Churches On The Side of Equality

It is easy to characterize all of Christianity as opposed to LGBT issues and the gay civil rights movement, but this would be both inaccurate and hurtful to the many people of faith who work, sometimes quietly and sometimes more blatantly from within various church traditions. One of the most recent to be cast into a spot light is the United Methodist congregation at Dunbarton UMC in Washington DC. I have been to Dunbarton, but it has been years and years ago, and one of my best friends is someone I met because of Dunbarton. I also remember another Methodist minister, the Rev Jimmy Creech, who the Methodist denomination robbed him of his ministry because he had the courage to do what he felt was right and marry a same-sex couple.

So often, we see the issue of same-sex marriage, as being a civil issue, and the DC Marriage ordinance is a prime example of that. However, it is also a spiritual matter, and the debate exists within the church as well as within the civil society. And that brings us to Dunbarton United Methodist Church in DC.

Clergy at Dumbarton United Methodist Church in Georgetown said they will conduct same-sex weddings despite the denomination’s ban against the practice. “As a pastor, I am called to extend care and grace to all people even as Jesus did,” said Rev. Mary Kay Totty, pastor of Dumbarton, in a statement Wednesday. “We celebrate love and loyalty wherever it is found.” Dumbarton’s Church Council had voted last month to “honor and celebrate the wedding of any couple, licensed in the District of Columbia, who seek to commit their lives to one another in marriage.” No other Methodist congregation in Washington is sanctioning gay and lesbian weddings, according to Dumbarton.

This is a very big deal because the United Methodist Church does not allow same-sex marriage and forbids its pastors from performing these ceremonies. Will the paster, like Jimmy Creech and others before, be let go, and removed from the ministry, or will the congregation, which feels it is acting on the right side of Faith prevail?

Without much difficulty, it is possible to find people who fall on either side of that issue. John Meunier sees the congregation’s actions from the perspective of ethics, and deems them acting in relation to a conflict of error:

Error – We have a duty to teach what the church teaches, but our conscience – after much painful trial – is convinced the church is wrong. Here we have a case of error. Either the church or the individual is wrong. Both cannot be right.

By “church” here, he means the denomination, and by individual, he means the congregation.

However, Ray McDonald takes a very different approach. He sees the Hebrew Scripture story of Daniel as offering the answer, and summerizes:

I believe that the law of God is far superior to the law of the state…

For McDonald, no distinction is drawn for Church Law as if it has any potential to be different than God’s Law. Like many Christians, McDonald is too caught up in the Old Testament to remember that the followers of Jesus are not bound to the Laws of Moses, but he likes the easiness of condemnation of homosexuals. I believe that the congregation at Dunbarton believe they are aligned with God’s Law as well as the Law of the government, and see the Church law as unaligned with the Will of God. McDonald concludes:

Those who call themselves after Christ will face persecution from within and from outside the church.  We will be held in contempt in the courts of the land for standing up for Jesus and Biblical truth.

And while I don’t agree with him on much, I do agree that the real issue here is Biblical truth.

From the time, about 30 years after the death of Jesus, the point of it all has been Faith in Christ, but for today’s fundamentalists, Faith is not enough, and they are holding out and pushing for a “Biblical truth” that does not and can not exist. Truth is a product of Science and the evaluation of facts. Where as the very notion of the Christian Faith is Faith and belief where no facts exist or matter, and thus, there can be no single truth. Biblical truth is the position that the Bible is factual as written, a position that can not hold up to any real investigation.

So , this is the discussion or debate that Dunbarton has entered in a bigger way than ever before.

Peace and Love to this brave congregation.

