Thursday, November 26, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving!

From the Revised Common Lectionary:

Almighty and gracious Father, we give you thanks for the fruits of the earth in their season and for the labors of those who harvest them. Make us, we pray, faithful stewards of your great bounty, for the provision of our necessities and the relief of all who are in need, to the glory of your Name; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Remember today to be thankful not only for the bounty that we have received, but the ability to share it with those in need.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

And We're a Christian Nation?

An interesting story from Belief Net:

Poll: Americans Pin Poverty Passage on Obama, not Bible
Tuesday November 24, 2009

(RNS) More Americans believe a statement about giving "justice to the poor and homeless" came from President Obama instead of its true source, the Bible. A survey conducted by Harris Interactive for the American Bible Society found that 54 percent of U.S. adults polled believe the statement -- "You must defend those who are helpless and have no hope.
Be fair and give justice to the poor and homeless" -- came from a celebrity or politician, when the statement actually comes from Proverbs 31:8.

Of the 1,001 adults surveyed, 16 percent believed the statement came from Obama; 13 percent said it came from the Bible. Other popular answers included the Dalai Lama, the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and Oprah Winfrey. Other questions in the survey also addressed poverty and the Bible.

In a question about the teachings of the Bible, 40 percent said the Bible offers the most teaching on heaven, pride or adultery, even though poverty is actually mentioned more than any of these subjects.(Emphasis mine)

The survey was developed to coincide with the release of the society's new Poverty and Justice Bible, which highlights verses about poverty and justice and provides tips on helping people in need. By Angela Abbamonte, Religious News Service.

This is another reason I tend to doubt that the US is a "Christian Nation" based on "sound biblical principles". How can our nation be based on these when the majority of its population has no idea what it really says? We progressive Christians are accused of "cherry picking" what verses we want to follow, and yet conservative churches are willing to ignore the majority of what the Bible says in favor of some purity laws that happen to agree with what they personally feel is correct.

Right now we are nearing the end of the healthcare debate for another season. Those in opposition to the idea of a public option have sited many fanciful claims, from "it's a government takeover of healthcare" to "it's something we can't afford." We hear that a public option either "will drag the current system down" or "will make the private insurance companies unable to compete". Meanwhile, let's look at some other numbers from the CDC:

Persons under age 65
Number uninsured at the time of interview: 43.6 million (2008)
Percent uninsured at the time of interview: 17% (2008)
Percent with private insurance at the time of interview: 65% (2008)

Children under age 18
Percent uninsured at the time of interview: 8.9% (2008)
Percent with private insurance at the time of interview: 58% (2008)
Percent with public health plan coverage at the time of interview: 34% (2008)

43 million people without insurance. Almost one out of every 10 children in America are without insurance coverage. That's one in ten children that are not getting proper medical care.

Add to that the 2/3 of bankrupcies in 2007 that came from medical costs. Also add in that every year the equilivant of the deaths in the 9-11 attacks die because of lack of medical care/insurance.

I usually sign my e-mails off with a quote from Zacheriah: "Render true judgements, show kindness and mercy to one another; do not oppress the widow, the orphan, the alien, or the poor; and do not devise evil in your hearts against one another" --Zechariah 7:8-10. How much more plain can you get than this? To me this is the priority of God, not worrying about who sleeps with whom or whether or not the Genesis stories of creation should be taught in classrooms. To be Christian means to follow Christ. We as a nation are doing a pretty poor job of this.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Fair Winds and Following Seas

Posted on Roseanne's Facebook page:

(Roseann's Husband): Roseann's Spirit shed its mortal shackles at 8:45 p.m. Saturday. She would want you all to know that she went quietly and painlessly thanks to the loving care of the Hospice staff. She would want all of you to know that your expressions of love and well-wishes these last weeks made her passage much easier and that she loved and cherished you all. Somewhere tonight a new journey began.

