parson found himself in one of those situations he'd rather not be
in. A group of pastors from around the area, many of whom were
leaders of independent churches, were present at the same community
meeting as was the parson.
the completion of the agenda, the some in the group began discussing
issues facing the community and the country. The parson was sitting
in a chair that did not allow an unnoticed exit, so he pushed himself
back in the chair and listened intently.
conversation ranged from the pending law before the United States
Congress to prohibit abortions after the 20th week to the
issue of “the gay agenda” that was endangering the moral fabric
of the country. The parson was impressed with the ability of the
various pastors to quote extensive passages from Leviticus, the
writings of Paul and the Revelation. The parson found himself
fascinated with the flow of the discussion.
as he should have know, eventually, one of the brethren turned to
him. “You're kinda quiet, Parson,” he said. “I suppose you're
going to feed us some of that liberal theology of yours.”
at all,” said the parson.
you don't have any comment, any observation?”
no,” said the parson. “I have an observation, if you want to hear
we want to hear it,” the confronter replied.
fascinated,” said the parson, “at how infrequently the Christians
when discussing these issues quote Jesus.”
The parson plopped himself down in the chair at the lunch table at a local eatery around which were gathered some sacred brethren of the United Methodist ordained. In the course of the discussion, one of the ordained brought up the subject of the Boy Scouts. He raised the question of whether the United Methodist Church should withdraw their support of the Boy Scouts should that organization allow homosexuals to be scout leaders.
Father forgive me for I have sinned. I didn't respond as I should. Instead, I said, "Well, hell, why don't we prohibit them from having scout leaders who have freckles since both cases are genetic." I should have been more patient. I guess I was in a bad mood.
The meeting sent me back to a blog I wrote back in February, 2007. Maybe I should just repost it here.
and the Church
York Times story which
appeared Christmas Day, 2006, headlined: “At Axis of Episcopal
Split, An Anti-Gay Nigerian.”
Polgren and Laurie Goodstein open the story by reporting, “The way
he tells the story, the first and only time Archbishop Peter J.
Akinola knowingly shook a gay person’s hand, he sprang backward the
moment he realized what he had done.”
story relates:”Archbishop Akinola, the conservative leader of
Nigeria’s Anglican Church, who has emerged at the center of a
schism over homosexuality in the global Anglican community,
re-enacted the scene from behind his desk Tuesday, shaking his head
in wonder and sorrow.”
the Archbishop’s quoted words: “This man came up to me after a
service, in New York, I think, and said, ‘Oh, good to see you
bishop, this is my partner of many years.’” The Archbishop added,
“I said, ‘Oh!’ I jumped back.”
must confess, when I read this I was horrified. The horror results
not from the Archbishop being anti-gay. The horror is in my reaction
to discovering the Archbishop is anti-Christ.
aware of the seriousness of that assertion. And, certainly such
actions as those of the Archbishop are too common among many who wear
the Christian mantle. Picture the scene in your mind’s eye. The
head of the Anglican Communion in Nigeria is participating in a
Christian celebration in New York City. After the service, a
gentleman, following the tenants of Christian hospitality, instead of
leaving immediately, seeks out the stranger from a far away land, a
visitor to the church, and extends the right hand of Christian
fellowship. “Good to see you, bishop.” And now, being courteous,
he introduces his “partner of many years.” The Archbishop jumps
he gives no description of vocalization, other than “Oh!” the
Archbishop’s actions cried loudly, “Unclean! Unclean!” Visions
of cast aside lepers of Jesus’ day are brought forth.
this I believe the Archbishop is wrong in his actions, and such
cannot be justified for one purporting to be a servant of the
servants of Jesus Christ. But, hold that thought and indulge me a
discussion of homosexuality and the church in today’s world.
began my ministry in the midst of the Civil Rights Movement in
America. The first parish I served brought me face-to-face with
demonstrations for desegregated schools and equal access to public
facilities. Within my first sixty days I’d seen Hosea Williams, of
the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, spit in the face of the
local sheriff in an attempt to provoke him. I’d also seen the
scores and scores of cars pulled up to the windowless white frame
building that served as the area headquarters of the KKK. Talking
with people at the county seat, with members of my church, and with
those who hung out at the local Gulf Station in the little community
where I served, I became much aware of the passions evoked over the
issue of segregation; there was a fury surrounding local emotions.
