Saturday, March 17, 2007

Monopoly Mayhem

A shout of support goes out to Ann who spearheaded a movement called Rainbow Presence to champion inclusiveness in the Episcopal church. She suggested that Episcopalians who support the rights of GLBT people wear rainbow insignia to church on Easter Sunday.
Some may object to politicizing such a holy day but I believe her intention was simply to raise visibility and awareness, not to disrupt worship or rattle anyone's cage.
Yes, in this day and age of polarized camps it may be naïve to assume that making oneself more visible won't be seen as a political challenge by those hunkered down on the opposite side of a hot-button issue - That damn Rosa Parks, how dare she challenge our beliefs by sitting in the front of the bus making herself more visible!
I've just finished reading a couple of the conservative Episcopalian responses that Ann linked to on her site and I feel like I've been run over by a bus.
I always feel that way after wading through scripture quoting diatribes dripping in judgment, fear, hate, and division. I feel dirty, stained, and attacked as if I've been pummeled by a thousand bat wielding teenagers after daring to wander onto their turf.

Is that they way we're supposed to feel after sharing the "good news" with each other?
I don't think so.

In the United Church of Christ we have an open communion table where all are welcome, no questions asked. So it shocked me to read comments from Episcopal clergy stating that they would refuse to serve communion to anyone wearing a rainbow insignia on Easter Sunday, gay or straight, just as they would refuse to serve any non-repentant gay person during any other Sunday. When other posters called them on this obvious singling out of sinners, they responded by claiming they also refuse to serve communion to non-repentant adulterers and divorcees. WHAT???????????

As Christians we're supposed to confess all our sins and ask for forgiveness before we're deemed worthy of sharing in the body and blood of Christ. Fair enough.
But IMHO exactly what constitutes a sin is open to debate.
I can hear it now "THE BIBLE SAYS blah blah blah" - the Bible says nothing out of context and we can argue until the cows come home over the intended meaning of particular passages, words, syllables, etc.

What the bible does say is "judge not lest ye be judged"; "let he who is without sin cast the first stone"; "what you have done to the least among you, you have done to me."

Therefore, for any true believing Christian the greater sin is committed when one of God's children is rejected from His place of worship, or denied service at His table because WE, the sinful and imperfect humans, have judged another sinful and imperfect human to be unworthy of praising God, worshiping God, and sharing in His love.

Shame, Shame, Shame.

I'm sending strength, hugs, and prayers to all of you in the EC. It's hard enough to watch a church being torn apart by conflict, but it's even more frustratingly painful to watch people turn on each other over an issue that should be a no-brainer.
Race, gender, sexual orientation - None of these is a choice, God made these differences, and no human being should be excluded from fulfilling God's call because the church (i.e. human beings) has decided that male is better than female, heterosexual is better than homo-bi-trans-sexual, etc.

We in the UCC may be more open to accepting difference but we're still figuring out how to express this openness without stepping on too many toes. My home church had a congregational meeting not too long ago where we voted on whether we should allow civil union ceremonies in our sanctuary. While most voted Yes, a few had objections and a lengthy discussion ensued.

I just sat there shaking in fear and confusion. These are people I know and love. These are people whom I laugh, worhsip, and work with every week. Yet there we were debating whether people like me should have the right to use our sanctuary in the same manner as straight couples have for almost two hundred years.

I couldn’t help but think "How dare they?!"
How dare they debate whether I should have the same rights and privileges that they have. How dare they think that my happiness, my rights as a human being, my God-given existence is something that can be put to a "yes" or "no" vote?

That IS what they were doing - Voting on my right to exist as a full human being.
It's not about marriage rights, the right to be ordained, the right be church members, the right to health insurance, the right to serve in the armed forces, the right to have parades, books, television shows, movies, and "gay day" at Disney World.
Every time a right to anything is voted on it's sending a clear message "You are less than us - We have the power and we will determine whether you are deserving of sharing in it, one slice at a time."

My problem is I'm impatient. I'm the annoying kid in the back seat whining "Are we there yet???" I can see where this road finishes up and I just want us to get there already. We traveled this same road with civil rights and women's rights in the 50's, 60's and 70's.
One day we'll reach the tipping point and society will slap itself on the collective forehead and say "Duh!" Of course whites are not superior to blacks, and men are not superior to women, and someday we'll look back at this time period and say "how could we have been so close minded! - of course heterosexuals are not superior to GLBTs."

