Friday, April 24, 2015

Nuns walk out

In Marin County CA, nuns who teach in a Catholic high school walked out, because they were offended that students were handing out flyers about GLSEN's Day of Silence. For those who don't know, this is a nationwide day of protest against bullying, where students who support LGBT rights simply say.... nothing. The nuns, however, feel that it is offensive and anti-Catholic. That is, that standing up in silence somehow is offensive to the nuns.
When some Marin Catholic High students began handing out Day of Silence-related stickers and flyers on campus Friday morning, the five nuns felt “felt compromised, offended and uncomfortable,” Sister Clare Marie, one of the teachers, later wrote in a lengthy e-mail to her students.

She said the sisters “do not support bigotry or any kind of prejudice,” but that they were compelled to act out against an event promoted by a group that “believes actively in promoting homosexuality in all classrooms, K-12.”

Her e-mail also accused the group’s members of speaking out “against Christians who do not share their views” and handing out materials that “say that any church which teaches homosexuality is sinful is an 'oppressor’ and should be opposed.”
 Okay, first of all, this is not about recruiting kids to be gay.  They are, or they aren't.  It's standing up to bullying, like the anti-gay flannel shirt bullies in the school in Pennsylvania.
The next day, a group of students walked the halls at McGuffey High raising awareness of what they unimaginatively dubbed “Anti Gay Day.” Some had “anti-gay” scrawled on their hands and a Christian cross etched on their flesh with a black marker to show how committed they were to being Jesus’ truest disciples.

Others let their freaky flannel fly on social media, where they “tagged” known and suspected LGBT students at their school with homophobic insults and Bible verses. A few GSA-affiliated students found pithy, but hateful, flyers saying “ANTI-GAY” stuck to their lockers....

.... What had a lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender person ever done to them except get out of the way whenever these boys strutted en masse down the hall?
 But more than that, the sisters personify something identified by Irish equality campaigner and drag queen, Panti Bliss:
So now ... gay people find ourselves in a ludicrous situation where not only are we not allowed to say publicly what we feel oppressed by, we are not even allowed to think it because our definition has been disallowed by our betters.

.... And a jumped-up queer like me should know that the word “homophobia” is no longer available to gay people. Which is a spectacular and neat Orwellian trick because now it turns out that gay people are not the victims of homophobia – homophobes are.
Cross-posted from Gay Married Californian.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Attacks on education

It's becoming clearer. The Republicans want to eliminate education, so that the masses are reduced to uneducated serfs laboring for their lords, and these serfs die off or starve if they get sick.

In Louisiana, the flagship state university is preparing bankruptcy plans. Thanks, Gov Bobby Jindal!
LSU and many other public colleges in Louisiana might be forced to file for financial exigency, essentially academic bankruptcy, if state higher education funding doesn't soon take a turn for the better.

Louisiana's flagship university began putting together the paperwork for declaring financial exigency this week when the Legislature appeared to make little progress on finding a state budget solution, according to F. King Alexander, president and chancellor of LSU.

"We don't say that to scare people," he said. "Basically, it is how we are going to survive." 
In Kansas, school districts are closing early this year due to lack of funds. Thanks, Gov Sam Brownback!
Six school districts in Kansas will close early this year, following budget cuts signed in March by Republican Gov. Sam Brownback.....

Brownback has championed tax and spending cuts since he was elected in 2010. The governor's school funding reform this spring came less than a year after the Kansas Supreme Court ruled in 2014 that some of the state's spending cuts to education were unconstitutional.
You may not like Hillary or the Democrats, craven bunch that they are, but at least they support the concept of public education.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Marriage equality is a religious value, glad to see TEC right in front!

We are about a week away from oral arguments on marriage equality. The amicus briefs are all in and finally, finally the press is noticing that "Christian" is NOT synonymous with anti-equality. From Think Progress:
But even as this wave of anti-LGBT briefs makes its way to the desks of Supreme Court clerks, a number of religious groups are also submitting or signing on to briefs in support of same-sex marriage. The briefs, once cobbled together by a few progressive faith traditions, now brandish the names of thousands of historic Christian leaders and institutions, each voicing positions that challenge old religious views of homosexuality and highlight just how far America’s theological goal posts have shifted on the topic of same-sex marriage.

