Houston, We Have a Problem

I have long thought that one of the most vulnerable parts of the LGBT movement is its proclivity to over-reach in their political and rhetorical work. There have been many concerning examples of this over the years and it makes them vulnerable to people who will see that sometimes these folks don’t play nice, that they are not really about “live and let live.” No small number of them don’t tolerate those who disagree with them. Another one of these over-reaches has recently emerged in Houston from it’s proud lesbian mayor. And it’s a doozie.equal-rights

A handful of pastors who have opposed and worked to repeal a so-called “equal-rights” city ordinance – along with thousands of citizens – have been ordered by the city via the courts to turn over to the government the following as the subpoena demands:

  “All speeches, presentations, or sermons related to [the ordinance], the Petition, Mayor Annise Parker, homosexuality, or gender identity prepared by, delivered by, revised by, or  approved by you or in your possession.” 

  • Pastors and their congregations oppose and seek to repeal a city ordinance through the legal process.
  • The city leaders don’t like that.
  • Said city leaders demand these pastors bring themselves and their work down to town hall for a good scolding and possibly legal action.

Can you believe that? If that is not over-reach, I don’t know what is.

Curiously this very city government is violating its own ordinance in order to protect the ordinance. In the second paragraph of the ordinance, it states:

WHEREAS, the City of Houston seeks to provide an environment that is free of any type of discrimination based on sex, race, color, ethnicity, national origin, age, familial status, marital status, military status, religion, disability, sexual orientation, genetic information, gender identity or pregnancy

 Yes, the ordinance protects religious belief and practice, at least in word, but the city doesn’t seem to want to do so in deed. And yes, pastors and their churches have a fundamental and constitutionally guaranteed right to hold and act on their convictions free from government intrusion or control. Even to do so from the pulpit, in the pews, in the Sunday school classes and the social halls.

So, if you live in Houston and are a pastor of a church, you would do well not to disagree with your city government or they retaliate.

This is a move on Mayor Parker and her city council’s part of world-class arrogance and disregard for both the rule of law and spirit of democracy. It is imperialism and we can suspect that Texans nor the higher courts will stand for this dramatic over-reach.

Goodness.

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So the Catholic Church is Going Gay?

Lots and lots of ink being distributed over the past two days regarding this new document out of Pope Francis’ Synod on the Family. Like many, I’m getting notes for friends asking, “So what’s the deal? Is the Church really folding on the gay issue?”

Pope-Zuchetto_2766237bWell, the most reputable, highfalutin papers tell us they are, so they must be, right? And they tell us with such relish: “Finally, that dinosaur of a church is joining the 19th Century, ready to admit the sexual revolution happened and finally getting with the freakin’ program.” They did essentially the same with JPII on some comment he made about evolution and Benedict on condoms. So this is “been there, done that” all over again.

There are five things to consider when reading such news reports:

First, just like Francis’s famed “who I am to judge” statement – which nearly every journalist confidently quotes completely out of context – it is a good idea to look at the original text and see for one’s self what was really said. Anyone can do that here. The juicy parts are found in sections 36-39 (cohabitation) and  50-52 (homosexuality).

Second, as has been stated very well by others here, here and surprisingly and crisply here, this not in the least, by any measure, in no degree a rule-making or even suggested rule-changing document. It is simply a report on what was discussed at this stage in the Synod. The Synod, nor the Pope himself, has the power to change church doctrine. Deep breathe people, Catholicism doesn’t change with the fashions of the day. Never has. And that is why so many of these elites so wish it would as they make plain in their news stories.

Juan Simon Gutierrez The Holy Family Private CollectionThird, this is a pastoral Synod, not a theological one per se. It is about how bishops will shephard their flocks in real nitty-gritty of this “we’re not in Kansas anymore” world we live in today. Simcha Fisher beautifully explains this angle on her blog.

Fourth, there is indeed concerning language in the document. But the concern comes primarily in its lack of clarity, something that has plagued this Pope’s communication too many times since He came to St. Peter’s chair. He seems to like playing it loose. He is not the measured and precise academic that Benedict was/is nor the careful and practiced philosopher/thespian that was JPII. He too often just talks and leaves the clean up for his deputies. As for these seemingly concerning statements, we are simply not really sure what they mean and what they don’t. The Vatican should and must do better as pastors and teachers.

