Some Random Thoughts
I've noticed that since we decided to leave our church two months ago, sickness has been running rampant in the Dow house. Is God trying to tell me something? This week, Kathy has strep throat, Josh has pinkeye, and Jack seems to have both, as well as an ear infection. Andrew and I are OK, so far, but I'm beginning to wonder if we shouldn't just have someone from the CDC move in.
My mom and dad have been taking two of my nieces to church. Dad usually is stationed at the front of the church greeting members and visitors and generally directing traffic (he likes people more than I do). The other day, my niece Allison, who is five, turned to grandpa and said that she wanted to go into the sanctuary so she could "watch the commercials before the service." If you are scratching your head wondering what I'm talking about, let me explain a couple of things about contemporary evangelical worship. Nearly all evangelical churches have installed large screens at the front of the sanctuary. That way, parishioners don't have to do anything taxing like look at a hymnal--if we actually sang hymns. Naturally, churches use this device much as movie theatres do, scrolling announcements across the screen, showing us pictures from the latest church events, putting up the sermon notes so that no one has to write anything down, and so on. That my bright young niece associates such activity with commercials speaks volumes, does it not? In his great book, 'Amusing Ourselves to Death,' Neil Postman traces the transformation of our culture from word-driven to image-driven. Though I don't necessarily believe that the medium is the message, clearly the tools we use to communicate shape what and how we communicate. Evangelicals once believed that the proclamation of God's Word was THE central aspect of worship. Now we believe that worship is primarily passive and includes such things as listening to soloists or choirs or maybe singing a cheesy praise chorus written three weeks ago that has lyrics that could be sung by a 13-year-old girl to her boyfriend. Or maybe we watch the images scroll by during the "commercials."
Who is in charge of American foreign policy, anyway? Pentagon analyst Larry Franklin was arrested yesterday and charged with passing top-secret information to Israel through the lobbying group AIPAC. Commenting on the allegations last September, Newsweek journalist Michael Isikoff wrote, "Franklin's motive appears to have been ideological rather than financial. There is no evidence that money changed hands." Meanwhile, Bush's embattled nominee to the UN, John Bolton, is being investigated for pro-Israel activities. According to The Forward, Bolton took part in unauthorized meetings with Israeli officials and prevented a State Department memo accusing Israel of violating American arms-export laws from reach Colin Powell's desk. Bolton is also one of the crazy neocons looking to further advance Ariel Sharon's foreign policy by sending American troops into Iran. These guys are absolutely nuts, and they are steering the foreign policy train--with the loud and enthusiastic support of evangelicals, by the way.
Pat Robertson says that Rudy Giuliani is not only a "very dedicated Catholic," but would make a swell president, too, despite his support for unrestricted baby killing, legalized sodomy, and presumably no-fault divorce.
Pastor Chuck Baldwin says with Republicans like Robertson--not to mention Bush, DeLay, and the rest--who needs Democrats.
An interesting article in the generally Christ-hating The New Republic. Ross Douthat says that "progressive" Catholics dismayed about the new pontiff should look around to see what secularism has done to mainline Protestant denominations. Douthat isn't buying the argument that the church should align itself with postmodernity or die:
The Episcopal Church offers the most striking example of this phenomenon, since it would seem to embody everything that a Garry Wills or a Maureen Dowd would like Catholicism to be--the liturgy and tradition, that is, without the sexual prohibitions and inconvenient dogmas. Yet in an era when John Paul II supposedly alienated so many otherwise faithful Catholics, it's Episcopalianism, not Catholicism, that's been hemorrhaging members, dropping from over 3.5 million American communicants in 1965 to under 2.5 million today. Far from making itself more appealing and more relevant, the Episcopal Church's reforms seemed to have decreased its ranks in the United States.
As one more example of the disgusting immorality within Episcopalianism, read this interview that Vickie Gene Robinson gave to Planned Parenthood. I'll quote just a few of the more egregious statements made by Robinson.
Planned Parenthood: Little has been written about your stance on reproductive rights. Are you pro-choice?
Robinson: Absolutely. The reason I love the Episcopal Church is that it actually trusts us to be adults. In a world where everyone tries to paint things as black or white, Episcopalians feel pretty comfortable in the gray areas.
I'm sure there must be individual congregations, and certainly individuals, who are off the deep end about this issue, but for the most part, the stance that we have taken speaks to our people as a mature and adult way of dealing with this — that we protect a woman's right to choose but also say that obviously there are very deep things involved here.
So we encourage our folks to take this very private issue seriously. We urge them to talk to their priests about it and to think through all the questions they might have. And then we absolutely stand behind a woman's right to choose. I think that's a responsible place to be.
Planned Parenthood: You've said, "We have allowed the conservative religious right to take our Bible hostage, and I think it's time we took it back." How can people who are both religious and progressive reclaim religion?
Robinson: It's time that we re-familiarize ourselves with our sacred text, so that we can interpret it for the world, and not let the only voice that Americans hear from a Christian standpoint be those wildly conservative voices.
As a gay man, I find stories in both Hebrew and Christian scripture that have literally called me out. For instance, in the Passover story, I know what it's like to leave Egypt, or leave the closet. The ancient Israelites, instead of finding the Promised Land immediately, wandered the desert, and I know, too, that life doesn't immediately get better for you. At the same time, as a whole community, we're getting closer to the Promised Land all the time.
I think it's time we learn to tell those stories out of our own context again, so that people speaking biblically and from a place of faith are not just wild-eyed conservatives.
Is anyone surprised that this character thinks the Exodus story is about his trip out of the closet and that he has no problems with killing unborn babies, which really is a morally "gray area?"