Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Wednesday, December 07, 2005


Yes, it's the season. Self-indulgence, greed, commercialism, yes, once again, it's Christmas time, the birthday of the Prince Of Peace. It brings to mind the observation made by Holden Caulfield, the lead character in J.D. Salinger's coming of age masterpiece, 'Catcher in the Rye'. Holden, a teenager brought up with Bible stories as a child, is on his own, trying to figure out his life when he finds himself in New York City during the Christmas season, sitting in the audience at the Radio City Music Hall, watching the famous Rockettes doing their thing on a stage surrounded by Santa Claus, snowmen, and all the detritus of the holiday when he concluded, "Good ol' Jesus would've puked." His words still stand as the gold standard for what goes on each holiday season.

If young Jesus could have looked down the centuries to see a mega-church or modern mall during Advent, he might have indeed tossed his cookies. I suspect however that His Incarnation as one of us may have limited his foresight to his immediate world. Like yours and mine. On a given day, the mind of Christ may have ventured no further than:

1. Get strap on left sandal fixed.

2. Check on Lazarus.

3. Figure out an ending for that prodigal son story.

4. Work with Judas on the budget.

5. Call mom on my birthday.

6. Calk the boat.

7. Drink less, exercise more.

8. Speak more clearly and slowly.

9. Avoid being alone with Mary M.

10. Ask Dad if he remembers anything unusual about my birth.

Monday, September 26, 2005


A petition purporting to come from a conservative evangelical caucus as part of their agenda for the United Methodist Church, is to be submitted to the church fathers and mothers in an effort to further move their faith communion to be consistent with Holy Scripture and the instructions of Jesus Christ.

In short, it is a defense of marriage and morality against the most serious and widespread attack they have sustained in the last 200 years. In their view, the church has been steadily eroded by the tolerance, yea even legitimizing, of an unscriptural sexuality -- a lifestyle that has been condemned as an abomination by God and society from the beginning. And yet a lifestyle that has been welcomed into the life of the church, in every congregation, in every pulpit and pew. The conservatives are ready to take on adulterous-sexuality. Specifically, remarriage after divorce. Even as the Christian world reels from the threat of schism and instability brought about by the debate on homosexuality, the fundamentalists feel the time is right to add this new fuel to the fire.

It is a battle with clear and absolute lines of demarcation. There are no nit-picky scriptural firefights to distract us. The condemnation is included in the earliest laws, culminating in its place in the Decalogue. There is no wiggle room on adulterous sexuality. It is against God's law. It is contrary to Holy Scripture. Jesus clearly taught us in His Sermon On The Mount:

Mt. 5:31-32 "It was also said, `Whoever divorces his wife, let him give her a certificate of divorce.' But I say to you that anyone who divorces his wife, except on the ground of unchastity, causes her to commit adultery; and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery.

Mt. 19:3-9 Some Pharisees came to him, and to test him they asked, "Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any cause?" He answered, "Have you not read that the one who made them at the beginning, made them male and female and said, `For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh'? So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate." They said to him, "Why then did Moses command us to give a certificate of dismissal and to divorce her?" He said to them, "It was because you were so hard-hearted that Moses allowed you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so. And I say to you, whoever divorces his wife, except for unchastity, and marries another commits adultery."

There is a difference, as always, between committing a condemned act (for which, as with every sin, one can be forgiven) and an attempt to legitimize the continued act of sinning, claiming that it is no longer sin. For instance, one can even commit murder and be forgiven. But if one were to murder over and over again and claim that it is not sin but a lifestyle created by God, one would be playing in a very different ballgame with a whole new set of rules. Actually, there is such a game. It is call "a just war".

The proposal about to arrive on the doorstep of the Bishops and officials of the UMC, will make the following proposal. Adulterous sexuality, specifically remarriage by a person who has been through divorce, as an acceptable, tolerated behavior in Christian community, is to be condemned and insofar as the UM Church and its Discipline can exert its authority, is to be prohibited by the UMC.

The proposal is to make two changes to the Discipline. First, adulterous sexuality will be accorded the same condemnation that homosexuality has been saddled with. It is a lifestyle and/or an act not in accordance with Scripture and therefore unacceptable to our church. While those who commit these acts are to be accorded the grace and acceptance given all sinners, their sinful lifestyle will not be condoned by the church, by its leaders, by its people, or in its documents of instruction and doctrine. Furthermore, the marriages and/or unions proposed by those who seek to legitimize this lifestyle in our church and in our culture will not be performed by our clergy, solemnized in our churches or recognized by the UMC.

The second change to the Discipline will be that the phrase that has legitimized adulterous sexuality for many years, the one that appears in the section on divorce and remarriage, will be removed. Remarriages after divorce will no longer be given a pass. They are, in the words of our Savior, adulterous, plain and simple. While some provision might be proposed to allow remarriages that have already been done to stand, from now on they will no longer be performed in our churches or presided over by its ministers. Those who are in ordained leadership, who have remarried after divorce, will be allowed to continue in their appointments for an appropriate but short length of time while they make the arrangements necessary to surrender their credentials and leave the ordained ministry of the UMC.

While the actual wording of this petition to amend the UM Discipline will undoubtedly be tweaked to make it sound less like a dictatorial purge and heartless edict, the issue that it raises will undoubtedly stand and raise the stakes to a virtual “all in” play. The media will undoubtedly love the drama. How did a provision that decrees that divorced people may remarry in the UMC ever get into the Discipline, since it is contrary to the explicit teachings of Christ? And, someone might well ask, why has it taken the fundamentalist conservative movement so long to make this challenge to defend the moral and ethical high ground of scriptural Christianity on the central and critical issue of adulterous-sexuality?

The answer to this last question is simple. They haven't. No one has made the challenge. No articles or editorials have been written. No minister has ever announced this proposal to his or her congregation. No official from the Good News movement or any conservative caucus has taken a position or issued a press release. Everything you've read so far is utterly and completely bogus. There is no petition, no proposal. There is no agenda. There is no document on its way to the committees and delegates headed to the next General Conference of the United Methodist Church.

And the reason why there isn't?

One day, the disciples came to Jesus, asking Him, "Teach us how to pray." And Jesus taught them saying, "When you pray, whatever you do, don't pray like this."

"Our Father, God, who art in heaven, wejus want to thank you today, Lord, and hallow your name right now, Father. Wejus pray, Lord, that your kingdom will come, Lord, and wejus ask, Father, that your will, Lord, will be done, Father God, on earth, Lord, as it is in heaven. And Lord, wejus want to pray right now, Father, that you will give us this day our daily bread, Lord. And wejus ask that today, Lord, you will forgive us our trespasses, Father, as we, Lord God, forgive those, Father, who trespass against us.

And we ask just now, Lord, that you will lead us not into temptation, Father, but Lord, wejus trust you to deliver us from evil, Father. For thine, oh Lord, is the kingdom, Father, and the power, Lord. And we will be careful, Father, to give you all the praise and all the glory, Lord, for ever and ever, Father. A-men and a-men."

And did His disciples listen? Do you think?