But just as we've done in the past, we have to run through this maze. We have to allow those who object to have their say. We have to push for the passage of laws and continue to educate the public. We have to assuage the hurt feelings of those who feel the granting of rights to others takes something away from them. We have to play nice with those who don't react well to change. We have to sneak under the radar of those who smell difference and lash out in anger and fear. We have to play the game. We can't just pick a Chance card and advance to Go! and collect our $200. We have to roll the dice and move around the board and risk paying through the nose when we land on someone else's property.

Jesus had this same problem. He had a message of love and inclusion and he kept getting head butted by people who knew only fear and exclusion. He brought a new and amazing way of looking at the world and he was dragged down by those who fought tooth and nail to protect the old ways. Like us, I'll bet he wished that he had a Universal Remote - just hit the fast forward button and zoom past all the human drama to get to the good part, the part where we actually get what he is trying to say and stop pushing and shoving trying to keep our place in the God line.

But the human drama is what makes us us. It's what makes us grow; it's what makes us strong. So play the game we must. There are no short cuts. The people who own Park Place complete with a string of red plastic Hotels may appear to be winning but the more property we buy and the more little green houses we build the less they'll be able to ignore our presence….and the more likely they'll be to land on our property and realize that it's not such a bad place to be after all.


Ann said...

Thanks for your reflections. I just listened to Bernice Johnson Reagon's concert at Trinity Institute on the long struggle for civil rights - still not total - and she encouraged me to keep on keeping on. She said "the victory is in taking the stand."

Anonymous said...

Friends, family and I joined the UCC after lifetimes and near-lifetimes in other denominations (primarily Anglican & Episcopal, a few UMC and R. Catholic).
Regardless of region, congregation size or style (happy-clappy or formal), we all noticed one thing: No matter how potentially volatile the topic, UCCers tend to be remarkably civil non-divas. Folks get up and say their piece, a la New England town meeting, and are very upfront in disagreeing, but there's virtually none of the gossipy archness, point-scoring, name-and-title-dropping and theatrics that seemed ubiquitous in our previous-denominational debates.
Perhaps it's a result of knowing that everything is subject to vote, and it's hard for anyone to "game" the system. If you lose, you live with it and say "everyone loses sometime - and there'll always (always, ALWAYS!) be another vote" or (if it's truly beyond redemption) you leave. There's nothing to be gained by intrigues and drama: It would be a silly waste of your and others' time, and no one would be impressed - they'd think you were unbalanced and needed a hobby.
It's interesting that this struck us all as a major difference.

MoCat said...

I agree that UCC congregations (at least here in New England) tend to be less emotional and more diplomatic when voting in congregational meetings. Thankfully I've never belonged to a denomination/congregation that acted in the manner that you described (yikes!).

I'm all for democracy. I understand why it was necessary for us to vote as a congregation on the potentially controversial use of our facilities for Civil Unions; it just irks me that sexual orientation is still considered a controversial subject and thus worthy of a vote.
When the Girl Scouts or AA request to use our facilities we don't hold a congregational meeting to vote on it, we trust the Council to make business decisions for us.

These controversial votes are usually implemented with the intention of 'allowing all opinions to be heard' - what I fear is that in doing so we are validating bigotry and prejudice and raising it to the same level as opinion. If we as a country had put the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to a popular vote we'd probably still have wide spread segregation in the south.

The most heartening comment I heard expressed during our congregational meeting came from a woman who was uncomfortable with the idea of allowing civil unions in our sanctuary but she was choosing to vote "yes" anyway, because as Christians we should be following Christ and she believed he would choose to be inclusive rather than exclusive.

I wanted to jump up and hug her right then and there.

Mod Ox said...

I'm finding this vision you have of Jesus as a nice "inclusive" guy really ... unrecognizable. This is the man who whipped the money lenders and withered the fig tree. Who will come to judge the living and the dead. Who said "no one comes to the father except by me."

Saint Dumb Ox said... keep using that word. I don't think it means what you think it means.

A little humor, but really, how does the Bible say BLAH BLAH BLAH when an orthodox person quotes from it and when you quote from it it has words that bring life "judge not..." and so forth. Seems a little unfair, no?

Jesus himself said that he didn't come to erase any of God's law (including prohibitions against homosexual acts). So he was either lying, telling the truth or he was crazy. C.S. Lewis's question cannot be dodged.

Ann said...

Sorry your note on my blog brought this upon you.

Eileen said...

there are of course, equally as many gospel passages that could be quoted to support the idea of Jesus' inclusivity.

He was a champion of the marginalized, and cautioned us to judge not lest we be judged.

Crux Sola said...

