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Saturday, December 08, 2007

Open & Affirming Panel Discussion Two

Another point on this topic is whether churches should publicize their status as an "open & affirming" congregation. Here's something the UCC does. Chalice says this on its website:
From the earliest musings about our church, we identified ourselves as people who embrace and celebrate diversity. We are toddlers, grandparents, newborns, first-time parents, empty-nesters, singles, widows, adolescents, teens and newly-weds. All of God's children are welcome here regardless of faith heritage, ethnicity, gender, education, sexual identity, age or ability.
It is under the tag "Who Are We." It could be on the front page of the website. It could be on our bulletins that we hand out. We could fly a rainbow flag over the building. We could be as sensitive in referring to families to be inclusive of gay couples as we are inclusive of blended families.

Here's an argument against doing this: Why should we have to say that, why not just say we accept everyone?

If you think about this for race & gender it makes a lot of sense. What do you think about a church that says, "We welcome people of all races!"? Isn't there a part of you that says, "Well, good for you."?

I think it is different with being open & affirming. I think telling people you accept gays is a stand in for all kinds of things. I would love to hear from some non-church goers on this. What do it mean to you when you hear that a church is welcoming and supportive of the GLBT community? Should a church advertise this fact about itself?

[Side note: What does a church need to do before it is open & affirming? Congregational vote? Hire an Open & Affirming Pastor? Fly a rainbow flag?]

Open & Affirming Panel Discussion One

Tomorrow I am speaking on a panel about issues associated with being an open and affirming church. I am planning on giving the blog's address as a place where people can go to discuss further. Here's the first topic:

Is it right to accept gay people (or more completely gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people)? By is it right, must means is it compatible with my Christian faith.

ReligousTolerance.org has a marvelous article on the topic, providing a careful examination of the Biblical issues in play. It's a good article. Strangely, on the first page of Google, this, was the best anti-gay site. It seems to pretty casually dismiss the issue that gay people feel that they are born gay and that it is not a choice. I'm sure there is better stuff out there. Maybe someone gay post something.

This is how it breaks down for me. Jesus completed the old testament law by bringing infusing it with love. Look at the Sermon on the Mount we've been reading. At each point Jesus says the important thing is love.

I cannot deny the love between two consenting adults. Although many who have a different view certainly know gay people, having friends who are gay makes it impossible for me to maintain the opinion that there love is a sin. So, I think it is right to throw our doors open to the GLBT community and to affirm their place as a part of God's creation.

What do others think?

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Kennedy versus Romney

Here is a comparison of Romney's cover of JFK's religion speech.

Both men listed the issue other than religion facing America. Here’s what Kennedy listed:
the spread of Communist influence, until it now festers 90 miles off the coast of Florida--the humiliating treatment of our President and Vice President by those who no longer respect our power--the hungry children I saw in West Virginia, the old people who cannot pay their doctor bills, the families forced to give up their farms--an America with too many slums, with too few schools, and too late to the moon and outer space.
And Mr. Romney:
Radical violent Islam seeks to destroy us. An emerging China endeavors to surpass our economic leadership. And we are troubled at home by government overspending, overuse of foreign oil, and the breakdown of the family.
While Kennedy characterized these as “the real issues which should decide th[e] campaign” then went on to discuss his religion because he was “a Catholic, and no Catholic has ever been elected President,” Romney began with what he termed “a topic which I believe is fundamental to America's greatness: our religious liberty.”

It turns out the take away moment from the Kennedy speech most reported by the media is what stuck out most for me:
I believe in an America where the separation of church and state is absolute--where no Catholic prelate would tell the President (should he be Catholic) how to act, and no Protestant minister would tell his parishioners for whom to vote--where no church or church school is granted any public funds or political preference--and where no man is denied public office merely because his religion differs from the President who might appoint him or the people who might elect him.
Romney said basically the same thing with this:
Let me assure you that no authorities of my church, or of any other church for that matter, will ever exert influence on presidential decisions. Their authority is theirs, within the province of church affairs, and it ends where the affairs of the nation begin.


