Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Bucket Lists, Leaky Bucket Lists, and One Worth Making

The recent Santa Barbara murders and the video testimonies left by the killer point to a troubled young man filled with considerable anger towards others over his virginity among other things. In our sex crazed society, virginity has become a modern day curse. It would appear that to modern people, life is unfulfilled until that curse is lifted.

Matt Kennedy+ posted this on Facebook from one of his sermons recently,

"I had lunch with a pastor who recently changed his mind on marriage. He told me: "Forbidding two men or two women to marry dooms people with same sex attraction to life without a fulfilled sexuality. Why should only heterosexual married couples have that joy? Doesn't forbidding that deny a person's full humanity?" Do you see the underlying assumption...if you believe that this life is all there is...or at least that this life is what matters most, then of course actualizing your personal potential is "it". That’s the secular gospel: suck the marrow out of the bone of life or find yourself in the hell of not having “fully lived”. But consider Jesus’ earthly life. He never married. No "fulfilled sexuality" for him. He had no children. He traveled no more than a hundred or so miles beyond Nazareth where he was raised. He didn’t taste the cuisine of the world. By the numbers, if we're measuring in the way the world measures, he met with very little success during his life, little accomplishment. If we were to compare his experiences with the experiences we consider necessary for human "flourish", we'll didn't do half the things that modern westerners think must be done in life in order to "truly live". No Carpe Diem for Jesus. Jesus did not live for the day. He lived for his Father. And his Church. For the sake of these loves, he chose not to flourish in this life." From this Sunday's sermon on Burial of Jesus..."

I was left wondering if this had any relevance to the modern preoccupation with sex and with having  a personal "bucket list". You know, that list of things you want to do before you die. Our Santa Barbara killer certainly had a bucket list of sorts. To him, this life was all there was, and he felt that he had not fully lived, in spite of the fact that he had been blessed with more earthly things than 99.9% of the world's population, food, education, a car, a therapist...

While it seems to be a natural human trait to have wants and desires, Jesus teaches us that there is more to life than all those "things". Bucket lists are leaky buckets. We can never fulfill all of our desires.

I refuse to make such a list. I argue that the view of the Grand Canyon will be far better after I die than if I were to schlep all the way out there today. In my opinion, the "bucket list" is based on the underlying assumption that Matt+ refers to in his sermon: that this life is all there is.

So, if Jesus made a bucket list what might it look like? As Matt notes, he didn't travel very far, he didn't marry, he didn't party like a rock star or do any of those things that we might place on our personal bucket lists.

Maybe it might look something like this,

  • 1) Love God with all my heart.
  • 2) Love God with all my soul.
  • 3) Love God with all my strength.
  • 4) Love my neighbor as myself.
  • 5) Tell all the world about 1-4.  

Perhaps if we had somehow gotten that good news into the head of the young man who killed his neighbors in Santa Barbara, that tragedy would have been averted.

Until we live for God, part of which involves guiding our misguided children into the light of Christ, instead of living our lives for things, our life's buckets will remain unfulfilled and shot full of holes.

So the next time you are asked, "What's on your bucket list?" think about something simple like, "To abide in Jesus", for when you do, all those holes in your bucket will gradually seal themselves, and you will be filled.
"He that saith he abideth in him ought himself also so to walk, even as he walked."  1 John 2:6
Authorized (King James) Version

Sunday, May 25, 2014

"If Ye Love Me, Keep My Commandments..." Can't I Just Keep Some of Them?

As I looked through this Sunday's readings from the Bible, I saw a thread connecting the call to repentance,
"While God has overlooked the times of human ignorance, now he commands all people everywhere to repent, because he has fixed a day on which he will have the world judged in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed, and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead." Acts 17:30-31
our failure to love,
"If you love me, you will keep my commandments." John 14:15 
and our need for Jesus,
"For Christ also suffered  for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, in order to bring you to God." 1Peter 3:18  
Since we don't keep his commandments, we must love the world instead. We dwell in it, and it dwells in us. Besides, it is so much easier to follow the laws of society than the laws of God. God is all about repentance, sin, and feeling bad about ourselves... right?

Modern people have separated themselves from God and His commandments to the extent that they don't even know what is sinful and what is not (see last week's post from Fr. Dale Matson, "Is This A Sin Father?"). The problem involves not just a Biblical knowledge gap (although that may be increasingly the cause), but modern Christians have been so inculcated with the world's definitions of acceptable/good/righteous behaviors that they not only claim ignorance, or flat out ignore God's commandments, they often claim that those commandments are no longer applicable, and that it is culture that defines morality. The current cultural approval of abortion, no-fault divorce, same-sex marriage, etc. are examples of our abandonment of God's commandments, and this demonstrates the depth of our love for the world as well as the shallowness of our love for God. As a result we as a society no longer can lay claim to Jesus' promise of the Spirit of truth found in the very next verse to the one quoted above from John 14,
"And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, to be with you for ever. This is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him." John 14:16
The world lives in us, having displaced the Word from our hearts. Some may claim they keep some commandments, while at the same time breaking other commandments (i.e. when they dare to say that some sins are actually a blessing. )

No, the Spirit of truth must not be in us,
"If we say that we have fellowship with Him, and walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth.
But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin.
If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.
If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar, and His word is not in us."
1 John 1:6 -10 

If we love Him, we will love his commandments.

