Archive for January, 2013


Posted by Christopher Johnson | Thursday, January 31st, 2013 | Uncategorized | 77 Comments

Remember the other day when Mrs. Schori referred to Mark Lawrence and most of the rest of the Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina in the following terms?

I tell you that story because it’s indicative of attitudes we’ve seen here and in many other places.  Somebody decides he knows the law, and oversteps whatever authority he may have to dictate the fate of others who may in fact be obeying the law, and often a law for which this local tyrant is not the judge.  It’s not too far from that kind of attitude to citizens’ militias deciding to patrol their towns or the Mexican border for unwelcome visitors.  It’s not terribly far from the state of mind evidenced in school shootings, or in those who want to arm school children, or the terrorism that takes oil workers hostage.

Most human communities, from churches to governments to families, function more effectively in response to shared decision-making.  Most of us don’t live in a world where one person is the ultimate Decider – because, over and over again, we’ve discovered that better decisions are made when they’re made in communities with appropriate checks and balances.  Power assumed by one authority figure alone is often a recipe for abuse, tyranny, and corruption.  That’s why Jesus challenges us to think about how the shepherd acts.  The authentic ones don’t sneak over the wall in the dead of night.  They operate transparently, and they work cooperatively with the gate-keeper himself.

What about the sheep who aren’t in the fold, who don’t know there is a feast to be found, rest for the body and soul, and partners who are willing to wrestle with the dictates of petty Deciders or wolves who masquerade as sheep? 

Believe it or not, those weren’t the worst words the Presiding Bishop used in this situation.  These were.

A spokesman for Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori has denied suggestions that her sermon denouncing as terrorists and murderers those who did not share her views on the polity of the Episcopal Church was directed at Bishop Mark J. Lawrence or the members of the Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina.

Asked to respond to Canon Ashey’s comments, a spokesman for the presiding bishop told Anglican Ink: “As for the Presiding Bishop’s sermon, she did not identify any group in her sermon.”

George Conger?  This is a personal thing, I don’t know if you have any control over it and it’s not that big of a deal anyway but you might want to dial back the use of the term “schismatics” that appeared in your article’s title.  Every single Anglican, legitimate or not, is a “schismatic,” brother.

But those two paragraphs are why I can never rejoin the church my mother had me baptized into.  Kate, any human being who can read and whose conscience still works knows damned good and well who you were referring to.

And actual Christians just should not be able to lie through their teeth that effortlessly.


Posted by Christopher Johnson | Wednesday, January 30th, 2013 | Uncategorized | 33 Comments

Because he has a wife, children and one of those “actual life” things that I’ve heard so much about, my man Dale Price doesn’t get longer pieces up too often any more.  But he’s got one up now that’s absolutely brilliant.  Click on that link immediately.


Posted by Christopher Johnson | Wednesday, January 30th, 2013 | Uncategorized | 11 Comments

Know something?  Things are really not that bad in your life when you’re financially better off than an entire country.


Posted by Christopher Johnson | Tuesday, January 29th, 2013 | Uncategorized | 75 Comments

If you’re a cop, you have to get used to seeing dead bodies.  You probably don’t see many of them out in the suburbs but you still have to face the possibility.  But I guess there are some incidents that nothing and no one can possibly prepare you for:

The gunfire ended; it was so quiet they could hear the broken glass and bullet casings scraping under their boots. The smell of gunpowder filled the air. The officers turned down their radios; they did not want to give away their positions if there was still a gunman present.

They found the two women first, their bodies lying on the lobby floor. Now they knew it was real. But nothing, no amount of training, could prepare them for what they found next, inside those two classrooms.

“One look, and your life was absolutely changed,” said Michael McGowan, one of the first police officers to arrive at Sandy Hook Elementary School on Dec. 14, as a gunman, in the space of minutes, killed 20 first graders and 6 adults. 

As Officers Chapman and Smith approached the second classroom in the hallway on their left, they spotted a rifle on the floor. Inside, they found the gunman, Adam Lanza, dead by his own hand, along with the bodies of several children and other adults.

The officers searched the room for any other gunmen, then began searching for signs of life among the children. One little girl had a pulse and was breathing. Officer Chapman cradled her in his arms and ran with her outside, to an ambulance. Officer Chapman, a parent himself, tried to comfort her. “You’re safe now; your parents love you,” he recalled saying. She did not survive.

Officer Penna, who was the first officer to enter the second room, found a girl standing alone amid the bodies. She appeared to be in shock, and was covered in blood, but had not been injured. He, not knowing the gunman had been found, told her to stay put.

He ran into the next classroom and saw the dead gunman, with Officers Chapman and Smith standing nearby. State troopers and other officers were now flooding in. Officer Penna returned to the second classroom, his rifle slung around his chest, grabbed the uninjured girl by the arm and ran with her out to a triage area set up in the parking lot.

Here’s the deal.  If you seriously believe that “gun control” will ever stop this sort of thing, then not to put too fine a point on it, argues Rebecca Costa, but you are stupid to live.

