A Religious Liberal Blog

This site hopefully can provide some vehicle by which I can comment, complain, and once in a while praise the state of religion in this country and around the world from a liberal protestant perspective.

Wednesday, September 22, 2004

I'm not sure what I think of the analysis, but the experience this article covers has to be common: the awkward public moment when one claims to be a Christian and the flury of provisos and distancing from the evangelical right that follows such a claim. Or in some circles it may just prove less complicated to mention one's religion because the misunderstanding that the word Christian generates in today's political and religious climate.

But if we find little to connect with in this public image of Christianity it might be pertinent to ask: how many other people are not in a position to ever consider the possibilities of this tradition because it's expression in the US has been equated with a right wing form of politics and religion. A religion which is always attacking folks who don't fit into the cultural forms that the religion has taken in today's America.

What does one do in response to this? I suppose one can ignore the evangelical movement and do one's religious project in a mainline protestant body. But it's hard to think of the church as one body in such a solution. In any case one can't be in a position to isolate onself, because the evangelical right is in most all denominations, some just in greater or lesser numbers.

And with their growth in numbers and influence they are in a position to take over mainline bodies. As one friend of mine noted this movement "insists on being the only voice, driving out anyone who consistently acts according to alternative theological principles (even when those officially held by the denomination at large!) as a "heretic". Thus the trials and punishments that this blog has covered in these denominations.

I wish I had a solution but I don't. I've been tempted to walk away from this whole mess. Though I recently had a chance to talk with polyglut about the church, faith and doubt, and worship and it made me realize both how important this tradition has been for me and how heartening it can be to communicate with folks who are also working with these issues. It wasn't about how to stop the religious right. It was rather, how do we live out this alternative vision of faith in the church today. So the lesson in this meandering post? Talk, communicate, connect.

Tuesday, September 21, 2004

Here's another piece on voters who are suffering from job loss, cuts in pay, and the loss of health care in Ohio and Missouri who plan to vote for Bush over matters of religion and "moral issues"...because somehow increasing poverty and lack of economic opportunity are not considered issues of faith that have moral significance. If religion is not simply a force of reaction, but rather a place for positive change than the church has to overcome this birufaction.

There is a line drawn in America today. On one side are the radicals trying to uproot our traditional values and our culture. They're fighting to hijack the institution of marriage, plotting to legalize partial birth abortion, and working to take God out of the pledge of allegiance and force the worst of Hollywood on the rest of America.

Notice the terrorist language to be found in this recent radio ad by the Republican Nat'l Committee. We get words like "hi-jack", "uproot", "plotting" but thankfully the GOP will protect us from "those folks", what Sheila Dobson calls "the enemy". With congressional legislation and state iniatives against gays and religious pluralism it's becoming rather clear how this election will be lost or won and that is how successful the GOP is able to divide Americans, pitting folks against one another. Hopefully such a message will be resoundly rejected this fall.

Sunday, September 19, 2004

The Methodist Church of New Zealand has recently approved the ordination of gay and lesbian clergy . There's plenty of media focus on those religious groups which are anti-gay. Hopefully the picture of Christianity will begin to be modified to reflect the increasing number of churches which are including gay and lesbians into the full life and ministry of the church.

Earlier I had mentioned the Anglican Network, the conservative organization which hopes to kick the Episcopal Church out so it can become the US recognized presence of the Anglican Communion.

A recent piece at Andrew Carey's website points to the Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams' encouragement and support in the formation of this new organization, including even proposing name ideas. Is punishment and expulsion of the Episcopal church an already forgone conclusion? It sure is beginning to look like it.

With growing stridency, Muslim liberals are saying that it is high time for Muslims to act, to stop their faith from being hijacked and turned into a cult-like vehicle for a clash of civilisations.

I share the hope that this Economist piece has, that a liberal Islam can reform and modernize the religion. I also think that some social democratic governments in Europe could play a role in this effort. But what I find odd is how the right in this country could embrace such a vision when they usually struggle against such a thing within Christianity.

Wednesday, September 15, 2004

Another heresy trial in the Presbyterian Church where a freshman at the University of Texas has gone after the campus minister, Rev. Jim Rigby, for his blessing of a same sex union. Like other such trials, if it's successful it would mean the stripping of his position and ordination.

The idea of students targeting campus pastors should be a bit unsettling. Jim Rigby thinks this will expand the conversation on this issue but such trials in the past have not. They only punish and send the signal that glbt folks and their supporters are not wanted in the church. Though I may be seeing the glass as half empty these days.

