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Posts Tagged ‘Christianity’

To my Church family:

When it comes to the fight over gay rights in Iowa I find myself in a peculiar position.  For my entire life I have been a Christian and for my entire life I have been straight.  Growing up this way in this state that I call my home I have truly never known the sting of persecution.  On top of that I can’t even boast having a single gay family member or close gay friend.  By all standards I have nothing to lose or to gain from the debate over gay and lesbian rights in Iowa.  Why, then, do I even care?

I care because, in the words of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”  I care because, as a Christian, it is my duty to stand on the side of justice and to protect those to whom justice would be denied.

Many times in the past we Christians have found ourselves standing on the wrong side of history.  So many times we have taken a stand along side prejudice thinly veiled in a cloak of false piety.  We have fought unholy battles only to find ourselves stained and humiliated in the aftermath.  The past lays bare our sins before us.  This time, though, we still have a chance to change that.  We can stand beside the oppressed with faith and with love.  We can be champions of justice and messengers of peace.  Then when we stand before our Lord one day He can truly say to us, “For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me.”

This time around we can find ourselves on the right side of history.  When our descendants look back on us might they see not a fearful people who hated their neighbor but a people who shown so boldly with the love of God that Love and Justice became synonymous with the title of Christian.

We are once again being presented with a choice and it is a choice we cannot ignore.  Which side will we land on?  That is something only we can tell.

With Love,

Tylor

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Earlier this week I was reading in the paper about a split that occurred in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA).  It seems that several congregations have chosen to split off into their own denomination citing the controversy of the ELCA’s decision to allow non-celibate homosexuals to become ordained pastors.  While such controversies are not so uncommon these days there was one sentiment from a congregate that caught my attention:

For too many Lutherans today, “it’s the Gospel of acceptance, rather than the Gospel of redemption — love conquers all kind of thing,” he said.

“You don’t have to worry about obedience, or sanctification, or any of those issues – you just love everybody and that’ll be fine,” Winkler said.

I understand such a sentiment since it is one I have felt myself many times before.  It seems that in America Christian culture and Western culture have become intertwined to the point where the spiritual life of the individual is emphasized far above the life of the community.  While such an occurrence has benefited the American church in some ways it has been detrimental in others.  Such laissez faire faith and aimless acceptance are often the by-product of this increased individuality.

However, I do not believe that this is what is happening within the ELCA.  You see, the movement of many churches towards open acceptance of homosexuality is not a result of cultural omni-acceptance. Instead it is part of a greater movement in the modern Church to reevaluate its historical beliefs.  The Church is beginning to understand that an understanding of theology is not static but a fluid endeavorer requiring constant challenge and effort.  In this particular case the reevaluation has caused a split in the church but it is not a split caused by individualism or hyper-acceptance run amok.  Here what we are seeing is the members of each side of the debate seeking the strength of community.  On the side of the ELCA its members are seeking to create a community where homosexuals are welcomed into the fold while on the side of the new denomination its members are seeking to live in a community where where their convictions are upheld.  Each came to a different conclusion but each reacted in the same way by seeking to create an interdependent and God-honoring community.

It is simply a fact of life that different people will come to different conclusions at different times.  Though unfortunate, sometimes church splits like this one are necessary in order to maintain functioning communities.  At the same time these splits in denominations need not be a split in the Church as a whole. As long as dialog remains between the different branches then the community of the Church remains across all theological boundaries.

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The issue of abortion has always been a bit of an odd one for my Christian-independent-moderate-liberal mind to process.  If I need to be put on the spot about it I can say that I am pro-life but beyond that it gets a little more complicated.  While I personally feel that in most cases abortion shouldn’t be an option and in the remaining cases it should be a last resort sort of option I don’t believe that an outright ban on abortion will solve anything.

I think in the time since Roe v. Wade was decided in 1973 we have forgotten that one of the primary reasons for legalizing abortion was to put an end to the then common and extremely dangerous practice of “back-ally” abortions.  In other words, abortion was legalized so that it could be closely and safely regulated.  In effect, legalizing abortion did not create the practice but instead served to wrangle it in.

It may be helpful to compare the time before Roe v. Wade to the age of alcohol prohibition in the 1920’s.  During that time we saw a legal banning of something that a large portion of the people wanted and felt they needed.  This led to the explosion of bootlegging, speakeasy’s, and more than one black market empire.  The lesson here is that enough people feel that something is their right to have then the law will be either subverted or disregarded in order to get it.

So if abortion should not be made a crime but we Christians still believe it to be wrong then what approach should we take towards the issue?  In this case the best option for the convicted Christian to take is to step away from the political and legal process and instead find grassroots and community ways of reducing abortions and providing alternatives.  By no means should we demonize those involved in abortion or those considering the treatment.  That itself would be a great evil on our part.  Instead we should be reaching out to these people in love and support.  What would it look like if Christians stopped camping out in front of abortion clinics with pickets and slurs towards already emotional and distraught women and instead offered those women love and care?  What if we offered to pay for their medical bills, house them in our own homes, and welcome the unexpected child into our own families through adoption?  Wouldn’t that be far more Christian than simply telling people they have to have their baby but from there they are on their own?  We are called to love our neighbors and that means we must set aside judgment and care for them in their darkest times.

