What I was thinking…

I pulled the weblog-post below from Andrew Sullivan’s weblog. It doesn’t surprise me, but reading through what Dew wrote reminded me of thoughts I had back in the early-to-mid 80’s when I was in the height of my Evangelical self. (Click the link below to read the post. It may make my comments that follow more understandable.)
As absurd as this sounds, I used to wonder how non-Christian parents could ever really love their children! After all, the ability to love came only from Jesus. We could only truly love when we were in relationship with Jesus, so those who were not could not really love anything, but maybe themselves or evil. I would think that non-Christian parents were only interested in themselves – satisfying their own desires, lusts, or needs without putting their children or their children’s needs before their own. I actually could not conceive of how non-Christian parents could truly love their children.
Think about that! What was I thinking? I was taking the Religious Right’s ideas to some of their logical conclusions, I believe. These conclusions extend to just about every aspect of live.
Now consider the Republican Party and the political process – I now hear or read Religious Right politicos talking about RINO’s (Republicans in Name Only). The term “RINO” applies to any Republican who does not support the policy points of the Religious Right. John McCain, Giuliani, or any moderate are examples, and I believe they are including non-Christian Republicans in that category as well.
After all, to have a country so instituted by God’s will as is the United States, and knowing that our country is divinely chosen to fulfill a great purpose in the world, and knowing that a government’s role is to see to the development of God’s purposes, then only “born-again” Christians can rightfully lead this country. Since godly leadership can only be elected by those who approve of God’s plan for the nation, then eventually, if left to their own devises, the Religious Right over time would justify limiting the vote to only those who can prove a relationship with God through Jesus Christ. After all, our founding documents first limited voting rights to landed men, so there is a Constitutional precedent for restricting those who can vote, just as long as it is not according to skin color or gender (those characteristics are enshrined in the Constitution). Non-Christians would only selfishly vote for those things that are going to benefit them, and those things will obviously be ungodly. Evil can only beget evil.
Thank God, and I mean it, that I am no longer in that mind-set (even though my current one is probably just as warped!).

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Christianity Today and Gay Marriage

I’m feeling much better, but still staying low. I actually have time on my hands.
I’ve been reading the latest edition of Christianity Today, which takes on the topic of gay marriage. The first article, What God Hath Not Joined: Why Marriage Was Designed for Male and Female, by Edith M. Humphre (associate professor at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary) deals with a variety of points from an anti-gay perspective. Under the heading Distorted Image, she asks what it means to give an authentic welcome to the Church for non-Christians. She says, “No one is to be excluded from the church or any aspect of its life by being Jew or Gentile, male or female, slave or free. The revisionists insist that homoerotic orientation (and, they mean, expression) is just as central to a person’s identity and equally no bar to inclusion in the church.” (emphasis mine) The next paragraph, she starts, “But what about Jesus’ call to repentance?” She goes on to say that revisionists want to dismiss the sinfulness of homosexuality and proclaim it to be just another “Jew and Gentile,” “slave and free” – “straight and gay,” I presume.
One thing that truly frustrates me, especially as someone who can see a rational in both sides of the argument and wants to know Truth, is that prohibitionist Christians cannot come to this debate without first demanding the presuppositional claim that homosexuality, however defined, is sin, and everything then follows from that presupposition. Her comment about Jesus’ calling people to repentance, as in the example of the woman caught in adultery, presumes that homosexuality is already sin and therefore cannot be accommodated in the church, period. How then, according to her, can there be any legitimacy in the calls by “revisionists” to allow homosexual people to be in relationship with any part of the Body of Christ. That would mean, according to the argument, that they are calling the Church to accept sin.
Robert A.J. Gagnon’s does the same thing. He writes is book, The Bible and Homosexual Practice (the proclaimed pinnical of Evangelical scholarship on homosexuality, which scares me) with a stated presupposition that homosexuality is sin and cannot be accepted within the Church. He says his book is written in response to the poor emotionally and psychologically bent gay people he has come into contact with, but it is simply an attempt to justify his preconceived idea of what is correct regarding homosexuality.
Prohibitionists demand the conversation begin with homosexuality as sin, before any evidence is examined. Accommodationists demand the conversation begin with homosexuality not as sin, before any evidence is examined. All their justifications and condemnations then flow from their presuppositions.
Where are Christians who can put aside posturing and declaring God’s Truth before the conversation even begins? Where are the Christians, who are supposed to be striving to know God’s Truth, who will come to the question with a clear slate and say, “I will examine the evidence and draw my conclusions afterward.”? Where are they? Jeremy Marks in England, and Evangelical ex-gay leader who has made an 180 degree shift in his thinking, and Bishop Alexander of Atlanta, and Episcopalian who was opposed to homosexuality and has changed his position, are two examples of people who where theologically opposed to homosexuality and have changed their opinions due to the mounting evidence against the Prohibitionistç—´ positions. I would give anything to find a scholarly book that revealed the process someone went through who came to this question with a neutral attitude, examined the evidences, and drew a conclusion – on either side. I haven’t found one from an Evangelical perspective, and this is what so disappointed by about Gagnon’s book.

