From The Denver Post:
LAKEWOOD — Hundreds of Vanessa Collier's friends and family gathered Saturday at New Hope Ministries, sitting before an open casket that held the woman they loved, when suddenly the minister overseeing her funeral stopped the service.
The memorial could not continue, Pastor Ray Chavez said, as long as pictures of Collier with the love of her life, the spouse she shared two children with, were to be displayed.
Chavez said there could be no images of Collier with her wife, Christina. There could be no indication that Collier was gay.
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From the National Catholic Reporter:
ROME Pope Francis strongly defends his repeated criticisms of the global market economy in a new interview released Sunday, rebutting those who accuse him of "pauperism" by saying he is only repeating Jesus' message of caring for the poor.
"Jesus affirms that you cannot serve two masters, God and wealth," Francis states in the interview, bluntly asking: "Is it pauperism?"
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I, like many of my faith, derive much of meaning from the words “born again.” The founder of our denomination, John Wesley, often quoted the first chapter of the Gospel of John, saying that believers are given the right to become children of God, and are “born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.”
Often, being born again is used to describe a conversion experience, or the embrace of faith and forgiveness to which that experience leads.
Lately, I’ve been thinking on the writings of John Rawls, a philosopher who died in 2002. Rawls once suggested a thought experiment:
Suppose you are about to be born in today's world. You don't know where, to which parents, to what race, in what gender or sexual orientation.
You may be gay or you may be straight.
You may be a woman, you may be a man.
You may be of any race or ethnicity.
You may be raised in Islam, or in Christianity, or in Judaism, or Hinduism, or in no faith at all.
You may be born into wealth or into poverty or somewhere in between.
You may be graced with brilliant intelligence, or great strength, or musical skill, or some unimaginable talent.
You may be disabled.
- Not to be too horrifying, you may even be a Republican.
What will be certain is that you will have no memory of current life.
Now devise as fair a tax and social policy as you can, knowing that you will be living with the result for your new lifetime. That is to say, your entire life.
Think of the attitudes you wish to propagate in this life, knowing you may live with consequences in another life. An entire life.
I go with those of us who are more fortunate paying a higher share of the burden, and for fairness to those who are different in any of many ways from myself. You may make other choices.
Perhaps we should consider in a new light that unless we are born again, we cannot see the kingdom of God.
Originally Published at Fair And UNbalanced
|In so many forgotten corners of the world,|
|a small infant born in poverty,|
|without a home, without a place.|
|The still, faint hope for the future of the world.|
|An infant so small.|
|A promise so great.|
|Christ is born today.|
Throughout my life, for as long as I can remember, I have lived with a constant ringing in my ears. There has never been a moment without it.
Nobody knows of a common mechanism causing tinnitus, at least not for the high pitched noise that is my constant companion. I have seen speculation about Brownian motion, missing hairs in the inner ear, hyper sensitivity, and on and on. In recent years it has become steadily louder.
Because I have had it so long, I tend to tune it out. I am usually unconscious of it unless it calls to me by a sudden increase in volume. Others are not so lucky. William Shatner has been a victim since a loud explosion on a movie set. The torture caused him to seriously contemplate suicide.
In rare cases, tinnitus becomes "objective" in the sense of being detectable by outside instruments. Sometimes it can even be heard by others. But subjective tinnitus is the medical rule.
A friend, one I admire, once challenged me to produce evidence of God. She has known me for years, and I was flattered at her confidence that I would not be offended or wounded at her derision. In fact, I come from a background of skepticism. I am often more at ease with such antagonists than with the more shrill of those with whom I join in Christian fellowship. I regarded her for a moment or two before answering.
I don't know that my spiritual journey has made me a better person than I was. I do know that it has added a new dimension to my experience. One night in late 1974 I awoke to an intense joy. It is quite possible some strange food ingredient reacted to my chemistry as an hallucinogen. I take it to have been a spiritual experience. But, for the most part, I have looked to my own consciousness as evidence of something more.