But Romney focused on the role of religion in the foundation of the country:
We should acknowledge the Creator as did the Founders – in ceremony and word. He should remain on our currency, in our pledge, in the teaching of our history, and during the holiday season, nativity scenes and menorahs should be welcome in our public places. Our greatness would not long endure without judges who respect the foundation of faith upon which our constitution rests. I will take care to separate the affairs of government from any religion, but I will not separate us from 'the God who gave us liberty.'
Kennedy chose to point out the danger of religion interfering with government:
For while this year it may be a Catholic against whom the finger of suspicion is pointed, in other years it has been, and may someday be again, a Jew--or a Quaker--or a Unitarian--or a Baptist. It was Virginia's harassment of Baptist preachers, for example, that helped lead to Jefferson's statute of religious freedom. Today I may be the victim- -but tomorrow it may be you--until the whole fabric of our harmonious society is ripped at a time of great national peril.

First off, it is remarkable how similar Romney's speech was in structure to Kennedy's. I started by calling it a parody, but I he was being serious, so I think calling it a cover is better.

The next thing is that Romney believes we need religion to have freedom. He says that judges need to respect the foundation of faith that underlies the constitution. So, what the heck does he mean by separation of church and state?

It's fine that the Prophet will not have a direct line to the President, but if he is appointing judges who will consider the supposed religious underpinnings of the constitution, that's a huge problem. This speech has enhanced my concerns about the impact of Romney's religion on how he would behave as president.

Impulse giving

Impulse buying and Retail therapy both rate their own article in Wikipedia. This ideas of reckless spending are probably promoted in no small part by reckless spenders wanting to feel that they are just like everyone else. (I just came across an msn article suggesting that most of us actually have very little credit card debt.)

What do you think of a new idea: Impulse giving & charitable therapy? I think it is practiced by a lot of people too. I wonder, is it better than its commercial counterparts?

Here's where the missed opportunity analysis comes in. If I give a homeless guy a fiver (impulse giving), in a sense I'm hurting him by not giving the fiver to United Way or Habitat for Humanity. If I donate $100 to every charity that asks, first you'll be asked by a LOT of charities, but then later regret my generosity, I may have done some spiritual damage to myself.

These reservations notwithstanding, do you think we can get the same high we get from buying a new toy by making a generous donation? I am asking seriously because I think maybe we can.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Proof for the Nonexistance of America

Here is the proof by evil for the nonexistence of god: (1) If there is a God he is good and omnipotent(2) An omnipotent God can prevent evil (3) There is evil (4) Therefore, God does not prevent it. (5) A good being would prevent evil. (6)Therefore, God is either not good or not omnipotent. (7) Therefore, there is no God.

{If you care, BTW, God is not omnipotent. Also, good is a term that only applies to humans, not God. And of course, there are times when a good being would permit evil Just for starters.}

Okay, well, dig on these stories:
A teacher was sentence to prison for allowing a bear to be named Mohammed.
A rape victim was sentenced to 90 lashes and prison.
And a 12-year-old girl was charged with having illicit sexual relations with her abusers.

(Thanks Matt for providing me with the last one.)

So, you're a part of the world super power. What do you do about it? These stories are weeks old, they represent ongoing oppression of women. In the story linked to the second story about, the President said that the Saudi king knows that the President objects. Can we do anything else? Apartheid eventually went away. Could we have done more to help the process move more quickly? See Iraq & Vietnam. Do we have to sit around and not exercise our power like some non-existent God?

Sunday, December 02, 2007

God's rule around the corner?

Today's scripture reading was from Isaiah 2:1-5, which discusses the reign of God bound to come in the future. As Christians, we relate to the Prophet's promise of miraculous joy to come in this season when we await the coming of the Christ child.

But look, it turns out that the two candidates with the highest rating from the God-o-meter (Huckabee & Obama) are leading in Iowa.

Okay, I don't think the scripture from Isaiah is about to be fulfilled, but I do think it is interesting that the two guys who are most comfortable talking about faith in a meaningful way are on top.

The links on the candidates are to their issues page. I strongly support Obama. I think he has the right vision for the country and the intelligence and drive to get it done. I think he can lead us from a place of hope rather than fear, and I think he more that the others will be less inclined to continue the corruption that is rampant.

I did check out Huckabee and encourage others to do the same. I disagree with him on some show stoppers: he favors federal amendments to oppress gays and criminalize abortion and does not believe in evolution, for instance. However, he does see his faith as driving him to compassion. While touting his strong anti-abortion stance he includes this:

To me, life doesn't begin at conception and end at birth. Every child deserves a quality education, first-rate health care, decent housing in a safe neighborhood, and clean air and drinking water. Every child deserves the opportunity to discover and use his God-given gifts and talents.
I hope he becomes the candidate. Not because I think he will easily be defeated, but because he seems willing to first off, really engage in discussions of the issues and second off, be an open Christian from the political right that doesn't make me cringe.