Thursday, June 30, 2005

A clarification on the last post.

Oops. It seems I inadvertantly mis-represented Kevin Bourassa. My apologies. It turns out the article I was quoting was older than initially thought. Here's a helpful clarification from Mike.

1. The Ottawa Citizen is VERY Conservative paper (and yes, I meant that big 'C').

2. This story appeared on the front page of the Sunday paper over 3 weeks ago. So it's not a case of Kevin Bourassa being a 'sore winner'. These statements were made at least 3 weeks to a month before the vote, probably longer.

3. What you have is the ONLY attribution to Mr. Bourassa in the whole story. No context is given. it doesn't say WHEN he made these comments, it doesn't say WHERE he made them, it doesn't say to WHOM the comments were made. For all we know, he made these comments 3 years ago in a fit of frustration after a court hearing. I was not able to find this story in any other news source (on the internet or broadcast) at the time

4. This claim is in the first two paragraphs of the story. The entire rest of the story, speading to A2 and covering a quartre page on the front and a fifth of a page on A2, talks about how this was a legally impossibility (at least in the way Bourassa was implying), unless the churches knowingly violated the rules of charitable status (which apply to ALL charities, not just churches) of Revenue Canada. They could do this by promoting or politically backing a particular candidate of party.

So I'm not sure why you have only noticed this now, but I'm kind of suspicious. A little Bit Left had a post today about some churches in London Ontario threatening to side with particular candiates (namely Pat O'Brien) and spread the word in church sermons - in direct violation of Revenue Canada rules for Charitable status. This is starting to sound like a self-fufilling prophesy.

I'll keep my eye on this weekends Citizen (I live in Ottawa and I'm a subscriber) to see if it comes up again. I understand why you would be upset by this, but I think you should be a little skeptical. this sounds like a fear...


Thanks for the correction.

Kevin Bourassa, your rhetoric is NOT helping

From the Ottawa Citizen,

Churches that oppose same-sex marriage legislation have good reason to fear for their charitable status, a leading gay-rights advocate is warning.

"If you are at the public trough, if you are collecting taxpayers' money, you should be following taxpayers' laws. And that means adhering to the Charter," says Kevin Bourassa, who in 2001 married Joe Varnell in one of Canada's first gay weddings, and is behind www.equalmarriage.ca.


Kevin Bourassa wants to go after the charitable status of churches that oppose SSM. As a secular issue, I do believe in the free exercise of religion and free speech. As a theological issue, I don’t think religious rights were high on Jesus’ agenda, even though many Christians spend an inordinate amount of time talking about them.

Is Bourassa wanting to punish folks whom he deems as enemy? Is he simply being a sore winner?

I wonder if Bourassa’s rhetoric will jump up and bite him in the butt. The gay community has many friends in the churches, even the conservative churches. Such statements by prominent gay activists will only galvanize religious extremists who are already feeling battle weary after Tuesday’s Commons vote, drawing many others to their cause, and will terrify the smaller, struggling churches that are trying to do God’s work in the world.

If gay rights are being attacked, then the gay community has a right to fight back. If this is an example of shooting the enemy when he’s wounded, then it’s NOT helping.

Bourassa needs to take his win, celebrate it, and remember that the best way to treat a bully is to ignore him.

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Conservative Christians vs the Religious Right

With so much noise coming from south of the border, and many loud Christians condemning Same-Sex Marriage, we need to distinguish between conservative Christians and the Religious Right.

At first glance, the Religious Right and Conservative Christians look distressingly similar. They vote for the same parties. They read the same bible. They sometimes worship in the same churches.

But there are differences between the two. BIG differences.

The Religious Right are extremists. They believe the church is at war with the culture. They can’t distinguish between opposition and enemy. They have a persecution complex and fantasize about martyrdom. Their narrow political agenda looks more like a Republican playbook than the Gospel of Luke or the Letter of James.

Conservative Christians, on the other hand, are the first ones to open their wallet when a homeless person comes knocking on the church door looking for food. They’re the ones praying with the grieving strangers who come looking for words of comfort. They’re the ones who have deep–rooted convictions and moral lines clearly drawn, but also recognize that a moral life lived without love for neighbour is a tyranny that besmirches the name of Jesus.

Conservative Christians know that being pro-life means more than harassing terrified 15-year-olds who are trying to reverse a bad decision. It means helping people take responsibility for their behaviour and their lives. It means letting young girls weep on their shoulder after the operation. It means volunteering for groups like BirthRight. It means throwing a baby shower in the basement of the church when the young woman decides to keep the baby.

Being a conservative Christian means believing that churches can do a better job at dispensing charity and social services than government. This is not some nutty anti-government ideology because conservative Christians are the first ones to roll up their sleeves and get their hands dirty. Conservative Christians put their money and their labour where their mouths are. They believe in people working together to help other people.

The Religious Right demands that government adopt their narrow agenda. Conservative Christians are servants. The Religious Right speak with anger and hate. Conservative Christians speak truth tempered by love. The Religious Right is moralistic. Conservative Christians are moral.

The Religious Right draws attention to itself. Like my three-year-old, it doesn't care if its good or bad attention. Conservative Christians work hard, but quietly and devotionally, because the gospel is something that is lived graciously as its witness. They know the gospel is not a soap-box for a partisan political agenda.

So, don’t confuse conservative Christians with the Religious Right. The two are not the same animal. Not by a long shot. Conservative Christians put “Christian” before “conservative.”

I should know. I have a congregation full of them.

Alberta out of the marriage biz?

Do Ralph and I agree!?

Maybe. We’ll see.

Ralph Klein says that the government may get out of the marriage business altogether - because of the passage of Bill C-38 allowing same gendered folks to get married - leaving marriage to the churches.

I couldn’t agree more.

I like the European model where the happy couple goes to city hall and gets a civil servant to perform a civil union ceremony. Then the couple heads to the church, if they desire, to have their union blessed. Church and state remain at a comfortable distance.

If Ralph is saying that he’d leave marriage up to the churches, meaning that he’d leave civil unions in the government domain, and the blessing of civil unions to the faith communities, I vote a hearty “yeah!”

But, if he’s saying that he’d like to see Alberta get out of the civil union/marriage business altogether, leaving marriage to the churches, I vote a horrified “yikes!”

But, I really doubt that’s what he’s saying.

I think leaving civil unions to the government and the blessing those civil unions, if such a blessing is desired, to the religious communities help churches, mosques, temples, synagogues, etc, retain their religious freedom. Some faith groups will choose to bless same-sex unions. Others will not. That’s okay.

It’s called free exercise of religion.

Monday, June 27, 2005

Christian Activists

Political Cycles has a thought-provoking post on Christian activism and the religious right. (he also gives me a plug:). Check it out.

Friday, June 24, 2005

Ignoring the Backdrop

When I was in university, the government was legislating gay bashing as a hate crime. The editor of the university newspaper wrote an editorial praising this initiative.

His opinion was met with death threats.

I studied music at Wilfrid Laurier University; a discipline where gays and lesbians were well represented. A classmate of mine shared with me that he carried a hard stick to fight back against those who would attack him because he’s gay. It happened once. It WILL happen again. He wasn’t going down so easily.

On October 6, 1998, Aaron McKinney and Russell A. Henderson entered a Laramie Wyoming bar which was known as a place where homosexuals often hung out.

The two men left the bar with the company of Matthew Shepherd, who they drove to an open field. After being tied to a fence and beaten within an inch of his life, he was left for dead in the near freezing temperatures.

The two men had also stolen his wallet and shoes. Eighteen hours later, he was found by two passing motorcyclists who thought at first that Shepherd was a scarecrow because of the way he was positioned on the fence.

Shepherd was flown via helicopter to Poudre Valley Hospital (approximately a ninety mile drive in Fort Collins, Colorado) where he remained in critical condition for several days before he died.

Baptist preacher Tony Campolo tells a story about a boy in high school who was thrown in the shower after gym class and then urinated on by his classmates. Because he way gay.

He went home that night, went off to bed as usual, then woke up in the middle of the night, went down to his basement, then hung himself.

Every gay person I’ve met tells a similar story.

These stories should provide a backdrop to the debates on same-sex marriages in the political arena and the blessing of same-sex unions in the faith communities. But they don’t. It’s as if the church has stopped hearing the pain of the oppressed.

It’s not enough to say that the bible condemns homosexuality. The way some Christians have been talking about homosexuality you’d think it was the ONE unforgivable sin.

SSM advocates are not asking folks to embrace gay/lesbian behaviour. They are simply asking folks to stop beating on them legislatively, legally, and, in far too many cases, physically.

I get why many Christian oppose SSM. But, as a Christian, I have found much of the rhetoric coming from Christian leaders on this issue, appalling. Many folk in my church who are conservative on this issue feel much the same way. Hurtful language coming from prominent Christian leaders against a marginalized, and abused group, does not further the cause of Christ.

I wonder if the best way to witness to gays and lesbians is to love them first, nursing their wounds, tending their hurts, simply loving them as Christ loves them: unconditionally. I’m not suggesting that folks betray their conscience and condone homosexual behavior. But when is it Christian to heap judgment upon judgment?

Grace, mercy, and peace. Self-giving, suffering love. These are the marks of the kingdom of God. Jesus actively sought out those who were despised, outcast, and broken. Why can’t we, who bear the name of Christ, do the same, without the condemnation?

Thursday, June 23, 2005

Romania's Orthodox church disowns priest after nun was crucified

Warsaw (ENI). Romania's Orthodox church has disowned a monk
after he allegedly crucified a trainee nun during an exorcism
ceremony that was said to have taken place, and it has closed down
the convent where the killing occurred.

"The church condemns this deviant act by this strange person of low education," said Costel Stoica, spokesperson for the country's Bucharest patriarchate.

"It has nothing whatever to do with Orthodoxy, and nothing
of the kind has ever occurred in the history of Romanian
monasticism."


I'm glad that the patriarchate has condemned this bizarre act of religious nuttery, calling it a "deviant act by this strange person of low education."

However, they DID ordain the guy and put him in charge of a monastery. Maybe the Romanian Orthodox church needs to re-visit their formation process.

See the orginal story here.

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Rick Mercer has a blog!

Rick Mercer has joined the blogosphere. Check it out. Funny, funny, stuff.

Thanks to Monte Solberg for pointing this out.

Monday, June 20, 2005

Children's Message: Pentecost Year A

Jason was standing at his locker at recess when a book dropped out of his knapsack.

“What’s this?” asked Sam picking up the book, as he happened to be walking by Jason’s locker.

“That’s my...(the rest here)
This is why I am not a theological liberal. But this is religious superstition run amok.

Saturday, June 18, 2005

Sermon: pentecost 5 - year a

“Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth;” says Jesus, “I have not come to bring peace, but a sword.”

Barbara Brown Taylor wonders if this is the “kind of statement that makes us Christians wonder if [we] are hearing right. Is this really Jesus? Is this the prince of peace who taught us to love our enemies, the gentle shepherd who taught us to turn the other cheek? It is the kind of statement that makes you wish someone had forgotten to write it down, but even if we didn’t have it in Matthew, we will find it in Luke, “Do you think I have come to bring peace to the earth? No, I tell you, but division. (Luke 12:51)”

What are we to make of such a pronouncement? And where exactly is the good news in it? (the rest here)

Thursday, June 16, 2005

I've been tagged...

I’ve been tagged by Father Jake for the book meme.

1. Number of books I own: close to 1500 (I’ve inherited a few libraries)
2. Last book I bought: Five Smooth Stones for Pastoral Work by Eugene Peterson
3. Last Book I read: Alms by Cynthia MacDonald
4. Books that mean a lot to me:
i. The Sign of Jonas and Seven Storey Mountain by Thomas Merton
ii. The Chosen and My Name is Asher Lev by Chaim Potok
iii. Life After God by Douglas Coupland
iv. Douglas John Hall’s Trilogy of Systematic Theology (Thinking the Faith, Professing the Faith, Confessing the Faith)
v. The Rule of St. Benedict
vi. The Bible

5. Tag (at least five more)
Catholicism, holiness, and Spirituality
Saheli
Mike Burtt
Dancing with the Spirit
Mai Mew Sings

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

How to build community

From the Ooze Blog This also hangs on our fridge.

How To Build Community


# Turn off your TV
# Know your neighbors
# Look up when you are walking
# Greet people
# Sit on your stoop
# Plant flowers
# Use your library
# Play together
# Buy from local merchants
# Share what you have
# Help a lost dog
# Take children to the park
# Garden together
# Support neighborhood schools
# Fix it even if you didn't break it
# Have pot lucks
# Honor elders
# Pick up litter
# Read stories aloud
# Talk to the mail carrier
# Listen to the birds
# Put up a swing
# Help carry something heavy
# Barter for your goods
# Start a tradition
# Ask a question-hire young people for odd jobs
# Organize a block party
# Bake extra and share
# Ask for help when you need it
# Open your shades-sing together
# Share your skills-take back the night
# Turn up the music-turn down the music
# Listen before you react to anger
# Mediate a conflict
# Seek to understand
# Learn from new and uncomfortable angles
# Know that no one is silent though many are not heard.
# Work to change this.

Religious Right, Left Meet in Middle

The Rev. Rob Schenck is an evangelical Christian and a leader of the religious right. Rabbi David Saperstein is a Reform Jew and a leader of the religious left. Both head political advocacy groups in Washington, and they have battled for years over abortion, gay rights, stem cell research and school prayer.

This summer, each intends to preach a bit of the other's usual message.
(the rest here)

While cynics point out that this is mere political posturing, I appreciate the effort. This is much more in line with Jesus’ teaching then, say, this guy.

Of course, I do think there is a place for faith within politics. But I think faith is to influence with the broader themes of the biblical story: compassion, servanthood, self-giving, suffering love. Too often, Christians jump into the public arena to demand religious rights above all other rights, to defend privilege, or to insist that government adopt the church's agenda.

We Christians are becoming known not by our love, but by our opposition to gay marriage, abortion (in the USA, add stem-cell research to the list) and by conservative political leanings. Christians are seen as shrill, angry, and autocratic.

How does this advance the cause of Christ?

In a world starving for good news, a word from God, unconditional love, the church too often heaps judgment upon judgment, pushing people further away from the love that God has for them. The church’s central message - salvation through Jesus- is lost in the political muddle.

Maybe its time for a politics of compassion, a politics of quiet servanthood and gentle caring. These are not sexy words or grand themes, but I think they more deeply reflect the one who came to serve and not be served, who came to die so that we might have life.

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

There's something to be said about consistancy

A similar test from the one below. Amazing how both Modern Liberal and Charismatic/Pentecostal can score the same percentage.

What is your theological worldview?

You scored as Neo orthodox.

You are neo-orthodox. You reject the human-centredness and scepticism of liberal theology, but neither do you go to the other extreme and make the Bible the central issue for faith. You believe that Christ is God's most important revelation to humanity, and the Trinity is hugely important in your theology. The Bible is also important because it points us to the revelation of Christ. You are influenced by Karl Barth and P T Forsyth.

Neo orthodox 93%

Evangelical Holiness/Wesleyan 68%

Emergent/Postmodern 61%

Reformed Evangelical 61%

Roman Catholic 57%

Modern Liberal 29%

Charismatic/Pentecostal 29%

Classical Liberal 21%

Fundamentalist 4%

Monday, June 13, 2005

Which Theologian are You?

Check it out! Thanks to Greg.

Wow! Look at all those Calvinists near the top. Maybe I should become Presbyterian.

You scored as Karl Barth.

The daddy of 20th Century theology. You perceive liberal theology to be a disaster and so you insist that the revelation of Christ, not human experience, should be the starting point for all theology.

Karl Barth 80%

John Calvin 80%

Augustine 67%

Anselm 67%

J├╝rgen Moltmann 67%

Martin Luther 60%

Jonathan Edwards 47%

Charles Finney 33%

Paul Tillich 27%

Friedrich Schleiermacher 20%

Saturday, June 11, 2005

Sermon: pentecost 4 - year a

Recently, Business Week ran a story on the phenomenon of megachurch marketing. Many religious commentators made a huge deal over the sheer size and scale of some of these churches. The biggest of them all: Lakewood Community Church in Houston, Texas pastored by Joel Osteen, expects weekend attendance to top over 100 000 souls by this July. According to the article, Osteen is laying out $90 million to transform the massive Compaq Center in downtown Houston -- former home of the NBA's Houston Rockets -- into a church that will seat 16,000, complete with a high-tech stage for his TV shows and Sunday School for 5,000 children.

The article goes on to say that the three biggest churches in North America are, right now, in the midst of building campaigns, with the total cost for three new facilities running almost a quarter of a billion US dollars. That’s a lot of money for three buildings. Of course, none of these churches are Lutheran so it’s easy for us to look down our noses at such excess.

But in the interest of full disclosure, I...(the rest here)

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Nine women to defy Vatican to become priests

OTTAWA (AFP) - Nine women, including one Canadian and one American, plan to defy the Vatican and become the first female Roman Catholic priests and deacons ordained in North America during a ceremony on a boat on the St. Lawrence River next month. (read the rest here)

Of course, this is purely symbolic as their ordinations will not be recognized by the Roman Catholic Church.

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Well...maybe it is a little too much rain

I got home and checked my basement, and, sure enough, we had a small flood. I plugged in the sump-pump and the hose broke off sending water everywhere and breaking a lightbulb. Everything is cleaned up now.

But various towns in southern Alberta are in states of emergency.

Wow.

The Rain Still Cometh

The paper said the rain is supposed to stop by Thursday. So today I walked to the church again. It’s not very often I can walk in the rain in Lethbridge.

I’ve been told that a State of Emergency has been called for the town of Coaldale, just east of Lethbridge. It seems that their sewer system is backed up and can’t deal with the excess water. So folks in Coaldale can’t flush, wash dishes, or shower until the problem is corrected.

I suppose there are worse problems to have. But what a hassle!

Monday, June 06, 2005

Children's Sermon: Pentecost 3 - Year A

James was sitting in class one day when Anthony came in and sat beside him. Anthony hadn’t been in school for a few weeks. James was curious to know where Anthony was all that time, but didn’t ask.

“Do you want to come back to my house after school and play video games?” James asked.

“Sure,” replied Anthony, “that sounds..." (read the rest here)

Rain

It’s still raining in Lethbridge. It’s been raining for almost a week. In a semi-arid climate this is unusual. The coulees are looking greener. Our garden is flourishing. My new Australian bushman’s (bushperson’s?) hat that I got for Father’s Day (early, of course) has been broken in.

I love the rain.

Rain feels like New Life.

Sunday, June 05, 2005

Sermon: Pentecost 3 - Year A

“Do not take off your jacket,” I was told. “Do not stop at the office. Head straight to neo-natal intensive care. The baby might not last the hour,” my supervisor at the hospital told me on the phone as I was leaving my office at another hospital site.

I had finished a year of seminary and had just begun what is called “Clinical Pastoral Education” or “CPE” in seminary-speak. Another good name for it might be “tear the seminarian’s heart out and show it to him.”

At CPE, they slap a badge on you and call you a chaplain. Whether it be in a hospital, prison, or transition home, you are parachuted into battle. You learn by doing. And I learnt a lot those 12 weeks.

I arrived at the hospital and did just as I was told. I made my way up to neo-natal, the rain was still dripping off my jacket and my shoes tracking mud on the floor.

I asked the nurse where I could find the baby and the family. It was then I was told...(the rest here)

Thursday, June 02, 2005

Rick Warren on preaching

I don't like his politics, but this is an excellent take on preaching.

I do believe in confessional preaching. I believe that you should confess both your strengths and your weaknesses. You don't dwell on yourself, but in many ways the minister is the message. The word must become flesh. The best kind of preaching is incarnational preaching. The most effective message is when I am able to get up and say, 'This is what God is doing in Rick Warren's life this week. This is what I am learning. This is what I need to believe, what I need not to believe, what I need to do, what to not do.'

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

British Abbey rejects Da Vinci Code film plans

LONDON (Reuters) - Producers of the upcoming movie based on the blockbuster novel "The Da Vinci Code" were not allowed to film in Britain's Westminster Abbey after church officials denounced the book as "theologically unsound." (the rest here, also here)

Good for them. Many folks believe the Da Vinci Code is based on historical records, when it is just the fantasy of it's author, Dan Brown. Such books do little but damage the credibility of the good folks in the church who are faithfully trying to do God's work.

Deep Throat Revealed

Deep Throat, the secret source whose insider guidance was vital to The Washington Post's groundbreaking coverage of the Watergate scandal, was a pillar of the FBI named W. Mark Felt, The Post confirmed yesterday. (the rest here, and here, and here)