"Clergy cannot preside over the wedding ceremony. Specifically, these bishops say, clergy cannot officiate at the vows, exchange of rings or the declaration and pronouncement of marriage. They cannot sign the certificate of marriage or participate in any way that makes it appear to people present that they are conducting the wedding.
"However, these bishops say, clergy can assist same-gender couples in finding other venues for their weddings; provide pre-marital counseling; attend the ceremony; read Scripture, pray or offer a homily."
So, I cannot appear to be conducting a same-sex wedding. BUT I can provide the pre-marital counseling, be at the ceremony, read the scripture at the ceremony, pray at the ceremony, and offer a homily at the ceremony that is, according to the laws of my church, 'incompatible with Christian teaching.'"
Bear with me, bishops, I'm an old retired parson, living out here in the country, far away from sophisticated theological thinkers. I need a little time to think. I'm more than a little confused.
So, on Friday the parson headed down to the Quik Trip to purchase some gas, some beverage, and, truth be told, this time, a lottery ticket (It could happen.).
He stood at the pump, filling the tank, when he noticed the red pickup truck directly in front of him, parked near the door of the building. Extending over the tail gate of the truck were two 5’ x 8’ flags. One was the Confederate Battle Flag; the other was another version of the same with the words, “The South will rise again.”
The parson watched, as the dollar numbers continued to roll over on the pump indicator, an African-American young man walking from his vehicle at a nearby pump. He was headed inside the store. Dressed in jeans and a white t-shirt with no sleeves, his biceps bulged. He stopped about twenty feet from the Confederate adorned vehicle and stared. Then he shook his head from side to side and headed inside.
The parson finished pumping the gas. As he was retrieving his receipt from the pump, he saw the young lady exiting the store. She was dressed in a tight t-shirt and shorts with a Confederate flag about two feet in length tied to a belt loop on her right side. She walked up to the red pickup truck with the Confederate flags extended over the tailgate. She turned and faced the store. [“Forgive me father for I have sinned,” the parson silently confessed. He had stopped looking at the Confederate flag hanging from her right belt loop and, instead, fixed his eyes on the substantial amount of butt cheek displayed below her short-shorts, complimenting her Southern heritage.]
Gas nozzle returned to the holder, receipt in hand, the parson got back in the car, drove it into the parking spot adjacent to the protectors of a sinful culture. Exiting the car, he stopped before going into the store. “Interesting flag,” he said. “What regiment did your granddaddy serve in?”
“What?” the young fellow in his mid-twenties asked.
“What regiment did your granddaddy serve in, wait, seeing how young you are it must have been your Great-great-great granddaddy.”
“What are you talking about?” he asked, stepping toward the parson. At that point, Charlie Brown, the parson’s faithful canine companion and his girlfriend Penny both stood up in the car seats.
“I’m just asking you what regiment your ancestors served in in the War of Northern Aggression. Mine served in the Georgia Fifth Infantry.”
“Are you making fun of me?” he asked.
“Yes,” the parson said. “I am.”
The wannabe defender of the Confederacy stated at the parson another half minute. Then the parson said, “Tell me, what does that mean?” He pointed to the flag which proclaimed “The South Will Rise Again.”
“What do you mean?” he asked. “Are you making fun of me?”
“I told you already, I am,” the parson said. “Listen, the South will rise again when the Governor of Georgia pushes extending Medicaid benefits so the poor people of this state, like your cousins, can benefit more from Obamacare. The South will rise again when the legislature of this state raises the minimum wage so people can lift themselves up. And the South will rise again when you and your friends here stop flying these idiotic flags and do some to make the South a better place to live.”
The parson turned and walked in the store to the sound of both Charlie Brown and Penny growling.
Inside that fellow with the t-shirt with the cut-off sleeves was getting some pizza. “Thanks,” said the parson.
“For what?” he asked.
“For not responding to those flags,” the parson responded. “I know it offended you.”
“It did,” he said. “Look, I saw you talking to them. What did you say?”
