Secularization theory has been massively falsified. We don't live in an age of secularity.
We live in an age of explosive, pervasive religiosity. An Age of Religious Pluralism. - Peter L. Berger
Exploring the edge of life and faith in a post-everything world. - Todd Littleton
I don't need another reason to believe, your love is all around for me to see. - Anon
Thou art our need; and in giving us more of thyself thou givest us all. - Khalil Gibran, Prayer XXIII
Be careful what you pretend to be. You become what you pretend to be. - Kurt Vonnegut
Religious beliefs, far from being primary, are often shaped and adjusted by our social goals. - Jim Forest
People, even more than things, need to be restored, renewed, revived, reclaimed, and redeemed; never throw out anyone. - Anon
... Certainly God's love has made fools of us all. - R.E. Slater
An apocalyptic Christian faith doesn't wait for Jesus to come, but for Jesus to become in our midst. - R.E. Slater
Christian belief in God begins with the cross and resurrection of Jesus, not with rational apologetics. - Eberhard Jüngel, Jürgen Moltmann
Our knowledge of God is through the 'I-Thou' encounter, not in finding God at the end of a syllogism or argument.
There is a grave danger in any Christian treatment of God as an object. The God of Jesus Christ and Scripture is
irreducibly subject and never made as an object, a force, a
power, or a principle that can be manipulated. - Emil Brunner
Ehyeh Asher Ehyeh means "I will be that who I have yet to become." - God (Ex 3.14)
"Our job is to love others without stopping to inquire whether or not they are worthy.” - Thomas Merton

Monday, June 29, 2015

The Civil "Rightness" of Gay Marriage in the Eyes of the U.S. Constitution



Gay Marriage: The Law of the Land
http://www.jrdkirk.com/2015/06/26/gay-marriage-the-law-of-the-land/

by J.R. Daniel Kirk
June 26, 2015

I confess, I’m a little surprised.

The Supreme Court actually issued a ruling dealing with the substance of the question.

It didn’t appeal to technicalities or procedural issues.


It has been awhile since I’ve dealt with the civil side of this issue on my blog. But I have been in favor of gay marriage as a civil right since starting to wrestle with the issue during the Prop 8 campaign in California some seven years ago.

The position I came to in terms of our secular society is this:

  • Christians are called to love our neighbor as ourselves.
  • We are called to do unto others as we would have done to us.
  • This means advocating for our neighbors to have the same rights and freedoms that we would not want taken away from us.

In other words, it is sometimes my Christian duty to ensure that my neighbor has the right to act in ways that are contrary to my Christian belief.

In this case, the reasons people have for maintaining a traditional view of marriage are religious. We are a nation of religious freedom. We cannot take away from others what gives life to ourselves.

Here’s one of the most important things I’ve been learning:

To say what we believe about something is only the first step. It does not necessarily tell us what to do with that belief in the face of those who think differently.

The idea that we should enforce our belief as the law of the land is one that has to be carefully assessed in any given situation. We need to ask what it actually means to do unto our neighbor as we would want done to ourselves.

I know that many of you will disagree with all this. But here’s something I’m sure of: What happened today is not going to ruin your marriage. What happened today is not going to weaken the institution of marriage as such.

All it means is that same-sex couples now have the right to participate in a civil institution [of marriage] that has been weak for a generation.

Strength of marriage does not come from who else is able to join themselves together. Strength of marriage comes from the two people committing themselves to the hard work of cultivating a relationship of self-giving love. It comes from that couple embedding themselves in communities that will help nurture that relationship and help them through the trials that it entails.

I, for one, am glad about what happened today.

I’m glad because I think it’s the right thing for our country. And I’m glad for my friends whose weddings I’ll be attending over the next year—friends whose lives will be made richer and more secure by the institution of marriage they are legally able to join themselves in.


"A Word to the Wise" by Progressive Christian's re: Gay Rights and Marriage




A Pastoral Word to My Conservative Friends
after the SCOTUS Decision on Marriage

by Derek Penwell
Author, Mainliner's Survival Guide to the Post-Denominational World: http://t.co/gbX2thak3G
June 27, 2015

Writing is difficult.

No kidding, right?

But I don’t mean writing is difficult because it’s hard to find something to say or because saying it well takes a lot of practice. Those things are true, of course.

What I mean in this case is that writing is difficult for another reason, one that’s just as crucial, but much less well understood: We often don’t know how we others will read our words, how they might misunderstand our meaning. We thought we were saying something perfectly clearly, only to find out later that the person reading our words thought they meant something completely different from what we intended.

You know what I’m talking about. You get email from these people. They think they’re being clever, but you walk away wondering if you’ve just been insulted. They probably didn’t mean it that way, but who knows? There’s too much passive-aggression in modern society to dismiss the possibility out of hand, right?