Before we turn up the volume on the Second Amendment. Before we trot out data proving that more guns lead to more violence — or don’t. Before we re-live every senseless mass murder and make children afraid to step into a movie theater, school or mall. Before all of this and worse — experts would be wise to examine a phenomena that has been the impetus behind so many recent attacks on innocent civilians: Long before the perpetrators reached for a weapon, they lost their desire to live.

That’s right. It doesn’t matter whether we’re talking about Khalid al-Mihdhar and 9/11, or James Eagan Holmes opening fire on movie-goers in Colorado, or more recently, Adam Lanza, the 20-year-old responsible for the school massacre in Newtown, Conn. We now know that in each of these cases, the assailants felt they no longer had a reason to live. And it is this unnatural state that enabled them to commit unimaginable acts. Once a person makes a decision to die, the most abhorrent atrocities become permissible. There are no longer any consequences to fear: no arrest, no jail, no trial, no families of the victims to face, no remorse, no nothing. Dead is dead.

And that’s why “gun control” is worse than a joke.  Let’s say that you don’t care anymore, about your own life or anyone else’s.  Hell, let’s say that you’re Adam Lanza but you can’t get yourself a gun.  What do you do?

Simple.  You get out on the Internet, make yourself up some pipe bombs, fill ’em with shrapnel and turn those little Sandy Hook kids into hamburger.


Posted by Christopher Johnson | Sunday, January 27th, 2013 | Uncategorized | 77 Comments

Over the weekend, Spongianity established a brand-new and official presence in South Carolina so to mark that auspicious occasion, Katharine Jefferts Schori, the national head of the Spongian Church, Realty Company and Sex Emporium, gave a little speech.  After relating a story about a man who was arrested for flying a glider too close to a nuclear power plant and how unfair that arrest was, Mrs. Schori said this:

I tell you that story because it’s indicative of attitudes we’ve seen here and in many other places.  Somebody decides he knows the law, and oversteps whatever authority he may have to dictate the fate of others who may in fact be obeying the law, and often a law for which this local tyrant is not the judge.  It’s not too far from that kind of attitude to citizens’ militias deciding to patrol their towns or the Mexican border for unwelcome visitors.  It’s not terribly far from the state of mind evidenced in school shootings, or in those who want to arm school children, or the terrorism that takes oil workers hostage.

If you’re new to this site, Kate’s referring to Mark Lawrence, the Episcopal Bishop of South Carolina and someone of an entirely different religion from her own.  But let’s unpack that paragraph for a second, shall we? 

“Attitudes we’ve seen here” are, according to Mrs. Schori, “not terribly far from the state of mind evidenced in school shootings, or in those who want to arm school children, or the terrorism that takes oil workers hostage.”

Basically, Mrs. Schori asserts here that rejecting Spongianity and, particularly, rejecting the Holy Prophet John Shelby (peace and blessings be upon him) is pretty much the same as walking into a school and opening up on little kids.  Or Al Qaeda.  Or both. 

Got it.  But while this thing doesn’t have Frank Griswold’s leftist Jenny C. Quaw, I kid you not, it actually gets better.  Katharine Jefferts Irony-Deprived followed that stupid paragraph with this one.

Most human communities, from churches to governments to families, function more effectively in response to shared decision-making.  Most of us don’t live in a world where one person is the ultimate Decider – because, over and over again, we’ve discovered that better decisions are made when they’re made in communities with appropriate checks and balances.  Power assumed by one authority figure alone is often a recipe for abuse, tyranny, and corruption. 

Said the woman who has, on several occasions, declared that this or that Christian has “renounced his orders” when they clearly and legally haven’t.  It gets better still.  She’s among Biblical illiterates friends so Kate figures she’ll rewrite Acts 15.

Today is the feast day for Timothy, Titus, and Silas.  They were early disciples of the Jesus movement, and they offer a constructive example of the same issues.  The early Christian community has been wrestling with what it means to be a faithful follower of the law as a Gentile – how much of the Jewish law applies to these new followers of Jesus?  Paul and Barnabas set out to visit Antioch, sent by the group of leaders in Jerusalem, who have chosen Silas and a couple of others to go with them.  They take a letter from the council with them says, “we know you’ve heard rumors about us and our decision-making, so we’re sending these people to share with you what has actually been decided.  We think you’ll discover that the rumors aren’t as extreme as the reality.  We’re not increasing your burdens, we’re trying to simplify them.”  The council has decided in a minimalist way – circumcision is not required, nor must the gentiles follow all the dietary laws.  Just a few things:  don’t eat food that’s been blessed in pagan rites, and don’t eat meat from strangled animals or that still has blood in it.  But the struggle continued over whether that was adequate observance.

High Editorial Praise!! to the first person who can tell the Editor what Mrs. Schori left out of her exegesis.  Several tedious paragraphs later, Kate tells her audience that they shouldn’t think what she herself just said several tedious paragraphs before that.

What are those of you in this Diocese going to do in your interactions with those who’ve departed?  Are they law-breakers who should be shot down or thrown in jail?  Do we see them as vigilantes?  Neither is going to produce more abundant life, my friends.  When you meet them out there in the pasture, consider that some of the sheep may think they’re listening to the voice of the Good Shepherd.  Some are also simply exhausted.

To any traditionalist Christians who still think that you’re “called” to remain in the Episcopal Organization, here’s the deal.