I have looked to science, Eastern philosophy, and other strains of Christianity as possibilities. They were intellectually enlightening. But I had to regard them as I do the more certain technical knowledge that atoms in my keyboard are composed of energy and space. Informative, but not at all relevant to my daily experience.
I looked to my friend and told her the truth as it is given to me. I cannot give you the proof you need, I said. My evidence is internal. I can only witness to it. It is quite reasonable for you to dismiss my experience. It would not be reasonable for me to dismiss it.
Like the ringing in my ears, I cannot prove spirituality to someone else. I know it is there because I live with it.
Unlike that ringing, I regret those all too frequent times I have tuned it out.
Originally published at Fair and UNbalanced.
I have always found the concept of atonement by substitution vaguely unsettling. Jesus sacrificed in our place, taking on horrible punishment for our sins, punishment that would more properly be our own. It is a lesson reinforced by scriptural symbolism, lamb sacrificed as a substitute. Dramas sometimes center on Barabbas, the insurrectionist in whose place, quite literally, Jesus died.
Another interpretation has been considered in some circles over the years. I heard it for the first time last week as our pastor spoke. In this interpretation, atonement is defined as consistent with at-one-ment, a pun-like breakdown of the word. Except it has some historical base to it. Olde Englishe use, and pronunciation, were more consistent with the pun. So is alternate, credible, translation from ancient Greek translations of scripture.
I am reminded of the early formulation of the independence movement in India. Mohandas Gandhi believed that truth force or soul force, Satyagraha, could overcome evil. A central tactic was the turning of human hearts away from injustice by demonstrating a capacity for suffering that was stronger than the capacity to inflict it.
In the later application of Gandhi's nonviolent resistance, Martin Luther King described the struggle this way:
We will match your capacity to inflict suffering with our capacity to endure suffering. We will meet your physical force with soul force. We will not hate you, but we will not obey your evil laws. We will soon wear you down by pure capacity to suffer.
The notion that the human heart can be turned away from substitutes for spiritual fulfillment by the suffering of another has some appeal. It may speak to the central issue faced by Christianity.
In ancient Israel, Jesus spoke, in part, against the literalism of the day. And we often encounter something similar today: the idea that we are saved because Jesus brought to us a better incantation to mutter to God. The veil was torn, morality was changed, we are now saved from God's wrath: but only if we view God with a precise degree of accuracy.
That God came to Earth, walked among us, suffered for us, all in order to help us begin the spiritual walk home, has its own issues. But God come to us as healer strikes me as a sounder view than God as vengeance seeker, creating mankind for an eternity of human suffering, prevented only by acceptance of a slender thread of belief. I will not pick the wings off the fly from now to the end of time if the fly worships me now in the correct way.
God is, in the final analysis, beyond any final analysis: beyond the farthest limits of human imagination. Defining God, as some are inclined to do, is a tricky business, bordering on idolatry. The Lord is in his holy box. Let all the earth keep silent before Him as I explain his dimensions.
Perhaps it is enough to know a small part of larger Truth. What we can grasp and hold close may be enough to set us free. If we are separated from God, then life has some potential for a homeward journey. If Jesus is here to heal, then perhaps that healing begins when his capacity to suffer overcomes our capacity to embrace the enemies of God and man.
At the core, Christianity is presented with a simpler proposition than the defined nature of God: that every soul has an incorruptible worth, that this hard core value remains no matter what we do or say.
We are worthwhile and loved. And there is nothing we can do about it.
Originally Published at Fair And UNbalanced
Conservative James Wigderson gives free space to a critic with just about the response length the anonymous message merits. The message ends with "You don’t think ANY other newspaper would publish your tripe." I dunno. You just can't please some critics. I kind of like the tripe Wigderson writes.