“Of course, you would think that.”

What does that mean? Should be simple, shouldn’t it? You understand every single word in the sentence. But you could read it so many ways.

Of course, you would think that.

Of course, you would think that.

Of course, you would think that.

Of course, you would think that …

Of course, you would think that!

See what I mean? They’re just words, but when you write them, it’s difficult to know how someone else is going to read them.

I sense that some of that same problem is going on right now in the aftermath of the SCOTUS decision on marriage, by people who fear the world is racing past them … probably toward perdition. But racing past them nevertheless.

What do I mean?

Characteristic of many of the posts and pronouncements I’ve read since SCOTUS announced that marriage and the choice of a partner is a right that should be extended to everyone is a philippic/jeremiad/augury/rant/cry-of-despair that goes something like this:

The time has come to prepare ourselves for persecution. Our identity has put us at odds with the culture, which is now going to do everything in its power to punish us. Our commitment to living authentically is going to cost us — perhaps everything — because we refuse to compromise what we believe to be the truth. The dominant voices in our culture hate us, and will stop at nothing to eliminate us. Our jobs, our families, even our lives are now in jeopardy because of who we are. Who will speak for us?

I’ve read some variation on this from any number of conservative Christians, and it pains me. First, let me point out the irony that that paragraph could have been written in the past by LGBT people.

But second, and without irony, let me say that I am sympathetic to the panic of my sisters and brothers who are afraid that the levers of power are now unfairly arrayed against them. I know many of these people. I grew up with them. I learned at the feet of the same teachers as they did. Most of them aren’t hateful. They are sincere. I take no pleasure in their suffering. This isn’t about schadenfreude. That I believe them to be wrong about the issue of LGBT people doesn’t mean that I can’t hear the very real anxiety in their concerns.

But that’s not all that pains me, though. Their distress grieves me acutely because I don’t think they know how they sound when they express their fear of a future in which they’re no longer in obvious control. My conservative friends say these things without hearing what their words sound like in someone else’s ears.

So, I thought I might provide a little pastoral interpretation in an attempt to help people I care about understand why they seem not be getting much sympathy when they point out that they are now the target of potential persecution.

You see, it’s hard for people who’ve actually experienced persecution to take seriously the cries of persecution from folks who’ve been riding at the front of the bus for so long, but who’ve just recently been told that the time-honored seating arrangements have been completely discombobulated — and now the people who are so used to it are no longer assured of a first class seat.

When they hear you decry potential persecution, LGBT people want to ask: What actual persecution have you experienced? Not being able to assume that you’ll automatically be selected the cultural homecoming king and queen isn’t persecution.

If you’ve been bullied or beaten because you’re LGBT, if you’ve lost a job because somebody at work found out that your room mate was something more than the person who shared the rent, if your home congregation has told you that “it might be best if you found another church that catered to ‘your kind,’” if you’ve had grown ups perform all kinds of unspeakable acts on you to help you overcome your “gayness,” if you’ve been watched with an eagle eye because, you know, you probably like molesting little kids, if you’ve had everybody you care about turn their back on you because “that’s what God would want,” if you’ve endured the burning looks of disgust just for holding the hand of the person you love, if you’ve been told repeatedly that you don’t deserve the same socio-economic breaks the rest of us enjoy, if you’ve resigned yourself to living your life alone and without children because you couldn’t figure out how that could ever happen for you, if you have children and they no longer want anything to do with you because you’re such a disappointment, if you’ve lived on the street because you had no place else to go after your parents told you you weren’t welcome to live at home anymore, if you’ve woken up in an emergency room after attempting suicide because you just couldn’t take not fitting in anymore, if you’ve had friends and loved ones killed because of how they were born, then (and here’s the really difficult part) it’s a herculean task to work up much sympathy for the anxiety you feel because you read about some baker with a legal problem in Eugene.

Please understand, I’m not saying you don’t have some legitimate concerns about the pendulum swinging too far the other way. And when it does, I’ll be standing right there with you, because injustice anywhere is an open invitation to injustice everywhere. What I’m trying to help you understand is how you sound to people who’ve lived their whole lives with real fear.

Of course two wrongs don’t make a right. But from these folks’ perspective, the ratio of wrongs isn’t 1-to-1; it’s like 800 gajillion-to-1. Please be a little patient with people who feel like they’ve spent all of history close to last in line while they get the hang of what it feels like to be accorded an equality many of them never dreamed they’d see.

You don’t have to agree with all this; I’m not trying to persuade you to change your mind on this issue. I’m just trying to help you understand how you come off, and how you might actively take the initiative to engage in some healing.

It’s up to you. I’m just a writer.