They hate you. 

They don’t just disagree with you.

They hate you. 

They loathe, despise and detest you with every fiber of their being.  Katharine Jefferts Schori just compared you to school shooters and terrorists.

They’ll kick you out eventually.  Because you’re the enemy and you’re going down.

Count on it.


Posted by Christopher Johnson | Saturday, January 26th, 2013 | Uncategorized | 18 Comments

How do you know that you lived a great life?  When three television stations in your home town cover your memorial service live.  When dignitaries fly in from all over the country just to attend.  When people you never met either attend the service themselves or stand outside in the cold or elsewhere because you meant that much to them.

We said goodbye to Stan Musial today (there’s some autoplay video at the link but it’s Bob Costas’ wonderful eulogy and it’s well worth watching and listening to).  Archbishop Timothy Dolan flew in from New York to help Archbishop Robert Carlson conduct the funeral Mass (kind of figures since Dolan’s from around here).  And as you can see from some of the other pictures and video, a great many St. Louisans, if they couldn’t get inside the Cathedral Basilica, stood outside either there or at Busch Stadium.

That’s what he meant to us.

I guess he meant a lot to a lot of other people too because the current issue of Sports Illustrated has him on the cover.  In an SI feature on Musial a few years ago, Joe Posnanski relates this story.

There’s one Musial story that has been told many different ways … according to different versions it happened in Brooklyn or Philadelphia; it happened in the top of the ninth or in extra innings. It led to a grand slam or a heroic homer into the lights as in The Natural. The many versions of the story suggest that there were countless other incidents like it in Musial’s career. But this is how the story really happened.

It was April 18, 1954, in Chicago. The Cardinals trailed 3–0 in the seventh, and lefty Paul Minner was on the mound. There was a man on first, one out, when Musial smacked a double down the rightfield line. Or, anyway, the Cardinals thought it was a double. Wally Moon, the man on first, ran around the bases to score. Musial stood happily at second. The Cardinals’ bench cheered. And apparently nobody noticed that first base umpire Lee Ballanfant had called the ball foul.

No footage of the play remains, of course, so we only get what we can read in the newspaper reports: Apparently the ball was definitively fair. Cardinals players came racing out of the dugout to go after Ballanfant, starting with shortstop Solly Hemus. [Augie] Donatelli, the crew chief, who was behind home plate (and who apparently realized that Ballanfant had blown the call), threw Hemus out of the game. Cardinals manager Eddie Stanky was right behind. Donatelli threw him out of the game too. Peanuts Lowrey rushed out, and Donatelli was telling him to get back or he would get tossed too. And it was about then that Musial, who apparently was not entirely sure why there was so much commotion, wandered over to Donatelli.

“What happened, Augie?” Musial asked. “It didn’t count, huh?” Donatelli nodded and said the ball had been called foul.

“Well,” Musial said, “there’s nothing you can do about it.”

And without saying another word, Musial stepped back into the batter’s box and doubled to the same spot in right field. This time it was called fair. The Cardinals rallied and won the game.

This one.

The Brooklyn Dodgers pitchers tend to have special memories of Musial because he always seemed to hit his best in New York City. The numbers at the baseball database Retrosheet are not quite complete, but they show that Musial hit .359 with power for his career at Ebbets Field in Brooklyn (and a similar .343 with power at the Polo Grounds against the Giants). It was supposedly Brooklyn fans—based on their griping “Here comes the man again,” when Musial would come to the plate—who created the nickname Stan the Man. They held a Stan Musial Day in New York at a Mets game once. Chicago Cubs fans once voted him their favorite player, ahead of all the hometown stars, including their own lovable Ernie Banks. That was real.

And this one.

Another Brooklyn Dodgers pitcher, Joe Black, told me a story once. We were sitting next to each other on a plane when, without provocation, he simply started telling the story, one he has told many times. He was pitching against the St. Louis Cardinals—this was 1952, his rookie year, his best year. Black had come out of the Negro leagues, and he was young, and he pitched fearlessly. He thought this happened the first time he faced the Cardinals; Black pitched three scoreless innings that day. But he wasn’t entirely sure that was the day. What he remembered clearly, though, was the voice booming from the Cardinals’ dugout while he was pitching to Musial.

“Don’t worry, Stan,” that someone from the Cardinals dugout had yelled. “With that dark background on the mound, you shouldn’t haven’t any problem hitting the ball.”

Musial did not show any reaction at all. He never did when he hit. He simply spat on the ground and got into his famous peekaboo batting stance—the one that Hall of Fame pitcher Ted Lyons said “looked like a small boy looking around a corner to see if the cops are coming”—and he flied out. It was after the game, when Black was in the clubhouse, that he looked up and saw Stan Musial.

“I’m sorry that happened,” Black remembered Musial whispering. “But don’t you worry about it. You’re a great pitcher. You will win a lot of games.”

Yes, Joe Black told the story often—and it’s a good story. But what I remember about the way he told it on the plane that day was how proud Black was to be connected to Musial. This is the common theme when people tell their Musial stories. No one tries to make Musial larger than life—he was only as large as life. He didn’t make a show. He didn’t make speeches. He didn’t try to change the world. He just believed that every man had the right to be treated with dignity.

