Wednesday, January 17, 2018

In the Beginning... Oh, Forget that, Oregon Created a Third Sex

We live in the age of gender confusion. Biologic sex means nothing. He can become she at a whim, but the legal implications of a "sex change" are complicated, and governmental agencies are having to play catch up with this cultural change. The state of Oregon has always been on the progressive side of things and has now decided (see Christian Post) that there should be a new legal sex,  the "non-binary".
An Oregon judge ruled Friday that 52-year-old Army veteran Jamie Shupe, who does not identify as male or female, can legally choose to be "non-binary" or a "third sex."
"Male and female are the traditional categories, but they fail to properly categorize people like me. So I challenged that," Shupe told The Daily Dot.
Shupe who retired in 2000 as a sergeant first class in the Army, began transitioning in 2013 while living in Pittsburg. Shupe knew then that neither male nor female fit and now just prefers to be called the gender-neutral name Jamie, instead of a pronoun, according to Oregon Live.
"I was assigned male at birth due to biology," Shupe noted in that report. "I'm stuck with that for life. My gender identity is definitely feminine. My gender identity has never been male, but I feel like I have to own up to my male biology. Being non-binary allows me to do that. I'm a mixture of both. I consider myself as a third sex."
Note the confusion of the words "gender" and "sex". The court is equally confused,
Portland attorney Lake James Perriguey filed Shupe's petition for a sex change on April 27, supported by two letters from Oregon Health Science University as well as the Veterans Affairs hospital, stating that Shupe's gender should be classified as nonbinary.
Oregon law allows a court to change a person's legal sex if a judge determines the person has undergone surgical, hormonal or other treatment related to a gender transition. The law, however, does not require a note from a doctor, according to Oregon Live.
In Friday's ruling Multnomah County Circuit Court Judge Amy Holmes Hehn said Jamie had satisfied the law for a sex change.
"The sexual reassignment has been completed," Hehn wrote in the ruling. "No person has shown cause why the requested General Judgment should not be granted."
I am reminded of something I read today by L. Joseph Hebert at Crisis Magazine,
"Jean Louis de Lolme, writing in 1784 of the 'omnipotence' of the British legislature—and by implication of the modern state—remarks that 'parliament can do everything, except making a woman a man or a man a woman.'”
The state of Oregon, thumbing its nose to de Lolme, has either created a third sex, or a new gender identity, or both, and I don't think the Judge even knows for sure which is which.

Hebert notes that the state creates a new reality, a new absolute that must be accepted,
"Today, the striking thing about de Lolme’s qualification of state power is its apparent naiveté. We live in a world where medical technology is thought capable of 'making a woman a man or a man a woman'; where a man’s conviction that he is a woman, or vice versa, is considered sufficient to make it so; and where the state stands ready to compel us to affirm what many reasonably believe to be a distortion of reality."
 In God we trust, not our human judges. Hebert continues,
"It has become customary for self-proclaimed representatives of humanity to wield sovereign power against anyone opposing the satisfaction of selected desires, promising thereby to secure the conditions of perfect earthly contentment. Today’s gender ideology is one step among many—'from divorce, to contraception, to abortion, to fetal experimentation, to gay marriage, to state control of family numbers and begetting'—through which enlightened despots have acquired an ever-expanding 'environmental and eugenic control over man,' all for our own good of course!"

Rebel, rebel, the world's in a mess...

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Omitting the Imprecatory Verses: Is that any way to form disciples?

For the Second Sunday after Epiphany, the Episcopal Organization's Lectionary slashes quite a few verses from Psalm 139. Regular readers of this blog should be able to easily pick out which parts of this Psalm that Sunday pewsitters will not hear. Read the whole thing and guess what gets the ax.

139 Domine, probasti

1 Lord, you have searched me out and known me; *
you know my sitting down and my rising up;
you discern my thoughts from afar.

2 You trace my journeys and my resting-places *
and are acquainted with all my ways.

3 Indeed, there is not a word on my lips, *
but you, O Lord, know it altogether.

4 You press upon me behind and before *
and lay your hand upon me.

5 Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; *
it is so high that I cannot attain to it.

