Monday, March 30, 2009

Inclusivity for Northwest Arkansas...

Father Roger Joslin of All Saint's Episcopal Church gave a wonderful sermon last Sunday. Here is a snippet:

"We worship a risen Christ, a Christ lifted up from the earth, so that all people may be drawn to him. All people means married and divorced, black and white and brown, people with documents and without, gay and straight, clean and unkempt, well fed and hungry, the troubled and the content, those certain in their faith and those full of doubt, every saint and every sinner.

I have a vision, a vision of all the people who have been rejected by the religious institutions in Benton County arriving at our door on Sunday morning. I imagine all those who feel like they don’t belong elsewhere, who have not been accepted just like they are, saying to the usher who greets them at the door, “Sir, we wish to see Jesus.” And I imagine the usher, surveying this crowd of hungry people, this enormous crowd of troubled people, filling the parking lot and spilling over into the streets, and I hear our usher telling them, ”Welcome, you have come to the right place.”

And a voice from heaven, that some will call thunder, and some will call the voice of angels, will assure us that in this act of welcoming compassion, the name of God is glorified. "

That is my dream as well, but not just for All Saints. This is what the Episcopal Church has come to represent for me. A place where people come to see Jesus and where God meets us where we are. To me the Episcopal Church has embodied what I have always believed the Gospel message was about: that we are all sinners, but that we are all also reconciled to the Father through Christ. The Jesus I know shared a meal with the "sinners and tax collectors", the most reviled of Jewish society. He risked his own status in Jewish society to touch and heal the "unclean", those cast out to the margins. This Jesus wept at the news that his friend had died. I can't reconcile him with the stern disciplinarian most churches in Northwest Arkansas make him out to be.

And maybe I shouldn't. I mean think about it. In the Gospel of John, Jesus says "You know neither me nor my Father. If you knew me, you would know my Father also." We believe in a Triune God who is at the same time the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. If Jesus was so inclusive of others, then it would go without saying that God the Father is the same.

My favorite quote from the Gospels is the Greatest Commandment. It is quoted in Matthew 22, Mark 12, and Luke 10. It simply reads, "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.” This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it: “You shall love your neighbour as yourself.” On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets." A wise man once told me, "once is an accident, twice is coincidence, three times something is up." To have this same command quoted in all three Synoptic Gospels means it is very important. In fact, I would say the entire Gospel, or Evangelion hinges on this imperative. Later on he says, "Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light." Does this sound like a authoritarian dictator to you?

As we look toward the future of the Episcopal Church, we should remember this. We all should remember that when we say Jesus came to "set the captives free", those captives are all around us. They are captives of a theology of hatred and punishment that has no place in our theology. If we are to look after "the least of these" we need to welcome them into our midst. Only then will the Father be glorified.

Friday, March 27, 2009


Out of respect for James at Three Legged Stool and Lisa from Ramblings this blog will be silent until Monday.  James has lost two close family members and Lisa her husband, Ian.  

May the angels lead you to paradise,
And may the martyrs receive you on arrival
And lead you to the holy city of Jerusalem.
May the choir of angels receive youAnd may you, with Lazarus, 
who was once poor, have eternal rest.

Rest in peace and rise in Glory.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Finally, a Break!

Sorry I haven't been able to post much in the last few days. It's been the equilivent to finals with my online schooling, so I've been up to my neck in group projects, term papers and discussion boards on papers. Whew... but today the last two assignments for this term were turned in and I can enjoy a week of relaxation... of sorts.

Mrs. H and I decided not to do the quad screen again, much to the Doctor's dismay. We decided that we won't be needing it because, well the bun's already in the oven, so to speak, so there's not much point in worrying for the next 5-6 months about it. The ultrasound showed a healthy happy Sprout, so we're going to keep ourselves blissfully ignorant for the rest.

