This week, the Senate of the United States will be taking up the issue of the State Children’s Health Insurance Program, which just passed in the House of Representatives this past week. The bill is likely to meet with a veto from President Bush, the same fate it met at the beginning of October when it first found its way onto the President’s desk. The response from the White House towards the bill–which would provide health care for children of low-income families who earn too much to qualify for Medicare but not enough to afford private health insurance–is supported by a bi-partisan majority and is seen as a compassionate and necessary bill.

Why the apparently cold opposition? An insightful article from a high school newspaper offers a clue. The Bush administration has become entangled in the quagmire of ideological rigidness. Through a combination of unwavering support of privatization, moral opposition to welfare, political entrenchment against taxes, and a sheer pig-headed adherence to ideology that has been the hallmark of his administration, President Bush cannot see, much less act, outside of his self-imposed boundaries.

While it is easy to stand on the outside and criticize President Bush for his failure of vision and compassion, it is much harder to recognize the same ideological traps when you are caught in them yourself. As a religious person and a seminarian, I frequently encounter such ideological blindness. Perhaps the biggest example of the same phenomenon is the issue of homosexuality in the Episcopal Church.

As I have written previously, the House of Bishops called for the Bishops of the Episcopal Church to show restraint in the consecration of openly homosexual Bishops. It just so happens that the Diocese of Chicago is in the process of choosing a new Bishop, and this weekend I had the opportunity to meet the candidates. A few of the 8 individuals strike be as potentially making wonderful Bishops for our Diocese. Unfortunately, one of the high quality candidates is a lesbian in a committed and loving relationship with her partner.

As a result, it is unlikely that she will be allowed to bring her ministry and talent to our Diocese, even we were to determine that she is the best qualified to fill the position. The Episcopal Church has acquiesced the Anglican Communion and in doing so has allowed itself to become bound by an ideology that prevents us from doing what is right and compassionate.

Bondage to ideology is nothing less than idolatry–by binding ourselves we deny our ability to follow the movement of the Spirit, thereby placing our own beliefs above God. Rigidness in belief places the idea of God before God. How can it be overcome? By accepting the unknowability of God and walking humbly on the path of God.


Ask and ye shall receive…

I asked a blogger on this thread to offer me some specific scriptural citations that indicate that homosexuality is a sin. So, somebody pointed out that in Leviticus 18.22 and 20.13, two men having sex “as with a woman” is clearly condemned.

leviticus3.JPGThis got me thinking, because it is also true that Leviticus is full of mandates, rituals, and practices that, for a variety of reasons, are no longer considered to be instructive for how we ought to live our daily lives today. (See Lev 11, 12, 15, 19.20-28 for particularly choice examples.) I frankly don’t see any standard by which Lev 18.22 and 20.13 should be literally applied in lieu of these others, per se.

Furthermore, I don’t agree that Lev 18.22 and 20.13 necessarily represent God’s final word for gay and lesbian people. To the contrary, according to Jesus, the social relevance of Levitican law actually suggests the exact opposite.

Continue reading ‘Liberating Leviticus’

Today, the U.S. Senate joined the House of Representatives in passing the Matthew Shepard Act and sent it to President Bush.

The Matthew Shepard Act provides an opportunity for communities to receive federal resources in the prosecution of crimes based on the victim’s actual or perceived sexual orientation, disability, gender and gender identity.

This can make a huge difference in the manner in which local law enforcement are able to prosecute crimes in their community. In 1998, both James Byrd, Jr. and Matthew Shepard were savagely murdered due to race (Byrd was an African American man) and sexual orientation (Shepard was a gay man). In prosecuting the murderers of James Byrd, Jr., the local law authorities were able to use the existing federal hate crimes legislation to pull in federal assistance in financial resources and human-power. With the Matthew Shepard prosecution however, the county could barely afford the costs of the trial, and had to furlough five law enforcement employees (.doc) in order to pay the bills. That’s completely crazy.

As a Christian who strives to follow Jesus’ mandate to love my neighbor as myself, I see no less of a mandate to do so based on someone’s sexual orientation, gender, disability, or gender identity. This legislation is long overdue, and yet it remains under the threat of an impending presidential veto. May God truly speak to this leader, and may Mr. Bush truly have ears to hear God’s mandate to love others just as we love ourselves.

