Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Thomas Merton: the teacher I never met

In December 10, 1968 the world lost Thomas Merton. I never met him, but in a way he has been in my life for many years. He has influenced my theology and the way that I look at the world.

In his honor I share the following from Conjectures of a Guilty Bystander by Thomas Merton. While this was published back in 1968, it is amazing to me how much of it is still relevant.

A basic temptation: the flatly unchristian refusal to love those whom we consider, for some reason or other, unworthy of love. And, on top of that, to consider others unworthy of love for even very trivial reasons. Not that we hate them of course: but we just refuse to accept them in our hearts, to treat them without inner reservations. In a word, we reject those who do not please us. We are of course "charitable toward them". An interesting use of the word "charity" to cover and to justify a certain coldness, suspicion, and even disdain. But this is punished by another inexorable refusal: we are bound by the logic of this defensive rejection to reject any form of happiness that even implies acceptance of those we have have decided to reject. This certainly complicates life, and if one is sufficiently intolerant, it ends by making all happiness impossible.

This means that we have to get along without constantly applying the yardstick of "worthiness" (who is worthy to be loved, and who is not). And it almost means, by implication, that we cease to ask even indirect questions about who is "justified," who is worthy of acceptance, who can be tolerated by the believer! What a preposterous idea that would be! And yet the world is full of "believers" who find themselves entirely surrounded by people they can hardly be expected to "tolerate," such as Jews, Negroes, unbelievers, heretics, Communists, pagans, fanatics, and so on.

God is asking of me, the unworthy, to forget my unworthiness and that of all my brothers, and dare to advance in the love which has redeemed and renewed us all in God's likeness. And to laugh, after all, at all preposterous ideas of "worthiness".

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Pope Francis is a Marxist? Here we go again...

It did not take long for Pope Francis to say and/or write something that once again made some people angry. This time it was political commentator/radio talk show host Rush Limbaugh who said among other "nuggets" of wisdom:

"The Pope has now gone beyond Catholicism, and this is pure political...it is very clear (the Pope) doesn't know what he's talking about when it comes to capitalism and socialism, and so forth...What this is, somebody has either written this for him or gotten to him. This is just pure Marxism coming out of the mouth of the pope."

Really Rush? So either the Pope has been manipulated or he is a Marxist?
Or he "doesn't know what he's talking about"?

I ask, define "pure Marxism" and "political". Second, there is not much a religious leader can say (particularly one who also happens to be a head of state) that will not "sound political" or be "political".

The Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium or "The Joy of the Gospel" appears to be raising Limbaugh's blood pressure. I wonder if he read the entire thing (as he claimed) or he stopped at a certain point when he was reading this "pure Marxism". We cannot be sure.

I did read the entire document (it took a while ha ha) and in my humble opinion as a theology student it has the usual elements that one can expect from Roman Catholic theology and centuries of Western Christian thought, starting with the first paragraph:

1. The joy of the gospel fills the hearts and lives of all who encounter Jesus. Those who accept his offer of salvation are set free from sin, sorrow, inner emptiness and loneliness. With Christ joy is constantly born anew. In this Exhortation I wish to encourage the Christian faithful to embark upon a new chapter of evangelization marked by this joy, while pointing out new paths for the Church’s journey in years to come.

Well, nothing here about Marx, or Stalin, or some secret communist plot to bring back the Yugo...I guess the "problem" started here:

56. While the earnings of a minority are growing exponentially, so too is the gap separating the majority from the prosperity enjoyed by those happy few. This imbalance is the result of ideologies which defend the absolute autonomy of the marketplace and financial speculation. Consequently, they reject the right of states, charged with vigilance for the common good, to exercise any form of control. A new tyranny is thus born, invisible and often virtual, which unilaterally and relentlessly imposes its own laws and rules. Debt and the accumulation of interest also make it difficult for countries to realize the potential of their own economies and keep citizens from enjoying their real purchasing power. To all this we can add widespread corruption and self-serving tax evasion, which have taken on worldwide dimensions. The thirst for power and possessions knows no limits. In this system, which tends to devour everything which stands in the way of increased profits, whatever is fragile, like the environment, is defenseless before the interests of a deified market, which become the only rule.