Dwight Eisenhower was once asked what he did, before he was Supreme Commander of Allied Forces in Europe, as an aide to General Arthur MacArthur. His answer was a terse, "Studied Drama." Tim McGaha at Tim's Thoughtful Spot reviews a high point for MacArthur, as MacArthur's skill, a great deal of luck, and the beneficence of a generous divinity led to a critical Pacific victory.
Can a religious faith, depending on such a long, long chain, survive if even one link against science weakens?
The troubling ambiguity of the shooting leads to frustration. The plain truth is we can't prove what the plain truth is.
Why is the most fundamental question about these small municipal police departments in St. Louis County not being asked?
to get episodes automatically downloaded.
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The friendly radio evangelist had been brought to visit by the local pastor. I liked him, for all his unusual beliefs. Creationism was his big thing. He had come to preach truth to a heathen.
I posed one of the traditional questions. If God had created all that he had created 6000 years ago, how would we explain fossils that were dated millions of years old. How about light from stars billions of light years away?
He had an answer. God had created his creation with the appearance of age. That was my introduction to what is known as the Omphalos hypothesis, named for a novel written in the MID-1800s. It has a certain chicken-and-egg logic to it. If God created the egg, it would appear to have come from a chicken. If God created a chicken, it would appear to have come from an egg. Both would have the appearance of age.
My visitor's faith was very strong. Unbending, really.
I suggested that, if God had gone through that much trouble to give his universe the Appearance of Age, it seemed to me a bit unsporting for us not to surrender to his will and believe in all those contrived eons.
My new friend's unbending faith was strong enough for him to find my observation completely nonthreatening. In fact, he laughed appreciatively. It was hard not to like him.
Not all creationists accept the Omphalos hypothesis. I don't much blame them. The big gaping hole in it is that it can support pretty much any theory of limited existence. God created the universe last Tuesday. He did it with the Appearance of Age, including memories, pseudo-history, relationships, and a fictitious past. Why not?
My friend's faith was strong and unbending, but his logic could support pretty much anything. So it pretty much supported nothing.
A few years ago, I happened upon an argument about all those light years of distance in observable stars. Andy Schlafly, the creator, as it were, of Conservapedia, considers Einstein's Theory of Relativity, and pretty much all science that flows from light traveling at a constant speed, as "heavily promoted by liberals who like its encouragement of relativism and its tendency to mislead people in how they view the world."
Like my friend from decades ago, Mr. Schlafly's faith is unbending and rigid. His faith is so rigid and unyielding on so many points, it makes me wonder what is at its core. His insistence that accepted science must be wrong, wrong, wrong, suggests to me that a faith that rigid is more than a little brittle.
Like most Christians, my own faith has its own vulnerability. It is historically based, at least in part. Christ died. Christ is risen. Christ will come again. If I became convinced that Jesus died running from Gethsemane with a Roman spear in his back, I would be devastated.
I use that internal image to gain some empathy. If the slightest crack were allowed into any of the many crevices of the rock whose cleft shields so many of my brethren, the entire edifice might weaken and collapse.
I was reminded of the dangers of the single weak link in an unnecessarily long chain as I listened to small segments of the famous Creation vs Science debate a few months ago between Kenneth Ham the creationist and Bill Nye the science guy. Ken Ham was asked this:
Hypothetically, if evidence existed that caused you to have to admit that the Earth was older than 10,000 years and creation did not occur over six days, would you still believe in God, and the historical Jesus of Nazareth, and that Jesus was the son of God?
Mr. Ham began his answer this way:
Well, I've been emphasizing all night, you cannot ever prove, using the scientific method in the present, you can't prove the age of the Earth. So you can never prove it’s old. There is no hypothetical. Because you can't do that.
He continued for a minute or two, repeating variations of his theme. He doesn't have to test his faith, even hypothetically, because the universe isn't billions of years old. It just isn't. It can't, can't, can't be.
Although it is impossible to judge the inner core, the hidden strength, of Mr. Ham's faith, I can see the Appearance of Weakness in his writhing efforts to escape such a seemingly harmless question.