young cleric, naïve and inexperienced, I didn’t know what my role
was supposed to be. I was considered, I soon learned, a liberal. That
designation came not from any professed position of preached
theology. I was so timid in my bearing at that juncture of my
ministry I did nothing, absolutely nothing, to deserve the
reputation. I was liberal by association. I was a young Methodist
preacher, i.e., I was a liberal.
my heart I was rooting for those demonstrators who wanted nothing
more than to eat in the same restaurants and to have the same
opportunity of education as did I. My childhood had presented me
experiences that slung the injustice of segregation in my face. So, I
harbored a secret desire to be among the marchers, to fight to make
the world right. Yet, I was a pastor to the folks who were genuinely
fearful of what this inevitable onslaught of demand for equality
would bring. In that setting, I learned the emotion generated when a
people demand “certain inalienable rights” and others don’t
want to give those rights to them.
in the climax of my years, the same passions are raising their heads.
These are the passions of those who will not be denied and the
passions of those who interpret this irresistible force as an affront
to the sacred. In that circumstance, reasonableness and even openness
to the leading of God’s Holy Spirit is often stifled.
my United Methodist Church our doctrines are supposed to rest upon
four pillars: scripture, reason, tradition, and experience. As such,
let me look at this divisive issue in the light of these four
Wink’s article “Biblical
Perspectives on Homosexuality” which first appeared in
1979 (and reprinted at religion-online.com)
brings the biblical-based objections to homosexuality into
perspective. Though they are now almost thirty years from the first
appearance his words are worth heeding today.
observed that the issue of homosexuality threatened to fracture whole
denominations. (His analysis has obviously proved true.) He states:
“We naturally turn to the Bible for guidance, and find ourselves
mired in interpretative quicksand.” The issue becomes, for Dr.
Wink, not one of homosexuality alone but, also, how we go about
allowing scripture to inform our lives today.
looking at passages of scripture advanced as prohibitions against
homosexuality in the Genesis story of Sodom and supposed prohibitions
in Deuteronomy, and highlighting the actual intent of these
references, (1) and discussing lack of clarity to meaning
in New Testament references cited often as prohibitions as those in 1
Corinthians and 1 Timothy, Wink concedes there are three undeniable
prohibitions against homosexuality in the scriptures. These are found
in Leviticus 18: 22 (“You [masculine] shall not lie with a male as
with a woman; it is an abomination.”), Leviticus 20: 13 (If a man
lies with a male as with a woman, both of them have committed an
abomination; they shall be put to death; their blood is upon them.”),
and Romans 1: 26 (For this reason God gave them up to degrading
passions. Their women exchanged natural intercourse for unnatural,
and in the same way also the men, giving up natural intercourse with
women, were consumed with passion for one another. Men committed
shameless acts with men and received in their own persons the due
penalty for their error.)
society depicted in these passages is one with no knowledge of eggs
and ovulation. The purpose of a woman was considered to be that of
providing incubation space. With such an understanding the spilling
of semen would have been considered tantamount to murder or abortion.
The society was patriarchal.
in a homosexual act would be an affront to male dignity. One can
glimpse the affront to maleness in that there is no similar
prohibition to homosexual acts of females.
remaining unequivocal condemnation of homosexuality is found in
Romans 1: 26-27. There is no doubt this is a condemnation of
homosexuality. Yet there is a twist. Paul, as well as other authors
of scripture, understood the practices they contemned as perversion
to be acts committed by heterosexuals. Modern considerations of
sexual orientation were not considered by Biblical writers.
the three unquestionable scriptural prohibitions in homosexuality,
Wink considers other scriptural prohibitions. Nudity was regarded as
“reprehensible,” even within the family. Sexual intercourse
during the menstrual cycle was to be punished by execution. Sexual
relations between unmarried adults were prohibited. The touching of
semen or menstrual blood caused one to be unclean. Sexual relations
between unmarried consenting adults were prohibited.
incest, rape and prostitution in Biblical times were reflections of
the property owner relationship in a male over female society. Wink
points to Genesis 38: 12-19 and Joshua 2: 1-7 as illustrative of the
tolerance of prostitution to ensure the virginity of unmarried women
and as a way to safeguard the property rights of husbands. In
prostitution only the woman, not the man, is guilty of sin.
