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Posts for April, 2012

Christian Values

Timothy Kincaid

April 16th, 2012

The “Value Voters” have announced their Summit again, and hate groups, exclusionists, and theocrats are well represented. And again good and decent people are too reluctant to challenge it in the way that it should be challenged.

* * *

In December, a friend asked what I was doing Christmas Day. I told him that there was a church near where I live, St. James in the City Episcopal Church, that has a food pantry and I was going to see if they had a Christmas Dinner I could volunteer for. He laughed at me. It seems that if you want to volunteer at St. James, you have to sign up months in advance.

St. James caught my attention again this week when a client listed them as their church. This individual is very generous with time and money and seems committed to helping the less fortunate, so this confirmed to me that this congregation had a emphasis on contributing to the world.

St. James in the City is located on Wilshire in a section dotted with beautiful early 20’s Century Churches. Glorious architecture with heritage built for an affluent community that migrated outward leaving their mansions to be torn down and replaced with apartment buildings. The handful of older ladies that venture back each Sunday to the First Congregational nearby surely don’t support the upkeep – that is from movie production rental. And the handsome Italian Romanesque beauty that is Wilshire Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) went up for sale a few months ago.

Church attendance is down in general. And with the mega-church phenomenon sucking away many who might otherwise attend their local church, the old standbys are hurting. And mainline denominations are hurting the most.

But not St. James. It is packed on Sundays.

And one congregate wrote a few years back about her experience for a British audience, explaining the appeal.

While churches in England have, for the most part, modernised their services in an attempt to attract bigger crowds — some of them becoming painfully evangelical and happy clappy — the Episcopal church in the US still uses the older, traditional liturgies, the ones that I remember nostalgically. It was these superficial trappings that appealed to us originally. My husband, who writes music for a living, is a sucker for a choir — but it is the values that we found there that has really kept us coming back.

At our church, it is not unusual to see children with two mums or two dads, sitting next to Koreans, African-Americans, Hispanics, as well as many white middle-class families. There are monied people from Beverly Hills, rubbing shoulders with artists from downtown. Gay people next to straight. It’s jolly, social and somehow has a relevance to everyone’s life. It reflects an acceptance of all, the kind of value I’d like my children to have. And it is a community. Spirituality, I believe, comes from acknowledging that we are part of something greater than just ourselves.

I believe that she has identified something. And I think that it is a notion that mainline Christianity should note.

For too long those who have obstinately held to theological positions that do not reflect either modern understanding about sexuality or the spirit of the message found in Christ’s recorded teachings have owned the word “values”. And mainline churches have been in the public’s perception limited to “no, we aren’t all like that”.

I think it is long passed the time when Mainline Christianity stand and say, “We have strong values including inclusion, relevance, flexibility, and especially love for our fellow man. Our values predate whatever those others are selling and were, in fact, the values of our founder”.

Mainline Christianity deserves a better position that “the Christians who don’t hate you”. What they have to offer is a much needed commodity. It’s not just what they don’t give – it’s what they do give: values, the kind you wants your kids to have.

Who speaks for Jesus?

Timothy Kincaid

March 8th, 2012

Within the more than 2 billion people on the planet who fall under the very diverse umbrella of Christianity, there are a good many voices who claim to speak for the founder of the faith. What Would Jesus Do is not only a trite slogan but a question that many religious leaders seek to answer, often with “exactly what I want to do”.

But sometimes that isn’t a question without an answer. If the gospels reflect the attitudes and theological positions expressed by Jesus, then sometimes it’s really pretty clear what Jesus would do, or say, or expect. Take, for example, this small disagreement between a Methodist minister and the Catholic Diocese of Sacramento.

For decades Francis House in Sacramento has served the needy of the community. The Bee describes them thusly:

Each morning, dozens of poor people line up at Francis House, in Sacramento’s homeless services epicenter on C and 14th streets, for help with basic services such as housing and transportation. Now in its 42nd year, the organization is one of the largest homeless services agencies in the Sacramento region, serving upward of 25,000 people. It has an annual budget of about $500,000.

