Saturday, August 1, 2015

Fundamentalist violence in all faiths

We already know that there is a vicious strain of fundamentalist Islam that turns to violence in an effort to impose its views.

In India, fundamentalist Hindus have attacked those of other faiths, including Christians.

In the last few days, we have seen violence from fundamentalist Jews, for example in one case an orthodox man stabbing people at the gay Pride parade in Jerusalem, and in another, burning to death a Palastinian child in a protest over illegal settlements.

Christian fundamentalists are also violent.  In this country, abortion-related murders of and bombings are associated with explicitly Christian extremists.  Some Christian pastors have called for death for LGBT people. And a  recent article in Salon points out that Christian reconstructionism is inherently violent, anti-woman, and pro-slavery.  Recently, Christian conservatives have advocated calling in the national guard against legal processes they don't like, like abortion or same sex marriage (and if that's not government tyranny, what is?)

What is it about fundamentalists of all flavors, who see violence against others as justifiable?

Friday, July 31, 2015

Are the Progressives Christians changing the faith?

Two essays, worth your attention. 

 Brian McLaren writes on the conversion to progressive Christianity:
I believe that progressive Christians are not merely proposing superficial and incremental changes. I believe we are proposing profound and even epochal changes. In my current writing project (Converting Christianity), I refer to them as conversions.

First is the conversion to centering Christian faith in a way of life rather than a system of beliefs.... 
If the first conversion is ecclesial (having to do with congregational and denominational life), the second is theological: a conversion from a violent, exclusive, Supreme Being to a Loving, Inclusive Spirit of Justice, Joy, and Peace.....
The third conversion incorporates the ecclesial and theological conversions into a missional conversion: from an "organized religion" to an "organizing religion."...
This third conversion will be manifest as progressive Christians stop complaining about how their conservative counterparts are so well organized for bad purposes, and instead get organized themselves — for good purposes and with a good spirit.
IS this a battle between conservative and liberal wings? Are they really different?  McLaren again:
Conservative wings believe that we're sliding down a slippery slope into a dark and dangerous future, so we should hold on to what remains from better days in the past and resist change.

Progressive wings believe that we slid down a slippery slope long ago and are in the process of climbing to a better place, so we should develop prophetic imagination that gives us a vision for desirable change that we pursue creatively.
 Drew Downs sees Progressive Christians as a sleeping giant.
The mainline has played the sleeping giant, refusing to be roused,.....

Or perhaps it is that the sleeping giant is slow to wake, roused decades ago and much slower to get to its feet, harder to rein in, and impossible to stop.

And maybe, just maybe, they are right to name the giant, the true giant of transformation; that it isn’t the mainline churches themselves, but the progressive ethic and theological awakening many in the mainline have embraced. For it is the giant itself, rather than its churches that conservative Christians fear.
He finishes by considering the politics
Conservative evangelicals are right: a more powerful and transformative faith is being born. A faith that is eager to include us all. But it won’t. Because I suspect that many hate the thought of losing more than they like the thought of sharing in winning.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

On religious clerks, complicity, and public morality

In Kentucky, a county clerk is in court, over her refusal to allow her office to provide marriage licenses to same sex couples.
She choked back tears at times as she argued that issuing licenses under her name would violate her religious beliefs even if a deputy clerk performs the task in her stead..... 
.... If [the judge] orders Davis to issue licenses, she said she would deal with that when it comes, but resigning is not an option because it would only leave the matter to her deputies.
Because nothing is more important than making sure THOSE PEOPLE can't get married in her county.  Really?  I'm sorry, but your religious beliefs do not trump the law you are sworn to uphold.  Otherwise, Catholic clerks could refuse o issue licenses to previously married people, or refuse to file divorce papers.

