B U L L E T I N
Happy New Year!
1. New Year Message - A purposeful life – Huffington post
2. A Note about Sean Hannity, Stuart Varney and Fox News –request
3. Note about Bridgette Gabriel’s comment on Fox News – upon request
4. American Muslims are proud of taking the right step - Link
5. Moderate Muslims Speak out? Link
Friday, December 24, 2010
Wednesday, December 22, 2010
Tuesday, December 21, 2010
Published in Dallas Morning News today "Which religion stories merited more and better coverage?" http://religionblog.dallasnews.com/archives/2010/12/texas-faith-what-religion-stor.html
There are seven more stories at :
Video Interviews and documentaries at: www.Quraanconference.com
Steve Blow's article: http://www.dallasnews.com/sharedcontent/dws/dn/localnews/columnists/sblow/stories/DN-blow_19met.ART.West.Edition1.356a575.html
Tuesday, December 7, 2010
Many military chaplains echoed that view. Only three of 145 chaplains who took part in a focus group said they would quit or retire.
But, as this Washington Post report indicates, some chaplains saw a repeal of the military's policy towards gays and lesbians as condoning a practice they consider sinful. The article quotes the Rev. Douglas Lee, a retired Presbyterian Army chaplain, as saying:
"There's a strong possibility that a chaplain wouldn't be allowed to proclaim what their own faith believes, and not give people the information they need to be a good Christian or a good Muslim or what have you."
So, with this situation in mind, here's this week's question:
How should army chaplains handle a situation that contradicts their religious convictions, whether it's about gays in the military or some other issue? They, after all, are called to minister to people of all faiths.
In answering this, I hope you all can reflect upon your own experiences or approaches in counseling people whose values you do not share.
MIKE GHOUSE, President, Foundation for Pluralism, Dallas
Let us resist the temptation to become the moral police of our nation. We have led the world in innovation, science, technology, medicine and just about every aspect of life and it is time we consider moving from restrictive religious convictions to universalizing our God who loves his creation. It's a new paradigm in broadening our moral compass.
Some of the restrictive moral convictions are a product of insular religious or cultural traditions. Indeed, they were practices with narrower applications.
Let's follow the path of Jesus by embracing the whole of humanity and lead the world in respecting the "otherness" of others and setting the model of co-existence for nations like Ghana, Saudi Arabia and Afghanistan to emulate us and not vice-versa.
Once upon a time, white man made nearly all of our military brass but that is not the case today. Our military is served by both men and women and by people of different races, faiths, ethnicities and nationalities.
We have come a long way since the declaration of our independence to believe and live up to the full meaning of the words "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal." It took us nearly 150 years for our men to feel secure enough to treat women as equals to vote. It took us 50 years to honor our World War II hero Jesse Brown, a black man. Three years ago, we finally came to grips with our smallness in denying a Wiccan symbol in the Arlington Cemetery. We still have a long ways to go in fully accepting that all men (and women) are created equal. Together as Americans we have to be inclusive in serving and be served equally.
When an individual opts to serve our country to defend our freedom, we must honor that individual to the highest degree and treat him or her with dignity. We should never forget that they are defending every American and not just an exclusive club. Those of us who serve them ought not to forget to reciprocate them with equal enthusiasm and unrestrictive honor.
The Army Chaplains are employees of the nation to serve the men and women who defend our nation, and they ought to serve every defender of our nation regardless of their sexual orientation, race, ethnicity, faith, language or appearance.
Since when is one's sexuality a "value"?
As a straight woman, I don't share the sexuality of my gay and lesbian friends, but I DO share many values with them -- among them a belief in the importance of God in our lives, of the desire to be a faithful and loving partner to the person I love, the desire to live out our belief in God in our daily lives and relationships, the desire to honor "that of God" in every human being.
Likewise, I have many friends with whom I disagree on many issues, but we share many core values that transcend our disagreements. One's sexuality is only one of the many things that make up who each of us is. I am not defined solely by my heterosexuality. Why should LGBT folk be defined solely by their sexuality?