More than a soup kitchen or homeless shelter, Francis House is partly referral agency for address substance abuse, legal issues, and basic needs and partly an effort to provide the immediate necessities for people to become employable or safe. They do things like provide bus tokens, training in what is expected from employers, and yes get food and shelter to individuals and families in crisis. But, recognizing that while food may address hunger, it cannot change a life, a significant part of their work is counseling.

And though some of this is possible through programs funded by various levels of government, the majority is contributions from individuals and organizations. With three full time employees, three part time, and about 50 volunteers, they try to put their faith into action to change the world for those who most need change. The final paragraph in their Form 990 listing of accomplishments puts it this way:

Through God’s grace and the generous support of our community, we strive to serve the poorest among us, as worthy of His grace and His love regardless of circumstances. As we open our hearts to healing and growth we strive to assist our guests to discover a better life.

(I love the language that sees the necessity for healing and growth in the hearts of those who are not disadvantaged)

The group is not denominationally driven and receives funding from a wide variety of sources, one of which was an annual $7,000 to $10,000 contribution from the Catholic Church. But in December 2010 the director for the past 2 decades died from a heart attack and the new director just doesn’t live up to the Church’s expectations.

You see, before Rev. Faith Whitmore became the executive director, when she was still the senior pastor at St. Mark’s United Methodist Church, she expressed her personal views on some issue and her personal views are in disagreement with the declarations of the Vatican.

No, these views were not about liturgy or sacraments. They didn’t address papal infallibility, transubstantiation, or the veneration of Mary. No problem arose about catechism, form of baptism, or even whether each could consider the other a brother or sister in Christ.

But the issues about which Whitmore expressed opinion go to the heart of the differences between where the United Methodist Church and the Roman Catholic Church today: the extent to which each church believes it has a claim on the unquestioning obedience of those around them. Whitmore expressed opinions which “publicly oppose Catholic teaching” and that makes her and Francis house unacceptable. And these teachings, unlike the mystical matters of faith that purported divide denominations, are the matters which define the approach of each.

Within her own denomination, she has been a strong advocate of same-sex marriage. In 2008, during a short period in which gay marriage was legal in California, Whitmore openly defied church law by marrying same-sex couples. She has said publicly that she supports a woman’s right to obtain an abortion.

Gay marriage and abortion. These are the issues with which one MUST conform to Catholic teaching (a position that would disqualify most Catholics). And the difference is not even whether each should be a part of sacrament or even recognized as morally acceptable, the difference is what society can and should demand of its citizens and to whom it should defer.

It should be noted that Whitmore does not hold these views despite her faith. These are not matters of a secular nature, but rather are to her matters of justice and mercy situated at the heart of Christ and his message.

And so here we have two intractable positions, both integral to their faith, both established and bound by what each party believes is the will of God. Each believes that their view is the holy and righteous position.

And I can see how each came to hold their views and why they believe them to be moral. But views are not all we are discussing. And when we look at the priorities chosen and the behaviors resulting from a clenched hold to these views, I cannot see how one of these two parties can see themselves as being ambassadors of Christ.

Because one of these parties has been on a consistent path: if society will not conform to their doctrine, they will not run orphanages. Civil law must follow church law or they will not administer governmental aid programs. And now, if anyone dare differ with their beliefs, they will not feed the hungry or provide counsel for those seeking to reestablish themselves in the working world.

There are many issues on which Christian voices can claim to speak for Christ, but on this one, I’ll let Jesus speak for himself.

“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’

“Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’

“The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’

“Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’

“They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’

“He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’

A Christian question

A Commentary

Timothy Kincaid

February 6th, 2012

For many Americans the question of marriage equality circles around what they see as ideal or moral or approved by their Christian faith. It is a question of “what does God want them to do?” And being convinced that homosexuality is a sin, they need go no further to justify their discrimination.

But that approach misses the general theme of Jesus and the early Christian writers. The gospels and epistles don’t discuss what the Roman law should be. The early church didn’t establish agenda to oppress the worship of Diana or to seek dominion over the mountains of entertainment and government. Even their condemnation of unacceptable behavior didn’t extend beyond refusing to fellowship with the offender.

