Thinking Out Loud

May 17, 2013

Exploiting Communion to Make a Political Statement

Rainbow Communion Bread

I believe my good-better-best approach to the whole gay debate is much healthier response to the issue of Christians and homosexuality than the hardline, binary right-and-wrong approach that’s more prevalent.   In that respect, I think the Christian gay community have a better ally than this blog than I might get credit for; though some progressive Christians will consider me conservative nonetheless.

But the decision by Jay Bakker to create a rainbow themed communion bread on the occasion of the opening of his church’s new location in Minnesota clearly crosses a line — for reasons I get into below — though not everybody feels that way.   For example, if you don’t know the story, Tony Jones describes it:

Last night, Courtney and I were on hand to help our dear friend, Jay Bakker, launch the new Minneapolis site of Revolution Church.  You can hear Jay’s inaugural sermon, “Vulgar Grace Throws the First Stone.”

The photo above is a detail shot by Courtney of the rainbow communion bread that we contributed to the service. We baked that loaf — the same loaf that Courtney baked with our friends Rachel and Rachet for our (sacramental) wedding — in support of marriage equality. Jay has been an outspoken proponent of marriage equality and has performed several same-sex weddings. When he broke the bread last night, Jay told us to remember not just the broken body of Jesus, but also the broken bodies and spirits of many GLBT persons who have been persecuted for their non-heterosexuality.

At the blog Juicy Ecumenism (yes, that’s its name) we read another account:

Complementing the rainbow bread, Bakker spoke on grace and inclusion, focusing on St. Paul, who “gets grace the most,” as he was a ruthless persecutor of Christians before his conversion. “The Bible is full of unperfect [sic] people” and it was “murderers and traitors … literally starting a faith, being part of a faith and that’s what I would call the good news,” Bakker said. He added that Martin Luther King, Jr. and Ghandi also “Really got the idea of what inclusion was meant to be, what loving your enemy was meant to be, what loving your neighbor.”

At Huffington Post:

Bakker reports that the rainbow communion has gotten people questioning his orthodoxy. He responds that “I don’t think Jesus is insecure about sharing communion with others, including gay folks who suffered. So many lives have been lost because of what Christians say and preach. Heterosexisim and homophobia are deadly.”

I don’t want to give a lot of space to this issue. I know this is an issue about which Bakker and Jones and many others are truly passionate.

However when you are also remembering the plight of people in the LGBT community when you are supposed to be remembering the death of Jesus, then you are creating a mixed meaning to the communion service, and making the remembrance of Christ’s death share the stage with some contemporary social issue.

But there is also the issue of altering the symbol used in the sacrament. True, Jesus lived in a world without food coloring, but we have to believe that when the scriptures say “He took bread and brake it;” we are looking at bread that free and clear of any additional symbolism, references, advertising or fortune cookie message. The formula is: The bread = Christ’s body, broken for you. There is no room here to add anything or manipulate this Eucharistic formula.

And why stop at rainbow coloring? There are other “ribbon” colors. Shall we observe a particularly colored bread on behalf of those who suffered child abuse or are fighting cancer? 

No.  The broken body of Jesus Christ is for the forgiveness of sin. And woe to anyone (see Rev. 22) who adds anything to that.

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May 14, 2013

Rob Bell Defending His Position on Gay Christians

Filed under: issues — Tags: , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 7:52 am

I am indebted to Trevin Wax for making me aware of today’s featured video. If you want to go deeper, be sure to read his analysis on what you see here.

Maybe you’re just tired of this topic. I get that. And the video runs 21 minutes and doesn’t mince words. But I think this is significant on a number of grounds.

First of all, Rob explains himself very well here, if only because the program hosts don’t allow him any escape. On the other hand, he’s not exactly on the ropes, either; he knows what he believes on this topic, and articulates it better here than I’ve seen elsewhere.