All of them.

Love hurts...

The fact that we don't love his commandments is a reflection of our desire to maintain our autonomy, and the fear of the pain we will feel when we give up that autonomy by submission to God's rule. We would rather die clutching tightly our "Self" than to place it into the hands of a loving God. C. S. Lewis considered this painful surrender a kind of death in "The Problem of Pain" but Lewis successfully spins it into a delight,

"Now the proper good of a creature is to surrender itself to its Creator—to enact intellectually, volitionally, and emotionally, that relationship which is given in the mere fact of its being a creature. When it does so, it is good and happy. Lest we should think this a hardship, this kind of good begins on a level far above the creatures, for God Himself, as Son, from all eternity renders back to God as Father by filial obedience the being which the Father by paternal love eternally generates in the Son. This is the pattern which man was made to imitate—which Paradisal man did imitate—and wherever the will conferred by the Creator is thus perfectly offered back in delighted and delighting obedience by the creature, there, most undoubtedly, is Heaven, and there the Holy Ghost proceeds. In the world as we now know it, the problem is how to recover this self-surrender. We are not merely imperfect creatures who must be improved: we are, as Newman said, rebels who must lay down our arms.
The first answer, then, to the question why our cures should be painful, is that to render back the will which we have so long claimed for our own, is in itself, wherever and however it is done, a grievous pain. Even in Paradise I have supposed a minimal self-adherence to be overcome, though the overcoming, and the yielding, would there be rapturous. But to surrender a self-will inflamed and swollen with years of usurpation is a kind of death.C.S. Lewis, The Problem of Pain (San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco, 2001), pp. 88-89. 
Keeping some of God's commandments and re-writing others is not 
surrender, it is not death, it is rebellion.

Keeping his commandments is death, is delight, is love.

We can't just love Him just a little, some of the time,
“Master, which is the great commandment in the law?
Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God
with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all
thy mind. This is the first and great commandment.”
Matthew 22:36-38

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

A Peek Back at the Sixties Promise of Peace Through Drugs, Or Forgettable Mickey Rooney Films

The other night I watched a movie from the sixties which despite the fact that it was star filled, and in spite of the fact that it was directed by Otto Preminger, has been largely forgotten.

Here is a list of some of the stars in the cast,
  • Jackie Gleason
  • Carol Channing
  • Frankie Avalon 
  • Frank Gorshin
  • Peter Lawford
  • Burgess Meredith
  • George Raft
  • Cesar Romero
  • Mickey Rooney
  • Groucho Marx
  • Slim Pickens
  • Roman Gabriel
Okay, maybe Roman Gabriel was better at throwing a football than he was at acting, but the rest of the cast should have made a for winning team.

Still trying to guess the name of the movie?

It was "Skidoo" from 1968. I watched it on TCM despite it being rated a generous 2 stars (out of 5). As a film, it probably deserved 1 star, but for its historical significance, I would give it a 5 star rating.

Only in 1968 could a star like Jackie Gleason get away with using the word, "Fag".

Today, such language would have him blacklisted for life.

Let me give you a brief synopsis of the plot.

Ex-gangster Jackie Gleason is called out of retirement by Mr. Big, A.K.A. "God" (Groucho Marx), to kill stool pigeon Mickey Rooney who is in Alcatraz running a highly successful business (I guess he was cutting into God's action).  God arranges for Jackie Gleason to be put into prison so he can pull off the hit, but Jackie doesn't tell his wife (Carol Channing who knows he is an ex-gangster), or daughter (who never knew the truth about daddy) where he has disappeared to. Daughter starts hunting for her father along with her new found hippie friends. Wife hunts for Jackie too and gets involved with gangsters and the hippies. Jackie Gleason can't get close enough to Mickey Rooney to kill him and accidentally goes on an LSD trip thanks to LSD that his cellmate, "the Professor," had stashed in the glue of an envelope Jackie licked after penning a letter to his wife. After having his mind expanded, Jackie Gleason decides that he doesn't want to kill anybody anymore. He has found PEACE.  Jackie Gleason and his cell mates then break into the prison kitchen and lace everyone's food with LSD. The entire population of Alcatraz including the Warden, the Governor (who is visiting), the telephone operator (Slim Pickens), and the guards all start tripping out which allows Jackie Gleason and the Professor to escape in a balloon fabricated from wrapping material taken from the kitchen freezer. The hippies mobilize a flotilla to find God who is holding Jackie Gleason's daughter and hippie boyfriend on a yacht off the coast. The hippies storm the yacht about the time Jackie Gleason and his balloon  crash down on top of the scene. Carol Channing sings "Skidoo" as peace reigns (see video below). God escapes on a small sail boat with the Professor. The final scenes show God and the Professor smoking a joint and sailing away with the mainsail colorfully painted with flowers and a large "LOVE" sign and the jib equally dressed with "PEACE."


This movie explains in its own foggy way how we got to where we are today with the marijuana movement, and maybe it helps to show where we are going. As the legalization of marijuana presses forward, the message we are hearing from our children, the media, and politicians is that marijuana is more than harmless, it is medicinal, and it is good for you despite the growing evidence that the opposite is true, that the brain itself may be altered structurally by even "casual" use, and that it may increase the risk of stroke and cardiovascular disease. Much in the same way, the positive benefits of "mind altering" drugs was the message Otto Preminger and his mentor, Timothy Leary were trying to push in 1968 with regards to the "recreational" drug use of the day with little concern for the potential downsides.