So talking about Christ, that is fine...describing the market as 'deified', well, we just can't have that sort of talk..

Accusations have been made that this sort of language was not used by either John Paul II or Benedict XV but this is incorrect. In his opinion piece The pope as Marxist: Is Limbaugh right?, Robert correctly points out that they were also explicit in their warnings against liberal capitalism and the dictatorship of the marketplace, producing encyclicals which, for their emphasis on social justice and the "option for the poor," would surely qualify for Rush Limbaugh as the very elixir of "Marxism."

The United States Catholic Conference of Bishops (USCCB) website has a section called "Human Life and Dignity" that includes topics like 'Abortion' and 'Contraception', along with 'Economic Justice' and 'Enviromental Justice'. Under Economic Justice the USCCB states: The Catholic bishops of the United States believe building a just economy that works for all encompasses a wide range of issues, including food security and hunger, work and joblessness, homelessness and affordable housing, and tax credits for low-income families, as well as protecting programs that serve poor and vulnerable people throughout the federal budget.

It continues:

The economy exists for the person, not the person for the economy.
All economic life should be shaped by moral principles. Economic choices and institutions must be judged by how they protect or undermine the life and dignity of the human person, support the family and serve the common good.
A fundamental moral measure of any economy is how the poor and vulnerable are faring.

Gustavo Gutierrez once said that theology is a matter of the stomach; our theology is very different when our stomachs are full. And as Ellsberg suggests:

Of course no one is troubled by a pope who embraces the sick and loves the poor. But when he dares to reflect on the moral and structural causes of poverty, that is a different matter. As Dom Helder Camara, another prophetic archbishop from Latin America, famously observed, "When I give food to the poor they call me a saint. When I ask why they are poor, they call me a communist." Some things never change.

And of course, here we go again...

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Single and Christian...it can be tough, very tough

Hello my dear reader.

Single and Christian? You don't need me to tell you that sometimes it can be tough, very tough...

Justin Lee correctly points out that being "single in a relationship-obsessed culture can be a challenge" and "one of the most frustrating places to be when you’re single is church—especially in American Protestant churches":

See, American Protestant churches are great at supporting families. If you want to know how to be a better, more godly husband, wife, parent, or child, we’ve got you covered. We’ve got books. We’ve got classes. We’ve got sermons. We’ve got small groups. Here, have a special edition Bible.
But too often, we don’t seem to know what to do with single people other than somehow shove them into that frame.
It’s not that churches don’t know they have single people. The trouble is, many churches think about singleness only as a young person’s issue. And what do single teenagers need? Lots of advice on controlling their sex drives until marriage, apparently. But single adults need a lot more than that.
Single adults aren’t just coping with singleness for a few more years; some of us are facing the possibility of a lifetime alone. We want to know how to deal with our need for companionship. We wrestle with loneliness and depression. We crave a community of people who won’t be too busy for us because of kids and family obligations. We worry about what will happen to us in illness, old age, or dementia without a spouse and children to care for us. And yes, we have questions about appropriately handling our sexual desires as Christians, but for most of us, that’s far from the toughest thing about being single.
I would like to hear from you regarding this issue, and if you are a lay leader or priest/pastor I would also like to hear from you.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

About "You Don't Speak for Me: Instructions for would-be-allies", are we listening?

"What do you need?"

During one of my favorite classes at seminary we have discussed a model called Decent Care. (Note: I will dedicate a separate post to discussing this concept) The first question that must be asked under the Decent Care model is this one: what do you need?

As I have been discussing with people the blog post You Dont Speak for Me: Instructions for Would-be-Allies by Dianne E. Anderson from her Faith and Feminism blog, some of my friends are conflicted. (Go ahead and read it and then come back here)

Even if some of us say that they would have written this article with a different tone and/or using different words, I fully agree with what is in my opinion, the biggest lesson: we first have to listen.

If you look at the first line of the article it is "Listen up", and the last line is "Are you listening?" Listen/Listening appears over 15 times, along with this:

Come in close and cry as we cry. Allow our hurt, our pain, our continued, daily oppression to sink into your soul. It will never be a part of you like it is a part of us, but you cannot empathize if you do not listen. Our anger will make you uncomfortable. You will want to shout that you are “not like that,” but that is not what we need to hear – we don’t need to hear how our experience affects you. We need to you to simply listen and be with us.