From A New Zealand Prayer Book:

Let us pray:

Gracious God, nothing in death or life, in the world as it is or the world as it shall be, nothing in all creation can separate us from your love

We commend Roseanne into your loving care. Enfold her in the arms of your mercy. Bless her in her dying and in her rising again in you. Bless those whose hearts are filled with Sadness, that they too may know the hope of resurrection; for the sake of our Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen.

Go forth, Roseanne, on your journey from this world, in the love of God the Father who Created you, in the mercy of Jesus the Redeemer who suffered for you, in the power of the Holy Spirit who keeps you in life eternal. May you dwell this day in peace, and rest in the presence of God, Amen.

God of all consolation,
Grant to those who sorrow the spirit of faith and courage, that they may have the strength to meet the days to come not sorrowing without hope, but trusting in your goodness through him who is the resurrection and the life, Jesus Christ our Saviour. Amen.

In honor and memory of Roseanne, comments will be turned off until after her memorial service.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Thoughts from A Liberal Christian

Something that has bothered me in recent weeks. I have noticed that all of the advances that Progressive Christians have made in the last few years seem to be erroding and Fundamentalism is once again reasserting itself as the dominant form of Christianity in America. Having the perspective of being raised in a moderately fundamentalist home, I do have some perspective on it and why it is so popular, especially in the rural areas of the country. These are my observations, and they can be taken with a grain of salt, but they might help shed light on why this seemingly unforgiving and potentially harmful theology is so prevelant in our society.

1. Certainty: With the downturn in the economy has come an upswing in conservatism of all kinds. Religion is no different. The theology of "Good little boys and girls go to Heaven, Bad little boys and girls go to Hell" gives people a certainty in uncertain times. People tend to find comfort in things that do not change. Having a clear and basic theology, even one that is as flawed as Biblical litteralism, brings comfort to people. It is something that is easy to understand and gives a feeling of security. We saw a similar thing happen after Septembe 11th when people were willing to give up the uncertanty of their freedoms for security. Things will be better in the afterlife, so that is where we should focus, not on the bad times here.

2. Retribution: The Heaven/Hell scenario also gives those that are suffering a sense of comfort in knowing that thier lot will be better in the future. They can look at the Bernie Maddofs of the world and know that God will "get them back" for the evil that they have done.

3. Us vs. Them: Societies have always needed an enemy, an "other" to band together against. It drove the uber-patriotism of the 1980's to new levels as Ronald Regan railed against "Communist Russia". Today that enemy has become "Evil Islam", "The Gay Conspiracy", "Abortion Activists and Feminazis" and other groups that are "Unchristian". In having a scapegoat, we have something to fight for, a purpose.

The problem with this type of thinking is it forgets some of the fundamental principles of the Gospel message. Jesus earthly ministry, which has become a footnote in some circles, was about forgiveness, love, charity, and social justice. The Kingdom of God Christ spoke of wasn't about an Us vs. Them. It was an Us & Them. John 3:17 says "For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved." His focus wasn't about earning a "mansion in the sky" but about making this world a better place. The second part of the Lord's Prayer says, "Thy Kingdom come, thy will be done, on Earth as it is in Heaven." Not on Earth so we can get to Heaven but as it is in Heaven.

We are all God's children, no matter who we are. " Christ there is no male or female, slave or freeman, Jew or Gentile." In order to get through this crisis today we need to band together, not as Christians, but as Children of God, regardless of what label we put on ourselves. We need to see the Christ within each person regardless of what denomination or religion they follow. In loving one another as Christ loves us, looking past labels of "Muslim", "Queer", "Sinner", and "Biggot" and reaching out to one another. Only then will we see the Kingdom. Jesus said that wherever your treasure is, so is where your heart is. Is your treasure a future reward for you or is it helping others here?

Thursday, November 19, 2009

News from Gary about Roseanne

From Gary: Roseann was admitted to the Arkansas Hospice inpatient facility. She sleeps pretty much all of the time now and only wakes up for a few seconds at a time -- sometimes lucid, other times not. The Hospice staff is awesome and are doing a wonderful job of keeping her comfortable and making sure she gets anything she needs. Her room has an extra bed and I will be spending most of my time in the room with her until the end comes. Thanx so much to all of you for your love and support -- your calls visits & online messages meant a great deal to her (and me). Please know that she loves you all as do I.