And all that makes for a scary, but important picture of the both the past and for the future.

Just see if this video clip from Skidoo scares the heck out of you as much as it scares me.

Don't you just love the guys playing the electric guitars that aren't plugged in?  

Sunday, May 18, 2014

How Did Your Preacher Approach John 14:6 ?

Today's Gospel reading was John 14:1-14. After sitting through today's sermon, I wondered how other preachers tackled verse 6,
"Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me."
I know how it was handled in our church.

It was ignored.


John 14:6 is felt by many to be a "clobber verse" or a sure-fire conversation killer. Repeating Jesus' exclusive claim is not going to make you many friends if you bring them up during an interfaith dinner party, and writing about it in the public sphere will assure that you are removed from any list of potential commencement speakers.

I remember trying to get a handle on this verse a few years back during an on-line theology group. At that time, I came up with what I called an inclusively exclusive response to the question of whether or not John 14:6 means that someone who has never heard the Gospel, or a good Muslim, or  a good Buddhist needed to follow Jesus in order to come to the Father. I reasoned that Jesus could call a non-christian at the time of their death at which time that individual soul could respond positively or negatively. I for one would not want anyone to wait until the last minute like that, and I think we are clearly commanded to go and make disciples in the here and now, so my non-scriptural  solution may not be of any merit.

Even if it poses problems for the modern, pluralistic mind, I think the subject is something that should not be ignored when it comes around on Sunday morning. 

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

The Revisionist Recipe and a Reasserter's Rhythmic Response

"Christian orthodoxy is a strange and wondrous thing,unknown to many scholars and to many conventional Christians." Rt. Rev. Dr. C. FitzSimons Allison "The Cruelty of Heresy" 1994 p.155

"The Revisionist Formulary and Operant Catechism" (Longer Form) was first posted five years ago today by a "Theodora" comment #12 over at StandFirm in Faith). Yes, I have been holding onto it for that long. A recent Facebook back and forth about the terms, reappraiser and reasserter and whether or not they were pejorative made me drag this out of my unfinished draft list. I have made a few revisions, and I will add a few points as to how this relates to our current woes with my revisionist bishop.

I. I have these feelings and desires.

II. They must certainly be God-given for God created pleasure, and he desires for us to be happy.

III. People will tell me that my feelings and desires disagree with the counsel of Scripture which is the very Word of God, the Gospels, the teachings of the Apostles, the Councils of the early Church, with 2000 years of teachings of Church fathers, theologians, Popes, Archbishops, Bishops, saints and martyrs. I shall ignore them and find people who believe as I believe.

IV. All who oppose me and my friends are evil, ugly, mean, phobic, vile meanies. You must agree with us.

V. If you do not agree, you are wrong, and you must listen to us until you agree (this is called the "Listening Process")...(repeat I-V ad infinitum)

VI. During step V., we will organize and propose resolutions to the General Convention of the Church asking for our beliefs to be recognized, blessed, ordained, and liturgised.

Note that the formula starts with feelings. These are the same feelings that led my bishop to attest to seeing the "fruit of the Spirit" in homosexual coupling.

How can Anglicanism respond to the revisionist formula?

The Rev'd Canon Dr. Ashley Null worked it out in his 2005 paper The Thirty Nine Articles and Reformation Anglicanism: Biblical Authority Defined and Applied. It is 29 pages long which is about the same length as the Bishop of Upper South Carolina's recent pastoral and theological letter on how same sex blessings are supported by the Bible. Canon Ashley's work might have been helpful to our bishop as he struggled with his theology. In part, modern revisionism in the Episcopal church is the result of placing the wisdom of the Articles in fine print in the back of our prayer books as Historical Documents and not keeping them in mind as we tackle new challenges to the Church.

"According to the Thirty-Nine Articles, as Christians we can wear shirts made of cotton and polyester, but two Christian men should not have sex with each other. Why? The first has no effect on our relationship with God in Christ, but the second puts us out of harmony with God and the rhythms by which he has created us to live." 

(Out of harmony with the rhythms we hear in the Bible)

"Music is a helpful analogy. Learning to distinguish between contrasting voices in the biblical witness is like developing an ear for the individual elements of Bach’s contrapuntal compositions. To appreciate fully the richness of both the Bible and Bach one needs to hear the distinct differences within each work. Yet, the intended ultimate effect of both Bach’s music and the biblical narrative is a harmonious resolution of those internal tensions which brings light and life to the soul. Those modern biblical commentaries which use contrasting elements in Scripture as a justification for choosing to follow only those parts that suit their authors’ prejudices are like many modern works of serious music. Their atonal, disjointed dissonance all too often reflects the disorder and deep sighs of a human heart struggling to find meaning in life apart from the abiding presence of Jesus Christ.  To avoid such a fate for Anglicanism, the leadership of the Edwardian and Elizabethan churches used the Articles both to define the Anglican understanding of that unifying vision and to defend it from the false teachings of both medieval Catholicism and radical Protestantism."  (p.21)
As far as today's Anglican troubles go, 
"As with the first reformation that began our life as an independent Church, our best way forward today requires reasserting the biblical wisdom of our past. " (p.28)
  Read it all.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Episcopalian Parents: Teach Your Children Well... Please

Today was "Good Shepherd Sunday", and in lieu of a conventional sermon, our parish let the youth put on a play about the parable of the Good Shepherd. It was especially encouraging to hear our small youth group loudly proclaim, "Jesus is the Good Shepherd!" at the end of their production.