Fifth and finally, language such as “Homosexuals have gifts and qualities to offer to the Christian community: are we capable of welcoming these people…?” is only surprising to those who assume we shake people down at the door to ensure none of “those people” sneak into our pews. We don’t grab them by the back of the pants and scruff of the neck give them a hearty heave-ho if they are caught infiltrating. Suppose we change that sentence by one word. It still has precisely the same meaning, but would be of no interest whatsoever to the press:

Sinners have gifts and qualities to offer to the Christian community: are we capable of welcoming these people…?”

This is precisely what the Church is saying, and has always said. As I explain in my new book, Loving My (LGBT) Neighbor, sinners are the only folks the church opens itself up to because they are the only people Jesus knows how to deal with. And that includes everyone: you, me and everyone else whether gay, straight or otherwise.

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On the radio this week…

Was in Chicago this week promoting our fab Focus on the Family film Irreplaceable as well as my new book, Loving My (LGBT) Neighbor.

  1. Here is one interview i particularly enjoyed with Chris Fabry on Moody Radio who is such a masterful interviewer, always is!
  2. Another fun bit is this podcast with my crazy Lisa Anderson who runs Focus’ Boundless ministry.
  3. And of course, such events stir up dust among those who disagree and this rant here is a common and very well-worn one.

Enjoy.

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A Very Kind First Review…

I have a new book, out Oct 1, and I was delighted today to find it has already garnered a review.

When you write a book – working so hard and long on it – it is a little un- nebabyrving when it finally enters the world. It’s your baby that you’ve been gestating for months, struggling with bouts of anxiety, exhaustion, hopelessness, confusion and doubts. It can induce fits of vomiting and heart-burn. Then finally, one day it emerges and you wonder if people will love it like you do. Will they think it’s special or a terribly ugly baby? Will they laugh at it or find it lovely? There’s only one way to find out. You have to put it out there and nervously wait for the reaction of others.

This first review of the book today made me happy and encouraged. He “got” what I was trying to communicate and explained its substance and message. He liked my baby.

Let’s hope for more like this!

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Pot Improves Your Marriage

Ok, here’s a fun one.

A new study from the University of Buffalo School of Public Health tells us that the more a couple smokes pot together the less likely  they are to be violent with each other.

OldHippies

So, let’s get this straight. The more a couple gets baked together, the more mellow and chill they get with one another? Check.

I’ve been imagining how this might work itself out in your average day-to-day stoner marriage. Perhaps like any of these scenarios.

Him: Why haven’t you been fixin’ dinner for your old man anymore?

Her: What? I fixed you Cheetos for every night this week!

Him: Uh…  yea…Cheetos are awesome.

or..

Her:  Why aren’t you going to work anymore? Did you go and loose your job again?

Him: No. It’s just they were making me work at work, so I said, “Sheez, who needs that?”

Her: uh….yea… that’s awesome.

or perhaps this…

Her: The baby seems to have filled her diaper again. Can you take care of it?

Him: Sure. Let me just torch a fat one and you won’t smell it no more.

Her: uh… yea… awesome.

and finally…

Him: Babe, I don’t want your old boyfriend coming around no more. I don’t like the way you sit in his lap all the time.

Her: But he’s the dude that brings those sick buds you like.

Him: Uh…yea…. he’s awesome.

So, the couple that burns a few together, don’t beat the snot out of each other.

There you have it.

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Contrasting White House Responses to Beheadings

A young American journalist is beheaded by a masked, gutless and ideological thug. The second grisly brutality in so many weeks against one of our citizens.

Of course our government’s highest officials gave official and personal responses. The contrast in these responses is stark and curious.

President Obama gave genuinely gracious words about Steven Sotloff, his bravery, his service to truth as well as compassionate and caring words of consolation to his family.   He condemned the attacks and stated, as you can see in the video below,

“Our response is clear. And that is to degrade and destroy ISIL so that it’s not longer a threat, not just to Iraq, but the region and… to the United States.”

Degrade and destroy. A curious word: degrade.

“…till its no longer a threat”? Kill it or disable it? How about until it no longer exists?

The New York Time’s report on President Obama’s response was interesting in its first paragraph:

President Obama vowed on Wednesday to punish the Sunni militants whose videotaped beheadings of two American journalists he said had “repulsed” the world, saying the United States would lead a regional and international coalition to beat back the terrorists.

“punish”       “beat back”      “degrade”

And this follows his recent admission that he had not yet developed a strategy for confronting ISIL after the previous beheading of American journalist James Foley.

Vice President Joe Biden commented on the Sotloff brutality as well, but took a very different tack in his public comments. His were stark and strong words, like a fire and thunder Southern preacher. He spoke as a leader who is clearly outraged by such savagery against one of his citizens and what will happen to the vermin who committed it.

“They should know, we will follow them to the gates of hell until they are brought to justice. Because hell is where they will reside. Hell is where they will reside.”

What do you think of the approach of each these reactions and their distinct contrasts?

I’d like to hear your thoughts.

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A Theology of Labor Day

Labor Day is more than a day marking the end of summer and the day we return to real life again. It’s more than a day off work to do other stuff or nothing at all, as nice as that might be. It’s the celebration and commemoration of the hard and faithful workers who’ve built and continue to daily build our nation. Canada, like a good neighbor, celebrates this day right along with us.

In celebrating the labor we do in our daily lives, it is important for Christians to recognize and remember that work and its importance is central to the Christian story. It is nothing less than divine.

We are taught so in the first and second pages of scripture. Genesis 1 gives us the details of God’s work in daily detail. Then chapter 2 begins with these words:

1 Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all the host of them. 2 And on the seventh day God finished his work that he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all his work that he had done. 3 So God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it God rested from all his work that he had done in creation.

All of creation is God’s work, His labor. And when He was done with it, He rested. “Work” is a curious word the scriptures use for God’s creative actions here. And it curious that He who cannot and never tires, He who cannot be exhausted, rested. It is reasonable to suggest that God did not rest because He was worn out, but simply to take a good bit of time to reflect upon and enjoy the work He had done. We should do the same. Our God worked and does work. And what God does is wholly and perfectly divine.

And as God created the first two humans on the sixth day, the first command He gave them was to create beings in their own image, just as the Triune God created them in His own image and likeness. This was their first work, and it was delightful, joyful. Following on the foot heals of this, man and woman were commanded to tend creation, to watch over it, harvest it, assist in its fruitfulness as it was created to do. Work: a creative and participatory task to be done as a gift from God by every person who is a unique God Imager in creation.

Work is not a product of the Fall. It just got more difficult because of the Fall. It would now draw sweat from our brows, create calluses on our hands, produce aches in our backs and make us tired. It would and will sometimes be fruitless, a failure. But it would still be deeply satisfying to us because there is something deeply divine in it. No human can live a meaningful, happy life without having work that allows them to contribute to something larger than themselves, even if that means sweeping the streets or cleaning toilets. To do that work is better than having no work. And those who have no material need to work because of wealth will find they cannot be happy without work, a task that improves their lives and the lives of others. We are made for work.

Consider as well God who became flesh and lived among us. Christ came as the Savior of the world, but didn’t go straight to the “important work” of his public ministry and the Cross. He was actually a bit of late bloomer in that regard. Rather, he lived an average day-in/day-out work-a-day life, just like anyone else does. And he did so for three decades, so there was a great deal of daily work there. We don’t know what He did; the scriptures don’t give us much of a picture there. But He wasn’t a loaf.

As a son in a real family, He had chores to do. As a friend, He was surely happy to lend a hand to help His buddies do their chores so they could go play all the sooner. As a neighbor, He no doubt offered a hand to help fetch water, move furniture, clean floors, go to the market now and again for those in his community. Here is a marvelous painting of this very reality. It is by John Rogers Herbert entitled Our Savior Subject to His Parents at Nazareth (1847)

John Rogers Herbert, Our Savior Subject to His Parents at Nazareth 1847

The Savior worked. And what the Savior did, as He walked along the earth with us, was divine. The incarnation does not permit Christians a platonic view of work, that which is “secular” and the other which is “sacred”.

Work is divine. All work. It is a gift, a blessing. It might not always feel that way, in fact many times quite the opposite. But knowing the Christian story, both at creation and in the incarnation, we know that it is.

Happy Labor Day. Blessed day of labor tomorrow.

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