“Not much,” the parson replied. “Ignorance can be fixed. Stupid is forever.”
Sir Nicholas Winton has died. He was 106 years old.
You’ve never heard of Sir Nicholas Winton? That’s a shame. His was a life we all should aspire to live.
In 1939, while on a two week vacation in Europe, he became concerned with the obvious coming war. He was also concerned with the children who would suffer as a result of the Nazi occupation. He began an effort to get the children out of Czechoslovakia. He took advantage of an obscure British law, along with forging hundreds of documents and blackmailing some officials, to relocate 669 children to the United Kingdom as refugees.
What he did was unknown until 1988 when his wife, prowling around the attic, found documents of his activities along with the name of the children.
Two years ago CBS produced a 60 Minute segment that traced his historic life. He saved 669 children, but they had children and the children had children. Today he died as the father of 15,000 plus children.
Below is the 60 Minute segment. It’s 15 minutes long, but you’ll be better for watching it.
When I was a child, a young child, my great-grandmother seemed to spend most of her life on the sofa in my grandmother’s living room. Often, when I scamper through the room on some mission of childhood fantasy, she’d stop me and order: “Come over here.” She’d point to a spot on the floor directly in front of her. I’d do as instructed. She’d lift my shirt up with her left hand and proceed to stick the end of her right index finger into my navel. At this point she’d proclaim: “See where the Yankees shot you when you were a baby.”
Whenever I tell that story there’s always one of two reactions. One reaction is, “That’s horrible.” The other reaction is, “That’s funny.” Both reactions are right. It was funny; it was horrible. My great-grandmother spent her childhood in rural Georgia where the land was patrolled by an occupying army. It colored her views.
I couldn’t help but think of this as I reflected on the momentous events of this past week.
I grew up as a child of the South where racism was rampant. Segregation was the way it was. And yet, I remember the discussion in a high school history class when President Eisenhower sent the troops into Little Rock. The discussion centered on our feeling that African-Americans not being able to attend our schools was terrible. There we were, kids who didn’t have a driver’s license yet, more grown up than many of our parents and grandparents.
It’s time to grow up. Take the Confederate battle flag down. My great-grandmother died two generations ago.
This past year, in that same high school classroom, where I and my classmates concluded that segregation was wrong, blacks and whites are studying together, playing together, dating each other. The reason they are is the Supreme Court of the United States said discriminatory laws against races was unconstitutional.
One of the candidates for President of the United States said, in reaction to the Supreme Court decision, “An unjust law is no law at all.” He invoked the name of Martin Luther King, Jr. in citing that quote. And Martin Luther King, Jr was quoting Saint Augustine. He’s right. He just failed to acknowledge that it is the Supreme Court that determines which of our laws are just and unjust. If that wasn’t so there would be no black faces in that classroom where I went to school today.
Saying that “an unjust law is no law at all” is not an indictment of the Supreme Court’s decision that the LBGT community cannot be denied the right of marriage, it’s an indictment of the failure of the one speaking failing to grow up. It’s ridiculous. The Supreme Court long ago said that a law that denies a black person to marry a Caucasian is “no law at all.”
Basically, those who are saying the Supreme Court’s gay marriage decision bypasses the process of law apparently never sat in a history classroom like the one I sat in during high school. Civil rights are not a matter of voting. Civil rights don’t need a legislative vote. Civil rights are, help me out here, ah, ah, … civil rights are RIGHTS.
One more point. These arguments that the Supreme Court is going to force me to marry someone is the product of an uninformed brain. I am an ordained minister of the United Methodist Church. No one can force me to marry anyone. It’s based one of the principles the people against gay marriage keep pushing, the separation of church and state (unless the Court rules in favor of their desires). I once spent more than a few sessions with a couple, both white and both straight, in pre-marital counseling. There came a point when I told them I wouldn’t agree to perform the marriage service. They were upset, to say the least. They went to another pastor a few blocks down the street. He married them. They divorced six months later.
