Posts tagged “Reader Review” include a few top articles from my weekly reading. Their topics may vary, but their quality and provocation quotient won’t. Enjoy.
Quakers examining core principles: non-violence and a returning Christ
QuakerQuaker: A Hermeneutic of Non-Violence (Randy Oftedahl)
QuakerQuaker is a site that collects posts from Friends (Quakers) from across the internet and allows members to discuss the points they raise. Quakers are well known for their “peace testimony,” a conviction and witness about peace-building and war that has expanded over generations. In this post, Oftedahl asks whether there is or should be a Quaker hermeneutic about non-violence: some kind of meaning and interpretation heuristic that helps Quakers identify and pursue peaceful options not just at the macro-state level but also at the micro-level of the person:
We live in an era when large scale State violence, though still very present, appears to be on wane while interpersonal, communal, and social violence, from the surveillance state to online bullying, is finding new venues in the technological age. A new “democratization of violence” is happening, as culture wars begin to look more and more like real wars. What might the Spirit require of us?
Should this [hermeneutic] include a willingness on the part of each one of us to examine and speak out against ALL forms of violence, in ourselves, in others, in our S/society, in our country, and in our world, whether inter-personal violence or cultural violence, whether in the form of militarism, or racism, or sexism, or classism, or economic exploitation, or religious prejudice, or any other form, whether historical by our ancestors or in ourselves today, whether blatant, or latent, or actively denied?—Randy Oftedahl
This is a question about how the identity-shaping practice of telling stories about a religious tradition and its historical advocacy might discourage an adherent from working out similar convictions in the present day, centuries removed from the contexts and concerns of their tradition’s founders.
In a sense, this is the classical “religious sustainability” question: how shall we honor our religious heritage while ensuring we’re expressing something of value in our time and passing on something valuable to those who will follow us?
I’m also mulling over a fantastic series on a Quakerly way to view the Second Coming, in terms of anticipation, transformation, and present intimacy: “Christ is come, and is coming—not Christ will come.” British Quaker and teacher Ben Pink Dandelion shared these ideas with the Canadian Yearly Meeting late last summer. The videos run about 5 hours in total.
My intent is to take a few months to revisit the concept of the peaceable kingdom, which I referred to in my talk at Loma Linda last month. I have a couple of books on my study list; if you have recommendations, please let me know.
Why Comparing Your LGBTI Children To Murderers Is Neither Supportive nor Progressive
Believe Out Loud: “If My Son Was A Murderer…” (Johnie J. Guerra)
Heard this one before? A child discloses they aren’t heterosexual. Their parent says “If you were a murderer, or in jail, or an alcoholic prostitute, I would visit you, and I would remember you in prayer, but I would mourn forever. That is what I’ll do with you now and I’ll never condone your choice.”
Some Christian parents feel compelled to make some version of this speech to their LGBTI children—and while I’m sure it’s not an easy speech for the parents to deliver, it’s even more horrific for the children forced to hear and bear it. Johnie Guerra, a hetero Christian, explains in his Believe Out Loud piece why rhetoric like this just doesn’t work—and isn’t a necessary part of keeping the faith. I, too, hope his parents will adjust to his beliefs in time.
As another blogger wrote this week:
“We are complicated beings. Emotionally. Sexually. Intellectually. Being in love can be complicated, as most of us know.
But supporting love is not complicated…
Love. Acceptance. Safety. Affection. Respect… Giving another human being these things is not going to shred the very fabric of society, or ruin your children.
Your children will benefit from your willingness to get rid of those calluses and be open to more LOVE in the world. They may be one of those tender souls that the anti-gay movement is so viciously attacking. It may be your vulnerable child you are burning painful scars into with your bigoted remarks and support of anti-gay rhetoric. It might be your child that will sit at the lunch counter and be refused service because of who they are.” —Megan P.
What’s Going on for Public Sphere Religion?