- Derek


* * * * * * * * * * *




An Evangelical Pastor At His First Pride Parade

by Adam Phillips
Pastor of Christ Church: Portland, an open, active & inclusive faith community for God's glory & neighbor's good.
June 24, 2015

This year, I was invited to attend my first ever Pride parade. Our friend Robin invited us to join her church on their "float" and march the hour-long parade route together. Robin's church has been nothing but inclusive of us these past four months. You see, our 1-year-old new church plant was kicked out of our parent denomination because of our convictions regarding including the LGBTQ community.

I have long affirmed an inclusive theology, believing that our gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and queer friends, their families and allies should be fully welcomed in our churches. I affirmed their role in leadership, whether it was volunteering at events, teaching Bible study, staffing our children's ministry or helping to serve communion. I have affirmed the LGBTQ community at the highest levels and most mundane levels of church participation, for two reasons: 1) I am convinced beyond a doubt God loves each and every part of us as we are created, including our sexual identities, and 2) we're a new church  -- it requires all hands on deck. You want to come out on an incredible summer day and help make lemonade and stack chairs? You're in.

What I did not realize, however, was the overwhelming sense of inclusion I would experience along Portland's downtown streets and waterfront.

My friend and ministry colleague, Rev. Amy Piatt, handed me a poster right before we joined Robin and First Christian Church in the parade staging area on the North Park Blocks. The poster read:

2015-06-24-1435171011-2073613-sorry.jpg

"As a Christian I AM SORRY for the narrow-minded, judgmental, deceptive, manipulative actions of those who denied rights & equality to so many in the name of God."

I had long since admired that poster, seeing it in Amy's office. But I couldn't believe I was actually going to parade around with it.

You see, for the longest time, I would not be allowed to communicate such sentiment, for fear of the picture being posted on social media. That's how intense the fear was for me in my former denomination, and for so many of my friends and colleagues who remain. "Better to let these things lie unsaid," church leaders would tell us. We were not allowed to preside over same-sex weddings, for one, even though many of us either affirmed or secretly presided over them for years. You wouldn't want a photo of you attending such a gay-affirming event to pop up on Facebook for fear of losing your job. Marching around with an apology on my chest at the Pride Parade? Well, that was the most unfathomable thing of all.

But those fears were meaningless to me now. We had already lost everything: two years of funding, friends, our 'faith family' support system. Best to move forward, step by step, and see what this brave new world had to offer.

It's so incredible to take those steps.

Walking down Burnside Avenue, I realized this was not your typical Sunday stroll. I wore my red church pastoral stole (symbolizing the season of Pentecost) and carried that poster in front of me for everyone to see.

And I meant it: I am sorry for the legions of people who have said, done and prayed unimaginable, exclusionary and degrading things in the name of God. I am. Were these hateful (and not so hateful -- some good folks are just stuck in outdated, callous theologies) people my responsibility? I believe, in some ways, yes. As a pastor, I am incredibly concerned with the flourishing and full potential of everyone. And when someone speaks or does things to denigrate others in the name of God, we must try harder. No matter one's professed faith or disinterest in faith. Because, as a Christian pastor, I believe the good news of Jesus is that everyone is fearfully and wonderfully made, and that we are invited to join in a life of love for the common good.

Heady ideas, I know. But I think that in these days of division, derision and despair, people are looking for better ways and better possibilities.

Anyways, I walked down Burnside and the first parade on-lookers squinted and began to read my placard. I did not know what to expect at first. Did they think I was protesting Pride? Would they accept my apology?

I was overwhelmed by the response. People began to cheer. Many asked me to slow down so they could take a picture. Some wiped away tears and simply mouthed "thank you," or "I accept [your apology]." For the next few miles, cheers and cameras and tears greeted us everywhere we went. I was grateful I was wearing sunglasses, because there were a few moments when I simply welled up with tears and couldn't handle it anymore.

I couldn't handle the acceptance. I couldn't handle the forgiveness. I couldn't handle the small glimpses I witnessed of healing unfathomably deep hurts.

There was only one feeling I had: Pride.

And I think that is the point of Pride, at least for me. People joining together in solidarity to say that "love wins," to quote Rob Bell. Love has the final and enduring word.

Our little float was one of only a handful of church groups out to march for Pride this past Sunday. We were far outnumbered by non-profit groups and corporations. Companies like Nike, Intel, Adidas, Comcast and Chipotle spoke much louder than us. The church is following the lead of others, unfortunately. But I was proud to walk with fellow Christians, apologizing to my fellow citizens, for the ways in which people of God have fallen far too short.

As I shared above, for years, I have affirmed the full inclusion of LGBTQ folks at all levels of the church. But what I did not realize is the full potential of what might happen if LGBTQ folks were not just included (as they are beginning to be in so many churches), but helping us co-create better communities of faith and practice.