Einstein's theory must be wrong or else everything we believe will be at risk. The speed of light must vary over time or faith will die. A universe that is older than 6 millennia threatens God himself. We struggle within our souls against theocide.
A faith that shouts its unbending strength, its intractable rigidity, its brittle inflexibility, almost compels us to complete the circle. We have to wonder about the delicate fragility that fights so hard to avoid the slightest touch of factual contradiction.
Why will faith fear a touch, except that, like a fragment of ancient parchment, a touch will make it crumble?
In response to John Myste's Conservative Revolutionaries Not Always Revolting
I think you will conclude that the liberal gets his knowledge from utilitarianism in some way and the conservative gets his from .... ?
- John Myste, June 24, 2014
I do not conclude that the liberal gets his "knowledge" from utilitarianism, nor that there is any one philosophy or set of desires from which liberals or conservatives draw. There are utilitarian conservatives, whom I tend to like despite our disagreements as long as they are reasonable ("kill the gays to save the species" wouldn't cut it), and more deontological liberals, whom I accept as allies because their positions are similar to my own but am inclined to dislike because their reasoning is silly to me.
Whatever the true origins of the values of conservatives whom I find revolting, they tend to call upon religion, tradition, and negative emotion (disgust, vengefulness, etc.) in expressing and defending their positions.
Such arguments tend to disregard the importance of establishing a reason for which those of us who do not agree ought to act, e.g. if religion/tradition says so, it must be done; or if I feel disgust toward something, it must be bad.
I prefer arguments based on harm and fairness (as Haidt found liberals generally do) not just because I have little concern for purity, loyalty, and authority, but because those two values have a wider appeal among humans and are thus more effective in arguments. There is moreover less dispute over (or at least less reason to dispute) what constitutes harm compared to what constitutes purity.
I posit that this is because the disgust is triggered by moral certainty.
That can't be all it is, otherwise we would feel disgust over anything that we are certain is wrong. There is instead a clear difference to me in how the revolting conservative in question perceives homosexuality and how he perceives adultery, even when he is certain that both are wrong.
Funny, overall I generally have more respect for Republicans more often. I get most of the Republican main arguments. I see their foundations. I usually don’t see them as heartless...
Libertarian passion for the treatment of the poor and anyone who is less capable than they is all too often utterly revolting to me.
- John Myste
Bear in mind that I am comparing a particular set of conservatives to libertarians as a whole. I'll take a Heathen Republican over a libertarian any day.
I understand your preference. Politically speaking, it is my own, as I would rather have conservatives in office than libertarians, who would dismantle everything. That is why I called them dangerous. I also agree that the argument that you presented is insincere.
But if I had to listen to or be friends with someone from one of the two groups, I'd rather have someone who accepts other people but is apathetic toward the poor (which isn't necessarily the case; many of them do believe that the poor would be better off under their system, with or without charity) because of his "freedom-oriented" philosophy than someone who wants to help the poor but is irrationally hostile toward other groups of people over qualities like sexual preference because of his religion or personal tastes. I can live with heartlessness or misguided economic theory, but not with the rest.
Of course, if today's conservatives continue to adopt libertarian language and economic positions, the choice will become even easier.
Ryan's contributions are often provocative, always thoughtful, continuously appreciated.
In response to comments by John Myste about Republican Revolution in Virginia
The underlying motivations for the “revolting” philosophies we find in conservatives as a body are not hate, not a desire to discriminate and not racism or xenophobia, as you called it. They are love of God, morality as they see it, and commitment to positive ideals, such as we all should strive to do our part and a subset should not be required to fill in for those who refuse...
- John Myste, June 17, 2014
I said very little about motivations. My focus was on the revolting ways in which they
think and feel about certain groups of people and express those thoughts and feelings and
- claim moral superiority by virtue of a religion that they practice as they see fit and use as justification for laws that affect people from other or no religions.
The second concern cannot be justified; it is hypocritical and abusive. The first concern can only be justified by the nature of the groups that they resent, but those groups do not deserve the resentment.