I pray that they keep that faith in their hearts as they get older as the world does its best to steal it from them.

Another thing I pray for is that they develop discerning hearts and minds because while there is but one Good Shepherd that they know now, there are many more bad shepherds who will enter their lives to try to lead them astray as they grow older.

My mother always said to choose my friends carefully because bad company leads kids to do bad things. She never said anything about choosing my church.

I remember my Episcopal youth group when I was a kid. It seemed like there were forty or fifty of us in a parish church smaller than my present one (which can only muster a quarter that number as weddings, baptisms, and confirmations plummet). I chose my friends from that group, but I did not choose my priest, my choir director, or my teachers. Yes the organist was a homosexual man, and the priest gave long pointless sermons which did nothing to guide us kids towards Christ, and the teachers were Moms, so I guess I had a pretty typical Episcopal church upbringing.  I also had ten years of education in Episcopal schools, and it all was pretty much a massive fail from a spiritual standpoint. I had not even read the Bible until I was in college. I think far too many things were assumed. It was assumed that hearing a few Bible stories, sitting still during the Sunday readings, and not squirming through the rector's sermon was all a child needed to commit his or her life to Christ. I was saved, not through all that Episcopal schooling, but by college friends and the "Campus Crusade for Christ". Looking back, I would say that the typical Episcopal upbringing is in large part the reason for the decline of the denomination (a variation of The Pewster Principle).

Sorry Mom, but perhaps our parents should have worried more about our religious upbringing when they dropped us off at church. Perhaps they should have home-schooled us. Perhaps they assumed too much. Perhaps we children should have told our parents what really went on...

Today's Episcopal church parents have more cause to worry than my parents did back then as new false teachings work their way into the minds of their teachers, priests, and bishops and then are transmitted into today's children's developing minds.

Yes Virginia, there is but one Good Shepherd. The rest are fakes. You can spot them by their pointy hats and crooked sticks.

Friday, May 09, 2014

Excerpts From Bishop Waldo's Pastoral and Theological Reflections on Same Sex Blessings

In my last brief post, I noted that Bishop Waldo of the Episcopal Diocese of Upper South Carolina (my Bishop) released his Pastoral and Theological Reflections on Same Sex Blessings this week. We all knew what the conclusion was going to be, but how he was going to word it was the question. I am providing excerpts, but if anyone really wants to read the whole thing, it is on-line here.

Bishop Waldo begins with an appeal,
"So Jesus’ commandment that we love one another sacrificially—even to the point of giving our life for our friends—is where I start as I address the place of same-sex blessings in our common life because loving one another is and always has been the greatest challenge for human relationships."
Love in this instance meaning that lovers do not leave the Episcopal church.
He continues,
"In the course of this refection, I offer a way forward for us in the Diocese of Upper South Carolina and for the larger Church catholic in whose leadership I have been called to share."
I guess he thinks his way will be the way the Church catholic should go as well. This is either grandiose, delusional, or simply, wishful thinking.

"I make this offering with special awareness of and attentiveness to the spiritual dangers of 'deceiving others and being deceived' (2 Timothy 3:13) about matters on any and all points in the current debates."
As we shall see, insufficient attention has been paid to 2 Timothy 3.

So how effective will this theological reflection be in changing people's minds?
"As far as I know, not one member of the group has changed his or her basic sense of what we should or shouldn’t do in this matter, and yet all of us have richer understandings of and appreciation for our own and each other’s perspectives."
So why should the rest of us read the next twenty six pages if the decision has been made in the absence of a convincing argument?
"THE DECISION: In response to Resolution A049 from the 77th General Convention of the Episcopal Church in 2012. I have decided that use of the provisional rite, 'The Witnessing and Blessing of a Lifelong Covenant' for the blessing of same-sex relationships approved in that resolution will be permitted in some congregations according to conditions provided in detail in the document “Process, Application and Policies” accompanying this refection."
But don't worry because we aren't talking about marriage,
"I have no authority nor intent to change the church’s doctrine of Christian marriage—“a solemn and public covenant between a man and a woman in the presence of God”—as contained in the Canons of Episcopal Church and in The Book of Common Prayer..."
But Bishop Waldo, our parish doesn't really want to have "the talk".
"All congregations will be urged to offer the Task Force on Unity and Faithfulness curriculum prior to General Convention 2015."
I guess it all depends on the meaning of the word "urge".
"As I have prepared my response to A049 and the provisional rite for blessing same-sex relationships, it has been my discipline to avoid working from concepts that have represented stumbling blocks to dialog For those of more traditional perspectives, words such as 'inclusivity,' 'diversity,' 'justice' and 'equality' used by supporters of same-sex blessings and marriages have become negative jargon. For those of more progressive perspectives, words and phrases often used by traditionalists, such as 'the influence of secular culture,' 'orthodox,' 'redefinition of marriage,' 'traditional marriage' and 'clear meaning of scripture,' have come to be seen as dismissive when wielded in a combative or rigid spirit."
Note that in spite of trying to avoid using labels and catch phrases, Bishop Waldo does just that when he subtly slants the emotional content of this paragraph so that  readers learn that expressing the orthodox viewpoint is seen by progressives as being "combative" or "rigid" spirited and traditionalists who use progressive talking points usually do so in a negative sense.