6 Where can I go then from your Spirit? *
where can I flee from your presence?

7 If I climb up to heaven, you are there; *
if I make the grave my bed, you are there also.

8 If I take the wings of the morning *
and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea,

9 Even there your hand will lead me *
and your right hand hold me fast.

10 If I say, "Surely the darkness will cover me, *
and the light around me turn to night,"

11 Darkness is not dark to you;
the night is as bright as the day; *
darkness and light to you are both alike.

12 For you yourself created my inmost parts; *
you knit me together in my mother's womb.

13 I will thank you because I am marvelously made; *
your works are wonderful, and I know it well.

14 My body was not hidden from you, *
while I was being made in secret
and woven in the depths of the earth.

15 Your eyes beheld my limbs, yet unfinished in the womb;
all of them were written in your book; *
they were fashioned day by day,
when as yet there was none of them.

16 How deep I find your thoughts, O God! *
how great is the sum of them!

17 If I were to count them, they would be more in number than the sand; *
to count them all, my life span would need to be like yours.

18 Oh, that you would slay the wicked, O God! *
You that thirst for blood, depart from me.

19 They speak despitefully against you; *
your enemies take your Name in vain.

20 Do I not hate those, O Lord, who hate you? *
and do I not loathe those who rise up against you?

21 I hate them with a perfect hatred; *
they have become my own enemies.

22 Search me out, O God, and know my heart; *
try me and know my restless thoughts.

23 Look well whether there be any wickedness in me *
and lead me in the way that is everlasting.

If you guessed verses 18-23, you are mostly correct. Verses 6-11 were also omitted from the Sunday reading.

Imprecatory verses like vs. 18-21 in which the psalmist prays for God to slay the wicked and in which the psalmist extols his hatred for those who hate God are the parts of the Bible least known by Sunday pewsitters.

The Asbury Bible Commentary on the imprecatory issue should be studied by all who are offended by these verses,
"The Christian reader must begin by accepting these prayers as they are, by and large the cries of God's people for vengeance for unspeakable atrocities against them as God's people and those places sacred to them and to him. The best reading will refrain from spiritualizing the enemy or the petitions or the blessings thereby diminishing the depth of the agony felt and the vehemence of the action sought."
Spiritualizing the enemy would separate the psalm from its historical context in which the enemy was flesh and blood, coming at you and your family.
"The disciple of Jesus must also realize that any disquiet he or she feels in reading these prayers is due to the redeeming influence of the Lord and his apostles, not to any particular moral sensitivity naturally possessed by the 'enlightened' reader. Contemporary readers would have no problem, were it not 'given' them by the same Scripture that preserves both these poems and the teachings that call them into question. This sensitivity surely does not rise out of pure Enlightenment refinement or 'modern maturity.' Secular humanism can never on its own support values sufficient to impugn these prayers. Thus one will do well to refrain from patronizing or moralizing approaches to these works."
In other words, our discomfort is due to Christ working within us and not due to some other moral authority.
"Contemporary readers, particularly those in more affluent societies, can allow these prayers to help them enter the suffering life of the people of God, to transport them from their relative ease into the ghastly suffering and consternation of persons who have been uprooted, mocked, or abused. These prayers awaken the conscience to the human cry for redress, the cosmic demand for moral order and justice. They can lead one to feel as deeply as one ought the horrendous insult to Yahweh and his creation perpetrated by those who lie and cheat and kill and abuse and blaspheme. Made callous by exposure to continual evil, one may lose the sense of outrage these evils deserve, whether done to us or to others or to God. These prayers awaken that outrage, which is to be offered to God and which motivates to redemptive action.
Beyond these instructive appropriations the imprecatory prayers must point the followers of Jesus beyond themselves to a loftier vision of prayer, as noted above, for, not against, 'the enemy,' a form of prayer taught by our Master (Mt 5:11, 43-48) and modeled by the earliest church (1 Pe 2:19-25). This vision does not set aside the call for justice and vindication, but places these matters in God's hands for the eschaton (Ro 2; Rev 2:19ff.; 18)."
Sadly, the average churchgoer will never learn these lessons because they will only be exposed to a sanitized version of this and many other passages read from the Bible during the typical Sunday morning worship service when that church utilizes the Episcopal lectionary.

What student can ever hope to become a professor when they only learn selected fragments cherry picked from a study guide?

Is that any way to form disciples?

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Drag Queen Story Time at a Public Library

Matt Kennedy posted this on Facebook because it is happening in his town.
Broome County Public Library185 Court St, Binghamton, New York 13901 
Come join us for our first ever Drag Queen Story Time! This is an exciting chance to see live characters from your favorite books. Ariel, Elsa, Alice in Wonderland, Cinderella and maybe a surprise guest or two will appear before your eyes and read your favorite stories!