I only have one personal Stan Musial story.  I don’t know exactly where this happened or when but when I was a kid, I was in St. Louis for some reason.  Might have been a school field trip or some other group activity and we might have been in or somewhere close by Stan’s St. Louis restaurant.

Anyway, at one point (I think we were on our way home), I look over and there he is.  Stan Musial.  So I desperately started looking around for something to write both with and on (it didn’t seem quite right for me to ask for Stan’s autograph and expect him to provide both paper and pen).  So no Stan Musial autograph for the Editor.

In later years, I got to thinking that even if I’d had both of those things, I wouldn’t have gone over there because I wouldn’t have had the courage.  Any other Cardinal, sure.

But that was Stan Musial.

I only learned later on that my view was 100% wrong.  If I’d had a pen and some paper, gone over there and shyly asked, “Mr. Musial?” Stan would have not only given me an autograph but made me feel like a trillion dollars just for asking him to sign his name.  Considering what Stan Musial was and what modern athletes are now, we weren’t so much mourning the death of Stan Musial as we were mourning this.

We shall, as Shakespeare put it, “never look upon his like again.”


Posted by Christopher Johnson | Friday, January 25th, 2013 | Uncategorized | 11 Comments

Jim Rome has a name for guys like Kevin Slaten.  Likes To Fight Guy:

The local sports radio personality who bills himself as “The King” failed to appear in court Wednesday night on an assault charge.

Kevin Slaten, 58, of St. Charles, had been charged by Webster Groves authorities with misdemeanor assault in connection with a confrontation Nov. 12 at the KFNS (590 AM) radio station studios, 8045 Big Bend Boulevard.

Slaten was supposed to appear at 6 p.m. Wednesday, but he never showed up. Court officials said they had not received any correspondence from Slaten, nor from an attorney on his behalf.

With good reason.  Kev does this sort of thing a lot.

Slaten has had a history of allegations of altercations. In 1981, he was arrested after an altercation with a Florissant policeman. It’s unclear how the case was resolved. In 1993, he was found guilty of misdemeanor and felony assault for attacking a couple after a minor auto accident after a Blues hockey game. He was placed on probation and fined.

In 1994, he was arrested after a scuffle outside the Trainwreck Saloon in Rock Hill, but charges were dropped. In 2006, Slaten faced allegations of a fight with a patron at a pub about sports. Slaten said that the other man pushed him, and no charges were filed.

This story leaves out Slaten’s most legenday encounter, one that I personally witnessed.  In the early 1980’s, Kevin Slaten was a young sportscaster with a local television station.  He was also the public address announcer for the St. Louis Steamers.

The who?  The Steamers were an indoor soccer team.  In most places, indoor soccer was an oddity but around here it was wildly popular. (FYI.  If you should ever happen to meet my intense deaf friend Jim, whatever you do, do NOT mention the name Wichita.  It’s too complicated to go into but trust me).  Back then, the Steamers regularly outdrew the NHL’s St. Louis Blues.

Kev’s job was to get the crowd going and he was pretty good at it.  Until the legendary Buffalo Stallions came to town one night and one of their players decided to have a little fun at Slaten’s expense.

Which is something that you never did.  At one point, this guy received a penalty (they treated it like hockey), was sent to the box which was right next to the public address announcer’s area and the next thing that anyone knew, dude and Kev were throwing down.  Or trying to, anyway.

The St. Louis police eventually ended up escorting Slaten out of the building and the Steamers fired him the next day.  And the rest is (really embarrassing) history.


Posted by Christopher Johnson | Friday, January 25th, 2013 | Uncategorized | 14 Comments

South Carolina Quislings to Circuit Court judge: eff off.  Oh, and password-protecting your site, people?  Really gutless move.


Posted by Christopher Johnson | Thursday, January 24th, 2013 | Uncategorized | 51 Comments

Mrs. Schori intends to drop by and do important stuff:

Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori will convene and chair a special meeting of the Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina Convention on January 26 at Grace Episcopal Church in Charleston, SC.

Presiding Bishop Jefferts Schori will celebrate and preach at Eucharist at 9:30 am.  The special meeting follows; the slated agenda items include the election of the Rt. Rev. Charles Glenn vonRosenberg as Provisional Bishop and then the election of clergy and lay people to serve in diocesan leadership positions.

Or not.

South Carolina Circuit Court Judge Diane S. Goodstein today issued a temporary restraining order that prevents The Episcopal Church (TEC) and parishes and individuals associated with it from assuming the identity of the Diocese of South Carolina.

The judge’s order states, in part: “No individual, organization, association or entity, whether incorporated or not, may use, assume, or adopt in any way, directly or indirectly, the registered names and the seal or mark of The Protestant Episcopal Church in the Diocese of South Carolina.”

The order specifically prohibits all but a handful of Diocesan employees, directors and trustees who are specified by name from using the Diocese’s identity.

The judge effectively prevents TEC, a voluntary association, and the parishes who support it, from claiming to own or operate the Diocese of South Carolina, an entity that it insists it owns but whose very existence predates The Episcopal Church.  The Diocese of South Carolina was established in 1785 and was a founder of TEC nearly five years later. The Diocese is a legally established South Carolina corporation and its trademarks are protected under state law.