In more pressing news, those keeping a prayer list please add Roseanne from Givepeaceachanceplease. She's back in the hospital again with fluid around her heart from dialysis that they are trying to remove with dialysis. Also, over on Madpriest's blog there is a request for Lisa, whose husband Ian looks to be passing through the veil soon, so keep prayers of healing and comfort going for both of them.

That's about all I can post today. I'm exhausted from this session. Managerial Accounting and Macroeconomics should NOT be taken at the same time... I'm theorized out. Hopefully I can convince the Mrs. to let me near the computer for the time I'm off from school.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Good news

Mrs. H. had the ultrasound this morning... and the verdict is....

She's 2 weeks behind what they thought, which is what threw the test off. So now the due date has moved from 8/21 to around 9/3. So far so good. The nurse is recalibrating the results with the new information and will get back to us... more waiting, but the prognosis is much better now.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Here We Go Again...

It amazes me sometimes when friends of mine try to tell me, "if you read the Bible, then you have to believe..." My latest foray into the argument for acceptance of LGBT's happened quite by accident. As I was talking about John Stewart's "slaughter" of Jim Cramer last night, I mentioned the Mike Huckabee debate and the quip, "so when did you decide to be straight?" She then told me that not only was homosexuality a choice, but that Jesus said it was a sin. My jaw almost hit the floor! People still believe this? So those who read this blog, I'm mostly preaching to the choir, but to reiterate: The Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke and John) never mention homosexuality whatsoever. Jesus NEVER addresses this in the Gospels... at all!

Before I start the usual exegesis on scripture, let's first point out that the concept of homosexuality as we know it today did not exist prior to the 18th century when scientists first started the study of psychology. Before then, it just simply wasn't studied that much. So to claim that the Bible is talking about a concept that is completely foreign to the culture it was written in is incorrect.

To follow our conversation further, (which we've beaten nearly to death, but I'll grab the whip again) there are only 7-8 passages in the entire Bible that deal with anything closely relating to homosexuality. They are: Genesis 19:1-4, Leviticus 18:22 and 20:13, Romans 1:21-31, 1 Chor 6:9-10, and 1 Timothy 1: 9-10. People more learned than I have discussed these before, but for a summary:

Genesis 19 tells the story of Sodom and Gomorrah. Many fundangelicals like to quote this one because of the story of Lot and the Angels. Basically, a crowd comes to Lot's door and demands that he bring his visitors out so that the crowd may "know" them. Lot instead offers up his two virgin daughters, which they refuse. Then the angels blind the crowd, and hurry Lot and Co. out of the city. More than a few people would say this is why Sodom and Gomorrah were destroyed...

But wait, Sodom and Gomorrah were already slated to be destroyed. That's why the Angels were there at Abraham's request. Here's were it gets a bit murky. In biblical times, there was a code called the Hospitality Law. It basically said that a visitor had to be welcomed and protected by the host (see Leviticus 19:34). What the crowd was after wasn't sex, or they would have taken the daughters. This was about power. The crowd wanted to insult the Angels in the worst way possible. Ezekiel 16:49 says, "This was the guilt of your sister Sodom: she and her daughters had pride, excess of food, and prosperous ease, but did not aid the poor and needy. " Their sin was similar to our own sin today. We do not help the needy, we turn the alien away. In fact it wasn't until around the 6th century CE that people began to look at this story in the light of same sex attraction.

Next the infamous Leviticus passages 18:22 and 20:13: posted on protest signs across the land. The argument is over the word translated as "abomination" in the King James. The word used in Hebrew is "to'ba". This word in Hebrew actually means, "ritualistically impure or religiously unclean". It is used very rarely in the Septuagint (Old Testament). In Exodus, Moses uses it to describe how the Egyptians view his people, because they were shepherds, and Isaiah uses the word to describe all sin. So it is not that what they describe is inherently evil. It is just unclean, not Jewish.

