Thursday, October 16, 2014

Leaving church

Several articles worth noting today about and around.

First, the Barna Group looks at the unchurched, and identifies many of them as "post-Christian".  THese aren't people who don't understand church, but those who have been there and find it wanting.  (This reminds me of an early conversation here, where one of our commenters earnestly tried to educate me on the tenets of Christianity, as though if I just learned about it, I could be saved. I had to tell her more than once that I had been there, done that, with a robust Catholic education.  It wasn't ignorance that made me an atheist.)

They identify 5 trends, including secularization and resistance to the idea of church. And, notably, skepticism about church generally:
When the unchurched were asked to describe what they believe are the positive and negative contributions of Christianity in America, almost half (49%) could not identify a single favorable impact of the Christian community....
When "Christian" becomes synonymous with "right wing politics", there's a problem.

We see the additional frustration with the identification of faith with sex  in another study, this one of young Catholics who leave. 
Only 7 percent of these young adults who might have turned out Catholic can be called “practicing” Catholics—if “practicing” is tightly defined as attending Mass weekly, saying that faith is extremely or very important, and praying at least a few times a week. About 27 percent are at the other end of the spectrum, classified as “disengaged,” meaning that they never attend Mass and feel religion is unimportant.....[T]he most obvious factor identified in both the interviews and the survey data in Young Catholic America seems to be disaffection from Catholic sexual teaching, dramatically so with respect to both premarital sex and birth control.
Pew Research tells us that those who identify are Catholic are overwhelmingly pro marriage-equality and LGBT rights.  Indeed, even a majority of Catholics in their 50s support the freedom to marry.  

Meanwhile, Millenials with faith are challenging it--outside the box, you might say.  Less driven by rigid identity, more flexible.
We are far more likely to admit publically when we doubt certain long-held Christian beliefs. We are more likely to crowd-source our faith. We are more likely to evaluate what in our doctrine reflects more privilege than faithfulness. 
This is not a sign that we have abandoned orthodoxy. It is a sign that we have abandoned certain presuppositions that limited the definition of Christian orthodoxy for too long. The demand for purity in faith looks more like a desire to conform to the image of Jesus — and not the image of a predominately white, male, middle-class denominational line. 

Monday, October 13, 2014

Something seismic from the Roman Catholic Synod

Writing in America Magazine, Jesuit Fr James Martin describes a "stunning change" from the Synod on the Family:
The Synod said that gay people have "gifts and talents to offer the Christian community." This is something that even a few years ago would have been unthinkable, from even the most open-minded of prelates--that is, a statement of outright praise for the contribution of gays and lesbians, with no caveat and no reflexive mention of sin. And, regarding same-sex partners, the Synod document declared, remarkably, "Without denying the moral problems connected to homosexual unions it has to be noted that there are cases in which mutual aid to the point of sacrifice constitutes a precious support in the life of the partners." That any church document would praise same-sex "partners" in any way (and even use the word "partners") is astonishing.

The Synod also asks questions, challenging dioceses and parishes: "Homosexuals have gifts and qualities to offer to the Christian community: are we capable of welcoming these people, guaranteeing to them a fraternal space in our communities? Often they wish to encounter a Church that offers them a welcoming home. Are our communities capable of providing that, accepting and valuing their sexual orientation, without compromising Catholic doctrine on the family and matrimony?"

This represents a revolutionary change in how the church addresses the LGBT community. Nowhere in the document are such terms as "intrinsically disordered," "objectively disordered," or even the idea of "disinterested friendships" among gays and lesbians, which was used just recently. The veteran Vaticanologist John Thavis rightly called the document an "earthquake."
Now, no LGBT couple is going to get married in the Roman Catholic church any time soon (and probably never). But it could be that the Synod is expressing some dismay at the effects of the culture war in rejecting civilly married gay Catholics from the pews, purging them from service roles, or rejecting the children of gay parents for Baptism and schooling. We can but hope.

Sunday, October 12, 2014


Six years ago today, we were legally married in the State of California, and my life hasn't been the same since. What a joy it has been. I am so very, very lucky!

Touched by an Angel

We, unaccustomed to courage
exiles from delight
live coiled in shells of loneliness
until love leaves its high holy temple
and comes into our sight
to liberate us into life.

Love arrives
and in its train come ecstasies
old memories of pleasure
ancient histories of pain.
Yet if we are bold,
love strikes away the chains of fear
from our souls.

We are weaned from our timidity
In the flush of love's light
we dare be brave
And suddenly we see
that love costs all we are
and will ever be.
Yet it is only love
which sets us free. 

-Maya Angelou

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

A gay free zone? Religious liberty, the Republicans, and the Christian Right

The Republicans are in agood position.  They can point fingers at the Supreme Court, but thanks to SCOTUS, they can complain about marriage equality without actually dirtying their hands doing anything to stop it.