Although one would be hard pressed to see it in the culture or the dogma, Christianity was never supposed to be focused on the flaws of others, real or imagined, or to shape society in a godly manner. Rather it was designed as a personal faith directed inward and evidenced by how it changes the individual, not what he could demand of his neighbor.

The real question that Christians are scripturally directed to ask, the one that would be familiar to the founders of the faith, is “what does God want me to do?” And it is this question that Sen. Mary Margaret Haugen (D-Camano Island) asked herself.

“I have very strong Christian beliefs, and personally I have always said when I accepted the Lord, I became more tolerant of others. I stopped judging people and try to live by the Golden Rule. This is part of my decision. I do not believe it is my role to judge others, regardless of my personal beliefs. It’s not always easy to do that. For me personally, I have always believed in traditional marriage between a man and a woman. That is what I believe, to this day.

“But this issue isn’t about just what I believe. It’s about respecting others, including people who may believe differently than I. It’s about whether everyone has the same opportunities for love and companionship and family and security that I have enjoyed.

I am certain that Sen. Haugen will be soundly condemned by those who will claim that she “went against her faith and her religion.” But her considerations go to the heart of what Christianity was intended to be and, sadly, so seldom is.

Single Father Laughing removes the asterisk

Timothy Kincaid

November 21st, 2011

One of my great frustration is with Christian people who read Scripture and establish values and build character with an asterisk and footnotes. They truly believe that they are to love everyone* and that they are to abhor discrimination and bigotry towards anyone* and to work for a more just world for all*. Because, after all the Bible says to love your neighbor* as yourself.

* – except gay people

But if you’re gay then there are all sorts of “sanctioning immorality” and “putting a seal of approval on sin” and “not standing up for righteousness” issues that really must be considered, you know. So, well, it’s different.

Dan Pierce, who blogs as Single Father Laughing, isn’t buying it. And I’ll let his commentary I’m Christian, unless you’re gay speak for itself.

Read it.

And then he followed up with the responses he received in Powerful Responses to ‘I’m Christian, unless you’re gay.’

Dammit, Dan, I told myself I wouldn’t cry.

The irony of opposing HPV vaccination

Timothy Kincaid

September 15th, 2011

As we discussed earlier today, some conservative Christians find Rick Perry, a Southern Baptist politician, an unacceptable choice for president because he supported the vaccination of young Texas women to prevent their possible future infection with the human papillomavirus. Firmly believing that the wages of sin is death – and should damn well stay that way – they oppose any efforts to inoculate for a virus that is spread primarily through sexual behavior.

I believe that much of this opposition is based in a fear that their literalist faith might be losing relevancy. Should a moral code no longer provide an observable service – such as protection from disease and unhappiness – then it becomes an arbitrary set of rules imposed by a capricious deity at his whim. So it is important to them that HPV – and it’s correlation with cancer – remain associated with sinners.

You can sense the desperation in this comment on the American Family Association’s website from Sally in Pennsylvania:

Sorry… Christian or not, I cannot support any candidate who signed an executive order to mandate a series of painful vaccinations for 12 year old girls – FOR AN STD that’s preventable by BEHAVIOR! On top of that, there was no provision to allow parents to opt their child out until enough pressure was put on him and he gave in. That’s a pretty clear indication as to where he stands on the issue of parental authority versus state control on the raising of children. No thanks.

But what Sally hasn’t realized is that she may her way; HPV may well remain associated with a group.

Should sufficient numbers of people refuse vaccination, the virus will continue to have a distinct pool in which to replicate and a strong correlation will become detectable. Soon, should Sally’s thinking prevail, HPV and the correlating cervical cancer rates will come to be associated with conservative Christianity.

Conservative churches welcome homosexuals

Timothy Kincaid

August 18th, 2011

Tony Perkins, lead anti-gay activist at Family Research Council tweeted the following

And he’s right.

As long as you are a “homosexual” – as Tony and fellow believers define the term – the church doors are open wide. To them, a homosexual is someone who engages in sex with persons of the same sex, and has nothing whatsoever to do with attractions, instincts, love, or family. If you show up looking to be delivered from a sinful homosexual lifestyle then you are not only welcomed but celebrated.