In good news, Soulful Blogger is back and posting his insights on his blog again. And in not so good news, Progressive Protestant has decided to retire his site. I've always enjoyed reading the blog and a number of his thought provoking posts have spurred me on in this enterprise. Good luck and if he does set up a website with his work, it certainly will be worth checking out. Philocrites is back from his vacation and already has a number of interesting posts in the last few days.

Monday, September 13, 2004

I'm a Christian today because of the Episcopal Church. As an undergrad I was nudged out of Intervarsity because I helped start a Jewish campus group. As a college student this might have been the time to leave the faith, a common route, but I found a local Episcopal campus ministry (and some other mainline groups as well) where I found my doubts and concerns were welcomed, not shunned. It was Episcopal authors like Carter Heyward that provided rich ideas about God, the ethical demands of the faith, etc. that drove my interest in pursuing graduate study in religion.

I admit that I'm not an Episcopalian. I find myself closer to lower church forms of protestantism, within the mainline. Today I'm primarily active with a UCC/Disciples campus ministry program. But I've always taken an interest in the Episcopal Church. Even went so far as attending the Episcopal Nat'l Convention in Minneapolis last summer, watching the House of Delegates vote for Gene Robinson 2 to 1. But the very things which kept me in the church, which made the ECUSA so welcoming, are cause for the turmoil denomination faces.

When the Episcopal church consecrated Gene Robinson, who is gay, as bishop of New Hampshire, other Anglican churches in the developing world expressed outrage. That outage, if followed with dialogue and working to hold the communion togther could have produced something novel for the church. But that possibility has been rejected by these church bodies. They seek to punish the Episcopal Church, with their eventual goal being the expulsion of the ECUSA from the communion. Historically the Anglican communion's provinces had autonomy. For example some churches ordain women, some do not; it varies by province. But on this issue, autonomy has been thrown out the window.

But the expulsion would not mean the end of an Anglican body in the US. The plan would be to take the small group of churches within the ECUSA (and some outside of the denomination) who are on the right, and who oppose gay and lesbian inclusion, etc. and declare them as the new Anglican province. The framework for such a body has largely already been created via the Anglican Network. Now Rowan Williams, the head of the communion, is faced with a choice.



Either keep faith with the sort of Anglicanism which allowed for diversity and autonomy and lose most of the churches in the developing world which are fast becoming the largest segment of the communion. They would be lost because they promise to leave the communion if the ECUSA is not removed. Or one could ditch the ECUSA and perhaps Canada as well, keeping the largest portion of the church, and allowing the Communion to be largely taken under the direction of the right wing. In the latter case, it'd be impossible to remain a liberal within the communion, without becoming a target of the right.

A commission was established by Williams to figure out how to keep the communion together and its recommendations are due to come out next month. But portions of the report have been leaked to the press and it looks like punishment and then expulsion will be the route they recommend. Such a course, is finally raising the alarm not just in the US but around the world. After all, it's not just a problem of the ECUSA, it is any church which includes religious liberals within it. In the UK, religious liberals within the church have spoken out against the possible recommendations, going so far as to predict mass resignations if the church is taken in such a direction.

Originally the plan was to target the US, but with Canada's affirmation of same sex unions within the church, with liberals to be found in some dioceses in the UK, South Africa, Australia, and Ireland, no one who is a liberal could be safe of recriminations. Canada, or at least the New Westminster diocese in British Coulmbia, could face the same fate as the ECUSA. It's a church devouring anyone not on the right, the result will be a very different communion. But it raises for me, fundamental questions about the nature of the Christian faith.

If there ever was any group in church history which could allow for a diversity of views, which could include doubters and true believers, liberals, conservatives, high church, low church, protestant, catholic, with provinces all around the world, it was the Anglican Communion. It's transformation into a rightwing outfit that kicks out those who differ from it's religious beliefs and practices, means the death of the possibilities of the Anglican communion. And the death of the dream that any religious body can actually break down walls and include the diversity of human existence.

But it also makes me wonder: what room exists for religious liberals within Christianity? It gets old being the enemy, hated simply over issues of sexuality and theological differences. The conservatives, armed with the numbers, are in a position to take over the United Methodists. The Presbyterians are racked with heresy trials. The Episcopal Church faces expulsion from the communion. Is there any place which is safe, where one is not the target or considered the enemy in the church? I don't know anymore. It certainly has shaken my faith in this religion and what role I could play within it.

