Monday, July 28, 2014

Thoughts on Ecumenism

As someone who has always had a love/hate relationship with Ecumenism, I really loved Fr. Dwight Longnecker's article on Ecumenism today. For whatever reason, I always work hard at forging relationships with Christians of different stripes, particularly when I was still in ordained ministry. I became President of the local Ministerial Association as a matter of fact. Some of the most meaningful relationships I had as an ordained person were not with clergy from my own denomination but with pastors of other denominations.

When I was newly ordained, a local Ukrainian Orthodox priest took me under his wing and shared some of his wisdom with me. I have never forgotten that. I also thought very highly of the Lutheran pastors in the local ministerial association when I was in South Dakota, both ELCA and (cue the minor musical chord) Missouri Synod. And, of course, I thought highly of the Catholic clergy in South Dakota, which is probably why I took the conversion path that I did. I also, for whatever reason, always get along very well with the Evangelical crowd, though I doubt I agree that water is wet with a lot of those folks.

One of my major gripes about Ecumenism though usually came when some sort of joint worship service had to be done. Usually it was a Thanksgiving Eve service or something of the like with the ministerial association, though I saw a bit of it when I was at Cambridge as well. It always devolved into what I called the Liturgical Lowest Common Denominator. Eucharist was obviously out. The Missouri Synod boys, as I called them, would have nothing to do with any public prayer with other denominations and would not participate, though they came regularly to the Lectionary bible study, which always struck me as odd, because studying the Bible is a form of prayer. The general thinking was that we didn't want to offend anybody and thus show unity. That, to me, always seemed self defeating because the prayers usually being very "Great Spirit in the Sky"ish and vaguely Deist. The hymns were likewise very "Kumbaya" feel good folk Mass-y. The ending prayer service always felt contrived to be for that reason, and I dreaded going.

I always argued that I thought we would understand each other better if each church took turns leading the service. If we were at the Lutheran church, have the Lutherans do something from their tradition; same with the Catholics, Baptists, or whomever. I always got more out of learning about "separated brethren" by actually going to a service of their own. That's how I ended up meeting the Ukrainian Orthodox priest, as they did a Compline service on Wednesday evenings.

At the end of the day, I always viewed Ecumenism as something to work towards, but Ecumenism was never to whitewash our differences and pretend there were really no differences between us. That was just, frankly, a major deception. I always described Ecumenism as a place where everyone is welcome to sit down at the table and share (and hopefully learn and all that). By the same token, Ecumenism is *NOT* a process by which you (and your theological views) sitting down at the table means I had to give up my seat (and my views) at the table. Ecumenism is not a pretend fantasy world, nor is it a theological bullying fest where people with sincere convictions are asked to give them up or go home.   As Father Longnecker said in the article above, "True ecumenism is therefore tough, not sappy."

When Ecumenism becomes sappy, it becomes a pointless waste of time.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Ah, the irony...

Great article here over at NewsBusters about the complete irony of the mainstream media in America being two faced on the issue of Gay NFL players and the Israeli/Palestinian conflict. The two would seem to be unrelated, but the point is made that while the American media has tried hard to condemn former Colts coach Tony Dungy for being a bigot because he would not have drafted said NFL player (despite the fact that the ensuing media circus on the issue directly proves Dungy's point that that that player is simply a big media distraction to a team completely over an off field issue), the media loves to bash Israel over the conflict over Gaza, despite the fact that Palestinian gays often flee to Israel (which gives gays some protections under Israeli law) because any Palestinian state that would be forthcoming would almost certainly ban, imprison, or execute gays and lesbians (Can you name a predominantly Islamic state that doesn't?)

Ah, the irony.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Thank You

I heard this junk over and over in seminary, and I never really bought that the story of Sodom and Gomorrah was about "hospitality" either.

