James Alison: The Terrible Awe of the Eucharist

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“When we celebrate Mass, the Real Presence to which we are being given access is not some blander version of God, with the love that traverses hostility being kept under wraps only for some special occasions lest it frighten us too much. That would indeed be a taming of God to be “good” for those who are “good”. No, the appropriate awe is due because there is indeed something terrible about a love which traverses our hostility. And does so in such a way that it is very easy for us to be tipped over into righteous rejection of it. The awe does not attribute any violence to God. It begins, however, in awareness that it is indeed a violent and frightening thing to undergo being unhooked from our own, easily knee-jerked, allergic constructions of fake righteousness. It is an awe made available to us over time as a narrative of amazement that “I have been found by the love of one who I treated as my enemy”. And it means that there is no genuine teaching about, or reception of, the Atonement that does not include a rigorous approach to human scandal at what is being proposed and our finding ourselves set free from that scandal.”–James Alison, from Traversing hostility: The sine qua non of any Christian talk about Atonement

Video: NBC’s ‘New Normal’ Asks Gay Catholics to Fight for their Place in the Body of Christ

NBC’s The New Normal has a great “confessional” scene in the episode called The Godparent Trap.

Gay dads Bryan and David want to choose godparents for their new baby. They want the child to have a good spiritual foundation, but they are having trouble identifying their own spiritual foundation since their churches have rejected them.

Bryan decides to go back to his Catholic church and speaks to the priest in the confessional. This 2 minute clip is titled “Are You a Fighter?”

Maureen Fiedler: How 12 Religious Traditions View Gay and Lesbian People

Sr. Maureen Fiedler offers an excellent overview of where faith traditions are on the question of homosexuality in her article Radio Program Explore Homosexuality in Different Faith Communities. Well worth the read, and tuning in to her 12-part radio series. These radio interviews could offer a great opportunity for small group conversations within your community.

Here’s an excerpt of Maureen’s article:

Public opinion about homosexuality is changing rapidly, and civil law is not far behind. Gays and lesbians are increasingly open about their relationships and accepted. In some states, they now can marry legally and adopt children.

But among those who are people of faith — with a few exceptions — gay men and lesbians wrestle with how to be faithful to their religious traditions while living fully the human reality in which they discover themselves.

That’s why it seemed just the right moment for “Interfaith Voices” (the public radio show I host) to broadcast a series titled “Gay in the Eyes of God: How 12 Traditions View Gay and Lesbian People.” It began this summer and will stretch into the fall. It was made possible by a grant from the Arcus Foundation.

This series offers much more than scriptural or theological conversations, although those are included. We hear the often poignant stories of gay and lesbian people struggling with who they are as they try to stay faithful to their respective traditions. …

Read the whole article.
Find out more about this series and Interfaith Voices.

Obama on Civil Marriage for Gays and Lesbians and His Christian Faith

President Obama discusses his evolving thinking on civil unions and civil marriages, “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy, the difference between state solutions and a federal act, religious liberty, the Black church, college Republicans and gay issues, the Defense Against Marriage Act, and his Christian faith. I highly recommend reading the transcript to get the full texture and context of the President’s comments.

Transcript: Robin Roberts ABC News Interview With President Obama (9 May 2012)

ROBIN ROBERTS: Good to see you, as always–

PRESIDENT OBAMA: Good to see you, Robin.

ROBIN ROBERTS: Mr. President. Thank you for this opportunity to talk to you about– various issues. And it’s been quite a week and it’s only Wednesday. (LAUGH)

PRESIDENT OBAMA: That’s typical of my week.

ROBIN ROBERTS: I’m sure it is. One of the hot button issues because of things that have been said by members of your administration, same-sex marriage. In fact, your press secretary yesterday said he would leave it to you to discuss your personal views on that. So Mr. President, are you still opposed to same-sex marriage?

PRESIDENT OBAMA: Well– you know, I have to tell you, as I’ve said, I’ve– I’ve been going through an evolution on this issue. I’ve always been adamant that– gay and lesbian– Americans should be treated fairly and equally. And that’s why in addition to everything we’ve done in this administration, rolling back Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell– so that– you know, outstanding Americans can serve our country. Whether it’s no longer defending the Defense Against Marriage Act, which– tried to federalize– what is historically been state law.

I’ve stood on the side of broader equality for– the L.G.B.T. community. And I had hesitated on gay marriage– in part, because I thought civil unions would be sufficient. That that was something that would give people hospital visitation rights and– other– elements that we take for granted. And– I was sensitive to the fact that– for a lot of people, you know, the– the word marriage was something that evokes very powerful traditions, religious beliefs, and so forth.

But I have to tell you that over the course of– several years, as I talk to friends and family and neighbors. When I think about– members of my own staff who are incredibly committed, in monogamous relationships, same-sex relationships, who are raising kids together. When I think about– those soldiers or airmen or marines or– sailors who are out there fighting on my behalf– and yet, feel constrained, even now that Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell is gone, because– they’re not able to– commit themselves in a marriage.