If you plan to be an ally (or like me you already consider yourself an ally) I agree with the writer:
"We need to you to simply listen and be with us."

It appears that most of the disagreement in our discussion with my friends is centered on what to do AFTER we listen. But still we all agreed, we have to listen. My friends, I believe that after listening, and before we suggest anything we must ask: what do you need?

Once we listen to the answer, then we can continue and we must be ready to do what is needed even if that doesn't match our expectations. If we are asked to give up the mic, then we give it up. In the meantime, we educate ourselves and try to educate others. And when the moment comes to take the mic ourselves, then we shall do it with passion, compassion, and love. What do you think?

Thursday, November 21, 2013

A new direction

Hello my dear reader.

I hope you are well. Allow me to apologize since (as you already noticed) I have not been writing much this year. My life has changed a lot, specially the second half of the year with so many new and exciting things in the personal, professional, and spiritual aspects of my path. As a first year/full-time seminarian, my writing energies have been going to the usual work of papers, essays, sermons, response to weekly readings, revisions, etc.

But I find myself with new energy (not sure where it is coming from but I will take it) to write something every week. You may also notice a new direction with my writing. I hope you like it.

Until the next week!



Saturday, July 13, 2013

An anonymous young man would "like to make a complaint!"

Hello dear reader.

A friend of mine posted the following to his Facebook wall and I thought it was really good. While the last line (and part of the title of this post) reminded me of the 'Parrot Sketch' from Monty Python, I am I guessing that many of us have felt like this anonymous young man:

One sticks his finger into the ground in order to judge where one is. I stick my finger in existence - it feels like nothing. Where am I? What is the world? What does this world mean? Who has duped me into the whole thing, and now leaves me standing there? Who am I? How did I come into this world; why was I not asked, why was I not informed of the rules and regulations, but thrust into the ranks as if I had been forced by a soul-seller? How did I come to be involved in this great enterprise of actuality? Why should I be involved in it? Am I not free to decide? Where is the manager, I'd like to make a complaint!"
-Anonymous young man's letter in Kierkegaard's "Repetition'

Sunday, June 23, 2013

My faith as a Christian--Part 2

Hello my dear reader.

A while ago I wrote the first part on a series that I called "My Faith as a Christian". I thought it was a good idea to go back to this discussion. I said that these entries will be personal reflections and meditations on what is faith to me, how I understand my faith as a Christian, some of my joys, doubts and struggles during this journey, and how it affects my life and the lives of others. I remember among many things being inspired by the words of Martin Luther King Jr. when he said that faith "is taking the first step, even when you don't see the whole staircase."

Lately I have intrigued by what some people describe as biblical faith. While I am familiar with many ways of describing the word faith, including faith by itself and/or faith in a person, lately the term biblical faith has been occurring more and more in conversations, in politics, in the media, etc. I have observed that sometimes this is connected with some of my Christian brothers and sisters who believe that they are being persecuted in this country because they hold to what they call biblical faith.

Also, some of my Atheist brothers and sisters believe that faith is the enemy of reason, something to be avoided at all costs. (See the image I found in the web). I have observed that they believe that if you can get rid of faith (and all the negative baggage associated with faith) then a lot of our problems can be resolved.

Before I give my thoughts and opinions in this matter, I think it is wise to ask the following questions:
What does biblical faith mean to you?
Do you believe that faith is the enemy of reason?

Please remember to be respectful of each other and I look forward to your comments.



Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Women cannot be teachers, cannot hold any authority over men, and they must keep silent?

Hello my dear reader.

As I get ready to go to start seminary as a full time student, I am very excited. After having the chance to take one Theology class (it was 'Intro To Preaching' at Boston University School of Theology) I think back to all the things I learned, and to the excellent sermons delivered by my fellow students; I particularly enjoyed the theological discussions we had, since our professor always told us that as preachers we should be Theologians of the Word. As part of the class some of my female classmates talked about their experiences and then it hit me: depending on the denomination and/or theological tradition plus a particular moment in time, some of them quite simply would have not been in my classroom...because of their gender.

