Friday, November 03, 2006

blogging on ... the antichrist

Fifteen or twenty years ago, a Sunday Doonesbury comic showed college students bent over notebooks taking careful but mindless notes. Realizing that the students aren't actually listening to anything, he professor began spouting nonsense: "Up is down. Black is white. Left is right. Thomas Jefferson was the Antichrist." Without pausing in his notetaking, one student whispered to another, "I didn’t know any of this stuff."
Lecturing is a lot like blogging. Suppose I said, "Bush is the Antichrist"? Would anyone respond with a comment?

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Vote No! A Pastoral Plea: Pass It On

On November 7, Virginian's will be asked to write discrimination into a constitution crafted in a spirit of "forbearance, love and charity."
In the name of a narrow and restricted view of marriage based on an impoverished reading of scripture, leaders of the Religious Right are encouraging their followers to support this amendment.
Marshall-Newman is bad law, and such support is bad theology. Bad law and bad theology make a dangerous and volatile mix that Virginia does not need.
Marshall-Newman is bad law because it fails the first measure of good law: clarity of purpose. When two of the commonwealth's statewide elected officials come to diametrically opposed and fundamentally incompatible conclusions about the effects of a proposed constitution amendment -- as Gov. Tim Kaine and Attorney General Bob McDonell have -- you have a recipe for clogged courts and judicial confusion.
Supporting such bad law in the name of one-sided readings of brief passages of scripture taken out of their historical contexts is bad theology. Blaming a loving, grace-filled God for our own human tendency to fear those who are different from ourselves is even worse theology. Acting on those fears in ways that will hurt others is nothing short of demonic. Just as we opponents of Marshall-Newman say "read the whole thing," a faithful response to scripture requires that we read fully as well. A full reading reveals a God in love with all of creation and humankind made fully -- each and every one of us -- in the image of the divine.
As the full text of the proposed Marshall-Newman amendment reads, the amendment could deny legal rights and protections to the more than 100,000 unmarried couples in Virginia -- roughly 90 percent of whom are heterosexual. Domestic violence protections have been threatened in Ohio under an almost identical constitutional amendment.
In other words, a vote for ballot question 1 (the Marshall-Newman amendment) will affect someone you know and it could well hurt them. Passage of the amendment will not help anyone.
That many Virginia families are struggling no one denies. That many Virginia marriages are strained is equally undeniable. Only 17 states have higher divorce rates. Ten percent of Virginians live below the federal poverty rate. Surely these are signs that point to real suffering.
But Marshall-Newman will do nothing to support Virginia families or strengthen marriages in the Commonwealth.
Rather, it seems a smokescreen designed to focus attention on scapegoats instead of on the poverty of ideas that plagues the commonwealth.
In my own Presbyterian tradition we say that we are the church Reformed and always open to being reformed according to the will of God and the movement of the Spirit. In other words, we share a deep conviction that God is not through with us.
Virginia has an opportunity next Tuesday to speak boldly from that very conviction. God is calling forth a new vision of the commonwealth.
God calls us to loving and faithful relationships. Marshall-Newman inscribes hate-filled discrimination into the constitution.
God calls us to be filled with grace and mercy. Marshall-Newman is full of judgment and condemnation.
God calls us to build a commonwealth of belovedness. Marshall-Newman rests on a poverty of compassion.
God is not through with us.
With that deep conviction, I urge you to vote No on ballot question 1.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Reimagining Christianity 1.5

Affirmation 5: Loving our neighbor includes engaging people authentically, as Jesus did, treating all as creations made in God’s very image, regardless of race, gender, sexual orientation, age, physical or mental ability, nationality, or economic class.
So, is this the gospel or just a manifesto for identity politics? Do we have to treat meanies as creations made in God's very image? Does that mean no more "mean people suck" bumper stickers? How about those with whom we profoundly disagree? Beyond praying for those who persecute us, do we have to engage them authentically? What might that look like?
The rubber hits the road here, and I'm not so sure I like it. It might require me to hold in my heart people I don't like very much, after all, not every neighbor is loveable.
In fact, last night -- Halloween -- some of them stayed hidden behind closed doors, and missed out seeing my middle child trick-or-treating dressed up as ... me! Clerical collar and all. Pretty scary, I assure you.

Monday, October 30, 2006

Yea, Rick!

Rick Ufford-Chase is at it again. Way to go, Rick!
Arizona Daily StarPublished: 10.30.2006
Guest Opinion: Rick Ufford-Chase -- No on Prop. 107
Proposition 107 would explicitly deny any "marriagelike" benefits to persons who are not married and would constitutionally define marriage as being available only to persons of opposite gender. Like the broader society, the faith community is deeply divided on this issue.
My experience as the highest elected official of the Presbyterian Church (USA) from June 2004 to June 2006 gave me a glimpse into the passion and divisiveness of this debate. Though it is clear that there is currently no consensus in our churches to broaden the definition of marriage, our denomination has been clear that we will not become unwitting participants in any movement to isolate gay and lesbian persons as a group, nor will we condone discriminatory practices against the lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender community from our legislative, executive or judicial branches of government.
This is entirely consistent with our denomination's historic advocacy for women, persons of color, undocumented persons, and those who live with mental or physical disabilities, all of whom also face the possibility of discrimination because of who they are.
I long for the day when all who desire to make a lifelong commitment to one another are able, as I am, to do so within the bonds of the covenant of marriage. Someday, it could happen. After all, the biblical story is full of examples of God's people being surprised by what God had in mind for them.
We Presbyterians believe that God is constantly being revealed to us in ways that challenge, trouble and occasionally delight us. For that reason, I will continue to be in dialogue with my sisters and brothers with whom I disagree about this matter.
As people of faith, all of whom are struggling to be faithful to their understanding of God, we must find respectful ways to wrestle with this and many other issues that divide us. However, what we must not tolerate are laws motivated by hate or discrimination, or that single out an entire class of people to be treated differently from the rest of us.
Prop. 107 would take away domestic-partner benefits such as health insurance from public employees. It would remove domestic-violence protections from unmarried persons. It makes simple things like the right to visit a loved one in the hospital impossible.
Questions of how marriage is defined will continue to be debated within our faith communities and across our society. In the meantime, let's assure that our laws embody the best of what our country has always been: a safe haven for those who might be targeted elsewhere because of who they are or what they believe.
Let's honor our country's history as a place of tolerance, mutual forbearance, care and concern for all members of our communities. Those are values that all of us, both in and out of the church, ought to be able to affirm.
Please, vote "no" on Proposition 107.
Rick Ufford-Chase was the Moderator of the 216th General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (USA). He now serves as the Executive Director of the Presbyterian Peace Fellowship. Write to him