Generous Orthodoxy  

Saturday, March 31, 2007

Wise words about the marriage crisis

This wisdom is from a most unlikely source. Hendrik Hertzberg of The New Yorker, a magazine totally devoted to the gay cause, wrote as follows (June 19, 2006):
"For more than forty years, the homosexual activist movement has sought to implement a master plan that has had as its centerpiece the utter destruction of the family," James Dobson [Focus on the Family], has written...President] Bush didn't go that far. He...merely said that "changing the definition of marriage would undermine the family structure."
...In the past forty years, the definition of marriage has indeed been changed, not by any homosexual master plan but by an epidemic of heterosexual divorce. Marriage is a social good--Bush is certainly right about that--but it has become a disposable good. The causes of divorce are manifold, and they do not include gay marriage. (The state with the lowest divorce rate, Massachusetts, is also the only state where gay marriage is legal.)...USA Today reported that "the number of active-duty soldiers getting divorced has been rising sharply with deployments to Afghanistan and Iraq." The divorce rate among Army enlisted personnel since 2003, the year of the invasion of Iraq, is up 28%. For officers, the increase is 78%. Perhaps this, rather than the imaginary threat of same-sex marriage, is something that the President should look into. ("The Talk of the Town," The New Yorker, 6/19/06)
Parenthetically, I noted in Bishop Charles Jenkins' recent journal (Diocese of Louisiana newsletter) that he has put seminarians from his diocese on notice that if their marriage ends, they can no longer expect to be candidates from that diocese. Similarly, he stated that if a rector's marriage ends, he/she must resign. The vestry may or may not accept the resignation, but the step must be taken. I am reminded how, years ago, my parents' beloved rector and his wife announced their intention to divorce. The rector tendered his resignation immediately, not because the bishop told him to but because he believed it was the right thing to do. My father was on the vestry at the time; he and my mother were devastated (they loved the wife too). The resignation was not accepted and the rector continued in his post. Why? It was because he was profoundly repentant, admitted failure, took the blame, and acknowledged the deep pain of the parishioners. If he had not done that, he could not have remained as a trusted pastoral leader. His contrition made it possible for my parents, and others, to accept the situation.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

God on the march in Zimbabwe? continued from yesterday...

Here is what the BBC says today about Bishop Pius Ncube, who surely needs our prayers:

Friday, a Roman Catholic Archbishop repeated his calls for Zimbabwean citizens to take to the streets in protest at conditions in their country.

"This dictator must be brought down right now," said Pius Ncube, Archbishop of Bulawayo.

"Brought down by people power, not by a violent manner but let people fill the streets and demand that he comes down."

Friday, March 23, 2007

God on the march in Zimbabwe? God willing...

The Times of London (and other English papers) have far more news about Zimbabwe than we do. Could God be doing a mighty work there? In April 2005 I wrote in this blog that we as Christians should pray for the resistance movement there. Two years later, conditions have deteriorated to an almost unbelievable degree. Now the Christians of Zimbabwe are rising. Yesterday's Times of London reports these extraordinary developments. Here are a few excerpts:


If even his security forces are growing restive, President Mugabe really is in trouble, and Roman Catholic Archbishop Pius Ncube added to his problems yesterday with his bold declaration at a meeting organised by the Zimbabwe Christian Alliance. The gangly, loose-limbed Archbishop had prefaced his remarks during a twilight interview with The Times earlier this week in a small garden next to his cathedral. “If we can get 30,000 people together even Mugabe’s army would not be able to control it,” he said, and indicated that he was thinking of stepping into the leadership vacuum caused by infighting within the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC).

Yesterday he did so. “It’s time for a radical stance, not soft speeches and cowardice,” Father Ncube, 60, declared to cheers from the assembled clerics. “I am willing to stand in front. The time is now. The pastors must be the ones in front of the blazing guns.”

...The dreaded Central Intelligence Office has informers everywhere — “even in church groups”, Archbishop Ncube told us. Opposition activists are frequently detained and beaten. Landlines are routinely tapped, so text messages have become the Opposition’s new bush telegraph. Fearful interviewees mostly insisted on talking strictly off-the-record — one prominent white begged me not to report his view that Mr Mugabe would not survive the year as he could be arrested for treason.

The Archbishop’s promise to lead “changes the whole scope of the crisis, and gives the struggle a new dimension”, Eldred Masunungure, a political scientist at the University of Zimbabwe, said.

The Archbishop was well known domestically and internationally. It would be hard for the regime to “bash” him. “He is emerging in the mould of [Desmond] Tutu. We need a Tutu in Zimbabwe,” Mr Masunungure said, referring to the Archbishop Emeritus of Cape Town.


We don't realize how many sacrifices journalists make to get stories like these from Zimbabwe. Here's the testimony of the London Times reporters:

Richard Mills, the Times photographer, and I [Martin Fletcher] spent the past week travelling secretly around Zimbabwe. Foreign journalists face two years’ imprisonment if caught. We variously posed as aid donors, priests and chemical salesmen, and were passed from one trusted contact to another.