Church members will joyously go online to leave comments on the Militant Homosexual Activist Blogsites reporting that the saving grace of Jesus healed a broken and wounded soul right that very morning. Of course, they don’t actually want to associate with that person, “do you know what he’s done? And he’s so very, well, flamboyant still”, but nevertheless they are happy to report deliverance.

Yes indeed, homosexuals are welcome.

Ah, but as for conservative churches welcoming gay people? The folks that do not believe that their orientation – that immutable, natural, and powerful force – is inherently evil? Those folk?

Yeah, not so much.

(hat tip: Joe My God)

The champions of the bullies

Timothy Kincaid

July 14th, 2011

In recent years bullying of gay children and those perceived to be gay has caught the attention of the nation. While this is not a new phenomenon, the rise of “new media” has allowed for stories that individually may have received little notice – or may have been intentionally misconstrued – to be seen as a pattern and an ongoing problem. And as the list of names of children tormented to the point of suicide grew, so too did a collective awareness that our culture has a serious problem with bullying.

Secular concern has been consistent and compassionate. Individuals, celebrities, corporations, and the President of the United States have all sought to give kids a message of hope that they should hold on because it gets better.

But the response to this problem from people of faith has been mixed. Some, mostly in Jewish and mainline Christian denominations, have condemned the bullying and expressed acceptance, love, and support for the gay and presumed gay victims. Others have agreed that bullying is not a good thing, but have dismissed its seriousness and resisted anti-bullying programs as being homosexual propaganda.

But generally there has been agreement that slurs are not appropriate behavior for Christian youth.

Yet there are those among conservative evangelical Christianity who don’t just downplay slurs and expressions of contempt but engage in such behaviors themselves. One such person is Daniel Beckworth, youth pastor at Union Grove Baptist Church in Opelika, Alabama and regional representative of Youth for Christ.

David Rattigan, at Ex-Gay Watch, chronicles an email exchange between himself and Beckworth which was initiated by a slur that Beckworth left on the site. When David reached out to Beckworth to remind him of the consequences of bullying kids who are “different”, he was met with a particularly telling rebuttal:

Maybe you should speak to the young boys who wish they had someone to help them be manly. You dont need to reply. You have no chance of convincing me that we need to pamper young boys.

David does not see Beckworth as an isolated instance. Rather he traces his views to rhetoric and example from Mark Driscoll, pastor of Seattle’s mega-church Mars Hill Church. Driscoll too, it appears, practices a religion that values contempt over compassion and arrogance over kindness.

But while Driscoll engages in a pattern of insult followed by pseudo-apology, his example gives cover to those like Beckworth who find virtue in abusing the weak. Go read the entire story at Ex-Gay Watch and keep it in mind for the next time that some conservative Christian tells you, “It isn’t us, it isn’t kids from our churches that are doing the bullying!”

In coming commentaries I’ll be discussing some things I’ve observed about a growing tension in a conservative denomination as well as how some recent correspondence illustrates the peculiar logic and self-deception required to justify cruelty.

Which One Is The Parody?

Jim Burroway

March 16th, 2011

Please select one, but don’t click on any links until after you choose:


Japan had built tsunami walls along their coasts but this tsunami was bigger than that. No matter what you say, they either weren’t blessed with protection or they were cursed with an earthquake. …God did say, Christ did say that earthquakes would increase in the last days and that’s what we’re seeing.


…[T]his island, Hokkaido, looks like the head of a dragon with the body being the rest of Japan. The people of Asia have worshipped the dragon for 5,000 years. If one looks at the place where the earthquake took place, it looks like the soft underbelly of most vulnerable part of the dragon. Let’s pray that the deep idolatry and the worship of hundreds of idols under the guise of Shintoism, Buddhism, and allegiances to being “sons of the dragon” will be broken and thousands will turn to the Lord. My interpretation of this is that while God did not want people to perish, He is going to use this to “pierce” the darkness surrounding the Japanese people if we will cry out to God for them in the midst of this crisis.


