Saturday, December 15, 2007

Sunday reflections – Advent 3

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. Let your gentleness be known to everyone. The Lord is near. Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. V. Lord, you have blessed your land: you have put an end to Jacob’s captivity. (Philippians 4:4-6; Psalm 85:1)
These are the opening words of the Roman Mass on the Third Sunday of Advent, which takes its name from the incipit (opening words) of this Introit: Gaudete! Rejoice!

So we are come to Gaudete Sunday, one of the two days a year when we can trot out our rose vestments and altar hangings, should we be so opulently blessed as to have them (which most of us are not).

[I do have several yards of rose moiré fabric but have yet to turn them into a chasuble and stole. Christ may come for me before that happens.]

We are one week closer to the Feast of the Nativity than we were last Sunday, one week closer to the consummation of the ages, one week closer to our death.

Oh yes, our Advent tradition has not forgotten The Last Things. Advent is nothing if not all about being ready to meet our Lord. At every level. In every sense. On every occasion. Everywhere. Every day. Every moment.

God doesn't just come for us once and there's the end of it.

God comes to us and for us repeatedly. God walked with Adam and Eve. God came to Abram to call him and Sarai into an unknown place and unknown future. God came to Moses on Mount Horeb/Sinai. God came to the prophets, placing a message in their mouths and igniting a fire in their hearts. Christians see the culmination of God's continuing drawing near to us in the Incarnation, in the eternal Word taking on flesh and joining to us intimately and forever. This is why Christmas is such a high feast and why it takes us Twelve Days to celebrate it.

Immanuel: God with us. This is one of the key messages of the entire Bible.

Advent reminds us to prepare for God's presence, to be ready for God's coming, to cleanse our hearts and purify our minds and mostly to WAKE UP! We cannot go about our lives in a stupor, half-awake at best, our minds and hearts clouded with torpor, unaware and shrouded in illusion.

Christ has promised to be with us always, which means he abides with us. He is always present, at home in our hearts and in our midst. Given the quality of our readiness and our hospitality, this is an amazing miracle bespeaking incomprehensible grace on God's part.

Not only is Christ perpetually present with us, he also visits us afresh each day. We know that what we do to the least among us is done to Christ, and this means he comes to us in many guises.

Our Baptismal Covenant reminds us to seek and serve Christ in each person. Each. Person.

The homeless vet and the AWOL assshole in the White House who sent him to a pointless war and didn't support benefits when he got home. Well, there you go. I didn't do a good job of seeking and serving Christ in W, did I? It's an ongoing challenge. Much easier to lobby for veteran's health care or give a buck or two to the homeless vet on the street. (If I stop and do it, but most often I don't.) I've struck out big time already.

The immigrant and the elderly, the officious and the obnoxious, the frightened and the frightening. Each. Person.

The person I (accidentally?) cut off on the freeway and the person who nearly got us all killed passing at 95 mph. The person whose review I have to write this week and the boss who din't give me a raise this year. The friend who worked the precincts to defeat Heather Wilson (NM-01) last year and the relative who donated big bucks to her. The CEO of the big oil company and the widow who cannot afford oil (or coal) to heat her house this winter. Each. Person. Because Jesus loves every last one of them. And comes to us in each of them.

He may not have much patience for the ones who oppress and abuse others, but they too are made in God's image and Jesus died for them as much as for anyone else.

Once when at the Oakland International Airport waiting for my beloved to debark and emerge from the jetway I made a practice of silently saying to myself as each person came through the door, "The Body of Christ." Wow. I saw them all in a new light that evening.

If only I were that enlightened more often.

So, when is Christ coming to me? For me? The Second Coming in my lifetime? (And here I heed the admonitions of Mystical Seeker who is frustrated with our talk in worship about things as though they were absolutely literal and we knew what they meant when they are mysteries wrapped in layers of symbolism and ultimately we don't really know what they are or will be like....--so, I don't really know what the Second Coming will be like, all the biblical imagery notwithstanding. I think it is a profound symbol for God bringing things to fulfillment and the full flowering of God's life and love in and through all things, but that is pretty vague. I hold that hope and belief, but I cannot make it literal for you, nor do I believe anyone can.)

Will that Second Coming for me be death? Is that when I get ushered into the fulness? Is that tonight? Next week? Five, ten, twenty years from now? Before I finish typing this sentence? (Well, obviously not that last one, but I really don't know that either.)

So the Advent message comes with a pointed force when I ask questions like this. Wake up! Be ready! Be found doing what you are supposed to be doing.

Be patient, therefore, beloved, until the coming of the Lord. The farmer waits for the precious crop from the earth, being patient with it until it receives the early and the late rains. You also must be patient. Strengthen your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is near. Beloved, do not grumble against one another, so that you may not be judged. See, the Judge is standing at the doors! As an example of suffering and patience, beloved, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord. (James 5:7-10)
The farmer cannot make the crops grow or the rain fall. But the farmer must do her part, furrowing, planting, weeding, irrigating, tending, harvesting. What is not planted does not grow. What is not harvested rots in the field. Patience is a mixture of waiting and doing. We cannot sit back, neither can we control what takes place. Such, indeed, is the art of living--engagement without attachment. We do our part. And we trust. Both go together. It is wrong to separate them.

What sort of planting are we to do? What will our harvest look like? What are the fruits of the reign of God? How can we know we are about God's business?
Jesus answered them, ‘Go and tell John what you hear and see: the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the poor have good news brought to them. And blessed is anyone who takes no offence at me.’ (Matthew 11:4-6)
Our lives, if they are to follow in Christ's pattern, are to be spent in serving others, setting free, making whole, bringing Good News. It is not a work we can do on our own or control. Neither is it one that will happen if we do nothing. As has often been said: We cannot do it without God and God will not do it without us.

If it were up to us alone, I should clearly despair, given our track record. And yet...

And yet grace happens amid the bleakest circumstances. Courage arises amid danger and uncertainty. Compassion flows without a thought of oneself. Love blossoms in the unlikeliest places. And the light shines in the darkness and the darkness neither understands nor overcomes it.
The wilderness and the dry land shall be glad,

the desert shall rejoice and blossom;

like the crocus it shall blossom abundantly,

and rejoice with joy and singing.

The glory of Lebanon shall be given to it,

the majesty of Carmel and Sharon.

They shall see the glory of the Lord,

the majesty of our God.
Strengthen the weak hands,

and make firm the feeble knees. 

Say to those who are of a fearful heart,

‘Be strong, do not fear!
 Here is your God.’
(Isaiah 35:1-4a)

Stir up your power, O Lord, and with great might come among us; and, because we are sorely hindered by our sins, let your bountiful grace and mercy speedily help and deliver us; through Jesus Christ our Lord, to whom, with you and the Holy Spirit, be honor and glory, now and for ever. Amen.

--the BB

Non-technical difficulties

Frost on Grass
Photo taken on the morning of the
Feast of St John the Evangelist 2003

Ladies and gentlemen and the rest of you lot [I've been reading too much of Maddie]:

We regret to announce that our regularly scheduled Friday Prince Blogging did not take place yesterday. This, no doubt, will have a devastating effect upon our Nielsens, but there you have it.

The program offered in its place, Archbishop Blogging, was clearly too much like "reality" television. Our board of directors deeply regret this instance of poor judgment and the marketing vice president has been given notice.

We apologize to our loyal viewers and trust they will bear with us during this awkward time. Friday Prince Blogging will return at its regular time next week, God willing and the Rio Grande don't rise.

We thank you for your continued loyalty.

Please accept our best wishes for a joyous and blessed holiday-of-your-choice season.
--the Management

An updated tag cloud

The levees

No, we're not talking about "American Pie" and driving our Chevy to the levee when the levee was dry. We're talking about Hurrican Katrina and when the levees failed. So how are the folks in NOLA doing these days? Rebuilt yet? Safe yet? Hardly.

This video comes via Ormonde Plater. He calls it "the video the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) doesn't want you to see."

You can read about the controversy at his site.
--the BB

Sancte Cuthberte, ora pro nobis

Candles lit and prayers offered for Maddie and Themethatisme and for all the faithful in the patrimony of St Cuddy. [Read the comments thread; it's not grave illness.]

--the BB

Observations from the (near) outside

A friend who is a benevolent onlooker (and knows too much of church fights from the inside) wrote this in an e-mail to me:
I have little stomach for the ecclesiastical road kill that is littering up the Anglican Communion these days. I assume that there will be some kind of split, though the split will be a bit muddied in good Anglican fashion, at least as far as the world wide communion is concerned. The splits will be clearer in the US. The details are boring and painful. But I think my great grandfather was right. Church fights are like cat fights with the same results, more cats and more churches. The traditional folks can worship God using a traditional paradigm and the "post-traditional" folks can go about the important business of developing a more clearly articulated non-literal theology and "praxis" (Ouch, I didn't use that word did I?) Both are legitimate, but it is time to go on with the messy details of this divorce. The sooner, the cleaner, the quicker, the better.
The emphasis is mine.
--the BB

Friday, December 14, 2007

Advent thoughts – Saturday of Advent 2

The Gospel will be proclaimed.
When the Holy is manifest, when humans encounter that mysterium tremendum et fascinans, to use Otto’s phrase, we are overwhelmed, attracted yet terrified. This is why the opening words of God, or of angels, are “Fear not.” Jesus speaks the same phrase to his disciples when God breaks through in him and they do not know what to think.

We are always in the presence of God and God is always present to us, yet we are mostly unaware or inattentive. When God breaks through the barriers of our inattention, strips away our illusions and defenses, then we realize that we are in danger, for “our God is a living fire.”

Danger of what? Danger of being changed—of being shaken out of our stupor and awakened to reality, being robbed of our habits and thrust into conscious choice, being turned around and set on a new and unknown path, being taken from the familiar and forced to live into the unfamiliar, into God’s newness. We are in danger of being forced out of the womb we know and in which we feel safe and out into a world we cannot even imagine.

All the old comforts? Gone.

No wonder we fear.

Yet God speaks comfort and encouragement.
My spirit abides among you; do not fear. (Haggai 2:5b)

The Anglican blogosphere has been abuzz with developments in San Joaquin, among the sundry breakaway groups, and now the Archbishop of Canterbury’s Christmas Letter to the Communion and his Advent Letter to the Primates. So many thundering pronouncements, nuanced subtleties, contrary interpretations; so much anxiety, hope, distrust, encouragement, confusion, anger, frustration, despair. And then I read the Gospel lesson for today and these words:
“Then many will fall away, and they will betray one another and hate one another. And many false prophets will arise and lead many astray. And because of the increase of lawlessness, the love of many will grow cold. But anyone who endures to the end will be saved. And this good news of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the world, as a testimony to all the nations; and then the end will come.” (Matthew 24:10-14)

In the first two sentences of this excerpt Jesus is anything but encouraging but then he holds out the promise of salvation to those who endure.

And “endure” is one of the themes of the Apocalypse that we are also reading in the Daily Office this Advent. We are called to hang in there. Not to walk away. Not to throw in the towel. Not to despair. To remain engaged. Sometimes all we can do is stand by, to witness and not to run or walk away, and sometimes that is enough. Sometimes we must share in the toil, hold one another up, tell our story, sing praise, do justice—and always we must pray. Sometimes all we can do is wait and that is the important and right thing to do. Sometimes we must be impatient and act, and that is the important and right thing to do. Always we must listen for the Spirit and remember the promise that God’s Spirit is with us.

I find great hope in this: Jesus says, amid all the dire statements about how life in this world is and will be, “this good news of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the world, as a testimony to all the nations.” The Gospel will be proclaimed.

This is where I put my faith. This is why I am willing to hang loose with denominational identity, no matter how much I love the Anglican way of being Christian (and I do, deeply and with gratitude). This is where I have my hope and confidence and where I place my commitment. The Gospel will be proclaimed.

We may be—oh hell, we are in dark days. But the light will dawn.

You have turned my wailing into dancing; you have put off my sack-cloth and clothed me with joy. (Psalm 30:12)

—the BB

"Lawful interrogations"

It is such a short post that I hope it remains within fair use to share it all. A cross-posting from Americablog....
Joe Sudbay writing about Bush's threat to veto a ban on torture:
Yesterday, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a ban on torture. Actually, per The Gavel, the House adopted the Army's rules prohibiting torture for other agencies. Seems the Army doesn't want to condone a practice that could be used on our soldiers. Not Bush, though. He will veto that ban:
The White House vowed to veto the measure. Limiting the CIA to interrogation techniques authorized by the Army Field Manual "would prevent the United States from conducting lawful interrogations of senior al Qaeda terrorists to obtain intelligence needed to protect Americans from attack," the Office of Management and Budget said in a statement.
Bush: Just because he says we don't torture, doesn't mean we don't torture.
And just what "law" do these "lawful interrogations" fall under, you sadistic weasels?

It's a pity a frog didn't shove a firecracker up W's butt and return the favor when he was a kid. So many lives would have been spared.

Does your Representative know how you feel about this?
--the BB

More on Cantuar

Portrait of +Rowan Williams by David Griffiths
Further responses to His Grace the Archbishop of Canterbury's Advent Letter to the Primates:

In comments at Thinking Anglicans, Charles William Allen writes:
I do question what may sound like the continued characterization of my and others' reading of Scripture as a "Radical change in the way we read." Is it so radical, or are we simply insisting on applying the same standards of responsible and faithful scholarship to the "clobber verses" that we apply to other, similarly tangential comments in the Bible?

Our readings may be PERCEIVED as radical, but if so, what does that say about those who are perceiving them in that way?

Furthermore, I find it very odd to say that these readings of the Bible are "determined by one group or tradition alone." Is there a way to isolate a group or tradition here that is not question-begging?

These readings are shared by faithful scholars from all sorts of traditions and confessions. It is no longer a radical innovation to view the Bible as a diverse collection of quite fallible human testimonies to a God who dares to come to us on our terms and draw us into a common life. It was a major shift in understanding at one time, but not now, and certainly not for the ABC.

And once that shift is made, no one should be surprised if some of us do not see a scattered assemblage of tangential remarks as especially binding when we are making sense of relationships rooted prayerfully in mutual love.

There is nothing radical here, only a perception of radicality.

To which I say, EXACTLY! Hear, hear!

Gõran Koch-Swahne writes:
"The Instruments of Communion have consistently and very strongly repeated that it is part of our Christian and Anglican discipleship to condemn homophobic prejudice and violence, to defend the human rights and civil liberties of homosexual people and to offer them the same pastoral care and loving service that we owe to all in Christ's name."

Yet not a word on the proposed Nigerian legislation, not a word on Uganda and Rwanda, not a word on Homophobia in Africa in general, and not a word on the situation in Central Africa and Kenya re Zimbabwe.
David Bayne writes:
If I understand the narrative it goes something like:
1. This is a beastly mess.
2. It's all the fault of the American liberals - and they haven't apologised nearly nicely enough.
3. Splitting TEC is OK, but not in an "uncontrolled" way.
4. Clergy and laity don't count. In all matters ecclesiological Bishops have the "decisive voice". (Subtext: And Primates trump Bishops.)
5. The sacred Book of Windsorreport (now to be found tucked into the flyleaf of the NT) decrees that our way to salvation lies through a covenant, and so a covenant we shall have.
6. Meanwhile, we must all continue to pretend to be nice to gays in public, while acknowledging quietly among ourselves that Leviticus 20.13 is still our "standard of faith" on the matter.
7. If we all pray very hard through Advent perhaps it will all have gone away by Christmas.

There's no English word that adequately describes how I feel: the Scots word is "scunnered".
Which to my eyes matches what Rowan wrote, even if it reads between the lines.

I really like this bit by Malcom+:
I've been convinced from the start that the proposal for a Covenant is a piece of well intentioned stupidity. If we can meet, no Covenant is necessary. If we cannot meet, no Covenant will help. [emphasis mine]
Matty H. says this in a comments thread at An Inch at a Time:
After over 200 years of a polity recognizing the charism of discerning doctrine imbued unto all the baptized by the Holy Spirit, TEC still threatens the imperialism of the Church of England! Give me a break. In effect, WE started the Anglican Communion as we sought a church non-encumbered by narrow English colonialism. Those Churches who decolonialized later should look to us as an example, rather than as a threat.
Tobias Haller comments:
The Archbishop still does not appear to grasp that the House of Bishops in the Episcopal Church is an equal partner with the House of Deputies in the General Convention. They do not have any "decisive" power to operate contrary to the decisions of that Convention; although as part of that Convention they do hold an absolute veto power over any decisions of that Convention (as, of course, do the Deputies). If this is what the Archbishop means (that the Bishops alone can hold the line at GC 2009) then he is spot on.

But if not, it appears the place of Bishops in our governance is one of those things that simply will not penetrate the Archbishop's psyche. They are not the primary theologians of the church; and in the Episcopal Church they are only one strand of its governance. At least the Archbishop has finally acknowledged that this may be a matter in which there is a difference between what TEC believes and what he thinks is believed "elsewhere in the Communion." And yes, it does need to be addressed. [emphasis mine]
Counterlight says this over at Fr. Jake's:
As far as I'm concerned, we were always on our own. To repeat the point made by finer minds than mine, The Episcopal Church is NOT the local franchise of the The Church of England. Our first bishops went to Scotland to be consecrated, not England. Our polity from the beginning aspired to be as different from the polity of the Cof E or of Rome as possible. Canterbury never played a large role in our Church affairs, until very recently.
Paul (A.), also at Jake's:
Abp. Williams: "How then should the Lambeth Conference be viewed? It is not a canonical tribunal, but neither is it merely a general consultation. It is a meeting of the chief pastors and teachers of the Communion, seeking an authoritative common voice."

"authoritative common voice"?

Where has this "scholar" been for the first hundred years or so of the Lambeth Conference?

And also this: "If their faith and practice are recognised by other churches in the Communion as representing the common mind of the Anglican Church, they are clearly in fellowship with the Communion."

Anglican Church?

There is no Anglican Church!

Did he completely sleep through Anglican Communion 101 in seminary?
Perhaps he did (sleep through class, that is). The ABC makes some statements and implies some assumptions in this letter addressed to his fellow primates that seem disingenuous at best and erroneous or fatuous at worst. There is clearly no place for the voices of lgbt persons to be heard in any process he outlines in spite of the long history of saying the church should listen to those affected, those victimized, those shunned, those oppressed.

I am one of the rare folks who actually has gone back (not recently, I admit) and read the results of previous Lambeth Conferences from the beginning to the present, so it can hardly be said that I have not taken them seriously. Not as canon law but as a guide to the thinking of bishops in the Communion, as some indication of where the Communion stands on things. As with other forms of guidance (moral, psychological, vocational, etc.) some counsel is better than others, some more apt than others, some more useful than others, and some perhaps belongs in the dustbin. Some is timely when given but outdated and no longer relevant later on. Some needs adaptation or rejection based on further information or later developments. But it is nonetheless wise to listen to counsel. One learns, whether one agrees with the advice or follows it or not.

I am a believer in organic development. This means I do not favor radical change with no, or little, continuity because I do not think we are meant to be rootless and unrelated to our context. Neither do I believe in stasis, in remaining the same and doing things the way we always have. While I believe the character and purposes of God are unchanging, our understanding of them is constantly evolving. As my namesake wrote: now we see in a glass, darkly. I do not believe everything new is good nor everything old to be irrelevant. Neither do I believe everything new to be evil or everything old to be of eternal value. It is all a mix, it is all in flux, it must all be constantly evaluated and re-evaluated. We cannot merely preserve. We cannot merely innovate. We can and must evolve. Or die. So with the Church. Its divine foundation and Christ's promises are our assurance of what lasts and our call into more than we can yet ask or imagine. Its human embodiment in space and time is our assurance that it is subject to all manner of limitations and errors and will always be groping toward that high call given us in Christ.

I think that to some extent I do understand how some folks think progressive approaches to Bible and ethics are "new" and discontinuous. It is because their focus is on the Torah and the Epistles. These are the folks I grew up with (different denomination, same mindset). The folks I run with now focus on the Prophets and the Gospels. You get very different emphases and trajectories, very different visions of holiness. Both are appealing to tradition. Both, when not sidelined with a desire for power or consumed with fear, seek to be faithful.

We who confess one God should also see this one God as the source of our yearnings for holiness and the goal of our journeying and might do well to trust God more and criticize our fellow humans less. (I preach to myself here, because I am as hurt and pissed and uncharitable as most these days.)

I think dialogue is a good thing. I don't see how Rowan's calling for it now will help much given how badly it has failed over the past thirty years. And if those most affected are not allowed to speak, then let's call it a bloody sham right now and not waste our time.

The former bishop here was definitely on the conservative side of things and his view of human sexuality, from what I heard him say, was definitely right out of the Vatican magisterium. Nonetheless, he spent an evening listening to lesbians and gays speak out of their experience, their pain, their hopes, and their journeys in Christ and in the community of faith. He did not agree with our positions but he remained our chief pastor and he did not shun, denounce, or excommunicate. He practices love and forbearance and provided pastoral care. At the beginning of this month he was received into the Roman Catholic Church. He did not take any congregation with him. He resigned and left on his own. Those of us who disagreed with him on just about everything were, and are, fond of him. +Jeffrey Steenson was a "Windsor Bishop," one who abided by the listening part of Windsor and Lambeth. Most of those denouncing TEC are choosing not to listen, which means they may call themselves Windsor bishops but are not; they may say they are upholding Lambeth, but they are not.

It is clear that I am quite pessimistic about the future of the AC as we know it. It is also clear that I really don't give a damn any more so long as Gospel is proclaimed, lived, and Christ can draw the world into God's boundless love and life. I found a home in the AC and wish to continue being a Christian in the Anglican tradition. I would prefer for us all to "get along" but I have to trust God for that to happen. I have no faith in the Primates, quite frankly (with a few personal exceptions) or, after 1998, in Lambeth, or, after the confirmation of this Advent letter, in the ABC. But then, my faith is not in them, nor should be. It is in God the Holy and Lifegiving Trinity.

I keep a daily collection of electronic clippings, mostly political but also humorous, cultural, and ecclesiastical. I e-mail it to my best friend who skims as he feels led. He does not want to deal with church politics, so I put the following header on such items, which are currently quite frequent. It is his warning label. Thought y'all might be amused. General license to use it elsewhere hereby freely granted.

--the BB

City of God Appeal - Day 15

MadPriest gives us the partial update:
A quiet day on the PayPal link today but I believe That Kaeton Woman in the Control Room received some good news. But I will let her tell you all about because her email about it was so hysterical I'm not too certain exactly what was going down. You know, sometimes she behaves just like a straight woman. She is lacking in the reserve and decorum that is typical of your average aging lesbian. But then she is quite a femme.
He announced $5337.49 but it gets better.

Lisbeth adds this in the comments:
The good news is that we can add $200 to that total from an Hispanic congregation in CA who took up a special collection for this sole purpose.

Ah, never underestimate the power of lipstick on a lesbian!
That means we are up to $5,537.49!

The OCICBW... Community Christmas Appeal this year is raising money to help pay for the work being done by the Anglican Church of Christ the King in the City Of God district of Rio De Janeiro. Full details about the project and how to send your gifts can be found HERE.

You know what to do.
--the BB

It's not either/or. We all must come to the Cross.

The Cross by Kim Bu, Korea

Fr. Jake discusses excerpts of +Cantuar's Advent letter to the primates. At the end of the post he writes:
Dr. Williams has chosen to support those who would exclude others from the Church based on the questionable translation of seven verses from scripture. The concrete act which exemplifies his decision to support that position is his insistence on continuing to exclude Bp. Robinson from Lambeth. He seems to not recognize that by barring Bp. Robinson, he has silenced the most qualified representative of those being persecuted in the Church today. In so doing, it is Dr. Williams who has expressed a "refusal of the cross - and so of the resurrection." [emphasis mine]

I think Jake is right that Rowan is going with the majority position among primates. (Who knows what the majority position among the faithful is? Many of the primates, operating on an autocratic model, don't poll the baptized.) Jake also notes that the ABC still does not fully appreciate the seriousness with which our polity and ethos take the role of the laity and the House of Deputies.

Most of the Anglican Communion operates on a hierarchical model in which the traditional role of bishops to guard the unity of the faith does not include a role for the laity to have a say in what the faith they believe is. TEC is, we must acknowledge it, anomalous in that our doctrine (expressed in what we pray and sing in public) is determined not by the House of Bishops but by General Convention, both houses acting in tandem. The Anglican Church in Canada operates similarly. There may be other provinces with strong lay roles as well.

I suspect the aristocratic, colonial history of the British Empire has so colored the Anglican ethos that the unruly democracy we so cherish here in the U.S. is too much for the dear old chaps. (Was that a sufficient example of reverse patronization?)

I suggest we lay aside exclusive focus on sexuality or Biblical interpretation and go to the core: how are we faithful to the Gospel? By focusing on the (admittedly vague) concept of the Gospel we acknowledge that we must and do view the Scriptures through various lenses. Our history, language, worldview, experience, and community all affect how we hear what the Spirit is saying to the churches. We have criteria by which we evaluate and prioritize various parts of the Bible and we need to be aware of them and acknowledge them.

If Jesus is the Word incarnate then he must be our primary lens. The Bible is "the Word of God" only in the derivative sense that it preserves and presents for us the intentions of God known through the history that leads to and flows from the Incarnation, it tells us about the true Word that enlightens every person coming into the world. The Bible is NOT the fourth person of the Trinity (which underscores the mathematical and conceptual absurdity of elevating it beyond its role). I grew up amidst what I can only consider bibliolatry and, my friends, it is a distortion of faith and not its guarantee.

One thing I love about my roots was seeing the Bible through John 3:16 (about which I have posted at length). God loved the world and gave the Son so we might have life. There we have a core message of God and the world, a relationship of love, self-offering for the sake of life, seen in the Son, this Word incarnate. This is what we are to proclaim and to incarnate in our own lives.

How do we do that in our several contexts? How do we honor the vast differences in those contexts? What does Good News look like in those very different situations, locations, cultures, challenges? How does the Good News adapt and clothe itself while still remaining the Good News of Jesus? Niebuhr taught us about the tensions between Christ and culture. Good News is gibberish if it is not expressed within and through the culture in which we live. Note that the Word became incarnate in a very specific time, place, and culture. One may conclude that that specific time, place, and culture are normative OR one may conclude that time, place, and culture are necessary to incarnation and incarnation must always be situated in each time, place, and culture.

The Gospel should and does always critique, challenge, judge, and transform culture. This is why we cannot merely "ride with the tide and go with the flow" of the moment's trends. Where there is no judgment, no challenge, no questioning there is no Gospel. But I do not hear so-called liberals (including myself) calling for us to merely accept the world's values and do and believe what our culture or passing trend may do or believe.

The Gospel must thus be incarnate in specific circumstances, inculturated, but not captive to culture. Each culture must hear the challenge of the Cross and the call to turn around, be transformed, and follow Christ into a new possibility of life, truth, freedom, justice, mercy and all the other qualities of the reign of God--into the realm of divine love. We are made for being taken into the divine life and union with the Holy Trinity and with one another and with all creation. Nothing less. And that means radical transformation.

For those who see the Gospel calling us to full inclusion, to a vision that embraces not just queers but non-Christians (oh my, now he's gone too far), following Jesus means breaking with old traditions and taboos. To those who embrace the taboos it is rank apostasy. To us it is Gospel and the presence and Spirit of Christ at work transforming us and our world.

I see a table to which all are invited.

Some don't really want me at that table. Or if I'm there I'd better STFU. And take off my collar.

By God's grace I have come to the table and I don't plan on backing off. Nor do I plan to be part of chasing others away. I have had enough of Bad News in my life and I don't want to be part of propagating more of it.

I would love to see a happier outcome and I do believe in divine surprises and that time and chance happen to us all, but I anticipate TEC will pursue the Gospel where God is taking us in this place, others will be mad as hell, and we will not be part of the Anglican Communion some time in the not-too-distant future.

I can live with that.

What I cannot live with is abandoning Good News.

UPDATE: Sheila, in the comments thread at Jake's place, writes:
One of the may things I find troubling about the Advent letter is that the ABC is willing to pick apart the New Orleans conference and refer to positions taken afterwards and even poll members of the Anglican Communion about how they felt towards it and take their answers seriously, while at the same time he holds up Lambeth 1998 and Resolution 1.10 with no comment whatsoever on the deeply manipulative and flawed process which produced it nor on the regrets and resolutions subsequent to it.

And he does the same with The Windsor Report, ignoring the deep reservations many Provinces have about some of its parts.

His highly selective and prejudicial viewing of these processes and documents makes me distrust any resolutions or Covenant which may come from Lambeth 2008.

Charlotte, also in the comments thread, has this fine contribution:
I think I understand ++Rowan's First Epistle to the Central Floridians after this letter, and I'm going to try to articulate my thoughts:

1) The model of Communion in ++Rowan's mind includes a large dollop of what is known in British political theory as "the collective responsibility of the Cabinet." That principle holds that once the Cabinet has come to a decision on a matter, all members must agree to support and endorse it, even if they had been previously opposed. If a Cabinet Member feels s/he cannot support the decision publicly, s/he resigns from the Government.

