Friday, November 6, 2009

A Religion of Peace, and a Gospel of Inclusion

We are living in strange times. Black is said to be white, and white is proclaimed black, and the objective reality is lost in the scramble by each to charge the other with falsehood or bias.

The "religion of peace" makes more headlines these days than even the Catholic Church:

Al Qaeda publishes a circular on its favored Websites which urges Muslim jihadists everywhere to attack "simple targets", including "crusaders" (i.e., Westerners, whose countries are attempting the re-occupation of Muslim lands), with readily available weapons and explosives: get the Stratfor article (fascinating, but published only for subscribers) by email, free, from this link.

Not one week after Al Qaeda's urging jihadists everwhere to take up arms to maintain the purity of Islam, we get this: Fort Hood Muslim psychiatrist (see also this report) who admires suicide bombers guns down 12, and wounds 31. (One of the critically wounded has since died, so the tally is now 13 dead and 30 wounded.)

Earlier, a namesake of the Fort Hood terrorist murdered (fragged) two fellow officers.

Earlier still, an Islamic terrorist gunned down three people at the El-Al counter at the Los Angeles International Airport.

And just after that attack, a man calling himself John Allen Muhammad and his sidekick, Lee Malvo, terrorized the Washington D.C. area with sniper attacks that killed ten people and critically wounded another three. Their arrest prevented their plan to recruit more jihadists and train them in Canada for a mass attack they believed would bring down the Great Satan -- America. (Muhammad's execution is scheduled for next Tuesday, according to the link just given.)

And the attacks by Muslims against Christians are increasing to a level not seen before in modern times.

Meanwhile, the people who demand that they be included are all for exclusion:

Lesbian manager gets Christian employee fired for expressing his beliefs in response to her persistent attempts to have him acknowledge her upcoming "marriage".

Gay activists at Bowdoin College attempt to prevent Christian scholar from speaking on campus.

President Obama signs "hate crimes" bill which is loose enough to allow prosecution of people who express opinions opposing pedophelia.

Proponents of California's Proposition 8, which restored the State's ban on equating same-sex civil unions with its historical definition of marriage (even though there is no other legal distinction between the two) have been harassed and fired for their stances, and a suit forcing government to make their names and addresses public, so that they can be picketed and further harassed, is now making its way through the courts.

And yet, here is the paradox: Muslims in Nigeria and Uganda are behind legislation that would impose severe penalties (up to death) on persons who are gay. And whom do the gays target for their outrage at such an act? The Christians, who are not driving the process. As Archbishop Henry Orombi noted specifically on the subject of anti-gay legislation at the press conference after GAFCON:

There’s very little influence to stop the legislation of a law, an institute, in practice by the church. The church’s practice is to preach, to proclaim... And that is in Uganda as already Archbishop Akinola is saying.

So let me get this straight (sorry -- no pun intended, but the LGBTs pretty much own the terminology). If I am an Anglican in America, I am expected to adapt my beliefs to the current culture in which I find myself, which allows "marriage" between persons of the same sex.

But if I am an Anglican in Africa, and I oppose same-sex relations because that is part of my culture, inherited as a taboo through the centuries, that cultural conceit is entitled to no respect whatsoever. Culture counts in the former case, but not in the latter. And notice who gets to make that call.

Go figure.


  1. It is not a matter of conforming to cultural norms. It is a matter of looking to the quality of relationships rather than the juxtaposition of body parts that has led part of the Episcopal Church to support the blessing of same gender relationships or to support legalization of marriage between gay or lesbian people.

    The alternative that you propose is dangerously close to Hugh Hefner's "Playboy Philosophy," with its focus on body parts, not relationships.

    How did Jesus treat those ostracized by the religious leadership of his day -- women, lepers, children, tax collectors? We all know the answer to that. He embraced them. That witness was underlined by his parable of the Marriage Feast, the Leaven and other parables.

    Given the choice between the Pharisees (dedicated as they were) and Jesus Christ, who do you want to follow?

  2. Thank you for commenting, Father Woodward. I propose no "alternative" -- only that Christians in the US and Britain not expect African Christians to have the same cultural norms. The core of Christianity is not about cultural norms, in any event, and that is what is wrong with the whole approach that takes modern culture, or any culture for that matter, as a starting point for defining Christianity.

    For an answer to your questions about how Jesus treated outcasts, please see this post, and this one.

  3. It seems to me that the bar is always being moved in society to justify a lifestyle in order to not "offend" anyone particular group. I recently saw this quote and have written it down for future use - "The current Episcopal organization, eliminates sin not by the grace of God, but simply be redefining it". I am really sick & tired of people making statements about how Jesus said to love one another, etc. That is true, however, we Orthodox have always "hated the sin, not the sinner" and that doesn't mean then that we have to turn around and accommodate their lifestyle (in the case LGBT) in our church. There are many churches out there where they are welcomed, they don't have to destroy an entire denomination.

  4. Fr. Haley, I compliment you on your careful analysis of Jesus and the Tax Collectors. I have important quibbles with some of your key points, but believe your work here is superb!

    A critical element here, though, is who is in and who is out. Throughout the Gospels Jesus turns our normal expectations on their head: those who believe themselves to be in. . are out. And those, like the tax collectors and women who have been told they are out, are in. This is at the heart of the Marriage Feast and of the Publican and the Pharisee, which you quote.

    I hope it gives you pause that the Christian Church for centuries has excluded women and Blacks in the same way we continue to exclude gay and lesbian people. Over the centuries neither their faith nor their service mattered enough -- it was their body parts or the color of their skin which allowed the church to denigrate and exclude them.

    One of the things we have learned is to look beyond the exterior body parts to the presence of the Holy Spirit in relationships - and the qualities of love, fidelity and mutuality. I still maintain your argument leaves you in league with Hugh Hefner, for whom body parts meant everything and relationships mattered little.

    I agree that cultural norms are not the starting place for theology, but reject any claim that I or other progressives start there. There is very good historical evidence that the prohibitions against homosexual behavior were deeply rooted in cultural needs, primarily the need for a nomadic people to propagate.

  5. I hope it gives you pause that the Christian Church for centuries has excluded women and Blacks in the same way we continue to exclude gay and lesbian people.

    Fr. Woodward,
    If the Christian Church "for centuries has excluded .. Blacks," then please explain all the Anglican Provinces in Africa which are lead by black people? Please explain all the bishops and priests of color within the Roman Catholic church?

    As for discrimination against women, the priesthood is not just another job. Women are ontologically not suited for the priesthood. Jesus did not appoint one female Apostle. He did, however, include women among his desciples. The Church has always done that. It is only in recent times that the concept that men and women are interchangeable has arisen.

    You seem to forget, Fr. Woodward, that the Church began amongst Jewish converts. It was not until later that Caucasians were even welcomed. So your canard about discrimination against blacks is rather silly - especially if one considers the stories contained in Acts 6:1-6 (complaints of discrimination against Hellenists by the Jewish members) and Acts 8:26-40 (Philip evangelizes the Ethiopian eunuch).

    It is really only in this country and only beginning in the last half of the last century that the charge of discrimination against women has been raised. Women have always been included in the Church. They just were not allowed to become priestesses.