Sunday, April 26, 2009

A Nonjudgmental Presence

To the degree that we accept that through Christ we ourselves have been reconciled with God we can be messengers of reconciliation for others. Essential to the work of reconciliation is a nonjudgmental presence. We are not sent to the world to judge, to condemn, to evaluate, to classify, or to label. When we walk around as if we have to make up our minds about people and tell them what is wrong with them and how they should change, we only create more division. Jesus says it clearly, "Be compassionate just as your Father is compassionate. Do not judge; ... do not condemn; ... forgive" (Luke 6:36-37).

In a world that constantly asks us to make up our minds about other people, a nonjudgmental presence seems nearly impossible. But it is one of the most beautiful fruits of a deep spiritual life and will be easily recognized by those who long for reconciliation.

-Henri Nouwen, Bread For the Journey

Friday, April 17, 2009


There's always interesting stuff out there in (and beyond) the blogosphere...

-This essay nicely articulates why I view 'liberal' and 'conservative' as opposite faces of the same authoritarian coin.

-Over the past couple of years I've come to see the doctrine of inerrancy as not only unbiblical, but ultimately detrimental to the Christian faith. And now there's a book out that helps to document the latter point.

-Via my friend Eric, this story illustrates how it is possible for us to come together even if we disagree on significant issues.

-Mike and Mel White were my favorite team on this season of the Amazing Race. Here's an interview with Mel that will be of interest to anyone who watches the show.

-I love Stephen Colbert. Not that I always agree with him on everything, but this is an awesome parody.

-Finally, who doesn't love it when the 'ugly duckling' turns out to be a beautiful swan?

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Life Soundtrack 13

Fade to Grey, by Jars of Clay

A poetic illustration of the relationship between faith and doubt, and our yearning to have everything spelled out for us in black and white. The phrase "fade to grey" also aptly captures how it feels to transition from Stage Three to Stage Four in one's faith.

Thursday, April 09, 2009

Defending 'Truth' By Telling Lies, Part 5

Sadly, I could make this a daily series if I had the time and the energy to devote to it, but fortunately there are other bloggers who are willing to undertake the massive task of keeping up with all of the religious right's disingenuous claims.

Maggie Gallagher is certainly no stranger to making bizarre arguments, but while incoherence isn't a sin, it shouldn't be unreasonable to hope that someone claiming to speak on God's behalf would still consider honesty a virtue. Granted, her new television ad is savvy enough to stay out of the realm of legally prosecutable lies, but it is blatantly dishonest all the same, as Jim Burroway has documented.

It's not unreasonable to express concern that growing acceptance of gay marriage could someday lead to government encroachment on religious freedom where the two issues intersect; our government's track record is far from perfect when it comes to respecting the constitutional rights of its citizens. But blowing existing cases out of proportion (and out of context) is ultimately a counterproductive exercise, especially when accompanied by an attitude that shouts "We must oppress you so that you can't oppress us."

There are good reasons that so many gay individuals (and more than a few straight people) have left the evangelical church, none of which you're likely to ever hear in an evangelical setting. The title of this post holds a clue to one of those reasons...

Update: Not related to Gallagher's commercial, but Jason Kuznicki's post about Rick Warren's recent lie (and Gallagher's response) is relevant to the broader subject and worth reading...

Thursday, April 02, 2009

Upside Down

Via Andrew Sullivan, I came across this essay by Richard Grant on the relationship of faith and science. As a recovering creationist myself (an old-earth creationist since college, but a creationist all the same), I thought these two points were especially pertinent:

I’m not saying that faith fails to be faith if there’s proof. I’m saying that if your ‘proof’ is shown to be false then you’re utterly screwed. So if you tie your faith to a ‘proof’ you actually end up trying to prove that your proof is true, rather than seeking out ‘truth’. Which is the cleft stick Creationists find themselves in.


What happens when those you trust are shown not just to be wrong, but deceitful? Those people who told you that the creation story in Genesis is literally true, that there really was a global flood that killed every living being, that the Revelation is a literal account of the end of the world — and who make those things necessary items of faith — what do you do when you realize they were lying to you (intentionally or otherwise)?

Interestingly, the ex-gay movement finds itself in a parallel dilemma. Rather than remaining open to the possibility that it might not already know it all, the evangelical church attached itself to a psychological theory that seemed to explain the phenomenon of homosexuality in a way that validated all of its dogma related to human sexuality.

Elizabeth Moberly's rehash of old Freudian ideas allowed the church to continue thinking itself compassionate as it reinforced the notion (based on a questionable interpretation of Gen. 1:27) that everyone is, at their core, heterosexual. Any deviations from that God-ordained norm were simply psychological issues that could be cleared up through proper counseling, and any evidence that this might not be accurate has been summarily dismissed and denounced as evil propaganda. No further reflection on the matter was (or would ever be) needed.

Thus the ex-gay movement was founded on the assumption that all homosexuals could develop heterosexual attractions, given the right tools. Since homosexuality was defined as an unnatural twisting of an individual's true nature, it followed that same-sex relationships could never be healthy or stable, and that gays could never be truly happy unless they renounced that 'false' identity in favor of naming and claiming their God-given heterosexuality.

As time has shown that the vast majority of homosexuals cannot change their attractions, and as the scientific evidence has increasingly pointed toward biological factors as the predominant determinants of one's sexual orientation, Exodus and its allies have found themselves trapped between a rock and a hard place. Having tied their theology so closely to a specific theory about the cause and mutability of homosexuality, many within the the ex-gay movement have come to conflate discarding those mistaken ideas with rejection of the Christian faith altogether.

Thus we now witness the spectacle of ex-gay spokespersons engaging in rhetorical acrobatics to deny that "change," "heterosexuality" and the rest of their catchphrases mean what they seem to mean, even as they stubbornly refuse to plainly state what they actually mean. To do otherwise would require admitting that they were wrong about some very significant things - and humility has never been an abundant commodity within American evangelicalism.

Nonetheless, there are ex-gay leaders who have publicly acknowledged their error without abandoning their faith. Some of them have even maintained a more traditional Christian stance on sexuality even as they have adapted their programs to better reflect the realities of what it means to be a gay Christian living under that belief system. That the leadership of Exodus is too proud to do the same suggests that they have invested far too much in being right to effectively help those they claim to be here to serve.