Please continue to keep both of them in your prayers as Roseanne crosses the mists.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Day 2 at SSW

Well, what we saw of the Seminary is really nice. But we just got back from one of the local ER's. Spud tripped at the daycare and the corner of a coffee table decided to hit him in the head. He now has four stitches above his left eye and a big knot. The faculty and students here have bent over backwards to help us out and Elizabeth has been especially helpful. She stayed with us while Spud was getting stitched up and offered to bring us dinner from an outside restaurant and get some kids motrin for him. The Dean of the school came to the hospital and bought Spud a great big corduroy Elmo from the gift shop... I'm sold. If the discernment process plays out, I definitely want to come here.

Update: Spud is doing great. We stayed the extra day and left yesterday evening. We got back to Arkansas around 6am this morining and I am now at work, so can't post much now. I'll update everyone on the rest of the trip, which was absolutely wonderful except for the ER trip, but even that let us see Austin's top notch health care system. I want to thank everyone that has been praying for us and for Spud.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Day One at SSW

Whew... I'm beat. We left the house at 3:30am today and finally arrived at the Seminary at about 4:15pm. What was only supposed to be a 9 1/2 hour drive turned into over 12 hours. Murphy's corollary states that you should add at least 1 hour per child to any road trip you take.

So far everyone is friendly, even if we're only 10 minutes from that bastion of evil, University of Texas. I suppose I could still go to school here, but would have to wear Red and White every Saturday during football season.

All in all, day one looks good. We had a lot of good information thrown at our tired brains, the kids are worn out, and I am pooped. Tomorrow I meet with the financial aid advisor and see if we can squeak out the $1500 per month I am short should the Diocese of Arkansas decide I would be a suitable candidate for Holy Orders. We'll have to wait and see.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Road Trip!

Well, this Friday the whole clan will be headed to Austin, TX to invade the SSW campus. I am so excited I can hardly stand it! I'm not finished with my undergraduate degree, so I can't start the official discernment process, but this will at least give me an idea of what I am in for coming up. Besides, neither Mrs. H or I have been to Texas before, so this could be a real treat.

I'll try to post here and on Facebook what happens down there.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Prayer Request for Roseanne

Roseanne over at Give Peace a Chance Please posted to Facebook that she has started hospice. Please keep her in your prayers. She has had a long bout with a great deal of sickness, and has put up one hell of a fight. She's been an inspiration to me and others, and a great many of us in the blogsphere care a great deal for her.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Prayer for the Fallen

From the Book of Common Prayer:

Almighty God, we remember before you today your faithful servants at Ft. Hood; and we pray that, having opened to them the gates of a larger life, you will receive them more and more into your joyful service, that, with all who have faithfully served you in the past, they may share in the eternal victory of Jesus Christ, our Lord; who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Let us also pray for all who mourn, that they may cast their care on God, and know the consolation of his love.

Almighty God, look with pity upon the sorrows of your servants for whom we pray. Remember them, Lord, in mercy; nourish them with patience; comfort them with a sense of your goodness; lift up your countenance upon them; and give them peace; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

More Bad News

Maine just repealed the law allowing for same-sex marriage. One step up, 5 steps back.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Hat tip to IT

While this issue has already been decided in Arkansas, and only a ruling from the Supreme Court will overturn it (hopefully), this is something to think about:

..... Limiting marriage to a man and a woman would not make families led by same-sex couples go away. It would just keep them in a legally inferior position that is inconsistent with Maine's tradition of equal protection under the law.

Gay men and women already live together, own property and have children, both biological and adopted. They hold responsible jobs, they volunteer in churches and schools -- they are full members of our communities. The only thing they cannot do is form the legal partnership that gives them the advantages and duties that other couples have when they start families. The same-sex couples are not the only losers. This also puts their children at a disadvantage.

