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.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

The More Things Change...

"It is the month of December, and yet the whole city is in a sweat! Festivity at state expense is given unrestricted license. Everywhere there echoes the noise of preparations on a massive scale.

The man who said that December used to be a month but is now a year was not far wide of the mark!" Seneca (4BC-65AD) Apparently things don't change much. Is there a way we can find God in the oddness of our winter festivities?

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Acts of Faith

I ran across a few pieces on evil and religion that raised the question of how to relate the two. There was a piece by a reporter who after reporting on the abuses in the church walked away from his faith and his beat.

The reporter asks a presbyterian pastor how to reconcile church abuse cases and rip off artists and the response was to "acknowledge that He (God) is in charge. He knows what I don't know." That didn't work for the reporter, nor should it. It places evil on God.

One might have asked where God was to be found in these stories of evil. Perhaps in the courage of the survivors who stood up and demanded an accounting. Perhaps in the reporter himself, as he sought to dig through and uncover injustices.

That is we locate God within the good. The problem is that God gets identified with every event, so that no event can possibly be outside the will or authorization of God. And when confronted with the evil we see in the world, the goodness of God is called into question.

When I was a kid, our church had a large stained glass window of Jesus knocking on a door (presumably the door of our heart). He can't come in of course if the door is not opened. That's an image I have when it comes to evil. There are real barriers for the good to happen.

It can be us who are the barriers. What are we doing to cooperate with those saving realities that can make a difference for good in the world? It can be in the finitude and the limits of the kind of world we live in, that we find these barriers.

So that there really are evil events outside of the intent of God but somehow God struggles with us, with conditions to create some good in this world. Sometimes with success, sometimes with failure. But an openness and cooperation with God is what is called for.

The frustration at the injustices this reporter sees is itself an indication of a kind of faith, one that says things shouldn't be this way, that the easy religious answers were no answers, that things need to be done to change our world. That's an act of faith.

Monday, November 12, 2007

The words we use

"..these folks read more from the old testement than they do from the new testement.The reason being, the old testement has lot of hate and vengence in it.

A lot of the letters are less forgiving as well. The new testement is all about love and forgiveness and separation of church and state. For Christians the 10 commandments are replaced by 2: love god, love each other."- comments found on a liberal blog.

This comment was refering to the religious right. I'm sure it was well meant but I don't think they know how this sounds to Jewish folks. To discover that their scripture is filled with "hate and vengence" while Christians discovered love and forgiveness must be odd.

But it's not an uncommon view in the mainline church and in liberal circles outside the church. Problem is it assumes the "New Testament" is a higher revelation over, above, and against the "Old Testament" which is to say it presumes the idea of supersessionism.

The idea is that the Christian revelation has superceded that of the Jewish people. It's what got Ann Coulter into trouble and while I doubt the person making the above comment was thinking along these lines, the protrayal of these two scriptures feeds into such a view.

You can find variations on this theme. The use of the word Pharisee to mean legalistic and unloving while Jesus and the early church was loving and filled with compassion is not uncommon but it's a polemic against a religious group that is the source of modern Judaism.

Such views are untenable in terms of dialogue and making for peace among world religions, it doesn't make sense of the internal logic of the Christian faith, in particular how Paul describes the relationship of God and Judaism in the book of Romans.

And it doesn't make sense of the actual material. Paul doesn't speak of hell, the Gospels do. Yes there are conquests stories in the Hebrew scriptures, but there are also stories of love and mercy. The generalizations made fall apart by a cursory reading of these texts.

I suppose this is a call to examine the language we use. Does it deepen our understanding and appreciation of our own and other religious traditions or not? It's an issue we all need to be attentive to as we try to relate to increasing religious diversity and conflict.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

No to Torture

Can you believe that we are having a debate in America about what kind of torture is tolerable? I will tell you what kind of torture is tolerable - no torture is tolerable.- John Edwards

The new attorney general cannot tell us whether waterboarding, a practice dating back from the Inquisition to Pol Pot, is illegal. It's almost a given in many GOP circles that it's legit. So much so that I've decided to become a single issue voter.

No one who can't say what Edwards said of torture, as defined by the Geneva Convention and US statute, is worthy of a vote for office. Bush's embrace of torture has destroyed a key moral principle and if it's not upheld soon, what was once extrordinary will be ordinary.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Religion and Politics

I've been trying to make sense of the relationship of church and state. It's clear that government endorsement of religion, one or many of them, crosses the line. But what limits exist for the church?

It's certain that people of all walks of life, including those from our religious communities, ought to be involved in the political process. We need more, not less voices in this process. At the same time, politics offers a peculiar kind of peril for the church.

We've seen where that path goes such as the religious right's involvement where for the last three decades they wedded themselves to the GOP. So how does the religious left get involved in politics, staying true to our values, without running into the same problems?

I have a few ideas. But welcome more ideas and corrections to the ideas I've put forward. Because it's something I'm working on and it's in flux. I'll assume the first is that being involved in discussing ideas, not endorsing candidates and parties is best.

Which is to say, we can begin to evaluate candidates and parties by how they hold to certain values, to certain ideas instead of having the candidates and parties define for us what the good is. ie we need to be able to make an independent judgment.

The church ought to use it's voice on certain issues without over using it's voice on less central issues. That is, if we have a position on every issue under the sun, when we do speak out, there's less punch. At the same time, it can fetter the conscience of church members.

If every issue is spoken of as if we could have "the" position, it doesn't leave room for church members who disagree. Congregationalism can mitigate this but I assume being pro-choice as a Southern Baptist or supporting the war as a UU is not pleasant.

Our discernment on these issues are fallible, so seeking out the counsel of many, in the church, from those affected by the issue, from organizations which have worked on the issue, etc. is key. We need to take care that we bring forth the best when we take a stand.

And how how do we see campaigns, and candidates? Can they "bring forth the kingdom"? Or are they flawed instruments that can, at best, bring out the better. Are elections salvific? Or is that from God? A critical involvement seems needed here.

Lots of hopes have been placed on Bush by the religious right and many were disappointed. Well we see the same thing if the democrats win among the religious left? Can we not be impressed when the NCC is invited to the white house. The integrity of the church is at stake.

And the integrity for those of us who are looking for a different way at doing Christianity is also at stake. And our alliances, with those of other religions, and those of no religion who rightfully value the first amendment are also at play. Just some beginning thoughts.

Monday, November 05, 2007

Checking In

My two cats, Adler and Talula hanging. Also I hope to have a post on faith and politics. I visited a local UU church yesterday that advertised a petition for the Green Party. More material to draw from.