Reading back just the blogger's own words here and trying to understand, and then hoping the blogger will either allow this to be published as a response, or else reply to me personally:

Premise A: "I can hear it now 'THE BIBLE SAYS blah blah blah' - the Bible says nothing out of context and we can argue until the cows come home over the intended meaning of particular passages, words, syllables, etc."

Premise B: "What the bible does say is 'judge not lest ye be judged'; 'let he who is without sin cast the first stone'; 'what you have done to the least among you, you have done to me.'"

The blogger's conclusion is NOT 'Therefore, for any true believing Christian the greater sin is committed when one of God's children is rejected from His place of worship, or denied service at His table because WE, the sinful and imperfect humans, have judged another sinful and imperfect human to be unworthy of praising God, worshiping God, and sharing in His love.'"

According to the blogger's own reasoning, the conclusion is, in fact, Premise A itself: "the Bible says nothing out of context and we can argue until the cows come home over the intended meaning of particular passages, words, syllables, etc."

Another thing that disturbs me is the apparent judgmentalism with which the blogger regards folks in her own flock who do not support her cause:

"I just sat there shaking in fear and confusion. These are people I know and love. These are people whom I laugh, worship, and work with every week. Yet there we were debating whether people like me should have the right to use our sanctuary in the same manner as straight couples have for almost two hundred years.

"I couldn’t help but think 'How dare they?!'

"How dare they debate whether I should have the same rights and privileges that they have. How dare they think that my happiness, my rights as a human being, my God-given existence is something that can be put to a 'yes' or 'no' vote?

"That IS what they were doing - Voting on my right to exist as a full human being."

I've had folks judge me before in ways I thought were unjust, and I know that that hurts. I'm not arguing the rightness or wrongness of your cause; I simply point out that as a minister you will always have many who will disagree with you about this or that thing. It's likely that it's not because they dislike you or don't accept you, but has everything to do with disagreeing with you for what they think are their own good reasons.

"Shaking in fear an confusion"? Other than upon this disagreement, have these people ever given reason for you to actually fear them? If these are your true feelings, some self-examination and stock-taking of your emotional ability to handle Christian ministry is in order. Seems like you said, in so many words, that you thought they liked you; they likely still do -- but not if you now turn on them and become strident, so please be careful.

Try to give them a break and just love them -- whether you think you're accepted or not. Jesus was not accepted either. His own disciples betrayed him. Because Jesus handled it, you've been given life through his cross.

Lenten blessings.

Josh Oxley said...

I'm one of those people you'd be very, very frustrated with. As a newish member of TEC, we're all dealing with that issue of how to respond to Scripture... but dumb ox has a point imho. I think taking the cultural relativist slant on the meaning of any word, phrase or verse of the Bible drains it of any meaning given to it by God. And though I may not be a part of the infallibility camp, I still think there are riches to be mined there that are neither convenient or comfortable.

I just with us Episcopalians could get down the New England style of conflict resolution. I grew up in Vermont early in life, and now residing in Virginia I miss straight talk and humility. Not enough of that going around, really.

Grace and peace in our Lord.

Eileen said...

If it gets the fundies up in arms, Mo, you know you are hitting a little to close to the truth.

What if the moderates read something like this and *GASP* agree, and then Christianity gets sold down the river forver.


sirius said...

mod ox said: "[Jesus] was either lying, telling the truth or he was crazy. C.S. Lewis's question cannot be dodged."

Lewis's "question" worked in its time, but, today, it looks dodgy. Most people I know, even kids, immediately notice that Lewis rigged it by eliminating other possibilities. Such as:

(1) the possibility that Christianity reconfigured Jesus to suit its needs.
After all, it also tossed Jewish law out of perceived necessity, despite Jesus' firm "jot and tittle" warning. And the Law includes Torah and Halakah, not just the 10 Commandments.
It's hard to claim that "Leviticus is law" (re gays) when you've zapped the rest of the Law and even shifted the Sabbath.
Either adopt the _whole_ law, or acknowledge that Christianity is flexible, and allow others to be as flexible as you yourself are. Otherwise, you're just cherrypicking the bits of another's "orthodoxy" that work for you (and that are still being debated within Judaism).

(2) the possibility that Jesus was deeply sincere and undeceptive, but mistaken.
It happens to all of us, whether nobodies, secular heroes, or inspired religious leaders.
Heck, those who "reconfigured" Jesus also could have been deeply sincere and undeceptive; standards of truth and proof change with time.

Bottom line is, all fair discussion -- about anything -- has the same standards. If you rig the question, don't address all possibilities thoughtfully, or grab some deux ex machina ("it's in the Bible, God said it, end of story"), you alienate people instead of convincing them.