There will be a shaking coming to Japan that will bring them to their knees. This shaking will change the industry of the nation. Japan has been built upon a fault line linked with a deep wounding from the past. This shaking will occur before the apostolic team that I am sending to Japan arrives. When they arrive, I will begin the healing of the fault line and release a new anointing for industries. I am sending you to the people group of that area and they will be humbled in the midst of their pride. Do not fear. I am causing the mountain to be brought down and the valleys to be brought up. I will create a leveling effect in Japan.

The answer is after the jump

Peter Gomes: a powerful voice for gay Christians passes

Timothy Kincaid

March 1st, 2011

Yesterday, Peter Gomes died.

As minister of Memorial Church of Harvard University since 1970, Peter Gomes held a pulpit of prestige. An international preacher, Gomes was highly respected and his influence ranged from discussing theology with the Queen Mum to offering prayers and sermons at the inaugurals of Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H. W. Bush. Every Harvard alumnus for the past 40 years has started and ended their education with his advice.

But for me, Gomes will be remembered as the author of The Good Book: Reading the Bible with Mind and Heart, a book which allowed me to look at some of my presumptions and question my own interaction with faith. The premise of this work, which really isn’t all that surprising, is that few Christians have much working knowledge of the Bible, know how to read it, or feel confident to understand what it says. Instead they opt for a deification of the image of the Bible rather than attempting to apply the truths found in its contents.

And it was demystifying the Bible and shaking up Christianity’s comfortable assumptions that consumed the past few decades of his life. Although a life-long Republican of the Massachusetts variety (until a recent registration change to support Deval Patrick), he viewed Jesus as a social revolutionary whose gospel would not be much welcomed in today’s established Christianity and deplored the way in which Scriptural literalism could be text proofed to support just about any social injustice.

In 1991 Gomes came out as gay, (NY Times)

Then, in 1991, he appeared before an angry crowd of students, faculty members and administrators protesting homophobic articles in a conservative campus magazine whose distribution had led to a spate of harassment and slurs against gay men and lesbians on campus. Mr. Gomes, putting his reputation and career on the line, announced that he was “a Christian who happens as well to be gay.”

When the cheers faded, there were expressions of surprise from the Establishment, and a few calls for his resignation, which were ignored. The announcement changed little in Mr. Gomes’s private life; he had never married and said he was celibate by choice. But it was a turning point for him professionally.

“I now have an unambiguous vocation — a mission — to address the religious causes and roots of homophobia,” he told The Washington Post months later. “I will devote the rest of my life to addressing the ‘religious case’ against gays.”

Gomes was not hesitant to tie the ‘religious objection to homosexuality’ as preached in American Christianity to the actual mistreatment of homosexual persons as experienced in America. (The Good Book)

Although most contemporary Christians who have moral reservations about homosexuality, and who find affirmation for those reservations in the Bible, do not resort to physical violence and intimidation, they nevertheless contribute to the maintenance of a cultural environment in which less scrupulous opponents of homosexuality are given the sanction of the Bible to feed their prejudice and, in certain cases, cultural “permission” to act with violence upon those prejudices.

As an American Baptist preacher from a very young age, Gomes took the Bible seriously. He took his religion seriously. And it was through his faith, not in spite of it, that he spoke out for tolerance, for understanding, for inclusion, for treating your neighbor like yourself even when you really truly don’t want to, and for adhering to a meaningful thoughtful Christianity rather than a superstitious set of rites, rules and prejudices.

The religious community and the gay community have both lost a guiding light and a powerful advocate.

More Christians see need to speak out against bullying

Timothy Kincaid

November 3rd, 2010

From Connecticut’s MinuteManNewsService:

Two vigils held in Fairfield in the last week have sought to shine light, literally and figuratively, on the tragedy of gay teens who have taken their own lives after being bullied.

One vigil was to be held at Fairfield University Wednesday night after our press time and the other was held in front of First Church Congregational at the corner of Old Post Road and Beach Road last Friday night.