God said, what?

And it came to pass that God visited the earth, and He did behold a series of billboard ads attributing to Him utterances of such banality that they would never pass His lips in a billion years. And it came to pass that God in His wrath considered a libel suit, but in the end opted simply to mount a cantankerous, contradictory ad campaign of His own. . . .
I never said, “Thou shalt not think.” – God
Okay, you’ve got multiplying down. Now let’s try replenishing for a while. – God
I don’t care who started it. Just stop it. – God
If you seek to know my ways, read a damn science book. – God
You’d better have stopped fighting by the time I get back, or you’re all grounded. – God
If I wanted you to have seven kids, I would have given you a bigger planet. – God
You’re not tracking those bloody footprints in here. – God
E=mc2. Yeah, that’s one of mine. – God
You can have another kid when you learn to take care of the first one. – God
The dinosaurs didn’t believe in you either. – God
Just look at this planet! Do you expect me to clean this up? – God
Here’s a clue=ADif they say they’re doing it in my name, they’re lying. – God
I’m concerned about children’s education. I favor lower child-to-parent ratios. – God
I gave you a bigger brain for a reason. Start using it. – God
If you don’t clean this place up, you won’t get another millennium. – God
I don’t blame video games when my children start shooting each other. – God
I like to kick things off with a bang. A Big Bang. – God
If you didn’t hear it straight from my lips, take it with a grain of salt. – God
All this will someday be your children’s. – God
There is no such thing as killing in my name. – God
Stop smirking, America. I’m talking to you, too. – God

The Last year

Today begins Orientation for the class of 2007. I went to chapel this morning for Morning Prayer for the first times since spring, and it felt good to be there with the new Juniors. I so vividly remember (easy, since it was only two years ago!) sitting in chapel our first day – everyone was dead quite and everything very still. I smiled, because all I wanted to do is break the silence and uneasiness by doing or saying something silly. Three years of study, relationship building, challenge, frustration, and excitement lay ahead. Now, two short years later, I look at the new Juniors and know what is going through their minds, feel the uneasiness over what to do, how to do it, and when to do it. In 45 minutes we head to the Refectory for lunch – new chief, no more water streaming down the walls, no more soot falling all over everything, and we begin again the ritual of communion with one another.
I have been involved with new student orientation in one form or another for the past 20 years, and this is the first year I am not. It feels funny – I feel like I need to be doing something, and I feel a bit left out. The experience of seminary, and particularly of General, is remarkable. I think much of it is unhealthy and unbalanced, but hey what do I know? We make it through and what doesn’t kill us makes us stronger, right?
I am feeling butterflies in my stomach. Why? Because, being my last year, everything I experience from day-to-day will be the last such experience of seminary life and M.Div. degree preparation. It is all leading to GOE’s, graduation, and (gulp!) being a priest in Christ’s one holy and apostolic Church. Our attention and vision will increasingly leave this place and be focused on other things. This is all good, of course, but I have no idea what I will be doing, no idea of where I will be going, and suspicious of whether I will find a position. This is also the year that all hell will break loose over the controversies of the past year. The Episcopal Church USA and the Anglican Communion are in for a very bad year, I fear, and both entities could be very different come May 2005.
My God, what have I done? It is all too easy when there are three, two years yet to go, but when the last year has arrived and all things lead to an ending, it simply is not easy. I’m not ready. I know nothing. I could work for a non-profit. I could find another position working with students within a university. Being a priest, however, I just don’t know. God help me! God help them!!!

I like the way this is presented!