Deuteronomy 22:22 assigns the punishment of death for the offense of
adultery. But adultery is not a married man having intercourse with
an unmarried woman.
was a regular feature of Old Testament society. Indeed, some scholars
see certain New Testament passages saying deacons and bishops should
have only one wife as indication of the presence of polygamy in New
practice is also evidenced in the practice of a childless widow
marrying the brother of her deceased husband to ensure children.
mores prescribed by scripture include the practice of endogamy,
marrying only within the twelve tribes of Israel, the abnormality of
celibacy (a practice required of priests by the Roman Catholic
Church) and the blessing of slavery, female slaves, and concubines.
considering these references to laws of the Old Testament, Wink
suggests one lift up the verses from Romans (10: 4; 7: 6): “If
Christ is the end of the law, if we have been discharged from the law
to serve, not under the old written code but in the new life of the
Spirit, then all of these Old Testament mores come under the
authority of the Spirit.”
of Wink’s more penetrating conclusions is: “The crux of the
matter, it seems to me, is simply that the Bible has no sexual ethic.
There is no Biblical sex ethic.”
it comes to the Scriptural Pillar, then, we have a problem. Do we get
to pick and choose? Do we have to accept all of it? If the choice is
the former, from where does authority of selection evolve? If it is
the latter who is going to serve on the committee to establish humane
methods of stoning? Or are Jesus’ words in Luke 12: 57, a clarion
call to our day: “Why do you not judge for yourselves what is
find ourselves here on the horns of a dilemma. The Bible clearly
condemns homosexuality in these few passages. Yet, the Bible just as
clearly sanctions slavery; the Bible disallows divorce; the Bible
permits prostitution, and so on.
judgment is to be drawn from the pillar of scripture? Perhaps the
greater tenor of scripture is the standard to be applied, that being
the Biblical portrayal of God constantly taking the side of the
powerless and moving all creation toward reconciliation.
shows us that until the late eleventh century homosexuality was
tolerated or ignored by the Christian church throughout the western
world. Condemnation of homosexuality became official around the time
of the writings of Thomas Aquinas.(2) (3) From this point
homosexual behavior is prohibited by religious authority and these
attitudes of the church found their way into the secular statutes.
This would continue virtually unquestioned until the late nineteenth
century when medicine and psychiatry began to contest with the
religious institutions for primacy in matters of sexuality. At this
point the understanding of homosexuality as pathology and not a
crime, or even sin, begins to develop. This understanding would be
prevalent until the dawn of the twentieth century.
Ellis, a contemporary of Sigmund Freud, published his Sexual
1896. This was one of the earlier attempts to examine the subject
from a scientific viewpoint. Ellis had studied eighty homosexual
males and had concluded this sexual behavior was not the result of
disease. He continued to study sex from a biological and
multicultural perspective. With the publication of Studies
In the Psychology of Sex, Ellis
insisted that homosexuality was inborn and therefore could not be
differed with Ellis. His research convinced him that all humans were
born bi-sexual. The relationship a child experienced with parents and
others determined whether the sexual course that followed would be
homosexual or heterosexual.
1935, Freud wrote a letter to the mother of a homosexual. He said:
is assuredly no advantage, but it is nothing to be ashamed of, no
vice, no degradation, it cannot be classified as an illness; we
consider it to be a variation of the sexual function produced by
certain arrest of sexual development. Many highly respected
individuals of ancient and modern times have been homosexuals. . . It
is a great injustice to persecute homosexuality as a crime, and
cruelty for . . .(5)
should be noted that Ellis, Freud, and the other early leading
psychoanalysts, and their research was not the result of empirical
testing. The conclusions were based on the analyst’s observations
and were not separated from the bias, expectation, and attitudes of
the researchers. Still, these early writings first brought the light
of modern scientific reasoning to bear on the issue of homosexuality.
would be the ground-breaking empirical work of Alfred Kinsey that
birthed a reassessment of homosexuality in the twentieth century.
