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Saturday, November 01, 2008

Opposing Equal Marriage Rights (Part I)

I'm not sure how many measures that restrict equal treatment of gay couples will be voted on this year. Proposition 8 in California and Proposition 102 in Arizona are two of them. They ask voters to limit the right to marry to straight couples. Here is the full text of each:
Prop. 8: Only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California. link.
Prop. 102: Only a union of one man and one woman shall be valid or recognized as marriage in this state. link.

I think these amendments violate the Equal Protection Clause of the United States Constitution. Jim can marry Julie, but Jane cannot. The only reason Jane cannot is that Jane is a woman. Thus, these laws discriminate based solely on gender. Gender is a protected class.

That said, I think it would be much better to win these initiative fights, and to win them by convincing the population at large that it is the right thing to do. Basically, I think justice minded Christians need to first show others that the Bible does not mandate unequal treatment of gays. Then we must show others that the central message of Jesus Christ demands equal treatment of all of God's people.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Moment of Zen

So, I was reading this story about the discovery of a 3000 year-old shard that contains Hebrew text. I called this a moment of zen because I don't have a fully developed thought, but just wanted to ponder how many years 3000 years is. Think about how hard it is to understand the context of words written on a shard. Think about two thousand year old texts from the Dead Sea scrolls.

Anyway, there you are. Food for thought.

Thursday, October 30, 2008


WARNING: This post contains material not suitable for human consumptions. This a web video produced to support Elizabeth Dole's bid for re-election. [The ad has been taken down from Youtube.] Dole ties Hagan to the Godless America PAC as follows: one of several sponsors of a fundraiser for Hagan, served on the board for the Godless America PAC. It is the exact trick of guilt by super attenuated association used by Republicans attacking Obama. It makes me sick to my stomach, but if you'd like to see it, here is the ad.

Here is what Hagan had to say about this crap. Oh yeah, and she's suing Dole for libel and defamation. [CBS story here.] From, Willy Horton, Swift Boat Veterans, A triple amputee is Osama bin Ladin, to Obama's a Terrorist, this is a Republican problem. All politicians are not the same when it comes to smear pieces. The current Rovian incarnation of the Republican Party will say literally anything to get elected. There are completely immoral, unchecked thugs. It is time for Republicans to start saying this is enough. This is wrong. And it is time for the liars and hate mongers to start paying damages.


Jim III is on the far left next to the kid holding up the trophy. Last weekend his team, the Mesa Prep. Monsoons, dominated Glendale Prep. to win the Great Hearts Academy Championship.

Clarification Re: Literalism

I'm not sure what made me think of this, but it occurs to me that talking with folks who believe "every word of the Bible is literally true" I generally fail to clarify something. I think these people view my position as being now that we know so much about science and evidence we no longer believe the Bible. That is, it is a recent discovery that the world was not created in seven days. That is not what I believe. Rather, I believe that when the stories were recorded the stories weren't intended to be scientific. I believe that the authors of the two Nativities were not trying to give us the facts of Jesus' origin; the authors were trying to tell us something about Jesus' ministry.

In other words, I don't think the authors of the Bible were wrong; I just think literalists are wrong. Hmm, maybe I need to work on a more diplomatic phrasing.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Q&A Update

In a response to the original post Linda wrote, "It's hard for the atheist or one with a latent belief in God to find a group of people who are interested in them -- in knowing why they affirm their atheism or why they have moved away from organized religion." This reminded me of a major benefit of being a member of Chalice--you have people who care about you.

I have a loving family. I am still very close to my friends from college. For that matter, there are many people I work with and know from law school who care about me and are interested in me. So, my embarrassment of riches causes me to over look this benefit because to be honest it isn't something I look for from my church. But it is always there. And when my father passed away recently, the compassion from the people at Chalice was marvelous and palpable. It was a time when I was so in need of love, that I could feel it from all of the sources I mentioned above, including the folks at Chalice.

Having a group of people who care about you, who are interested in you, is probably not an uncommon benefit of belonging to a Church, but as Linda points out, having a group that is so accepting may be more so.