++Rowan could understand our Church leadership disliking Lambeth 1.10 intensely, yet agreeing to implement it because it was a collective decision on the part of the Communion. (Even if corruptly arrived at, it is still on record as the collective decision of the Communion.) Likewise he thinks we should sign on for the process outlined in the Windsor Report, including the Covenant process. He can't understand why we might refuse to accede to something like Lambeth 1.10 yet refuse to "resign," as it were.

2) Any diocese that signals its willingness to continue to participate in the process ought to be able to continue to participate, in ++Rowan's view.

It is a very different model of authority from that shared by many of us in the United States, and I mean on both sides of the issue -- and it is also, I think, a very specific cultural model as well. Is it really Christian, or is it simply British-Establishment?
UPDATE II: Julian Long, in his response, writes:
It seems to me that the heart of the letter is its evocation of what the Archbishop asserts to be a common understanding of scriptural tradition against which The Episcopal Church has made “a decisive move that plainly implies a new understanding of Scripture that has not been received and agreed by the wider Church.” To this framing the Archbishop adds:
Where such a situation arises, it becomes important to clarify that the Communion as a whole is not committed to receiving the new interpretation and that there must be ways in which others can appropriately distance themselves from decisions and policies which they have not agreed.

In his final paragraph Julian says:
I wish I could think of something positive and uplifting to say here at the end, but I can’t. I think the ABC’s offering of this discourse as an Advent message is more than unfortunate. It makes me sick at heart, and it utterly contradicts and erases the inclusiveness of the ABC’s Christmas message I so loved yesterday. I feel tricked and betrayed.

I think this captures much of my feeling. I wish I could think of something positive and uplifting to say but all I can say is we all know, roughly, where this is going.

At Grandmère Mimi's I commented:
My take on the whole shared view of Scripture bit is that the last two centuries of biblical scholarship and conversation around the same must go on "pause" until everybody catches up. Just another version of you can't do Gospel justice until everyone agrees. It is the tyranny of consensus, something I have seen immobilize vestries.

There is also the issue of postmodern revocation of privileging sacred texts. I think those outside church confines can understand us saying we believe God is revealed in our Scriptures and that we have encountered God in and through Jesus, but to say OUR book is the one divinely given vessel of truth and all others are human, false, etc. just doesn't fly. It is one thing to say I have encountered Truth and quite another to say someone else has NOT. The churches, by and large, are still saying they have an exclusive and I find that a very paltry view of God.

There is a true division in the world on how the Bible is understood and interpreted. The more conservative fail to see how anyone can take it seriously while either not taking it literally or at least giving it privileged status. I had thought our oath of conformity, acknowledging it as the Word of God containing all things necessary for salvation would be quite sufficient. Evidently not. How we came up with the very different idea that all things it contains are necessary for salvation is beyond me.

--the BB

This should make you furious

It did me.

thereisnospoon is saying that the Democratic leadership in Congress knows exactly what they are doing and it is nothing but cynical manipulation, allowing Republicans to repeatedly thwart the will of the People so folks will be mad enough at the Republicans to vote in more Dems in 2008.
They want people to be angry. They want people to feel helpless in the face of a president they strongly dislike. They want the Executive to appear all-powerful, and the obstruction of the Republican minority impassable. They want Republicans to be seen as getting their way, contrary to the will of the American People.
And let's be clear: to defund the Occupation of Iraq or impeach the President shows that you have power.

Which is, ironically, the very last thing the Democratic Leadership wants.

Meanwhile sod-all is getting accomplished on behalf of the American People and things continue to get worse in this nation and the world.

That is not doing the work of the People, it is not serving this nation or benefiting the world. While it takes place millions of people suffer.

While I hoped they would try to do the right thing it seemed they have been incredibly inept and stupid. Looked at this way they are immoral and, if the constraints of Christ were not upon me I would damn them all to hell. Yesterday.

Whatever is going on, I plan to stay mad. It is much better than depression, despair, and giving up.
--the BB
Poster courtesy of

Advent Thoughts – Friday of Advent 2

“Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often have I desired to gather your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing!” (Matthew 23:37)

The imagery is historically apt, a fitting cry for Christ to have uttered over the holy city of his people. He has enumerated its habits of rejecting all who come to it from God but instead of raining down curses he laments.

It applies as well to us—the unaware, the inattentive, the defensive, the close-hearted, the hostile—in our responses to God’s approach. How often does God come to us each day and we turn away from the divine presence? How often do God’s messengers come with saving words of judgment and healing only to be met with all the reasons we are right and they are wrong, we are just and they are ignorant, we are holy and they are fools? Do we do worse than spurn them? Do we lash out, attack, turn angry and violent?

And what of God’s little ones: the poor, the downtrodden, the forgotten, the beggars, the street crazies, the homeless vets, the lost children, the neglected or abused, those wandering in confusion or trapped in addictions, the broken and hopeless, the cast off? How often has Christ come to us in them and we have studiously ignored them, been blind to their plight and deaf to their cries, blamed them for their misfortunes?

Advent—the coming, the approach, the presence of God in our midst. We pray for it, we long for it, we yearn for it, we wait for it and then, when it comes, we ignore it or reject it.

Meanwhile, we who have turned our back on God, who have attacked God’s messengers, who ignore God’s little ones or, worse, beat them down further—we are wept over by Christ himself. We, the hardened and scornful, the unjust and unmerciful, are the object of God’s love, the subject of God’s tears, the cherished of God’s heart. And the heart of God breaks for us.

We think we are the city on the hill, a beacon for all, when in fact we are a city forsaken, a city from which life and love have fled, a heartless city. The angels, messengers and prophets, sages and teachers all rise up to name our crimes. The scorned and oppressed, neglected and abused rise up to accuse us. And Christ to whom all judgment is committed… laments.

Photo of hen and chicks courtesy of the BBC

Where we look for judgment, mercy. Where we have no right to expect anything but divine justice we find only a broken heart, a heart broken with love.

When friends forsake us and flee—and why shouldn’t they if this is how we behave?—and enemies surround us on every side, then the psalmist’s words come clear:
Blessed be the LORD! for he has shown me the wonders of his love in a besieged city. (Psalm 31:21)

Merciful God, who sent your messengers the prophets to preach repentance and prepare the way for our salvation: Give us grace to heed their warnings and forsake our sins, that we may greet with joy the coming of Jesus Christ our Redeemer; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

--the BB

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Thursday Constitution blogging

Amendment VI

In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the state and district wherein the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the assistance of counsel for his defense.

This means you aren't held forever without a trial.

You are entitled to a jury.

You know what you are accused of.

You know who accuses you.

You can use the force of the law to have people testify on your behalf.

You are entitled to legal counsel.

We have all seen enough cop shows and television trials to know most of this.

But what if the President says you are an enemy combatant? As things stand now, until someone effectively challenges this and changes us back to the status quo ante, you are fucked. None of this applies. Because the current president and his gang of thugs have decided they are above the Bill of Rights.

Here is your quiz for today: In whose name (by whose authority) is the Constitution of the United States promulgated?
a) God
b) the several States that make up the United States
c) the People
d) the Founding Fathers
e) the Flying Spaghetti Monster

See you here next week for more constitutional deliciousness!
--the BB

City of God Appeal - Day 14

Drawing from Telling Secrets

Today I am lifting the daily report from Elizabeth (That nice Kaeton Woman):
MadPriest is reporting today's 14 Day total for the City of God Christmas Appeal at . . .(drum roll, please) . . . . . . . .



We have outdone my own personal goal. Risking criticism from The Mad One for being too "girly", I'll say that I'm simply reduced to tears!

I have this fantasy that, with two weeks left before Christmas, we just might be able to double this. I'm thinking maybe just maybe, we can reach $10,000!!!

Again, from Elizabeth:
And, if you haven't made a contribution, I hope you are inspired by the generosity of those who have before you. You can make that donation here, or send your check in any amount, made out to St. Paul's Church and ear marked "City of God" to

City of God Appeal
The Episcopal Church of St. Paul
200 Main Street
Chatham, NJ 07928


OK, folks, you know what to do. And thanks.
--the BB

Let's remind ourselves

United States Law (courtesy of School of Law at Cornell):
U. S. Code
TITLE 18 > PART I > CHAPTER 113C > § 2340
§ 2340. Definitions

As used in this chapter—
(1) “torture” means an act committed by a person acting under the color of law specifically intended to inflict severe physical or mental pain or suffering (other than pain or suffering incidental to lawful sanctions) upon another person within his custody or physical control;
(2) “severe mental pain or suffering” means the prolonged mental harm caused by or resulting from—
(A) the intentional infliction or threatened infliction of severe physical pain or suffering;
(B) the administration or application, or threatened administration or application, of mind-altering substances or other procedures calculated to disrupt profoundly the senses or the personality;
(C) the threat of imminent death; or
(D) the threat that another person will imminently be subjected to death, severe physical pain or suffering, or the administration or application of mind-altering substances or other procedures calculated to disrupt profoundly the senses or personality; and

(3) “United States” means the several States of the United States, the District of Columbia, and the commonwealths, territories, and possessions of the United States.

§ 2340A. Torture

(a) Offense.— Whoever outside the United States commits or attempts to commit torture shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than 20 years, or both, and if death results to any person from conduct prohibited by this subsection, shall be punished by death or imprisoned for any term of years or for life.
(b) Jurisdiction.— There is jurisdiction over the activity prohibited in subsection (a) if—
(1) the alleged offender is a national of the United States; or
(2) the alleged offender is present in the United States, irrespective of the nationality of the victim or alleged offender.

(c) Conspiracy.— A person who conspires to commit an offense under this section shall be subject to the same penalties (other than the penalty of death) as the penalties prescribed for the offense, the commission of which was the object of the conspiracy.

Original document of the first Geneva Convention from 1864;
picture taken by Kevin Quinn, Ohio, US;
licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution

From the Third Geneva Convention:
Article 2
In addition to the provisions which shall be implemented in peace time, the present Convention shall apply to all cases of declared war or of any other armed conflict which may arise between two or more of the High Contracting Parties, even if the state of war is not recognized by one of them.
The Convention shall also apply to all cases of partial or total occupation of the territory of a High Contracting Party, even if the said occupation meets with no armed resistance.
Although one of the Powers in conflict may not be a party to the present Convention, the Powers who are parties thereto shall remain bound by it in their mutual relations. They shall furthermore be bound by the Convention in relation to the said Power, if the latter accepts and applies the provisions thereof. [emphasis mine]
Why does the Bush maladministration insist that captives in the SCWOT (so-called war on terror) are not prisoners of war? Well, this is why:
[From Article 17]
No physical or mental torture, nor any other form of coercion, may be inflicted on prisoners of war to secure from them information of any kind whatever. Prisoners of war who refuse to answer may not be threatened, insulted, or exposed to unpleasant or disadvantageous treatment of any kind.
How about this?
Article 84
A prisoner of war shall be tried only by a military court, unless the existing laws of the Detaining Power expressly permit the civil courts to try a member of the armed forces of the Detaining Power in respect of the particular offence alleged to have been committed by the prisoner of war.
In no circumstances whatever shall a prisoner of war be tried by a court of any kind which does not offer the essential guarantees of independence and impartiality as generally recognized, and, in particular, the procedure of which does not afford the accused the rights and means of defence provided for in Article 105. [emphasis mine]
And the Bushies especially don't want anything like Article 3 to apply:
Article 3
In the case of armed conflict not of an international character occurring in the territory of one of the High Contracting Parties, each Party to the conflict shall be bound to apply, as a minimum, the following provisions:
Persons taking no active part in the hostilities, including members of armed forces who have laid down their arms and those placed hors de combat by sickness, wounds, detention, or any other cause, shall in all circumstances be treated humanely, without any adverse distinction founded on race, colour, religion or faith, sex, birth or wealth, or any other similar criteria. To this end the following acts are and shall remain prohibited at any time and in any place whatsoever with respect to the above-mentioned persons:
violence to life and person, in particular murder of all kinds, mutilation, cruel treatment and torture;
taking of hostages;
outrages upon personal dignity, in particular, humiliating and degrading treatment;
the passing of sentences and the carrying out of executions without previous judgment pronounced by a regularly constituted court affording all the judicial guarantees which are recognized as indispensable by civilized peoples. [emphasis mine]
I do understand that the circumstances outlined at the beginning of Article 3 may not obtain in the cases we are looking at but I should think the moral principles would!

Oh, and speaking of torture, a topic much on our minds these days, how about reviewing a historical case from a 1628 witch trial? You can read the account, both of the trial and the letter written by the defendant (who was tortured and killed as a witch, of course) to his daughter over at Digby's Hullabaloo.

Burr's note: So ended the trial of Junius, and he was accordingly burned at the stake. But it so happens that there is also preserved in Bamberg a letter, in quivering hand, secretly written by him to his daughter while in the midst of his trial (July 24, 1628):

Many hundred thousand good-nights, dearly beloved daughter Veronica. Innocent have I come into prison, innocent have I been tortured, innocent must I die. For whoever comes into the witch prison must become a witch or be tortured until he invents something out of his head and--God pity him--bethinks him of something. I will tell you how it has gone with me.
Now, dear child, here you have all my confession, for which I must die. And they are sheer lies and made-up things, so help me God. For all this I was forced to say through fear of the torture which was threatened beyond what I had already endured. For they never leave off with the torture till one confesses something; be he never so good, he must be a witch. Nobody escapes, though he were an earl. . . .

Yes, this is what America now stands for. This is our image among the nations of the world, and well-deserved, for we have elected amoral thieves and scoundrels and suffered them to remain in office. They flout the laws and scoff at the misery they have inflicted upon this nation and the nations of the world, knowing that none will call their power to account. We twiddle our thumbs as they perform outrage upon outrage and Congress dithers and blusters and concedes, then wastes its time championing a dominant faith when it should be about the business of the People. So our Constitution is daily reduced to shreds, a once-great land becomes a byword among the nations, and tyranny establishes itself each day more firmly until soon none shall be able to stand against it.

What will it take? Or is it already too late?

I say let's kick a congressman's nuts up into his throat (mutatis mutandis for the ladies) until we get some reasonable action.

Hold elected officials accountable. Hold the media accountable. Get the truth out there!

Power to the People!
--the BB

Blame my friend Kathy

We all seem to be in need of lighter fare these days, or at least the blogs I read show symptoms of it. In anticipation of Gaudete Sunday....

I know, it's Advent and this crêche is in full Epiphany mode. We've been dealing with disjointed cultural and religious trappings since the day after Hallowe'en. Y'all are big kids and can cope. Photo courtesy of THE FROG BLOG OF LOUIS LA VACHE.

Kathy sent this to me this morning:
It was the day after Christmas at a church in San Francisco . The pastor of the church was looking over the crèche when he noticed that the baby Jesus was missing from among the figures. He hurried outside and saw a little boy with a red wagon, and in the wagon was the figure of the little infant Jesus.

