Changing landscape of Belief

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The Christian Science Monitor published an opinion piece online March 24th, 2011. The piece is by Jonathan Merritt and entitled,”Evangelical shift on gays: Why ‘clobber scriptures’ are losing ground.”

I’ve been watching this shift over the last 20 odd years. I’m still amazed at the length certain anti-homosexual groups go to attempt to reinforce their positions, even while the arguments they use are constantly changing over time because their arguments of justification loose their persuasive force as the blanket exaggerations or misinformation of gay people become all too clear.  It does them no good nor their argument when what they say no longer seems to line up with what more and more people are experiencing in their day-to-day lives.

They’ve lost the emerging generations, already. In Barna Group‘s research project that resulted in the book “unChristian,” one of their primary findings suggests that emerging young people find Christianity in the U.S. to be profoundly anti-homosexual, and it doesn’t jib well with their own beliefs or experiences.

(Now, I will say that much depends on how one defines “homosexual” or how one believes homosexuals think or act in the aggregate. The primarily Religious Right anti-homosexual groups try to persuade people that most all homosexuals are sex-crazed alcoholics who will just as soon molest your young son as have a coke at the corner dinner. Spreading this kind of misinformation is simply baring false-witness against a whole class of people, whether one believes those people need saving, healing, or death or not.  As a Christian, I will say that much of what is presented as normative in the urban gay subculture by certain gay interests – hedonism – isn’t the kind of life that is conducive to our own personal best interests.  But, the gay people involved in living their lives in such a way are no different than what I witnessed in my 20-years working in higher education with students who happen to be in the straight Greek system – unabashed hedonists.)

Back to the issue at hand and speaking of “clobber passages”… I’ve particularly noticed how Bible publishers have been dealing with the issue.  As might be known, the term “homosexual” never appeared in an English Bible until the mid-to-late 1950’s – that’s approximate 450 years without such a term in English Bibles. Over the years, as their arguments against all forms of homosexual relationships continue to gain less traction, the anti-homosexual groups attempt to reinforce their position by becoming even more specific and detailed in their demand of and translation of Scripture to attempt to bolster their failing arguments. 

For example, the length that the English Standard Bible goes to attempt to make specifically clear that the obscure Greek words found in I Corinthians 6:9 are absolutely about homosexuals, but not just homosexuals, but about men, and not just men, but in the footnote pertaining the to two Greek words, men who are the passive AND the active partners AND both giving consent.  The ESV translates the Greek words, “nor men who practice homosexuality,” with the footnote clarifying the mean with, “The two Greek terms translated by this phrase refer to the passive and active partners in consensual homosexual acts.” 

The King James version translates the words this way, “…nor effeminate, or abusers of themselves with mankind.”  The New International Version translates the words this way, “…nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders.”  The New American Standard Version translates the words this way, “…nor effeminate, nor homosexuals,” with the footnote specifying, “I.e., effeminate by perversion.”  (How is one “effeminate by perversion?”)The New Revised Standard Version translates the words this way, “males prostitutes, sodomites…” 

The truth is, whether it supports a socio-political position or agenda or not (conservative or liberal), we simply do not know what Paul meant.  Yet, in order to tow the anti-homosexual line, Bible publishers cave into the demand by anti-gay Religious Right organizations to take a anti-gay stand in the translation of these words. (I Tim. 1:10, is another example) I’ve witnessed big campaigns that demand the Bible publishers publish the translation even more specific, as we witness in the EVS. 

After all, we have to make the Bible absolutely specific in order to keep ignorant people from being deceived by Satan (through the liberal Bible “scholars”) trying to make homosexuality not a sin, make in normal and celebrated in the public mind, when we know that the end of this will be death and the end of Western Civilization by the punishing judgement of God.  Right?  You see why the anti-gay zealots have to exert a great deal of pressure on the Bible publishers to be absolutely specific that God condemns in no uncertain terms everything homosexual, whether we know the Greek words used by Paul actually mean “homosexuals” or not.