If it were, where does God state in the salvation narrative up to that point that violation of hospitality is a sin so grave that he would destroy a city over it? One would think a commandment that grave would have been spelled out. In fact, I would argue just the opposite. God kicks Adam and Eve out of the garden (not a hospitable act.) God not accepting Cain's sacrifice was not hospitable. God commands Noah does not let anyone into the ark after the flood starts (not a hospitable act). God gave no such commandment, so therefore if he did destroy Sodom and Gomorrah over violation of hospitality, he is most unjust indeed.

Just because Bedouin culture today has a central place for offering hospitality, it does not mean that was the way it was way back in the times of Genesis. That was a completely different world with a completely different worldview. Tribes are and have always been very hostile of outsiders. Just look at how the ISIS is kicking out, murdering, and raping all the Christians in Iraq right now. Hospitality is not even the code of desert in that same area today.

Just because you might feel like this story might hurt the feelings of the homosexual crowd does not give you warrant to change the text.  Making the text say something it clearly does is anachronistic at best and does violence to the text at worst. I don't buy it, just like virtually everything else I heard at seminary.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Thought for the Day

Men go abroad to wonder at the heights of mountains, at the huge waves of the sea, at the long courses of the rivers, at the vast compass of the ocean, at the circular motions of the stars, and they pass by themselves without wondering.

-Saint Augustine of Hippo

Thursday, July 24, 2014

The Good Ole' Boy Grand Slam

I was making deliveries to Lincoln today, and my final stop was a higher end grocery store in South East Lincoln, an area of the city that is fairly wealthy with new money. This particular store is the only place, despite all the Mercedes and BMWs in the parking lot at any given time, in Lincoln where I can find The Ring magazine, a boxing periodical that is bar none some of the best sports writing in the world. The new edition was out, and I snapped it up.

As it was lunch time, and I have forgotten to grab my lunch box on the way out of the house this morning (Hey, it was 3:45 AM-I did grab my coffee cup!) I stopped by the deli section, intending to buy a sandwich or something. Instead, I noticed that had a single self container of cold chicken, so I went for that. Passing through the fruit section, they had some cut up fruit in Saran wrap, so I bought that. Finally, I procured a drink from the fridge unit in front of the cash register.

There was a little lady in front of me buying some things with her 43 coupons. Being a large guy who tends to tower over little, old ladies, I have found it is courteous for me to get the little bar on the black cashier lane moving counter (do those things have a name?), put my items on it, and simply stare up at the ceiling or at the candy bars or magazines and not make eye contact with the cashier or person in front me. I do this because, as I tend to unintentionally loom over people, they get freaked out that I am trying to steal their credit card information or PIN numbers or something.

As I was staring intently at the Mr. Goodbars in the hopes of avoiding the National Exaggerator's fixation on all the Kardashian women "being preggers," I noticed the lady in front of me eyeing me strangely. Thinking it was not out of the ordinary, I switched tactics and became scanning the candy bars ever more intently in the hopes of finding a Zero bar. (I mean, white chocolate and nougat. Why aren't those found in every store?) Finally the cashier got through scanning the aforementioned 43 coupons, and the lady then proceeded to count out the 352 unmarked pennies to pay for what little she had not managed to rip the store off of.  She finally waddled away with once last look back at me that was somewhere in between a a goodbye leer and a Statler and Waldorf style harrumph. Sadly, I still had not found that Zero bar before she left.

The scrolling cashier counter brought up my goodies to the cashier. At this point I knew something was odd because the cashier looked at my stuff, looked at me literally down her nose, then looked back at my stuff before finally committing to ringing it up after what seemed to be an awkward pause.

During this pause, I finally realized why I had become the subject of such strict scrutiny. To my abjectly horrified bemusement, I realized that I had managed by hungry happenstance to purchase the Granddaddy of all Good Ole' Boy Grand Slams: a boxing magazine, a Dr. Pepper, fried chicken, and watermelon.

My only thought: If only they'd had boiled peanuts...