Second, Andrew Wilson clearly disagrees, but he so well models what Christian disagreement should look like. Trevin said, “Kudos to Andrew Wilson for maintaining his composure as he gently presses Rob not only to be clear on his position, but also to reveal the grounding for the position. Too often, discussions on this issue are so focused on the tip of the iceberg that the foundational, grounding elements of the argument are assumed and never made explicit.”

Third — and this at the core of where you lean on this issue — is the whole issue as to which of the Levitical prohibitions apply today and which do not. Wilson asks, “Is it a question of hermeneutics, or is it a question of exegesis?”  (That sound you hear is hundreds of readers clicking away as this distinction may be confusing to many, including one blog host. Reader thoughts on how to clarify this for the average reader are welcomed.) Trevin Wax noted, “Rob answers by appealing to the way the world is in order to make his case. He believes the church must affirm the world as it is.

Fourth, there are the amazing wrap up moments where Wilson says he would not call Bell “liberal,” and where Bell affirms the brotherhood of those who disagree with him, or him with them.

November 3, 2012

Greg Boyd Tackles Politically Hot Issues

“We all fall down; the difference between a saint and a sinner is that we get up again.” ~Greg Boyd.

Sometimes before Greg Boyd, pastor of Woodland Hills Church in Minneapolis, starts his sermon, he takes a few minutes to look at the issue(s) of the day.

In this case 20 minutes.

The issue is the Gay Marriage Amendment. But it’s not about the issue. It’s about how Christians ought to handle all issues of this nature. It’s about finding a third way between the extremes.

“The arch-enemy of God in scripture is Satan and he’s called the accuser; the who points out peoples’ sin and holds it against them. The shocking and tragic truth is that this has been the role that the church has played throughout history.” ~Greg Boyd

Apologies to those of you who live in areas where you can’t enjoy these video embeds. I fought using them here for nearly three years but there is simply soooooo much material that deserves wider exposure.

“The sins that the church in America tend to be most guilty of… tend to be the ones that are most emphatically denounced in scripture.” ~Greg Boyd.

“So if we’re doing our job as ministers of reconciliation, we should be the last people on the planet that would ever point out someone else’s sin if they haven’t invited us to do so, and hold it against them” ~Greg Boyd

May 29, 2012

Gay and Christian: The Issue of the Week, Month, Year, Decade

Last year at this time, the Christian blogosphere was still working through the aftermath of Rob Bell’s almost-denial of the existence of hell; but when the decade as a whole is analyzed, it will be the issue of homosexuality that has generated the most heat.

This time around, unlike at his non-blog, Southern Baptist prez Dr. Albert Mohler, Jr. was unable to turn off comments, which probably number around 7,100 as you read this.

At CNN’s Belief Blog, Mohler deals with the issue, “If the Levitical laws still apply why do we eat shellfish?”  As someone who was treated to a rare lobster dinner on Saturday night, I have a personal stake in this issue.  Mohler’s response is to direct inquiries to Acts 10, where Peter is told, ““What God has made clean, do not call common.” (vs 15)  But he says this is limited to the kosher food laws.

Some people then ask, “What about slavery and polygamy?” In the first place, the New Testament never commands slavery, and it prizes freedom and human dignity. For this reason, the abolitionist movement was largely led by Christians, armed with Christian conviction.

The Old Testament did allow for polygamy, though it normalizes heterosexual monogamy. In the New Testament, Jesus made clear that marriage was always meant to be one man and one woman.

“Have you not read that He who created them made them male and female?” Jesus asked in Matthew. “Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.” For this reason, Christians have opposed polygamy on biblical grounds.

In other words, Mohler believes that this New Testament passage affirms marriage as being between a man and a woman.  (A right the LGBT has lobbied for aggressively, but an issue that really forms a small subset of the greater issue of behavior and practice.)

Mohler speaks with the authority of his office, but I’m not sure his words would convince someone better versed in a gay-and-Christian apologetic.

Or, as it turns out, even those outside the gay movement like Fred Clark at the blog Slacktivist

I should note here that Mohler’s interpretation of Peter’s vision is widely held and quite popular among American Christians. (I wrote about this earlier in “The Abominable Shellfish: Why some Christians hate gays but love bacon.”)