Right Action


Courtesy ReutersToday marks the 11th day of protests in Burma, where a popular uprising led by Buddhist monks is challenging the military government on issues of economic hardships and political freedom. While at first treating the protests peacefully, the government has now turned to violence to bring the demonstrations down. As a result, at least 13 people have lost their lives and many more have been injured.

As the intensity rises, the number of monks at the protest has begun to decline, not for lack of support, but because the government has begun rounding up monks from their monasteries and arresting them for inciting dissidence. The Burmese government has rightly identified the monks as bearing a great deal of moral power within their society, a power which they are not afraid to use.

This raises the question, are we as people of faith–as leaders in our community–fulfilling our responsibility to the moral power that we bear? Is it enough to join a Facebook group that supports our cause? When Christ called us to drop everything and follow him, what did he mean? Was it to live comfortably and do what we can or did he mean for us to submit ourselves completely to the will of God, to abandon our pursuits and focus our being on serving the work of the Lord?

The more I read, the more I learn, and the more I experience life and the world, the more I think that Christ intended the latter. It is terrifying and we are so good at justifying why it is not what Christ really wanted. Yet the monks went to lead the people, the monks went to stand up against power, the monks went to provide courage for the people in the face of terror, and the monks went and gave up their safety and their lives.

Cross Posted from Hellish Truth

Archbishop Rowan Williams & Presiding Bishop Katherine Jefferts courtesy ELO/Matthew DaviesThe Bishops of the Episcopal Church concluded its talks yesterday in New Orleans where they met to discuss their position on homosexuality in light of pressures placed upon them by the greater Anglican Communion. In order to provide a brief background, members of the Anglican Communion, lead by the African Church, have been threatening a schism with the Episcopal Church if it did not address their demands regarding the practice of consecrating openly gay bishops and blessing same-sex unions. To complicate matters, a few individual dioceses of the Episcopal Church have begun the process of schism with the Episcopal Church over the same issue.

At the end of the talks, the response of the Episcopal Church was to preserve the unity of the Anglican Communion and cave on its open and affirming practice of consecration of openly gay bishops and blessing of same-sex unions. There were a few other clauses in their statement, including a demand for the immediate cessation of interference in local diocese by African Bishops and a strongly worded statement outlining the church’s stance on homosexual rights.

“…we also be clear and outspoken in our shared commitment to establish and protect the civil rights of gay and lesbian persons, and to name and oppose at every turn any action or policy that does violence to them, encourages violence toward them, or violates their dignity as children of God.”

As a person of faith and more specifically, as a person aspiring to ordination in the Episcopal Church, I am greatly saddened by our Bishops’ decision. While I understand the importance of unity in the Anglican tradition, I have to ask at times like this, “at what cost?” In the words of Isaiah, “A highway shall be there, and it will be called the Holy Way.” We were on the path of the Holy, but we have left it in order to appease the greater church. While some may point with hope to the statement of dedication to the rights of homosexuals, the hypocrisy that we would claim to uphold their dignity as children of God and deny their ability to be consecrated as Bishops or have their union blessed is almost to great to bear.

So what now? We cannot lose hope–the path of righteousness is long and demanding. We must strengthen the weak hands and make firm the feeble knees, because the march must go on. When we choose to be in communion with Christ, then we must always stand by the oppressed and the suffering.

Cross Posted from Hellish Truth

Today, I’ve been pondering some tough Jesus questions. Knowing that you, intrepid reader, may have an interesting perspective of your own to share, I pose them to you now. Please feel free to respond to any one of the questions, all of them, or something else entirely.

  • Do you think Jesus is fully human, fully divine, half human and half divine, or fully human AND fully divine? Or something else?
  • If Jesus is part or fully divine, what did it mean for him to die?
  • If Jesus is part or fully human, what would it mean for him to rise from the dead?
  • If resurrection is primarily a function of the human body, what differentiates the miracle of Christ’s resurrection from those he caused to rise from the dead (i.e. Lazarus, Jairus’ daughter, the son of the widow at Nain)?

Rev. Otis MossThis guy is the pastor at Trinity United Church of Christ. I stumbled upon a video of him speaking at the Day of Outrage last year, which calls for an end to the use of racist and sexist terms in commodified hip-hop.

Rev. Moss is quite the orator. Go check him out.