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Part of the scandal of American Christianity is that statistically the U.S. is the most Christian country in the world, and yet as a country we have the greatest income inequality in the world. And as a country we are uncritically committed, not simply to being the most powerful nation in the world militarily, but to being as militarily powerful as the rest of the world combined.

We Christians live in a tradition that is passionate about issues of economic justice and peace and yet at least half of American Christians, probably even more, think it’s really important that we be as powerful as the rest of the world put together.

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Marcus Borg (via affcath)

(Source: religiondispatches.org, via affcath)

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The Chaplain would not kneel to pray
By his dishonored grave:
Nor mark it with that blessed Cross
That Christ for sinners gave,
Because the man was one of those
Whom Christ came down to save

Yet all is well; he has but passed
To Life’s appointed bourne:
And alien tears will fill for him
Pity’s long-broken urn,
For his mourners will be outcast men,
And outcasts always mourn.

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— Oscar Wilde, The Ballad of Reading Gaol

Dear Mr. Huckabee,

…I want to suggest that you visit your local public school before passing such judgment in the future. If you visited a neighborhood elementary school like Sandy Hook, or any public school for that matter, you would see that God’s presence and the teachings of Jesus Christ are well represented by the works of the people in those buildings. Now perhaps His presence isn’t seen in the way you want – there aren’t readings from the Bible (or any other religious texts for that matter) and the Ten Commandments aren’t posted in classrooms (nor are the Pillars of Islam, actually), but His presence and teachings are instead practiced, demonstrated, and felt. You see, Mr. Huckabee, if you visited the schools you quickly denounce for removing your symbols of God, you’d find that His work actually takes places there every day…

Mr. Huckabee, why are you… saddened that children aren’t taught Biblical parables instead of uplifted by the miracles that occur in schools every day? If you don’t see God in the efforts and works of schools and educators, I’m afraid you’re not really looking.

You see, Mr. Huckabee, schools don’t need to preach the Gospel or read the Bible every day to bring God into the classroom. He never left.

"To suggest that Sodom and Gomorrah is about homosexual sex is an analysis of about as much worth as suggesting that the story of Jonah and the whale is a treatise on fishing."

— Peter J. Gomes

Because it involves keywords “angel” and “gay,” (As does my novel Angel) I stumbled across this story from 2010 about a priest in Santo Domingo who wanted to destroy a mural in his parish because the angels look “too gay.”  This happened in 2010, and I did some basic searching to try to figure out what ever happened, but I didn’t find any follow up stories.  Anyone know if the priest got his way?

Should We Go Back to Adam and Eve to Support ‘Traditional’ Marriage?

Huckabee insists that he is not anti-gay marriage he is pro-traditional marriage which is a “Biblical model.”  Stewart points out, quite rightly, that the Biblical model is polygamy.  Huckabee insists that this is not the case, that the only true Biblical model of marriage is Adam and Eve…

I found the Adam and Eve argument interesting.  First, what do we make of all of the Old Testament figures who had multiple wives.  Should we read Solomon as an example of someone living in sin?  He is traditionally held up as an example of wisdom.  What are the consequences of not living in a traditional marriage?  Is it going to hell?  If so, is Solomon in hell?  If he is not, what would the consequences be for expanding our definition of marriage to include same sex couples?

I have a lot of questions about Adam and Eve as the model for marriage.  Adam and Eve are also the symbols of defiance of God’s will.
If you have ever wondered why Fundamentalists spend a lot of time arguing against the teaching of evolution, because it contradicts the Genesis story in the Bible, and yet do not protest the teaching of linguistics as contradicting the story of the Tower of Babel, it is because Adam and Eve are central to their understanding of the meaning of Jesus’s sacrifice as atonement for original sin.
(The Tower of Babel doesn’t have a lot of impact on this story, although one could make an argument that it mirrors Adam and Eve.  God is jealous of the people for building this grand monument and he seems to be worried that they might become god-like.  So he makes them all speak different languages so they won’t be able to work together.  Thus the creation of different languages.  This is reversed– as Adam and Eve’s sin is reversed by the sacrifice of Jesus– by the Apostles in Acts when they are given the gift of speaking in tongues, that is they can communicate with people in their own languages.)



Were Adam and Eve married in the garden?  The argument that they were (as there is no wedding scene in Genesis) is based on the idea that when God created them for each other, he married them.  Did they need to be married with no other people from which to chose?  Was it being cast out of the garden that made legal marriage necessary?  Marriage is an agreement with society.  There is no society in the Garden of Eden.  Wouldn’t living the example of Adam and Eve in paradise be to get to a state in which unions are so perfect that they operate under the laws of God not the laws of the world and human legal contracts are not necessary to bind them to one another?

From a long post inspired by Mike Huckabee’s appearance on The Daily Show.  Read the entire article on my Word Press blog.

Catholics should have as lively a sense of the demands of the moral law relative to the economy as they do relative to sexuality or war. In the Middle Ages, it was taken for granted God’s law applied to the totality of life. The idea of a double standard of morality, with a strict code for private life and a minimum of moral obligation for business and public life, is an innovation based on philosophical and religious individualism of the eighteenth century. However far we are today from a Christian society or a Christian economy, the goal “to impress the divine law on the affairs of the earthly city” is always present.

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Of course, since these are tweets, the content is decidedly less spiritual than one might expect given the focus on beer and church. For example, the most common example of a “church” tweet was simply a report such as “I am at _______ church”. More amusing are what we characterize as “competitive church going” when one person replaces another as the Foursquare “mayor” of a church. “I just ousted Jef N. as the mayor of Dallas Bible Church on @foursquare! 4sq.com/5hNW6x”

This of course echoes the Sermon on the Mount and the famous verse, “Blessed are those who check in for they shall inherit the badges of righteousness.”

