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, August 31, 2005

I don't have television, but reading online the accounts of what has and is transpiring in New Orleans is shocking. A number of friends who have connections or are from the area are in a state of disbelief. The Church World Service is working in the area, providing the relief it can. If you want to help out, check out their site.

Monday, August 29, 2005

I wanted to apologize for the huge break in posts. All those summer academic projects which I've alluded to in previous posts are pretty much due now, and so my energies have been largely directed to finishing those things up. Anything left has been given to working with Progressive Protestant in reviving a liberal protestant campus ministry at my college. This ministry in the past has had a poor track record of attracting students.

We've been dedicated to turning this around and putting student outreach as the central focus of our work. It's an uphill task but the possibilities are there. One of the issues we've discovered is that many religious liberals seem to assume that any sort of identity and rootedness in the christian tradition, any connection with a mainline body must mean that committments to openness, interfaith, and social justice work must be compromised.

The sort of programs any campus ministry would do, that could lead to christian formation, from worship to bible studies have been lacking at our center. It's odd to think that by doing this sort of christian programing we're starting new traditions with this ministry. If we want to see why evangelicalism is growing and the mainline is not, then look at the state of campus ministries. That's going to contribute greatly to the next generation of the church.

I do want to get back at a regular posting schedule. But until my academic committments are put back into order, I'm not sure how faithful I might be at this. At the same time reading where the mainline is, where politics and religion is at, in news articles around the web is a several hour/daily process which wears the soul down, instead of doing the concrete work to turn this around. Just hunting for articles had made this site increasingly laborious.

But there a number of thoughts I have, in relation to the mainline and the greater society that I'd like to continue to express. Some of this might plug into a dissertation, but I'm weighing whether this site is the best avenue to do this. It may be that Progressive Protestant and I could share a blog. Or a new way of approaching this site might need to develop. But I'm in a bit of a transition in terms of what I want to do with this, so any suggestions are welcome.

Monday, August 15, 2005

Michael Harrington, author of The Other America which impacted Kennedy and LBJ's war on poverty and founder of DSA, also wrote a work on religion called The Politics at God's Funeral which touches on the collapse of a liberal framework where questions of meaning and ultimacy could be worked out. A number of the ideas I've been working with have come from this 21 year old book but it seems more pertinent today than when it was written.

Harrington writes "The political and social God of the western tradition is dying. An atheism of fools could rejoice in the emptiness of the heavens he leaves behind; a theism of fools could keep on singing the old hymns. The real issue is whether the horizon is being wiped away. No politics can answer that question-and only a politics of all those concerned with the survival of the spirit, whether it is said to be holy or only human, can work to create the social structures in which people are more likely to answer it for themselves"

Sunday, August 14, 2005

Thought I'd share a number of disturbing news stories on the Catholic Church. Politicians who support gay rights have been banned from speaking at churches in the Phoenix Diocese by Bishop Thomas Olmsted. So far under the new policy AZ's governor has been blocked from an event in a church. Scientists are also concerned about a shift in the Catholic Church against evolution and have asked for clarification of the church's stance.

And the Metropolitan Community Church was evicted without notice from an AIDS hospice which is run by the Catholic diocese in New Orleans. The reason was the MCC's support of and performance of gay marriages. Even leasing the building might get the impression that the RCC was not actively opposed to such unions, so they have to leave. Is this new under Ratzinger or was I not as much aware of this hard turn to the right, this unyielding campaign against gay and lesbians and individual conscience in the church?

I suppose being a perpetual student my major interaction with Catholicism has been Newman Centers, most of which are homes of progressive religious thought and practice. I never ran into a right wing form of catholicism until I was almost done with my B.A. So this right turn of the church has caught me a bit by surprise. I was talking recently with some folks from Dignity in St. Louis and they expressed a sort of weariness of being treated as the enemy in the church. Looking for some signs of hope.