Kinsey’s work revealed that a significant number of American adults
reported having participated in some form of homosexual behavior to
the point of orgasm after the age of sixteen.
study cast doubts on the general belief that only a small number of
those who desire to look for the data, there is a large quantity of
empirical research supporting the dismissal of the idea that
homosexuality is in any way resultant from psychopathology.
of the most extensive of these empirical research efforts is that of
Evelyn Hooker. The American Psychological Association says: “Hooker’s
work was the first to empirically test the assumption that gay men
were mentally unhealthy and maladjusted. The fact that no differences
were found between gay and straight participants sparked more
research in this area and began to dismantle the myth that homosexual
men and women are inherently unhealthy.” (6)
research is of particular note in that it has been replicated by many
other scientists using a multitude of research methods. (7)
is obvious from the contemporary debate over homosexuality, there are
psychologists and psychiatrists who still hold negative views toward
homosexuality. However, the preponderance of empirical research does
not support any assertion that homosexuality is in anyway a form of
1973, homosexuality was removed from the official list of mental
diseases by the American Psychiatric Association. In 1992 the
association released a statement that endorsed the repeal of all
legislation criminalizing homosexual acts by consenting adults in
McNeill, while still a member of the Jesuit Order, who ministered in
the homosexual community, and a practicing psychotherapist wrote an
article that appeared in The
March 11, 1987. McNeill, a homosexual himself, wrote from his
experiences, his research and writings. He writes, “I was convinced
that what is bad psychologically has to be bad theologically and
that, conversely, whatever is good theologically is certainly good
his book, The
Church and the Homosexual, McNeill
attempted to debunk three positions of the Christian community about
lesbian and homosexual relationships. These were: 1) “the view that
God intends all human beings to be heterosexual; 2) that homosexuals
are a menace to the values of society and family; and 3) that
homosexual love is sinful and alienates the person from God.
regard to the first supposition, McNeill asserts that such thinking
assumption that sexual fulfillment is the exclusive right of
heterosexuals. He, obviously, having a familiarity with empirical
research, in part, as referenced above, affirms that homosexuals and
lesbians are, as much as heterosexuals, part of God’s creative
plan. “God does not despise anything that God has created.”
he states: “Every human being has a God-given right to sexual love
and intimacy. Anyone who would deny this right to any individual must
prove without a doubt the grounds for this denial.”
to the second Christian position he feels is in error, that
homosexuals are a menace to family and society, he asserts the
lesbian / homosexual community, as part of God’ creation, possess
the gifts and talents to be a positive contribution to society.
“Consequently, I am convinced there is a special providence in the
emergence of a visible gay community within the Christian churches at
this point in history.
the assertion that every homosexual act is sinful and that homosexual
love alienates the one who engages in it from God, McNeill insists
homosexual love can be holy and can reflect the presence of God in
the human community.
on the research of the last century he maintains that 1) one has no
choice about sexual orientation, and 2) the only healthy reaction to
being homosexual is to accept it. (9)
for one, would prefer to believe that the church is wrong about
homosexual activity than that this sadistic, superego God has any
true relation to the God of loved revealed in Jesus Christ. He
asserts the mainline Protestant churches when facing the homosexual
issue today do not ask the moral question of their position “Is it
right or wrong?” Rather, they ask “What is going to work?” (10)
must also address the issues of “reparative therapy” which are
being advocated by certain religious right and/or anti-gay groups
today. At the forefront of this is the Family Research Council, an
arm of James Dobson’s Focus on the Family association. These
“reparative therapy” programs hold that the homosexual can be
“redirected” away from the “deviant” behavior through proper
intervention therapies. One is reminded of the deprogramming
therapies of the cult intervention programs.
crux of such intervention strategies is that homosexuality is not a
biological function but rather a deviant choice based upon incorrect
choices. Is homosexuality, then, biological, as opposed to the type
of behavior as that put forth by the Family Research Council and
fact of the matter is the research conducted by the Family Research
Council is considered flawed by some of the better scientific minds.
This fact can be confirmed by simply conducting a Google search of
the material. This paper, in the interest of brevity, will not delve
into this issue but simply point out two excellent sources for
consideration. Chandler Burr wrote a comprehensive overview of
“Homosexuality and Biology” for The
June 1997 issue. Burr concludes his writing with: “Five decades of
psychiatric evidence demonstrates that homosexuality is immutable,
and nonpathological, and a growing body of more recent evidence
implicates biology in the development of human orientation.” (11)
the face of the mounting scientific evidence that homosexuality is
not a matter of choice, one cannot but wonder at the manner in which
the church fails to act to include the gay community more fully.