Date: Tue, 24 Aug 2004 10:21:40 -0400
From: Keucher, Jerry W.
Subject: RE: [HoB/D] “Normative”
Dan Martins writes with his accustomed elegance, “It isn’t even so much about the words as about the ‘music.’ The scriptures ‘sing’ about the normative status of heterosexual marriage.”
I agree. The real nub of the issue is whether “normative” here means “what usually happens,” “what must happen” or “what shows forth most clearly the essence of the thing when it happens.”
There’s no doubt that heterosexual marriage is normative in the first sense. And I will grant (though I’ll get potshots about this, I’m sure) that heterosexual marriage is normative in the third sense. The problem is that we’re constantly saying that what’s normative in the third sense must be normative in the second sense, that is, mandatory.
I think that a mutually fulfilling, lifelong, faithful heterosexual marriage that results in loved and productive members of the next generation is normal in the third sense. I submit that that’s the sense Jesus is talking about when He says, “Therefore a man leaves his father and mother…”
The problem is that the Church goes on to say that since that’s the kind of marriage that really shows forth what marriage is and what best shows forth God’s relation to Creation and to the Church, that’s what all marriages have to be like, and other kinds of behavior are not permitted.
That’s the fallacy the Roman Church is officially in, even though marriages are “annulled” at a brisk clip by the marriage tribunals. Sex is normative in the second sense (that is, it is permitted) only if it occurs in circumstances that are normative in the third sense.
However, there are lots of straight marriages that are not normative in that sense. And the third sense is one that’s very hard to police. A loveless, unhappy union that results in messed-up kids and lifelong misery for the couple is not quite what the Scriptures are singing about.
A series of legally and canonically sanctioned liaisons does not exactly capture the music of the image of God’s covenant faithfulness to Israel. Such marriages would not have been permitted by the churches until very recently precisely because such serial monogamy was expressly forbidden by Jesus Himself.
However, when it comes to heterosexual sex, all the churches seem pretty much to have reached the conclusion that basically it’s okay to have marriages that fall short of what is normative in the third sense. Permitting remarriage, whether following divorce or “annulment,” overt or at least tacit acceptance of birth control (what else can you call it but tacit acceptance when an overwhelming percentage of RC couples use contraception?)–these things are accepted, perhaps reluctnatly, but nevertheless accepted. We recognize that there’s a difference between normal (sense 3) and normal (sense 2).
In other words we have recognized, at least when it comes to straight people, that they are not perfect. Many, if not perhaps most, of their relationships may not fully embody every aspect of the Scripture’s song. And if they mess up, they can have a second chance (at least). If they can’t have children, or if they have so few that they have clearly had sex that was not intended to result in procreation, they are not forced to adopt in order to conform to the ideal. The third sense of what is normative is still appropriately held up as the goal at every wedding, even though the chances are very, very good that this particular expression will not be fully normative in that sense.
I was devastated when, at the age I was learning my letters, I also realized that I could never marry. As what we would now call a pre-schooler I knew that I couldn’t. It would be a sham and unfair to whomever I married. It’s very nice, I’m sure, when the song that you’re innately inclined to sing is the same as Scripture’s song, even if you’ll probably sing a bit off-key in your personal rendition of it. It’s not very nice when you realize that you are incapable of singing that tune. You must express the words in another meter and therefore another tune. (Not to press the poor metaphor to the wall, but the tunes, to my ear, are complementary, not dissonant. And I’ve done my best to sing it as well as I can.)
Here’s the essence. Since we have realized that we should permit, even in the teeth of express Scriptural prohibitions, a distinction between what is normative in the third sense and what is normative in the second sense. We recognize that relationships that fail in significant and material ways to embody fully the ideal still embody important parts of it, and we permit them. So why not same-sex relationships?
The answer when we’ve reached this point is usually along the lines that the complementarity thing is so essential that it trumps every other aspect (life-longness, faithfulness, child-rearing, love). Well, that’s just an assertion, not proof, and it really does seem to have more to do with the yuck factor than with Scripture’s song. Dan, do you have anything else to offer on that point? And please excuse the length of this message.

I like this

This is a comment written to Sojourners concerning their “Take Back Our Faith” campaign. The writer sums-up well my own thoughts on the matter…

God is not a political football to be kicked around by Democrats and Republicans. Neither party is more Godlike than the other, and God does not favor one party over the other. God is not pulling for either George W. Bush or John Kerry to be America’s next president. Our Creator gives us the freedom to make right and wrong choices, even the freedom to be an atheist or agnostic. We reap the consequences of our choices, good or bad.
But what God does require of us is that we do justice, love kindness, and walk humbly, not arrogantly, with our God. We must love God with all our heart, soul, and mind, and love our neighbors as well as we love ourselves. God wants all of us to walk the walk, not just talk the religious talk. If we do what God requires of us, it will help us to make the right choices in the voting booth. We dishonor and displease God when we deliberately use God for political gain. I am a person of faith who doesn’t need Jerry Falwell to tell me who to vote for.


