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Bishop Robinson’s Celebratory Benediction

I was the Warden at St. Alban’s Episcopal Church when the then Rev. Gene Robinson was being considered to become the 9th Bishop of the Diocese of New Hampshire. At a vestry meeting the then Rector of St. Alban’s asked vestry members to sign a letter in support of the candidacy of the Rev. Robinson. I in good conscience stated that I could not sign the letter as it was written. Though I knew of Rev. Robinson I did not know him. Though I supported his right as a Gay man to be considered for the position of Bishop, I did not believe that his sexual orientation automatically qualified him for the office. Nor did it allow me to sign a letter advising the electors of the Diocese of New Hampshire that they should vote for Rev. Robinson because I new little of his experience and background and how he would benefit their Dioceses.

I suggested that we incorporate language that we believe that Rev. Robinson’s sexual orientation should not be a consideration of his candidacy. We also stated that if the Diocesan electors understand Rev. Robinson to be qualified and suitably gifted to meet the requirements of the position then we wholeheartedly support their decision to call him as the 9th Bishop of the Diocese of New Hampshire. Thankfully God moved the electors to call Rev. Robinson. His consecration as Bishop has removed another barrier for the denial of civil rights for Gays.

I believe that my opposition to the letter as it was originally presented was in full conformance with Dr. Martin Luther King’s admonition that we should judge a person by the content of his character, not the color of his skin, or in the case of Rev. Robinson his sexual orientation. This teaching is central to my understanding of the ministry of Jesus Christ. I believe Jesus practiced a ministry of inclusiveness that calls everyone to his table. By doing so Jesus asks us to see the divinity in one another, unencumbered by earthly prejudices and predispositions. Jesus asks us to see each other as God sees us by looking at what is written in the heart of a person. By recognizing that we are all children of God, equally endowed with the gift of grace and apportioned an equal amount of divine love.

The Constitution of the United States is a political document that parallels that idea. We are all equal citizens under the law. No law will abrogate or abridge the civil rights, privileges and protection of our laws for any citizen based on race, religion, gender or sexual orientation.

Bishop Robinson’s Benediction will speak to this issue on many levels. His benediction will ask that we be mindful of the call for inclusiveness and to engage in the work to bridge the cultural, political and racial divide that is always a clear and present danger to a democratic republic. The shameful thrust of Proposition 8 that seeks to codify the denial of equal civil rights to Gay people denies them a place at the table of democracy. I don’t believe Jesus would approve. But we must take heart and be content in the understanding that children of God like Bishop Robinson walk and teach among us. Asking us to be ever mindful of those who suffer the injustice of exclusion and to set a place at the table so that all may eat the bread of life and drink from the cup of liberty.

You Tube Video: San Francisco Gay Men Chorus, “Oh, Happy Day”

Risk: civil rights, democracy

January 18, 2009 Posted by | Christianity, Civil Rights, gay rights, LGBT, Obama, politics, religion | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“The Perfect Christian Gentleman”

The BBC News Hour ran a piece on US citizens reflections on the Bush Presidency. One woman from Ohio referred to Bush as “the perfect Christian gentleman.” Her point that Bush restored the morality and integrity of the Office of the President after the tidal wave of sin Clinton unleashed in the White House with his sexual dalliances and uncontrollable peccadilloes. According to this fundamentalist Christian woman, Bush achieved this do to his steadfast faith and commitment to Jesus Christ. She even cited Bush’s refusal to covert to Islam after he received an urgent appeal to do so by the Iranian President Ahmadinejad.

As a Christian and follower of Jesus Christ I take great exception to the characterization of George Bush as a “perfect Christian gentleman”. First I must say that my understanding of Christianity is that as human beings we are imperfect and need to be ever mindful of the mistakes and shortcomings we as human beings exhibit and practice every day of our lives. During the past couple of weeks Bush’ has been on a farewell media tour. He has been asked by many correspondents about any mistakes he might have made. To date Bush has not come up with anything of significance. I guess Bush believes himself to be the perfect Christian gentleman. But I believe that any cursory examination of the Bible revels that Mr. Bush has severely fallen short of the glory of God as advocated, taught and lived by Jesus Christ.

We not going to get into a theological debate concerning what a Christian is or what makes one perfect or imperfect. What I wish to convey is my understanding of what the ministry of Jesus Christ is all about and why I believe that George Bush and the rest of the religious right that thinks Jesus Christ is the Chairman of the GOP are dead wrong and misguided at best and damnable propagandists at worst for cooping a great faith tradition to serve their narrow political interests.

The first damnable indictment of Bush is his pernicious use of fear. Anyone with any knowledge of the Bible and the teachings of Jesus Christ are aware of his consistent message of not to be afraid. Mr. Bush and his Republican party propagandists have fed the citizens of this country a steady diet of fear laden manna since 9/11 to justify their radical reactionary political agenda. Fundamentalists codify and justify their view of the world, actions and narrow beliefs with biblical certitude by citing chapter and verse. They turn the Bible or Quran into ideological dogma that protects the powerful and justifies their actions to protect their privilege. Jesus Christ took this world to task. He would not approve.

Another damnable indictment of Mr. Bush and the claim of his perfect Christian gentlemeness is his insistence on war as a means to project power and engage the world. Their are numerous examples of the Prince of Peace teaching that violence is not the chosen way Children of God engage the world. One can start with the Beatitudes and conclude with the night Jesus Christ was taken into custody in Gethsemane and one will have a pretty good insight about his position on violence and war. I often think of St. Peter greeting Mr. Bush at the gates of Heaven. I believe he’ll be asked about the lives of over 4,000 service women and men and significant collateral damage he initiated by his invasion of Iraq. He may also be asked about the 2 mn Iraqis that have been displaced by the war and the hardship it has wrought. Bush is convinced that history will absolve him for his actions. I wonder if St. Peter will do the same?

Mr. Bush’s justification of torture, his obstinate refusal to free the prisoners of Gitmo, his policies to exclude Gay people as equal citizens of our “One Nation Under God” in my opinion are additional examples of how our current president falls short in the perfect Christian gentleman category. Jesus Christ was about respecting life. “Whatever you have done for the least of these you have done to me,” he said. The idea that Bush tortured, imprisoned or excluded Jesus Christ is most unsettling.

As a Christian I am aware of the log that is in my eye. After 52 years on this earth its as big as a Sequoia and in desperate need of removal. But I am comforted in the faith and knowledge that redemption is available to everyone. All it takes is some self knowledge that we are not perfect, that we have turned from our sinful ways and we put ourselves in service to God by helping others. Mr. Bush still has a shot. I’ll be praying that he becomes painfully aware of his imperfections and takes up the task of rectifying his shortcomings. Perfect Christian gentlemen? Don’t think so, not yet anyway.

You Tube Video: Cool Hand Luke, Just a Closer Walk With Thee

Risk: myopia, fundamentalism, dogma

January 15, 2009 Posted by | Bible, Bush, Christianity, faith, gay rights, LGBT, politics, Quran, religion | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment