Monday, September 29, 2008

Sexuality Statement Draft

The PLTS student body is holding a discussion about the ELCA's Social Statement on Human Sexuality draft on Tuesday, October 7, at 7:00pm at the Delaware apartments courtyard. To aid in this process, this post contains:

The link to the official ELCA Social Statement on Human Sexuality Draft (approx. 46 pages)

The link to the official executive committee's summary of the statement (approx. 3 pages)

My understanding of the Sexuality Statement Theology in a Nutshell (approx. 0.5 page)

My Key Phrases and Ideas of the Sexuality Statement (approx. 8.5 pages)

An open letter written by the PLTS student body to the ELCA in 2005 when this social statement was in the planning stages. (approx 1 page)

A response by Lutherans Concerned/North America (LC/NA --A Christian Ministry affirming God's love for people of all sexual orientations and gender identities), that does not dispute the theology of the statement, but responds line by line to the phrasing and application of the theology (approx. 10 pages)

My response which addresses the underlying theology of the statement (approx. 2 pages)

The online response form for the social statement which asks for comments section by section

Responses due by November 1

Monday, September 22, 2008

Sins of the Father

At PLTS we are constantly encouraged to understand how the Gospel speaks differently to different needs in different communities. We do this first by trying to determine what the "problem" is within a community, and then examine how their conception of Jesus as a savior fixes the problem. For instance, if a community feels that the problem with their existence is ignorance, they will want Jesus to be a great teacher; if the community is concerned about mortality, they want Jesus to be a bridge to immortality; if the community is concered about being conquered, they want Jesus to be a protector.

A New York Times article about the television program "Heroes" sees the popular program as speaking to the frustration of many young people who see their parents generation as causing global catastrophe, “Heroes” gives its fans cathartic validation: You inherited a screwed-up world, and it’s not your fault.

With many parallels in the show to AIDS, corporate exploitation, and global warming, all caused by the Baby-Boomer generation villains, the article's thesis is fairly compelling.

So what's the problem this community sees? Perhaps having bad parents? Jesus could then be the surragate mom and dad.

Perhaps it's that people have become so radically individualistic that they have ignored their relationship and responsibility to the rest of creation? Perhaps our generation's Jesus is the great community organizer, uniting all people into one.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Preaching Particulars

During a worship service about a month ago, my pastor encouraged the congregation to join coalitions of disabilities groups around the country in boycotting the film "Tropic Thunder" for its treatment of people with mental disabilities. Several parishioners expressed discomfort with the church prescribing such specific action to its members.

Yesterday, as part the Interfaith Committee for Worker Justice my congregation hosted an immigrant worker who spoke about her experience trying to survive in this country. Afterwards, the intern pastor preached a very prophetic sermon in which he called for employers to provide their workers with living wages and benefits that would ensure workers' health and security, he also called for governors to promote laws that would ensure the same thing. Specifically he mentioned supporting the workers of the Port of Oakland. Some of the same parishioners who had been concerned about the church calling for support of the boycott were very pleased and excited by the exhortation to employers and governors.

This may simply be a case of the parishioners not being employers and governors and hence not feeling the thrust of the sermon directed at them, while they were all movie-goers, and thereby actually challenged by the call to boycott. However, it does beg the question, when a sermon calls the congregation to action, what is appropriate?

Let me suggest a few categories to consider:
animate political specifics (specific political parties and candidates, i.e. support Ralph Nader and the Green Party)
inanimate political specifics (specific laws, resolutions, and bills, i.e. support resolution 38, which raises the minimum wage by $0.50/hour)
political generalities (goals to be achieved through government but without specific means, i.e. the government should raise the minimum wage)
social generalities (goals without specific means to achieve them, i.e. work to eliminate poverty)
social specifics (specific non-political means to achieving goals, i.e. volunteer at the local food shelter)
moral generalities (personal virtues that are encouraged, i.e. respect the dignity of the poor)
moral specifics (means to foster moral virtues, i.e. each morning pray for the homeless people that you've seen in the streets)

Friday, September 5, 2008

The Rhetoric of Liberation

Post-modern deconstructionists make it their goal to reveal how ideologies and narratives mask and support power stuctures. Feminists scholars in particular have sought to overthrow patriarchal normativity in order to liberate women. With the nomination of Sarah Palin, the Republican Party has taken on the rhetoric of feminism in ways that do not match previous statements in order to support a platform which many feminists feel actually harms women.

The fact that various ideologies and organizations can use the same rhetoric to support different ends suggests that the rhetoric has no inherent value in and of itself and is instead merely a tool. This is something that Christianity has struggled with for some time. Historically many people have distrusted religion because of their awareness that politicians have used it solely as a means to power. I fear that a similar awareness of the use of feminism may lead to a distrust of those seeking to promote equality between genders. However, I believe that feminism, like all movements of liberation, is grounded in the Gospel of God's love for all people. God's love elevates no person above another. All movements of liberation, like the Gospel, will inevitably be twisted to support one institution of power or another. This is why God has given us doubt. Doubt is the gift that allows us to question the constructions of humanity and discern the grace of God. Doubt empowers us to identify when messages of hope and freedom are used by political, religious, economic, and social institutions to pacify and oppress. So despite what the Republican Party (among many other institutions, including the Democratic Party and the Church) would have us do, I encourage each of us to go about our day doubting. Doubt feminism, doubt religion, doubt the ideals you hold most dear, so that through doubt we might find courage to hope, and through hope have the strength to live the Gospel of liberation.