McNeill points out the absence of a moral debate that is the refusal
of the mainline churches to engage those condemning homosexuality,
assures that the only voice on the issue is that of the conservative
and reactionary forces.
pillar of our faith is simply self-evident. In the light of
scholarship in regard to the understanding of scripture as well as
empirical research into matters of sexuality allow no other
conclusion than that homosexuality is not a perversion of the sexual
act, but rather is a human urge toward intimacy that is part of the
person at birth.
points us to the multitude of instances where scripture is not only
ambiguous but contradictorily. It is fruitless to list here the
number of scriptural prohibitions modern Christians ignore as a
result of the advancement of the knowledge of humanity.
also reminds us that we who are Christian are not allowed to use
bias, or honest belief that homosexuality is wrong, as an excuse for
the sin of hateful persecution.
crux of the matter is simply that we creatures created with the
ability to reason. It is what sets us apart. And to fail to apply
reason to the continued evolvement of our theology and religious
mores is to deny our creative nature.
also reminds us that we can debate this issue endlessly. Is it
a homosexual gene? Perhaps Chandler Burr in The
Atlantic Monthly article
referenced above puts it best:
can enlighten, can instruct, can expose the mythologies we sometimes
live by. It can make objective distinctions – as, for example,
between sexual pathology on the one hand and sexual orientation on
the other. But we cannot rely on science to supply full answers to
fundamental questions involving human rights, human freedom, and
human tolerance. The issue of gay people in American
did not arise in the laboratory. The principles need to resolve it
will not arise there either.
here what is said must be my personal experience.
have to tell you from the get-go: same-sex relationships do not
personally compute in my mind. There’s no doubt I’m heterosexual.
For that reason alone my experiences with individuals in the
homosexual community have been times of learning and of growth.
first experience in coming to my positions on homosexuality is simply
the study and the learning of information such as that cited above
under Scripture and Reason. Early in my Christian life I concluded
one cannot have it both ways. Either the Bible is totally correct,
inerrant, or it is not. If it is inerrant then we cannot be allowed
to pick and choose which portions we will obey. My entire life
experience has taught me we all pick and choose.
choose to eat pork because it pleases me; I ignore the Biblical
prohibitions because I know how to cook it and it is no longer a
threat to the health of my community. I have chosen all my married
life to not follow the Biblical dictates of not sleeping with my wife
during her menstrual cycle. I have freely and unconditionally
welcomed into the membership of the church divorced persons and even
persons whom I had personal knowledge had participated in adulterous
relationships previously, despite the Biblical condemnations of such
have chosen to grow in my understanding of what is required to live
an authentic life of faith in this world. And my understanding of
homosexual relationships has grown over the years.
long ago, I was blessed to be the senior pastor of a church that
served a community which was probably thirty-five to forty percent
gay. There my learning curve increased dramatically. Previously my
views on homosexuality and the church were academic. While I had
known a few homosexual persons my exposure had been limited.
memories of the gay, lesbian, bi-sexual and transgendered people who
inhabited that parish are vivid. They are memories of people deeply
committed to their God, to their church, and, often, committed to a
loving relationship with a life partner. I also have memories of
sitting in a hospital waiting room with someone whose partner was in
intensive care, but who could not go into the area as visitation was
limited to “family.” I have had too much experience with denied
health or death benefits to not realize the wrong that is being done.
writing began with a presumptive statement being made by me that
Archbishop Akinola was anti-Christ. I’ll stick by that. But my
judgment of the Archbishop is not based on the suppositions above
concerning the issue of homosexuality. My criticism of the Archbishop
is two-fold. As his relating of the story is told in the New
York Times article
one gets the feeling the Archbishop almost delights in his memory of
jumping back at contact with a homosexual.
in and of itself is decidedly not an action the Christ would have
phrases keep running through my mind, “Judge not lest you be
judged,” “The second is like unto it, you shall love your
neighbor as yourself.” On and on the quotations could go.
the Archbishop thinks the homosexual he met is a vile degenerate
would not the proper action be to place his arms around him and
proclaim the love of Christ?
this is one parson who fully believes that when the last verse of
Revelation was completed God did not shut God’s mouth and have no
more revelation. God continues to reveal God’s self. And in this
issue of homosexuality God may be revealing each and every one of us
as the person we really are.
by subscription: www.clipart.com
references to Sodom are put aside with the observation that the sin
committed against the visitors to the city was perpetuated by
heterosexuals, not homosexuals. When a similar (or same) story is
related in Judges 19, again Wink suggests the references “refer to
a heterosexual ‘stud’” and points out this reference is to
infiltration of Canaanite fertility rites into Jewish worship.” The
King James Version inaccurately labeled him a “sodomite.”