Read more:

http://www.christianpost.com/article/20100303/high-court-denies-request-to-block-d-c-gay-marriage/print.html

http://www.umaffirm.org/cornews/dumbart.html

http://johnmeunier.wordpress.com/2010/03/05/duty-and-dumbarton/

http://blog.georgetownvoice.com/2010/03/04/setting-itself-apart-georgetown-church-will-celebrate-same-sex-marriages/

http://www.religiondispatches.org/blog/2325/religious_conservatives_fight_rash_of_gay_marriages/

Religion has Failed: Insanity of Christianity

I can not begin to put into words, how my views of Faith, Religion and religious expression have been shifting since I started this blog. Well, long before actually, but given that I started this blog with a purpose, it is a useful marker for those changes.
A very long time friend, Janet Edwards has begun writing op-eds for the Washington Post on Religion and associated things, and so it was with gladness that I saw that she was writing about the Ugandan effort to criminalize gays and even execute them. She was writing about this, in relation to the Christian evangelism of Africa, where she draws distinctions between an evangelism of humility and call to the teachings of Jesus, and an evangelism of coercion and manipulation. It is a great read, and like any good opinion editorial, prompts the reader to consider the issues.
Here is a link to her op-ed:
http://newsweek.washingtonpost.com/onfaith/panelists/janet_edwards/2010/03/the_fine_line_between_persuasion_and_manipulation.html

Like some of her other pieces, I wasn’t originally going to write about it. I enthusiastically, take her text in and ponder it, allowing it to ferment and give rise to thoughts and ideas. But then, I started reading the comments. A number of them, are the standard, evangelical defensiveness and victim posturing, as if fundamentalists are the poor abused minorities. They wonder what they have done to deserve such scorn, whereas Janet’s op-ed doesn’t attack evangelicals in general at all, at least in my opinion. And there were the comments made by Bible thumpers, who characteristically pull out a few Bible passages, and offer them as if they are the answer to everything. Frighteningly, these seemed to be placed there as if they support the Ugandan move towards the execution of gays. But one caught my eye, and propelled me into this post:

Clearly, the idiots like Janet Edwards are spreading lies. I don’t think you understand that you are doing the work of the devil by spreading LIES. Jesus Christ was crucified because of lies. I hope you understand the punishment of God for liars.
Now, Janet is an adult and I’m sure has been called far worse before and will again, so no comment from me about the personal attack against her. But the quote I want to emphasize is this: “Jesus was crucified because of lies.”  What a theologically insane thing to say! Especially when followed with a statement about God and liars, and preceded with the claim that Janet is a liar. This person can if they like, equate Janet’s opinion with a lie, and align her with other liars, and claim that God hates liars, but the assertion that Jesus was crucified because of lies can not be substantiated  theologically.
Depending upon how you read the Bible, Jesus was crucified and raised from the dead because it was God’s plan. It was ordained to be that way, even before his birth. It was a required element of the narrative, for without it, the resurrection would mean nothing.
So, one has to wonder who is the one lying and what does it mean to suggest that God is unhappy with Janet’s ideas, but God has no problem that His greatest gift to humanity, the sacrifice of his Son is so misunderstood?
My favorite character in the Bible is the apostle Paul, who can be quoted to support or condemn just about anything imaginable. He lived and wrote at a time, when he, and others were struggling to comprehend the experience of Jesus in the context of the Hebrew Faith in which it had occurred. It troubled Paul deeply, and his attempt to figure out the relationship between Jesus, the death and resurrection, and God’s promise to the Jews is an underlying theme through out all of his letters. What was the role of the Law of Moses and now, God’s covenant through Christ- how to reconcile these things? How many of today’s far-right Christian fanatics seem to have no sense of this issue or theological problem!  They are stuck at the math equation of “2+2” but seem oblivious to the fact that the result is “5” and the equation and result can not be aligned.
What’s wrong with Fundamentalism, and the evangelicalism that grows from it, is that it has no basis in a sound theology. It is a bastardization of Christian Faith and lacks realistic, meaningful, and thoughtful theological basis. The truly faithful ought to be outraged, and alarmed by this. Real Faith, Real theology, and Real religion lose when this insanity reigns. Those who label themselves as the unfaithful or non-believers are not killing God or the opportunity for Faith. It is the insane within the Fundamentalist movement who are destroying the value of Faith and religion in real life.

