The blog

The blog—informal opinions and chat about the parish

Thursday, November 24, 2016

The Newer Christians

Reading my Facebook items this morning, I came across a post from a woman who lives in a small town in Vermont. The local newspaper republished an opinion piece she describes as being from a "radical ultra-conservative, right-wing, anti-abortion evangelical Christian blog site."

I am dismayed (but not surprised) that the world of non-Christian America gravitates toward materialism and selfish hatred of everyone who doesn't fit the local ideal mold of what a "real person" should be like.

I'm not even extremely surprised that the Christian label has become attached to this kind of thinking. After all, so many churches have been seduced into thinking that the USA is God's new Jerusalem and that the mythic American lifestyle (small towns, buying Chevrolets, eating hot dogs, and cheering for football teams) is God's best plan for the part of mankind rich enough and white enough to participate. (And I guess those who are not rich enough and white enough can, quite literally, go to hell.)

After all, I left a church like that a few years back.

But that tag from the woman in Vermont should be troubling to the genuine Christians. The outside world has pretty much figured out that Christians hate Jews, Muslims, Mexicans, poor people, Asians, gays, and educated people. "Evangelical Christian" has become the name of a political party, not a very honest one or a very nice one either. (It's ironic, because "Evangelical" comes from the Greek word for "good news" and it was originally all about telling a world of people in pain about the good news of Jesus. Poor Jesus! He's gotten totally forgotten in all this right-wing political mess.)

All through the Bible there is the doctrine of the "remnant." The basic idea is that many will call themselves believers, but God has a remnant, a tiny number, who remain faithful to Him. I think that is what we are called to be, and perhaps we need a different name for ourselves. We don't hate the poor; we provide for them. We don't hate the refugee; we provide for them. We don't think that accumulating wealth and protecting the borders of the USA are the highest callings of the Christian faith. We tell the truth. We do not automatically bow down to the latest speech from our great political leader.

And this kind of discipleship will certainly prove to be very costly.


Saturday, November 19, 2016

Pantsuit Nation and the Church

Someone in the Facebook group named "Pantsuit Nation" posted a comment about how she responded to teachers from a Christian school who voted for Trump because "at least he's against abortion."

The flurry of responses was astonishing. The original post went up two hours ago, and I really cannot keep up with all the comments that are flying in.

Of course, this is an anti-Trump advocacy group, so there isn't much comment defending the teachers, and there is a lot of cheering for the woman who posted the response. There's more though.

Post after post comes from people who are renouncing that church because they see its views as hypocritical and opportunistic. For the sake of getting a candidate who claims (at least for the time being) to be anti-abortion, churches and Christians are willing to accept a man who has no respect for the Christian faith and no evidence of any of the Christian virtues. And church members are angry.

We often mourn the decline of the older, traditional "Main Street" churches. Beginning the days of the "Jesus People" (and I was one of those), we used to say that the "Main Street" churches were more interested in keeping Middle American culture going than in preaching the gospel. People still see through that hypocrisy, and that is still the reason that we have trouble attracting younger members. We are all tarred with the same brush.

Saint Paul saw all this coming, and made the comment in Romans 3:8:
Why not say—as some slanderously claim that we say—"Let us do evil that good may result"?
Indeed, why not? Because it's not the Christian way of doing things. Non-believers know this. Christians who would like to be in a really faithful church know this. Christians in faithful churches need to get the message out: We don't bow down to some cultural norm just to achieve one limited goal.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

The Immigrant Apostles' Creed

I found this today in the faculty mailroom. It was just lying on a table, so I had no idea where it came from or who wrote it. After a bit of research, I found it in a blog titled "Hopping Hadrian's Wall." Good words:

THE IMMIGRANT APOSTLES’ CREED

I believe in Almighty God,
who guided the people in exile and in exodus,
the God of Joseph in Egypt and Daniel in Babylon,
the God of foreigners and immigrants.

I believe in Jesus Christ, a displaced Galilean,
who was born away from his people and his home,
who fled his country with his parents when his life was in danger.
When he returned to his own country he suffered under the oppression of Pontius Pilate, the servant of a foreign power.
Jesus was persecuted, beaten, tortured, and unjustly condemned to death.
But on the third day Jesus rose from the dead, not as a scorned foreigner but to offer us citizenship in God’s kingdom.

I believe in the Holy Spirit,
the eternal immigrant from God’s kingdom among us,
who speaks all languages, lives in all countries,
and reunites all races.
I believe that the Church is the secure home
for foreigners and for all believers.
I believe that the communion of saints begins
when we embrace all God’s people in all their diversity.
I believe in forgiveness, which makes us all equal before God,
and in reconciliation, which heals our brokenness.
I believe that in the Resurrection
God will unite us as one people
in which all are distinct and all are alike at the same time.
I believe in life eternal, in which no one will be foreigner
but all will be citizens of the kingdom
where God reigns forever and ever. Amen.

The blog says it was found on a Facebook post by Neal Presa, the moderator of the Presbyterian Church (USA), and says it was originally written by Rev. Jose Luis Casal.