Understanding conservative motivations, whether they are what you listed or otherwise, leads to understanding conservatives, but not to justifying their behavior. They don't have to think that homosexuals or women or black people are inferior beings to do the things that I find revolting.
When people start from different points in believe, they come to different conclusions. Even when those conclusions are contradictory, that does not make them hypocrites.
- John Myste, June 17, 2014
If this is directed at my comment about hypocrisy, let me clarify with an example:
If some behavior X must be illegal because it is wrong according to the Bible, then all behaviors that are wrong according to the Bible must be illegal. And yet, while there is much political talk over the horrors of gay marriage, there is little to none on the matters of divorce, marriage between non-Christians, marriage between Christians and non-Christians, totally secular marriages, and adultery.
Plenty of conservative Christians have a problem with at least some of these for the same purported reason that they oppose gay marriage, but virtually all political energy (and hatred) is focused on gay marriage alone.
To bring this back to your point about motivations, there is more going on here than love of God, morality as they see it, and positive ideals. Something else motivates them to focus on one issue over another, when the two issues are otherwise equally important from a Biblical, social, or economic perspective.
In this case, gay marriage gets so much attention primarily (I believe) because conservatives regard homosexuality (and even homosexuals) with such disgust and associate that with a "moral sense." There are other reasons, such as their perception of the "homosexual lifestyle," but these tend to be equally flimsy as justifications for legislation against homosexuals.
You can say this, without knowing it, and then saying it is pointless.
- John Myste
I didn't follow this line.
I know lots of conservatives personally. I like most of them. I think you would too.
I get along with them as well as I do with non-conservatives unless I hear about "the gays" and their agenda or morally bankrupt atheists or our black welfare queen epidemic or filthy "A-rabs" or our "Kenyan Muslim usurper" or any number of other ridiculous and insulting talking points.
If I am not forced to interact with such people, I make a point to not do so again. If I am, I try my best to avoid all religious and political discussion.
Ryan is a frequent contributor of thoughtful posts and an even more frequent contributor of insightful comments. We are always grateful for his thoughts and insights.
From The News & Observer, Raleigh, NC
CHARLOTTE, N.C. — A coalition of clergy members filed a novel federal lawsuit Monday against North Carolina's constitutional ban on gay marriage, saying it violates their religious freedom.
The clergy members said that they'd like to perform same-sex marriage ceremonies in their congregations, but that they can't because of the "unjust law." Their attorney, Jake Sussman, says it's the only case to bring the First Amendment religious freedom claims among the more than 60 marriage equality cases pending in the nation's state and federal courts.
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The Lord is a warrior and in Revelation 19 is says when he comes back, he's coming back as what? A warrior. A might warrior leading a mighty army, riding a white horse with a blood-stained white robe ... I believe that blood on that robe is the blood of his enemies 'cause he's coming back as a warrior carrying a sword.
And I believe now - I've checked this out - I believe that sword he'll be carrying when he comes back is an AR-15.
- Jerry Boykin, Family Research Council, November, 2013
And if at this point you think I’m judging you and crying about it, let me go on and say you really aren't a Christian or, more charitably, you are too ignorant of your faith to have standing in these cases.
- Erick Erickson, February 9, 2014,
on Christians who tolerate homosexuality
I share with most Christians, I suspect, a certain reticence. There is an aversion to speaking as a spiritual authority. At the house of worship I attend, we join our pastor in the same weekly prayer. He expresses the hope that the sins and contradictions in his life will not keep us from hearing God's word. My imagination tells me that many of us in the congregation are inwardly repeating that acknowledgement.
Occasionally the intolerance with which popular media intertwines faith pretty much compels us, in spite of our flaws, to speak out. While Mr. Erickson may draw a circle to exclude folks like me from true Christianity, I try to draw a larger circle that keeps him in. He remains my brother in Christ.
