8 July 2007

If God’s on our side…

Today’s Boston Globe prints a really thoughtful piece by Charles Marsh on American evangelical Protestantism’s disunity with virtually the rest of Christianity.

From Pentecostals in Brazil to the Christian Councils of Ghana, from the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Antioch and All the East to the Anglican Bishop of Jerusalem, from Pope John Paul II to the The Waldensian Reformed Church of Italy and the Christian Conference of Asia, the voices of our brothers and sisters in the global ecumenical church spoke in unison.

Why did American evangelicals not pause for a moment in the rush to war to consider the near-unanimous disapproval of the global Christian community? The worldwide Christian opposition seems to me the most neglected story related to the religious debate about Iraq: Despite approval for the president’s decision to go to war by 87 percent of white evangelicals in April 2003, according to a Pew Charitable Trusts poll, almost every Christian leader in the world (and almost every nonevangelical leader in the United States) voiced opposition to the war.

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Posted in Politicks, Rayleejun on 8 July 2007 at 9:52 am by Nate
8 April 2007

Christos Anesti!

Courtesy of Anglicans Online:


re there any who are devout lovers of God?
Let them enjoy this beautiful bright festival!

Are there any who are grateful servants?
Let them rejoice and enter into the joy of their Lord!

Are there any weary with fasting?
Let them now receive their wages!

If any have toiled from the first hour,
let them receive their due reward;
If any have come after the third hour,
let him with gratitude join in the Feast!
And he that arrived after the sixth hour,
let him not doubt; for he too shall sustain no loss.
And if any delayed until the ninth hour,
let him not hesitate; but let him come too.
And he who arrived only at the eleventh hour,
let him not be afraid by reason of his delay.
For the Lord is gracious and receives the last even as the first.
He gives rest to him that comes at the eleventh hour,
as well as to him that toiled from the first.

To this one He gives, and upon another He bestows.
He accepts the works as He greets the endeavor.
The deed He honors and the intention He commends.
Let us all enter into the joy of the Lord!

First and last alike receive your reward;
rich and poor, rejoice together!
Sober and slothful, celebrate the day!
You that have kept the fast, and you that have not,
rejoice today for the Table is richly laden!

Feast royally on it, the calf is a fatted one.
Let no one go away hungry. Partake, all, of the cup of faith.
Enjoy all the riches of His goodness!

Let no one grieve at his poverty,
for the universal kingdom has been revealed.

Let no one mourn that he has fallen again and again;
for forgiveness has risen from the grave.

Let no one fear death, for the Death of our Savior has set us free.
He has destroyed it by enduring it.
He destroyed Hell when He descended into it.
He put it into an uproar even as it tasted of His flesh.

Isaiah foretold this when he said,
“You, O Hell, have been troubled by encountering Him below.”
Hell was in an uproar because it was done away with.
It was in an uproar because it is mocked.
It was in an uproar, for it is destroyed.
It is in an uproar, for it is annihilated.
It is in an uproar, for it is now made captive.

Hell took a body, and discovered God.
It took earth, and encountered Heaven.
It took what it saw, and was overcome by what it did not see.

O death, where is thy sting?
O Hell, where is thy victory?

Christ is Risen, and you, o death, are annihilated!
Christ is Risen, and the evil ones are cast down!
Christ is Risen, and the angels rejoice!
Christ is Risen, and life is liberated!

Christ is Risen, and the tomb is emptied of its dead;
for Christ having risen from the dead,
is become the first-fruits of those who have fallen asleep.

To Him be Glory and Power forever and ever. Amen!

The Easter sermon of John Chrysostom (circa 400 AD)

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Posted in Rayleejun on 8 April 2007 at 8:34 am by Nate
7 April 2007

The tomb, the Resurrection, and the rock stars

As i sat about earlier today, doing some work, I had the computer playing track on random. Rather by coincidence, a couple of songs from U2’s Pop came on. Now Pop is the album that you only own (especially since it’s been 10 years since it was released) if you are dedicated to U2. Pop was the nadir of U2 and 1990s irony. After they “went away and made it all up again” in the early 1990s with Achtung Baby (which is certainly among the greatest rock albums of all time), they descended further and further into irony, jadedness, sarcasm, and darkness. The shows became bigger and bigger, full of production and bubble gum. They shamelessly celebrated commercialism and shallowness and repudiated earnestness and sincerity.

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Posted in Rayleejun on 7 April 2007 at 4:08 pm by Nate
20 March 2007

Why we study history

“Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to care for orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world.” Epistle of James, 1.27

In the third and early fourth century of the common era, the Christian church underwent significant persecution. Under this persecution, when the authorities came after Christians, the temptation from fear to save one’s own life by denouncing others proved all too great, for clergy and laity alike. Preists and bishops committed apostasy, renouncing their faith. But when the church was made official under Constantine in 313, a significant question arose: What should be done with the apostate clergy? (It’s worthwhile noting here that the issue was one of theology AND of labor supply. There were serious issues around the sacraments, but also around having sufficient clergy to serve in Christianity’s new status.)
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Posted in Politicks, Rayleejun on 20 March 2007 at 9:15 am by Nate
6 November 2006

Radio Open Source guest

So let’s update the previous post. I’m going to be on the show. Here’s the e-mail I sent to a few friends.

So perhaps you’ve been following the news about the powerful evangelical pastor in Colorado who was recently outed, in response to his position on a ballot question dealing with gay marriage. It’s quite interesting, to say the least.

