Showing posts from July, 2015

Thoughts on the Planned Parenthood Videos

I thought I would simply wait out the whole Planned Parenthood controversy, but it appears that it continues to grow and grow without any obvious endpoint.  So, here are some thoughts.

1.  The Messenger is Not the Message.  There are those who cannot fathom why people are not more upset about the Planned Parenthood videos.  There is a simple and direct answer to their question--there is a significant segment of the population that loathes the pro-life movement and pro-life messengers, and as such simply ignores everything they say.  Many think that insofar as these videos are the product of hardcore wing of the pro-life movement, and they are, then they are to be ignored.

I say that to be descriptive, not prescriptive.  No matter how much you dislike the pro-life movement and its mouthpieces, I think these videos are disturbing and problematic for the pro-choice movement.  In fact, I think it would have been far more effective for the pro-life folks to have simply released the videos i…

Civil War

We got the wall of D.C. to remind us all That you can't trust freedom
When it's not in your hands
When everybody's fightin'
For their promised land

-- Civil War, Guns N' Roses

It always starts with something small.  On July 30, 1419, a rock thrown from a window by some person unknown to history led to the Hussite wars, a terribly bloody conflict in central Europe that set the stage for the Protestant Reformation.  The seeds of the American Revolution began when the British government decided, not to raise taxes on the American colonies (that came later), but to actually collect taxes on sugar and molasses that had been on the books for a long time but had never been enforced.

The reason, I think, that it always starts with something small is tied up in the power of marginal changes.  The mind-bogglingly complex system that is human culture works because of a nested series of equilibria.  These equilibria can be stable for a long time, but they are fragile, in that a su…

Christian Realism

I received an email about my last post.  The writer of the email took me to task for failing to take the conservative Anglicans at face value.  The author felt that I was dismissive of their positions and their arguments.  That I was being "a culture warrior."

He is right, in a sense.  I am finding it increasingly difficult to find common ground with the more conservative members of my own religious tradition, whether conceived of more narrowly as "Catholicism" or more broadly as "Christianity."  I am slowly losing the willingness to "see things from their point of view."  And, there is a definitely a part of me that wonders whether this does stem from a lack of perspective, a lack of charity, a lack of balance.

But, I don't think so.  And the reason I don't think so is well expressed in this essay by James Alison, one of his best among his many great writings.  The essay, on its face, relates to the issue of in the inclusion of LGBT peo…

Dispatches from The Great Divide

1.  Two weeks ago, the Episcopal Church voted to give general authorization for same sex weddings to be conducted in Episcopal Churches.  Having followed this story as an outsider, the outcome was not a surprise--all of the commentary I had read suggested it was going to pass.  What was surprising, at least for me, was the margin of victory.  Out of 160 Episcopal bishops, only 26 voted no, with five abstentions; it other words it passed with an 64 percent margin of victory, which is an enormous number.  But it is actually even bigger than that--if you take out the retired bishops, the assisting and auxiliary bishops, and the the bishops from places outside the United States that are part of the Episcopal Church (all of whom are included in the vote), you end up with only eight dicocesan bishops voting no out of 99 dioceses in the 50 States.  That's a land slide in by any measure.

I also found the reactions from the other elements of the Anglican world interesting, if predictable. …

On the Sin of Originalism

1.  Words have a magic to them.  We tend to think of them as neutral carriers of meaning, but as any one of a number of impenetrable philosophy texts (mostly French) will tell you, the linkage between "words" and "meaning" is often more complex and ambiguous than we recognize. We've all had the experience of words conveying less meaning than we intend--we say or write something that we think is clear, but turns out to be impossible for the listener to understand.  We've also all had the experience of words conveying a different meaning from the one we intend--we mean one thing, but it is heard as something else.

And, every once in a while, the words we say have more meaning that we intend--our words touch on some power that we were not consciously aware of when we say them, but is present nonetheless.  It is in these moments that the magic of words comes to the fore.  It is in these moments that words become transcendent.

2.  Think about poetry, or song ly…

Answers to 40 Questions

The Gospel Coalition is an evangelical organization that seems to take it upon itself to police the boundaries of the evangelical world.  A gentleman named Kevin DeYoung, clearly distressed that some of his fellow travelers in the evangelical world are happy about the Supreme Court's ruling on gay marriage, has issued "40 Questions for Christians Now Waiving Rainbow Flags."

While I have a strong suspicion that these questions are not being asked in good faith, I choose to follow the lead of Buzz Dixon and treat them as legitimate inquiries.  Mr. Dixon answers the questions from the perspective of someone who appears to have once been an evangelical; my answers are slightly different.  [Note: NALT founder John Shore addresses the questions in a less charitable, but still appropriate, way.  Matthew Vines's counter-questions are also very much worth reading.]  So, I figured I would answer them from my perspective.

1. How long have you believed that gay marriage is someth…