Dennis said...

ignore the trolls. this was a beautiful post you put up.

We should all be jealous of you for earning the trolls' wrath, really! If I thought it would spike the readership numbers on my blog I'd post comments on how the fundamentalists are all delusional bigots, but they'd never notice my little blog so why bother. It is the fact that you are a clergy type that sends them over the edge. So take the notice as a badge. Put it on your blog masthead: I was attacked by the cyberthugs at StandLimp.

By the way, overlook their comments on the UCC. You have a great denomination there. The StandLimp crowd love to cast insults at other denominations. It is a game those so-called Christians love to play.

I saw one of their blog moderators once post the guiding principles of the UUA on StandLimp and then all the readers got to critique and insult the guiding principles of another denomination. How much fun it must have been for them! One would never see the UUAs post a list of beliefs of the StandLimp crowd and then take turns attacking them. I guess it shows who the real Christians are, but we've known this a long time.

Keep up the good work. And ignore the trolls from over at Viagraville.

Athanasius said...

I know this will be kind of long, but I hope you post it. This verse has got to be one of the most over-used, out of context ones in history.Matt. 7:1 "Do not judge, or you too will be judged."
-The Lord Jesus

This is the verse so many use to try to shame Christians for discerning poor behavior, ethics, morals, and values: the "judge not lest ye be judged" verse. Using only Matt 7:1 is entirely incomplete. This verse is not speaking to not judging at all -- it is speaking to not judging unfair or any other cheap and selfish way. Read the rest of the story ...

Matt 7:2-5 "For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged [if we judge with an evil heart or dark intent, His judgment of us will reflect it; if we judge nobly and honestly, His judgment of us will reflect that, too], and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you [if we use extremes or exaggerations or other unfair means, our judgment will reflect it]. Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother's eye [point out his sins, "minor" in Jesus' example here] and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye [our own sins, even and especially those we will not admit, magnified by our selective blindness]? How can you say to your brother, 'Let me take the speck out of your eye,' [tell him of his "minor" sins] when all the time there is a plank in your own eye [that there are greater or the same sins in our own lives which we do nothing about or think we are above]? You hypocrite* [pointing out the sins of others while by pretense we think of ourselves as above sin], first take the plank out of your own eye [sincerely ask the Lord for forgiveness and learn and live the Truth and Light by His Word], and then you will see clearly [be in a righteous position] to remove the speck from your brother's eye [to judge and to help him out of his bondage to sin]." At Galilee, the Decapolis, Jerusalem, Judea and the region across the Jordan, Jesus was talking to the multitudes gathered there after hearing of His message and of His healings to beseech them to not become like the pharisees and hypocrites who think they are above sin.

And, as a FEW examples of His desire for us to judge,

1Cor. 6:2-3 Do you not know that the saints [the saved; Christians] will judge the world? And if you are to judge the world, are you not competent to judge trivial cases? Do you not know that we will judge angels? How much more the things of this life!

Prov. 3:21 My son, preserve sound judgment and discernment, do not let them out of your sight;

John 7:24 Judge not according to the appearance, but judge righteous judgment.

Jer. 22:3 Thus saith the LORD; Execute ye judgment and righteousness...

Phil. 1:10 so that you may be able to discern [judge] what is best and may be pure and blameless until the day of Christ...

Phil. 1:7 It is right for me to feel this way about all of you [judge you]...

Matt 7:1 seems to support the allusion that we are not to judge at all if we use small-vision tactics by focusing on only that small piece of the total of what Jesus was saying.

Brian McElvey said...

I love it when a non-Episcopalian tries to inject their opinions on us. Isn't the UCC the same group that claims there is a conspiracy to interfere with your churches by the IRD?

Since only about 10% of UCC churches are "Open and Affirming" I'd suggest you mind your own house first.

Anonymous said...

Mo, consider it a badge of honor to get yourself trashed by the Stand Firm crowd. Every time they swarm a blog the owner should display a gold star or something.

- Karen

Saint Dumb Ox said...

Eileen talks about the inclusivity of Jesus, but forgets about the very exclusive statements he makes regarding himself. "No one comes to the father except by me." Inclusivity is not the end of Jesus' teaching, but only a part thereof. Inclusivity, however, has nothing to do with condoning sinful behavior. Jesus warmly embraces ALL people, but they ALL must repent of their sins. God does hate sin, you know.

Nina said...

mocat, this is a very fine blog. I look forward to reading more of it, and hope you will feel like continuing despite the hostility others have directed at you.