So let's see if he can soften the blow to those of us who might be inclined to believe that only through a muddied meaning of scripture, redefinition of marriage, and listening to secular culture can we get to where the Bishop wants to go.
"If our Church’s reassessment of human sexuality is to be more than a rationalization of a self-willed purpose, it must be rooted in or grafted onto the received tradition."
There is no way it can be rooted in the received tradition (although he will try), so it will have to be grafted onto it.

"From this most basic outline of the Christian story of salvation, the received tradition has taught that how we live must not be contrary to human nature. Because, the tradition argues, same-sex relationships are contrary to human nature, and because same-sex behaviors are specifically rejected in scripture, the Church cannot bless covenanted same-sex relationships in any form. As a result, many traditionalists argue that one cannot be orthodox in Christian belief and at the same time support or participate in sexually active same-sex relationships. Within the past half century, that conclusion has come under active examination. There is no question that some movements relating to the acceptance of gay and lesbian persons are more civil and secular than religious—even within the Church. Other movements claim deep roots in orthodox Christian faith and practice. Recognizing that there is deep disagreement about this, I will argue that there is a firm biblical basis from which to shape a common life in which lifelong, monogamous same-sex relationships can receive the blessing of the Church."

Note: This is a key paragraph. The rest of Bishop's work is based on the hypothesis is that there is a firm Biblical basis for SSBs, and his stated goal is to prove that hypothesis. As you read on, decide for yourself if he has done so.

"The question posed to the Church by lifelong, monogamous, Christ-centered same-sex relationships is, Where on the trajectory of salvation do such relationships fit?"
I don't think that he is posing the right question. Does anyone else think that the words "conjugal" and "celibate" might enter into the question?
"Since the traditional view of male-female relationships is rooted in the biological complementarity of the two sexes from the beginning of creation, I start the conversation there.In the Bible, lifelong monogamous marriage between one man and one woman is presented not only as a norm and reality but as a symbol. However, the concrete, day-in, day-out, lived model of marriage as an exclusive relationship gets challenged by instances of polygamy, divorce and adultery—sometimes without moral comment (King Solomon) and sometimes with profound and direct moral comment (David and Bathsheba)."
I believe King Solomon's polygamy did not pass without moral comment. Solomon did  anger God by marrying foreign wives (1 Kings 11:9), but also he went against God's will, "Neither shall he multiply wives to himself, that his heart turn not away" (Deuteronomy 17:17)

In any case, Bishop Waldo will deal with tradition by trying to have it both ways,
"The global sensus fidelium remains unpersuaded that the Church can proclaim God’s blessing on same-sex relationships. Yet many Christians believe same-sex relationships grounded in a relationship with Christ are deeply worthy of God’s blessing."
So much for old fashioned tradition, lets get some good old revisionism,
"In my judgment, and in the eyes of many Episcopalians, the fruits of righteousness can be as manifestly evident in the lives of partnered Christian gay and lesbian couples as they can in the lives of married heterosexual couples. Paul is concrete in his description of the fruits of the Spirit made manifest: The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. —Galatians 5:22-23"

I don't think anal-genital intercourse was what Paul had in mind when he described the fruits of the Spirit. (Romans 1:26-32)

Any good theological discussion striving to justify homo-sex acts has to dismiss Leviticus too,
"Leviticus 18 and 20: At a minimum, these passages address an idolatrous desire for 'sex any way a person can get it.' They remain a viable commentary on the sins and temptations of modern life and point to the offense as being rooted in idolatry of the flesh. Though the passages are silent on the matter of sexual orientation vs. lifestyle as many understand the difference today, they do point to sexual willfulness."
In case you didn't follow that, he is tossing out the old "They didn't understand sexual orientation" gambit.

1 Corinthians 6:9-10 There can be little question that this passage at least includes a condemnation of idolatrous promiscuity and licentiousness, behaviors that were widespread in Corinth in Paul’s time. And there is little question that the passage has supported a traditional understanding of homosexual behaviors as intrinsically wrong. The same can be said of 1 Timothy 1:8-11, which covers a larger list of behaviors laid down for the “lawless and disobedient,” including “fornicators and sodomites.”And yet Paul’s intent in offering his list of what the community’s behaviors 'used to be' in 1 Corinthians 6 is emphatically not primarily about sexual sins: it is more like, “Look, here are the things you did before you believed, and of all these divisive behaviors—suing each other is among the most destructive and least worthy of your new identity in Christ.”
I am blown away.
Romans 1:18-32
"The first chapter of Paul’s letter to the Romans contains the only sustained development of an argument in which what Paul calls unnatural sexual relations figure prominently.Robert Gagnon describes Romans 1:24-27 as 'the central text for the issue of homosexual conduct on which Christians must base their moral doctrine.' Likewise, John E. Goldingay, Grant R. LeMarquand, George R. Sumner, and Daniel A. Westberg, in presenting one of two views on this issue to the March, 2010 House of Bishops meeting, emphasized the importance of this passage for Christian doctrine on human sexuality. Strangely, neither discusses the list of the fruits of idolatry in Romans 1:28-32. Each seems to assume, as does Paul, that these evil fruits are and will be the inevitable result of all homosexual behavior because all homosexual behavior is idolatrous. The assumption is a critical basis for the received tradition’s conclusion that homosexual behavior is intrinsically disordered. This severe conclusion is however deeply dissonant in the manifest evidence and presence of the fruits of the Holy Spirit in the relationship of a monogamous, lifelong, Christian same-sex couple."
I am totally blow away by this classic "attack the witness" strategy. Paul's "assumption"? I think Bishop Waldo is going after the wrong witness. I would like to see him try that one on St. Paul and get away with it.