Queer Look Podcast to Return Soon!

It’s a long story why I stopped producing the queer Look at the Bible Podcast, but the short answer is that it is about to return! Each week, I’ll look at the week’s lectionary readings from the QP (the queer Perspective, and assign each a QP ranking. That is, just how “queer” is the scripture on a scale of 1 bible (not at all queer) to 5 bibles (way way queer!). Most consider that the Bible is condemning of homosexuality, but I think what we are going to find is that the vast majority of it has absolutely nothing to do with homosexuality, and will score a 1bible ranking. The passages that appear to be about homosexuality will be few and score a 5bible ranking. There is just the question about what to do with the issue of passages that appear pro-homosexual, and those which appear as anti-homosexual. In terms of my QP ranking, I won’t make any distinction/ for or against, it is still queer. but I will talk about each to see what we can learn about how pro- or anti the passages might actually be.

A Queer Look at the Bible isn’t intended only for the religious, but for everyone, even those who see themselves as atheists or agnostics. But I’m not trying to convert you. You are welcome here, no matter what your faith (or lack of faith) tradition. and here is why. If you are a gay, lesbian, bisexual, straight, or transgendered person, the Bible impact your life today, here in 2009. Doesn’t matter if you are a believer or not. The Bible serves as the foundation of all of the opposition to GLBTQ rights, as well as many of the conservative movements, such as to deny a woman’s right to choice. The growing battle cry of this radical right movement, is Religious Liberties, as if they own the Bible, and everything in it is on their side. but they don’t, and it isn’t. and the more everyone knows about that the easier it is to see through the fallacious arguments that they put forth.

Let me say, as straight (ha ha) forwardly as I can. I am not anti-God. I am not anti-Bible. I am not anti-Faith. I just think that the Bible has been co-opted by the radical right, and t is time to take it back and put it out there for anyone to pick up and consider. And the best way to do that it to take a new look at it- a Queer Look. If I can rightfully be accused of anything, it may be that I can come across as anti-religious. Like many theologians since the beginning of the Judeo-Christian story, I ask that rather than simply wearing “religious” as an adjective to describe oneself, consider it a journey to be traveled. Consider it a puzzle to be pondered. consider it a question to be asked rather than answered. I am fairly anti- those who self-righteously think they have all the answers. I certainly don’t have them. But I have and can ask and explore questions. I think that when we are willing to ask, and see where the question takes us, we can find things we never anticipated. That for me, is about hearing God.

I’m going to start by producing an audio podcast in the iTunes enhanced podcast format, but there will also be an MP# file to download for other brands of players. Each week’s podcast will be a part of a blog post that has notes and stuff I want to share. Feel free to comment here, but please be warned. I have no patience for folks who can;’t do any more than tell me I’m going to hell, or can’t say anything except to quote scripture, or issue some blanket generalized statement with out anything backing it up. I will only accept comments from real people (no anonymous postings) who register for the site. If you don’t have the guts to have a name and an email, I don’t have the time for you. But feel free to disagree with me- just be man or woman enough to represent yourself authentically.

So you ready for a Queer Look! Great! Glad to have you along!

Faith and the Question “What if you’re wrong?”

Saw this posted to Facebook, by Patrick Yaeger who maintains the GCRM Media Center on Facebook, an unbelievably wonderful resource.

Dawkins is asked at a lecture, what if he is wrong, and the video is of his reply. This is where I think most contemporary Christians, and all far right religious zealots and bigots have it all wrong. They are so sure that they are right. Faith isn’t about “knowing you are right.” Faith is about trusting God without knowing you are right.