It should be noted that Aquinas seems to condemn homosexuality within
a wide range of sexual acts, specifically he argues against any form
of sex that does not have the intention of producing children.
Voting Rights Act of 1964 is a landmark piece of national legislation
in the United States that outlawed discriminatory voting practices
that had been responsible for the widespread disenfranchisement of
African Americans in the U.S.
the language of the 15th Amendment, the Act prohibits
states from imposing any 'voting qualification or prerequisite to
voting, or standard, practice, or procedure … to deny or abridge
the right of any citizen of the United States to vote on account of
race or color ….'”
Act is before the United States Supreme Court. Reading about the
challenge to the Act and some remarks of certain Justices of the
Supreme Court, I found my mind wandering back to Lucius.
was my friend for several years, those years between the eighth grade
and the time I got my driver's license.
didn't live in my neighborhood. He lived in a neighborhood off the
main road about a mile north of my neighborhood. The streets in my
neighborhood were paved; the streets in Lucius' neighborhood were
dirt. The lawns in my neigborhood were manicured and green with
grass. The lawns at Lucius' neighborhood were dirt. My house was
brick. Lucius house was a weatherd board frame structure that didn't
seem big enough to accommodate Lucius and his siblings.
didn't ride my school bus. He rode another bus. Lucius didn't go to
my school. Though we were the same age and lived only a mile from
each other, Lucius went to another school on the other side of the
county. I used to bring a lot of books home to do my homework. Lucius
didn't bring any books home. Back then, naïve as I was, I thought
that was because he was so smart.
daddy shopped at the big department where my grandfather shopped. My
grandfather used to take me there when he went shopping. And on
occasion, Lucius and I would be there at the same time. We'd hang out
together while my grandfather and his daddy would do their shopping.
We'd hang out, that is, until one of us had to go the bathroom. We
couldn't use the same bathroom. In fact, we couldn't drink from the
same water fountain either. There was a law against it.
were too young back then to talk much about politics. So, I don't
recall ever asking Lucius who he'd vote for when Eisenhower was
running for President. Looking back on it, I doubt Lucius would have
been that interested. After all, no body in his family could vote.
that was a lifetime ago. And that's the point, it was my lifetime
ago. And while I'm a senior citizen to be sure, it wasn't that long
wish I knew what happened to Lucius. I'd love to ask him about his
opinion of the Voting Rights Act.
The parson was sharing a booth with Jefferson Stewart, affectionately known to the Southern brothers and sisters as “Jeb”, and Martha Allison, two pastors from a nearby county. They were enjoying a nice lunch as they discussed a joint project in the area.
The parson insisted on paying the tab as they prepared to end the get-together. He presented the server with his credit card and when she returned he began to write in a tip for her.
“Pardon me for being noisy, Parson,” said Jeb, “but that's twenty percent. That's a little high, don't you think?”
The parson looked up and replied, “It's a round number. It makes the math easier.”
“Well, obviously you didn't read the news story where some pastor wrote on a check at Applebee's that had an eighteen percent gratituty suggested, “I give God ten percent; why should I give you eighteen?”
“I saw that,” the parson replied.
“Well, don't you think you're being a bit generous?”
“You know, Jeb, I just have trouble thinking the Lord would appreciate me using the Lord's tithe as an excuse to abuse someone who makes less money than do I.”
Bishop Mack Stokes, Associate Dean of Candler School of Theology and
Professor of Systematic Theology, when I was a student there, has died
just short of his 101st birthday.
Upon his election to the Episcopacy, he was assigned to Mississippi. The strides he made there in support of integration, the merging of the white and black conferences of the church, the setting of a Christian example in the secular world, and demonstrating a Bishop can still be a pastor are legendary.
I remember the day when I challenged
him in class by saying, "But Dr. Stokes, Dr. Mallard said ...." He
replied, "Dr. Mallard; I presume you mean Bill Mallard. That man is
marvelous. He possesses an exceptional brain. Wonderful man. We are
fortunate to have him on our faculty. He has some tremendous theories.
Unfortunately, some of those theories lack the perfection of being true."
became a better church because of his leadership.
pundits still say it's going to be a close one. There's even the
possibility of one winning without the majority of the popular vote,
What disturbs me most about this election is the possibility one man will win and we all will lose.