But while popular, this view utterly contradicts Peter’s own interpretation of his vision. If Mohler is right, then Peter was wrong. If Peter was right, then Mohler is wrong.

For Peter, his rooftop vision wasn’t about kosher dietary laws — it was about people. He says this explicitly: “God has shown me that I should not call anyone profane or unclean.”

That’s a very different conclusion from the one Mohler draws. Mohler says this story — this scripture — is about purity laws. Peter says this story is about God’s commandment that no people should be excluded as impure.

I’m going to have to side with Peter on this one. Peter was right. Mohler is wrong.

Mohler’s case for his interpretation of Peter’s vision only looks plausible if you extract a tiny portion of the story from the rest of the chapter, but if you read all of Acts 10, you’ll see that the story doesn’t allow that.

Consider, for example, the purpose of Peter’s vision. It wasn’t sent because Red Lobster was about to bring back “endless shrimp,” but because of the people who were about to knock on Peter’s door. The author of Acts makes sure we don’t miss that point, writing: “While Peter was greatly puzzled about what to make of the vision that he had seen, suddenly the [impure, uncircumcised, bacon-loving Gentile] men sent by Cornelius appeared. They were asking for Simon’s house and were standing by the gate.”

But Matt Kennedy at the blog Stand Firm challenges Clark’s interpretation:

Fred wants to set Peter’s recognition that the holiness code no longer stands between Jew and Gentile because God has made all things clean in Jesus against the vision in which Peter was told that God has made all things clean. The “tiny portion” of Acts 10 that Fred wants us not to pay attention to is the vision itself – the part where God declares the unclean animals clean; the part where God sets aside the first to establish the second (Hebrews 10:9). The holiness code is the reason Peter would not have gone to Cornelius’ house before the vision. The removal of that code is precisely what leads him to say yes and go with his visitors.

Like most revisionist activists the Slacktivist is a selective reader. He loves the part where Peter affirms that (in Fred’s words) “no people should be excluded as impure” because he thinks that orthodox Christians believe that homosexual people are “impure” but the part about the removal of holiness code is terribly inconvenient so he simply pretends that the obvious connection between the two isn’t there and trusts that his readers have as much interest in actually reading the bible for themselves as episcopal bishops do.

(Personally, I think the last sentence clause was a really cheap shot.)

I would have preferred for Kennedy to articulate the nuances of his argument a little differently, I find the clarity of Clark’s thesis — including an earlier stating of it back in 2004 — more appealing.

But in so doing, I’m not awarding victory in this matter to Clark.  I just think that whatever Mohler and Kennedy are on to, they’re taking a muddy path to get there.

Which is why I keep coming back to an entirely different setting for the debate that I believe would provide more understanding for people on both sides of the issue.

While comments are welcome here, greater discussion value might be found at the blogs linked.

Image: Red Lobster (where else?)