As I type this, 66 people say that they are going. That means a large number of preschool children will be treated to a drag queen show with a man cross dressing as their favorite female characters, all at their tax-payer funded public library. In reading through the comments on the library's Facebook page, whenever a critical comment was posted, the individual was quickly attacked as a hater and a bigot. I was not surprised to see that most of the comments were positive. Here are a few,

"Lucky kiddos! This is great."
"LOVE! Proud to be a part of such an amazing community!"
"This is going to be awesome! God love the Community!!!! 🙌🏼 yass!!"
"In my opinion, the reason they are advertising it as Drag Queen Story Time is to prevent outraged parents causing a scene when they bring their children. Outraged intolerant, bigoted parents."
"Outstanding, Broom County Public library.... paving the path for everyone to feel included! Children hold no judgement.... it’s what we teach them, that determines what kind of person they will be!"
"! This is incredible!!! What an inclusive event for all children! Love love love this!!!"
"It just kills me that people have an issue with this but fail to remember that years ago MEN used to act out the WOMEN parts in Shakespeare plays. How crazy is it to think that this still lives on today? Go be mad and upset about something else. Your children will be fine. In fact, they’ll probably grow up to be more tolerant of people than these disgusting humans bashing this amazing event are."
"My own children are much older now but I will be borrowing a friend's child for such a fun and worthwhile event."
"What a beautiful way of teaching our kids acceptance and community. Our wonderful community is made up of all colors, backgrounds, gender identities and frankly, I can't wait! I'm looking forward to taking my children to the library for some reading and loving thy neighbor. Thank you for providing this opportunity."
"What an incredible event!! So proud of the community who is supporting this, and so heartbroken by all of the negative, uneducated comments. Drag is pure art, love, joy, pride, and celebration - everything we should be sharing with children!!"
"100% agree. It's part of our culture."

Yep. cross dressing is unfortunately a part of our culture, a tiny, itsy-bitsy part of our culture, and so are a number of other perversions that are also not appropriate for young children.

The tax-payers of Binghamton, NY should shut down their public library as it has become a public menace. 

Sunday, January 07, 2018

The Voice of the Lord is Loud and Clear

This Sunday's Psalm 29 provides a strong rebuke to those who would claim that God speaks only in the quiet, as a whisper, or not at all.

1 Ascribe to the Lord, you gods, *
ascribe to the Lord glory and strength.

2 Ascribe to the Lord the glory due his Name; *
worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness.

3 The voice of the Lord is upon the waters;
the God of glory thunders; *
the Lord is upon the mighty waters.

4 The voice of the Lord is a powerful voice; *
the voice of the Lord is a voice of splendor.

5 The voice of the Lord breaks the cedar trees; *
the Lord breaks the cedars of Lebanon;

6 He makes Lebanon skip like a calf, *
and Mount Hermon like a young wild ox.

7 The voice of the Lord splits the flames of fire;
the voice of the Lord shakes the wilderness; *
the Lord shakes the wilderness of Kadesh.

8 The voice of the Lord makes the oak trees writhe *
and strips the forests bare.

9 And in the temple of the Lord *
all are crying, "Glory!"

10 The Lord sits enthroned above the flood; *
the Lord sits enthroned as King for evermore.

11 The Lord shall give strength to his people; *
the Lord shall give his people the blessing of peace.

The Lord sometimes does speak in a whisper, but not today!

Wednesday, January 03, 2018

12 Predictions: What New Abominations Will 2018 Bring?

I have never been very good at predicting the future except when I have been guided by scripture, tradition, and reason. So, I think I will take a crack at making a few predictions for Episcopalians in 2018. These should not be regarded as "prophesies" as I do not lay claim to any divine inspiration. Instead, they should be seen as a just a few words of wisdom from a veteran of the losing side of the recent Episcopal Wars whose crystal ball is about as reliable as the old Magic 8 Ball.

1. Look forward to new abominations coming from the Episcopal organization's 2018 General Convention in July. Surely, there will be an announcement that Prayer Book revision is making wonderful progress and there will be rumblings that the revisions do not go far enough. A draft of a new Prayer Book (if they dare call it that) will be brought to the next convention in 2021. The slow moving timeline will be a source of aggravation for the extreme revisionists who will ask for permission to hold a same-sex marriages and not just "blessings" in local parish sanctuaries.

2. Bathroom equality will be recommended for local parish halls organization wide.

3. Denunciations of Republican political policies will work their way into speeches delivered at the 2018 General Convention. Watch for terms such as "racism", "systematic",  and "oppression" as trigger words to gain the approval of revisionists.