We have become a divided nation, a nation of dogmatic positions, of uncompromising demands, a nation of “my way or the highway.”
can't tell you which program it was, but on a National Public Radio
program in the last few days they reported on the extremes to which
we've gone. One family was having a cookout, barbequed ribs on the
grill. But the husband of the host family told his brother-in-law he
would have to bring his own ribs if he was going to vote for President
not sure exactly what the implications of that conditioned invitation
were, the thought a vote could be bought for the price of some ribs, the
proclamation of “you're not welcome unless you conform to my views,” or
simply “I'm the north end of the southbound horse married to your
am sure of this. We are a house divided. We have become a people who
believe that those who disagree with us are the enemy. We have little
patience for those on the opposite side of the political issue.
much of the division is based on a particular religious perspective.
It's one I'm not comfortable with, one based on dogmatism, a certainty
of the will of God. It is that position that makes me uncomfortable.
What kind of God would be a God whose absolute will I could comprehend?
Years ago, I read Michelle Goldberg's Kingdom Coming, The Rise of Christian Nationalism. In
this book she illustrates how an increasingly uncompromising
fundamentalism is gaining traction in our political processes. She
illustrates the ever-widening gap between the believers and the
non-believers. I have this dread that, whatever the results of the
election, we will be drawn more and more into this divide and the
possibility of bridging the chasm will become more and more difficult.
are times when I feel part of the problem is the hesitancy of those
less fundamental, more tolerant of other views, lest prone to wish for
some type of oligarchical outcome of the electoral process, never
standing up to the fundamental assumptions of the other side. And yet,
to stand up with any sense of insistence, would move toward the same
intolerance that makes the other side unattractive.
don't have an answer here. I just raise the question. And I'm firmly
convinced that whatever the outcome, whether Mitt Romney is elected or
Barack Obama gets another four years, it will not be either of the
candidates abilities that determine our future. It will, rather, be our
ability to confront, deal with, and resolve the divide between the
religious right and left.
took longer than it would most folks. I always travel, as much as
possible, on roads limited to two lanes. Expressways, with their six and
eight lanes, and ten lanes, are mostly home to billboards and crazy
drivers. Two lane corridors meander through mountains, follow rivers
down the valley, and are decorated by homes, nicely cared for homes, as
well as the occasional cabin and even double wides often accented by
immaculately cared for yards.
I realize there are some eyesores along the way, but they pale in
comparison to what borders the multiple lane corridors of excessive
speed. The two lane roads are the way to travel. I'm convinced of that.
such, I'd left the day before the event in which I'd been invited to
speak. It was something I looked forward to. After all, when one's
invited back to a place where one has preached before, one cannot help
but be somewhat flattered. It's something you'd like to tell your
skeptical cousins about. Maybe I was just eager to get there; maybe I
wanted time to meander those back roads. Whichever, I got there the
night before, checked into a comfortable inn, enjoyed a delicious
dinner, watched a little TV, and turned in early.
was scheduled to speak first at a luncheon and that evening at the
closing service. I spoke. Folks had some nice things to say. I felt
skipped the afternoon business session and found myself sipping on a
Sprite as I sat on a garden bench under the shade of a pecan tree. The
Sprite was about gone when she approached.
“I know you,” she said.
“You do?” I replied. “How do you know me?”
“You baptized me when I was a baby.”
“You remember that?”
“Well, no, but my Mom told me you did.”
“Who's your Mom?” I asked.
She told me. I remembered her. Gracious, I'm getting old; I not only had baptized this child; I had also baptized her mother.
“So, your Mom still goes to church here?”
“No, sir,” she said. “We don't go to church now. She just came to this thing because you were preaching.”
“Do you mind if I ask you a question?”
“Why don't you folks go to church?”
sat down on the bench beside me. “I think we don't go because we got
really busy. You know, I have ball games and Mom and Dad have a lot of
things to do. You know what I think?”
“What do you think?”
think the church needs to stop being so church. I mean, the church is
songs and prayers and sermons by people like you. And I know my Mom
likes you, but, well, you know all those people in there.” She pointed
to the Family Life Center where everyone was gathered. “After you preach
tonight everyone will go home and do what they always do. Now what I
think is this: the church ought to make a difference. Do you know what I
“I do know what you mean,” I confessed. “Do you know how we can fix it?”
“No, sir, I don't. But the same old stuff isn't working. People are too busy for this same old stuff.”
I drove home that night a more humble than when I arrived.
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