Anonymous said...

Is becoming a pastor a requirement of being a lesbian now?

Suzer said...

Mocat --

I've enjoyed your blog ever since MadPriest first introduced me to it. You seem to have touched a nerve with this post, and are unfortunately facing the same unChristian responses many of us have for following Christ's teachings. Being a cradle Episcopalian, I will apologize for these folks who are attacking you -- they were taught fear and untruth and their behavior is not representative of the majority of Episcopalians.

I thank you for what you write here and hope to see more. If you've upset folks by standing up for Love, then, as Christ, you are doing something right! Blog on!


Anonymous said...

I don't know about that, anonymous. My Official Gay Agenda Card doesn't say anything about having to go to seminary, but I went anyway because I thought answering God's call was somehow a good idea.

- Karen
priest in a diocese of the far west

Anonymous said...

Mocat, we're with you. Don't let the ravenous wolves get to you with their pack mentality, snide comments, and bullying ways. Truly their behavior is the just fruit of their spirits.

Keep the faith, mocat; stay happy, love God and your beautiful life. You have us, and all the company of heaven, on your side. :-)

God Bless,

Cecilia said...

Mocat, thank you for your reflections. They are clear, scriptural, and filled with the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God and the sweet communion of the Holy Spirit.

Pax, C.

Anonymous said...

Why can't you just discuss this entry instead of trashing each other. Defend it or attack it, it doesnt make you anything to have a discussion. I mean what is wrong with someone critiquing what she wrote...respond it kind...have a conversation. I think we can all agree that Jesus said love one what don't you start there and see what happens...

Eileen said...

Right. That's what I did exactly!

Thanks for point it out, DumbOx.

Mystical Seeker said...

The former pastor of the UCC church that I frequently attend told me that when the Congregationalists and the E&R churches merged in 1957 to form the UCC, the E&R churches were all immediately and automatically part of the merged church, while the Congregationalists were not. That's because each and every single congregational church had to vote on whether to agree to the merger before they were part of the UCC (and many churches voted it down). This is an excruciating process, but it is part of congregational democracy.

I honestly don't know that much about the internal politics of UCC churches. I only attend one, along with my significant other--I'm not a member, and probably will never become one. But I do know that there is a lot more diversity across UCC churches than one might think. At a denominational level, it is highly progressive on the subject of gay rights and other matters as well. But many individual congregations are not exactly with the program. There is even a conservative to reactionary contingent in the church (just check out the the UCC truths website for an example. I've looked at the websites of various UCC churches around the country, and was surprised at first to discover that not every one was even close to the level of progressive Christianity that I find in the church I attend.

I think it would be nice to believe that homosexuality is not a controversial issue in the UCC any more, but the reality may not always be as progressive as we would like--even in ostensibly progressive denominations.

Greatly Amused said...

Brian McElvey said 'I love it when a non-Episcopalian tries to inject their opinions on us.'

Objectively speaking -- gee whiz!
For years, and for varied reasons, I've regularly read tons of stuff from varied denominations and their Left-Right factions. On the Right, that includes UCCTruths and Bib. Witness; and the Episcs'-Anglicans' VirtueOnline, Titusonenine, StandFirm, Forward in Faith, and CANN (among a zillion others. I swear, some people *live* to gossip online).

The Episc Right routinely has made snarky remarks about the UCC, in online articles or reader comments -- I recall such adjectives as "un-Christian," "pathetic," "revisionist," disparaging remarks regarding its size, and the like. They also have an unreal fascination with other mainline churches' statistics, declines, etcetera.
In fact, I first saw your comment about "10% of UCC churches" *on* one of those sites several years ago and have seen it repeated in such places several times since.

Unlike this site, which is a lower-traffic personal blog, those sites are heavily trafficked conservative hubs, with articles by conservative leadership and comments by the Devout Right Faithful.
The anti-UCC comments there stuck in my mind because it's unusual for partisans and thought leaders (for lack of a better term) in one denomination to take potshots at another denomination. They usually focus on their own ample home-grown problems. Or they'll tsk-tsk about some *issue* facing another denomination -- but they don't say or imply "nyah, nyah, the whole Episcopal/Lutheran/Methodist operation is a joke" or "If this keeps up, we'll be as irrelevant as the (feh! feh!) Presbyterians."

It should say something that just one (1) commentary on this personal blog got widespread attention from the Episcopal Right. In contrast, I've *never* seen UCC people respond to, or even notice or care about, anti-UCC comments on Episcopal Right sites over the years!