For one, there is better music. But jokes aside, inclusion is not enough. What I learned yesterday is that if we truly welcome and include, we will be changed. We will be transformed. Because that's what happens when people are vulnerable enough to step out in faith, show up and share with one another. And have conversations. And take photos with each other. And ask for forgiveness. And build bridges. And seek healing.

Our little 1-year old new church continues to press forward in faith. We're growing bit by bit and rolling up our sleeves for faith and justice. I'm so grateful for the hospitality of established, faithful congregations like First Christian Church, who have included us in their physical space and much of their life together. I hope some of my sisters and brothers in church leadership who remain silent or on the sidelines can muster up the courage to step forward and join the growing communities of faith for inclusion.

But most importantly, I hope to meet some of the folks we encountered along the parade route for a cup of coffee and further conversation. I cannot wait to see what might be in store for all of us, yes, everyone one of us, between now and Pride 2016.

- Adam

photo by Brooke Hoyer


The Biblical Story of Inclusion of Who Belongs As God's People




Gay Christians: Should Relationships Matter?
http://www.jrdkirk.com/2015/06/09/gay-christians-should-relationships-matter/

by Daniel Kirk
June 9, 2015

Certain kinds of people simply cannot be part of the people of God.
Making such a judgment is not based on bigotry. It is simply based on the story of God in which the people of God are defined in particular ways. These definitions demand that some are out while others are in.

Canaanite Transformation

Take the Canaanites.

This is a blanket term for the people living in the land that God gave to the people of Israel through the wars of Joshua. They are excluded from participation in the people of God.

One way they were so excluded is in multiple warnings not to allow daughters and sons to intermarry with these indigenous peoples. Such liaisons might lead the Israelites astray to worship gods other than Yahweh (YHWH).

But there is only one way to make sure that no such commingling occurs: kill them all:

“You must devote them to complete destruction,” says
Deuteronomy 7:2. Make no covenant. Show no mercy.

So when a Canaanite woman from the hill country comes up to Jesus, a woman evocative of the remnant of the Canaanites that Israel couldn’t quite seem to root out–he rightly rejects her.


Jesus rejects her not because of bigotry, but because the Word of God has assigned her a place in the story. She cannot belong.

She wants an exorcism: “Lord! Son of David! My daughter is badly demon possessed!”

Jesus rebuffs her: “I was only sent to the sheep. To the House of Israel.”

She continues, “Lord, help me!”

Jesus rebuffs her again, “Look, dog. It is not right take bread from the children and throw it to such as you.”

Ouch. Jesus knows her place. And so, it would seem, does she.

"Yes Lord. And, even the dogs eat from the crumbs that fall from the tables of their masters.”

And then, finally, he relents. Finally he is willing to extend transgressive grace. Finally he is willing to allow that this woman who by all biblical rights should be excluded and even killed, might be embraced in the onslaught of the kingdom of which Jesus, Son of David, is king.

“Oh woman! Great is your faith! Let it be as you wish.” And her daughter was healed.

You see, the strangest things happen when we actually know real people. We start to discover that those whom we thought were beyond the pale of God’s grace and mercy might actually be entrusting themselves to it at that very moment. And that relationship has the power to change us.
Yes, I would say it had the power to change Jesus. As Jesus was in the midst of inaugurating the reign of God, and discovering in the process who would and who would not be a part, he found rather against his will that the grace of God could not be cordoned off from even the Canaanites.
Jesus was changed, not because he had been a bigot, but because a relationship showed him that the kingdom of God was not contained as he had previously imagined.
The story had changed.

The Embrace of the Gentiles
Of course, if Jesus can be at the center of this kind of transformation, his followers certainly can as well.
When God made covenant with Abraham, God was quite clear: the only way, at all, ever, to be part of the people of God is to be circumcised.

If anyone remains uncircumcised?

He “will be cut off from his people. He has broken my covenant.”
— God

But this was only for a time, right?

“My covenant in your flesh is to be an everlasting covenant.”

Forever.

You don’t get to eat the defining meal of the people, Passover, without being circumcised.

So Jewish people might be excused for thinking that their exclusion of uncircumcised Gentiles is not a matter of bigotry. It’s a matter of principled adherence to the Word of God.

But then… the kingdom of God bursts beyond the bounds of the circumcised.

Peter has a vision, yes. But it is when he musters the courage to go, to relate to a Gentile, and then observes that God has accepted them through the gift of the Spirit that Peter is finally converted.

In that personal interaction, Peter sees that God has worked. And he no longer can hold to his own position. Not because he was a bigot, but because a new moment has arrived in the story.

Paul will say a similar thing in Galatians. “You received the Spirit. God worked miracles among you.” Their experience tells them that they don’t have to be circumcised, don’t have to keep food laws, to be part of the people of God.