Jennifer Habetz, Youth Minister of First Church, said, “We are morally obligated, in the face of suicide after suicide to work to change the world in which our young people are growing up. And we must do so loudly and visibly, so they know that they are not alone.”

Habetz runs a ministry at First Church which seeks to provide a space for kids of all faiths to counteract the messages which say “they are less than acceptable in the eyes of God.”

At Fairfield University, their Jesuit heritage called on them to support troubled kids and to give comfort a higher priority than condemnation.

The head of Campus Ministry Reverend Michael Doody, S. J. said, “We don’t beat up or demonize people we disagree with. Everyone is entitled to their dignity.”

“The sin against that young man (Tyler Clementi at Rutgers) is far more grievous than anything he could have thought of committing,” said Doody, who pointed out that the Church also says that drinking too much is a sin.

“The Vigil is being held to raise the consciousness of the University Community,” said the priest, adding, “We’re all God’s people. God doesn’t discriminate in His loving.”

Shhhhhh. Don’t tell the Pope.

Phoenix Clergy protest anti-gay declaration

Timothy Kincaid

October 15th, 2010

I believe that the ideals behind our quest for rights are appealing. We want equality, we want to be included, we want to make family, we want to be responsible citizens. In fact, I think that a decent society would be naturally inclined to positively address our concerns.

But there’s the God thing. Our culture has been convinced to a great extent that gay rights run counter to what “the church says” and, well, there are a lot of decent people who defer to religion when they are uncertain.

But what is seldom understood is that in America there is no one religious position on homosexuality. While the media pits “gay activists” against “people of faith” for more dramatic ratings, the truth is that a good many people of faith, congregations, regions, and even denominations loudly and proudly support gay people and their full inclusion into society.

But it is not just the media’s fault. It is, to an extent, our fault as well; we have been too compliant in allowing our enemies to set up the religion v. homosexuality dichotomy. And blame also rests on our religious allies who have allowed the discussion of religion in our country to be dominated by right-wing extremists. Those who are more religiously liberal have been embarrassed to sound as though they were claiming to be “real Christians” and were hesitant to denounce the beliefs of others, even those who espouse views that are exclusionary and homophobic.

But that may be changing. More and more I see men and women of the cloth publicly standing up and declaring anti-gay attitudes to be immoral and contrary to God. One such example is No Longer Silent – Clergy for Justice.

The group will be protesting the Catholic Diocese of Phoenix who has organized an event to celebrate their decision to adopt the virulently anti-gay Manhattan Declaration. (AZ Central)

The liberal clergy group, known as No Longer Silent – Clergy for Justice, plans to place several hundred people along the sidewalk outside the basilica to challenge what they consider hateful rhetoric. They will protext while people leave an 8 a.m. Mass kicking off the Manhattan Declaration events.

“When religious authorities in the name of God tell people they are less than whole, few things are more destructive,” said the Rev. David Ragan, a leader of the group who works at Beatitudes Campus.

The Rev. Jeff Proctor-Murphy of Asbury United Methodist Church in Phoenix said the group hoped to help people understand “there is an alternative way to be Christian and to understand scripture, to love people even when we don’t understand them.”

I wish them tremendous success and much visibility. And I hope that many more religious leaders will be emboldened to stand up for all of God’s children and oppose the voices of condemnation and contempt. As anti-gay ideology ceases to be the religious position and becomes just a religious position in the mind of the public, then they will feel freer to choose decency, equality and love.

Tatchell applauded at UK Christian festival

Timothy Kincaid

August 30th, 2010

Peter Tatchell has been an untiring and unflinching advocate for international gay rights. His willingness to be arrested, harassed, and beaten has given him the credibility to command attention. And Tatchell has a character trait that sets leaders apart: the ability to find commonality where others might only see enmity.

Tatchell, who has long since abandoned his Christianity, may seem like an odd choice to speak at Greenbelt, one of Britain’s largest Christian festivals. But finding “more in common than divides us”, he went to harness the power of faith to do good in the world.