An excellent article in the American Prospect looks at the leveraging of religion to allow discrimination in the ongoing culture wars regarding abortion and gay rights.
Laws authorizing health-care providers to refuse patient care illustrate how conservatives are now using the ideas of conscience and religious liberty. States like Mississippi could accommodate the conscience objections of health-care providers while ensuring alternative care for patients. But health-care refusal laws rarely require institutions to provide alternative care; many even authorize providers to refuse to inform patients that they are being denied services that they may want.
That is, the laws privilege the views of the person claiming religious freedom over any rights of the individual being denied service.
Now, as laws recognizing same-sex marriage spread, religious conservatives have begun to look to health-care refusals as an inspiration and a model for restraining another development they could not entirely block.
But there's a switch.
Today’s conflicts over marriage and health care feature a special kind of conscience claim—claims about complicity. The employers in Hobby Lobby objected that the ACA forced them to provide “insurance coverage for items that risk killing an embryo [and thereby] makes them complicit in abortion.” Similarly, businesses in the wedding industry object to “facilitating” same-sex weddings. ....
So the issue, then, is not what the person himself is doing, it's that he wants to have a bright line between himself and that Other One of whom he disapproves.
Because complicity claims single out other citizens as sinners, their accommodation can inflict targeted harm. Complicity claims are increasingly entangled in culture-war politics as a means of mobilizing the faithful against the practices of people who depart from traditional morality. For these reasons, accommodation of the claims is fraught with significance not only for the claimants but also for those whose conduct the claimants condemn. These third-party effects need to be taken into account in weighing whether and how the government should accommodate complicity-based claims of conscience.
Is there a way around it?  The authors think that Hobby Lobby actually was written sufficiently narrowly that it will help. They conclude (my emphasis)
One group of citizens should not be singled out to bear significant costs of another’s religious practice. The government may have to limit complicity-based conscience claims to avoid harming third parties who do not share the claimants’ beliefs. This approach respects claims to religious freedom and the rights of other citizens—standing by conscience while recognizing its new role in culture-war conflicts.
Meanwhile, we'll see what happens in court in Kentucky.

Monday, July 13, 2015

That's it, blame the Americans!

The Rt Rev Pierre Whalon, explains what caused the uproar in the Anglican Communion over those darn Americans at General Convention "redefining marriage" (not). He begins,
Why is The Episcopal Church singled out, however? Our church is in the same position as the Scottish Episcopal Church, the Church of Ireland, the Church of Wales, the Church of Canada, the Church of Australia, the Church of Southern Africa, the Church of Brazil, the Church of Mexico, and the Church of Aotearoa, New Zealand, and Polynesia. Not to mention the Church of England itself. Each of these churches of the Anglican Communion is trying to discern a way forward that includes gay and lesbian people as full members of the Church, as their secular governments have legitimized same-sex marriage. If that is straining the bonds of our Communion, it is not purely an American issue, by any means. 
When I lived in the UK, I learned that Americans are to Blame for Everything.  Even though Canada did it first.  ;-)

Following a good description of what actually happened at Convention, Whalon concludes,

The Anglican Communion has an opportunity to develop the doctrine of marriage. Develop, not deny or adulterate. Will we seize it? Or will our differences be simply more fodder for power grabs through schism, doctrine degraded into slogans? We need to beg for the Spirit’s guidance, for we can get it wrong, as well. The great challenge before us all, around the world, is to reflect deeply on the Holy Scriptures, our histories, the achievements and errors of our ancestors, and the experience of the present, so as not to deny the traditional doctrine of marriage, but rather to deepen it. To paraphrase the challenging words of the Collect for Richard Hooker, in this day of bitter controversy, we can admit no compromise for the sake of a false peace. We must strain forward toward a comprehension for the sake of truth. And as the Episcopal bishops affirmed, we can only accomplish this together.

Friday, July 10, 2015

We're better than this

One of the reasons I do not identify as a leftist or a progressive is the lock-step rigidity and political correctness that pervades the left.

For example, the Brendan Eich case was a purge of political correctness.  For those who don't remember, Eich was the presumptive head of Mozilla, who was hounded out of office because he gave a donation to Prop8 back in 2008.

Now, I fought damn' hard against Prop8, and I don't like that people supported it.  But 6, 8 years later, we need to realize that we've moved on.   I believe hounding Eich out of office is no different than when the Romney campaign firing an employee (Richard Grenell) because he was gay. Eich did not act against the law.  He did not change policies of his company.  He made a legal political donation to a cause years before he was hired, as a private citizen.  Truly, if Eich could be fired for that, why couldn't a conservative firm fire me for making a donation to the other side?  Should a boss who supports Hilary be able to fire someone whose car sports a Jeb! bumper sticker? 