The theological machinations keep getting deeper,
"There is little question that we are in a time of permissiveness. There is no doubt that desires of the flesh motivate people into unhealthy and idolatrous homosexual and heterosexual relationships. It is clear that secular media encourage this. And scripture speaks with clarity against these developments. Would our interpretation therefore be different if we considered two persons whose lifelong, covenanted same-sex intimacy took place in the context of knowing God, not ignoring God, and not making or worshiping graven images? What if the fruits of faithful, monogamous, Christian same-sex couples were nowhere to be seen on Paul’s list in Romans 1, but rather in Paul’s list in Galatians 5: 'love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control'? It is hard, even under the most ordinary of encounters with other people, to 'seek and serve Christ in others' by seeing beyond our assumptions and the personal 'rules' we each inherit and form as we grow up and according to which we live our adult lives. Our discernment of the fruits of the Spirit in others—especially when we begin with negative assumptions about them—can only occur if we let go of the metaphorical tug-of-war rope. Paul reminds us in Philippians 2:5-11 that Jesus himself did this, refusing to grasp or exploit his divinity and emptying himself instead, taking the form of a servant."
Poor Paul, he has been "what iffed" into going along with Bishop Waldo.
What follows is about as deep as the theological revisionism gets,

"Article XX of the Articles of Religion (“Of the Authority of the Church”) declares that “it is not lawful for the Church to ordain any thing that is contrary to God’s Word written, neither may it so expound one place of Scripture, that it be repugnant to another.” Therefore, if a same-sex relationship manifestly bears the fruits of the Spirit, it is incumbent upon the Church to consider if that relationship is intrinsically different from the relationships so negatively presented in scripture. How can a relationship that manifests God’s Holy Spirit be repugnant to any part of scripture? As is true with both heterosexual and homosexual relationships, some will bear few fruits of the Spirit and bear instead the manifestly evident fruits of sin and death. Our task is to listen to the relationships that do bear the fruits of the Spirit. The Church has often refused to discern that fruits of the Spirit can come from a same-sex relationship. And yet, however chaotic and divisive our entry into this subject has been these last decades, the faith and witness of our Lord in the lives of partnered gay and lesbian brothers and sisters in Christ have manifestly included fruits of righteousness. Jesus is clear that evil intentions and desires of the flesh defile (Mark 7:21-23). The tradition has held that all same-sex sexual behaviors are intrinsically the result of such intentions and desires. However, same-sex relationships that bear the fruits of the Spirit cannot be placed in the same category. What the tradition has declared to be “intrinsically disordered”—especially via Leviticus 18 and 20, 1 Corinthians 6:9-11, and Romans 1—must be carefully reevaluated in light of relationships that are discerned by the community as “manifestly good,” bearing the fruits of the Spirit."
I would conclude that this means whatever a community discerns to be good is the fruit of the Spirit whether or not it contradicts scripture. This is of course a dangerous conclusion for it can lead to a lot of things that might not be all that pleasing to God. Of course most of those things can be found in all those "Thou shalt nots" and negative passages that are so rarely heard on Sunday mornings.

I am not sure that there are any readers left, but you should read what Bishop Waldo does to "Complementarity".

"...many theologians, philosophers, and psychologists speak about marriage as a powerful metaphor for the journey of uniting the masculine and feminine aspects within ourselves, having been made in the image of God, who has both masculine and feminine characteristics.Biologically, we each have both male and female hormones within us, in proportions that are not the same from person to person. Emotionally, we act in ways both masculine and feminine, and our life journeys are deeply impacted by how well we come to terms with each dimension within us—in an important sense, how well these two aspects of our person-hood are “married” within us. In this understanding, complementarity is not exclusively limited to the biological order of creation, but includes the emotional and psychological order of creation. It can fairly be argued that it is our inner self that most especially makes us human—made in God’s image, worthy of God’s love, and reflected in God’s incarnation in Jesus. That being said, our bodiesmatter. Indeed, our humanness is expressed through our bodies, minds, and spirits. The challenge in understanding true complementarity must involve refection on all three, mind, body, and spirit—who we are and how we act, male and female."
Deep down, we are all hermaphrodites.

So much for the Bible. Let's drag down some of that received tradition too,

"St. Augustine wrote that marriage is a union of friendship, a natural companionship. While it is clear that he refers to marriage being between a man and a woman and that he rejects sexual relationships outside of marriage, he, like Paul, understands sex as being necessary for procreation and a remedy for lust. One is ultimately “better” without it, and indeed, the City of God will fill up sooner without sex. (He even suggests that married couples should get sex out of the way early in their marriage to get procreation over with so that they can focus on their companionship and life in Christ.) For Augustine, fidelity is a fundamental characteristic of a Christian marriage, and is required even in the event of a divorce, in which neither party should remarry, even for the sake of having children.
On many counts, Augustine’s views of marriage and divorce have been reassessed in our time, but at a minimum he has identified three profound goods that are shared by believers regardless of their position on same-sex relationships: companionship, fidelity and lifelong commitment. These goods are at the heart of what the Church has proposed blessing with regard to same-sex relationships."

