I am reading Constantine’s Sword by James Carroll and it is fascinating.  I’m sure I’ll be unpacking the contents for years, but what’s on my mind today is this:  the connection between the way the early church defined itself and the exclusion of today’s church.  Today’s church is having a very difficult time reclaiming the core teachings of Jesus– the exclusionary and judgemental teachings that the institution has built up around Christianity– which I do not believe are part of the message of Jesus nor of the basic Judaism that he built upon– have gotten in the way of the true teachings of the religion.

Only in the past year or so have I started to put together the connections between the oppression of the Jewish people by the Roman empire, Jesus’ Jewishness, the anti-imperial message of Jesus, and the ironic twist in the plot of Constantine’s conversion to Christianity which gave power to the Church– the same power to the same empire which had persecuted Jesus and his fellow Jews for so many years. Read the rest of this entry »

From PlanetOut News, we see why inclusion and equality is a justice issue, and why the church must take a stand for full inclusion of GLBT people.

A Texas man charged in the slaying of Southwest Airlines flight attendant Kenneth Cummings Jr. said from jail that he was doing God’s work when he went looking in Houston gay bars for a gay man to kill.

“Sexual perversion” is the “worst sin,” Terry Mark Mangum told reporters July 21 from the Brazonia County jail where he awaits trial, explaining that he believed “with all my heart that I was doing the right thing” when he stabbed Cummings (pictured) in the head with a six-inch knife.

Mangum is charged with murder with a hate-crime enhancement in the June 4 slaying.

As long as the church condones treatment of GLBT people that is different from heterosexual people and attempts to justify its discrimination, that bad theology will be extended to similar scenarios such as Kenneth Cummings tragic case.

Read the whole story here, and if you haven’t already, make sure to take action on the Federal Hate Crimes act.  Vote on the Federal bill has passed the House and is pending in the Senate.

j

Racism still lives

July 27, 2007

From CNN, this lynching reenactment in Georgia helps to bring attention to these horrible acts where still today racism prevents investigators from determining the truth.

MONROE, Georgia (CNN) — The police were only about 50 yards down the road when the gun-wielding white mob stopped the car and dragged the two black men out, shoving them face first into the dirt.

The two women were next to be yanked from the burgundy Buick into the thick, sultry air of a Southern summer, one of them thrashing and flailing as she screamed and pleaded with the mob to spare her and her unborn child.

The lynch mob dragged the sharecroppers through the pine trees down a wagon trail to the Apalachee River and, on their leader’s command, unleashed three torrents of gunfire.

As the four hit the ground, a man stepped from the woods and shot two streams of ketchup onto the victims for effect…

[snip]

The case caused such a stir that President Harry Truman sent the FBI to Monroe, about 40 miles east of Atlanta. But witnesses and suspects stonewalled investigators, who were left to surmise that their efforts to solve the case might not trump a countywide effort to obfuscate it.

As Georgia State Patrol Maj. William Spence told media outlets at the time, “The best people in town won’t talk.”

It’s a refrain that echoes throughout the South — towns too scared or complicit to come clean on what they know about their racist and often violent pasts.

But the FBI holds out hope for its cold-case initiative, as Attorney General Alberto Gonzales noted in February: “Sometimes an innocuous, small bit of information can be crucial to breaking these decades-old cases. A secret harbored for many years can be the piece of evidence we need to make our case.”

About 100 cases have been identified as potentially viable, an FBI source told CNN.

There have been no public progress reports since the cold-case initiative was announced last year, but agents have been assigned.

Read the full story here.

j

Support for GLBT Youth

July 24, 2007

From the Advocate.  Note that Steven Tomlinson, mentioned in the article, is a gay Episcopalian, as is Out Youth board member Dave Henton.

In May 2006, The Advocate ran an article announcing that Out Youth, an Austin-based community center for LGBT youths, had closed its doors due to financial constraints. Although the move was temporary, there was a degree of uncertainty about the center’s future. Now, more than a year later, Out Youth is experiencing newfound success with a little support from its friends and neighbors.