I personally know at least three same sex couples that have children, some biological, some adopted. I've said it before, but I'll say it once more: their children are just as happy, healthy and well adjusted as any other kids I know. It's time to get with the program folks. Either we are a nation that believes in "liberty and justice for all" or we aren't. There can be no middle ground anymore on this.

One of my friends lives in the closet in fear because she is afraid she will lose her job and, more than likely, her 13 year old daughter if she were to "come out". The one and only place she feels safe and welcome is a radically inclusive little church that I also call home. This is beyond ridiculous, gang. This is a family we're talking about, not an abstract concept, not an "abomination", but a FAMILY.

A right wing blogger in this state equated being raised by same-sex parents with child abuse. My own parents voted to pass both the amendment that defined marriage between a man and a woman and shut the door on any possibility civil unions and Act 1 (that banned any single cohabiting couple from adopting or fostering children). The most recent e-mail conversation between my father and I left me in tears as I realized he wasn't the man I knew growing up.

I used to hope I could help change minds here in my part of the world, but I have felt as if I am shouting in a vacuum. As Bishop Spong supposedly said earlier, the battle should be over. But it isn't and people that have become my friends and brothers and sisters are paying the price.

I have seen a ray of hope in this state. Recently a 10 year old West Fork, AR boy was punished for refusing to say the Pledge of Allegiance. His reason, according to the Arkansas Times Arkansas Blog:

Their son told them last weekend he had decided to no longer stand and recite the Pledge of Allegiance at school because he didn't believe there is liberty and justice for all, especially when it comes to gay rights. "To say them (words) and not mean them would be a lie," [his father] Jay said.

Out of the mouths of babes. Even a 10 year old boy can see that there is no justifiable reason outside of religious fueled bigotry to deny same sex couples the same rights many of us share. There is no secular reason why a committed, monogamous couple should not be allowed the full benefits and hardships that only a marriage can bestow.

Right now the battle in Maine is being waged at the polls. In California, it is about to be fought in the courtroom. Here in Arkansas, we do what we can while Right wing evangelicals whip people into a frenzy about the evils of "the gays", and the "queer conspiracy" while lining their pockets with gold bought with the blood and sweat and tears of a fearful populace.

I believe in the words of the Declaration of Independence "We hold these truths to be self evident, that all men are created equal and endowed by the Creator with the inalienable right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness." Until that day, when *Ginny* can introduce her mother and partner to her friends without being looked down on, until a President can be Muslim or Atheist, and until *Jim's* family can not exclude *John*, his partner of 10 or more years, from his deathbed because the do not agree with the "lifestyle" this will not be.

*Name has been changed to protect the innocent*

Richard Hooker (1554-1600)

Anglican priest and theolgian, Richard Hooker helped usher in this grand experiment that we call the Anglican Communion. His "three legged stool" of scripture, tradition and reason are still the foundation of the Episcopal Church and other eclesiastical bodies of the Communion today.

O God of truth and peace, you raised up your servant Richard Hooker in a day of bitter controversy to defend with sound reasoning and great charity the catholic and reformed religion: Grant that we may maintain that middle way, not as a compromise for the sake of peace, but as a comprehension for the sake of truth; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Lorelai's Christening

I'll try to upload pics a bit later, once Mrs. H emails them to me from her phone. Today was Sprout's big day, and boy was she ever pretty. Her Godpappa's bought her outfit, white dress and bonnet, bloomers, tights, booties and white blanket, and her Godmamma bought her the most beautiful little diamond and gold cross to wear. She looked so precious! Even Spud behaved himself through most of the service! It was such a beautiful day for it too. Even God smiled on us and gave us sunshine and warm weather for the event.

Mom and Dad and some of my friends from work came, and I got an interesting take on our practices. Dad, who is a Full Gospel Pentecostal, thought our service was "too catholic" for him while my friends, who are Catholic, thought the service very enjoyable and laid back in comparison. I guess the saying is true "We (Episcopalians) do Catholic right!" Doc and his wife may even start coming regularly, which would be very cool indeed.