Moving along to Romans 1:21-31, which was in our BCP lectionary lesson a few days ago. This is in a discussion by Paul about the Pagans in Rome, and how they act and how sinful they are. But where people fail in their reading is that they stop at the end of Chapter 1 and don't include Chapter 2, which begins with, "Therefore YOU have no excuse..." Paul is using a classical tactic of whipping the reader into a zealous frenzy and then turning that zeal inward to show them their error. "whoever you are," he continues, "when you judge others; for in passing judgement on another you condemn yourself, because you, the judge, are doing the very same things." This is the same admonishment Jesus gives in the Gospels of, "Judge not, lest ye too be judged."

On to 1 Corinthians 6 and 1 Timothy 1... here we see the words "male prostitute" and "sodomite" used. The word in question, Sodomite, is actually an English invention. There is no ancient Greek word that equals it. The actual word is arsenokoitais, and scholars are still arguing over what it means. Some also translate it as "abuser of self". Another, from and article in "Second Stone Magazine" says this:

The Greek compound term arseno-koitais literally means ‘the male who has many beds’. The word arsen means ‘male’, the adjective o means ‘the’, and the term koitais is defined as ‘many beds’. Thus, the entire phrase means a male with multiple bed-partners; a promiscuous man. Everywhere that the word koitais is used in the plural in the Bible denotes promiscuity. However, when the same word is used in the singular form, the Bible gives approval because the singular denotes monogamy.

Big difference there. The point is, to all of this is simple. Just because the Bible says it does not necessarily make it so. In reading the Bible, you must take in to account that a) it was written by a different culture in the distant past and b) it is being translated from two dead languages to a living one. The bible is an excellent teaching tool, and great for spiritual instruction, but it is a guidebook, not a rulebook. It is the response of two ancient cultures to God. In that way it is "God inspired" as Paul states in Timothy. To read it in a literal way takes away from the beauty of it, and to use it to discriminate against a people is wrong.

Until fifty years ago, churches taught that Africans were the descendants of Cain (their darker skin being the "mark of Cain") and used it to justify slavery and the Jim Crow laws of the South. One hundred years ago, the churches taught that women were beneath men and should not even be able to vote or work outside of the home. Two hundred years ago, the Bible was used to slaughter hundreds in witch hunts. This all came about from a purely literal interpretation of the Bible. The same is happening today. Isn't it time we broke the cycle?

Thursday, March 12, 2009

It FInally Came IN!!!

Woo hoo! I have a college degree!!

Eternal Optimist, But...

I'm also the eternal worry wart. Mrs. H. finally got ahold of the nurse at the clinic. Turns out that the quad screening they did says she has too much pregnancy hormone, meaning:

a) She's a week further along than they thought, which is why they want to do the ultrasound early...

b) Sprout has Down's Syndrome...or

c) Sprout is actually Sprouts (twins)...

I'm more worried about option (b) right now, and of course, Mrs. H. is beside herself with worry. The clinic couldn't get her in for an ultrasound today, and they don't do them on Fridays, so Monday was the soonest they could get her in. So we get to go through the entire weekend worried sick. So if y'all could keep us in your prayers, I'd be much obliged.

Preparing for Sprout: Part I

Sometimes this little bugger absolutely amazes me. I can't believe that just 19 months ago he was small enough for me to hold in one arm. Now he's almost 31 inches tall and getting into everything.

Spud (pictured) is helping us get ready for Sprout's arrival in late August by making sure to wake us up between 2am and 4am at least twice a night, lest we become accustomed to getting sleep on a regular basis. Mrs. Hillbilly traded her GMC Sonoma in for a Saturn that will hold two car seats. She is missing her truck something terrible.

Apparently one of the screening tests came back and they moved the ultrasound up from April 6 to next week. I don't know what is going on yet because Mrs. H. only got the message on her cell phone after the clinic had closed, but they said they couldn't give her the results on the machine. It's got me a bit concerned, but being the eternal optimist, I am hoping for the best. Maybe we'll get to find out the sex sooner. It doesn't really matter to me, as long as Sprout is healthy, but Mrs. H. wants another boy so Spud isn't lonely and so she doesn't have to buy new baby stuff. That woman will pinch a penny until Abe Lincoln screams... That's why she keeps the checkbook.