In the unfolding narrative of God and [of] who belongs to God’s people, the move from exclusion to [becoming] embraced has been marked by the inclusion of those who had previously been excluded due to the theology, principles, and narrative of scripture.

[What About] Homosexuality?

In his review of two books that argue for full inclusion of gays and lesbians into the people of God, Tim Keller asserts that if a person’s position on inclusion is influenced by relationships then their opposition was based on bigotry.
And when I see people discarding their older beliefs that homosexuality is sinful after engaging with loving, wise, gay people, I’m inclined to agree that those earlier views were likely defective. In fact, they must have been essentially a form of bigotry. They could not have been based on theological or ethical principles, or on an understanding of historical biblical teaching. They must have been grounded instead on a stereotype of gay people as worse sinners than others (which is itself a shallow theology of sin.)
This is simply untrue.

The history of God’s people is one in which we have cultivated deep and rich theological positions based on the principles and teachings of scripture, only to have God demonstrate that those principles have to be abandoned because it is a new moment in the story.

Opposition to inclusion of Canaanites and the uncircumcised isn’t based on bigotry, theologically–God underscores that Israel is no better than the rest, but God chose them anyway.

And yet these theological and ethical principles were overcome by the grace of God and the surprising eruption of the Kingdom of God.

The Wesleyan Quadrilateral

Experience Matters (i.e. The Wesleyans are Right)

We should never imagine that the fact that relationships change our theology indicates a weakness in our theology or ethics.

On the contrary, we should question any theology or ethics that does not change in the face of relationships. This is what it means to be both human in general and a part of the body of Christ in particular.

It is easy to hold forth unwavering strength as the sign of integrity and correctness, but such strength has sometimes been the strong pillar around which the unstoppable flow of the kingdom has poured forth.

Keller makes five or so arguments against the books he is reviewing. I will probably touch on his review a bit more, because it’s getting some good traffic, makes a couple of good points, and makes a couple of points that perhaps enable people to too quickly find relief in their cherished position being upheld.

The argument against experience falls into this latter category. It is precisely the experience of gay Christians, loving, faithful, and full of the Spirit, that should make us wonder if we have been wrongly continuing to draw lines of demarcation that God has begun to take down. Experience alone cannot answer this question (here, too, the Wesleyans are right!).

But we cannot allow a pious-sounding appeal to a theology or ethics that lies, allegedly, outside of experience to keep us from exploring the significance of what we have learned in relationship with those who, alongside us, address Jesus as the promised son of David and Lord of heaven and earth.


* * * * * * * * *

Select Comments

Don Bromley says:
June 9, 2015 at 10:21 am

I’ve seen this argument offered before, by Ken Wilson and others, that they are following the way of Wesley in valuing Experience along with Tradition, Scripture, and Reason. But John Wesley was always absolutely clear that the foundation of his religious discernment resided in Scripture. John Wesley wrote:

“This is a lantern unto a Christian’s feet, and a light in all his paths. This alone he receives as his rule of right or wrong, of whatever is really good or evil. He esteems nothing good, but what is here enjoined, either directly or by plain consequence, he accounts nothing evil but what is here forbidden, either in terms, or by undeniable inference. Whatever the Scripture neither forbids nor conjoins, either directly or by plain consequence, he believes to be of an indifferent nature; to be in itself neither good nor evil; this being the whole and sole outward rule whereby his conscience is to be directed in all things.”

— From the Sermon #12 “The Witness of Our Own Spirit.”

Reply
J. R. Daniel Kirk says:
June 9, 2015 at 10:25 am

No doubt. That’s why the first 2/3 of the post are scriptural exegesis! But it is quite easy for folks committed to scripture to be dismissive of narratives that begin with a person’s experience of gay Christians, and it’s important for those of us who hold scripture in such high esteem to recognize the place that experience always has in our theologizing, and has always held in the church’s assessments of right and wrong.

---

Don Bromley says:
June 9, 2015 at 10:30 am
N. T. Wright wrote an excellent essay that relates very much to this discussion: http://ntwrightpage.com/Wright_Communion_Koinonia.htm

He specifically addresses the comparison of the gay/straight distinction to the Gentile/Jew distinction:

“We need to make a clear distinction between the aspects of a culture which Paul regards as morally neutral and those which he regards as morally, or immorally, loaded. And we need to note carefully what Paul’s reaction is when someone disagrees at either side of his balance. When Peter and the others tried to insist on keeping their Jewish distinctives, i.e. only eating with other circumcised people, in Antioch, Paul resisted him to his face. The word ‘tolerance’ runs out of steam at this point. What mattered was the gospel, the message of the cross, the doctrine of justification by faith, the promises to Abraham, the single family God intended to create in the Spirit. Like a great chess player, Paul saw all those pieces on the board threatened by this one move of Peter’s to insist on maintaining Jewish boundary-markers, and he moved at once to head it off. And when someone disagreed with Paul’s clear rules on immorality or angry disputes, the matters he deals with in Colossians 3.5-10, he is equally firm, as we see dramatically in 1 Corinthians 5 and 6. There is no place in the Christian fellowship for such practices and for such a person. Not for one minute does he contemplate saying, ‘some of us believe in maintaining traditional taboos on sexual relations within prescribed family limits, others think these are now irrelevant in Christ, so both sides must respect the other.’ He says, ‘throw him out’.”