Q & A

QUESTION: What do you think someone might get out of attending your church? Do you see it as a case where someone who has some light or latent belief in God might be moved to rejoin a congregation? Or do you think an atheist might be converted? Or not converted but moved in some way to attend your church? And if it's the latter, what would an atheist who remains an atheist get out of your church?

ANSWER: I think someone attending my church, no matter what their theology is, would get an opportunity to serve their community in various ways. For example, Kate put together a group of people that knits shawls for children at Phoenix Children's Hospital, once a month we feed homeless people, we have resettled refugee families, we occasionally have trips to fill water tanks to save those crossing the desert who would otherwise die, and of course, we have many opportunities for directed contributions wherein virtually 100% of the donation reaches the needy.

Any of these things are available elsewhere, I suppose. But this is all in one place. It is very accessible. There are a variety of opportunities. Oh yeah, and if you have a new idea--go for it. A woman in our church recently started collecting sample bags that you get when you buy make-up. She takes them to women's shelters a couple of times a year. It helps the women if they need to go on a job interview, and at Christmas it is nice for the women, as well as the children, to get a little gift.

I think someone attending my church, no matter what their theology is, could develop their inner self. For example, one of the advantages of intercessory prayer that we came across when investigating it earlier was developing our sense of empathy. Likewise, our service offers individuals a chance to quietly reflect on the week. Sermons often focus on how to be better people, rather than on abstract theological ideas. Obviously, you can be quiet by yourself; you can discuss how to be a better person with your friends and loved ones. However, like going to Weight Watchers, or AA, or a college class on literature there are real benefits to exploring these topics intentionally.

I think the first two categories would be every bit as valuable to a committed atheist as to anyone. However, someone who has some light or latent belief in God could develop their beliefs about God & faith. Our slogan is "where questions are as important as answers." That attitude of encouraging questioning is in every level of faith development classes. So, for the little kids in my classes I ask questions like, "What do you think, is Jacob a good guy or a bad guy?" Then poll the kids and get different answers and ask them why they think that. For the junior high and high school students we do a great job of encouraging conversation about how faith affects their lives (but frankly I think many churches do a good job of this). The big difference is that in our adult Sunday school classes conversations have included exploration of bodily resurrection (with a number of folks being on both sides of the issue); does God evolve and change over time; defining sacred; etc. Big, challenging questions. People often remark at how great it is to be able to openly question things.

Now, I think many atheist would find this conversations riveting. But for those who feel like they believe in something spiritual but have rejected organized religion as having answers for them, would be surprised by the breadth of inquiry that goes on at Chalice.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Regional Assembly: Church on the Margins

Over the weekend, Rev. Carlos Cardoza-Orlandi delivered a message titled "Church on the Margins." The message focused on Peter's famous dream to "kill and eat," a wonderful passage that is the basis for Christianity not being confined to a particular ethnic group, available here. Rev. Cardoza-Orlandi focused on the questions Peter asked. It reminded me of Chalice's slogan, "Where questions are as important as answers." Originally it was "Where questions are more important that answers." Hearing the message at assembly I think we should have stuck to that. In a world that changes as rapidly as ours, I suspect the most important thing for relevance, the most important thing for survival is to make sure you are asking the relevant questions.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Regional Assembly: Dept. of Peace

This weekend I attended a gathering of Arizona Disciples called Regaional Assembly. It was a wonderful event that gave me an opportunity to catch up with many members of the denomination who I only see at events like this.

One of the workshops I went to was put on by Terri Mansfield from the Arizona Department of Peace movement. Website I learned a couple of things about the movement, which I'm ashamed to admit I though was invented by Dennis Kucinich. I learned that the first mention of such a department was by in 1792 by Benjamin Rush wrote an extraordinary essay titled "A Plan of a Peace Office for the United States". More here. I also learned that they work with reconciliation in domestic matters as well as foreign matters.

What ocurred to me during the workshop was how easy it is to have an impact on the political process, if you really believe in what you're pushing for. It is the kind of stuff that makes me hopeful.