So he walked up to the boy and said, "Well, where did you get your passenger, my fine friend?"

The little boy replied, "I got Him at church."

"And why did you take Him?"

The boy explained, "Well, about a week before Christmas I prayed to the little Lord Jesus and I told Him if He would bring me a red wagon for Christmas I would give Him a ride around the block in it."

We now return you to your regular Advent programming.
--the BB

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

That Kaeton Woman made me do it!

Your host has been elfinized.

You were warned.

[Oh, Miss Kirstin, I don't what made me do such a terrible thing!]
--the BB

Advent thoughts – Thursday of Advent 2

It is vital that we know ourselves to be beloved. Without that basic affirmation we cannot fully grow and develop as whole and healthy persons. Because each human being is unique we are each entitled to a sense of being special.

It is also important to realize that just because we are beloved does not mean that others are not also beloved. Just because we are special does not mean that others are not also special.

For someone else to be unique, precious, and beloved is not to lessen my status in those categories. There is enough, especially of divine love, to go around.

Amos proclaims this with ferocity to God’s chosen people of Israel:
Are you not like the Ethiopians to me, O people of Israel? says the Lord.
 Did I not bring Israel up from the land of Egypt, and the Philistines from Caphtor and the Arameans from Kir? (Amos 9:7)

What a shock to hear that God has acted redemptively toward others!

How sobering.

What a readjustment of worldview.

God rescues and leads people outside of the covenant we know.

God saves in ways beyond the ones we know.

God loves them too.

Just when we were so very busy making sure only our kind, the right kind, the God-approved kind could get in the doors, too. Damn! (Don’t you hate when God messes with our schemes?)
“But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you lock people out of the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 23:13a)

You would think Jesus would be even more careful than we about membership requirements.

Evidently he is not.

Our anxiety rises when things are not done as we expect or intend. Out of our anxiety we become defensive. In our defensiveness we often become angry.
Refrain from anger, leave rage alone;
do not fret yourself; it leads only to evil. (Psalm 37:9)

What about those evildoers, the wicked who do not live as God wants them to?
Do not fret yourself because of evildoers;
do not be jealous of those who do wrong. (Psalm 37:1)

But, Lord, what about those queers taking over the Church? Those schismatics rending Christ’s body? Those [fill in the blank according to your own definition of evildoer]?
Do not fret yourself over the one who prospers,
the one who succeeds in evil schemes. (Psalm 37:8)

But, but… [sputter]
Take delight in the LORD,
and he shall give you your heart's desire.

Be still before the LORD
and wait patiently for him. (Psalm 37:4, 7)

And thus we find ourselves in Advent: the still time, the waiting time.
--the BB

City of God Appeal - Day 13

Latest word from MadPriest at OCICBW:
Day 13 - But not unlucky for those City of God kids.

Our new total is:

Which is not bad.

So, now, let's get it up to $5000. To do this, all we need is 15 ten dollar (£5.00) PayPal donations. Now, there must be 15 people out there who have foolishly thought that as they could only afford to donate $10 that it just wasn't worth while going to the trouble of getting their debit/credit cards out. You are SO WRONG! Every penny and every cent will make a difference. Go back to the original post and have a look at those clothes those kids are wearing and work out how little it is going to cost to give them a bit of pride and self-esteem. With a bit of pride and self-esteem there's a better chance they won't get caught up in the drug and gun culture that their neighbourhood is renowned for. Yes, I know, this is moral blackmail - but it is also the truth.

The OCICBW... Community Christmas Appeal this year is raising money to help pay for the work being done by the Anglican Church of Christ the King in the City Of God district of Rio De Janeiro. Full details about the project and how to send your gifts can be found HERE.
Let's more than double it by Twelth Night, gang! You can DONATE by clicking on either of the links above.
--the BB

Utter lawlessness

Digby, widely considered one of the most informed and articulate of progressive bloggers, has some comments anent [dang, I don't get to use that archaic term often enough] "Brigadier General Thomas W. Hartmann, the legal adviser at Guantanamo Bay, repeatedly refus[ing] to call the hypothetical waterboarding of an American pilot by the Iranian military torture."
This Air Force General, a legal advisor for Guantanamo, is unwilling to say that waterboarding an American airman is illegal under the Geneva Conventions. That means that the new policy of the United States is that waterboarding is a-ok.
The United States has clearly abrogated the Geneva Conventions. In fact, the treaties may now just be dead altogether. The Bush administration killed them.

If that isn't scary, nothing is, my friends.

--the BB

Jesus wept (John 11:35)

Rep. Steve King [R-IA] is proposing H. Res. 847: Recognizing the importance of Christmas and the Christian faith. I will spare you the whereases. Here is the crux:
Resolved, That the House of Representatives--

(1) recognizes the Christian faith as one of the great religions of the world;

(2) expresses continued support for Christians in the United States and worldwide;

(3) acknowledges the international religious and historical importance of Christmas and the Christian faith;

(4) acknowledges and supports the role played by Christians and Christianity in the founding of the United States and in the formation of the western civilization;

(5) rejects bigotry and persecution directed against Christians, both in the United States and worldwide; and

(6) expresses its deepest respect to American Christians and Christians throughout the world.

Don't these asshats have any governing to do?

I just wish they'd all STFU about religion and get to work. We have an economy in serious trouble and a falling dollar, a crisis in healthcare, looming environmental disaster, an illegal and unfruitful war that needs to end, a fractious world to deal with, sundry forms of genocide going on, and rampant lawlessness in the highest echelons of government. And he's playing the implied Christian martyr card? Damn all such silly nonsense to everlasting flames!

Now, get back to work you self-righteous twit!

h/t to BlondeSense Liz

UPDATE (12/13/07): It passed. Here are some pointed comments from the Rude Pundit. He is a total blasphemous pottymouth (which is why I like him) so don't read this if you can't take strong language:
The House of Representatives actually passed, massively, a resolution declaring, in essence, that Christianity is just awesome and keen and mighty cool and all the kids should do it. Oh, and Christmas is, oh, Jesus Christ on a cracker, fuckin' orgasmically sensational.
Are Christians in America so desperate for attention that they needed cornfucker Steve King to stand up for them and for the House to resolve that it "recognizes the Christian faith as one of the great religions of the world" and "acknowledges and supports the role played by Christians and Christianity in the founding of the United States and in the formation of the western civilization" and giving mad props to Christmas?
Is this what Christianity has come to? A bunch of whiny bitches in heat making the other dogs in the neighborhood howl and bark? Where, when Bill O'Reilly or William Donohue or Tony Perkins or whatever demagogic barrel of fuck you wanna name gets sand in his or her ass crack over Christmas or gay marriage or some issue or other that makes fundamentalists think America is all about them, you gotta go all paranoiac? Is your Jesus that small?

Indeed. Is your Jesus that small? If he is, I suggest you meet the Jesus of the Gospels. He wasn't, and isn't, insecure. If you believe, in any sense, that Jesus is Lord, then you don't need such lame-ass, whiny resolutions before the Congress of the United States.

Jesus wept.
--the BB

Act fast! Get your Bush coins now!

From blimptv comes this video parody. Uh, it IS a parody, isn't it?

h/t to John Aravosis at Americablog
--the BB

A reminder to stop navel-gazing

During Advent we prepare to celebrate the Logos’ entrance into God’s own creation. Nevertheless, many Christians look into their own select, constricted mirrors, as if the Holy Incarnation and human rights are mutually-exclusive. So, wouldn't it be proper (if not commendable) to adorn a Christmas tree with the UN emblem, or an evergreen wreath with the WCC’s logo?