I’m not a lawyer, but my interpretation of the decision is does not interfere with my duties as a pastor. Instead, it is a decision that says the Clerk of the Probate Court has to issue the license. Truth is, I might refuse to marry them, but the decision will not be based on whether or not they are gay.
I find it amazing that certain people who have a record of demanding the Supreme Court enforce their own theological views stomp their feet and shake their fists and whine when the nation is screaming, “Grow up.”
Do you remember where you were forty-five years ago at 7:59 p.m. this past Sunday. I do. I remember it vividly. I don’t know if it was the event that called us to my in-law’s house. It very well could have been. After all, we were a struggling family, and they were a well-established one. That meant their television screen was a lot bigger than was ours.
We were in the den of their house. Funny, I don’t remember the kids being in the room. Maybe my daughter had been put to bed. That seems a bit odd as we were at her grandmother’s house who tended to let her do whatever she wanted. Maybe she was in the room and I don’t remember because of the momentous moment. But I remember all of us sitting around the room, staring at the screen, the grainy black and white picture.
Earlier the world’s inhabitants let out a sigh of relief when the words were heard: “Houston, Tranquility Base here. The Eagle has landed. Land it did; that black and white video we were gazing at in amazement was the leg of the Lunar Module Eagle resting in Moon dust.
Then, it happened. We saw a leg, the leg of an astronaut moving down the ladder. And we sucked in our breath as Neil Armstrong jumped from the ladder onto the surface. “That’s one small step for [a] man, one giant leap for mankind” we heard. Humans were now walking on the Moon.
There’s no reason for me to go to Google Image to recall one vivid picture of that historic event. It’s emblazoned on my mind. It’s the picture of the footprint on one of those astronauts on the Moon’s surface. I’m sure it’s still there today, a testimony that humans have gone far beyond our own planet.
A year before that Moon landing Astronaut William Anders took another picture while orbiting the Moon in preparation for the landing. The picture showed Earth rising over the Moon’s horizon just as the Sun rises over Earth’s. Earthrise. Wow! The Earth is so beautiful. The blue and white colors stand out so vividly against the darkness of space and the gray of other planets. The Earth is so special, our home, our delicate, delicate home.
There’s another picture of Earth I love. Eight years after the first Moonwalk, Voyager I was launched by NASA to explore our Solar System. She explored and sent back data for thirty-six years. In 1990 Voyager I left our Solar System. She was 3.7 billion miles from Earth. NASA commanded her to turn around and take one more picture, a picture of the Solar System and Earth. Earth appears in that picture as a Pale Blue Dot, occupying only a half pixel. Earth, so beautiful, so small.
The week before last Sunday all the news was about violence. Little children, refugees from violence, being yelled at violently. Israel and Hamas slinging missiles at each other again, with a renewed sense of violence. Upheaval in Ukraine. Passenger airlines being fired upon with surface to air missiles with bodies falling from the sky into the yard of an orphanage. Scores being shot in Chicago.
A footprint on the Moon. The Earth rising above the Moon’s horizon. The Pale Blue Dot that is where we live. We are a people of promise. We are so violent. And we are so insignificant. What is wrong with us?
I try to be as professional in writing this blog as I can. I make every attempt to tell an interesting story, to not dwell too much on my pet peeves, and to write things others are not writing. I also make a good effort to use correct grammar, punctuation, and other use of the English language.
There’s a bit of pressure on me to use correct English. I’m the father of an English teacher. And I know, at least from time to time, he reads these epistles. As such, I’m really careful. When I do have a question, I’m not too proud to ask my son’s advice. Recently, I did just that.
The advice I sought concerned the proper place to use “who” or “whom.” I wanted specifically to know the proper usage in the sentence, “She had an uncle with (who or whom) I bonded. Being the good son that he is he responded promptly. His instruction clearly explained this to me. He gave me the him/he rule. So, in my sentence it would be: “She had an uncle with whom I bonded.” That’s because I bonded with him. And if I bonded with “him” then it’s “whom.” Now, in another sentence I might have said: “She had an uncle who had a nice car.” Okay, you see, “He” had a nice car. And if it’s “he” then I should use “who.”
