Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Where is the U.S. Evangelical response to Uganda?

It is disturbing how little concern (or even mention) I'm seeing among Evangelical Christian leaders and media about the Draconian new anti-LGBTQ law in Uganda (a nation that is 85% percent Christian). I can only conclude that such cruelty is ok with these folks, as long as it is directed not towards Christians per se but towards persons who are gay. What has gone on in Uganda gives a bit of insight into the perils of theocracy, including Christian Dominianism. What we're seeing is a variation of the oppressive Evangelicalism that Margaret Atwood so aptly captured in her "speculative fiction" book 'The Handmaid's Tale'.

And now, just after the passage of the new law, a Ugandan newspaper has printed a list of the "top 200 homos" in the nation. And so the witch-hunts begin, and U.S. Evangelicals--who played a key role in allowing this environment to come into being--will encourage the injustice by their silence. The clear message to the world from U.S. Evangelicals is this: "Do whatever you want to LGBTQ people (including those who claim to be our brothers and sisters in Christ) but God help you if you mess with our Chick-Fil-A or Duck Dynasty."

Sunday, February 16, 2014


My wife and I spent this weekend at a retreat with an organization called Friends [as in Quakers] for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer Concerns. FLGBTQC has been around, in various forms, since the 1970's--making it perhaps the oldest faith-based organization specifically intended for the support and affirmation of gay and lesbian persons. (http://flgbtqc.quaker.org/)

FLGBTQC has stated: "It is our hope to offer an oasis to those who have been spurned by the world at large. We are learning that radical inclusion and radical love bring further light to Quaker testimony and life. Our experience with oppression in our own lives leads us to seek ways to bring our witness to bear in the struggles of other oppressed peoples."

As a middle-aged, middle-class, educated, Christian, North American, white, able-bodied, heterosexual male I am not well acquainted with being marginalized or excluded or oppressed simply for who I intrinsically am. I usually take for granted that I am accepted, included and empowered, on many levels. So it was an interesting and valuable experience to be in the minority, one among only a handful of heterosexuals at a gathering for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer Quakers. Carla and I were welcomed warmly and included fully and felt right at home.

The overarching theme of this FLGBTQC gathering was "radical inclusion." Special emphasis was given to inclusion of persons with disabilities. The keynote speaker was a person with cerebral palsy and an evening general session was devoted to listening to persons with disabilities share their experiences and frustrations. One gentleman could only speak through the use of an electronic device (like the one used by Stephen Hawking) and it was beautiful and holy to see how everyone waited patiently for him to painstakingly form his statements letter-by-letter, word-by-word. His voice too was valued.

Perhaps it is because of the historical and ongoing rejection that LGBTQ folks have encountered that they have become so aware and adept at compassionately including others. The Church has much to learn from them.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

This is a newly released investigative documentary from the Australian TV news program "Four Corners" in conjuction with newspaper The Australian:

"A UNICEF report last year found that Palestinian children had been threatened under interrogation by Israeli security forces with death, physical violence, solitary confinement and sexual assault against themselves or a family member, while demanding confessions for alleged offenses--most commonly stone throwing. UNICEF estimates that over the past decade an average of 700 children a year have been detained, interrogated and processed through Israel's military court."

Sunday, February 09, 2014

"What am I? I am myself a word spoken by God. Can God speak a word that does not have any meaning? Yet am I sure that the meaning of my life is the meaning God intends for it? Does God impose a meaning on my life from the outside, through event, custom, routine, law, system, impact with others in society? Or am I called to create from within, with him, with his grace, a meaning which reflects his truth and makes me his word spoken freely in my personal situation? My true identity lies hidden in God's call to my freedom and my response to him. This means I must use my freedom in order to love, with full responsibility and authenticity, not merely receiving a form imposed on me by external forces, or forming my own life according to an approved social pattern, but directing my love to the personal reality of my brother, and embracing God's will in its naked, often unpenetrable mystery."
-- Thomas Merton

Saturday, February 08, 2014

"O God help me to believe the truth about myself no matter how beautiful it is." -- Macrina Wiederkehr, OSB

Wednesday, February 05, 2014

Interpretive Castles

There is a commonality between the Biblical Creationism championed by Ken Ham in last night's debate with Bill Nye and attitudes among some Christians towards persons who are LGBTQ. The commonality has to do with the fundamentalist method of scriptural interpretation (aka the fundamentalist hermeneutic). I was, for many years, a fundamentalist Christian, so I know this hermeneutic well. It begins with an a priori assumption that the Bible must be interpreted in a literalistic way ("The Bible says it, I believe it, that settles it."). This literalistic interpretation cannot be questioned or doubted because to do so, it is assumed, would be to threaten the entire system of belief. This fear is illustrated well in this cartoon which I first saw in a Christian publication. It highlights the belief that if a literalistic interpretation of Genesis (and of scripture in general) is lost, then the whole structure of the Christian faith will come crashing down like a house of cards. Therefore, any view about science or human nature or, well, anything, has to conform to the fundamentalist/literalistic interpretation of the Bible. All the evidences in the world in support of evolution or LGBTQ inclusion--regardless of how compelling they ought to be--will be discounted if they contradict the root literalistic interpretation. Likewise, explanations--regardless of how implausible or ridiculous--will be accepted if they conform to and reinforce the literalistic interpretation. What is thought to be at stake is the entire faith of Christianity. Adherents to this hermeneutic therefore see themselves as constantly under attack.

Of course, what is really at stake is simply an interpretational method, and a poor one at that. A more nuanced and educated approach to the Bible--one that takes into account ancient literary genres, for instance--is more challenging and strenuous but also exponentially more rewarding and life-affirming.

Tuesday, February 04, 2014

Nye / Ham Debate

I listened to a bit of the Bill Nye / Ken Ham debate. I think rather than a scientist like Nye (who was great, btw), they should have had a Bible scholar along the lines of Marcus Borg debating Ham. The root of Ham's errors are theological. His "scientific" views result from his literal reading of the book of Genesis. Nye, admittedly not a theologian, was unable to directly address Ham's flawed hermeneutic. Ham essentially said that the "Word of God" (the Bible) is "true" and therefore any "true" scientific view must be based on the Bible. So it ends up being circular reasoning. Additionally, when Ham speaks of "the Bible/Word of God" being "true" what he really means is *his interpretation* of the Bible.

Many years ago I was a fundamentalist Christian and, therefore, a young earth Creationist. My wife and I even visited the Creation Evidence Museum in Glen Rose, TX. I read books by Ham, Morris, et al. We were taught that to accept evolution was to deny the truth of the Bible, which would result in becoming unable to believe any of it, including the important stuff about Jesus. The literal hermeneutic was the foundation that the whole house of cards was built on. It took a while (and a lot of studying the Bible for myself) to realize that the truth contained in the Biblical texts is much deeper than literalism and that a faith which questions dogma and embraces uncertainty and remains open to new light is a vastly richer and more meaningful faith.

Monday, February 03, 2014

Brueggemann's 3rd Way

Theologian par excellence Walter Brueggemann suggests what the North American Christian church needs to do in order to recover its authenticity. Particularly interesting is his explanation of what was behind Bonhoeffer's famous statements about "cheap grace."

Saturday, February 01, 2014

Brene Brown on returning to faith and the challenge of love.

"I thought faith would say 'I'll take away the pain and discomfort.' But what it ended up saying is 'I'll sit with you in it.' I never thought until I found it that that would be enough. But it's perfect."