That said, there are times when family becomes a source of embarrassment. The real damage comes as those who want and need something more in spiritual life turn away from faith when it is represented as bigotry. Intolerance is attractive only to those who share profound prejudice.
Erickson is passionate about righteousness, and so he presents his case with a fervor that clouds the reasoning behind it.
But essentially, he reacts to those of us who have disagreed with an absurd mindset. There really are believers who hold that the Old Testament is against homosexuality and therefore God hates homosexuals. You see such believers in the news, carrying placards of hate.
When someone brings up Leviticus, it strikes me as fair to quote prohibitions from the same source against the eating of shellfish. Other books detail the punishment to be meted out to children who are disrespectful to parents (that would be public execution), the prohibition against short people or those with poor eyesight from approaching the altar in worship, and the caution that we must provide for a money-back guarantee when we sell our daughters into slavery.
Reductio ad absurdum: if you can throw scripture at me to "prove" what I see as tragically silly, I should be allowed to throw scripture at you to show what we both see as absurd.
Erickson points out that Leviticus was the old law. Jesus provided for a New Covenant that replaced the old law. So we are unfair when we bring up Leviticus, lobsters, execution, and slavery. That was the old law. The new law, says Erickson, provides the same condemnation against gays. He points mostly to the writings of the Apostle Paul.
There are those who see Paul as less authoritative than Jesus, but Erickson is scornful of that view. Jesus himself defined marriage as between a man and a woman when he quoted Old Testament law to support a new view that women have rights, even in a marriage. At least that's Brother Erick's strained interpretation.
As I read it, the unifying theme in the teachings of Jesus is that Old Testament law does not exist on its own. It flows from a more primal directive, that we should love God and each other. It is only from that premise that other laws should be seen and followed.
This is not explicit. It is a reasonable observation, especially in the definition Jesus gives about love for God and for all God's children: "On these two commandments depend all the law and the prophets." It is on this basis that Jesus lays claim to fulfilling the law. It is by following the underlying first principle of love that the purpose of the law is met.
Paul is more explicit. In addition to his emphasis of love over law, Paul does give examples of how law can only flow from love in order to be valid. Homosexuality is sometimes given as one of those examples. But it is often described as an affliction flowing from some sort of idolatry: the substitution of something else for God and God's love.
Paul does something else as well. He considers himself not to be the authority on which folks like Erick Erickson should base their beliefs. He seeks to explain his vision of Jesus, but includes in his explanations such phrases as "I speak as a fool" or "I speak as a man." Once he expands this to "What I speak, I speak not according to the Lord, but as it were, foolishly, in this confidence of boasting." He is saying that he does his best to show what Jesus means, but that he cannot, in good conscience, speak other than his own opinion.
When Erickson denigrates those who do not see Paul as the final authority of sexual ethics, Paul must join us as subject to Erickson's harsh judgment.
All things considered, that Paul does not consider himself as the final authority is a good thing. One advantage to a long life in these times is that a few of my days on earth overlapped with those of the last of the slaves of Abraham Lincoln's time. I remember reading of one elderly woman who forbade any mention of Paul in her house. He had encouraged a runaway slave to return to a slave owner, one of those times that Paul did speak as a man.
The writings of Paul that brother Erick selects are often very near to passages he overlooks. For example, in Paul's first letter to the Corinthians, that letter, as Erick points out, in which Paul mentions homosexuality, he also tells us that all things are lawful but not all things are helpful.
From healing on the Sabbath to overturning tables in the temple, Jesus found his antagonists in literalists. As he walked among us, his greatest anger seemed reserved for the substitution of law for love.
Those ancient literalists find their spiritual followers in today's literalists. Brother Erick's mistake, as I see it, is in a basic view of the New Covenant. Rather than follow those Old Testament laws as a substitute for the law of God's love, our brother in Christ forcefully advocates what he sees as New Testament laws as a new substitute for the law of love.
So one barrier to God's love is to be replaced by another.
That's not how I read it.