Saturday, August 13, 2005

I'm trying to get back to a regular posting schedule but one week before school means that lots of last minute projects are staring me in the face. So we'll see how the blog fares in such a situation. There's been a number of pieces on religion and evolution and the issue of divestment which I hope to post on soon. But for now I thought I'd highlight some news items of interest.

"There is no one religious position on the Roberts nomination, no one religious view on the future of the court or the cases it will hear," Bill Sinkford, president of the UUA. That's the message of liberal religious leaders as they respond to the religious right's rally for a conservative judiciary, called Justice Sunday II. Treating a set of politics as if this could constitute religion is a danger that seems to bedevil today's religious scene. Chuck Currie has a helpful set of links on this event.

Creationism picks up an ally in Australia as the country's education minister Brendan Nelson endorses the instruction of "I.D" in the schools. So, no the US is not unique in having this debate. Alternet has a piece on other "wierd science" claims that the religious right has pushed. The American Prospect has an article chronicling the origins of intelligent design and how it replaces previously failed creationist attempts in getting a foothold in the schools.

The Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese approved withdrawing from the National Council of Churches, over a number of issues including mainline stances on gay and lesbian inclusion. The Orthodox Church in America has also signaled their intent on withdrawing from the NCC and the World Council of Churches. This development will hurt protestants and the orthodox and it re-enforces the idea that the only litmus test today is homosexuality.

The ELCA Lutherans' recent gathering had a number of issues approved from sharing communion with the Methodists to the development of a gender inclusive hymnal. But the big news was the decision to continue the ban on non celibate gay clergy without allowing a local option. The vote was close number wise but since a 2/3 majority was needed for such a change it was no where close to passing. It's hard to imagine when in the next decade a change can come to the church, which means few options for glbt members.

Friday, August 05, 2005

Took an online quiz which reports that my "model of the church is Servant. The mission of the church is to serve others, to challenge unjust structures, and to live the preferential option for the poor." What model of the church are you closest to? I also thought I'd share some quotes I've come across on the net that seemed to be of interest or pertinent to recent news.

By backing concepts that lack scientific merit, Bush is undermining his own pledge to leave no child behind. If students are to reach higher standards and compete effectively with their international peers, they must be exposed to high-quality curricula that are research based and that reflect the best available knowledge in any given field. In the science classroom, that necessitates the study of evolution, one of the most important, powerful, and well substantiated concepts in science.-American Federation of Teachers

We should always address other faith stances not only with respect and appreciation, but also with openness and the willingness to learn. They just might have something to offer that's even better than we have. It never diminishes us to recognize that someone else might know more, or have more insight than we. In fact, if we're willing, we might even learn something.- A Unitarian Universalist Florida minister

We Christians are soldiers. We're warriors for God. Stare Satan down and say, 'Bring it on. I have Jesus with me. Bring it on..' It will be a continuous battlefield, but Christ suffered for us, he expects us to do the same..I challenge you to march into battle to free those held hostage by the enemy. Stand your ground, soldiers! Godspeed, and report for duty! - a teen who particpated in a recent Assembly of God preaching contest. How evangelicals became part of military culture should not be a shock, but having youth so active in the life of the church is a lesson us religious liberals.

Thursday, August 04, 2005

Sometimes it's tempting to look at the secularity of other western nations as a sign of advancement. The amount of religiosity in the US seems to translate into attacks on the sciences, in particular evolution, attacks on gay and lesbians, and lends itself to active support of warmaking. And yet such a conclusion fails to draw a distinction between diffferent forms of religiosity in this country, collapsing evangelical protestantism with the term religion.

It also doesn't address the vacuum which the collapse of traditional religion in these western nations have created. Before religion was typically moderate to liberal, state bodies from the Anglicans in the UK to the Lutheran churches in Scandinavia. With the loss of these church's hold in society, we've had a brief summer of what some call "secularism" but nature abhoring a vacuum means that other things are starting to fill in this whole, illiberal ideologies which threaten the very things we may admire in such countries.

