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Friday, May 01, 2009


So, tonight started with a simple objective: Find out who really said, "In essentials unity, in nonessentials liberty, in all things charity" (or in all things love as the Anglican priest I was talking to tonight put it.)

BTW, it appears to not just be a prominent slogan of the Restoration Movement and the Disciple Church, but the motto of the Moravian Church. I became familiar with it as the former and learned tonight about the latter. It appears that St. Augustine said it first, or something very similar. Then John Wesley and a bunch of other people I don't recongize are attributed with saying it. Anyway, that was fine, but a little frustrating when you can get definitive answers for definitive questions online.

Here's the problem though. There are just hordes of hateful Christians who lash out against this slogan. They are so full of hatred. There are so many of them. Of course, I realize it is just the internet. If you read the comments on just about any big blog you would think the world is full of hateful small minded morons. I don't think it is a representative sample of the world or even the people who read those blogs. So, I should put any more credance in what I read from online Christians. But it is really tiring.

Devout Christians Are More Likely to Support Torture

Here are the survey details. First, I want to note how horrific it is on its face. Before looking at what this represents, there are many, many Americans who believe that torture is often necessary. How disastrous.

The next tragedy of this poll is that it shows that Christianity is in the process of being reduced to a political movement. The very strong correlation between going to church often and being a Republican should sound alarm bells for Christians. At FiveThirtyEight.Com, Nate Silvers discussed marriage equality noting
It turns out that you can build a very effective model by including just three variables:

1. The year in which the amendment was voted upon;
2. The percentage of adults in 2008 Gallup tracking surveys who said that religion was an important part of their daily lives;
3. The percentage of white evangelicals in the state.
Link. In other words, it doesn't matter whether it is something that Jesus would have clearly condemned--torturing another human being--or something with considerable biblical support--traditional marriage wherein a man possesses one or many wives--Christian support for the policy is more closely correlated to the Republican Party's position than Jesus' position. BTW, this is not an accident. The Republican Party in the late 80's made a very concerted effort to get church voters. It worked hard to move American congregations to the right and over many years it has paid off. The result is not just that the Republicans have got more votes, in a powerful feedback loop, the church has stopped speaking to liberals and liberals have stopped caring about the church.

And that my brothers and sisters is why mainline Protestant churches need to start standing for something. My suggestion is that we stand for Economic Justice for the poor; that we stand for Equality for the Outcast; that we stand for being Good stewards of what God gave us. And when people say things that are wrong, particularly in the name of Jesus Christ, we say they are wrong. And if we need to do it loudly, so be it.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

A Sufi Story for the Christian Church (Disc. of Christ)

Sufism is a branch of Islam that is more contemplative. Sufis are famous for their poetry and their story telling. The following made me think about a cunundrum for the Christian Church (Disc. of Christ). While some denominations like the UCC and United Methodists have come out in support of gay rights, the Disciples are slow to do so. That is because our church has a strong tradition of being open to all viewpoints, and we don't want to exclude the anti-gay viewpoint. Well, I think we should not exclude any PERSON, but we are as called to denounce the anti-gay viewpoint as the anti-Black or anti-woman viewpoint. I believe the following applies to us:
A Stream In the Desert

A stream, from its source in far-off mountains, passing through every kind and description of countryside, at last reached the sands of the desert. Just as it had crossed every other barrier, the stream tried to cross this one, but it found that as fast as it ran into the sand, its waters disappeared.

It was convinced, however, that its destiny was to cross this desert, and yet there was no
way. Now a hidden voice, coming from the desert itself, whispered: "The Wind crosses the desert, and so can the stream."

The stream objected that it was dashing itself against the sand, and only getting absorbed: that the wind could fly, and this was why it could
cross a desert.

"By hurtling in your own accustomed way you cannot get across. You will either disappear or become a marsh. You must allow the wind to carry you over, to your destination."

"But how could this happen?"

"By allowing yourself to be absorbed in the wind."

This idea was not acceptable to the stream. After all, it had never been absorbed before. It did
not want to lose its individuality. And, once having lost it, how was one to know that it could
ever be regained?

"The wind," said the sand, "performs this function. It takes up water, carries it over the desert,
and then lets it fall again. Falling as rain, the water again becomes a river."

"How can I know that this is true?"

"It is so, and if you do not believe it, you cannot become more than a quagmire, and even that could take many, many years; and it certainly is not the same as a stream."

"But can I not remain the same stream that I am today?"