Reply
J. R. Daniel Kirk says:
June 9, 2015 at 10:35 am

Yes, I do think Wright onto something. But it is also important to note that the inclusion of Gentiles meant a redefinition of what it meant to be a “sinner”: “We are Jews by nature, not sinners from among the Gentiles.” Inclusion in the people of God changed how you knew a sinner when you saw one. In this case, paradoxically, it meant upholding Torah.

As I’ve written about in the past, I do think that upholding sexual standards is a huge component of Christian ethics / morality. And I do think that inclusion of homosexuals in the church has, at times, come with the abandonment of all but the most pedestrian of sexual mores. That’s a problem.


Standing with the Oppressed When It's the Right Thing To Do




What if I said, "Not all gays are homosexual?" Could this be true, not true, false, or not false? If so, in what sense?

Or, what if I said, "Not all heterosexuals are lustful?" Again, could this be true, not true, false, or not false? And if so, in what sense?

When we make blanket statements from de facto positions of self-assurance we end up getting into all kinds of trouble with our theology. I don't think theology is meant to be led out with de facto statements because if it were then it wouldn't be theology any longer. No, it would be a kind of doctrine that was limited to a church group's surmise of what they think theology is when in fact it is popular statements of dogma that would be either "more or less true" or  "more or less false."

In the Bible, dogmas are not good things. They become folk religions or popular cultural assessments informing bigotry, narrow-mindedness, and discrimination which lead to all kinds of oppression from gut-wrenching demurring statements spoken from self-serving calloused lips to the nasty kind of harmful evil that any Christian can be motivated to commit when forgetting God's grace through Jesus' example of humility, service, and mercy.

If you notice in the pictures below you'll observe happy, sun-filled scenes of smiling people filled with a bountiful fulfilling sense of being right and content and satisfied about themselves and their beliefs. What those pictures don't show is the red-mask of the devil hiding within those smiling faces fashioned with horns of wickedness and forked tails of evilness hiding all those happy smiles of contentedness and bliss in the sunny lands of self-serving theology.

In the hearts of the oppress these are the kinds of pictures they see when "good-intentioned" people step forward to speak of their faith and beliefs behind a bible (little "b") that is laced with popularly-spoken limitations and graceless boundaries of God's judgemental wrath. And when it's politicized more is it to be feared for the wickedness that it will bring.

No, for the oppressed, the demeaned, the hated, the outcast, the unwanted, these pictures are hell itself forewarning the evil to come spun in webs of self-righteousness and self-centeredness propelling prideful lusts believing one to be right and not wrong. For if one is wrong then one must repent. And a self-righteous person is all about pride and legalism. Of proving themselves worthy of God by fighting God's battles for Him in the rage of hate-filled hearts.

Let us be clear as the beloved of God that the Bible speaks closely of these kinds of people throughout its holy script. Of a people who are not God's people who have deceived and lied to themselves about their spiritually-centered truths fashioned so vilely and hatefully. Let us understand that to be a people of God we must lead out not with vile judgments but with God-filled love and truth. There is as deep a difference in this saying as there is in the opening two statements we began with in this article.

The church will always struggle with the evils of pride and prideful judgment. It would be naive to think that it won't. So too will popular pastors and Christian speakers struggle with the same as they are moved by the fearing intent of their congregants and followers. Rather than leading in courage and boldness they slink into cowardly positions of prejudice and hate.

However, to be a people of God is to do the unpopular thing as Jesus did who stood with the despised outcasts of His society to bring healing and God's grace to the parched and thirsty souls of the unwanted. He ministered to those believed unloved and condemned by God by the "church crowd" when at the last, it was the very souls of God's undiscerning (and misled) people who laid upon the lime pits of their wretched faith.

Let us then think on Jesus and not on our graceless doctrines and the untruthful lies flying about our heads and from our unchastened lips. God's people are a right and just people who must seek out injustice wherever it is to bring peace and justice, hope and healing, to a fractured world filled with rage and hate. Amen and amen.

