Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Talking Points for Communication

The First Presidency is finally preparing materials on at least a monthly basis on the issue of homosexuality. Unfortunately, these materials are generally to provide cover and "rational" for their discriminatory policies because, apparently, we just aren't getting it.

The latest is a document titled "Talking Points for Communication About Same-Sex Marriage Policy." These talking points, and my responses are below:

· We are acutely aware of the pain and frustration of individuals and groups who view same-sex marriage from various personal, scriptural, theological, legal, and sacramental perspectives. Matters of human sexuality are so deeply imbedded in our individual, social, and cultural identities that it is difficult for people to separate examination of related issues from their underlying sense of self. Because preserving one’s sense of self-identity is a fundamental need of human beings, consideration of human sexuality, homosexuality, and same-sex marriage issues easily becomes emotionally charged and conflicted. Further, consideration of such issues in an international community of faith, with the added complexities of diverse customs and languages, must be done with great care, understanding, and sensitivity.

BTC: No one is suggesting proceeding as to this or any issue without due care, understanding or sensitivity. However, it is in itself quite insensitive to draw an equivalence between the pain and frustration of those who are prohibited from enjoying civil rights and liberties of heterosexual couples and who are actively and often violently discriminated against due to societal views on homosexuality (views the Church condones) and those who would disagree with a theological/moral position the Church might take on an issue that would have no direct affect on their lives.

· Direction in the life of the church emerges through the interaction of scripture, tradition, prophetic guidance, knowledge, and discernment. This interaction occurs in an international faith community with diverse cultural perspectives. Intercultural critique of proposed direction is an important part of this process. It’s often overlooked by those who hold strong opinions on certain issues, especially if they are from the traditionally dominant, individualistic (Western) cultures of the church. Some international church leaders are greatly concerned the dominant cultures of the church will decide the question of same-sex marriage and related issues without adequately considering their voices and perspectives.

BTC: No one is suggesting that a decision be made without consideration of international voices. However, if the question has not been decided, then why the recent First Presidency communication regarding the decision? In what capacity were international leaders consulted in connection with reaching current Church policy on the question of same-sex marriage and related issues?

· The Expanded World Church Leadership Council, after completing the We Share foundational statement, has begun to discuss “culturally respectful standards of conduct,” including issues related to human sexuality and homosexuality. We have discovered in the council that it takes much patience, sensitivity, and effort to understand perspectives and to find common ground. For example, the word “homosexuality” has multiple meanings and connotations across cultures of the church. Also, in some nations, our ministers’ well-being could be jeopardized if they are linked to a church body that holds positions on homosexuality contrary to governmental positions. These are just a few of the complexities we are dealing with.

BTC: If these are truly recently “discovered” complexities, then the Expanded World Church Leadership Council would do well to read some of the reports provided to the Church by the Committee for Homosexuality and the Church, the Human Sexuality Task Force and other committees over the past two decades. In several nations, such as India and Nigeria, our ministers’ well-being are in jeopardy due to them being associated with a church that is Christian. Please provide examples of these nations where the risk to our ministers would be materially increased by their association with a church whose policy is not to actively enforce discrimination against homosexuals?

· The first step in resolving difficult issues is to fix a common base of understanding about the current situation. The recent statement of the Presidency was in response to inquiries about the current policy and its background. It was not a new policy statement or a new interpretation. The statement was provided as information to the church because many were saying they did not know what the policy was.

BTC: Same-sex marriage did not exist until this decade. How “old” could this policy be? Even in the “clarification” of the statement, the First Presidency refers to a section in the Church Administrators handbook that didn’t exist until 2005 and which does not expressly prohibit priesthood from doing anything. When and how did a policy prohibiting priesthood from performing legal same-sex marriages come into being?

· In the same statement, the Presidency said the appropriate leadership bodies (Presidency, Standing High Council, World Church Leadership Council) are reviewing the policy in terms of adequacy for today’s situations. These are the World Church leadership bodies that previously presented official statements on issues related to homosexuality.

BTC: No it didn’t. The statement said they were “considering what the most-helpful process may be for engaging the church in a consideration of issues about church policy and homosexuality.” Is the First Presidency reviewing the policy or the process for reviewing the policy?

· The Presidency’s position is that the church needs to abide by current policy unless there is a change in policy. This is a matter of leadership integrity, especially because of the 2002 WCLC statement, Community, Common Consent, and Homosexuality. That statement indicated in a related matter (homosexuality and ordination) there would not be further exceptions to the guidelines (policies) unless they are adjusted through the “common consent” of the people. The 2002 statement resulted from the reaction of the church to the comment by President W. Grant McMurray at the 2002 World Conference that the policy on homosexual ordination had been ignored by church officers in several instances.