The convention is gearing up. I’m sick, so I’m not going to be able to do as much as I had wanted, but that’s life.
Have you heard of RINO’s? RINO’s are “Republicans in name only.” I have come across this term twice now and it is used by Religious Right Republicans to categorize all those other Republicans who do not agree with their beliefs. Now, according to them, if you are not a born-again Christian completely backing the agenda’s of the Religious Right, then you are not really a Republican.
Here is the second reference I’ve read from CitizenLink (Focus on the Family):

Andrea Lafferty of the Traditional Values Coalition, meanwhile, said despite Cheney’s statement, the Republican Party platform unveiled at next week’s national convention will strongly endorse traditional marriage. Still, she expects the convention itself to be contentious.
“This convention may turn into quite a circus,” Lafferty said. “With the threat of disruptive protests and a program overloaded with RINOs (Republicans in Name Only), there will be no shortage of clowns in New York.”
But Lafferty doesn’t think Christian conservatives should be too disturbed by what liberal Republicans have to say.
“Don’t be distracted by (California Gov. Arnold) Schwarzenegger or (former N.Y. Mayor Rudy) Giuliani or even the vice president,” Lafferty said. “It is what George Bush says that counts, and he has been faithful and fearless on this important issue.”

This is why I think this president and the Religious Right are so dangerous. The wedding of faith/religion/spirituality and nationalism never adds to either.

This is the problem

I read this article today posted on the House of Deputies/Bishops listserv post by Kendal Harman.
Honestly, I agree with many of his points – I experience very similar things at General when I talk with many here concerning more traditional understanding of theology, scripture, et cetera. I am told that I am known as the “Evangelical” among my classmates. Generally speaking, they are right, although I am continually drawn to High-Church and non-reactionary Anglo-Catholic piety and worship. After all, my field-placement parish is a “non-fussy, Anglo-Catholic” parish, and I love it. I am “Evangelical,” now (unlike before I became an Episcopalian) in the tradition of Anglican-Evangelicalism, not American-Evangelicalism, which has infiltrated Anglican-Evangelicals in this country and which now motivates those challenging and separating from the Episcopal Church USA.
The difference I have with the writer of the article is his understanding that there can only be one legitimate understanding from Scripture of the issue of homosexuality. In this way, the “traditionalists” are not comprehending those who believe that Scripture taken as a whole does not condemn life-long, monogamous, same-sex relationships. There is no comprehension on their part that anyone can have an alternative interpretation of Scripture and still have a high-view of Scripture and still align themselves with Scripture.
The author is right – liberals do not honestly comprehend the “traditionalists.” Likewise, “traditionalists” do not honestly comprehend how there can be any legitimate interpretation of Scripture concerning homosexuality other than their own. The author’s point is applicable to both sides.
Here is the article:

Date: Mon, 23 Aug 2004 16:58:10 -0400
To: “bishopsdeputies”
From: “kendall harmon”
Subject: [HoB/D]
As one deeply opposed to the consecration of V. Gene Robinson, I find a
disturbing response from those on the other side. They cannot fathom the
position of those of us opposed.
I listen to how they explain why we feel the way we do, and I find they
simply don’t get it. They misread, misinterpret, and misunderstand those who
don’t agree with them. I do not think this is mischievous or intentional on
their part. I simply think they cannot comprehend our reasons.
Sadly, this leaves them entirely unprepared and surprised by the unfolding
events. I find this alarming for their own sakes. Their spin on events leads
in the wrong direction, their concept of the division is flawed, their hopes
for reconciliation are based on fabrication.
Let me try to explain this failure to understand us. I do this not to change
any minds, but to help them see what may be ahead.