The Curmudgeon considers this a huge victory for South Carolina.

The order goes into effect immediately, so it will essentially force the remnant group meeting this Saturday to adopt a different name for the entity it will form, and by which it will be known. The governing documents which are scheduled for approval (a Constitution and Canons based on the former diocesan version before changes were approved in 2011 and 2012) will need to be changed to remove all references to “the Protestant Episcopal Church in the Diocese of South Carolina” and “the Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina.” The order will remain in effect until February 1, when a hearing will be held starting at 9:00 a.m. in the Richland County courthouse on a preliminary (“temporary”) injunction, pending the trial and final resolution of the case. (I am not sure why it is not to be held in the Dorchester County courthouse at St. George; perhaps some South Carolina attorney will enlighten us on injunction procedures there.)

The Court has found, based just on the showing presented ex parte by Bishop Lawrence and his capable attorneys, that the plaintiff Diocese made “a prima facie showing . . . as to the likelihood of [its] success on the merits.” In other words, the Diocese showed to the Court sufficient indicia of its ownership of the registered marks (the names and corporate seal) that the Court believes it will prevail in the ultimate lawsuit.

And that represents a substantial uphill burden for ECUSA and its attorneys to overcome. They start off on the wrong foot with the Court, because the remnant group under their direction simply arrogated the names and seal to their own use, without first going into a court to make their case. (Of course, they were under the disability that they will not be legally recognizable in a South Carolina court until after their organizational meeting this Saturday.)

Implicit in the Court’s ruling is an even weightier and more significant finding: that the Diocese of South Carolina has the legal right, under South Carolina law, to withdraw from ECUSA and retain its corporate and individual identity. That finding, once it is formalized in this case, will put the final lie to 815’s mantra that “People may leave the Church, but Dioceses may not.”

Is there anything to this?  You got me; Haley’s an actual lawyer and I’m an ex-librarian.  But it seems to me that if Church Center is legally forbidden from establishing a “Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina,” then Mark Lawrence and his diocese are free.

I don’t know what that means, mind you.


Posted by Christopher Johnson | Wednesday, January 23rd, 2013 | Uncategorized | 33 Comments

Episode #477,394 of “So What Was The Problem With Hitler Again?” brings us to Salon’s Mary Elizabeth Williams who admits that human life begins at conception:

Of all the diabolically clever moves the anti-choice lobby has ever pulled, surely one of the greatest has been its consistent co-opting of the word “life.” Life! Who wants to argue with that? Who wants be on the side of … not-life? That’s why the language of those who support abortion has for so long been carefully couched in other terms. While opponents of abortion eagerly describe themselves as “pro-life,” the rest of us have had to scramble around with not nearly as big-ticket words like “choice” and “reproductive freedom.” The “life” conversation is often too thorny to even broach. Yet I know that throughout my own pregnancies, I never wavered for a moment in the belief that I was carrying a human life inside of me. I believe that’s what a fetus is: a human life. And that doesn’t make me one iota less solidly pro-choice.

She just doesn’t give a crap.

Here’s the complicated reality in which we live: All life is not equal. That’s a difficult thing for liberals like me to talk about, lest we wind up looking like death-panel-loving, kill-your-grandma-and-your-precious-baby storm troopers. Yet a fetus can be a human life without having the same rights as the woman in whose body it resides. She’s the boss. Her life and what is right for her circumstances and her health should automatically trump the rights of the non-autonomous entity inside of her. Always.


Posted by Christopher Johnson | Tuesday, January 22nd, 2013 | Uncategorized | 43 Comments

Another prominent “evangelical” throws in the cultural towel as Tony Campolo wishes that Christianity would stop being so mean to homosexuals.  There is nothing here but the usual emoting and special pleading so I’ll just hit a few high points:

If you haven’t already picked up the news via the internet, let me tell you that Steve Chalke, one of the most prominent preachers in the United Kingdom, and an icon among Evangelicals, has published a definitive statement in support of committed, faithful, same-sex relationships. It is published in the United Kingdom in next month’s edition of the magazine, Christianity. The British version of the U.S. magazine, Christianity Today, Christianity is a conservative, Evangelical publication. Steve’s statement has also received significant attention from the UK’s mainstream press and media.

Steve’s public declaration in support of Civil Partnerships will cause reverberations far and wide. His statement represents the first time that a major evangelist and leader in the Evangelical community has come out in support of same-sex relationships. Discussions about what he has done will reverberate from churches, youth groups, seminaries, Bible schools and denominations. Both those who support same-sex partnerships and gay marriage as well as those who oppose such developments will look upon Steve’s declaration as a watershed. It is one more evidence that a major shift is taking place on this controversial subject, not only within mainline Christianity, but among Evangelicals.

And since nobody anywhere has gotten the Bible right until right now…

Steve’s paper “A MATTER OF INTEGRITY: The Church, sexuality, inclusion and an open conversation” also explores thoroughly the theology of both the Old and New Testament passages which are traditionally held to teach that anything other than celibacy for homosexual people is unacceptable. He claims that it is the task of all those worldwide who take the Bible’s text seriously and authoritatively to grapple constantly with its interpretation. He claims that the huge advances in the field of biblical studies over the last decades – as the result of significant archaeological finds and advances in historical, cultural and linguistic understanding – have brought with them new insights and perspectives into the meaning of the scriptural text.

