Friday, February 23, 2007

God's Politics

Jim Wallis and the Daily Kos are having a tiff.

It seems that some on the progressive secular front don't see what the church might have to offer, while, as always, many in the church don't want to be "engaged in politics."

One of the great gifts the progressive church could offer to the wider church and culture is some clarity on this relationship between church and politics, especially in this time of deep divisions in our nation’s political life. Perhaps we have something of value to offer in response to the questions that must press in on us given the church’s troubled history of disastrous romances with political power.

These pressing questions seem quite obvious: should the church be involved in politics at all and, if so, how? But in fact, the obvious questions call forth nothing short of rethinking both the church and politics.

We could simply turn away from the political arena altogether. There are some, particularly in more conservative evangelical congregations, who believe the church should focus exclusively on questions of salvation, and they define salvation in purely spiritual, largely individualistic terms.

Against that spirit, we have the image Karl Barth famously articulated of the faithful pastor being one who held the Bible in one hand and the morning paper in the other.

But even if we remain informed and faithful citizens – guided by a Biblical tradition as we respond to the news of the day – we could limit our scope of work to worship, weddings, funerals, Bible study, blanket drives for the homeless, food drives for the poor and clothing drives for the destitute. These are surely important parts of who we are as church, and some feel that such work marks the extent of our calling as church.

Against that vision of church, I would ask, if we are to care for families in their times of joy and of mourning, should we not also care for their situations in the broader community? And if we are to care for the homeless, should we not also care for the medical and economic and social conditions that lead to homelessness? If we care enough to feed the hungry, do we not care enough to work for an end to hunger? If we are called to care for the destitute of the city, are we not also called to care for the ordering of the city itself when that ordering leaves so many struggling on the city’s margins? If we are to be minister of reconciliation, should we not also be engaged in resolving conflicts, including international ones, in a manner consistent with the call of disciples of the prince of peace?

Obviously, if we do such work we will be deeply engaged in politics, and, within the current American political spectrum, we will be engaged in progressive politics.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Although one might declare a scruple ...

Every officer in the Presbyterian church – elders, deacons, ministers of word and sacrament – must answer “yes” to a long list of ordination questions, including this one: “Will you fulfill your office in obedience to Jesus Christ, under the authority of Scripture, and be continually guided by our confessions?”
So, setting aside for now the monumental question of just what obedience to Jesus means, and likewise leaving aside the question of scriptural authority, what does it mean to be “guided by our confessions”?
What are these documents – some of which go back more than 1,500 years? What meaning do these premodern texts and the Reformation era and 20th-century ones, as well, have for a postmodern age? How ought we to read them? What about the stuff we really don’t like? Or with which we fundamentally disagree? Where did they come from? Who wrote them? Why?
Off and on during this season of Lent, I, and others, will post some reflections on the creeds and confession of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) here, and invite your response. Oh, and what other questions should we pose to these documents?

Pulling the Plug

A friend sent me an e-mail today about a demonstration at an "ex-gay ministries" conference in San Francisco. It was a thoughtful piece of reporting that focused mostly on the perspectives of seminary students at the Bay Area theological schools consortium who led the demonstration. They spoke of the pain that such "reparative" therapies cause and of the conviction that God made us all -- straight and gay. I was with them all the way ... until the last paragraph:

"Unfortunately, the lie has been that people need to change their sexual orientation and taht's just not true," said Caruana, the pastor of Freedom in Christ. "God created us gay. God loves us. God sent his son to save us. All he cares about is our salvation in Jesus Christ and not what orientation we are sexually."

The baby of inclusivity drowns in the bath water of orthodoxy. We need to pull the plug altogether, drain the tub and scrub away the ring of Constantinian theology. Begin with the masculine image of God and tear down the patriarchy step by necessary step straight through wretched atonement theologies and other-worldly salvation and Christian imperialism.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Republican Jesus

A couple of years back, I gave up conservative bashing for Lent. It was way more difficult than giving up chocolate, and I'm not going to try it again this time, as the image here surely indicates. I was searching for images of Jesus, when I encountered Republican Jesus. He's my new hero! It seems like the current crop of Republican presidential hopefuls are a bit shaky. I think they should just nominate this guy to replace Bush in 08.