The problem, as the opinion piece details, these kinds of arguments are no longer persuading the emerging generations.  It isn’t that the fags are winning in the deceiving of young, impressionable minds (although there is some truth in the assertion that the pro-gay message has more traction than the anti-gay message), but that the justifications and “proofs” for the anti-gay arguments are being shown to be fallacious.

I want to be clear, as a Christian and as a priest in this Church, our role and goal is not simply to affirm different groups of people, including homosexual people.  Our goal is always and for everyone – everyone – the cause of Christ for salvation, reconciliation, and restoration calling us into such a life that we become free of so much within our world that binds us, deadens us, enslaves us, deceives us, and causes our lives to be separated from God and estranged form one another.  This means that I call homosexual people as another other people into the reconciling relationship with God through Jesus Christ.  This will transform us and cause us to be different – not tied up in knots by giving ourselves to the hedonistic culture.  This does not mean, however, that homosexuals stop being homosexual.  Gay or straight, we are called to be with God according to God’s ways and not simply according to the dictates of the prevailing culture or our own proclivities.

The anti-gay Religious Right will not win in their quest and crusade, because their positions cannot be sustained according to the truth that we know.  Yet, they will become even more demanding and stringent as they lose influence, as their arguments fail.  Unless, of course, as we are witnessing, people change their positions.  This has already happened for the majority of younger people.


I recently read an essay by Elizabeth Drescher on the “rd Magazine” website entitled “Turn Off, Slow Down, Drop In: The Digital Generation Reinvents the Sabbath

I love this paragraph:

At the other end of the spectrum, fantasies that the application of new
technologies to traditional practices will, in themselves, enrich life
in general and spirituality in particular are no less misguided. Take a recent blog post on the U.S. Congregational Life Survey, which shared with italicized surprise the utterly unremarkable finding that “use of visual projection equipment in worship is not
related to church growth.” No kidding? Survey says: a dull video or
lame music is just dull as a preacher blah-blah-blah-ing on in person
with no relational interest in or connection to the people to whom they
are blab-casting. So, too, an engaging, interactive minister who
genuinely connects to people and encourages their connection to one
another is going to be compelling face-to-face and in
technologically-enabled engagements (see, for example, @texasbishop, @MeredithGould, @jaweedkaleem).  [emphasis mine]

For some reason, and this gets to some of the other stuff in the article and in the life of the Church in general (particularly the Mainline denominations and more particularly the Episcopal Church, of which I am a priest), we think we must manage God.  After all, if we don’t manage God everything will just fall apart and we will devolve into nothingness. (Yeah, and how is that going for us?)

The Episcopal Church is in crisis because we are a dying institution (has little to do with the gay-issue or the conservatives leaving the Church – although it has a whole lot to do with it… irony).  So many people are rushing to do triage and to save this venerable national treasure, but the ways and means they are trying to save it are little more than the same old things that have been going on for the last 40 years that have gotten us into the mess to begin with.  They dress up these tired old ways and means in hipster clothing or Emergent garb thinking that things like PowerPoint presentations, bad rock-ish music, hip-cool candles and flashy lights, casting off vestments, or better yet taking out pews, sidelining the Prayer Book, explaining away Scripture, or outlawing Rite I language will magically make the Church all rad (yes, I know) so that streams of young people will suddenly fill the empty spaces. What they end up doing is just another form of blab-casting. 

What we so often forget is that Jesus is the one that builds the Church, and if we so manage affairs of the Church according to trendy culture dictates that Jesus is nicely tucked away out of site, well, we have already failed.

There are streams of young people filling churches. Just not our churches.  Around where I live (Brooklyn, NY), within an 1/2-hour walk I can take you to at least 5 churches that are in the hundreds of members each and are made up almost exclusively with those under, say, 32 years of age.  They beg for people over 40 to come to their churches.  St. Paul’s, where I serve, has a very close relationship with a few of these churches.  You know what they are doing in their services?  Old Hymns song out of hymnals. Traditional liturgies (they are rediscovering the significance of liturgy).  We use Rite I at St. Paul’s for our principle liturgy (Rite II other times – we aren’t protesting anything), but when we talk about changing to Rite II, it is the 20-somethings  who have been coming in greater numbers over the last 5 years who protest the loudest.