Salon: The dying right: Why Christian fundamentalists are in panic mode (CJ Werleman)
The Atlantic: How religious-freedom laws could come back to haunt the faithful (Jonathan Merritt)
Werleman reviews recent US surveys of religious adherence and whether people stay with childhood faiths over time. The Public Religion Research Institute’s survey, which CJ cites, is worth looking over:
Among its key findings for Millennials: that almost one-third of Millennials who leave their childhood church say they did so because of that church’s anti-LGBT policies. 14% said church anti-LGBT policies were a very important factor in their decision to leave, and 17% said it was somewhat important. On general perception, 70% of Millennials surveyed think religious groups’ anti-LGBT approach alienates people.
Similarly, “Majorities of Americans perceive three religious groups to be unfriendly to LGBT people: the Catholic Church (58%), the Mormon church (53%), and evangelical Christian churches (51%). Perceptions of non-evangelical Protestant churches, African-American churches and the Jewish religion are notably less negative.” As I’ve said many times, these are well-earned reputations; they’re not unfounded perceptions at all.
The Adventist denomination and North American Division both keep wondering what’s going to happen to their Millennial members. As even the GC’s Archives and Research office realizes, we can draw the lines between the church’s anti-LGBT work and my generation’s perceptions of it; what remains to be seen is whether we’ll change anything, or rather dig in and hope that Adventists trained to sustain the church’s current trajectory will carry the denomination into increasingly “pure” irrelevance over the next 25-40 years. Meanwhile those constituencies will also change and I can only hope that the denomination will adapt to them better than it has to its North American membership.
Werleman notes how some Christians affiliated with the right political wing have responded to and stoked these demographic trends: “These ‘religious freedom’ bills did not arrive here overnight,” he says; “they’re three decades in the making.” While Adventism was more hands-off in its public sphere work during the Moral Majority’s rise (1970s-1980s), it has still been affected by the MM/Religious Right’s approach. Even today, the church paper, the Adventist Review continues to promote columns and “analysis” from Albert Mohler (Southern Baptist Convention).
By contrast, Merritt, an evangelical columnist, recently took some hits for questioning the anti-LGBTI “religious freedom” discrimination laws being proposed across the US, in Kansas, Arizona, and Tennessee, for instance. In this column, he asks the question he shared on his website a week or two ago: “If Christians really believe they’re becoming marginalized, why would they disempower marginalized people in the marketplace?”
The thought that has recurred for me ever since this story cycle began was “Whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them.” But ethics of reciprocity are, as it turns out, low-hanging ethical fruit: even children know how to trade. Surely religious ethics can call one to something a little less self-centered than “better not persecute if we don’t want to be persecuted”?
Unfortunately this seems to be the beginners’ level we’re at right now.
What intolerance looks like outside the US: inter-religious violence in the Central African Republic
Washington Post: Christian vigilantes wielding machetes have killed scores of Muslims (Sudarsan Raghavan)
NPR: Jewels Lie Beneath The Violence In The Central African Republic (Gregory Warner)
Between these two articles from the Washington Post and NPR, we get a sense of how religion and economics and ethnocentrism and nurtured grudges can produce and maintain cycles of vicious violence, cycles that some religious people struggle to stop or don’t even wish to stop. I’m reminded of the 1990s genocides in Serbia and Rwanda, each fueled and coddled by different kinds of religious adherents.
I’m concerned that our moral outcomes are so mixed. I’m also concerned that contemporary moral arguments seem so tangled up with fiscal concerns rather than more fundamental human values: what we plan to do with minorities is evaluated in terms of legal and institutional policy impacts, not impacts to the human person. It can’t always be about the dollar: people will always matter more.
I’m keeping an eye on updates on the situation in CAR and will share when I see news. It unnerves me that it didn’t merit a mention at the Academy Awards this weekend when the Ukraine and Venezuela did. We have the capacity to attend to all critical issues, and I hope CAR and Uganda don’t get left behind.
[Update re. Uganda: Local civil society workers have published several concrete ways that concerned non-Ugandans can support them now. Hop over to GLAAD and check out their list. Note, too, that they don’t recommend general aid conditionality.]