 Ed Kilgore has a perceptive piece in TPM Cafe on how they are playing this into a "dogwhistle" that nevertheless keeps the footsoldiers of the Evangelical Christians in the tent doing the work (and the voting).   And it's all about "religious liberty" and the gay-free zone that they want:
["Religious liberty"] even more effective than opposing “judicial activism,” because it borrows the aura of an almost universally valued American principle. And it’s less aggressively theocratic, as well, insofar as its proponents do not (at least in this context) propose to ban same-sex marriage (or to ban abortions or contraceptives), but simply to create a zone in which gay marriages don’t have to be recognized (and abortions and contraceptives provided or subsidized). 
So far, claims that same-sex marriages will threaten “religious liberty” have mostly emerged from conservative Christian quadrants of the wedding industry, and proponents of giving them broad exemptions from laws they don’t like haven’t made a lot of progress (though less formally, opposing gay rights on religious grounds has been a boon for businesses like Chick-Fil-A and for careers like Duck Dynasty’s Phil Robertson). But as the “religious liberty” movement continues to develop, you could see it morph into the theoretical foundation for a parallel society in which the painful diversity of contemporary life, and its disturbing clatter of demands for “equality” and “non-discrimination” and “rights” (other than religious rights and the Right To Life, of course) is simply excluded, along with “government schools” and secular news and entertainment. 
And this is the goal of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops and others -- to have the legal right to live in a "gay free zone" where LGBT Americans are legitimately denied services, employment, or recognition as fellow Americans.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Are gays part of the Catholic family? A question for the synod....

There's a big  Roman Catholic synod on the family in Rome, which has ranged from a married couple  discussing the need to include gay children, to a Cardinal saying that teaching boys to clean up after themselves , rather than wait for girls to do it, confuses them as to their appropriate gender role.

At the same time, independent of Synod, out gay priest Fr James Alison is there at a conference, and speaking about LBGT people in Catholicism.  And he has quite a lot to say.
What we have .... is the somewhat amazing realisation that, exactly in the degree to which it has become clear that we are simply the bearers of a not particularly remarkable non-pathological minority variant in the human condition, in that moment, as we find ourselves seeking the Lord, we are found to be bearers of Catholicity on terms of equality with everyone else. .... 
And that all our understanding of good and bad, insider and outsider is going to change because of this. The process is obviously much more painful and difficult, at least initially, for those who had a strong stake in promoting a form of public goodness in which we were bit-players, as necessary examples of what was wrong. And much more joyful for those of us who are finding that after all we have been telling the truth. It is not the case, as we were so often told, that we are simply being particularly self-indulgent, or that our love is harmful to others, or that we are crazy to think that we are normal, or that we have been misled by hedonism and relativism into purely subjective, unrealistic desires that are part of some dehumanising trap.

....No, truthfulness does not wait for the convenience of those wedded to untruth before peeking out. It breaks out, as if from captivity, bearing witness to the One who sent it to run wild among us, and takes us on a giddy, and ultimately joyful ride. The Spirit does bring the peace that comes with truth, but not by following the schedule of those whose fear would hold it back.  
Go read the whole thing!

Monday, October 6, 2014

And then there were 30....

Today, the Supreme Court decided not to hear the 7 marriage equality cases on its docket.  By denying certiori, it means that the lower circuit court decision affirming marriage equality in each of those cases is upheld.  That means for the five states in question (Utah, Virginia, Oklahoma, Wisconsin, and Indiana), it's the end of the line and marriages can begin again.

Moreover, six additional states that currently have bans in the 4th, 7th, and 10th circuits will fall under these decisions.

So we may see marriage equality in West Virginia, South and North Carolina, Colorado, Kansas, and Wyoming as well.


The arc of justice just bent a little more.

The Court can always weigh in if any of the remaining circuits make decisions that are appealed.  This is more likely if one of those decisions goes against the wave for equality.

Scotusblog has more.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

The Christian Right v the Christian Left

From the Daily Beast, describing The Religious Right’s Slow-Motion Suicide
I it’s not just same-sex marriage. The country has liberalized culturally in a range of ways in the past six or eight years, and it’s not only not going back, it’s charging relentlessly forward. .... 
[The Christian Right is] a group that is losing power, and I think the leaders and even the rank-and-filers know it. Their vehicle, the Republican Party, is going libertarian on them. Rand Paul, whether he wins the 2016 nomination or not, is clearly enough of a force within the party that he is pushing it away from the culture wars. He is joined in this pursuit by the conservative intellectual class, which knows the culture wars are a dead-bang loser for the GOP and which finds the culture warriors more than a little embarrassing, and by the establishment figures, the Karl Rove types, who stroked them back in 2004 but who now see them as a liability, at least at the presidential level. There are still, of course, many states where these voters come in quite handy in that they elect many Republican representatives and senators.
Of course, they aren't going easily.  And they have a new bogeyman, the Christian Left.
A resurgence of the Christian left may seem a distant hope, but the idea of it has certainly spooked the Christian right. Such is the impetus for Distortion: How the New Christian Left is Twisting the Gospel & Damaging the Faith. It's a curious book from accomplished evangelical author Chelsen Vicari, who aims in it to address a "crisis" in evangelicalism — namely the rise of a Christian left. 
Vicari's book is neither a principled critique of Christian leftism writ large nor a principled defense of a Christian right-wing; on the contrary, it's very narrowly focused on American Christians who align with the Democratic Party versus American Christians who align with the Republican Party. It's in favor of the latter, of course, but in so doing it visits a number of tired arguments that are only tenuously linked to Christianity, and are more thoroughly associated with secular partisan politics.