Tatchell was harshly critical of Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, whom he accused of colluding with the persecution of GLBT people by the Anglican Church in Africa and of “conservative evangelical groups from the USA” who went to Uganda to argue that the country’s biggest problem is “not poverty, not corruption, not human rights abuses, not rigged elections” but homosexuality.”

But he also found Christians to praise and to hold up as an example. (Ekklesia)

He was keen to make a distinction between Christians who oppose homosexuality and those who encourage persecution. “It’s one thing to say that homosexuality is wrong, and people are entitled to that belief,” he said, “What they’re not entitled to do is to say that the law of the land should discriminate”.

But Tatchell was quick to praise Christians who have stood up against such attitudes. He singled out South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu and Ugandan Bishop Christoper Senjyonjo, who has “paid a very, very heavy price” and been denied his pension.

He also spoke passionately of LGBT African Christians, including Davis Mac-Iyalla and Jide Macauley, who have risked their lives by being open about their sexuality.

“For all of those, gay and straight, who do take a stand, I salute you, I thank you,” he concluded.

Tatchell received a standing ovation.

Anne Rice: “I Quit Being A Christian”

Jim Burroway

July 29th, 2010

Anne Rice, the New Orleans novelist who single-handedly made vampires cool again, was raised as a Roman Catholic. But like most cultural Catholics, the church wasn’t something that she took seriously. That changed in 2004 following surgery for a life-threatening intestinal blockage, when she announced that she would henceforth “write only for the Lord.” She embraced her Catholic roots and published her next novel, Christ the Lord: Out of Egypt, which was intended to be the start of a series chronicling the life of Jesus. Her next novel, Christ the Lord: The Road to Cana, came out in 2008.

But her embrace of Catholicism was of a personal and spiritual nature, and as is not unusual among Catholics, didn’t extend to social issues:

Her views will not please all of the devout. Rice favors gay marriage. She believes the church position regarding birth control is a grievous error that is not supported by Scripture. She repudiates what she sees as intolerant, “sex-obsessed” church leaders, and says she does not find support in the message of Jesus for their focus on sexual orientation or abortion. She argues for a more inclusive church.

“Think of how the church bells would ring and the pews would fill if women could become priests and priests could marry. It would be the great resurgence of the Catholic Church in this country.”

But Rice was ultimately unable to reconcile her belief in Christ on the one hand, with the actions of fellow Christians and how those actions have stained the Christian “brand” on the other. She appears to have hinted at this with this post on her facebook page which appeared on Tuesday:

Gandhi famously said: “I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.” When does a word (Christian)become unusable? When does it become so burdened with history and horror that it cannot be evoked without destructive controversy?

She answered her question yesterday morning, when she posted this to her facebook page:

For those who care, and I understand if you don’t: Today I quit being a Christian. I’m out. I remain committed to Christ as always but not to being “Christian” or to being part of Christianity. It’s simply impossible for me to “belong” to this quarrelsome, hostile, disputatious, and deservedly infamous group. For ten …years, I’ve tried. I’ve failed. I’m an outsider. My conscience will allow nothing else.

She then followed that a couple minutes later with this:

As I said below, I quit being a Christian. I’m out. In the name of Christ, I refuse to be anti-gay. I refuse to be anti-feminist. I refuse to be anti-artificial birth control. I refuse to be anti-Democrat. I refuse to be anti-secular humanism. I refuse to be anti-science. I refuse to be anti-life. In the name of …Christ, I quit Christianity and being Christian. Amen.

She followed those posts with two more quotations from the Book of Matthew posted on her facebook page as part of an ongoing set of discussions. So it appears that she hasn’t quit Jesus, just his followers on earth.

NOM in St. Paul: a disturbing perversion of Christianity

Timothy Kincaid

July 28th, 2010

The National Organization for Marriage presented its usual speakers in St. Cloud, Minnesota today. But it also presented someone who made the most peculiar and disturbing speech we’ve yet observed on their tour.

First, let me say that it is appropriate that religious moral teaching – along with other codes of ethics – deal with appropriate sexuality. Violation, abuse of trust, maturity, fidelity and even abstinence are all issues about which people of faith may and should determine ideals and personal goals.