For Campolo, the bottom line is that Christianity needs to rewrite the Bible for one reason and only one.  Appearances.

Those of us who will have to deal with what Steve Chalke has said need not necessarily agree with his theology or biblical hermeneutic to affirm the truth that he boldly declares, which is that the Church cannot afford to go on alienating the youth of the nation by the way it treats gay people.

For my own part, I remain conservative on the issue, but I agree with Steve that the attitudes of many churches are homophobic and cruel. Whether or not we change our positions on accepting same-sex relationships or even gay marriage, we Evangelicals have to face the reality that the time has come for many of us to change our attitudes towards gay people, and show something of the love and grace of God in the name of His Son Jesus.

Should this trend concern you?  It concerns me; call it the “Westboroization” of traditional Christianity.  Fred Phelps’ little cult is rightly reviled for the abomination that it is. 

But I worry that the conservative viewpoint, particularly on homosexuality, will increasingly be marginalized in exactly the same way.  As particularly hateful bigotry, completely foreign to what Christ intended for His Church to be.

This “conservative” evangelical supports us.  So does that one.  And that one over there.  The Chalke-Campolo perspective will be seen as as a legitimately Christian one while the other will be seen as not Christian at all, worthy only to be shunned.

Or worse.

What does all that Protestant stuff have to do with us, say Roman Catholics?  In some respects, the Catholics will be a much tougher nut to crack, while in other respects they’ll actually be easier.

Because liberal Catholics don’t really have to win. 

Let’s say that a fair number of Catholic bishops from the US, Canada and Europe got together to kick this issue around and came up with a modern version of Cardinal Bernadin’s “seamless garment” argument.

It wouldn’t repudiate Catholic doctrine, heaven forfend.  But it might say something about how other issues are equally important, if not more so, and that in the interest of our minstries, we really should scale this one back just a little bit.

Once they take that line, The Issue officially has its foot in the door.  And once that happens, The Issue isn’t going anywhere.  Ever.


Posted by Christopher Johnson | Sunday, January 20th, 2013 | Uncategorized | 25 Comments

Pay close attention because you’re about to read something that doesn’t show up here all that often.  I’m going to say really nice things about Katharine Jefferts Schori because in this particular situation, the Presiding Bishop is exactly right:

Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori and President of the House of Deputies the Rev. Gay Clark Jennings have said that a draft letter pressing the Executive Council to intervene in the implementation of the Episcopal Church’s policies on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is extremely unhelpful and disregards due legislative processes.

“Just as we don’t proof-text Scripture, we don’t proof-text resolutions, and our polity does not provide Executive Council as an appellate process,” Jennings told ENS after seeing a copy of the draft letter. “Each triennium, however, faithful Episcopalians who disagree with a decision of General Convention work to craft new legislation for a new convention, and that process is open to all of us.”

But this really isn’t about Episcopal polity.  It’s about something far more serious.

“Our work must begin by listening to those who live and work and have their being in the midst of the current conflicts, and equally attend to the conflicts in our own communities,” Jefferts Schori told ENS. “We cannot build a lasting peace by directing or imposing strategies on others.  We can encourage non-violent and transparent methods like those Jesus and his disciple Martin Luther King, Jr. did.”

That’s the Presiding Bishop’s polite way of telling the author or authors of this letter, “Are you people freaking kidding me?!!”  Because this might be the single most venomous Episcopal statement on the Middle East that I can ever recall reading.  It’s quite long so I’ll just provide a few examples of its repusive rhetoric.

Just as this church stood with South Africa and Namibia during the dark days of Apartheid, so we recognize that we need to be standing with our sister and brother Palestinians who have endured an Apartheid that Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu has described as worse than it was in South Africa.  All peoples who have experienced oppression, including indigenous peoples who have known what it is to be dispossessed of their land, understand the Palestinian issue.

Israel must be held accountable for allowing an occupation for 45 years that suffocates the dreams of freedom that Palestinians hold every bit as much as African Americans sought on that day when Dr. King told the world that he had a dream. Occupation cannot be justified as a tool of security. Occupation is its own form of violence, a prescription for frustration and rage among those shackled under its harsh restraints.

The truth that is so readily seen worldwide, except among our nation’s leaders, is that Israel imposes a matrix of control over the occupied Palestinian territories, locating Jewish settlements on prime Palestinian land, building segregated roads forbidden to Palestinians to connect the settlers to Israel proper, erecting a wall that causes havoc in the daily lives of Palestinians and serves as another pretext to occupy yet more land. We see check points that are used to control the movements of people on their own land where tactics of bullying, intimidation, and detention are practiced; and where the demolition of homes and the uprooting of olive tree orchards are commonplace causing further humiliation and insult, along with the destruction of livelihoods. We see what was once Palestinian East Jerusalem[A “city” which dates all the way back to 1948 – Ed] being subsumed through Israel’s settlement policy. We see the teeming population of Gaza held under confinement on land, in the air, and at sea.