BTC: Leaders with integrity do not create policy and then claim that they are bound by that policy until it is overturned by common consent. Whether the First Presidency considers the policy to be new or old, no argument can be made that it is in place due to World Conference action. What is the point of the claimed review of the policy by leadership if the decision has been made to do nothing pending World Conference action? Also, there have been numerous World Conference resolutions brought forth on the issues of homosexuality and each of them has either been ruled out of order by the First Presidency, requested by the First Presidency to be referred or substituted by resolutions by the First Presidency which effectively referred them. How is this consistent with this bold deference to “common consent?”

· An important part of being in true international community is learning to talk about divisive issues without dividing. When one side thinks the other side has made up its mind and will do what it wants regardless of policies, it becomes difficult—if not impossible—to have meaningful discussion. Any change in the policy will need to occur through a process that incorporates healthy decision-making and “common consent” in community that is seen, regardless of the outcome, as fair by those who have different views.

BTC: In what way is the First Presidency encouraging this “meaningful discussion?” How many Herald articles have addressed these issues? How many educational resources have been produced?

· We are aware of legislation coming to World Conference about same-sex marriage. To preempt World Conference deliberation by allowing ministers in some parts of the world to ignore church policy would disenfranchise the World Conference from actions it may or may not choose to take.

BTC: Assuming the First Presidency does not intend to continue its history of promoting the referral of this legislation, in what way is the First Presidency promoting the necessary and important deliberation of these issues such as it is doing with respect to the issue of Conditions for Membership?

· Also, to ignore the current policy creates a confusing administrative situation in the church. If some ministers are allowed to ignore the policy on same-sex marriage, then should others be allowed to ignore church policies they do not agree with?

BTC: The issue is not whether or not to ignore the policy – the issue is that the policy is wrong and has been wrongly interpreted by the First Presidency. Again, no policy was presented or passed by common consent. The policy, such as it is, has been interpreted by the First Presidency during a decade where they simultaneously advocated for referral of any WC legislation on the topic. No one thinks policies should be ignored – we think the policy is wrong and should be changed.

· The World Church Human Sexuality Task Force is working on a “Sexual Ethic Statement” that will provide background and perspective for discussing many related issues.

BTC: No they’re not. Perhaps the First Presidency is thinking of the Human Sexuality, Faith and Community Standing Team? The team which to date is shown to have only two members. Ironically, Human Sexuality Task Force did approve a Statement of Sexual Ethics in the spring of 2006 pursuant to its report to the 2002 World Conference (“The intention is to provide a comprehensive sexual ethics statement, which can provide a foundation for discussion and guidelines in all areas of human sexuality”). Hopefully this new ethics statement by this new body will be given greater consideration by the First Presidency than in the past.

· The church did not apply any pressure or assert any influence on Graceland University about its position on same-sex marriage. Graceland leadership chose to align with the current church policy about proposed same sex marriages to be performed by Community of Christ ministers.

BTC: Was this a new policy or interpretation for Graceland too? Or was the timing of their policy a coincidence?

· The church is involved in a prayer, discussion, and discernment process about “Conditions of Membership” in response to action by the World Conference. It is important that we focus on the fullest membership participation in this process, even as we begin to address other important issues.

BTC: Is the First Presidency saying that a prophetic Church can’t discuss more than one issue at a time?

· We have been counseled as a church to “Listen together to one another, without judgment or predisposition. Do not assume that the answers to matters of conflict have yet been perceived. There is much labor to be done. Reason together in love, and the Spirit of truth will prevail.” (Doctrine and Covenants 162:5c.)

BTC: Again, in what way is the Church promoting this listening and dialogue regarding policies concerning homosexuality?

What is disheartening is the paradoxical and conflicting postures the First Presidency continues to take. The position involves the notions that (1) this is an important issue that must be discussed at an international level before any decision is made; (2) a decision has been made but it's not new or a new interpretation even though no one seems to know what it is; and (3) this decision which has been made, but not by the First Presidency and can't be made without international discussion and discernment must be strictly adhered to and can't be undone without World Conference action.

And every time this issue has come up over the last decade, they act as if they are seeing it for the first time, they create new committees to replace all the past committees they created to deal with the same issues.

How do you have a rational discussion with these people?