When confronted by crimes against humanity, unvoiced insurrection against evil and self-serving apologetics garner no hope for any of us, gay or straight, Christian or other, humanity or creation. The Gospel is about human rights, even when humans get the Gospel wrong.


Why I left the evangelical fold yet am still evangelical

"All Are Welcome" sand sculpture

Growing up in a conservative evangelical atmosphere, I was steeped in Scripture (for which I am very thankful). I also lived and moved and had my being in a milieu where God was always assumed and, presumably due to my own temperament, became a person who cannot NOT think theologically. I simply cannot understand anything as not being related to God, though I see no reason to drag God into every conversation or consideration. I am an oxygen-breathing critter but don't talk about oxygen very often; it's just there.

I was raised on endless sermons about how God saves us from sin, death, and hell. Mercifully, the Baptist church we attended had a pastor reared in the Reformed Church tradition, so he was thoughtful, tasteful, and not given to thundering about hellfire and damnation. Even so, it was all about fleeing the wrath to come by turning to Jesus.

The unfortunate part of all this was that there was little discussion of what we were saved FOR. Everything preached and taught seemed to center on what we were saved FROM. In other words, the positive aspect of the mystery of salvation was undernourished, to put it mildly, and the emphasis was consistently on SIN, DEATH, and HELL. It was a fear-based faith.

Dancing Christ icon by Mark Dukes, iconographer
St Gregory of Nyssa Episcopal Church, San Francisco

My summers were spent in a Christian summer camp environment where "conservative evangelical" was at the liberal end of the spectrum and ranting hellfire-and-damnation Fundamentalist was at the other. Everybody had their Scofield Reference Bible with the footnotes and interpretive framework of Cyrus Ingersoll Scofield, who came to evangelical Christianity after a career in law, politics, forgery, and alcoholism. He was mentored in premillennial dispensationalism and influenced by the Niagara Bible Conference His reference Bible was published by Oxford in 1909 and has been a mainstay of dispensationalist teaching ever since. Everybody I knew in that summer setting bought into it and I often wondered if they could distinguish between the text of Holy Writ and the notes by C. I. Scofield. [Answer: many did not.] (I used Wikipedia as a source here to refresh my memory on Scofield.)

Dispensationalism is a modern version of the human trait to divide history into periods by whichever criteria appeal to the person constructing an interpretive framework. It emerged from the teachings of John Nelson Darby (1800-1882). It is not an ancient teaching of the Church but a modern innovation that does not fit in with patristic, medieval, or Reformation thought. So I won't write more about it here, but it's what I was raised on and it is entangled in a lot of the rapturist thinking infecting the world today.

Whenever eschatophilia takes over (yes, I just coined that for an inordinate "love of the last things" and I don't mind in the least that it seems vaguely scatological), people obsess over determining when and how Jesus will return. I consider it a variant of OCD.

One aspect of obsession is: "Recurrent and persistent thoughts, impulses, or images that are experienced at some time during the disturbance, as intrusive and inappropriate and that cause marked anxiety or distress." One aspect of compulsion is: "The behaviors or mental acts are aimed at preventing or reducing distress or preventing some dreaded event or situation; however, these behaviors or mental acts either are not connected in a realistic way with what they are designed to neutralize or prevent or are clearly excessive." I am not in any way qualified to apply the DSM-IV-TR diagnostic criteria, but it sounds like Rapture obsession to me. (See OCD link above.)

Anyway, operating out of pervasive fear--fear of God's wrath and judgment--folks fixate on Jesus as their ticket out of hell and then, to save other miserable sinners, foment more fear in order to scare others into heaven. It is a bizarre approach and I do not find it healthy.

My instinct was that if God is love (as the Bible teaches, go read 1 John some time), then somehow the wrath of God and the concept of judgment are part of and subsidiary to love, not the core reality of God. This calls for rethinking those concepts, which I did at around the time I was a senior in college. I can write about that some other time.

What I launched into was a search for a theology that made sense to me, one that spoke of the positive aspects of salvation, one that was GOOD News, not more bad news. I have always felt that nobody needs to be told they're a sinner and that fear is a piss-poor motivation for anything other than removing oneself immediately from physical danger. The God I encounter in Jesus is not a terrorist, not a deity in the fear-mongering racket.

So I walked away from the tracts, the hellfire sermons, and the psychological manipulation (which was rampant and repulsive) that I associated with the evangelism I grew up with. It was kakangelism (bad news propagation, another coinage of today) not evangelism.

I remember someone telling me that we were only lovable in Christ. What's so wrong with that? Well, it divides the Holy Trinity, for starters. The Father hates us, Jesus rescues us from the divine justice and holiness that loathes such sinful sacks of shit as we are, and so the Father looks at us through the lens of Jesus and everything is all better. SSJOAS! "Of course," one protests, "that is not what we mean." Well, it's what comes across, trust me. And. I. Just. Don't. Buy. It.

That is not good news.

Nonetheless, I do believe in Good News. I do believe in God's love reaching out to embrace all creation. I do not reject our sinfulness (how on earth could I without lying to myself?) but we remain, always, God's beloved creation and objects of God's mercy and grace. We are cherished. By God. First, last, and always. (Wrath is about God's passionate response to the damaging and distortion of the objects of God's love, not God's rejection of God's creation.)

The world cries out for good news. The world yearns for acceptance, healing, and transformation. I believe the Word incarnate in Jesus Christ brings us good news. The Good News. I rejoice to proclaim it. I rejoice to see it at work in the lives of people. I am committed to it.

And so I am still an evangelical Christian. But I am not motivated by fear, nor do I see any reason to instill fear in others. My faith in God's goodness far exceeds my awareness of human frailty and wickedness. I am not threatened by other religious traditions and believe that the One Creator of all, the Word that enlightens every person born into the world, and the universal Spirit are and always have been at work throughout creation and history.

I seek to follow Jesus in inviting people to know God, not to coerce anyone into believing anything. I do not worry if people know God in ways different than I do because God is bigger than me and my understanding. I do believe that there are ways of death as well as ways of life, that not all teachings and practices are healthy or holy, that not everything out there is true or good or helpful. So I don't just say it's all the same, it's all good, every teaching is equal. But I do not think that sacred wisdom from other traditions is wrong just because it is not from my tradition. How ignorant and arrogant that would be. That is why I say this is a pagan-friendly site, and Buddhist-friendly, Jewish-friendly, Hindu-friendly, Muslim-friendly, Sikh-friendly, indigenous-friendly, etc. I see all humanity as my siblings and I have a vision of the Big Party (messianic banquet, if you will, or wedding supper of the Lamb) where everybody is invited and all share. You may turn down the invitation but I don't think God ever retracts it.

[Thank God the Big Party is not a Lambeth Conference, btw.]

So I am an unashamed evangelical who is not out to collect scalps for Jesus, not out to make anyone believe the way I do, not worried about the fate of your soul (I leave that to God), but who does gladly share God's love.

I vehemently reject all preaching of hate and fear as not Gospel. I have no use for kakangelism nor any patience with those who propagate it.

This makes me a heretic in the eyes of many. Their problem; not mine.

Whoever does not love does not know God, for God is love. (1 John 4:8)

Now, head on over to Susan Russell's site and read about being Gospel. Just say no to hatemongering.
--the BB