As to the military chaplains, how do these pastors handle the conflict between "Thou shalt not kill" and the often open and widespread killing of innocents during modern warfare?
Seems to me that's a much bigger contradiction than dealing with someone who is attracted to and/or loves someone of the same gender.
Who we love is not a sin -- how we act on that love might be. Instead of concentrating on the genital aspects of love, these chaplains should focus on the more important part of relationships, whether they are dealing with straight or gay soldiers. Are they treating the object of their love with respect? Are they faithful to that person? Are they seeking a holy love in the relationship or simply seeking selfish satisfaction of their desires?
Secondly, how do these pastors deal with other "sins"? I suspect ALL the women and men who come to them for counseling are sinners just as all of us are sinners.
Singling out one particular class of sinners as being worse than all the others is a dangerous road to travel.
Most of all, I hope our troops have access to a wide rage of chaplains, especially to chaplains who will remind them that they are loved by God beyond their wildest imaginings -- no matter what.
CYNTHIA RIGBY, W.C. Brown Professor of Theology, Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary
I found a position description for an army chaplain at goarmy.com. Requirements include holding some kind of "ecclesiastical endorsement," including verification that one is "sensitive to religious pluralism and able to provide for the free exercise of religion by all military personnel, their family members and civilians who work for the Army."
While many of us hope that all members of the clergy will be sensitive to religious pluralism, such sensitivity is not a stated requirement for most pastoral positions. Because military chaplains are called and charged to minister to persons from diverse faith traditions and with a range of convictions about a range of issues, they must be able to counsel without condemning, to render judgments without being judgmental.
Chaplains who believe homosexual sex is sinful are not being asked to change what they believe. They are, however, being asked to honor the fact that not all people of faith think the same way by listening, understanding, counseling, and leading worship in ways that model compassion and welcome into fellowship those who strongly disagree. If a clergy person is not gifted at honoring others' positions, he or she is not called to the particular vocation of being a military chaplain and should seek a ministerial calling elsewhere.
Perhaps chaplains who are more socially conservative would be helped by seeking counsel from their more liberal counterparts, who are well practiced at negotiating the space between their own convictions and military policy. Military chaplains who do NOT believe homosexual sex is a sin have, for decades, been expected to be careful about how they represent their views, especially in the face of the military's "don't ask, don't tell" policy. While the repeal of the policy will be a challenge for some chaplains, it should be remembered that it would be a burden lifted from the consciences of many others.
As a minister and teacher, I have had the privilege of counseling those with whom I disagree. Generally speaking, these people of faith come to me well aware that we disagree on certain issues. But this does not stop them from coming.
In contrast to the implication of Douglas Lee's quote (see the question posed to us), they do not come to me to get the "information they need to be a good Christian or a good Muslim or what have you." Rather, they come to me with a problem they want me to hear, with a hurt they want to discuss with a sister - a sister in Christ, or a spiritual-seeming human sister. And - by the grace of God at work in us both - what they have to say, and what I have to say back, goes deeper than simply what 'position' we take on issue x, y, or z.
DANIEL KANTER, Senior Minister, First Unitarian Church of Dallas
Perhaps Rev. Lee missed something in his training. A colleague of mine who is a military chaplain told me that he is never forced to do anything with regards to religious rites, sacraments, or proclaiming his faith that would conflict with his ordination.
If a chaplain's faith tradition restricts gays from sacraments or other religious rites, he's under no obligation to do anything different. No commander will force him to do anything he wouldn't do in his home church.
Military chaplains are also protected by the confessional and are under no obligation to reveal something said to them in confidence with regards to 'Don't ask, Don't Tell" or any other spiritual struggle they are present to.
My personal approach, and the one I learned as a hospital chaplain, is to meet people where they are to address their deepest needs and struggles. I know that it is possible that my beliefs can get in the way of the healing that can take place in a counseling setting. As clergy we first must aim to make room for people to be who they are as children of God and only in a distant second do we introduce our personal values into the room.