4. 2018 will be remarkable for an attempt by the Episcopal organization to seduce Hispanics away from Roman Catholicism through the use of Spanish language hymns, anthems, and signage. It won't work of course. One revisionist priest will make a show of using a tortilla for the Eucharistic meal and will be praised by some but called out by the more radical left as having committed an act of "cultural appropriation" or having made a "micro-aggression" toward Hispanics.

5. The "Episcopal Revivals" which Presiding Bishop Curry has been holding will be praised and called a great success and a sign that God is looking with favor upon the organization.

6. There will be no serious discussion about the declines in attendance and membership organization wide.

7. There will be no calls to stop support of the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Rights.

8. There will be prayers and words of support for Planned Parenthood.

9. There will be no words of repentance coming from the Episcopal organization.

10. There will be calls for the ruling Republican Congress and Senate to repent of any number of imagined sins.

11. There will be more funerals than baptisms in the Episcopal organization.

12. Diversity will be showcased at GC 2018, but your parish buildings will remain as homogeneous and as non-diverse as your local country club.

Stay tuned to see how the crystal ball fares in 2018! 

Sunday, December 31, 2017

John 1:1-18

This Sunday's Gospel reading is from John 1:1-18,
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.
There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. He came as a witness to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him. He himself was not the light, but he came to testify to the light. The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world He was in the world, and the world came into being through him; yet the world did not know him. He came to what was his own,* and his own people did not accept him. But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God, who were born, not of blood or of the will of the flesh or of the will of man, but of God.
And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth. (John testified to him and cried out, ‘This was he of whom I said, “He who comes after me ranks ahead of me because he was before me.” ’) From his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. The law indeed was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. No one has ever seen God. It is God the only Son, who is close to the Father’s heart, who has made him known. 
Growing up, I considered John's Gospel my least favorite of the synoptic Gospels. He repeated his themes way too often and his Jesus was the least approachable and least human to me. As I matured and studied the Bible more, I think I am coming around to John. I see his Gospel as presenting the most theologically developed message and therefore I think that is consistent with the view that it is was written after Mark and Matthew. John repeats his themes over and over because he knows that his audience sometimes needed it to be pounded into them before they got it.

I once had a revisionist rector who declared that the Gospel according to John was his favorite. I never could understand that.

While I still prefer Luke/Acts, at least I can now read through the entire Gospel of John with both eyes open.

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Pope Francis and His Christmas Eve Homily

This past Sunday, 24 December 2017, Pope Francis gave his homily for the Christmas Eve Midnight Mass at the Vatican Basilica.  I have been trying to get my head around it because I think he is leading people into the "Joseph and Mary were refugees on Christmas Eve" trap in order to make a point about immigraton. Let me break it down for you. The Pope starts out with what might be an error of translation. 
"Mary 'gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in bands of cloth, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn'” (Lk 2:7)."
Bill Muehlenberg over at his blog points out,
"Note that Mary and Joseph were already in Bethlehem for a while. And newer translations (in this case, the NIV) translate the Greek term in question more accurately as 'guest room'. The same word, kataluma, is used in Luke 22:11: 'Where is the guest room where I may eat the Passover with My disciples?'”
The Pope is telling the people the story that they are used to hearing, and much of what he has to say rings true as he continues,

"In these plain and clear words, Luke brings us to the heart of that holy night: Mary gave birth; she gave us Jesus, the Light of the world. A simple story that plunges us into the event that changes our history for ever. Everything, that night, became a source of hope."
But he starts leading us down his rabbit trail subtly in with the following,
"Let us go back a few verses. By decree of the Emperor, Mary and Joseph found themselves forced to set out. They had to leave their people, their home and their land, and to undertake a journey in order to be registered in the census. This was no comfortable or easy journey for a young couple about to have a child: they had to leave their land. At heart, they were full of hope and expectation because of the child about to be born; yet their steps were weighed down by the uncertainties and dangers that attend those who have to leave their home behind."
The subtle introduction of the premise that they were forced to journey to a strange land is what I am talking about. Bethlehem was not a strange place to Joseph. I would suspect that he had family and friends there. The Pope continues with this premise,
"Then they found themselves having to face perhaps the most difficult thing of all. They arrived in Bethlehem and experienced that it was a land that was not expecting them. A land where there was no place for them."
Next, the Pope makes a leap,
And there, where everything was a challenge, Mary gave us Emmanuel. The Son of God had to be born in a stable because his own had no room for him. “He came to what was his own and his own people did not accept him” (Jn 1:11). 
And I always thought John 1:11 was referring to Jesus being rejected by the Jews and ending up being crucified.