January 5, 2011

Wednesday Link List

Here’s a new list to kick off a new year…

  • While some “Christian” pastors — one anyway — want to burn the Qu’ran, Heartsong Church in Cordova, Tennessee has “a more welcoming approach.” ” Steve Stone and his congregants put out a sign welcoming incoming neighbors at the Memphis Islamic Center. The church then allowed these Muslim neighbors to use their sanctuary as a makeshift mosque throughout Ramadan while the Islamic Center was under construction.”  Read more at Christianity Today.
  • As strange as that story may be, it’s also the basis for a Canadian situation comedy now in its 5th season.  The new season of Little Mosque on the Prairie kicked off on Monday night with an episode that makes the Imam look a lot more appealing — i.e. “nicer” — than the Anglican minister who is renting the Islamic congregation its space.   Watch past episodes at CBC-TV.
  • The girl who recorded “Wait for Me” in 2000 is done waiting.  News yesterday that Christian singer Rebecca St. James is engaged to marry Jacob Fink who has a background in missions, television production and music. Proposal: Christmas Day. Wedding date: TBA.
  • The number of abusive priest lawsuits in a Milwaukee diocese has forced it to declare bankruptcy.  But a victims’ lawyer says it’s only being done to protect identities, and will merely delay the process.
  • This item was the runner up on Perry Noble’s top 2010 posts:  Ten Questions That Unchurched People Are Not Asking (Sample: #8 – “Does your pastor teach exegetically through the Scriptures?” Hey, it’s a dealbreaker, right?)
  • Tucked away in a little corner of James MacDonald’s (Walk in the Word) website is this tidbit of news:  “And this is amazing…We received a donation of a 20-million-dollar television production facility. The studio and the technology it provides will enable Walk in the Word to produce greater resources to reach more people.”  Not the first time something like this (i.e. Harvest Bible Chapel’s land in Elgin, Illinois) has dropped into their laps!
  • Does God withhold blessings from me because of my sins (even sins that have been forgiven)?  That’s the question Dana asked at Upwrite.  “…it is about the possibility of freedom from beating myself up over the things I might have missed out on because of my sins.”  Anyone care to leave her an answer?
  • And then, this testimony: “My backstory isn’t a pretty one. In fact, I didn’t even begin life as an sweet little planned bundle of joy. My mom was raped and I was the result. I was adopted by two wonderful parents who loved me and raised me as their own. But from the age of 3 until about the age of 12 my concept of love became skewed and shattered as I was repeatedly molested and raped by two different people in my family.I was pregnant at 17.”  That’s Stephanie Shott’s story.  Read the rest at her guest post at Jenni Catron’s blog.
  • This week I checked out the website affiliated with a book that released in November:  Besides The Bible – 100 Books that Have, Should, or Will Create Christian Culture.  The publisher blurb promises, “Covering a wide array of subjects and authors, from Christian bookstore best sellers to classics of Christian history and more, you’ll find yourself agreeing with some titles, shaking your head at others, and even shocked by a few.”  Here’s the WordPress blog for Besides the Bible.
  • 265 Journal pages containing 214 entries later,  John Piper is back from his leave of absence, and condenses his report in a much, much shorter summary at Desiring God.
  • Bored during church or that expensive ministry conference?  Jim Lehmer is back with an entirely updated version of Christian Buzzwords Bingo.   Each refresh of the page gets you a new bingo card!
  • Want to send a shout out to long-time friend Al Clarkson for keeping me posted on things I might have missed.   (Like this and the next two entries.)  Here’s Alpha Course founder Nicky Gumbel speaking at the Lausanne Conference.
  • Canada’s popular Christian musician, Steve Bell — who we linked to last week — scored some major press here this week in the prestigious business insert to a national newspaper.  You can catch both items at once at this bookstore industry blog.
  • And at the same blog, at age 102, George Beverley Shea is to receive a Lifetime Achieve Award in conjunction with The Grammy Awards.
  • Last week we linked to Derek Webb’s piece at Huffington Post, and this week you can read Frank Turk’s very firm response, and the 250 comments it generated.
  • And at the blog, On The Fence (tagline: A Skeptical Screenwriter and a Christian Pastor Talk About Faith) Travis comments on reading Greg Boyd’s Myth of a Christian Nation over the holidays. Not sure if Frank Turk would approve of Boyd.
  • Our photo below is a flashback to a 2009 post at the now defunct blog, Cool Things in Random Places. It’s a picture of The Door to Hell. Really. The link gets you many more pictures and videos.

The Door to Hell, is situated near the small town of Darvaz in Turkmenistan.  Thirty-five years ago, geologists were drilling for gas when then encountered a very large cavern underground filled with a poisonous gas.  They ignited the gas expecting it to burn off in a few hours.  The gas is still burning to this day. Its 60 meters in diameter and 20 meters depth have not been caused by volcanic activity or a meteorite impact.This crater was created sometime in the 50’s when the Soviets were prospecting for natural gas in this area and it’s been burning since then.

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