Poor St. Aug, I bet he never thought his writings would be used to justify same-sex blessings, but in just a few lines, our Bishop did just that!

In his conclusion, Bishop Waldo thanks the members of what I have called Task Force 10 to Gomorrah, but he omitted any mention of the one team member who left the fleet and who, after being deposed (lite), is now sailing under another Admiral.

"I am most deeply grateful to the members of my Task Force on Unity and Faithfulness—Ms. Caroline Avinger, Mr. Frank Ballard, Ms. Jennifer Bull, The Rev. Jordan Hylden, The Very Rev. Timothy Jones, The Rev. Alan Leonard, Ms. Sally McKay, The Rev. James Neuburger, The Rev. Ellen Francis Poisson, OSH, and The Rev. David Wagner"
So, does Bishop Waldo's hypothesis, based on his presentation, stand, or should it be rejected?

A Pastoral and Theological Refection on Same-Sex Blessings by The Rt. Rev. W. Andrew Waldo

Bishop Waldo has released his rationale for giving permission to perform public rites of blessing for same sex couples in parish churches in his diocese, the Diocese of Upper South Carolina. I don't have the time right now to point out the obvious false teaching that is contained therein. Here is the link so you can download and read it all, or you can paste the following address into your browser.

Wednesday, May 07, 2014

Divorce Be Not Proud

 In the seventh grade, one of our summer reading assignments was a book titled  "Death Be Not Proud" by John Gunther. Gunther wrote an account of his son's death from a brain tumor and borrowed the title from a work by John Donne,

DEATH be not proud, though some have called thee
Mighty and dreadfull, for, thou art not so,
For, those, whom thou think'st, thou dost overthrow,
Die not, poore death, nor yet canst thou kill me.
From rest and sleepe, which but thy pictures bee,      
Much pleasure, then from thee, much more must flow,
And soonest our best men with thee doe goe,
Rest of their bones, and soules deliverie.
Thou art slave to Fate, Chance, kings, and desperate men,
And dost with poyson, warre, and sicknesse dwell,
And poppie, or charmes can make us sleepe as well,
And better then thy stroake; why swell'st thou then;
One short sleepe past, wee wake eternally,
And death shall be no more; death, thou shalt die.  John Donne  1572–1631

Three of the take home points for the young reader of Gunther's "Death Be Not Proud" was that the process of dying is not pretty, that the body and soul put up a fight to hold onto life as long as possible, and while the fight may be valiant, it is ultimately doomed to failure. The thought of someone publicly disclosing the details of such intimate and personal suffering was troublesome for many of us at the time, but the fact that  later that year one of my classmates died from a brain tumor is what seared this book into my memory.

That same year, another classmate became the daughter of a divorce. Divorce was such a rare occurrence back then, almost as uncommon as death from a brain tumor, that I had to get "a little talk about it" from my mother. The take home message from Mom was that there was shame associated with divorce and that it would be best to be sympathetic to the children involved because it was bound to be difficult for them.

Times have changed since those pre-teen and early teen years.

Now it is perfectly acceptable to broadcast over the Internet and news media one's personal tragedies, sufferings, and failures. In fact, it has become almost expected of us to do so.

This Sunday morning, I awoke to the "news" of the divorce of recently retired Bishop Gene Robinson from his homosexual husband. Bishop Robinson wrote a letter to his diocese explaining his side of the story. Although this did not make the NBC evening news that night, it was publicized via AP and Yahoo.

The Bishops' defenders were quick to issue a warning to us mean-spirited bloggers,
"Jim Naughton an Episcopal advocate for gay rights and co-founder of Canticle Communications, said the 'strength, grace and generosity' shown by Robinson and Andrew during the challenges of the last decade 'will always be a source of inspiration' for Episcopalians and Anglicans seeking acceptance of gay relationships. He added, 'Anyone who is using this moment to pass judgment on what kinds of Christians LGBT people are needs to reflect more deeply on their own Christianity.'" (AP)
As I noted elsewhere on the web,
"As this divorce was rumored to be in the works during his active employment as a bishop and is only now going public after his retirement, it puts the lie to any talk whatsoever of "lifelong committed monogamous relationships" that may have come out of his mouth for the past couple of years."
While I am sure that Gene Robinson is undergoing some emotional anguish, and to that extent I am sympathetic, I will pass judgment on one or two points.

  • A homosexual marriage in the eyes of the state of New Hampshire is not the same as a Christian marriage. Revisionists must continue to insist that Gene Robinson was married to another man. There is no room for backtracking on that point lest one be accused of needing to reflect more deeply on their own Christianity. 
  • A homosexual divorce is not a divorce in the eyes of the Church, but the revisionist must stick to their guns and insist that it is equivalent if not all the more tragic.
  • To use the language of divorce and marriage in the context of Gene Robinson's living arrangements serves to perpetuate a separate agenda, the ultimate goal of which is to eliminate all vestiges of the traditional meaning associated with Christian marriage as we once knew it.
  • Divorce in the ranks of the ordained has, through tolerance, gained acceptance (case in point the Bishop of Northern California), and there is no longer any shame associated with publicly stating,
"It is at least a small comfort to me, as a gay rights and marriage equality advocate, to know that like any marriage, gay and lesbian couples are subject to the same complications and hardships that afflict marriages between heterosexual couples," Robinson wrote. "All of us sincerely intend, when we take our wedding vows, to live up to the ideal of 'til death do us part. But not all of us are able to see this through until death indeed parts us." Gene Robinson (AP)
Not that the proud are usually affected by shame.