The largest of these was submitted earlier this year by the President of the House of Deputies of the Episcopal Church.
Yay, TEC!
Originally organized through the work of several Episcopal bishops, it was co-signed by a long list of groups from across the “Judeo-Christian” religious spectrum, such as the United Church of Christ, the Union for Reform Judaism, the Unitarian Universalist Association, and Muslims for Progressive Values, as well as pro-LGBT groups operating within Quakerism, Methodism, Presbyterianism, and Lutheranism. Like many left-leaning progressives, the brief argues the Court is primarily tasked with discerning the civil — not religious — definition of marriage, but highlighted the swelling number of Americans whose faith calls them to embrace LGBT rights.
And then (my emphases)
There is, of course, precedent for faith groups endorsing marriage equality with amicus briefs. A similar list of progressive religious groups, also led by Episcopal bishops, crafted a brief affirming same-sex marriage ahead of the 2013 U.S. Supreme Court case on California’s Proposition 8, which banned LGBT people from legally marrying in the state from 2008 to 2013. Briefs favoring LGBT couples were also filed in 2013 by the American Jewish Committee and the California Council of Churches.

But if Proposition 8 opened up a trickle of faith-based support for LGBT rights, Obergefell v. Hodges unleashed a veritable flood. The list of signatories in the 2013 brief from Episcopal bishops, for example, totaled a mere 6 pages. By contrast, the bishops’ brief in advance of the 2015 case includes several new organizations and the individual names of more than 1,900 faith leaders, additions that stretch the list of spiritual endorsers to a whopping 117 pages.

Welcome aboard everyone.  Now let's get this done!

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

A weapon was recovered

As my last post pointed out, Holy Week is a time to think of crime, and punishment, and the cross.  "Crucify him!" the congregation shouted on Good Friday, and it was frightful.  It was us.

And it's still us, even though Easter has passed and everything is fixed now, right?  Not so much.  The happy happy joy joy comes into conflict with this mean old world, the horrible things being said in politics, and then the shocking, shocking video from South Carolina showing a police officer shooting a fleeing man 8 times in the back and then coldly, deliberately dropping something next to the body (his taser, presumably, as accusing the dead man of taking that weapon was his excuse.)

 The Huffington Post presented a news story that would have come out if some brave person hadn't filmed the whole thing.

Amongst the crowd as they shout "Crucify Him!" we like to think we would know better.  That we wouldn't have shouted--heck, we wouldn't have been there!  Or in this case, that we would have been suspicious even without the video.  Would we?   My white skin and comfortable upbringing means that I am acculturated to trust the police, and the kindly, decent officers I knew growing up wouldn't have done such a thing, would they?  

And it's only quite recently (and I'm over 50) that I've become really aware of the persistent evil of racism in this country, which roared back with the election of President Obama and sits like a festering wound.  I mean, I knew there were unreformed racists, and I knew there had been systemic abuses, but I really thought we were moving ahead of this.  Like the author of this piece, I was a mainstream moderate.

But then came Obama's election and the freedom with which huge numbers of people spoke the most racist slurs without apology, and our persistant problem with racism was exposed dramatically.  Read Ta-Nehisi Coates's  piece in the Atlantic on the Case for Reparations, and whether or not you agree with reparations, it is a dire indictment of what we have done to our black sisters and brothers, and I had no idea of much of it.  It's not just in the distant past because Walter Scott lies dead in South Carolina, shot down like an animal by a cop who surely, surely knew better.

And in the Washington Post,  a scathing report on the Republican efforts to make the poor as miserable as possible.  Those people.  The ones not like us.  Punish them for being welfare queens and living on my dollar, they say.

Pew Research finds that anyone who is not Those People (which means, anyone who is not an angry white man, often less educated) is unlikely to lean Republican.

So vote, dammit.  because otherwise we are all standing in the crowd, tacit in their cries to "crucify Him!"

Friday, March 27, 2015

From the Crowd to the Cross: Indiana, California, and Palm Sunday

So, Indiana passes its "religious freedom" act.  And in California, a Huntington Beach lawyer takes advantage of the lax initiative process to file an initiative calling for state-sanctioned murder of LGBT people.

And it's almost Palm Sunday and Holy Week.