 I also have a problem when the left surges around calling for boycotts of celebrities who stay stupid stuff.  Stop watching their TV shows, if you want, but let their declining ratings be a reason to take them down, and not an employer-enforced political correctness.  Regrettable though it is ,some people do have a religious objection to marriage equality and they are entitled to that viewpoint even if it is offensive.  We would do better to try to persuade them by example, to encourage them to evolve.  And so I'm uncomfortable about the left's litmus tests. It's wrong to say that people on the opposite side of the political spectrum shouldn't be employable because of their personal beliefs, all other things being equal.

However, all other things are NOT equal when you are a government employee.  And you don't get to use your religious beliefs to interfere with the civil rights of others, when you have sworn to uphold the rule of law and the Constitution.  It wasn't allowable for inter-racial marriage, and it's not allowable now.
Multiple federal courts have decided that, for example, law-enforcement officials don’t get to decide which people they serve and protect, which means they are not entitled to opt out of assignments to patrol abortion clinics, protect casinos or investigate pacifist groups because of religious objections. Under similar logic, marriage clerks don’t have the right to choose not to serve gay men and lesbians, just as they also can’t refuse to serve interracial couples (something that a Louisiana public official, citing matters of “conscience,” attempted as recently as 2009; he was forced to resign).

Incidentally, the courts also say private businesses can't use religious excuses:
In other cases where people tried to exempt themselves from otherwise generally applicable laws on the grounds of religious belief, the courts said no dice, at least when there was third-party harm. In perhaps the most awesomely named Supreme Court case of all time, Newman v. Piggie Park Enterprises , the court affirmed the principle that a barbecue chain could not refuse to serve African American customers because the owner sincerely believed that the Bible mandated segregation of the races. The owner’s free exercise of religion did not get to trample the civil rights of others.
(Oh, and remember the bakers in Oregon?  They were found in violation of the state's non-discrimination ordinance.  That's not the same thing as having an opinion;  they can have all the opinion they want, but they can't actively discriminate.   Note, though, that they weren't fined $135,000 for refusing to bake a cake.   They were fined $135,000 in damages for publicizing the names and address of the lesbian couple such that the couple got death threats and could have lost their foster children. )

So, meanwhile, there are a number of county clerks around the country who are refusing to provide marriage licenses to gay couples.  (It's not clear they also refuse licenses to the previously divorced.... ;-P ), on the grounds of religious freedom. But as government employees, they don't get to do that.

As the New York Times says,

However they justify these tactics, their conduct is illegal and they must stop.
Even after Loving v. Virginia, it still took court cases to get the antimiscegenation laws fully overturned. 
Mopping up over the next few years required federal court intervention regarding the obtaining of marriage licenses in Louisiana, Arkansas, Mississippi, Alabama, and Georgia, as well as a state court ruling in Florida 
So, back to where I started about the left's lockstep.  One of the clerks in question is a woman in Kentucky whose religiously-based refusal of a marriage license to two men went viral.  In a bit of delicious hypocrisy, she's reportedly been married 4 times.

She's being excoriated by the left wing, including cruel attacks on her looks.

The couple she refused is not pleased about this.
David Moore and David Ermold are denouncing the attacks on Davis, saying their fight isn't about her marriages, but their right to get married.

"I don't like that," Ermold says on camera with Moore agreeing. "That is not what this is about, at all. We just want a marriage license, that's what we want."

They add their county is filled with "good people, all around."

Especially David Moore and David Ermold, who, despite being denied their constitutional right to marry, are big enough and honorable enough to not want the one person standing in the way of their right to marry, to be subjected to attacks.
The nature of the attacks against this woman simply fuels the religious right's meme that they are being oppressed. It hardens hearts all the way around.   Surely, surely, we are bigger and better than this.  If we want people to evolve on this issue and move ahead, we have to provide a civil way to share our communal space.

Otherwise, we are just as bad as they are.