Saturday, September 11, 2004

The third anniversary of 9-11. I don't think I can add much insight to this event and the whirlwind it has taken our country, but here's some resources that are worth pointing to.

The presiding bishop of the ELCA Lutherans has a thought provoking message commemorating this event. With gratitude to God, we remember those who continue to proclaim the Gospel, who work to heal fragile lives, and who have been 'called the repairers of the breach, the restorers of streets to live in

The Disciples of Christ have a sight titled Respond to the Call which seeks not just to remember and mourn for the victims of 9-11 but also to take this event and respond in service and action. Among the recent events connected with this has been the work a Disciples and Muslim congregation have engaged in together in Indiana. As the site proclaims:

God’s vision of the world is one where violence and hatred do not get the last word. God’s vision is of a world where celebration of differences and unity rule the day. And it’s our responsibility to work towards that vision.

Wednesday, September 08, 2004

I hope to comment on the coming report on the future of the Anglican communion. But been busy with school. In any case I was just listening to the Indigo Girls perform a moving song, looked it up and discovered that it was a hymn (thought I recognized it). Anyways, while the lyrics are now 70 years old, the words remain as powerful as ever.

Finlandia

This is my song, Oh God of all the nations,
A song of peace for lands afar and mine.
This is my home, the country where my heart is;
Here are my hopes, my dreams, my sacred shrine.
But other hearts in other lands are beating,
With hopes and dreams as true and high as mine.

My country's skies are bluer than the ocean,
And sunlight beams on cloverleaf and pine.
But other lands have sunlight too and clover,
And skies are everywhere as blue as mine.
Oh hear my song, oh God of all the nations,
A song of peace for their land and for mine.

May truth and freedom come to every nation
May peace abound where strife has raged so long;
That each may seek to love and build together,
A world united, righting every wrong.
A world united in its love for freedom,
Proclaiming peace together in one song.

Tuesday, September 07, 2004

Sorry for my leave of abscence. I'll just note that the wedding I just came home from was one of the most well done, moving, and outright fun events I've been to in a long time. Thanks Working Things Out.

Oklahoma is known as a red state, where Bush enjoys a 20 plus lead over John Kerry. But during the last 4 years this state has been hit hard economically. 20% of the manufacturing jobs in the state are gone now during Bush's reign. Their job loss rate is doubeled from the national average. Just in Tulsa around 24,000 jobs have disappeared.

How could the state possibly support Bush? Bush has socially conservative views and there's a ready reception for this in this state which has a substantial evangelical population. Bush wins when it comes to "moral" issues in this state hands down. But my question is this: how did the economy become separated from morality? And what role has the church played in privatizing sin, insuring that no matter how much people are hurt, if it's in the economic sphere it's not a moral concern?

I ran across articles which highlights the efforts of mainline religious groups to raise the issue of poverty and economic injustice into the national spotlight. Some groups recently organized educational efforts in NY in response to the recently held GOP convention. But their success or failure won't be measured by Kerry or Bush's immediate fortunes this year but whether in the long term we can begin to start evaluating our economic and foreign policy decisions along moral lines.

Thursday, September 02, 2004

In the fun world of politics: Alan Keyes who is running to be Illinois' next senator labels Mary Cheney, the lesbian daughter of vice president Dick Cheney, and all other gay folks as selfish hedonists. And it is Bush, not God in Christ, who has given us the peace which passes all understanding. The rhetoric which lends to the conflation of God and Bush has been one of the more troubling aspects of the GOP efforts this year.

And even though this is over a year old it's still stunning. It's a list of the 50 most infuential Christians in this country. Isn't odd that there are no theologians on the list? The list has almost no mainline or Roman Catholic representation either. Almost no one who is left of center, besides Jimmy Carter, can be found on the list. While the bias here is evident I suspect many Americans would more likely recognize folks on this list then anything I or other mainliners might propose.

I'm participating in a wedding this weekend so this site won't be updated for a number of days. But I found this passage in the Reconstruction Jewish prayerbook which I thought I'd post:

Weave real connections, create real nodes, build real houses. Live a life you can live; make love that is loving. Keep tangling and interweaving and taking more in, a thicket and bramble wilderness to the outside but to us interconnected with rabbit runs and burrows and lairs.