Abraham is the Father of Faith, and the most basic Biblical story of Faith is the story of Abraham sacrificing Isaac. If Abraham took Isaac to the mountain and wasn’t afraid of what would happen- in other words, on the way up the mountain, his mind was full of the thoughts “God won’t let my son die,” Then he really had no faith. He would know everything, and would in essence, be God. If Abraham had gone up the mountain believing it was God’s will to kill his son, he really had no faith. He would have been a murderer, who thought that murder was justified. But the truth is that Abraham made his way up the mountain, not knowing what would happen, and he had the strength to do that precisely because he had faith. He had no idea what would happen. But he knew his job was to trust God. God gave Abraham specific instructions and Abraham followed them.

Most important to the story is that Abraham says nothing to anyone about what is about to happen. This too is a part of having faith. This is where today’s Christians get it all wrong. They don’t stay with the not knowing and following God’s directions because that is very difficult, and they have too little faith to sustain them. So they move to a place of knowing they are right, and trying to push that on everyone else, to create a self-fulfilling prophesy.

YouTube – Richard Dawkins – “What if you’re wrong?”.

My Work is Done.

Church of the Resurrection : Show : When in Conflict with Science or Married to Politics

Well it isn’t so much that I have done anything, but it is already being done by others, far better than I could ever done it. A commenter on my other blog, thomascwaters.com send me this link to a Methodist church’s on-line sermon. Good stuff here. Now, maybe the whole work isn’t done, burt there is still good stuff here.

Church of the Resurrection : Show : When in Conflict with Science or Married to Politics.

Do Family Values Lead to Family Violence?

Wanted to post think link here, as so much of the arguments raised or discussed are biblical.  A long article well worth the time to read it.

Matthew Herbst : Do Family Values Lead to Family Violence?: A consideration of the idea of family – Quodlibet Journal.

Why I Use the Lectionary

Gayest Jesus Ever
Gayest Jesus Ever

So, I  want to say something about why I’m using the lectionary.  First of all the lectionary, is a set of prescribed scripture readings that follow a three year calendar, and were intended to be used by all churches.  Theoretically, people who attend a Catholic service, and a Methodist service and an Episcopalian service on any particular Sunday, would all hear a sermon based upon the same scriptures.  Now, in reality, this doesn’t happen exactly- not all preachers/ministers/priests stick to the lectionary, but some do.

 
My reason for using it is three-fold: First of all, because it s easy.  I don’t have to work very hard to decide what I’m going to talk about each week. And by following it, I have scriptural references that align to the general church calendar, and all of the Bible is basically covered over three years.  Secondly, I can potentially be less often criticized for selecting only those scriptures that “fit” my agenda.  Now, in all honesty, I expect I’ll receive this criticism anyway, but it isn’t as applicable as if I hand picked only a few scriptures that easily fit the category of “gay friendly.” And lastly, what appeals to me most, is offering a new and different perspective upon a scripture that many people think they already know.  If at least one person looks at a scripture and realizes that there may be more in it that they had previously considered, then I’ve been successful.  So, it is a good thing, if someone sat in church on Sunday and heard one interpretation of a scripture, and then they listened to my podcast and were prompted to consider something new in the same scripture!  Agree with me or not-but be willing to consider the possibilities.
 
There are many problems with using the lectionary, and most if not all are quite valid.  There may be times where looking at scripture NOT a part of the lectionary would be useful.  So, it isn’t a hard and fast rigid rule.  Just a starting place.  The composition of the lectionary, like the entire Bible itself, was human (male specific) determined .  In that sense the lectionary, is one male-centered editorial decision based upon an deeper male dominated editorial decision.  
 
I don’t mean to suggest (well, I’m open to discuss this…) that the Bible is human authored.  I know for many people of faith it is a critical cornerstone of their faith to believe that the Bible is the literal Word  of God. It may or may not be.  But either way, men, at differing times in history have made choices about which of those words were to be included and which were to be kept out.  Men (human and biologically male) decided which were valid and which were not, even if all were the Word of God in the first place.
 
What are your thoughts on the lectionary?