We never enter counseling without our values or beliefs but it is likely a mistake to try to assume all people will or should agree with us all the time.
JOE CLIFFORD, Senior Pastor, Head of Staff, First Presbyterian Church of Dallas
At the heart of the question is the primary role of chaplains in the military. According to the Department of Defense's Report of the Comprehensive Review of the Issues Associated with Repeal of 'Don't Ask Don't Tell,' the Services are "to reiterate the principle that chaplains, in the context of their religious ministry, are not required to take actions inconsistent with their religious beliefs, but must still care for all Service members."
Contrary to the Reverend Lee's assumption, chaplaincy is not primarily a ministry of proclamation, but of pastoral care. Chaplains are present to meet the spiritual needs of the service men and women who request their ministry. Pastoral care cannot be conditional, nor can the aim be to convert the person in need of care to the caregiver's way of thinking.
For evangelicals, care and conversion tend to be intertwined. This exposes the inherent tension for evangelicals working as chaplains for a branch of the government.
If chaplains paid by the government feel they cannot proclaim what their faith believes, then perhaps they should not work for a government that prohibits establishing any one religion.
JAMES DENISON, Theologian-in-Residence, Texas Baptist Convention and President, Center for Informed Faith
"Never discuss religion or politics in public," my mother warned me. Today's essay probably proves the wisdom of her advice.
The First Amendment is clear: "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof." Baptists have long been proponents of the separation of church and state.
George Truett, the venerated pastor of First Baptist Church in Dallas, spoke for us from the east steps of the U.S. Capitol on May 16, 1920. He envisioned the day when "in every land, whether great or small, the doctrine shall have absolute supremacy everywhere of a free church in a free state."
While churches should not engage in politics, Christians should be extremely involved in political and public service. I am convinced that God is calling more Christians into public service than are answering his call.
In this context, how are military chaplains to serve both their God and their nation? Christians are to obey civil authorities wherever possible (Romans 13:1-7; 1 Peter 2:13-17). If we feel that we cannot obey the state and obey God, we must obey our highest authority. Peter and Paul taught us to obey the rulers, but both were executed by Rome for refusing to stop preaching the gospel.
At the same time, military chaplains are commissioned to serve people of all faith commitments and none, whether they agree with their beliefs or not. They can serve alongside and counsel soldiers who do not obey biblical teachings without endorsing such behavior. The same seems true regarding sexual activity, whether homosexual or heterosexual.
As a pastor, I never required those I counseled to believe everything I believed, or felt I endorsed their actions by trying to help them. The darker the room, the greater the need for light.
LARRY BETHUNE, Senior Pastor, University Baptist Church, Austin Texas
The religious liberty of the troops and their protection from discrimination when seeking spiritual care is at least as important as the protection of the spiritual liberty of the chaplains.
A simple truth: belief cannot be coerced. Behavior, speech, even pretended belief may be coerced by threat of censure or violence, but genuine belief is a matter of inviolable conscience. Therefore, nothing can coerce a change of beliefs by military chaplains.
At a functional level, military chaplains are limited already by the setting in which they minister. Like chaplains in other institutional settings (hospitals, nursing homes, prisons), they minister to people of all faith traditions without discriminating against the religious liberty and individual conscience of their clients, without discriminating against individuals or other faith traditions.
Another simple truth: moral beliefs differ between religious traditions. Not all religious traditions regard homosexuality as inconsistent with healthy moral or spiritual life. Not even all Christian traditions regard homosexuality as sinful. Military chaplains should already respect this difference in beliefs if they are honoring their call to minister without discrimination.
Defense Secretary Gates has assured the chaplain corps that safeguards are in place that will allow chaplains to maintain their personal beliefs while ministering to a diverse community. If a chaplain cannot minister to a person because of personal beliefs, the chaplain is required to find another chaplain for the person who can. The Pentagon study shows most chaplains agree, with only three of the 145 chaplains who participated in the study saying they would leave the service if "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" were repealed.