Sunday, May 04, 2014

Episcopal Chess

I never was very good at chess partly because I was never patient enough to think through more than a few possible future moves, and partly because my best friend was a chess master who would deride my "unconventional moves" without explaining why he considered them to be risky. 

As far as the Church game of Episcopal Chess goes, I think I have it figured out. If you are ready to learn the game, the following is my explanation. 

Disclaimer: Real "Chess" is a game with rules that two opposing players agree to follow.

The Playing Field: Neutral and Non-neutral squares arranged in horizontal pews and vertical aisles. 
Players: (2 or more)
Goal(s): To tie up the opposing Archbishop by a "Final Court Order," or to pursue him with endless litigation into "Court-mate".

Pieces (per side):
  • Pewsitters (8): Placed one pew ahead of the other pieces. May advance and be seated only one pew at a time except on its first move when it can jump two pews. This is to be forgiven because they are considered to be "newcomer" pewsitters. The Pewsitters' front line position makes them especially vulnerable to being taken in by the other pieces, and their greater numbers makes them more suitable to be sacrificed for the end game. Pewsitters may take an opposing piece if that piece poses an immediate threat to their seat or position. Often the pewsitter obstructs the progressive goal of the stronger piece  behind it and must be either sacrificed or moved forward against its will.
  • Cathedrals (2): These must move in straight lines and may travel as far from the baseline as they desire. Cathedrals should have a Bishop in order to function properly. If its Bishop falls, the Cathedral and its contents are to be converted into a Pewsitter. 
  • Lawyers (2): Are permitted to jump around and thrust subpoenas deep into enemy territory. They can tie up vast numbers of Bishops, Cathedrals, and Pewsitters by the mere threat of their motions. 
  • Bishops (2): May move diagonally, forwards or backwards at will, unless otherwise commanded by the Queen. 
  • Archbishop (1): The most important but perhaps the weakest piece. Totally dependent on the other pieces for survival, the Archbishop can only move one tentative step at a time and must be careful not to step anywhere that might result in getting broadsided by a Bishop, hit with a subpoena from a Lawyer, or having a Cathedral fall on him. Pewsitters are generally not considered to pose a threat, but the Archbishop must have Queens to protect him lest he be cornered by even the lowliest of pieces.
  • Presiding Queen (1): This is the most powerful piece. She may move in any direction she fancies and is extremely threatening, striking down enemies at a distance with her long crozier and imposing fear at the mere sight of her spectacular miter. 

Special Rules:

Deposing: A Bishop may be "deposed" and converted into a Pewsitter if that Bishop fails to follow the Queen's rules.

En Pewssant: A progressive newcomer Pewsitter is permitted to knock over unwary, traditionally moving opposing Pewsitters by jumping two pews in its initial move which it is allowed to do only if it has willed all of its personal property to its Presiding Queen.

Cathedraling: At the behest of the Archbishop, a Cathedral can be relocated to a more strategic position and given to another Bishop (the Bishop may be chosen by the Queen from discarded Bishops that have been retired from the playing field).

Queening a Pewsitter: On rare occasions a Pewsitter may advance cleanly over all the pews and elect to change gender and become a Presiding Queen. Ordinarily, a powerful Presiding Queen would feel jealous of this upstart's move, but this being an inclusive game, she must hide her true feelings until the opposing Archbishop is placed into Court-mate after which time all rules are suspended as the victorious pieces fight over the wallets of the remaining Pewsitters and the walls of any surviving, crumbling Cathedrals.

Opening Moves: Past games have revealed several interesting opening moves which some have termed "Opening Gambles".

1) The Beers Gamble: This is an attempt to use your Lawyers to directly attack the opposing Bishop or Archbishop by filing lawsuits in order to confiscate Cathedrals and all the other pieces on the board in one all or nothing move.
2) The Schori Gamble: In this bold move, the Presiding Queen ignores the intervening pieces, and in violation of the rules, deposes an opposing Archbishop or Bishop. 
Defensive Strategies: Similarly, various defensive strategies have been used to counter these aggressive opening moves.

The San Joaquin Defense: In this maneuver, the lawyers are moved forward to protect the Cathedrals, Bishops, and Pewsitters. Unfortunately, the rules of Episcopal Chess may vary depending on where you are playing making this defense a poor choice in some locales.
The South Carolina Defense: This defensive strategy, often confused with an opening gamble,  involves permitting your opponent to set up their pieces on  a separate game board from which their Lawyers, Pewsitters,, Bishops, and Queens cannot mount an attack. This strategy also works only in specific locales.

Parental Warning: The game of Episcopal Chess is not appropriate for adults. If adults are caught by their Father playing this game, their game boards will be taken away from them and their game pieces will be cast into the darkness of the depths of the toy box.  

....where there shall be great weeping and gnashing of teeth.