Partly it's a question of whether such nations have a compelling liberal vision from which questions of ultimacy might be raised. Without one, other groups promoting an illiberal framework will come in to provide answers. Some are looking at the west's inability to respond to the rise of radical Islam as an example, but another is the rise and exportation of evangelical protestantism and the US culture war model to other nations.

In the Britian some rightwing Tories have looked to the successes of the religious right and the GOP in the US as an inspiration and a framework based on "traditionalist notions of the church, patriotism and family values" from which they can find an indentity and perhaps make inroads in the country. In New Zealand, the Labour government's support of civil unions has produced a social conservative backlash, which the previously moderate National Party is trying to exploit by moving right on these social issues.

US evangelical groups from Focus on the Family to Campus Crusade, have done cross border work, in helping evangelicals in Canada create a social, political, and religious atmosphere which mirrors the US's religious right. "U.S. evangelicals have helped create a Republican Christianity in Canada". With rising evangelical numbers and increased visibility of social issues, the Conservative Party has moved rightward to exploit this change.

And in Australia, their last election, mirrored what happened in the US. The discovery of an army of evangelicals and social conservatives that came out in significant numbers to re-elect the right of center government. The values debates, the debates about abortion, increasing opposition to gay and lesbian rights, and an increase in evangelical church numbers in the country. And increasingly through out Europe, a more conservative Catholicism has broadened it's assault on reproductive and women's rights.

The collapse of the mainline and of any overarching liberal vision in which questions of meaning and ultimacy can have a place to be worked out in the end has not provided the grounds for secularity at all. Rather it has provided a door by which fundamentalisms of the right, whether protestant, catholic, or muslim, have been able to come in and exploit. The decision by some on the left to attack or court religion fails to address why a liberal framework has collapsed and what might be done about it. It's a conversation which needs to begin.

Monday, August 01, 2005

There is a certain glee, a heady excitement, on the right when it comes to their desire to break up the Anglican Communion. It's moved beyond punishing gays or even liberals to punishing the church as a whole. David Virtue's site is filled with such language, such as when he says "the Episcopal Church..is looking up at noose thrown over a tree branch waiting for the hangman to pull the lever and lower the corpse into an ecclesiastical graveyard."

Apparently the right is the hangman in this case. Some news which has pleased the right include presentment charges brought up against the bishop of Conneticut. Such charges are meant to pave the way for a church trial against the bishop for disciplining 6 priests who have broken off from the diocese. Fr. Jake has a good article on the background of the fight in Conneticut as well as the strategies of those seeking punishments and expulsions.

The interest in going after the US church has widened to a number of churches around the world. For instance, Episcopal Church in Scotland is being targeted for it's inclusion of gay and lesbians in ordained leadership. That body is being drug in front the Panel of Reference, established by Rowan Williams to adjudicate church conflicts, so as to stop this practice. Canada has also been targeted along with the US. Some seek to go after the church in Brazil as well.

But the statement which captures the spirit of this movement was Nigerian primate Peter Akinola call for the Church of England to be suspended from the Anglican Communion after that body allowed gay clergy to participate in civil unions, along as celibacy was promised with such relationships. The double standard is breathtaking by the Church of England as celibacy is never asked of other clergy. But still any hint of endorsing gay clergy was too much for Akinola.

How does one claim the word Anglican and not have a relationship with Canterbury? It's like someone claiming to be Roman Catholic but not having a relationship with the Vatican. It's a contradiction. This over reach by the right means that, while a split in the communion is imminent, the only churches which can properly claim Anglicanism are those, like the US and Canada, which aim to keep relations with the Church of England.

The right will not be able to supplant the Episcopal Church nor have it thrown out of the communion. Rather they will have to make a decision of whether they wish to leave the communion and create their own new religious movement or not, because that appears to be the direction that many Anglicans in the Global South are opting to take. I agree with Father Jake. I think it's a tragedy that the church is unable to live together. But to live in the same body where folks continually attack each other as enemies cannot last.