At a certain point, I’ve just concluded that– for me personally, it is important for me to go ahead and affirm that– I think same-sex couples should be able to get married. Now– I have to tell you that part of my hesitation on this has also been I didn’t want to nationalize the issue. There’s a tendency when I weigh in to think suddenly it becomes political and it becomes polarized.

Continue reading “Obama on Civil Marriage for Gays and Lesbians and His Christian Faith”

Video: One-Hour Bible Study on Gay Christians in the Church

Matthew Vines speaks on the theological debate regarding the Bible and the role of gay Christians in the church. Delivered at College Hill United Methodist Church in Wichita, Kansas on March 8, 2012. A one-hour bible study on homosexuality and the Bible. Matthew Vines looks at 6 critical scripture verses. Well worth the time. The transcript is also available.

“In 1 Corinthians 7, Paul writes about marriage and celibacy. He was celibate himself, and he says that he wishes that everyone else could be celibate as well. But, he says, each person has their own gift. For Paul, celibacy is a spiritual gift, and one that he realizes that many Christians don’t have. However, because many of them lack the gift of celibacy, Paul observes that sexual immorality is rampant. And so he prescribes marriage as a kind of remedy or protection against sexual sin for Christians who lack the gift of celibacy. “It is better to marry than to burn with passion,” he says. And today, the vast majority of Christians do not sense either the gift of celibacy or the call to it. This is true for both straight and gay Christians. And so if the remedy against sexual sin for straight Christians is marriage, why should the remedy for gay Christians not be the same?”–Matthew Vines, The Gay Debate

“If you are uncomfortable with the idea of two men or two women in love, if you are dead-set against that idea, then I am asking you to try to see things differently for my sake, even if it makes you uncomfortable. I’m asking you to ask yourself this: How deeply do you care about your family? How deeply do you love your spouse? And how tenaciously would you fight for them if they were ever in danger or in harm’s way? That is how deeply you should care, and that is how tenaciously you should fight, for the very same things for my life, because they matter just as much to me. Gay people should be a treasured part of our families and our communities, and the truly Christian response to them is acceptance, support, and love.”–Matthew Vines, The Gay Debate

Cindy Sheehan Says “Don’t Go, Don’t Kill”

A few weeks ago I ran a commentary on Huffington Post titled Christian Support for DADT is a Double Edged Sword. This week anti-war activist Cindy Sheehan added her twist on this same theme with a piece on Al Jazeera titled Don’t Go, Don’t Kill. She says:

Some of us in the peace movement work really hard to keep our young people out of the hands of the war machine that preys on disadvantaged young people in inner cities and poor rural settings.

To see a demographic that is (without appearing to stereotypes) traditionally better educated, more politically progressive, and economically advantaged fight to join this killing machine is very disheartening.

I can see how one could view the repeal as a step forward, framed in the context dictated by the political elites of the Washington beltway. I can imagine much displeasure amongst the military brass – but I cannot reiterate enough how this is not a progressive moment in the social history of the United States.

The US military is not a human rights organisation and nowhere near a healthy place to earn a living or raise a family. My email box is filled with stories of mostly straight soldiers and their families who were deeply harmed by life in the military.

I also appreciated the response from Hank Stuever, a Washington Post writer and author of the book Tinsel, to Sheehan’s piece:

Here’s something you would never hear from the gay-rights crowd about DADT, certainly not here in the epicenter of defense spending and military careers, but nevertheless, I find it curiously spot-on: Just because you CAN join the military, is it the morally just thing to do? Cindy Sheehan (remember her?) making a very good point in an essay for Al Jazeera — THAT’s how fringe this thinking is. But it begs the question: Are there ANY peace activists in the gay-rights movement?

Authentic movements for social justice build allies across lines promoting human dignity.  As Dr. King said in Montgomery, “This is a conflict between justice and injustice.” The only real question is which side are you on.

Andrew Wilkes: Evangelicals, Race, and GLBT Issues

LaTona Gunn holds a 2001 photo of her daughter, Sakia Gunn, at her home in Newark. Sakia, 15, was stabbed to death while waiting for the bus in Newark after she and her friends told her attacker they were lesbians.
LaTona Gunn holds a 2001 photo of her daughter, Sakia, 15, who was stabbed to death while waiting for the bus after she and her friends told her attacker they were lesbians.

I really appreciated Andrew Wilkes excellent post today on Sojourners blog on the evil of indifference when it comes to how dominant sexuality Christians relate to gays and lesbians (Ignoble Indifference: Evangelicals, Race, and GLBT Issues).

Andrew worked with Sojourners as a policy and organizing fellow and added his depth and richness to our ministry life. Now he’s back at Princeton Theological Seminary and getting ready to graduate this spring. Andrew is a noble son of the Black church tradition and it gives me hope that our future is carried by him and his compatriots. Here’s an excerpt:

While progressive evangelicals consider color within and beyond the Emergent Church, let us not ignore the stories of our gay and lesbian brethren as if the two issues are completely separate. The two issues ought not be conflated, and yet they are inextricably intertwined.