I hope, my dear reader, this has clarified things for you. I’m sure you have, as I, pondered many times over the years when you should use who and when you should use whom. My prayer is that by relaying my English teacher son's lesson to you this will no longer cause sleepless nights.
But if you fear there might be future sleepless nights because of the who or whom dilemma relax. My son also told me that “whom” is now on it’s last leg. The common, modern, practice, he says, is to always use who.
I beg to differ. Look, Mrs. Blalock was my high school English teacher. Mrs. Blalock told me it was important that one use the words who and whom in the proper context. With all due respect to my son, Mrs. Blalock lived a bit closer to the formation of the English language than he. (Please note I didn’t say “him.” You can thank Mrs. Blalock for that.) So, I need to meet my son at some roadside tavern somewhere between my house and his so we can discuss this further. I mean, are we going to have a memorial service for “whom” or just let “whom” drift away into oblivion without a whimper.
What’s next? Are we going to see the adaptation of spelling to conform to that of the teenagers today? O RLY!! For those of you who are not teenagers, that’s text spelling for “Oh, really.” Don’t you dare reply: YA RLY (Text spelling for “Yeah, really”). Frankly, I think IRL (in real life) old farts as I need to hold the fort against the corruption of our mother tongue. IMO (in my opinion) we still need Mrs. Blalock.
The next thing you know my son will be telling me that it’s okay to end a sentence with a preposition. And I, along with Winston Churchill, find that a situation up with which I shall not put.
Hope you had a glorious Fourth. It makes it nice when our nation’s birthday falls on either a Friday or Monday. Mine was kind of quiet. I mowed the lawn, trimmed the shrubs, took a nap, watched a movie, took another nap, went on a long walk with the dogs. Whew! Now that the high temperatures have returned I’m getting tired just thinking of all I did on that somewhat cool holiday.
But the Fourth is now over. That means the politicians are now all geared up to do some really serious campaigning. You know, in this day and age, if you’re feeling lonely and unnoticed just make a donation to someone’s campaign. It doesn’t have to be much. But it will assure your email and your snail mail box is filled to the brim every day. I wouldn’t mind getting all that mail if they’d keep mailing me after the election, just to assure me I’m not just a means to an end.
Knowing the campaigning is cranking up, I’d like to address the would-be office holders, those that wannabe and those that already are.
First, when you put out those mailers and air those television commercials, don’t limit yourself to attacking your opponent. Here’s the thing: If I’m going to vote for your opponent I’m not going to listen to nor read your solicitations. I don’t want to know about your opponent’s weakness. I want to know about what you’re going to do when you get there.
Second, don’t quote the founding fathers unless you actually know what they said. You need to be aware that some of us had Mr. Schuller for our American History teacher and we know for sure what the founding fathers said and did not say. Please don’t put your words in their mouth.
Another thing, particularly if you manage to hold a national office. When those cable news people ask you a question, answer it. Answer it as though you are our representative in that national body. Don’t repeat what we just heard the senator from some state out west said. Whenever that great inventor of political party talking points sends you a list of them, toss it. You are my representative. I’d like to hear your answer.
During these next five months of campaigning, do you think it would be too much to ask if you and your opponents conduct yourself with a bit of dignity. My Mama said if you can’t say anything nice about someone body don’t say anything. So don’t repeat nor make veiled references to some alleged flaw in your opponent. I can’t speak for everyone, but I am more interested in your proposals, your character, your approach than I am your opponent.
Gracious, there are so many suggestions I have. But I know you’ve got to get on to that next speaking engagement and are pressed for time. So, let me finish with one other suggestion. Actually, it’s more of a request than a suggestion.
Decades ago I remember reading a news magazine article which made the observation that anyone running for a statewide or national political office has to have a bit of an ego. That’s not a criticism; it seems self-evident. In this regard would you please, after being elected, purchase some media time for your spouse? And during that time could your spouse tell us what would be the best way for us to deal with your ego?
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