As most of you know, I have this “sideline” interest in religion and politics. And as a result of that (and things I’ve said in public about the matter), I’ve been invited to appear on Radio Open Source  www.radioopensource.org) this evening, to offer a few comments about the matter, and to talk about evangelical matters (in which I apparently have some expertise). They tell me I’ll be on in the last third of the show. (They’re taping in advance this afternoon.)

The show’s on WGBH, 89.7 in the Boston area, from 7 to 8 PM EST. You can also listen on wgbh.org, or you can subscribe to Open Source’s podcast and download the show tomorrow.

So take a listen and eagerly await to see if and when I stick my foot in my mouth!

Posted in Rayleejun on 6 November 2006 at 4:17 pm by Nate

Haggard, etc.

Responding to a thread over at Radio Open Source this morning, on the whole Ted Haggard event. The post started with an excerpt from Jeff Sharlet’s article on conservative Christian reactions to sexuality.

The oversexed female as public enemy has been replaced by the oversexed male; and in the worst case scenario, he is gay…”The gay man” is the new seductress sent by Satan to tempt the men of Christendom. He takes what he wants and loves whom he will and his life, in the imagination of Christian men’s groups, is an endless succession of orgasms, interrupted only by jocular episodes of male bonhomie. The gay man promises a guilt-free existence, the garden before Eve. He is thought to exist in the purest state of “manhood,” which is boyhood, before there were girls…

[Christian conservatives] love the gay man because he is a siren, and his song is alluring; and because they believe that the siren is nonetheless stranded at sea, singing in desperation from a slippery perch on a jagged outcrop of stone. The gay man, they imagine, is calling to them; and they believe they are calling back — as if all of human sexuality was a grand and tragic game of Marco Polo.

Jeff Sharlet, Sex as a Weapon, Nerve, 2005

And I noted the following:

Back to Ted Haggard. I have to say that I feel both pity and a sense of relief at the news. (Although when he immediately resigned his positions even while denying the allegations, I figured that he’d change his story eventually.) I feel pity for him because the closet is a frightening, god-awful place; if there is a hell, it will be like the closet, where you feel isolated, alone, cut off from God and other people by your unbearable secret. And I feel pity because I hate to see another human and another Christian in so much obvious pain.

And yet I feel relief and perhaps even some vindication, because a man who’s persecuted many people — as a means of wiping out his own perceived immorality — cannot do that anymore.

One thing that’s funny about the conservative Christian man, as Jeff Sharlet begins to touch on in the excerpt above, is how he keeps trying to sail closer and closer to that siren song. Groups like the Promisekeepers, the church “men’s group”, male-only prayer breakfast groups, and such all encourage character that many often consider “gay.” Men are supposed to open up, discuss their feelings, to bond deeply and emotionally with other men in the group, to encourage “intimacy” (of a non-sexual sort, of course) among the members, and to create that sort of bonhomie we’ve been talking about. Funnily enough, the men involved recognize the “gayness” of what they’re engaging in, and so they concurrently go deeper while still (sometimes) mocking the lack of manliness they are part of. And for gay men involved in these sorts of churches and parachurch activites, this must be like putting a sumptuous feast in front of someone who’s known nothing but rice and water for his whole life.

Conservative Christians, I think, believe that they are rescuing the sirens from their lonely outcrops, where gay men are stranded and cut off from their own humanity. But the reality seems to be that these Christians are rescuing themselves, coming closer to siren gays so that they may complete their own humanity. In some sense, it is these Christians who are stuck on the lonely outcrops of rock in the middle of an ocean, finding some redemption in that which they often resist.

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Posted in Rayleejun on 6 November 2006 at 9:36 am by Nate
13 July 2006

Breath of sensible air

Rowan Williams puts it nicely:

We may be in a thorough mess, but at least we shall not mislead anyone into supposing that the power and wisdom of God depend on the smooth coherence of the Church of England’s workings.

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Posted in Rayleejun on 13 July 2006 at 8:41 am by Nate
27 March 2006

First things first

Interesting and excellent TNR article (reg required, I think, but just use BugMeNot) on the faulty theology of Richard John Neuhaus, the conservative Catholic, and his misuse of natural law arguments.

Posted in Rayleejun on 27 March 2006 at 5:04 pm by Nate
17 March 2006

Hallelujah! (Even in Lent)

One of the reasons I continue to believe in God, insofar as I have any
will in the matter, is because there are human events that seem to make
more sense in that light.  One of the reasons I believe in the
Christian story of God is because it posits God’s direct sharing in our
lives through the mystery of the Incarnation; that enfleshing allows
God to get under our skin, if you’ll allow a pun.

And I think that James Tramel’s story
may provide a small signifier of the presence of God in our
world.  Working through other people, he’s a different man, one
who cares about others and who has given his life to them through the
experience of helping to end a life and losing his own as a result.

Posted in Rayleejun on 17 March 2006 at 8:51 am by Nate
1 March 2006

Seems worth repeating

A repeat of last year’s post…but it’s appropriate.

From “Ash Wednesday” by Thomas Stearns Eliot:

…And pray to God to have mercy upon us
And pray that I may forget
These matters that with myself I too much discuss
Too much explain
Because I do not hope to turn again
Let these words answer
For what is done, not to be done again
May the judgement not be too heavy upon us

Because these wings are no longer wings to fly
But merely vans to beat the air
The air which is now thoroughly small and dry
Smaller and dryer than the will
Teach us to care and not to care
Teach us to sit still.

Pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death
Pray for us now and at the hour of our death….

Posted in Rayleejun on 1 March 2006 at 11:36 pm by Nate