Far too often, black and brown youth who are gay and lesbian suffer from an unceasing stream of epithets, threats, and violence in the formative years of life. From the ghastly murder of Sakia Gunn, a fifteen-year-old lesbian, to the skull-fracturing beating of Gregory Love at Morehouse, visceral responses to homosexuality have provoked not only dehumanizing discourse but also destructive deeds. Violence against our gay and lesbian brethren — again, many of whom are black and brown — is immoral, illegal, and incompatible with those who follow the Prince of Peace.

Another sin of civil rights storytelling is that many who invoke Martin King ignore Bayard Rustin. And yet, the emergence of Martin King as a nonviolent prophet is unintelligible without brother Rustin — a brilliant organizer, orator, nonviolent strategist, and also a gay man.

Or when Tonex, perhaps the most gifted gospel artist of the past quarter-century, came out, many of his peers publicly threw him under the pews. The not-so-subtle message was twofold: one cannot be explicitly gay and publicly offer praise to God; and secondly — since everyone and their grandmama knows that there are gay gospel artists — one must suffer in silence before God and Church. This message is unhelpful, tacitly encouraging a culture of shame and clandestine sexuality.

Instead, let progressive evangelicals acknowledge that there are Christian arguments for gay marriage, civil unions, and so forth. One may or may not be convinced, but let us be charitable enough to acknowledge that there are Jesus-loving and justice-seeking believers who have theological reasons to account for their sexuality, an open and affirming church, and so forth.

The stone-cold truth, I suspect, is that more than a few progressive evangelicals are indifferent about GLBT issues. By God’s grace, I ashamedly — and yet gratefully — admit that I am slowly being delivered from this apathy.

“There is an evil which most of us condone and are even guilty of: indifference to evil. We remain neutral, impartial, and not easily moved by the wrongs done unto other people. Indifference to evil is more insidious than evil itself … The prophets’ great contribution to humanity was the discovery of the evil of indifference. One may be decent and sinister, pious and sinful.”–Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel, The Insecurity of Freedom, pgs. 110-1

Gracious Triune God of love and justice, deliver us from this ignoble indifference.

Read more on this discussion here. To watch the amazing documentary on the life of Bayard Rustin, see Brother Outsider: The Life of Bayard Rustin. And for more on Sakia Gunn, read here.

Second Openly Gay Bishop Elected in Worldwide Anglican Communion

Mary Glasspool reacts during her election with Bishop Jon Bruno behind her.
Mary Glasspool reacts during her election with Bishop Jon Bruno behind her.

I was very pleased to note that the Anglican Church/Episcopal Church USA has elected two women–Mary Douglas Glasspool and Diane Jardine Bruce–to serve as assistant bishops in the Los Angeles diocese. Of note is the fact that Canon Glasspool is openly lesbian and has been in a committed relationship since 1988. With her election she becomes the second openly gay bishop in the worldwide Anglican Church. Bishop Gene Robinson was the first. Also last fall, the Church of Sweden (which is Lutheran, but in communion with the Anglican Church of England) consecrated Eva Brunne, also a partnered lesbian, as Bishop of Stockholm.

As a Roman Catholic, I’m interested in how other denominations are working through the complex issues of sexuality and the call to serve the church in ordained ministry. Over at Ekklesia, Savi Hensman wrote a nice piece (Liberating the Anglican Understanding of Sexuality) that tracks some of the journey of the Episcopal Church on the issue of sexuality:

Indeed the Episcopal Church’s openness to lesbian bishops is the result of a long process of reflection and study in keeping with the advice of numerous Anglican gatherings and the principles of international canon law. The “duty of thinking and learning” is a theme that has come up repeatedly at international gatherings. The church should learn from the work of scientists, calling upon “Christian people both to learn reverently from every new disclosure of truth, and at the same time to bear witness to the biblical message of a God and Saviour apart from whom no gift can be rightly used”, and should welcome “the increasing extent of human knowledge” and the “searching enquiries of the theologians”. In 1978 the Lambeth Conference called for “deep and dispassionate study of the question of homosexuality, which would take seriously both the teaching of Scripture and the results of scientific and medical research”, “pastoral concern for those who are homosexual” and “dialogue with them”. As understanding of human sexuality grew, and more theologians made the case for full inclusion, many in the Episcopal Church came to believe that being a woman or gay should not result in being treated as a “second-class citizen”, let alone an outsider.

Concern for justice and commitment to human rights was another theme, including, from the 1980s, those of “homosexual orientation”. In the USA and other countries covered by the Episcopal Church, LGBT people at times face persecution and violence. While opposition to such mistreatment does not automatically lead to acceptance of same-sex partnerships as a proper lifestyle for Christian leaders, it does make it harder to depersonalise a particular minority and ignore the realities of their lives. This concern for justice has also led to greater self-examination. For instance, the Anglican Consultative Council in 1990 called on “every Diocese in our Communion to consider how through its structures it may encourage its members to see that a true Christian spirituality involves a concern for God’s justice in the world, particularly in its own community.”

Various denominations have excellent new theological papers reflecting their developing understanding of human sexuality within Christian thought. Here are links to a few of them:

Human Sexuality: Gift and Trust (Evangelical Lutheran Church in America)

Some Issues in Human Sexuality: A Working Paper of the House of Bishops (Church of England)

Marriage: A United Church of Canada Understanding