We ask today why is it that Congress and the White House are unable to see the injustice of the occupation, where Israel is the oppressor, and the Palestinians the oppressed? Why is it that our government could not recognize the rights of Palestinians to status as a non-member observer state at the United Nations? Why do our country’s leaders embarrass us as a nation by being on the short end of the UN vote, 138-9, and expose our irrational bias? We are mystified that Washington lives in a bubble of unreality in its blind support of an immense injustice perpetrated every day on the Palestinian people, and foments anger across the Middle East and the world.

There’s the usual totally meaningless boilerplate.

We believe, as does our Church, in the right of the state of Israel to exist, and we are aware of the threats against it from multiple sources, which saddens and concerns us.

Told you.

We assure all Jews in Israel and everywhere that we too share a commitment to Israel’s security and peace even as we insist that the state of Israel end this miserable occupation, which diminishes both the oppressed and the oppressor.  We affirm our commitment to non-violence and reject the use of violence from either side. We oppose the indiscriminate use of rockets fired into Israeli communities as we oppose bombs being dropped on Gaza by Israeli fighter jets. We affirm the right of Israel to be at peace with her neighbors, but insist it be through the prism of justice as we believe Dr. King would insist.

Translation:  blah, blah, blah.  I am, of course, not a Jew; the children of Israel just wrote most of my Bible.  But it seems to me that if you feel the need to go out of your way to claim that you’re not an anti-Semite, then you have a serious Jew problem. 

As our Church stated in 1991, we differentiate between anti-Semitism, which we abhor, and legitimate criticism of the state of Israel, especially as Israel imposes an unjust system of occupation upon another people.

Apparently, using loaded terms like apartheid constitutes “legitimate criticism of the state of Israel” in Episcopal circles these days.

And there you have it.  There’s no history here, no current affairs, no interest in discovering what led up to the current Middle Eastern situation.  Israel and Israel alone is the villain and that’s that.

This letter seems to have quite a bit of mainstream Episcopal support.  Former House of Deputies head Bonnie Anderson and doddering old fool Ed Browning signed their names to this letter as did Gene Robinson, Leo Frade, Brian Grieves and Winnie Varghese while international Anglican leftist airheads like Jenny Te Paa and Uncle Dez also indicated their enthusiastic approval.

So it’s good that the Presiding Bishop wants to kill this atrocity.  Because she knows, or should know, that letters like this one will annihilate whatever’s left of her church’s ability to speak to this issue.  Choose one side, as this letter clearly does, and the other side no longer has any reason to listen to you.


Posted by Christopher Johnson | Friday, January 18th, 2013 | Uncategorized | 21 Comments

There’s just no pleasing some people:

Canada has spiffy new $20 bills made of polymer instead of paper, but botanists are more focused on a design element: They say the Bank of Canada adorned the bill with a maple leaf from Norway instead of Canada, reports the CBC. “It’s a species that’s invasive in Eastern Canada and is displacing some of our native species, and it’s probably not an appropriate species to be putting on our native currency,” says one.

On the other hand, Canada does have history’s greatest coin design (which Ottawa, of course, has since discarded) to its credit.  So there’s that.


Posted by Christopher Johnson | Thursday, January 17th, 2013 | Uncategorized | 47 Comments

Prominent British evangelical Steve Chalke surrenders to the Zeitgeist:

I feel both compelled and afraid to write this article. Compelled because, in my understanding, the principles of justice, reconciliation and inclusion sit at the very heart of Jesus’ message. Afraid because I recognise the Bible is understood by many to teach that the practice of homosexuality, in any circumstance, is a sin or ‘less than God’s best’.

I think you know how the rest of this is going to go.

Some will think that I have strayed from scripture – that I am no longer an evangelical. I have formed my view, however, not out of any disregard for the Bible’s authority, but by way of grappling with it and, through prayerful reflection, seeking to take it seriously.

Translation: making it say what I want it to say so the secular left will respect me.

Promiscuity is always damaging and dehumanising. Casual and self-centred expressions of sexuality – homosexual or heterosexual – never reflect God’s faithfulness, grace and self-giving love. Only a permanent and stable relationship, in which respect and faithfulness are given and received, can offer the security in which well-being and love can thrive.

Told you.

One tragic outworking of the Church’s historical rejection of faithful gay relationships is our failure to provide homosexual people with any model of how to cope with their sexuality, except for those who have the gift of, or capacity for, celibacy. In this way we have left people vulnerable and isolated. When we refuse to make room for gay people to live in loving, stable relationships, we consign them to lives of loneness, secrecy and fear. It’s one thing to be critical of a promiscuous lifestyle – but shouldn’t the Church consider nurturing positive models for permanent and monogamous homosexual relationships?

Congratulations, Chalkie.  You just lost me.

You have be me to understand why that is one of the most offensive things I’ve ever read.  Because for as long as I’ve thought about sex (because that’s what this is really all about), a guiding principle of my life is that God’s directive on human intimacy is the correct one and to violate it was literally unthinkable.

And do you know what that stance got me, Chalkie?  Forty years all by myself.  Granted, I kick ass at intense shyness.  And early on, I let a lot of really great women get away because I was waiting for the Sports Illustrated swimsuit model that I was going to marry.  Plus, librarians aren’t chick magnets.