"You cannot in either case remain so," the whisper said. "Your essential part is carried away and forms a stream again. You are called what you are even today because you do not know which part of you is the essential one."
Huston Smith brought the story to me, but I found it on line at The Blog of serdar. Thanks serdar.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Consequences of Hard Heartedness

Where is the balance between being principled and being realistic? When have you compromised out of respect for others, and when have you just compromised your values? These are the real politics questions that keep me up at night. I felt that Democrats through the Bush administration were to quick to compromise. They accommodated secret courts and warrantless wiretaps. Meanwhile, the right-wing extremists had a death grip on their party. They pushed their perversion of the Scripture into public policy. They demanded that their values and only their values be recognized as legitimate. They viciously attacked any who fell out of line. Most recently, even the Chairman of the RNC had to apologize to their master, Rush Limbaugh, for not showing him adequate respect.

I sort of always wondered, "Maybe we should be more that way. Maybe lefties should say we will leave the party if you don't have a Department of Peace." Or whatever.

Today the Republican Party is being punished for allowing the extremist to have such control. Arlen Specter is becoming a Democrat. He could not win in a Republican primary because of the reasons stated above. And if he accommodated these people, he would lose in the general election. I wonder how many other Republican moderates are seeing similar writing on the wall?

Monday, April 27, 2009

Happiness is . . .

. . . taking a little nap on your commute home.  (After reading about sufism to finish your chapter on Islam.)

The Five Pillars of Islam

The Good Confession: for Disciples the two parts are (1) Jesus is the Son of God and (2) Jesus is my personal Savior; for Muslims (1) there is no God but God and (2) Mohammed is God's prophet.

Prayer: Muslims are to live in prayer. (Compare 1 Thes. 5:16-18) They are to at least 5 times a day face Mecca and pray.

Charity: Christians 10% of income; Muslims 2 1/2% of income AND holdings. Also, Muslims are supposed to give directly to those in need.

Fasting: Christians still fast sometimes. Muslims fast from sun up to sun down during Ramadan, one month.

Pilgrimage: Once in their lives Muslims are to make the trip from Medina to Mecca. I don't know that Jews(Jerusalem) or Christians(Rome) have anything similar. I'm a Disciple, so I guess my Pilgrimage should be to Indianapolos, Indiana--or perhaps Cane Ridge in Kentucky.

Of course, the devil is in the details. Islam, according to Huston, recognizes four great revelations, first the oneness of God to Abraham, second the Ten Commandments to Moses, third the Greatest Commandment to Jesus (Love your God and, likewise, love your neighbor as yourself), and finally the means to carrying out love of your God and your neighbor. This results in classifying every action as some where on the continuum between required and forbidden.

These systems, for me, always fail. They are too limiting stealing joy away from their adherrents. They are too easily worked around, allowing their adherents to legally commit acts of injustice. I'm a Christian in part because I believe there are times when the right thing to do can require even breaking one of the ten commandments. I also can't help but notice that violent extremists--and I think anyone reading this can think of Christian, Muslim and Jewish examples pretty easily--often seem to be among the devotees putting the law ahead of humans.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Resurrection Texts Comparison

One of the big clues for me that I needed to read the Bible more closely was when Bishop Spong's Rescuing the Bible from Fundamentalism taught me that the nativities were irreconcilably different. I did a graph comparison of the two stories a couple of Christmases ago here. So, let's try a similar technique with the resurrection story.

So, let's start with Mark, which was written first. The story is contained in Mark 16:1-8.
The major points are that the women find a single man dressed in white. They tell no one what they saw, and Christ's ascension is implied by the ending.

The next story is from Luke. Here the women see two men, also dressed in white. They tell the disciples what happened. Jesus appears to two non-disciples on the road to Emmaus. He appears in the flesh to the disciples in Jerusalem. Then there is an ascension, which takes place in Bethany. The story is at Luke 24.

In Matthew 28 the women see an angel. Then Jesus appears to Mary in the Garden, although it is only briefly described. She tells the disciples to meet him in Galilee, which they do. Then the book ends, implying Jesus' ascension.

Finally, we have John. John spends two chapters, 20 & 21, describing Jesus' appearances. In John, no one at the tomb tells them anything. Even Peter sees the empty tomb. However, in the Garden, Jesus appears to Mary. Then he appears three times to the disciples. Twice after they went "home", which I assume is Galilee, and once on the Sea of Galilee. Then John says I he doesn't have time to list all of the appearances Jesus made all over. Again, the ascension is only implied.