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Here is an interesting article from the LA Times.
The author initially pins the Religious Right to the door when he says that they pay attention to portions of Scripture, but then ignore other portions. It is very convenient, and exactly what the Religious Right accuses those who disagree with their interpretations of doing. Their accusations are hypocritical. If they want to use Lev. to condemn homosexuals, then they must pay attention and abide by the rest of the verse(s) – they must call for the death of homosexuals. They won’t, at least for now, because they know that it won’t play in Peoria. If they are successful in forcing the Constitution to conform to their particular religious notions, then perhaps that will be the next step to the final solution of preparing this nation born of God for Jesus’ return and protecting Western Civilization from destruction and God’s wrath. Who knows?
The other consideration is the Religious Right’s misuse of Scripture, or the mischaracterization of the purpose of Scripture. The Bible is a book that deals with the heart of humankind – what we struggle with, fear, take pride in, and all that results as all these human conditions and emotions work themselves out in the temporal world. The Bible contains all that is necessary for SALVATION, not all that is necessary to do science, for civil government, and so forth. The Religious Right uses the Bible to force its sociological, anthropological, physiological, theological, et cetera, viewpoints on the populous. They attempt to force the Bible to be what the Bible is not, to the determent of the cause of Christ! In the long run, they will not succeed, because Scripture cannot sustain the weight that the Religious Right is attempting to place upon it. We will see that they are wrong, but how much harm is done in the mean time?
So, read the article…
Holy Terror
Religion isn’t the solution — it’s the problem
By Sam Harris, Sam Harris is the author of “The End of Faith: Religion, Terror, and the Future of Reason,” published this month. He can be reached at www.samharris.org
President Bush and the Republicans in the Senate have failed — for the moment — to bring the Constitution into conformity with Judeo-Christian teachings. But even if they had passed a bill calling for a constitutional ban on gay marriage, that would have been only a beginning. Leviticus 20:13 and the New Testament book of Romans reveal that the God of the Bible doesn’t merely disapprove of homosexuality; he specifically says homosexuals should be killed: “If a man lies with a male as with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination; they shall be put to death.”
God also instructs us to murder people who work on the Sabbath, along with adulterers and children who curse their parents. While they’re at it, members of Congress might want to reconsider the 13th Amendment, because it turns out that God approves of slavery — unless a master beats his slave so severely that he loses an eye or teeth, in which case Exodus 21 tells us he must be freed.
What should we conclude from all this? That whatever their import to people of faith, ancient religious texts shouldn’t form the basis of social policy in the 21st century. The Bible was written at a time when people thought the Earth was flat, when the wheelbarrow was high tech. Are its teachings applicable to the challenges we now face as a global civilization?

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Take Back Our Faith

Take Back Our Faith is an initiative from Sojourners. The following is an appeal from Jim Willis from Sojourners. Read, sign, and vote – please!

An Election Year Campaign: Take Back Our Faith
by Jim Wallis
I’ve only asked you to do this once before – to send an e-mail alert to everybody you know. The last time was to help us get out the “6-point plan,” which was a concrete alternative to war with Iraq offered by American religious leaders at the midnight hour. That plan had an enormous impact and was heard at the highest levels of the U.S. and U.K. governments, even as the leaders of both countries were bent on war.
This campaign is to raise the voice of Christian conscience in Election 2004, and to challenge the theologically outrageous claims of the Religious Right that George W. Bush is God’s ordained candidate and that good Christians can only vote for him. As incredible as those statements are, it is indeed what people like Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson are saying. They must not go unanswered. Faithful Christian citizenship demands that the Religious Right be challenged.
Sojourners is offering an alternative voice and giving thousands of Christians an opportunity to make their voices heard. On Monday, we sent you a petition to sign that sends a clear message to the Religious Right, to the candidates, and to America that the Falwells and Robertsons don’t speak for us, and that we will hold all the candidates accountable to a wide range of Christian ethical and biblical principles. If you have not yet signed the petition, click here. And then forward it to your family, friends, and others.
This petition will also be turned into a full-page ad in The New York Times and other key newspapers around the country. We are also planning an extensive online campaign to reach out to people around the country who care about faith and politics. By doing so, we hope to change the debate on the “religious issues” in this campaign. Instead of a narrow media focus on abortion and gay marriage, we will also raise the religious issues of poverty, the environment, war, truth-telling, human rights, a moral response to terrorism, and a consistent ethic of human life as the criteria that people of faith ought to bring to this election.
I’ve consistently said that religion could be a key factor in this election. You can help us make sure it’s being discussed in a fuller and deeper way than the leaders of the Religious Right have. Listening to them, it feels like our faith has been stolen. As I said in my column last week, it’s time to take back our faith. That indeed is the name of this campaign – “Take Back Our Faith.”
I believe that the era of the Religious Right is coming to an end, and the time of progressive prophetic faith has arrived. Let’s make that clear in Election 2004. If this petition speaks for you, please sign it. Send it to friends and family, to people in your church, to your whole e-mail list! Donate to help place ads in The New York Times and other newspapers around the country, along with our online campaign. Help us change the debate. In the first 24 hours, more than 10,000 people already signed the petition! That’s a great start to what could be a very important campaign for America’s future. And you can help make that possible.
How do you get involved?
1. Read and sign the petition: http://www.takebackourfaith.org
2. Tell everyone you know; and
3. Donate today to make your voice heard!
Together, we can take back our faith.