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

A Riddle

Two men walk into a bar. The first one says, "I'm the Messiah, the Son of the Living God!" The second one says, "No, I'm the Messiah, the Son of the Living God!" Which one is telling the truth? The answer is: it doesn't matter.

If you believe Jesus of Nazareth of whom the New Testament was written is the true Son of God, you must also acknowledge that there were many who also believed and, in His name did unspeakably horrible things, from the Inquisitions, to persecution of Galileo, to the Crusades, to Fred Phelps. You likely also acknowledge that tremendous good comes from the Church of England, the Anglican church that was founded by an arrogant monarch that wanted a divorce.

If you claim to follow Jesus, but do harm to your fellow being, then it matters not if Jesus is truly divine. If you follow Henry VIII and do good and bring others to God, then it matters not that Henry was a murderer just trying to take the easy road. Similarly, it doesn't matter which of the two men of my story are really the Son of God - what matters is your response.

If the Book of Mormon/Book of Abraham are hoaxes perpetrated by an arrogant treasure hunter, and they lead you to change the world and bring about communities of love, then the books are as divine as any Bible. If the Book of Mormon/Book of Abraham were written by God's fiery finger and lead you to advance hate (as they once did with respect to African Americans) then they are worthless.

Because God manifests Himself, for whatever reasons, in ways indistinguishable from mental illness and delusion, the only way we can distinguish the Truth from the false is to judge them by their effect on the World. And if that effect is to bring forth the Love of which Jesus spoke, then it is Truth, regardless of origin.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

The Community of Christ and Homosexuality

Columbia University released this study very recently looking at the congruency of public opinion and policy related to homosexuality:

The study made some interesting conclusions, most notably that there is no pro-gay policy bias, to the contrary, where policy is incongruent with public opinion on that policy, it is in favor of the conservative minority. This chart is also very illustrative, in my opinion, of the big mistakes the leadership of the church are making if, as many suppose, they are largely in favor of changing church policy concerning treatment of homosexuals.

Note that while public opinion in the US has generally moved progressively, the movement in conservative states has been dramatically slow relative to the more liberal states. Utah, Oklahoma, Alabama have moved positively over the last 15 years by only about 5%, whereas New York, Vermont, Massachusetts, have moved upwards of 25%. This is statistically amazing.

At first blush, one might think that this is the result of "gay-flight" from conservative states to more accepting states. Alternatively, the prevailing theory that if one knows and associates with gays and lesbians, their attitudes will change, may be the cause - that more liberal states will have larger number of "out" and "open" homosexuals and as a result, attitudes become more positive But demographics do not bear either of these theories out.

This survey from 2007 actually indicates the opposite.

Demographic migration among same sex couples has generally followed those of the population at large - to the south and west - ie. to conservative states. Moreover, socially conservative states showed above-average increases in homosexuals coming out over these past 15 years. For example, Utah went from 33rd to 14th in ranking of concentration of same-sex couples from 1990 - 2006.

So notwithstanding the fact that same-sex couples are becoming more prominent in conservative leaning states, the progression of public opinion with respect to homosexuals in those same states lags far behind that in more liberal states.

The Columbia study theorizes that public opinion moves fastest when particular issues are particularly salient. That is to say - the more the issues are talked about and discussed, the faster people are to accept a more progressive view point. In states where the public was more liberal 15 years ago, issues such as gay marriage, civil unions, adoption rights, visitation rights, etc. have been front and center in policy debates and correspondingly, states where these issues don't come up in legislative discussion or primary elections, progression has been very slow.

The study discusses this in more detail, but there are several reasons why salience leads to progressive public opinion and, eventually, congruence with policy. It's also interesting to look at factors which influence a in-congruity - ie. policies which are favored by majorities or supermajorities, are nonetheless ignored by policy makers. These are largely due to very vocal, very well funded interest groups.

If, as so many suppose, the Church leadership is in favor of changing policy on homosexuality, while simultaneously limiting the unavoidable schism which will accompany it, they should (a) present issues rather than general theological ideology (ie. discuss gay marriage and gay ordination rather than the theological morality of homosexuality in general) and (b) they should actively and affirmatively promote church-wide discussions of these issues.

Contrary to what I'm sure they would assert, over the last ten years, the church strategy has been the opposite. Discussion has been minimal at best and discouraged at worst. Resolutions brought at World Conference have been squashed, no materials prepared for discussion, no articles in official publications or online. In addition, discussion that has occurred, most notably through the work of the now-defunct Committee on Homosexuality and the Church focused very broadly on the "homosexuality issue" in general and not on specific policies.