So many changes coming in the next 4-6 months, it's hard not to be excited. Yes, Sprout is due to make his/her world debut around August 21, so mark your calendars. We're working out the details right now on names. The girl name was chosen back before Spud was born, Loralai Elizabeth, but the boy name is either going to be Jacob Gabriel or Gabriel Jacob. I'm leaning toward the first one. Mrs. H. wants to call him 'Jak-Jak'. I prefer Gabe, myself. Then there's hunting for a second crib, trying to get Spud potty trained before the big day (if he's willing), moving the cradle back downstairs...

Well, that's it for tonight, gang. I'll sign off for now, 'cause it's getting really late/early and I have to get up at 6am to do it all over again. Work, come home, play with the baby, put him to bed, then go to school online for 4-6 hours a night... I'll be ready for the sleep deprivation come August... Goodnight gang.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

I'm Refraining From Using the Word Because of Lent...

But if I could, today Arkansas State Representative Brian King (R) would definitely win the award today. Here's the scoop from The Tolbert Report:

Rep. King Files Bill to Prohibit a Domestic Partnership Registry

Amid the plethora of bills filed today at the deadline was a bill by Rep. Bryan King meant to address a situation in his home district of Eureka Springs. HB2176 will prohibit a county or municipality from recognizing a domestic partner relationship that is not recognized by Amendment 83 of the Arkansas Constitution. Amendment 83, more commonly known as the Defense of Marriage Amendment was passed by 75% of Arkansas voters in 2004 and states “Marriage consists only of the union of one man and one woman.”

However, recently the city of Eureka Springs has sought to make an end run around this State Constitutional Amendment by recognizing “domestic partnerships.” In October of 2007, the Eureka Springs city council passed city ordinance 2052, which allows the city to register and recognize domestic partnerships. By filing the city’s “Declaration of Domestic Partnership” same sex couples can gain official government recognition allowing them to qualify for benefits traditional reserved for married couples such as health care benefits.

If passed, HB2176 will prohibit cities such as Eureka Springs from continuing this registration and bring the counties and municipalities of the state into conformity with the Defense of Marriage Act. The bill has been referred to the House Committee on City, County & Local Affairs where committee member Rep. Kathy Webb, the only openly homosexual member of the Arkansas legislature, is likely to lead outspoken opposition.

This is nothing more than another kick in the teeth to LGBT's living in the state of Arkansas. Eueka Springs, which prides itself on attracting the strange and unnusual, has become the one bright light of hope in this State of Repression. I have always loved going there and enjoying the freedom of a place that accepts everyone regardless of who they are. I am hoping that this law simply gets backburnered with the rest of the idiotic laws the Assembly is trying to put forth.

Recently, the state assembly also attempted to make the list of concealed carry permit holders private and is attempting to pass an "open carry law" allowing its citizens to pack heat on their hips just like "the good ole days". For once again showing the US and the world that Arkansas is 50-60 years behind the times, here is your award...

Monday, March 9, 2009

This is just too dang cool for words. Imagine if we could all realize this... and this is from a BANK...

Wouldn't the world be just a little nicer?

HT to Episcopal Cafe'

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Sorry I took so long to respond, Phil,

I just got to reading a response from Phil regarding the topic of human sexuality. In his comments he writes:

You recycled the idea that science somehow trumps the moral teaching of the Church: “We are slowly realizing that the old ideas about LGBT's is wrong, just as we were wrong in believing the earth was the center of the universe, a band of water separates Heaven from Earth…” But this is a category error, since, in the case of the former, we are discussing the moral status of a behavior, while in the latter, we are discussing the truth or falsity of an observable physical condition. In order for the analogy to apply, the Church would had to have taught that, for example, it is sinful for the Earth to choose to orbit the Sun.

