Methodist Church Trial This Week! Or: Nihilism, Homosexuality, Pennsylvania, Oath-taking, and Satan

In Sophocles’ Antigone our tragic heroine demonstrates to us what is regarded as one of the greatest moral principles of the Western world:  when the laws of the state require one to do something against one’s own religion, or when following one’s own religious beliefs become categorized as against the law, the right thing to do is to follow your religious practices above the laws of the state.  The legends of Socrates and Jesus, and their traditions, confirm and validate this virtue in the ancient world.

But what to do when religion causes one to break religious laws?  Christianity has always worked through the tensions of what happens when doctrine become dogma, and when either become enforced—sometimes enforced despite of or in spite of contradictory doctrine or flying in the face of tradition.

This is what is being played out in the church trial of a United Methodist pastor from Lebanon County, Pennsylvania, Rev. Frank Schaefer.  Read the rest of this entry »

I am Larry David: Gay Marriage and “Julia” Ad edition

I am so tired of talking about gay marriage.  Maybe it’s the crowds I surf, maybe I am a pretentious elitist with the luxury of thinking about such issues critically, maybe it’s the denominational identity I have chosen, maybe it’s the denominational heritage I have been forced out of and later abandoned myself.  But I’m so tired of the conversation.  So here I go again on it.

I was in Washington, DC, at the Children, Youth, and a New Kind of Christianity conference when President Obama announced his safe and disengenuous endorsement of gay marriage as a response to the North Carolina amendment passed just hours before.  There was an air of excitement around the conference, who were getting texts and tweets trickling in about the news on their $300 iPhones, and a few talks in the conference were on such radical ideas as acknowledging that gay people are in your community, and if they dare to show up in your church for some reason, you should welcome their children, etc.  Instead of peeing myself with excitement or sweating on the upper lip as these Reformed mainlers and wannabe hipster emergents were doing at the conference, I do what I always do, which is listen to the crazy people who host right-wing radio to hear what the Other Side is thinking, and the immediate response was “President Obama is making a non-issue an issue.  President Obama is using this issue as a smokescreen to avoid talking about his record.”  Is this really the best conservatives can come up with, to claim that the President keeps bringing the issue up while celebrating their own legislation being passed in North Carolina?

In the last couple of months I have been in some fairly involved conversations with church based or faith based groups about gay marriage.  People don’t believe me when I say that I am honestly tired of talking about it.  Folks think I have something to hide about it by just being tired of talking about it.  Yet here I am, to repeat, talking about it more. Read the rest of this entry »

I can’t believe I read the whole thing

It’s been a long time since we’ve criticized one of Milbank’s interventions, and his seemingly infinitely long piece on gay marriage may present a good opportunity.

On one point, we agree: “In effect, if marriage is now understood as a lifelong sexual contract between any two adult human persons with no specification of gender, then the allowance of gay marriage renders all marriages ‘gay marriages.’” Yet the conclusion he draws from this is strange, involving an idiosyncratic definition of “clear-thinking”: “Given such a situation, were it not for the space afforded by canon law (namely, the possibility of church marriage) a resort to cohabitation – which has hitherto been understood as ‘common-law marriage’ – would be the only logical path for clear-thinking Christians.”

Gay marriage and birth control: Why not?

A question that is often asked of those who oppose gay marriage is, “Why do you care?” After all, no one is proposing making gay marriage mandatory. What your neighbors do in the privacy of their own bedroom should be their business, etc., etc.

All this is true. But what changes when gay marriage is allowed — or even when homosexuality becomes a publicly affirmable preference — is not what goes on in the privacy of their own bedroom. Homoerotic encounters have occurred in basically all known human cultures, and honest conservatives (starting with Plato) have acknowledged that this is more or less inevitable. What disturbs opponents of gay marriage isn’t so much the gay sex as the public acceptability of gay relationships.

Read the rest of this entry »

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