R.E. Slater
June 29, 2015


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10 Reasons Why Gay Marriage Is Wrong



http://www.eatliver.com/gay-marriage-is-wrong/yiJ.99












Saturday, June 27, 2015

America Lights Up in a Rainbow of Colors After Gay Marriage Ruling


People hold balloon letters reading "Love wins" in front of the White House lightened in the rainbow colors
in Washington on June 26, 2015. The US Supreme Court ruled Friday that gay marriage is a nationwide
right, a landmark decision in one of the most keenly awaited announcements in decades and sparking
scenes of jubilation.(Photo: MLADEN ANTONOV, AFP/Getty Images)



Here is a powerful statement both to ourselves in America as well as to the world. I
am in hopes the oppression, the sufferings, the vilification of the LGBT community
might  be reduced by this concerted action between the Supreme Court of the United
States and the Presidential branch. - R.E. Slater, 6.26.2015



The White House is blanketed in rainbow colors symbolizing LGBT pride in Washington on June 26, 2015.
The US Supreme Court ruled Friday that gay marriage is a nationwide right, a landmark decision in one of
the most keenly awaited announcements in decades and sparking scenes of jubilation. 
(Photo: MOLLY RILEY, AFP/Getty Images)





White House turns to rainbow
after gay marriage ruling



http://www.usatoday.com/story/theoval/2015/06/26/white-house-rainbow-gay-marriage/29374471/


The White House was lit up in rainbow colors Friday night to celebrate the Supreme Court's ruling on gay marriage.

In a statement, the president's office said the White House took on the symbolic colors of gay pride "to demonstrate our unwavering commitment to progress and equality, here in America and around the world."

Shortly after 7 p.m.. the north front of the White House was lit up in red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo and violet as about a hundred people — both gay pride activists and tourists — looked on.

The Supreme Court ruled 5-4 Friday that states cannot prohibit marriages between two people of the same sex.

President Obama hailed the ruling earlier in the day, calling it "a big step in our march toward equality."


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Doing the right thing may take some time but eventually a country founded on
"civil liberties for all" gets it right. For churches feeling the pressure to conform
or not this will also be a matter of civil rights... "a civil right which they are afforded
the right to." For some churches they have the right not to conform. For others, they
have the right to be released unto deeper ministries submitted in love and equality
to a segment of society having lived in the abject squalor of abandonment and
derision for many years.

Whether being gay is a sin or not is something we each will need to work out. For
some it may be sin while for others, if based in relational love, it is not. Our
Christian  standards do not give us a right to judge one another. But they do
give us the right to love one another equally and with wisdom. And should we
judge,  may it be rightly, and not by the old man seeking self-rightness over
God's righteous, perfecting, love.  - R.E. Slater, 6.26.2015


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Same-sex marriage supporters rejoice outside the Supreme Court in Washington, D.C., on Friday after
the U.S Supreme Court handed down a ruling regarding same-sex marriage. The high court ruled that
same-sex couples have the right to marry in all 50 states. | Alex Wong/Getty Images


Supreme Court Declares Same-Sex Marriage Legal
In All 50 States

by Bill Chappell
June 26, 2015

States cannot keep same-sex couples from marrying and must recognize their unions, the Supreme Court says in a ruling that for months has been the focus of speculation. The decision was 5-4.

Justice Anthony Kennedy, seen as a pivotal swing vote in the case, wrote the majority opinion. All four justices who voted against the ruling wrote their own dissenting opinions: Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito.

"They ask for equal dignity in the eyes of the law," Kennedy wrote of same-sex couples in the case. "The Constitution grants them that right."

Comparing the ruling to other landmark decisions, NPR's Nina Totenberg says, "This is probably right up there with Brown v. Board of Education, and Roe v. Wade — if you like it or hate it — and today, Obergefell v. Hodges. This was a historic moment."

The opinion includes more than 100 pages; we've embedded it near the bottom of this post.

Update at 11:30 a.m. ET: 'Our Love Is Equal,' Obergefell Says

Friday's ruling "affirms what millions across this country already know to be true in their hearts: our love is equal," says lead plaintiff Jim Obergefell, who challenged Ohio's ban on same-sex marriage.

Obergefell continued, "the four words etched onto the front of the Supreme Court — 'equal justice under law' — apply to us, too."

He filed suit because he wasn't allowed to put his name on his late husband John Arthur's death certificate after Arthur died from ALS. Holding a photograph of Arthur as he spoke Friday, Obergefell said, "No American should have to suffer that indignity."

Obergefell has been traveling from Cincinnati to Washington every week, to be sure he would be in the court when a decision was announced in his case.

Update at 11:15 a.m. ET: 'Like A Thunderbolt,' Obama Says

Speaking at the White House, President Obama praised the Supreme Court's ruling, saying it arrived "like a thunderbolt" after a series of back-and-forth battles over same-sex marriage.

Obama says the ruling "will strengthen all of our communities" by offering dignity and equal status to all same-sex couples and their families.