Leaving that aside, science is amoral. It doesn’t teach us how we should behave; it only characterizes how we do, and sometimes tells us why. You should consider what “science” would tell you about the relative propensity, and “normalness” thereof, of men to stay faithful to one woman versus pursuing as many hot partners as are willing.

I think this addresses another disconnect between our two world views. Most of those that say homosexuality is a sin believe that it is a moral choice. For them no amount of science is going to change their minds. For as Phil states later on, he sees it as another example of "let him deny himself, take up his cross and follow me." I don't see it as such.

When I use science to back up my viewpoint, it is to show that there is a natural propensity of some individuals toward same sex attraction. This is something that the biblical authors did not understand, nor did the Catholic church, where the other part of Phil's argument comes from. (I do wish I had Phil's e-mail, as I would like to follow this further with him. If anyone has it, please send it to me!) It was probably (I say probably because I am unable to converse directly with either Moses or Paul) understood that same sex attraction was a choice.

The other argument about "taking up the cross" doesn't quite fit here either. By using the argument that the "urges" should be contained and not acted on, aren't we enforcing celibacy on LGBT men and women? If their "natural attraction" is wrong, and acting upon an "unnatural attraction" is wrong, then the only recourse is not to act at all. This is where I take the most issue with Phil's argument. He uses the Catholic tradition, and yet we do not even require our priests to be celibate, as the Catholics do. So in effect, asking LGBT's to "denying themselves" in this regard is holding them to a standard we do not even hold our priests to.

I do have real questions I would ask of Phil, and anyone else who may read this and share his views. What then do you tell the man like my friend James who struggles daily with what the Scriptures tell him God wants and what he feels? How do we minster to that self-hatred? How many lives like his, Ted Haggard's and others is the Church going to destroy before we come to realize that our past views on human sexuality could be wrong? How do you minister to the loneliness that others feel, the emptiness. "It is not good for man to be alone" and yet we are telling our LGBT brothers and sisters that this is what is required of them?

Jesus also said, "Come to me all ye who are heavy laden and I will give you rest... for my yoke is easy, and my burden is light." If the total OT boils down to, "love the LORD your God with all your heart, strength and mind...and love your neighbor as yourself...", then we need to carefully examine ourselves in this regard. The great Joseph Campbell put it best when he said that love thy neighbor "as if he were you and you were him." In denying LGBT Christians to have the same loving relationships we who are attracted to the opposite sex have, are we doing this? I would say no. And in that sense, it is not LGBT men and women who are the abominations, but us.

To Phil, you bring up another point I grappled with in the past:

More fundamentally, what do you think “science” has concluded about the possibility that a Man dead in the tomb for three days suddenly rose fully to life? What does your “faith journey” tell you about this Christ, Who we confess conquered death and redeemed all of creation, when any one day’s news will show you plenty of death, evil and ugliness? Wouldn’t the rational person conclude it’s all a lie? High school biology and physics alone could function, quite reasonably, as “revelations” that would make the Christian “reconsider what [he] believed.”

I am reading a very interesting book by Marcus Borg called, "Reading the Bible Again for the First Time." To paraphrase him, whether or not we believe in a physical Resurrection is not so important as whether or not we believe the truth of it. I do believe in a physical Resurrection, but I also believe in a metaphorical Resurrection. The Resurrection also happens within me each day. I crucify Christ each day with my own lack of compassion and shortcomings, and each day he is resurrected in me and I am made whole. My faith journey tells me that Christ has conquered sin and death, but that it is up to each of us to make that victory manifest. This is what I mean by a fundamentalist reading of scripture., not that you read it like a fundangelical, but that you read it looking at the facts. I do not look for spiritual guidance from a science book, so why would I look to the bible for science? My journey does not end at the Cross; it begins there.