But in my case, wanting to do things God’s way rather than the world’s way has given me a life with periods of a loneliness the likes of which few of you can possibly comprehend.  How have I handled it?  Not well (that would be Chalkie’s “secrecy and fear” part).  Have I failed to live up to God’s standard?  More times than I can count.

That doesn’t mean that the standard is wrong; it just means that it is very hard if not impossible.  But thanks to the Cross, my Father in heaven is infinitely forgiving.  Because I haven’t created any universes lately and because I know who God and His Son are, the idea that God needs to lighten up is unthinkable.

But not to Chalkie.  Evidently, the loneliness of homosexuals, and only the loneliness of homosexuals, is so much more important that the loneliness of me and others like me that Chalkie thinks that the Church needs to take those stupid anti-homosexuality verses out of the Bible treat Scripture “seriously” in order to let homosexuals feel better about themselves and start sending us pledge checks.

Excuse me if I have trouble giving a crap, Chalkie.

For many, a central issue is the exegesis of the second Genesis Creation Story (Genesis 2:4 – 3:24), which is the one that Jesus later refers to, as recorded in Matthew 19:5: ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh’ (Genesis 2:24).

Was the author intending to enshrine the view that all lifelong sexual unions should be exclusively heterosexual because this is a ‘creation ordinance’? Or, is this simply the normative illustration, whereas the critical truths of the story lie elsewhere? If it is the former, then it is perhaps legitimate to refer to practicing homosexual sex, even within a lifelong relationship, as having ‘fallen short of God’s ideal’ and to state that those who are not heterosexually orientated are ‘in need of restoration’. But, if it’s the latter, then does the ‘norm’ necessarily infer the ‘ideal’? Or is it like the ‘norm’ of being right-handed, which never implies any failing of those who are born left-handed? If so, then neither of the earlier negative definitions is appropriate, but instead cause a great deal of unnecessary pain and, sometimes, terrible tragedy.

Uh…what?!!  I don’t know, maybe it’s me, but one would think that God Incarnate would say what He means.  Then Chalkie trots out the usual Christian left talking points.

Most Christians are properly wary of using the story of God’s judgement on the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah (Genesis 19) which is now widely understood to be about the indulgence, indifference to others and social injustice of their inhabitants, rather than a proof text against homosexuality.

Is Jude 1:7 not in your Bible, Chalkie?

Then there are the New Testament injunctions (Romans 1:26-27, 1 Corinthians 6:9-11 and 1 Timothy 1:9-11) which, depending on the commentaries you choose, are read negatively or more positively in relation to faithful (as opposed to casual), same-sex relationships. In fact, a growing number of evangelical scholars argue that what the New Testament writers refer to as homosexual practice could not have been the stable same-sex unions of the sort that exist today, of which they knew nothing, but promiscuity associated with wild occultic orgies.

The Bible writers didn’t know about stable, homosexual relationships.  Which suggests that the Holy Spirit, who inspired the Bible, didn’t know about them either.  Which is even stranger considering that the Holy Spirit is…you know.   And then there’s slavery.

The Old Testament not only endorses slave keeping and trading, it sets out terms and conditions for its practice (eg. Leviticus 25:44-46). Although the New Testament proposes a more humane form of slave keeping, it fails to deliver a clear cut protest against it. Of course, Galatians 3:28 explains “There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” However, this passage is no more a call for the abolition of slavery than it is of the sexes or of national identities and cultures.

Chalkie?  You have read the one about Jesus and divorce, right?  Now show me anywhere in the Scriptures where anyone is commanded to own a slave.  Because I can show you lots of places where people are commanded not to do what Gene Robinson, Susan Russell, Elizabeth Kaeton, Louie Crew, Mary Glasspool and others are commanded not to do what they enjoy doing in their off-hours.

How then did Wilberforce and friends reach their conclusions? It was their view of the proper interpretation of scripture. They saw that the biblical writers did not take blind dictation from God, instead, their personalities, cultural and social understandings all played a part in the formation of their writing. So, rather than basing their approach on isolated proof texts, the abolitionists built their stance around the deeper resonance of the trajectory of scripture – the compass for which is Jesus who was radically inclusive of women and other social outcasts of his day, challenging social norms and perceived orthodoxy.

That would be the same Jesus who used the word “repent” a lot.  He declared that “social outcasts” like the tax collector Zacchaeus had been saved only after they had brought fourth fruits worthy of repentance.  But teh gheys seem to be the only people in the whole world whose experiences matter these days.

Why am I so passionate about this issue? Because people’s lives are at stake. Numerous studies show that suicide rates among gay people, especially young people, are comparatively high. Church leaders sometimes use this data to argue that homosexuality is unhealthy when tragically it’s anti-gay stigma, propped up by Church attitudes, which, all too often, drives these statistics.

Wrong, dumbass.  The Church’s responsibility is to tell the truth, not to make the “truth” as inoffensive as it possibly can.  Otherwise, what would be the point?


Posted by Christopher Johnson | Tuesday, January 15th, 2013 | Uncategorized | 32 Comments

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