The president calls the ruling "a victory for America."

Update at 10:37 a.m. ET: More On The Ruling, And Obama's Reaction

"The ancient origins of marriage confirm its centrality, but it has not stood in isolation from developments in law and society," Kennedy wrote. His opinion sketches a history of how ideas of marriage have evolved along with the changing roles and legal status of women.

Comparing that evolution to society's views of gays and lesbians, Kennedy noted that for years, "a truthful declaration by same-sex couples of what was in their hearts had to remain unspoken."

"The nature of injustice is that we may not always see it in our own times," Kennedy wrote after recounting the legal struggles faced by same-sex partners.


The Supreme Court said that the right to marry is fundamental — and Kennedy wrote that under the 14th Amendment's protections, "couples of the same-sex may not be deprived of that right and that liberty."

In his dissent, Roberts wrote that the court had taken an "extraordinary step" in deciding not to allow states to decide the issue for themselves, saying that the Constitution does not define marriage.

Calling the ruling "deeply disheartening," Roberts said that those on the winning side of the issue should celebrate a victory — "But do not celebrate the Constitution," he wrote. "It had nothing to do with it."

Justice Scalia said the Supreme Court's "highly unrepresentative panel of nine" had violated "a principle even more fundamental than no taxation without representation."

We've covered those dissents in a separate post.

Welcoming the news on Twitter, President Obama wrote, "Today is a big step in our march toward equality. Gay and lesbian couples now have the right to marry, just like anyone else. #LoveWins."

Our original post continues:

The justices ruled in Obergefell v. Hodges, which is linked to three other same-sex marriage cases that rose up through the court system. Together, they involve a dozen couples who challenged same-sex marriage bans in Ohio, Michigan, Kentucky and Tennessee — the only states with bans on marriage between gay and lesbian couples that had been sustained by a federal appeals court.

Friday's ruling overturned that decision by the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals. As the Supreme Court's summary states, "The history of marriage is one of both continuity and change."

The justices had been asked to decide whether the 14th Amendment requires states to a) license same-sex marriages and b) recognize such unions that were made in other states.

The 14th Amendment, we'll remind you, was ratified shortly after the Civil War. It has to do with U.S. citizenship — and with providing equal protection for all citizens.

Before Friday's ruling, gay marriage had already been made legal in 37 states and the District of Columbia — by either legislative or voter action or by federal courts that overturned state' bans.

As NPR's Nina Totenberg reported when the Supreme Court heard the current case back in April, conservative justices had pointed questions for the attorneys:

"Justice Scalia asked whether ministers would be able to refuse to marry two gay men. The answer was that it has to be worked out under state laws. He said, but that could happen — it could happen that a minister would be forced to marry two gay men, in violation of his beliefs.

"Justice Alito asked, well then why not marry four gay men together? Why just two?"

The ruling announced Friday adds new definition to an issue that has remained controversial even as an increasing number of Americans say they support equal marriage rights for same-sex couples. A recent Gallup poll found that 60 percent of Americans — an all-time high — support extending the same rights and privileges to same-sex marriages as traditional ones.

That figure included "37 percent of Republicans, 64 percent of independents, and 76 percent of Democrats," as we reported last month. And it included all age groups except for one: those 65 and over.

The court noted the change in thinking, stating:

"Well into the 20th century, many States condemned same-sex intimacy as immoral, and homosexuality was treated as an illness. Later in the century, cultural and political developments allowed same-sex couples to lead more open and public lives. Extensive public and private dialogue followed, along with shifts in public attitudes. Questions about the legal treatment of gays and lesbians soon reached the courts, where they could be discussed in the formal discourse of the law."

For supporters of same-sex marriage, Friday's ruling comes as a long-awaited bookend to the Supreme Court's 2013 ruling that struck down the federal Defense of Marriage Act and required the U.S. government to provide the same benefits to both gay and heterosexual couples.




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This Is How Fast America Changes Its Mind
http://www.bloomberg.com/graphics/2015-pace-of-social-change/

By Alex Tribou and Keith Collins
Updated: June 26, 2015

Eleven years after Massachusetts became the first state to allow same-sex couples to marry, the Supreme Court has now extended that right nationwide. The decision came after a wave of gay marriage legalization: 28 states from 2013 to 2015, with 36 overall prior to the Court's ruling. Such widespread acceptance in a short amount of time isn't a phenomenon unique to gay marriage. Social change in the U.S. appears to follow a pattern: A few pioneer states get out front before the others, and then a key event—often a court decision or a grassroots campaign reaching maturity—triggers a rush of state activity that ultimately leads to a change in federal law.

We looked at six big issues—interracial marriage, prohibition, women’s suffrage, abortion, same-sex marriage, and recreational marijuana — to show how this has happened in the past, and may again in the very near future.

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