In some churches today, certain passages from Scripture are used to support the idea that women cannot be teachers (perhaps to other women, but never to men), they cannot hold any authority over men, they must keep silent, and only men can be ordained as pastors and/or preachers; if a woman can become a deacon it is only because it is not considered an ordained position in the theology of these churches.

Of these passages the verses from 1 Timothy 2 are the most common to support these theological positions, particularly these verses:
Let a woman learn in silence with full submission. I permit no woman to teach or to have authority over a man; she is to keep silent. For Adam was formed first, then Eve; and Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor.

I am a Christian in the Episcopal/Anglican tradition. The cornerstones of Anglican Theology are the three interconnected principles of Scripture, Tradition, and Reason. Many Christians like myself using this model of theology and other Christians from the United Methodist Church, the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America, The American Baptist Churches, and other traditions fully embrace our sisters in Christ and we are enriched by their work and witness from the pulpit and beyond. But what about other models of Theology, particularly those that hold the Sola Scriptura (Scripture Alone) model? It is in situations like these that I turn to N.T Wright.

He is a retired Anglican Bishop and biblical scholar who belongs to the Evangelical wing of the Church of England. While there are times when I disagree with him, I have found his theology and his writings to be solid and I always find something new to learn...and that sometimes forces me to re-evaluate some of my own theological thinking.

In his paper Women’s Service in the Church: The Biblical Basis, Bishop Wright tackles and reflects on the biblical verses and scholarship related to women in the Church. When it comes to the verses from 1 Timothy 2 that I mentioned before, he states the following and I recommend taking your time reading and re-reading, taking notes, pray and reflect, specially if you already have an opinion in this matter and trust me when I tell you that while it is a long read it is worth the time. Here are some excerpts:

I don’t think I’m exaggerating when I suggest that it is this passage far and away above all others which has been the sheet-anchor for those who want to deny women a place in the ordained ministry of the church, with full responsibilities for preaching, presiding at the Eucharist, and exercising leadership within congregations...

When people say that the Bible enshrines patriarchal ideas and attitudes, this passage, particularly verse 12, is often held up as the prime example. Women mustn't be teachers, the verse seems to say; they mustn't hold any authority over men; they must keep silent. That, at least, is how many translations put it. This, as I say, is the main passage that people quote when they want to suggest that the New Testament forbids the ordination of women...The whole passage seems to be saying that women are second-class citizens at every level. They aren’t even allowed to dress prettily. They are the daughters of Eve, and she was the original troublemaker. The best thing for them to do is to get on and have children, and to behave themselves and keep quiet...

Well, that’s how most people read the passage in our culture until quite recently. I fully acknowledge that the very different reading I’m going to suggest may sound to begin with as though I’m simply trying to make things easier, to tailor this bit of Paul to fit our culture. But there is good, solid scholarship behind what I’m going to say, and I genuinely believe it may be the right interpretation...

When you look at strip cartoons, ‘B’ grade movies, and ‘Z’ grade novels and poems, you pick up a standard view of how ‘everyone imagines’ men and women behave. Men are macho, loud-mouthed, arrogant thugs, always fighting and wanting their own way. Women are simpering, empty-headed creatures, with nothing to think about except clothes and jewellery. There are ‘Christian’ versions of this, too: the men must make the decisions, run the show, always be in the lead, telling everyone what to do; women must stay at home and bring up the children. If you start looking for a biblical back-up for this view, well, what about Genesis 3? Adam would never have sinned if Eve hadn't given in first. Eve has her punishment, and it’s pain in childbearing (Genesis 3.16).

Well, you don’t have to embrace every aspect of the women’s liberation movement to find that interpretation hard to swallow. Not only does it stick in our throat as a way of treating half the human race; it doesn't fit with what we see in the rest of the New Testament, in the passages we’ve already glanced at...