Back in the Kitchen With You!! (Warning, Asshats Abound)

Well, the Cro-Magnons of our state legislature have done it again. Yesterday there was a vote to ammend my state's constitution and give women equal rights. Not supprisingly, it failed to move past committee. Here's a quote from the Northwest Arkansas News:

(Senator Steve) Bryles said he favors the Equal Rights Amendment for his daughters and the other women in his family. Equality for women has come a long way but not far enough, he said.
"It's amazing what fear does to all of us," Bryles said, referring to opponents of the Equal Rights Amendment. "It is a wonderful motivator."

Afterward, Baker said he voted against the motion to advance the resolution because "even the remote possibility that this could undermine a marriage amendment or prolife laws in Arkansas concerned me enough to where I could not vote for this."

The marriage ammendment he is reffering to is the bass ackwards ammendment I mentioned in previous posts that not only defines marriage as between "one man and one woman" but completely closes the door on civil unions for same sex couples. And also of note is the fact that there are now only two clinics in the state that offer Abortion as an option for women.

Senator Baker is the same asshat that supported changing Arkansas' consealed carry permit law to allow parishoners to pack heat in church.

So, Sens. Gilbert Baker, R-Conway; Bobby Glover, D-Carlisle; Kim Hendren, R-Gravette; and Bill Pritchard, R-Elkins: for putting making sure Arkansas is still
40+ years behind the rest of the country, you have been awarded the Asshat Award!

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Here's Hoping Part II

From Reuters:

Married gay couples sue U.S. seeking federal rights
Tue Mar 3, 2009 2:14pm EST

By Jason Szep
BOSTON (Reuters) - Eight same-sex couples who married in Massachusetts and three gay widowers filed a lawsuit on Tuesday seeking access to the federal protections and programs granted to straight married couples.
The lawsuit in U.S. District Court for Massachusetts marks the first major challenge to the constitutionality of a federal law denying gay and lesbian couples access to more than 1,000 federal programs and legal protections, gay advocates say.

A bit further down is what's really at stake:

In practice, that means even if a same-sex couple is married in a state like Massachusetts, they are denied access to a trove of benefits -- from health insurance benefits to retirement and death benefits for surviving spouses.

And, of course, you have the regular haters who come up with the usual excuses:

Opponents to the lawsuit said the Defense of Marriage Act protects children and families, and reflects mainstream opposition to gay marriage....

"Americans overwhelmingly believe marriage to be the union of one man and one woman," Kris Mineau, president of the Massachusetts Family Institute, said in a written statement.
"Same-sex marriage activists simply cannot win a public vote, so they force their will upon the citizenry through select, activist judges."

Funny I think I've heard these bogus arguments somewhere before... Something about the South in the 1960's and '70's... Wait, it'll come to me...

It's high time that society learns that sometimes the majority is wrong. When the will of the majority takes away basic rights from the minority, it is wrong. When that happens, it is up to the judicial process to right that wrong. Maybe we can get it right this time.

The Innocent...

Sometimes Mrs. Hillbilly absolutely amazes me. She is taking the Servant Leadership course through our church, and one of the women in her study group is a lesbian with a partner who has a pre-teen daughter. As the Mrs. and I were talking last night after her class, she told me she was shocked that her new friends were forced to live in the closet because they could be fired from their jobs for being in a relationship. The idea that someone could be fired for that in Arkansas totally shocked her. It lead to a brief conversation before sleep overtook us about equal rights for all, and why this year my blog's focus had been where it has been. I think the part that shocked her the most was that a religion that professed so much love and compassion for one another could be so hateful toward another group of people. God bless her.

The Episcopal Church has been her first real exposure to Christianity outside of sneaking communion from the Catholic Church at Christmas Mass. She has never been the religious type, being the more grounded and practical of the two of us. To find out that the brand of Christianity I grew up in would call her friends "abominations" completely threw her for a loop.

I really wish everyone could be as innocent as my wife in some regards. Even though she is the more mundane of us, sometimes she shows the love of Christ better than anyone else I know.

And yes, it's true that in Arkansas you can be fired for being gay. Since this is a "right to work" state there are few protections for employees.