Given this, it is likely attitude toward homosexuality within the Church has and will continue to follow the slow path of Utah (and Missouri) rather than the pace of more progressively lead states. But the Church has an even bigger problem. While demographic trends in the US apparently aren't heavily affected by politics or policy (although look at this latest study indicating that migration to conservative states may be slowing: churches are most definitely not immune to loss and, more importantly, lack of gain, due to disaffection with policy and leadership.

Just look at what the Church continues to say about contributors to the World Church:

"The strength in World Mission Tithes is coming from people over fifty. The heroes of this story are the seventy-, eighty-, and ninety-year old people who are carrying the load."

One can make any amount of assumptions based on this trend which has followed closely the demise of the population/budget of the Church, but all studies show that support for homosexual rights declines with age - especially in religious settings (

It would not be a leap therefore, to assume that the Church, by vehemently adhering to conservative social policies on homosexuality, are discouraging growth and encouraging loss among those who would be more likely to support policy change. Moreover, as within those who continue to support the Church, the strategy of ignore and delay with respect to these policies, is more likely to cause the progress of membership opinion to stagnate.

Bottom line is - over time, the Church will become more and more composed of conservative thinkers whose attitudes toward homosexuals will progress slower and slower relative to the outside world. This does not support the continual pleas from the First Presidency and the Leadership in general, that progressives should be patient, should be quiet, and should be deferential to current policy, in order to bring about positive change. Quite the opposite.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Homosexuality, Civil Rights, and Justice

Many people struggle to equate oppression and discrimination against gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transgendered to the civil rights struggle of African Americans in the United States. After all, homosexuality is an affirmative act, many believe a choice, but even if not a choice, it is nonetheless an act that could be suppressed, as opposed to being black which is a physical trait, which can neither be suppressed nor rehabilitated.

But the similarity if not clearly seen in the traits of the oppressed, is strikingly identical in those of the oppressors. Unjust discrimination of any sort is backed by common foes and follows a common path: a majority group conflates their numbers/power with exceptionalism/favourtism; ie. we are successful and plentiful relative to the minority, therefore we must be better or more righteous than the minority. But as the Bible is all about love and acceptance, the majority must justify their discrimination by pointing to scriptural proof-texts and interpretations that support their views – which is not hard, as the Bible is vague enough and self-contradictory enough to support pretty much any position you care to have.

Overtime, however, the minority begins to fight back against the majority and while they cannot change attitudes, they can change the law through court action. And, after years and years of justifying their discrimination based on religious and biblical terms, the majority must come up with some sort of rational, secular justification as separation of church and state doesn’t allow courts to uphold laws based on religious grounds. This is probably the only humorous part of the process as the majority struggle to make up practical rational for a bigoted policy.

Because courts are generally made up of the majority and the system tilted to the majority, it takes time for the legal system to impose justice, but eventually it does and, as civil society is forced to live in justice, eventually religious society realizes it too was wrong, and things slowly get better.

Consider miscegenation, or interracial marriage and the landmark case, Loving v. Virginia. In this case, the trial judge made clear why the law against their marriage was rational:

“Almighty God created the races white, black, yellow, malay and red, and he placed them on separate continents. And but for the interference with his arrangement there would be no cause for such marriages. The fact that he separated the races shows that he did not intend for the races to mix.”

On appeal, however, Virginia had to come up with a legitimate non-biblical rational. It tried several including “to preserve the racial integrity of its citizens,” and to prevent “the corruption of blood,” “a mongrel breed of citizens,” and “the obliteration of racial pride.” In shooting down the discriminatory law, the US Supreme Court all but laughed at these attempts to justify discrimination.

Anti-homosexual discrimination follows the same path, both socially and legally.

By way of example, compare the argument in Loving v. Virginia that anti-miscegenation laws do not violate the equal protection clause of the US Constitution because it treats blacks and whites equally – denying both races from getting married to someone from the opposite race:

“The State finds support for its “equal application” theory in the decision of the Court in Pace v. Alabama, 106 U.S. 583 (1883). In that case, the Court upheld a conviction under an Alabama statute forbidding adultery or fornication between a white person and a Negro which imposed a greater penalty than that of a statute proscribing similar conduct by members of the same race. The Court reasoned that the statute could not be said to discriminate against Negroes because the punishment for each participant in the offense was the same.”

with the recent brief filed by the Obama Department of Justice defending the Defense of Marriage Act (yes, the act Obama said during his campaign that he was committed to repeal):

“As an initial matter, plaintiffs misperceive the nature of the line that Congress has drawn. DOMA does not discriminate against homosexuals in the provision of federal benefits. To the contrary, discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation is prohibited in federal employment and in a wide array of federal benefits programs by law, regulation, and Executive order.... Section 3 of DOMA does not distinguish among persons of different sexual orientations, but rather it limits federal benefits to those who have entered into the traditional form of marriage.”

In both cases, the government tries to advance the weak argument that there is not discrimination, both blacks and whites and gays and straights are allowed to marry – just so long as they don’t marry the person they love.

The Loving court didn’t buy it:

“There can be no question but that Virginia's miscegenation statutes rest solely upon distinctions drawn according to race. The statutes proscribe generally accepted conduct if engaged in by members of different races. Over the years, this Court has consistently repudiated “[d]istinctions between citizens solely because of their ancestry” as being “odious to a free people whose institutions are founded upon the doctrine of equality.”

Hopefully, they won’t buy the same argument made by Obama.

Perhaps the fight for equality for homosexuals isn’t clear cut identical to that for African Americans, but one things for sure – the arguments are the same, as are those making them.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Heavenly Father

One dangerous theological practice is the transcribing of earthly paradigms to explain spiritual wonders. It is natural to attempt to explain the divine in terms that can be understood, but we must remember that analogies, similes and metaphors must be kept in their proper context.

It is a tenant of Christianity to presume that what made the Jews lose their way was their clinging to the Messiah as an earthly king, a saviour in the literal sense, rather than to expand their thinking to a broader, more spiritual sense. Notwithstanding, Christians continue to use the metaphor of “King” and “Saviour” to describe the Christ. What earthly paradigms do we Christians cling to?

My particular pet peeve is the reference to God as a “father.” On a micro level, it is a comforting and perhaps effective symbol – unconditional love, strong, caring, compassionate, protective – traits one would associate with a loving father. But on a macro level, the symbol is exactly the opposite of a father, and likely is the sort of bad theology that can lead to harmful assumptions about the divine.

When my first daughter was about 18 months old, we started leaving her at a daycare facility. She was uncomfortable and shy, as you’d expect, so I often stayed with her for some time to acclimate her prior to sneaking out. One morning I dropped her off particularly early and there were only 2 other children there, a girl, maybe 4 and her brother, about 2. They were sitting at a little child-sized table eating breakfast and I encouraged my daughter to go over and sit with them.

Unsure, my daughter took a few slow and waddly steps toward the two children when the older girl held up her hand and said, defiantly, “She can’t sit with us, she can’t even talk yet!” My daughter froze in her tracks and I, as any father would, resisted the overwhelming desire to drop kick this oppressor through the nearest window. My new-born fatherly instincts made me angry, protective, vengeful, proprietary and violent, which, to me, are natural reactions to injustice perpetrated at one’s child.

Now, I don’t see these instincts as being bad, necessarily, to the contrary, we should protect our children. We should give them preferential and deferential treatment. It is how society is structured and it works. But while I may not know much about God, I can pretty much assume that He has never had to resist the urge to drop kick a 4 year-old girl. And in my mind, that’s good – but it’s not fatherly.

The problem with thinking of God as father is that a father is not universally caring, loving, and protective, a father is disproportionately caring, loving, and protective of his children relative to others. This makes it difficult apply the metaphor on a global scale. Sure, we try to say that we are ALL God’s children, that we are ALL brothers and sisters. But if that were the case, then the analogy breaks down.

A father protects his children from harm. A father helps his children succeed. So what does it mean when I succeed and you fail? When I am free from harm and you are not? It is an easy leap, and one made all too often throughout religious history, that God is MY father and not YOUR father. Whether by race, ethnicity or good works God loves me more than you, just as an earthly father would.

And that’s dangerous.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Theology is Important: UPDATED

Theology, or, better put, our beliefs regarding God, religion and the divine in general are important – not only because these are important things that affect so many areas in our lives, but because our theology, individually and corporately, affect the choices we make, primarily when faced with challenging moral, ethical and judicial decisions. And the choices we make affect peoples’ lives.

When we think of the horrible things that we humans do to our fellow humans in the name of religion: the Inquisition; the Crusades; the 9/11 attacks on the US; the holocaust; violence against abortion clinics/doctors; protesting at funerals of homosexual soldiers, etc., etc., etc. – one can be certain that the instigators and perpetrators of these acts did not grow up in a church that preached violence and hatred. To the contrary, on most Sundays, in churches around the globe, children are told about love, about treating others the way you would like to be treated, about not killing, about giving to the poor, about helping your neighbor.

How then, do these children, who sit in churches just like we do and are taught just as we are, grow up to become violently extreme in their passionate defense of their fundamental beliefs? Because we do not teach children about the proper theology behind our beliefs. Truly, we don’t teach adults.

What I mean is; if we are taught to love because God is a God of love, who loves all people equally, and that all scripture should be interpreted around this value, as opposed to being taught to love because the scriptures are the literal word of God and the scriptures tell us to love, then we have a completely different understanding of what “love” is. Under the latter theological framework, “love” involves punishing those who don’t fall in line. It includes condemning to a fiery eternity those that don’t zealously advocate for their God. God’s “love” under this theology teaches that God favors those who are of a particular race, gender, sexual orientation, ethnicity, those that are “chosen” or “set apart.”

This theology of divine favoritism is affirmed by other traditional Christian dogma: God is magical and all-powerful. He (because God is male) can disrupt the physical laws and intervene in our lives to save us or harm us. As a result, those of us who are affluent, who are fortunate enough to be born in a wealthy country, to wealthy parents and have lead successful lives, have surely done so because we have “pleased” God and he has “blessed” us. Those who are homeless, helpless, and hungry, must therefore, by theological implication, find themselves in that condition based on being disfavored by God – likely for making poor choices that have inclined God to punish them.

Backed by a magical, all-powerful, vengeful God who rewards the faithful and punishes the infidels, it is no wonder that children in our nurseries and Sunday schools, grow up to be Fred Phelps, or Adolph Hitler, or Osama bin Laden, or Scott Roeder. And while it’s easy to say that we reject what they did, that we reject their interpretation of scripture – we cannot deny that the seeds of their theology were planted by those who did not think theology was that big a deal.

It was ok to tell kids that God loves Us more: “see, He gave these magical golden plates to us and no one else!” It’s harmless to recount the important fact that Mary was a virgin and that God can part seas and heal illnesses: “see, He’s magical!” It’s also harmless to tout God’s prowess on the battlefield in stories about the Israelites and the Philistines, David versus Goliath, Hebrews versus Egyptians, the early Saints versus their persecutors: “see, We win and They lose!”

And whenever there is a contradictory event; a blond Christian girl contracts cancer, a “good person” is killed in a plane accident, or a flood, or a terrorist attack? Well, in these cases, we are being “tested” or we are being “warned” or, the catchall: “ the Lord works in mysterious ways.”

Due to our poor theology, we are forced to come up with irrational excuses for the bad things that happen to us. There must be a reason, because we are so good and doing all the rights things, therefore the answer must be external to us. All too often, the excuse is that God is punishing us globally for the sins of some. Like the great flood of Noah’s time, We (the righteous) are being swept up in God’s anger and retribution toward Them (the gays, the immigrants, the jews, the blacks, the atheists, the Muslims, the liberals, etc. ad nauseum).

The natural response then is to force Them, legally, sociologically, politically and, if necessary, violently, to do the right thing; to be more like Us. So we send missionaries to convert them to be like us, we amend constitutions to require them to act like us, we reject laws which allow them to act other than like us, and, if all else fails, we go on crusades, start wars, bomb buildings, kill abortion doctors, drag homosexuals behind our cars and whatever else will finally convince them to stop doing what they are doing and, more importantly, to let God know that We are right and They are wrong.

So yes, in general, it’s probably pretty harmless to tell children that Jesus healed a blind man by touching his eyes. It’s probably pretty harmless to restrict membership to those who have been magically dunked in the proper way by one who is favorably anointed by God. It’s probably benign to teach kids that they can pray to God and God will use His magical powers to help them when they are in trouble.

But just as we eventually let them know that Santa Claus is just a symbol of the more important concept of giving and love, many Christian stories, traditions and sacraments, are not literal or magical, but are human expressions of the love of the divine that dwells within each one of us. God is love, and love is affirming, open and accepting. All the stories, all the drama, all the scriptures, all the sacraments are the product of humans seeking this truth and we need to stop elevating the stories above the truth.

And that’s important.


I'm not saying, ...I'm just saying.

Do any of you attend a church who preaches that your lord and saviour was killed by jews? Do any of you attend a church who believes the color of our skin is in any way an indicator of our favour with God? Anyone?