The key to the present passage, then, is to recognize that it is commanding that women, too, should be allowed to study and learn, and should not be restrained from doing so (verse 11). They are to be ‘in full submission’; this is often taken to mean ‘to the men’, or ‘to their husbands’, but it is equally likely that it refers to their attitude, as learners, of submission to God or to the gospel – which of course would be true for men as well. Then the crucial verse 12 need not be read as ‘I do not allow a woman to teach or hold authority over a man’ – the translation which has caused so much difficulty in recent years. It can equally mean (and in context this makes much more sense): ‘I don’t mean to imply that I’m now setting up women as the new authority over men in the same way that previously men held authority over women.’ Why might Paul need to say this?

There are some signs in the letter that it was originally sent to Timothy while he was in Ephesus. And one of the main things we know about religion in Ephesus is that the main religion – the biggest Temple, the most famous shrine – was a female-only cult. The Temple of Artemis (that’s her Greek name; the Romans called her Diana) was a massive structure which dominated the area; and, as befitted worshipers of a female deity, the priests were all women. They ruled the show and kept the men in their place...

Now if you were writing a letter to someone in a small, new religious movement with a base in Ephesus, and wanted to say that because of the gospel of Jesus the old ways of organizing male and female roles had to be rethought from top to bottom, with one feature of that being that the women were to be encouraged to study and learn and take a leadership role, you might well want to avoid giving the wrong impression. Was the apostle saying, people might wonder, that women should be trained up so that Christianity would gradually become a cult like that of Artemis, where women did the leading and kept the men in line? That, it seems to me, is what verse 12 is denying. The word I’ve translated ‘try to dictate to them’ is unusual, but seems to have the overtones of ‘being bossy’ or ‘seizing control’. Paul is saying, like Jesus in Luke 10, that women must have the space and leisure to study and learn in their own way, not in order that they may muscle in and take over the leadership as in the Artemis-cult, but so that men and women alike can develop whatever gifts of learning, teaching and leadership God is giving them. What’s the point of the other bits of the passage, then?

The first verse (8) is clear: the men must give themselves to devout prayer, and must not follow the normal stereotypes of ‘male’ behavior  no anger or arguing. Then verses 9 and 10 follow, making the same point about the women. They must be set free from their stereotype, that of fussing all the time about hair-dos, jewellry, and fancy clothes – but they must be set free, not in order that they can be dowdy, unobtrusive little mice, but so that they can make a creative contribution to the wider society. The phrase ‘good works’ in verse 10 sounds pretty bland to us, but it’s one of the regular ways people used to refer to the social obligation to spend time and money on people less fortunate than oneself, to be a benefactor of the town through helping public works, the arts, and so on...

Why then does Paul finish off with the explanation about Adam and Eve? Remember that his basic point is to insist that women, too, must be allowed to learn and study as Christians, and not be kept in unlettered, uneducated boredom and drudgery. Well, the story of Adam and Eve makes the point well: look what happened when Eve was deceived. Women need to learn just as much as men do. Adam, after all, sinned quite deliberately; he knew what he was doing, and that it was wrong, and went ahead deliberately. The Old Testament is very stern about that kind of action.

And what about the bit about childbirth? Paul doesn’t see it as a punishment. Rather, he offers an assurance that, though childbirth is indeed difficult, painful and dangerous, often the most testing moment in a woman’s life, this is not a curse which must be taken as a sign of God’s displeasure. God’s salvation is promised to all, women and men, who follow Jesus in faith, love, holiness and prudence. And that salvation is promised to those who contribute to God’s creation through childbearing, just as it is to everyone else. Becoming a mother is hard enough, God knows, without pretending it’s somehow an evil thing. Let’s not leave any more unexploded bombs and mines around for people to blow their minds with. Let’s read this text as I believe it was intended, as a way of building up God’s church, men and women, women and men alike. And, just as Paul was concerned to apply this in one particular situation, so we must think and pray carefully about where our own cultures, prejudices and angers are taking us, and make sure we conform, not to any of the different stereotypes the world offers, but to the healing, liberating, humanizing message of the gospel of Jesus...


So, what do you think my dear reader? Did any of this made sense to you? Was there something here that resonated with you, or that you rejected? I would love to hear from you.