I am not sure where the Pope got his information for his next statement,
"And there, amid the gloom of a city that had no room or place for the stranger from afar, amid the darkness of a bustling city which in this case seemed to want to build itself up by turning its back on others… it was precisely there that the revolutionary spark of God’s love was kindled."
Bethlehem, a city that wanted "to build itself up by turning its back on others..."? I didn't see that one coming.

I kind of get what he says next,
"In Bethlehem, a small chink opens up for those who have lost their land, their country, their dreams; even for those overcome by the asphyxia produced by a life of isolation."
Jesus' birth opens up heaven's gate for all who call him Lord, but Joseph and Mary had not lost their land, country, or dreams, so Francis is obviously trying to drag the modern controversy over refugees and immigration into the Christmas story, and he continues down that road,

"So many other footsteps are hidden in the footsteps of Joseph and Mary. We see the tracks of entire families forced to set out in our own day. We see the tracks of millions of persons who do not choose to go away but, driven from their land, leave behind their dear ones. In many cases this departure is filled with hope, hope for the future; yet for many others this departure can only have one name: survival. Surviving the Herods of today, who, to impose their power and increase their wealth, see no problem in shedding innocent blood."
Francis is starting to remind me of an Episcopal priest I knew,

"Mary and Joseph, for whom there was no room, are the first to embrace the One who comes to give all of us our document of citizenship. The One who in his poverty and humility proclaims and shows that true power and authentic freedom are shown in honouring and assisting the weak and the frail."
This next bit I have definitely heard before from pulpits in Episcopal parishes,
"That night, the One who had no place to be born is proclaimed to those who had no place at the table or in the streets of the city. The shepherds are the first to hear this Good News. By reason of their work, they were men and women forced to live on the edges of society. Their state of life, and the places they had to stay, prevented them from observing all the ritual prescriptions of religious purification; as a result, they were considered unclean. Their skin, their clothing, their smell, their way of speaking, their origin, all betrayed them. Everything about them generated mistrust. They were men and women to be kept at a distance, to be feared. They were considered pagans among the believers, sinners among the just, foreigners among the citizens. Yet to them – pagans, sinners and foreigners – the angel says: 'Do not be afraid; for see – I am bringing you good news of great joy for the people: to you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, who is the Messiah, the Lord' (Lk 2:10-11)."
Enough of the progressive message, mow he gets back to sounding reasonable,
"This is the joy that we tonight are called to share, to celebrate and to proclaim. The joy with which God, in his infinite mercy, has embraced us pagans, sinners and foreigners, and demands that we do the same.
The faith we proclaim tonight makes us see God present in all those situations where we think he is absent. He is present in the unwelcomed visitor, often unrecognizable, who walks through our cities and our neighbourhoods, who travels on our buses and knocks on our doors."
Oops, I spoke too soon,
"This same faith impels us to make space for a new social imagination, and not to be afraid of experiencing new forms of relationship, in which none have to feel that there is no room for them on this earth." 
Ack, there goes that "relationship" word again.

Francis ends with a call to "Open wide the gate for Christ" which I hope does not mean to open the gates for wolves to enter into the sheepfold.

"Christmas is a time for turning the power of fear into the power of charity, into power for a new imagination of charity. The charity that does not grow accustomed to injustice, as if it were something natural, but that has the courage, amid tensions and conflicts, to make itself a 'house of bread', a land of hospitality. That is what Saint John Paul II told us: 'Do not be afraid! Open wide the doors for Christ' (Homily for the Inauguration of the Pontificate, 22 October 1978).
In the Child of Bethlehem, God comes to meet us and make us active sharers in the life around us. He offers himself to us, so that we can take him into our arms, lift him and embrace him. So that in him we will not be afraid to take into our arms, raise up and embrace the thirsty, the stranger, the naked, the sick, the imprisoned (cf. Mt 25:35-36). 'Do not be afraid! Open wide the doors for Christ'. In this Child, God invites us to be messengers of hope. He invites us to become sentinels for all those bowed down by the despair born of encountering so many closed doors. In this child, God makes us agents of his hospitality.
Moved by the joy of the gift, little Child of Bethlehem, we ask that your crying may shake us from our indifference and open our eyes to those who are suffering. May your tenderness awaken our sensitivity and recognize our call to see you in all those who arrive in our cities, in our histories, in our lives. May your revolutionary tenderness persuade us to feel our call to be agents of the hope and tenderness of our people."
Pope Francis is a welcoming guy, and we should welcome those who wish to obey our laws and live in peace. Unfortunately, in today's world, we cannot assume that everyone wishes to do so.