Sunday, November 13, 2016

We must be doing something right

Over the weekend, two Episcopal churches, hundreds of miles apart, were vandalized. This story comes from the Indianapolis  Star, dateline November 13, 2016:
St. David's Episcopal Church in Bean Blossom was vandalized sometime Saturday night.

Vandals painted tags on the walls, depicting a swastika, an anti-gay slur and "Heil Trump."

The Rev. Kelsey Hutto, priest in charge at St. David's Episcopal Church, said she was disheartened after finding the graffiti on the walls of the church Sunday morning. But her next thought was more positive.

"Well, we must be doing something right," Hutto said she thought. "We stated one time that doing the right thing was not always the popular thing. We were targeted for a reason, and in our mind it was for a good reason."

As Christians, Hutto said they need to respond to hateful acts with love and joy. That's what God calls on them to do, no matter what color people are, where they came from or who they love.
And this from the Associated Press, dateline November 13, 2016:
An Episcopal church in a heavily Latino suburb of Washington has been vandalized with a racist message that mentions President-elect Donald Trump, church officials say.

Jim Naughton, a spokesman for Bishop Mariann Edgar Budde, of the Episcopal Diocese of Washington, said the vandalism occurred Saturday night at the Episcopal Church of Our Saviour in Silver Spring, Maryland. He said a banner advertising the church's Spanish-language service was slashed, and the words "Trump nation. Whites only" were written on the back.

Naughton said the same phrase was written on a brick wall in the memorial garden of the parish.

The bishop was scheduled to visit the parish Sunday afternoon and stand in solidarity with the rector of the church, parishioners, lay leaders and interfaith supporters.

Doing the 200s

I don't think of this too often, but my father was a great advocate of preserving the environment and (though it seems unlikely) a long-time member of the Sierra Club.

Our Episcopal Diocese is celebrating its 200th year, and we were encouraged at the recent Diocesan Convention to find a number of 200 things we could do this year: read 200 Bible verses with our family, invite 200 people to church, and so forth.

I think I will begin by donating $200 to environmental organizations (Western Reserve Land Conservancy and Sierra Club). How about $200 to social justice organizations? (ACLU and NAACP) $200 to programs to help the needy? (Habitat for Humanity and the Grace Episcopal Food bank in Mansfield)

When they go low, we go high. Anybody with me?

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Election is over

This will be brief, because the future of our Republic is very uncertain at the moment and only time will resolve that uncertainty.

Several things are quite certain though. Donald Trump was not elected by a slim margin. It was overwhelming. My county went two-thirds in favor of Trump; Ashland county was three-quarters. It is also quite certain that Trump is on record as being opposed to much of the Constitution (religious freedom, freedom of the press, equal treatment of all citizens, to name a few ideas he dislikes). The list of people who are on is hate list is quite simple: pretty much everyone who is not white, male, and a third-generation citizen. And of course, you cannot have a physical handicap.

How shall we react? My daughter has been weeping for twelve hours. I wonder if my daughter-in-law will keep my three very brown and Latina granddaughters home from school to protect them. My students at the University are walking around in sort of a stunned haze.

First things

The Huffington Post has good suggestions for your mental and moral survival. Take care of yourself. Find a way to constructively contribute to a better future for the USA. Bring that down to a local level and find a way to constructively contribute to a better future for your town and county.

Ultimate things

As Christians, we are called to love one another and to seek to do good to all people, especially to those of the household of faith. That calling goes beyond any political calling. The early Christians lived under one of the most oppressive Roman emperors, yet they were able to change the world. They thrived. Under Hitler, the church suffered and lost a lot of name-only members, but the true Christians, the ones who would risk their lives to save the unfortunate, shone like stars. That is still our calling as Christian individuals and as a church. It might come down to risking our lives—it certainly did in the 1960s when the nation finally did something about the injustices suffered by black Americans. We might have to stand up for our Muslim neighbor, our Hispanic neighbor, or our crippled neighbor in the face of government oppression and public opinion. So be it. Our time might be at hand.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Church Money

Our current church treasurer has announced that he will be leaving the post, effective December 31. Perhaps I was a fool, but I have volunteered to take his place. What on earth have I gotten myself into?

I have spent several weeks creating spreadsheets that will give us good information about how we are spending our money and where the money is coming from. (I do not want to spend the $200 or so for a commercial church spreadsheet because those products never quite do what I would like.) I have also devoted a lot of time to considering how much money it costs to run a church and how much money we have to work with.

I suspect the parish could use more information.

The whole thing reminds me of a teenager moving into an apartment and getting a car. We all went through this. Most teenagers are astonished when they realize that cars need repairs, oil changes, and tires. They figure that gasoline is about their only expense after they get the car. And a lot of those expenses are very non-glamorous, things that you cannot see. After an oil change, the car runs about the same as it did before, so why bother? And when a teenager has been living with parents who pay the bills, a lot of hidden apartment expenses pop up too. Who could have guessed that electricity would cost so much? Or that the electric company will shut off the power when you don't pay?

And inflation catches us unawares too. If you were in the habit of throwing $20 into the offering plate in 1980, you need to put in $58.60 to have the same effect in 2016.

As a character said in one of the Harry Potter movies, "Buckle your seat belts. We're in for a bumpy ride." I'm going to be telling the church folk this sort of thing for a while.