Monday, June 10, 2013

Translating the Bible

Hello my dear reader,

If you have a Bible and you read it, guess what: you are interpreting the text because reading in itself is interpretation. Well, that's a story for another post. Flavia Di Consiglio from the BBC looks at translating the Bible in the 21st Century and she correctly points out that when scholar and priest William Tyndale decided to translate the Bible into English in the 1520s, he set out on a dangerous journey that eventually led him to be burned at the stake. At the time, the only authorised Bible in England was a 4th Century Latin version, and translations were forbidden. Tyndale's crime was an intense desire to see his fellow countrymen read the Bible in their own language. Five hundred years later, Bible societies around the world are pursuing the mission of having the 'Book of Books' translated into every single language known to man, and the number of new versions grows every year.

Among my favorite parts of this article was how one Protestant scholar work may differ from an Eastern Orthodox scholar and the fine balance that goes into translating against the backdrop of different theological outlooks:
Mr Morava gives an example of how this delicate balance is achieved, citing the concept of redemption. It is an important aspect of Protestant theology and refers primarily to the event of the crucifixion, whereas, says Mr Moravia, it does not find a lot of favour among the Eastern Orthodox Church. "The Old Testament speaks often of God redeeming Israel from Egypt," says Mr Morava.

"A Protestant translator would prefer to keep this term in order to echo the redeeming act of God that finds full expression later in history in the story of crucifixion. However, an Orthodox translator finds this unnecessary and rightly points out that the use of such terminology in these verses does not make sense for the reader." According to Mr Morava, a suitable alternative is to translate as 'saving' or 'liberating' the people of Israel from Egypt.

Do you have a particular Bible translation that you prefer?

Sunday, June 9, 2013

The morality of 'Game of Thrones'

Hello my dear reader?

Have you seen 'Game of Thrones'? I have. However, I have not read the books so I have no opinion regarding how the series compares to the books; I am planning to read those later.

In his article Can a Christian watch 'Game of Thrones'?, David Gibson explores different points of views regarding this question. He says that the appeal of the series seems bound up in the senseless violence and amoral machinations – not to mention the free-wheeling sex – that the writers use to dramatize this brutish world of shifting alliances and dalliances. He also adds that for some, the most damning aspect of “Game of Thrones” may be the way that it subverts the work that it most closely tracks: J.R.R. Tolkien’s “The Lord of the Rings” saga that’s beloved by so many contemporary Christians.
I found that second point very puzzling because I was not expecting a Tolkien type of world, and in fact many 'contemporary Christians' that I know also never expected anything similar.

He quotes Jesuit priest Rev. Jim McDermott, who said that the series finds unlikely heroes among “the shattered, the shunned and the disregarded.” and that "salvation is not the purview of some elect, nor does grace inherently reside in a crown...As with horror, so hope springs from the most unexpected of quarters.”

What do you think of the series?

Friday, June 7, 2013

Evangelical pastors...and their "smokin' hot wives"?

Hello my dear reader,

Have you heard about this? Zach J. Hoag talks about the current obsession among evangelical pastors/leaders with talking/tweeting endlessly about their "smokin' hot wives" and how he himself used to be part of this trend: 

Recently, I saw one megachurch pastor post a photo of his wife on Instagram with a caption from Proverbs 31 (I know, surprise surprise). Part of it took some, ahem, liberties with the text: "herleather pants are like water to her husband's soul." This particular fellow is known for free and frequent hot wife posts, including one photo of the couple with a room full of new church members where he commented that despite his joy at meeting such great new people, he was really just staring at his wife's (no doubt leather-clad) butt. 

He opens up regarding the time when he spoke to his wife about this:

And worse, even as they go on and on about the hotness of their spouse, they are demeaning her.

When I asked my wife how that kind of thing made her feel when I was half-heartedly trying to be one of the guys, that's the word she used.


Thursday, April 11, 2013

Marriage, words, dinghys, and talking lions


Some think of it as religious, some as civil, some as both. When some say marriage can be treated in strictly secular terms, a usual counter-argument from some of my Christian conservative brothers and sisters is that this cannot be done; that once you take away the religious aspect out of marriage, then it is no longer marriage, and/or you cannot call it 'marriage'. This reminds me of this great phrase by Ludwig Wittgenstein: ...if a lion could speak, we could not understand him. Wait, what? Well, there are many ways to analyse this phrase but this is why I bring it up: what are 'words' and what is 'language'? 

Here is an example: think of the word 'happiness'. Alright, now: define happiness. Or, here is another: God. That's right, go ahead: define 'God'. Yes, indeed. For those of us in the Christian tradition we have many words, terms, and definitions about 'God' for over 2,000 years. 

So, back to the word in question: 'marriage'. Tony Jones writes about it in the following way, particularly how the word and the meaning of the word has change, regardless of arguments to the contrary that claim that marriage has just one definition that has never changed:

On a flight last week, I sat next to a conservative Pentecostal pastor. We talked about demons and miraculous healings. And, probably to the consternation of those around us, argued vociferously about “marriage.” He was, like so many conservative evangelicals these days, in favor of civil unions for GLBT persons. But not “marriage.” No, “marriage” is something totally different, he told me.
Of course, he’s wrong. “Marriage” is nothing more than a word, composed of an assortment of letter — symbols with correlated vocal sounds. The definition of that word has changed since it was first used in English, and it changed over time in the many other languages that preceded English.
He then quotes linguist Geoff Nunberg, from NPR’s Fresh Air when he noted that Lexicographers know they're on the hot seat as they confront the changing uses of the word 'marriage' and presents the example of the word 'love':

Until just a couple of years ago, the Oxford English Dictionary defined the romantic sense of "love" as "[a] feeling of attachment ... based upon difference of sex." But the English language has never precluded describing a romantic attachment between two men or two women as love. It's just that those relationships were officially invisible to the OED's Victorian compilers. And other definitions would have led you to conclude that only men could have girlfriends or pay court to someone. In fact, the OED still defines a "couple" as "a man and a woman united by love or marriage." No doubt they'll get around to replacing "a man and a woman" with "two persons" — not because "couple" has a new meaning, but because we can finally see what was really basic to the old one.

As I sail the fun/scary waters of Theology, Biblical Hermeneutics, Philosophy, Ethics, etc I believe that people will continue to agree/disagree/agree for years to come on this issue; I am only a newcomer to these waters and at best I can still only handle a dinghy ha ha. But one thing is certain: words as symbols (and the meaning that these symbols point to) will continue to challenge us and will continue to change, including the word 'marriage'.

I wonder what a lion would say about marriage....

Thursday, March 21, 2013

New Pope congratulates new Archbishop of Canterbury

Hello my dear reader.

It is a good guess that many of you by know have heard of the installation of Pope Francis I as the new Bishop of Rome and the 266th person elected to head the Roman Catholic Church. It is also a decent guess that some of you have not heard of another installation: Rev. Justin Welby as the new Archbishop of Canterbury and spiritual leader of the Anglican Communion.

Pope Francis wrote the following message to Archbishop Welby:

To the Most Reverend and Right Honourable
Justin Welby
Archbishop of Canterbury

"May grace and peace be multiplied to you" (1 Pet 1:2b)

I thank you for the kind words contained in your message to me at my election, and I wish in turn to offer my greetings and best wishes on the occasion of your Enthronement at Canterbury Cathedral.

The pastoral ministry is a call to walk in fidelity to the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. Please be assured of my prayers as you take up your new responsibilities, and I ask you to pray for me as I respond to the new call that the Lord has addressed to me.

I look forward to meeting you in the near future, and to continuing the warm fraternal relations that our predecessors enjoyed.

From the Vatican, 18 March 2013


Friday, March 15, 2013

A child gets a vaccine against hate

Hello my dear reader.

Here is a question: what is hate?

I am currently reading a book called A Strange Freedom. It is a compilation of essays, lectures, sermons, and other works by the late Rev. Howard Thurman. In the book (as part of some words regarding suffering) he shares the following moving story from a novel by Danish author Carl Ewald called My Little Boy, My Little Girl...as Thurman himself says 'let the story speak for itself':

There is great warfare and a lot of noise among the children in the courtyard.

I hear them yell JEW!  I go to the window and see my little boy bare-headed out in the front line of battle.

I sit down quietly to my work again, certain that he will appear before long and ease his heart.

And he comes directly after.

He stands still, as is his way, by my side and says nothing. I steal a glance at him: he is greatly excited and proud and glad, like one who has fearlessly done his duty.

"What fun you've been having down there!"

"Oh," he says, modestly, "it was only a Jewish boy we were beating up."

I jump up so quickly my chair turns over:

"A Jewish boy? You were beating him up? What had he done?"

"Nothing. . . ."

His voice is not very confident, for I look so queer.

And that is only the beginning. For now I grab my hat and run out of the door as fast as I can and shout:

"Come . . . come . . . we must find him and ask his forgiveness!"

My little boy hurries after me. He does not understand a word of it, but he is terribly in earnest. We look in the courtyard, we shout and call. We rush into the street and round the corner, so eager are we to come up with him. Breathlessly, we ask three passers-by if they have not seen a poor, mistreated Jewish boy.

All in vain: the Jewish boy and all the persecutors have vanished.

So we go and sit up in my study again, the laboratory where our soul is crystallized out of the big events of our little life. My forehead is wrinkled and I drum disconsolately with my fingers on the table. The boy has both his hands in his pockets and does not take his eyes from my face.

"Well," I say, decidedly, "there is nothing more to be done. I hope you will meet that Jewish boy one day, so that you can shake hands with him and ask him to forgive you. You must tell him that you did that only because you were stupid. But if, another time, anyone does him any harm, I hope you will help him and lick the other one as long as you can stir a limb."

I can see by my little boy's face that he is ready to do what I wish. For he is still a mercenary, who does not ask under which flag, so long as there is a battle and booty to follow. It is my duty to train him to be a staunch soldier, who will defend his native land, and so I continue:

"Let me tell you, the Jews are by way of being quite wonderful people. You remember David, about whom Dirty reads at school: he was a Jewish boy. And Jesus, whom everybody worships and loves, although He died two thousand years ago: He was also Jewish."

My little boy stands with his arms on my knee and I go on with my story.

The old Hebrews rise before our eyes in all their splendour and power, quite different from Dirty's Balslev. They ride on their camels in coats of many colours and with long beards: Moses and Joseph and his brethren and Samson and David and Saul. We hear wonderful stories. The walls of Jericho fall at the sound of the trumpet.

"And what next?" says my little boy, using the expression which he employed when he was much smaller and which still comes to his lips whenever he is carried away.

We hear of the destruction of Jerusalem and how the Jews took their little boys by the hand and wandered from place to place, scoffed at, despised and ill-treated. How they were allowed to own neither house nor land, but could only be merchants, and how the Christian robbers took all the money which they had got together. How, nevertheless, they remained true to their God and kept up their old sacred customs in the midst of the strangers who hated and persecuted them.

The whole day is devoted to the Jews.

We look at old books on the shelves which I love best to read and which are written by a Jew with a wonderful name, which a little boy can't remember at all. We learn that the most famous man now living in Denmark is a Jew.

And, when evening comes and Mother sits down at the piano and sings the song which Father loves above all other songs, it appears that the words were written by one Jew and the melody composed by another.

My little boy is hot and red when he falls to sleep that night. He turns restlessly in bed and talks in his sleep.

"He is a little feverish," says his mother.

And I bend down and kiss his forehead and answer, calmly:

"That is not surprising. Today I have vaccinated him against the meanest of all mean and vulgar diseases."

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Christian pastor had to apologize?

Hello my dear reader. I hope you are well.

I just came across the following article, about a Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod pastor who apologized for his role in an interfaith prayer vigil for the victims of the Sandy Hook school shooting:

A Connecticut Lutheran pastor has apologized for participating in an interfaith prayer vigil for the 26 children and adults killed at a Newtown elementary school in December because his church bars its clergy from worshipping with other faiths.
The December prayer vigil was attended by President Barack Obama, leaders from Christian, Muslim and Jewish faiths, and relatives of the 20 first graders who were gunned down in their classrooms two days earlier after a gunman entered their school.

The pastor, Rob Morris of Newtown's Christ the King Lutheran Church, provided the closing benediction at the interfaith event on Dec. 16. 
Earlier this month, the president of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod, Pastor Matthew Harrison, wrote a letter to church members saying he had requested an apology from Morris for his participation in "joint worship with other religions."

I will be writing about this in the next few days.

What do you think?