From Irreverin at Patheos:
I keep thinking this new law will not stand… The public outcry will be too tremendous; or the economic cost will be too great... I sure do think it will all backfire and, for money and votes at least, they’ll have to take it all back. Right?
Meanwhile. Back in California where the sun always shines and progressive is not a bad word and everybody loves the gays… this attorney in Huntington Beach wants to make it legal to execute homosexuals.
In the public eye, these stories must seem vastly disparate in their severity. Sure, open discrimination is terrible and backward and we’re not going to Indiana any more. But execution? Unheard of. That will never fly. It will never gain enough traction for a vote. No elected official would ever sign their name to such a thing. Compassionate, thinking people will prevail. 
I’m tired of talking about this. It is so asinine. Obtuse. Backward and SO two centuries ago. But I will tell you this: seeing these two stories back to back in my newsfeed today was jarring. Because really, how far is one from the other? 
If we are going back to ‘you can’t sit at the counter in this diner,’ then we aren’t too far removed from the return of the lynch mob. It’s just that simple. 
So. Maybe Holy week is the right time to talk about this after all. Because we know the distance from the legislative signature to the execution chamber is really not all that far. The journey from the thronging crowd to the cross? A matter of days. 
We’ve been here before. 
So go, Church. Go print those extra bulletins and carbo-load for next week’s marathon of holiness… Wave the palms and parade the children. Shine the brass and dust off the banners and keep dreaming of resurrection. But never forget…If we get tired, if we grow silent, if we stop banging and marching and singing, the rest of the thronging crowd just gets louder. And we get swept right along. 
It’s been known to happen. 

Our friend Doug Blanchard's image (from The Passion of Christ:  a Gay Vision)  seems particularly appropriate here. 

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

"Belief-less Christianity"

Is that a thing?  Apparently so.   Blogger and Presbyterian minister John Shuck writes that he does not believe in a supernatural God, and stories about Jesus are the stuff of legend.
 I think of Christianity as a culture. It has produced 2,000 years of artifacts: literature, music, art, ethics, architecture, and (yes) beliefs. But cultures evolve and Christianity will have to adapt in order to survive in the modern era.

I believe one of the newer religious paths could be a “belief-less” Christianity. In this “sect,” one is not required to believe things. One learns and draws upon practices and products of our cultural tradition to create meaning in the present. ....

Belief-less Christianity is thriving right now, even as other forms of the faith are falling away rapidly. Many liberal or progressive Christians have already let go or de-emphasized belief in Heaven, that the Bible is literally true, that Jesus is supernatural, and that Christianity is the only way. Yet they still practice what they call Christianity. Instead of traditional beliefs, they emphasize social justice, personal integrity and resilience, and building community. The cultural artifacts serve as resources.

Personally, even though I don’t believe in God as a supernatural agent or force, many still do. I utilize the symbol “God” in worship. This may be viewed as cheating but since our cultural tradition is filled with images of God, it is near impossible to avoid. As a symbol, I’m not yet ready to let go of God. It is a product of myth-making — I know that — but the symbol incorporates many of our human aspirations. I find that “God” for me is shorthand for all the things for which I long: beauty, truth, healing, and justice. They’re all expressed by this symbol and and the stories about it.
 Now, I don't see how you can be a Christian pastor without, you know, believing in Christ.  But perhaps that's because my familiarity is with traditional trinitarian sacramental theology (e.g., Catholic and Episcopalian) .  I don't know how the Presby's rock.  But this does seem a bit.... unconventional.

Update:  We have talked quite a bit about being a secular Christian, and in many ways I am one.   So that doesn't faze me.  But what I find interesting is that he's a "professional" God-believer....being a pastor and all... yet considers God just a symbol he uses in worship.

Shuck isn't belief-less, he's just without a conventional belief in God.  He believes in lots of things, as he has indicated here.

He's perhaps not that far from Karen Armstrong.
The myths and laws of religion are not true because they they conform to some metaphysical, scientific or historical reality but because they are life enhancing. They tell you how human nature functions, but you will not discover their truth unless you apply these myths and doctrines to your own life and put them into practice.” The Spiral Staircase: My Climb Out of Darkness

Or from me, for that matter.  But I'm not wearing a collar. 

Monday, March 23, 2015

Millennials, Religion, and sex

A religious studies professor sees the loss of the millennial generation from religion as part of a conflict over sex and authority:
It seems that there is a generation gap between the younger generation, the 18-22 year-olds that I'm teaching on a semester by semester basis, and they seem to be moving toward the direction of looking at the Christian tradition through the lens of love and compassion. And that any expression of love, of real love and compassion is consistent with the Gospel. Whether that's heterosexual love, whether that's homosexual love and even whether that's what is understood as asexual...or platonic love, that all of those are acceptable expressions and consistent with the Gospel message. They are less inclined — and maybe this is just students I'm teaching at this particular college, which is predominantly Roman Catholic, although that has shifted. But even among those Roman Catholics, there is a real disagreement around some of the questions of sexuality. So they're definitely moving in a direction that is away from the traditional or orthodox interpretation of the biblical text under the church's teachings.
They look at the BIble differently too:
I think that they're looking at the Gospel in the way many biblical scholars look at the biblical text, which is that this is understood as a Word of God with infinite and eternal truth but filtered through the finite and limited experience of human beings. So they are making that distinction between God's Word as truth and God's Word as literal truth. And leaning more in the direction as God's Word as speaking some kind of truth, that has to then connect with their own experience. So experience is an important source for Christian ethics in general and it seems to be more of a predominant source in young people's understanding of their Christian ethics. So they're looking at the biblical text, they're looking at tradition, but they're also then kind of testing that out with experience. 
 And then:
 I ask the question to young people of how do they reconcile, or where are the places where there's been conflict between their inherited or lived out faith tradition and their sexuality.