Are we on the Christian left really the Bogeyman? Do we really have that kind of influence? 
Not yet — but we are working on it. 
And it’s working. 
And that’s what makes us so scary to Vicari and her readership. 
When we were a voice that was constantly drowned out by the megaphone that is the Christian right and their maniacal stronghold on traditional forms of communication, Vicari probably thought of us as that annoying little dust bunny under the bed that just would not go away. 
With the continued rise of new forms of communication and the way social media has given progressive Christians the ability to connect and be heard, we’ve become a threat. We’re no longer the annoying little dust bunny under the bed. We are the big bad monster that is ruining everything.
What conservative Christianity has become looks far too little like what the teachings of Jesus would encourage us to be. 
Causing a crisis of faith in that kind of belief system? I’m all for it.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Friday, September 26, 2014

Why Catholics leave

The Roman Catholic Diocese of Springfield, IL did a survey of active and inactive Catholics.  Why do people leave the church?  The answers aren't a surprise, but suggest that Catholics who stay Catholic are more likely to be older, less educated, and socially conservative.  
Many individuals gave a variety of reasons for why they stopped attending Mass; however, Church doctrine appears to be a major reason... Of the eight specific Church doctrines given, six (homosexuality, birth control, fertility treatments, divorce/remarriage, women as priests, and the marital status of priests) were selected by more than half of respondents as reasons for distancing themselves or leaving the Catholic Church ...
Birth control, women' priests, divorce issues, and gays are the big areas of concern.

The demographics of those leaving and their reasons is interesting too.
Issues with Church doctrine were especially problematic for those with a graduate degree or graduate school experience, as these individuals had significantly higher agreement that doctrine on homosexuality, abortion, birth control, fertility treatments, divorce, and women as priests were reasons for distancing themselves or leaving the Church

...Women were also found to have significantly higher agreement on Church doctrine issues as reasons for distancing themselves or leaving the Church, although these differences were only among two separate issues: homosexuality and women as priests ..... As for age, those 35 years old or younger had significantly higher levels of agreement that homosexuality doctrine and abortion doctrine were reasons why they distanced themselves or left the Church whereas those 50 years old or older had significantly higher agreement regarding doctrine on divorce/remarriage as reasons for why they distanced themselves or left the Church....

 The individual comments are interesting too... with hypocrisy and exclusion being major issues for people.  And of course the pedophilia coverup.

  • “The key words are compassion and tolerane e. Society teaches us to improve in these areas. The Church does not and does not exhibit or model these traits.” 
  • “I found the Church to be teaching hate, not love. I felt like intolerance, not tolerance was being preached. I found that I disagreed with most of what was being preached. I left the Church, and am still very spiritual, but I am simply not Catholic.”....
  • ENOUGH with the politics, especially the conservative Republican politics! I am beyond sick of the implication that Catholics need to vote Republican to be good Catholics, and that being anti-abortion and anti-gay marriage are the only ‘morality’ issues that should matter to Catholics - what happened to social justice, poverty, or God's  love for all?”
The study authors conclude, with evident regret,
This study suggests Church doctrine plays a key role in individuals separating from the Catholic Church and it may be difficult to prevent current parishioners from leaving or to bring lapsed or drifting parishioners back to this faith community.
Ya think?

Just remember, inactive Catholics, the Episcopal Church welcomes you. It's a pleasant swim across the Thames and you will find many formerly-Catholic friends there to greet you.   ;-)

Update from Montana

Here's an update with more information from the case in Montana, where the married gay Catholics were told to divorce and split up before they could have communion.
[Bishop] Warfel, in a telephone interview on Thursday from Great Falls, said he thought opinions on the matter ran about 50-50, but Wojtowick, Huff and Shupe all say they believe it was more like 80-20 speaking on behalf of the couple.
One of the gay men is a former Roman Catholic priest.

A number of people have left.

The choir director resigned and is now attending the Episcopal church.

Sounds like a success for the new priest, eh?

Other churches in the community are reaching out to the men.  Including the Episcopal church, St James.
The Rev. Jean Collins of St. James Episcopal Church in Lewistown described the current controversy as a good opening for discussion and education about same-gender relationships and LGBT inclusion within the broader community. 
"Almost everybody knows somebody or loves somebody who is LGBT," Collins said, "but it's not something that's always talked about a lot, particularly perhaps in Lewistown. So it may be a good opening for that to happen in that community, and in individual churches and other civic organizations.".... 
Collins said she has already welcomed Huff and Wojtowick to worship and receive communion at St. James if they choose to do so. ... 
Asked if she were approached by a member of her own congregation who expressed concern about the inclusion of openly gay parishioners, Collins responded, "I would remind that person that we are all children of God and we should be treated that way." 
"And that's the bottom line," she added.