It is not peculiar or inappropriate for Christianity – or any other belief system – to establish rules of self-comportment which preclude using others sexually and which encourage abstinence before commitment and fidelity afterword. But lately I’ve seen faith leaders who go far beyond ethical sexuality and who have gone so far as to spiritualize and even deify heterosexuality.

Take, for example, this report by NOM’s blogsite (perhaps Maggie Gallagher) of a speech by Father Mike Becker, the rector of St. John Vianney Semi­nary in St. Paul:

Father Mike Becker, from the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis, told supporters today that from a spiritual perspective, “Marital intimacy is a prayer,” relaying the account of a woman who told him that she believed there were angels in the room rejoicing when her child was conceived.

That is, to me, shocking coming from a Christian minister.

The idea of “intimacy” as an offering to a deity is not a new one. Fertility cults, wherein deities are honored by sacred acts of f*cking, were at one time a dominant religious experience on the planet. Sexuality is a powerful force and linked as it is with procreation and rebirth and the cycles of the seasons, it was almost inevitable that it would become a focal point of worship.

But not for Christians. The Protestant long Judeo-Christian heritage is one of rejection of “sacred sex.” Indeed, most scholars agree that the Levitical sexual restrictions exist in a part due to the sex worship of neighboring Canaanites. And New Testament Christians set themselves apart from the collection of Roman deities with their temple prostitutes.

To say that “marital intimacy is a prayer” is not only heretical, but a very disturbing perversion of Christianity, as I know it to be. And to conjure up images of invisible demi-gods hovering about watching you have sex is not only exhibitionistic, but hearkens back to Samhain fires and Astarte temples. While these may have an appropriate place in the religious lore of others, they are certainly not a part of Protestant Christianity.

I am troubled that many of those who oppose civil equality for gay people do so not limit themselves to matters of sexual ethics. Rather, for a while some have been demonstrating an obsession with sex that borders on the deification of heterosexuality. But this is by far the most extreme that I’ve seen.

UPDATE: More from Courage Campaign:

We also met with Father Michael Becker, a Catholic priest whose main argument against homosexuality was centered around the practice of anal and oral sex. According to Father Becker, anal and oral sex lack dignity because they abuse their partners as instrumentalities of pleasure for non-procreative potential.

He said it, not me.

Hawaii civil unions battle illustrates real motivation of gay foes

Timothy Kincaid

June 14th, 2010

Republican Governor Linda Lingle will decide within the next week whether to veto the civil unions bill passed by the Hawaii legislature. As part of her process, she has met with both supporters and opponents of the bill and an AP article gives a little insight into what they said.

Lingle is Jewish and, as such, is probably not much swayed by appeals to Christian orthodoxy. But the activism and approach by the two rabbis most influential with the Governor does reflect on what is behind most anti-gay activism.

Krasnjansky, who heads the Orthodox community group Chabad of Hawaii, said the Torah teaches that homosexuality, and by extension same-sex marriage, “is not something that should be condoned or should be legalized,” he said.

But Schaktman, who leads the Reform Temple Emanu-El, insists Judaism teaches that all people regardless of sexual orientation are and should be treated as “children of God,” and thus should not face discrimination.

“Civil unions are a legal arrangement,” he said. “Therefore, anyone who uses religion to oppose civil unions is purely using religion to further homophobia.”

Lingle is Jewish, but has rarely — if ever — publicly discussed her faith in considering an issue. Lingle’s office did not respond to phone or e-mail questions about her religious affiliation.

The debate between Krasnjansky and Schaktman mirrors that of Hawaii’s Christians. Catholic, evangelical and conservative pastors have waged a months-long effort to prod the Legislature and now Lingle to block the measure, HB 444. Mainline Protestant and more liberal preachers have worked to get the bill signed.

But I think the matter is bigger than just discrimination towards the gay and lesbian children of God. It’s a battle over the establishment of religion.

There is a concerted attempt on the part of State Churchists (of various faiths) to legislate their doctrine and thus claim the mantle of “real Christians” and “real Jews”. And, sadly, I don’t think that the more liberal religious adherents have yet realized what is at risk.

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