And what I've heard over and over, overwhelmingly is they want to reconcile the two and they can't seem to. In the absence of that reconciliation there are no resources for them to be able to think about and live out an ethical sexual life and still be considered part of a faith tradition.

Meanwhile, the Southern Baptists are recommending that their young people marry earlier, to avoid the temptation of sex.  One comment remarks,
Religion constructs an “impractical” ideal for human sexuality and burdens people with ideas of sin if they fail to live up to its mandates on the topic… and instead of reexamining the impractical rules, their solution is to add new ones.

Of course, it would also benefit churches if young people spent their early adulthood locking themselves into religious marriages, communities, and possibly new families, just as they were reaching a level of maturity and curiosity that might lead to questions that would prove uncomfortable to religion… particularly when such questions might imperil those new relationships.

When it comes right down to it, though, rushing into a lifelong commitment in order to avoid premarital sex seems like a terrible solution to a non-problem.
Is it really just about sex?

On leaving religion

It's common in certain places to claim that the decline in membership in organized church is due to liberalism.  This is false.  Every faith group is losing its members, from Roman Catholics to Southern Baptists.

 And the recent "gold standard" survey , the General Social Survey (GSS) funded by the National Science Foundation, makes the point.

From Religion News Service:
...we see between a one and three point rise in secularity since 2012, with 7.5 million more people never entering a church or other worship service than just two years earlier....The number of Americans who never darken a church door is also at a new high. Over a third of Americans (34 percent) never attend a worship service (other than weddings and other ceremonies). This is a 3.4 point increase from just a few years earlier. Put differently, the group of Americans who don’t attend church grew by a rate of over ten percent in two years.  

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Signs your Evangelical friend is succumbing to Episcopalianism

Are your evangelical friends safe from the menace of creeping Episcopalianism? Can you be sure? 
Here are 24 warning signs to watch out for.

1. You say “How’re you doing?” and they respond “And also with you."
9. They gave up something for Lent.
10. They know what Lent is.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

The history of our "Christian nation" is a lot more recent than you think

From the NY Times:
[T]he founding fathers didn’t create the ceremonies and slogans that come to mind when we consider whether this is a Christian nation. Our grandfathers did.

Back in the 1930s, business leaders found themselves on the defensive. Their public prestige had plummeted with the Great Crash; their private businesses were under attack by Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal from above and labor from below. To regain the upper hand, corporate leaders fought back on all fronts. They waged a figurative war in statehouses and, occasionally, a literal one in the streets; their campaigns extended from courts of law to the court of public opinion. But nothing worked particularly well until they began an inspired public relations offensive that cast capitalism as the handmaiden of Christianity....

Accordingly, throughout the 1930s and ’40s, corporate leaders marketed a new ideology that combined elements of Christianity with an anti-federal libertarianism.
And it links strongly to Eisenhower:
Uncoupling the language of “freedom under God” from its Christian libertarian roots, Eisenhower erected a bigger revival tent, welcoming Jews and Catholics alongside Protestants, and Democrats as well as Republicans. Rallying the country, he advanced a revolutionary array of new religious ceremonies and slogans.

The first week of February 1953 set the dizzying pace: On Sunday morning, he was baptized; that night, he broadcast an Oval Office address for the American Legion’s “Back to God” campaign; on Thursday, he appeared with Mr. Vereide at the inaugural National Prayer Breakfast; on Friday, he instituted the first opening prayers at a cabinet meeting.

The rest of Washington consecrated itself, too. The Pentagon, State Department and other executive agencies quickly instituted prayer services of their own. In 1954, Congress added “under God” to the previously secular Pledge of Allegiance. It placed a similar slogan, “In God We Trust,” on postage that year and voted the following year to add it to paper money; in 1956, it became the nation’s official motto.

During these years, Americans were told, time and time again, not just that the country should be a Christian nation, but that it always had been one. They soon came to think of the United States as “one nation under God.” They’ve believed it ever since.
So rather than being white-bread and boring, it turns out that the 50s were quite radical.  

And we're still paying for it.