Thursday, July 9, 2015

The religious history of bigotry

A reminder that bias and bigotry in this country have long been earnestly supported by appeals to religion. Worth reading the whole thing!
There’s nothing new about nice, salt-of-the-Earth people who sincerely believe that certain other people are undeserving of empathy or respect or fair treatment. There’s nothing new about those beliefs being expressed and justified in religious terms, or put forward by ministers and theologians...
....Bigotry has a long history in the United States. And while that tradition includes haters, they’ve never been the majority. Today’s non-hateful bigots, with their sincere beliefs and their Biblical justifications, stand in a line that goes back to the beginnings of our nation. But the people in that line have consistently been wrong, and eventually even the people further up the line see it.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Equal marriage in the Episcopal Church

So i kept that Twitter window, hell, I gave up any pretense of working and just watched the tweets, as the House of Deputies considered the resolutions that would equalize marriage rights (on a trial basis, technically, but still) and bring the canons up to speed wth gender neutral language, while allowing any clergy or bishops who are uncomfortable to "opt out" yet preserving the right of gay couples to marry in church.  

And I have been watching news from General Conventions for years, one way or another, as I rooted for the Episcopal Church to live up to its promises, and to become a safe space for me to push my wife.  And slowly, slowly, it has, and I pushed her, and she swam, and now she's like Uber Episcopalian and I'm spending my afternoon tearing up at twitter feeds on arcane points of order in a triennial assembly of people I love even though I don't share faith with them.

Because the House of Bishops voted to make marriage liturgy equal, and to change the canons, while preserving some Anglican fudge so that clergy and bishops who are not comfortable, have some cover.

And then the House of Deputies did the same.

And both votes were substantial.  Let your yes mean yes, indeed.

And there were General Convention jokes, ranging from the jokes about being Nimble (aka Bonnieball) from the last GC and you KNOW you are a church nerd if you remember that three years down the line, to the delegation from Texas handing out prunes to "move things along", and the OMG moment when....

The Episcopal Church, the Republican Party at Prayer, the Old Establishment, voted for marriage equality.

Oh, yes, and then there is that absolutely FABULOUS preacher Michael Curry they voted in for the next PB.... but we'll talk about him separately...

From CBS:
The Episcopal Church, with nearly 1.9 million members, has included many of the Founding Fathers and presidents.

Among mainline Protestant groups, only the United Church of Christ and the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), both of which are smaller than the Episcopal Church, allow same-sex weddings in all their congregations....

The Episcopal Church has already made history during the convention, electing its first black presiding bishop. Bishop Michael Curry of North Carolina won in a landslide over the weekend.

Curry has allowed same-sex church weddings in North Carolina, and he said the Supreme Court "affirmed the authenticity of love" by legalizing gay marriage.

Resisting marriage equality because "religious freedom"

Several states are resisting implementation of the Court's decision on same sex marriages, by throwing up the "religious freedom" meme.

The most extreme example is this, in which a lawyer under Alabama Justice Roy Moore claims
Public officials are ministers of God assigned the duty of punishing the wicked and protecting the righteous.
Well, that's patently not true.  Alabama is NOT a theocracy and neither are these United States, and the oath to uphold the Constitution that they all took is not predicated on "when it agrees with my religious views."

In Michigan, efforts to protect "religious freedom" are renewed, including a demand that marriages only exist in religious settings.
Conservatives in the House have introduced legislation that would only allow religious clergy to perform marriage ceremonies and remove that responsibility from local clerks and judges. Other couples who don't want to use clergy for their nuptials could provide an affidavit of marriage to county clerks. The legislation also would allow marriage certificates to be shielded from public record laws.

"If this legislation becomes law it will protect our public officials from having to perform same-sex marriages and put the marriage licensing business back in the position of being in the realm of the churches and religious leaders," said state Rep. Todd Courser, R-Lapeer, in a statement explaining the bill he sponsored.
But that is putting religion front and center in a CIVIL contract.  That is WRONG.

In Texas, the Attorney General has suggested that clerks are free to refuse licenses on religious grounds.  The Dallas Morning News correctly states,
 Top Texas leaders must stop standing in the way by encouraging government employees to invoke a personal religious exception when asked to provide marriage-related services, such as issuing licenses or officiating at civil ceremonies.