What we found was appalling. In rural areas of a nation that was once the pride of Africa, children are now dying of hunger. Families are abandoning their dead because they can no longer afford funerals. Young girls are turning to prostitution as their only means of survival.

Hyperinflation is rendering the currency, salaries, savings and pensions virtually worthless. Prices are doubling every month. The day we arrived in Harare we were taken to a suburban home where a black-market dealer gave us 12,000 Zimbabwean dollars for one US dollar. Seven days later the rate was Z$21,000. In one week the price of petrol — in the few stations still open — rose from Z$14,000 a litre to Z$21,000. Anyone without access to foreign currency faces destitution. Even whites are now begging...

Here is the link to the whole article. Let us all pray for the resistance in Zimbabwe and for Bishop Ncube. Perhaps this will truly be a great action of the Lord in Africa.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Really good news from the Christian Right

An article in today's New York Times describes the most encouraging developments in a very long time. Surely they will be covered more extensively in church publications. This is the best news from the more "conservative" end of the spectrum in my recent memory. It may represent a real breakthrough. If those on the "liberal" end of the church will reach out and nourish connections with Richard Cizik and his like, it could be the best thing that could happen in American Christianity in decades.

Here is the article in the Times:

Evangelical Group Rebuffs Critics on Right
By Laurie Goodstein, New York Times, March 14, 2007

The board of the National Association of Evangelicals has rebuffed leaders of the Christian right who had called for the association to silence or dismiss its Washington policy director because of his involvement in the campaign against global warming.

Prominent Christian conservatives like James C. Dobson, chairman of Focus on the Family, and Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, had sent a letter to the association’s leaders this month accusing the policy director, the Rev. Richard Cizik, of “using the global warming controversy to shift the emphasis away from the great moral issues of our time,” which they defined as abortion, homosexuality and teaching children sexual morality and abstinence.

Board members say that the notion of censoring Mr. Cizik never arose last week at their meeting in Minnesota, and that he had delivered the keynote address at their banquet.

In addition, the board voted 38 to 1 to endorse a declaration, which Mr. Cizik helped to write, that denounces the American government’s treatment of detainees in the fight against terrorism.

The board also voted unanimously to reaffirm the platform adopted three years ago, which enumerates seven policy priorities, including the environment, human rights and poverty. In doing so, board members said they intended to convey that the evangelical movement had a broader agenda than the one pushed by Christian conservatives and segments of the Republican Party.

"There’s one Lord, but not just one issue," said one board member, the Rev. Paul de Vries, president of the New York Divinity School. "I am as much against abortion as Jim Dobson and the others, but I want that baby to live in a healthful environment, inside the womb as well as outside of the womb."

The Rev. Leith Anderson, president of the association, said: "By being able to speak to multiple issues that are impacting our country and culture, we actually increase the credibility of our voice on each of those issues."

The National Association of Evangelicals is an umbrella group for Christian evangelicals, representing 30 million people in hundreds of denominations, organizations and academic institutions.

The only board member who has voiced public criticism of Mr. Cizik is Jerald Walz, who represents the Institute on Religion and Democracy, a resource group for conservatives in mainline Protestant denominations. Mr. Walz said many board members were angry about the letter concerning Mr. Cizik because it was sent to the news media before the board received it. His was the sole vote against endorsing the document on torture; he said he thought it needed more time for consideration.

Jeffery L. Sheler, author of Believers: A Journey Into Evangelical America, said the underlying cause of the conflict over Mr. Cizik was not only about global warming, but also about "who gets to speak to and for evangelicals. We’re talking about at least 60 million people," Mr. Sheler said, “and they don’t all march in lockstep to the religious right."

The association’s declaration on detainees will probably lead to controversy. It says that in the treatment of detainees and prisoners of war, the American government has crossed "boundaries of what is legally and morally permissible."

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Thoughts for Lent by Hannah Arendt

The March 15 issue of The New York Review of Books features an essay about the noted German-Jewish philosopher Hannah Arendt (who escaped Hitler by fleeing to Paris and then New York). The author, Jeremy Waldron, writes this:

Arendt lived through very dark times, some of the darkest ever seen in Europe, and in the period from the mid-1940s to the mid-1960s, she immersed herself in an attempt to understand the murderous horror that had revealed itself. The Origins of Totalitarianism and Eichmann in Jerusalem were the great and controversial products of that attempt at understanding. For her, the years of total war and the murder of millions of Jews told us not just what Nazis were capable of but what human beings were capable of. It was not enough, she wrote, to say "God be thanked, I am not like that" in the face of what we had learned of the potentialities in the German national character. "Rather, in fear and trembling," she said, "have [we] finally realized of what man is capable."


Isn't this an almost perfect commentary on the parable of the Pharisee and the publican? The Pharisee says "God be thanked, I am not like that." The publican beats his breast in fear and trembling.

Maybe we concentrate too much on individual sins in Lent and not enough on communal Sin. (Although it could be said that there is precious little emphasis on Sin of any kind in the mainline churches these days.) Maybe we should be encouraged to think more about "what man [sic] is capable of." Like torturing people in the name of the almighty State.