For they will know we are Christians by our love.

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There has been one thing about American Christian culture that has always concerned me (okay, there are many things but let’s focus on one) and it has come to my attention again with the recent developments in the Middle East.  My concern is with the seemingly unquestioning loyalty the Christian Right has towards the state of Israel.  I was reminded of this while reading this in the Des Moines Register opinion section this morning:

Given all of the facts, which Basu chooses to omit as they do not further her predetermined view, the vast majority of the American Christian population supports Israel’s position – despite the biased media. They see Hamas correctly, as just an extension of al-Qaida.

While the details of the resent raiding of a Gaza bound aid flotilla are certainly debatable there is little doubt that the raid (and perhaps the blockade in general) was handled very poorly.  Why, then, is it still considered taboo for American Christians to be critical of Israel’s actions?

All of my life I have encountered an attitude in conservative Christian circles that treated alliance with the state of Israel as a point of religious duty.  Many go so far as to believe that any act in opposition to Israel will bring on the demise of the opposer.  This has led many to simply turn a blind eye to some of the more questionable practices and aggressions of the state of Israel.  Is this really the Christian thing to do?

Now I am not saying that the United States should not have Israel as an ally.  Instead I am suggesting that the United States as a whole and American Christians in particular should treat Israel by the true principles of friendship: encouraging good behavior and holding them accountable for wrong doings.  How can we ever expect Israelis and Palestinians to achieve any kind of peace if we are only willing to hold one side accountable?

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There was a story in the Des Moines Register a few days back that caught my eye.  It seems that there was a stir at the little high school just down the road from where I grew up.  What happened was the local shop teacher at this school was suspended after refusing to let a student build a Wiccan altar in shop class.  Though I do think the teacher likely acted a bit too rashly and should have followed the school’s policys in the matter his action isn’t the one that most bothered me.  Instead it was this bit:

Almost 70 students signed a petition last week saying they didn’t want witchcraft practiced at the school.

This is a very small (about 180 student) rural school so this relatively large number concerned me a bit.  It indicates to me that there is a serious lack of knowledge in the area of religions when such a small event can provoke such a fearful reaction.  Having grown up in the area I am familiar with the attitudes behind such a reaction and would like to propose a solution.

It seems to me that one of the biggest things missing from public education in America is any sort of education about religion.  I would guess that this is mostly a result of the separation of church and state (point of the constitution I am rather fond of myself) but I think we may be doing ourselves a disservice here.  While public schools should not evangilise any religion it would be a great service to students and to the community to teach students objectively about the beliefs and religions of the world.  After all, there is hardly anything in human society that religion does not influence in one way or another.  To white wash such things from our schools is to leave our children ignorant the way our world works on a basic level.

Thoughts?

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This post was inspired in part by a post found on gamecritics.com called “Man vs. Man: Kanji Tatsumi’s sexuality in Persona 4“.

Recently I began replaying one of my favorite games, Persona 4, and I was reminded that there is one character in the game that I always found particularly compelling and interesting.  That character is Kanji Tatsumi.

As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, the underlying theme of Persona 4’s story is what happens when people are forced to confront the parts of themselves that they had alway denied (and seeing it physically personified before them).  For Kanji this lead to facing the personification of his sexual doubt:

I found it compelling not only because Kanji had to struggle to come to terms with his inner feelings but that the game also suggested that it was the societal assumptions about masculine and feminine traits that made it such a difficult shadow to face.  This shadow was not only the way Kanji view the self he was denying but also how he believed society viewed him. Thus why he felt it had to be hidden.

If you’ve been reading here a while you’ll remember that I recently wrote advocating a Christian acceptance of homosexuality.  In that post I suggested that homosexuals are one of the most oppressed people groups in our society today and that our forcing homosexual people to remain closeted is not only wrong but dangerous.  I think this game may suggest a similar message.

Video games these days are often accused of being hyper-sexualized and juvenile so it is very encouraging to see an example of my art-form of choice  that can approach something as complex as sexuality is such a thoughtful and candid way.  Perhaps we will see more like this in the future.

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Pat Robertson (and people in a similar position) makes me angry.  He makes me fighting angry.  He makes me angry because it seems like no matter how hard I work to try and change the way Christianity is preconceived and represent it faithfully little stupid comments can instantly tear all that work down.  It makes me feel like I’m trying to turn back the tide with a bucket.

If you haven’t heard I am referring Robertson’s recent comments concerning the tragedy in Haiti.  Burnside Writers Collective said it better than I can:

I do not want to share the name “Christian” with someone who sins so recklessly and flagrantly against thousands of suffering people on national television.

It’s time for moderate to liberal Evangelicals get angry out loud. We are called to love, but we are also called to justice. We are called to discernment. I am tired of people telling me not to be judgmental when I decry the presence of evil in the Body of Christ. Just once, I’d like to toss the disclaimer about this being my opinion and respecting everyone’s perspective, etc. That’s usually appropriate, but not this time.

Can we get angry together now?

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