This is why my work in the Imago Dei Society/Initiative isn’t focused on being trendy, but on understanding emerging generations and emerging culture to find out not how to become like them, but to discover how to translate the Faith to them in ways they can understand, form them into consequential Christians, and learn how to receive, living into and pass on the enduring Tradition in its Anglican form. This doesn’t play too well when those attempting triage are bent on re-hashing the latest hip-cool thing the culture throws at us (even when all the evidence shows that what younger people are looking for is something substantially different from all that hype and manipulation). 

Year of the Beard

If you’re going to do it, then do it right!  Time lapsed photography of a student and the growing of his beard. It’s fun.  As the description says,

“As he grows a beard, Corey Fauver takes a picture a day for a year. That
isn’t exactly a new idea, but he twists it by changing his location
slightly with each picture, creating a stop-motion journey across his

Year Of The Beard – Watch more Funny Videos

Lenten Discipline

Blackfriars.jpgLent officially began last week, but today, Monday, March 14th, I embark on a personal (I don’t know what word to use) Lenten discipline to find out what it is like to be focused on an identity as a “sacramental priest.” 

I’ve been talking to my spiritual director about what it means to be priest.  When I finished seminary, I spent the next four years being a data analyst for a research project at the Church Pension Fund. It was a good job at a great place to work, but at the beginning of my priesthood my identity continued not as a sacramental presence within a community of people, but as a “company” man, a techno-geek, a secular person in the work-a-day world rather than the “God person” among people. My most productive time was spent playing with numbers in a cubical rather dealing with the cure and care of souls. Then, this past year I did work in ministry full-time, yet most of my time was taken up in the development of a new ministry – more organizational, more research oriented, and more financial than sacramental.

In addition, many of the models for “priest” lifted up in the Church have developed over the years to be more like a therapist-priest, or social-worker-priest, or political- or social-activist-priest, or corporate-manager-priest, but not a priest that is devoted to sacramental ministry – the Cure of Souls.  What does it mean to be a priest that is more sacramental and focused on “God-work” than a corporate executive, a social activist, a therapist, or a social worker?  I know that a priest in full-time ministry wears many hats, and I like that.  Yet, too often it seems that the sacramental presence is overwhelmed.

My spiritual director talks about the priest as the “God-person” in a community, a neighborhood, within a society. People need to know that there is someone present who is connected with God and is dedicated to be a helpful presence, an encouragement, an identifiable representative of God available to people, so my spiritual director says.  This really cuts at my Type-A, achievement compulsion. I don’t know if I know how to be this kind of person.  I realize that my identity as a priest is not “what I do” or “how much I do” or “how well I do,” even though those things are important considerations, but to be the God-person being about what God-people do – pray, worship, study Scripture, dispense the sacraments, and be about the Christian formation of God’s people.

To that end, beginning today I am dedicating myself to a process that will lead to a deeper understanding of what it means to be the God-person, a sacramental priest, within a parish community and in my neighborhood community.  At St. Paul’s Church (199 Carroll St., Brooklyn, NY) in the Red Hook and Carroll Gardens neighborhoods of Brooklyn, I will be a sacramental priest in the Anglo-Catholic tradition by engaging in:

+ Morning Prayer at 7:30 AM – Monday through Thursday (this is already an Office done at St. Paul’s)
+ Evening Prayer at 6:00 PM – Monday through Thursday
+ Low Mass – 6:30 PM – Monday through Thursday
+ Meeting with one person each day
+ Guiding/coaching the people involved in Imago Dei Initiative’s “Faith meets Art meets Space” project for artists

On Fridays, it is the custom at St. Paul’s to have morning Mass at 9:00 AM and during Lent Sheila Reed conducts Stations of the Cross at 6:00 PM.  So, Fridays are already taken care of (this is also my weekly day off).  Saturdays will be “management” stuff and for the doing of Good Works.  Sundays, High Solemn Mass at 11:00 AM and the Imago Dei Evening Service at 5:00 PM.