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— from Floating Sheep, in an article that maps geographical incidents of tweets of either “church” or “beer.”  But how many tweets with both church and beer?

"The strange history of a man who entered into a covenant with the Devil for eighteen years, and then was saved by Christ. Including a protective letter against the blasphemy of this book, and brief notes using proverbs from the Bible."

-title of a 18th century manuscript at the Schwenkfelder Library and Heritage Center:

It’s the story of Thomas Salvon who testified that he had sold his soul to the Devil in 1771. The account was written by Pastor Johann Georg Schroeder of St. Peter’s Evangelical Lutheran Gemeine in Washington County, Maryland. Schroeder, who claims to have saved Salvon in 1789, had the story printed in 1790 by the Ephrata press (Typis Societatis).  The Ephrata press ran from 1745 until 1794.

I love these old exceedingly long titles.  I find myself wishing I could find a copy of this to read.

(Source: schwenkfelder.wordpress.com)

“It’s Not Me, It’s the Bible.”

An article from the Huffington Post came through my Twitter feed this evening that compels me to get theological again. The article is sadly typical and tells the story of a man who was told he could not play music in his church any more because he was gay.

The minister was quick to say they are not a “church of hate” and that the musician, Chad, is still welcome to come to services.  Do the people who make these kind of statements really believe that the person will take them up on the offer?  “Sorry about the whole being damned to hell thing, but if you want to come worship with us, it’s fine.  Just want to make it clear we disapprove of you.  See you on Sunday!”  They can’t really imagine such a thing, can they?

As I mentioned in a previous post, I’ve been delving deeply into the letters of Paul lately.  It is Paul who provides the New Testament ammunition for people who feel strongly that homosexuality is a sin.  (By any way you count references to homosexuality are few in the Bible.  None attributed to Jesus. Our emphasis on it is of an entirely different proportion than it is in the Bible.) 

Some will point to Leviticus and Deuteronomy for support, but because Christians have not found it necessary to abide by all of the other Jewish laws included there: dietary laws, temple ritual and circumcision, the argument that we should be bound by only the laws from these Old Testament books that happen to deal with homosexuality is not particularly strong.

Most Christians who feel that homosexuality is a sin try to make a distinction between the desire and the act.  It is not the person, it is the activity.  If they would only stop doing those dirty deeds there would be no problem with them being gay.  The pastor in the Huffington Post article takes this position:

“We love our neighbors as ourselves. No matter what you hear or read, that’s what we practice here.” he said.  “…The difference with Chad is that he switched from struggling with his sin to embracing it.”

Here is the problem:  Paul specifically condemns homosexual desire.  In Romans Paul says that as a punishment for idol worship: “God gave them (the Greeks) over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural sexual relations for unnatural ones. In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed shameful acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their error.”  (Romans 1:27-28)

It is shameful lust not only shameful action.

But don’t get too comfortable.  It is not only homosexual desire that is a sin for Paul, it is any desire, the desire for status, the desire for wealth, and good old fashioned heterosexual desire.

When it comes to the last on that list, Paul believes that the ideal is for all people to remain celibate as he is.  “It is good for a man not to touch a woman.”

The best thing he has to say about marriage is that it is a lesser evil than promiscuity.  It is better not to be married, he says, but “as a concession” if men are not able to control their desires, they should marry and render to their spouses the affection due them. Marriage, in Paul’s mind, is a way to contain desire. “If they cannot exercise self-control, let them marry, for it is better to marry than to burn with passion.” Being married puts the fire out.  (1 Corinthians 7:1-9)

In Paul’s view humans should not desire anything carnal and of this world, their desire should only be for God.

Straight members of Cross Point Church, do you ever burn with desire for things other than God?  I bet you do.  Do you even try to “struggle with” your desire for your husbands and wives or have you crossed over to embracing your sin?  Do you “struggle with” your desire for more money and status such as better job titles or have you actually started embracing that sin?  Shouldn’t you all be fired from the church?  Be thankful for God’s mercy.

If having no worldly desire except for God seems far too high a burden for human beings, you’re right.  We are not perfect.  We are human beings not angels.

Paul describes the human predicament in Romans: “For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate.”

Paul and Jesus both say, in too many places to cite chapters and verses, that God knows we fall short and he loves us anyway.  We are brothers and sisters and our duty is to love one another.

In Paul’s theology Christ’s sacrifice is the answer to the problem of our complete inability to live up to our highest expectations of ourselves.

Remember that Paul immediately follows Romans 1 with its condemnation of homosexual desire (and lots of other stuff) with Romans 2.

“You, therefore, have no excuse, you who pass judgment on someone else, for at whatever point you judge another, you are condemning yourself, because you who pass judgment do the same things. Now we know that God’s judgment against those who do such things is based on truth. So when you, a mere human being, pass judgment on them and yet do the same things, do you think you will escape God’s judgment?”

It is not your place to pass judgment on man, that right belongs to God.

I, personally, do not feel that a Christian has to embrace every part of Paul’s world view.   I happen not to think that desire is sinful, whether homosexual or heterosexual.  The question is whether sexuality is expressed in a spirit of love or exploitation.

But even if you affirm that you must agree with every one of Paul’s beliefs, there is no basis in scripture for defining sin as “pointing out other people’s shortcomings while overlooking your own.”

The main test for how to behave towards others is whether or not you are acting with love.

“For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this; Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.” (Galatians 5:14)

“Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.” (Galatians 6:2)

So to the people at the church who were involved in the decision detailed in the Huffington Post I would ask: How did Chad Graber feel when you, the members of his community, told him you did not think he was moral enough to share his music with you any more?  Do you think he felt bathed in your love?