Denton County Clerk Juli Luke struck the right tone regarding Friday’s ruling by stating, “Personally, same-sex marriage is in contradiction to my faith and belief. … However, first and foremost, I took an oath on my family Bible to uphold the law, and as an elected public official, my personal belief cannot prevent me from issuing the licenses as required.”
State employees do not have discretion to selectively embrace the constitutional protections they agree with while rejecting those they object to, even on religious grounds. Constitutionally, governments — including their employees — must present themselves as religiously neutral. 
Look, this is not a religious issue.  Civil marriages are civil contracts.  I haven't noticed Roman Catholic clerks refusing licenses to previously divorced people, although such marriages are disallowed by their faith.  Nor devoutly orthodox Jews refusing licenses to interfaith couples.  This is only about bias against LGBT people.  And it needs to stop.

Cross posted from Gay Married Californian

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Marriage resolutions progress and Cantaur is annoyed

 I guess the definition of a church nerd is someone who keeps a window with the twitter hashtag #GC78 open on the side of their workspace.  Yesterday, I followed the tweets as the House of Bishops (#HOB) debated A054 and A036, which address liturgy, access, and canons around marriage.  

Some of the comments were just plain loony, with one Bishop calling for same sex married couples to be celibate.

But in the end, the Bishops approved both measures and sent them to the House of Deputies for approval.

This is quite big.  Basically, the canonical change says that marriage is between two people, and does not specify their sex.  The resolutions also say that same sex couples in every diocese must have access to marriage, even as their Diocesan may be uncomfortable with this, still giving space to that discomfort.  Tobias Haller writes that this is not the status quo:
[T]he bishop who disagrees with this will have to find a way to make the liturgy accessible to every couple. I’m sure many creative ways can be found to do this in the small number of dioceses in which this will be true. The glass is half full, and we are in a time of evolution. Give it a chance — this offer of toleration is a principle reason these resolutions passed by such a large majority in the House of Bishops, as a recognition of generous pastoral outreach to the conservative bishops who now feel like beleaguered outcasts in their own church. Same shoe, other foot, some might say — but aren’t we able to be better than that. People can change, but forcing them is not the best way.
 Meanwhile,  Archbishop Justin Welby and the Church of England are Not Happy.
While recognising the prerogative of The Episcopal Church to address issues appropriate to its own context, Archbishop Justin Welby said that its decision will cause distress for some and have ramifications for the Anglican Communion as a whole, as well as for its ecumenical and interfaith relationships.

But that train has left the station.  Episcopal churches are already marrying gay folks.  And now it is the law of the land that gay folks can marry in every state.  In contrast, Welby's own Church of England is hardly an example to follow, forbidding priests from celebrating same sex marriages,  forbidding gay priests from marrying and punishing them if they do.  Basically, Welby is content to leave the LGBT in that "crucified place" (if you remember these debates from nearly a decade ago) in a misguided attempt to assuage the bigotry of certain African prelates.

Thankfully, TEC has moved on.

Now to the House of Deputies! 

Monday, June 29, 2015

Evangelical reactions to marriage equality

Amidst the flurry of responses from Evangelical opponents, some are a bit unhinged. 
• Texas could refuse to allow licenses; the governor appears obsessed with the subject.  (But does this mean Catholics can refuse to serve people on their 2nd marriage, and orthodox Jews can refuse to serve those in mixed faith marriages?)
While the fringe of opponents will be there, they are like the fringe of racists who also remain as we sadly were reminded in the last few weeks.  Others will grapple with the subject and occupy a place of tension and discernment. 
“I’m very conflicted about it,” he said. “I believe, as our church does, that marriage should be between a man and a woman, but I don’t believe in discrimination, and I can’t say how I would deal with it if I had a son or a daughter in that situation.”
And then there are the sensible ones:
It boggles the mind that evangelicals in America have long seen this ruling coming, but we have fought tooth and nail in what many suspected to be a losing cause. So many millions of dollars and hours were tossed into legal battles that were a long shot at best.

And yet, we have always had financial resources, competent charities, and passionate workers who are more than willing to travel to the ends of the earth to fulfill the very words of Jesus. If we collectively gave these most basic causes just a fraction of the time and energy that we had devoted to fighting same sex marriage, who knows how many thousands or millions of lives could have been saved.

We have been given a gift: The Supreme Court ruling means we can stop throwing our time and money into fighting same sex marriage and fulfill the words of Matthew 25.


The longer we engage in legal fights against same sex marriage, the more apparent it becomes that we’d rather throw ourselves into any losing cause than obey the most basic commands of Jesus.
Something we all could do together.