[snip]

Given the organization’s recent success, there has been talk of establishing satellite centers around central Texas. “We have youth drive long distances to find us, take long trips by public transportation, or just e-mail from a distance,” says Lemoine. “Some don’t speak English. We are looking for ways to expand our reach, both geographically and across barriers of language, culture, and all the other differences that divide us.”

Of course, any further expansion will be contingent on securing additional funds from outside sources. But until then, the center’s leaders are content with its revived presence in Austin. “When the doors closed, we heard from the youth how important Out Youth was to them, and many of them continued to gather informally,” says Lemoine. “They’re the heart and soul of our organization and the inspiration for all the work we’ve done to rebuild Out Youth.”

Read the whole article here.

Visit OutYouth here.

j

I’m always a little leary of placing too much emphasis on the importance of the world of academics in the “real world” because many times academics are so removed from society and themselves they sometimes think their own opinions are more important than anyone else’s.

But I do think that sometimes they get it right- whether I agree with them or not- and in this case I happen to agree with this associate professor of systematic theology at Princeton.

Read the full article at More Light Presbyterian’s website or at the original source, Presbyterian Outlook.  While I have not read the full work, the summary seems to do an excellent job of framing six different theological positions generally found in the church.

I’ll have to read the book to see if he answers some of my questions– namely whether or not he articulates some of the next phase of the disagreements I see on the horizon about the differences between same-sex blessings and the sacrament of marriage.  The summary doesn’t adequately answer those questions.

But it is a good step forward, and it is nice to know that our brother and sister Christians in the Presbyterian church have some good leadership around this theology as we all work together in the Body of Christ to seek equality and justice for all of the baptized.

j

Saving Marriage

July 19, 2007

I just saw this article on Planet Out, entitled “Ads tap ‘financially blessed’ for California marriage ban.”

The summary is this:  An ex-assemblyman urges “financially blessed” Christians in 12 media markets to help fund a proposed state constitutional marriage ban.

Christians?  That’s about the least Christian thing to do if you ask me.  I hardly see how using the secular government to impose restrictions on those with whom you disagree is Christian.

And this is the quote that always gets me:  “You can leave the legacy of marriage to future generations.” Read the rest of this entry »

Daily Office   The Daily Office Gospel for today is Mark 2:23 – 3:6.  What struck me this morning were the following two verses:

Then he said to them, “The sabbath was made for humankind, and not humankind for the sabbath; so the Son of Man is lord even of the sabbath.”

Then he said to them, “Is it lawful to do good or to do harm on the sabbath, to save life or to kill?”

It reminds me of several posts (this one sums it up) from a few months ago in discussing why Jesus died.  The bottom line is that I don’t think the Gospels proclaim a message of sacrificial and substitionary atonement.  Using less “seminary-ese,” I just can’t accept that Jesus died on the cross so that we might be saved– this line of thinking emphasizes Jesus’ divinity, de-emphasizes his humanity, and emphasizes the separation between us by emphasizing our (humanity’s) sinfulness (Paul’s writings seem to me to be the basis for much of this kind of theology, not the gospels).

Rather, what I think the Gospels say are that Jesus died because of our sin– namely that the Romans executed Jesus and that was not good, to say the least.  But that God’s response to that sin was to do what God always does, and create life from death in the resurrection, to go about shining light in the face of darkness, to go about the business of restoration when things seem about as un-restored as they can be.

And that is exactly what I think Jesus affirms in today’s Gospel.  Not that God wants us to think of ourselves as evil, lowly, creatures, who need some kind of substitionary sacrifice to make up for all of the horrible things we have done.  No, rather what Jesus shows us is that the Son of Man came not to be distinct from us by being so completely divine and distinct from us, but by being so completely human that we would be transformed by understanding just how wonderful humanity can be in its fullest– and then we would strive for that in our daily lives. Read the rest of this entry »