ordered integration of schools, etc. Why do they not oppose these past acts of the courts as “judicial tyranny” and to be declared by “activist judges,” but do make such declarations against judges who strike down laws that deny homosexuals equal treatment under the law? It is simply hypocrisy, and they know it.

I wonder

A fellow seminarian told me today that he came across this weblog. I’m always embarrassed when someone says that.
I wonder whether my job search is adversely effected by this weblog and website. I wonder whether I’m googled and whether those rectors or search committees come across this weblog and decide, well, I’m not sure what they may decide.
I don’t think anything here is very controversial. I suspect that some people may think I obsess over certain issues because those issues seem to make it into my writing more than other issues. I don’t know.
There has been a lot of talk among the older seminarians that many of the assistant and curate positions are only being offered to younger people in their twenties and early thirties. A deployment officer told me that a certain position would be inappropriate for me because the rector is only interviewing young people. If I wanted to be snide, I could make all kinds of comments about good Episcopal social justice and age discrimination.
Frankly, I know that curacies are the places younger people should be placed. I also know that I could be a deacon-in-charge of a small parish. What really frustrates me is the prevailing notion that a staff member must be young to be able to work with young people – high school and college age students. This is ludicrous. After all, if we use this line of argument then all the older coaches, teachers, professors, and the like who have profound influences over students should all be replaced with younger professionals, after all older people cannot relate well and attract young students. Right? My parents are in their sixties and work with the very large youth group of their church. The kids love them. Go figure! It has to do with respect and whether you actually like this age group.

Groundswell

Exodus and Focus-on-the-Family have a new effort to “equip” parents, teachers, ministers, youth workers, and concerned citizens to confront the attempt to encourage students to view homosexuality as a normal part of human existence. Homosexuality must be portrayed as something evil, sinful, and disordered. It is called “Groundswell.”
They are opposed to the “lies” perpetuated in schools by teachers, counselors, and others who encourage students to deal with their same-sex attraction in any way other than believing that the attractions are disordered and forbidden. They demand that the students suffering from same-sex attraction and the adults surrounding them must accept the view that God rejects homosexuality in all circumstances. Through the Fundamentalist view of theology and biblical interpretation, those young people can be healed of their homosexuality and realize their true heterosexual selves (or at least live the rest of their lives as virgins and devoid of intimate relationship). Their interpretation of God’s will demands that anyone “suffering” from same-sex-attraction-disorder who does not develop a heterosexual orientation must refrain from any kind of relationship in the sense of eros.
This line emphasizes their continued contention that same-sex attraction can be cured:
“We hear from many desperate students who long to overcome their unwanted same-sex attractions, but have been told that their only choice is to accept a gay identity. They respond with grief and depression to the lies that their sexuality is fated and that they have no right or hope of change.”
What Exodus and Focus-on-the-Family refuse to admit is that the vast, vast majority (if not 99.9%) of those who have gone through and who are currently involved with Exodus and ex-gay ministries will never become honest heterosexuals. They may hope for change, but their intrinsic orientation does not change. Even many ex-gay proponents admit that it may take a lifetime for a homosexual to realize any change, if at all. Their change into their true heterosexual selves may only be realized in heaven. This is hope?
Overwhelming antidotal evidence, and some resent reliable research, demonstrates that God is not in the business of changing homosexuals into heterosexuals. They may cease any type of same-sex behavior, they may actually get married to someone of the opposite sex, but almost all admit that their homosexual orientation has not changed. God may well deal with sexual addiction or compulsion, and all manner of emotional problems that contribute to such conditions. The promise that God will heal someone of homosexuality is false.
Anti-homosexual Christian definitions are dishonest and their actions are manipulative. An “Ex-gay” person is defined as anyone who is involved in an ex-gay ministry or who simply does not want to be homosexual. Their definitions have nothing to do with whether someone stops being attracted to members of the same-sex and develops an honest sexual and affectual attraction to the opposite sex. Ex-gay proponents promise homosexual people, young and old, that with the ministries’ help, with much prayer and scripture reading, with good Christian counseling, and with a refusal to consider that Scripture, God, and the Church may be able to view homosexuality in any way other than sinful, destructive, and rebellious behavior, that those suffering from homosexuality can become heterosexuals, just like God created them to be in the first place.
Soon, in the future, their manipulation, lies, and theologies will be shown to be corrupt, immoral, and dishonest. In the mean time, however, they will raise lots of money, destroy lots of lives, drive many people away from God, and perpetuate a view of Christianity that so tragically harms the cause of Jesus Christ and perverts the Gospel of Christ. It is not that I or many others do not hold Scripture to be authoritative, true, right, or important, but we agree with the growing consensus that the way the Church has dealt with homosexuality over the centuries has been and is wrong. Yet, their misinformation and wrong scriptural interpretation and application goes on doing great harm.

The Pope

I was up this morning at 4:00 am to watch the funeral of John Paul II. I was a bit surprised to see representatives from a variety of world religions seated in the areas reserved for quests. The liturgy was moving, impressive, and awe inspiring – a fitting tribute to this man, I believe. The number of people present and all over the world suggests to me that regardless of what people thought of this man, whether devil, tired old man clinging to power, the Vicar of Christ, or whatever, he had an effect on the world and at least a billion Roman Catholics.
I have not known what to say about his death and everything that has come afterwards. There really isn’t anything I can say that has not been said by so many others. Growing up in a denomination and tradition that was (is) at worst anti-Catholic and at best dismissive of the Pope and Roman Catholicism, I find it remarkable that I am now where I am.
Anglicanism is not considered a valid expression of the catholic faith by most Roman and Orthodox authorities. I really don’t care about that. I am Anglican – not Protestant and not Roman, yet both. We are an expression of the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic faith. Our Eucharistic emphasis only supports this, yet we are other than Roman, other than Orthodox, other than Protestant, and I like it that way.
I fear that the fundamentalist movement that is sweeping the world in all the world’s religions will be the undoing of a strong and honest faith, yet the reaction against the liberal attempt to remake religion as “modern,” “humanist,” “reasonable,” “scientific,” and so forth has failed and only fueled the fundamentalist reaction. For me, honest and historic Anglicanism provides a middle way. But even within Anglicanism, we see the fundamentalist response to a swing of the theological pendulum too far to the left. I have always said that Anglicanism is a mechanism that provides balance, and I hope it will survive to continue the Via Media.
The Pope stood strong upon his principles and was unafraid to proclaim a more conservative and traditional understanding of the Christian faith and more specifically Roman Catholicism. For that, I believe people responded to him favorably. Of course, there are those who despise and hate the man and what he stood for, but I believe they are of the group that is becoming more irrelevant in the circles of faith.
I am not Roman; I do not pledge allegiance to the Pope. I do not think the man or the position is infallible; I do not believe the man is the Vicar of Christ. Yet, he does have a special place among world Christianity and a force in the world over.