I’m striving to live more fully into the Imago Dei Society’s Rule-of-Life:

This is my Lenten Discipline.  I’m not sure what will come of it, but I’m sure I will be changed. God always works in ways I just don’t understand and can rarely anticipate.  I plan to blog the experience.  We shall see, by the mercy of our Lord.


From a short article in Newsweek (Feb. 14th edition, pg. 6) dealing with e-books and the future of print books into the future.

“The Future of the Book” – from James Billington, librarian of Congress:

“The new immigrants don’t shoot the old inhabitants when they come in. Our technology tends to supplement rather than supplant.  How you read is not as important as: will you read? And will you read something that’s a book – the sustained train of thought of one person speaking to another? Search techniques are embedded in e-books that invite people to dabble rather than follow a full train of thought. This is part of a general cultural problem.” (emphasis mine)

What impact might this “dabbling” have on the “train of thought” of the Gospel? What impact might this development have on already short attention spans?  How might this impact our engagement with knowledge, that requires sustained and perhaps linear processes? How might this change teaching and learning?

I believe this is an important idea or consequence to investigate.

Brain Freeze

I was looking through this morning.  I’m in the process of uploading my Israel/Jordan photographs to my account.  I noticed a couple photographs from people I follow and ended up on this guys website.  “Mer” is his moniker, perhaps his real name… I’m not sure.  Anyway, one post on his blog caught my attention.  It is entitled, “Anthony’s computer is giving him diverticulitis.”  The post is presented as a conversation – whether actual or as commentary I don’t know – between I suspect Mer and Anthony.

“I don’t know my best interest.”

“It appears that way.”

“No I need someone to come into my life….someone maybe hired that comes in and protects me from this culture.”


“That person would put me on a cultural diet.”

“I’m sorry?”

would have to go into texting or cable news deprivation for months.
That person would demand me to use a land line for a prescribed amount
of time. Putting a lap band around my laptop use.”

“Slapping mobile devices out of your hand.”

“This person would come into my life and begin cutting away at the obesity of distraction.”

“Sounds like textration.”

need this. I love this sort of socialist counselor. I have ran amok.
Gorged myself on the hedonistic part of the culture and come away with
diseases. All because I like a big bowl of societal High Fructose Corn

“Sounds like it includes table spoons of dramatic.”

is me. I wasn’t built for this society. As a kid I sat with my on
internet; my imagination. Using Army men as play station. I should be 90
already and getting ready to die soon. This disdain for life is coming
too early. I just need prescriptions of hand written letters,
socializing without cellphones and news deprivation.”

“OK. Your point?”

“I can’t do it alone. Somebody has to come in. I need a trainer.”

“You think you could find someone online?”

Consider the article in this week’s Newsweek entitled, “The Science of Making Decisions,” or “Brain Freeze,” concerning what the constant barrage of input into our brains does to our brains and our ability to make good decisions:

The Twitterization of our
culture has revolutionized our lives, but with an unintended
consequence–our overloaded brains freeze when we have to make decisions.”

There are diminishing returns to the constantly plugged in society.

So, Mer’s post concerning Anthony’s statement, or conflict with himself – does this present a coming state of mind of many of us?  Everything I read tells me that we need to give our brains a rest.  By doing so, we are able to assimilate, contemplate, and make much more wise and satisfying decisions.

What happens when immediate trumps wise?


I returned home from the Israel/Jordan trip to discover that my Website/blog host had a catastrophic crash of the server from which my blog and website is delivered.  I’ve been without e-mail, web-service, and this blog for six days – a very long time.

But, it is all back and my nearly eleven years of blog posts made it through!

More later…