Chaplains will not be required to teach or counsel against their beliefs unless their beliefs compel them to discriminate or disrespect the religious liberty of others, in which case they need to choose a sectarian setting rather than a chaplaincy setting for their ministry. As the U.S. Coast Guard Academy white paper referenced in the Pentagon's implementation plan (page 9) suggests: "...religious plurality is a core American value."
DARRELL BOCK, Research Professor of New Testament Studies, Dallas Theological Seminary
They have to do the best they can to honor their convictions and yet try to serve those they are called to minister to. This is not always easy, but the military is full of such situations given the mix of faiths that are present.
One can try to help a person have integrity, be moral and yet be true to their faith in communicating how they see issues. This should be done with gentleness, knowing that in the end God holds us accountable for our own actions.
If the contradiction is too great for someone they should be able to refer the person elsewhere when that is possible. Counselors often find themselves dealing with situations where they would act differently. Still, one can always listen and give advice knowing it may or may not be heeded. That is about all one can do.
GEOFFREY DENNIS, Rabbi, Congregation Kol Ami in Flower Mound; faculty member, University of North Texas Jewish Studies Program
It is well past time for this discriminatory aspect of our armed forces to disappear. Gay men serve effectively in other armed forces, such as the IDF. I know some personally.
As a police chaplain who has worked with people in crisis from diverse faiths, I don't see how the inclusion of gay troops should present any additional difficulty that is not already faced by military chaplains who counsel soldiers, given that many soldiers engage in behaviors that a given chaplain may not morally approve of.
Lots of soldiers, for example, drink alcohol socially. Are the current hard-shell Baptist and Muslim chaplains simply unable to counsel such troops without getting entangled in arguments about liquor?
Somehow I think most of them manage to not make alcohol consumption the pivotal focus of their work, and the same thing will happen working with gay soldiers. They will learn to serve the soldier by focusing on the presenting problem of the soldier, rather than their own problems.
If not, they can simply admit that they are not the right person to provide counsel, and find someone else more suitable. And while chaplains are entitled to pray and worship in the mode of their own denomination and faith, they are obligated foremost to make accommodation for the faith and needs of the soldiers they serve. If ministering to gay troops is simply more repugnant for a chaplain than providing religious support for soldiers of other faiths, then perhaps they are being called to minister in a more sectarian, less pluralistic environment than the U.S. armed forces.
WILLIAM LAWRENCE, Dean and Professor of American Church History, Perkins School of Theology, Southern Methodist University
In my experience with persons who serve in the military chaplaincy, I have been impressed with their capacity to serve as professional ministers across an amazingly complex and difficult set of circumstances. Some are stationed in forward areas, near the front lines of combat. Others work on military bases a long way from battle zones but at the perimeters of life where the stresses of military systems take a huge toll on personal and family life.
Chaplains draw remarkably upon their ecclesiastical authorizations and individual faith commitments in order to provide the services needed by the personnel in their care. Yet they cannot impose either their ecclesiastical restrictions or their private commitments of faith upon the military personnel whom they serve.
One chaplain's ordination credential might be established by a denomination that only allows men to be ordained. Yet he will serve along with, and share duties alongside, a woman who is ordained by another denomination. Another chaplain may have authorization from a denomination that emphasizes the gifts of the Holy Spirit, while collaborating with a chaplain whose tradition relies exclusively upon the infallible word contained in the Holy Scripture. These are significant theological differences. Nevertheless, no individual chaplain can insist on her or his approach to doctrine and discipline as the mandate for Christian belief and practice to be imposed on the persons in the chaplain's care.
Anyone who serves as a military chaplain chooses that career path in ministry. No chaplains today are drafted. Therefore, every chaplain knows that proclaiming the faith and providing pastoral care must be professionally done without insisting that one's own personal or denominational preferences will prevail.
It would be outside the role of chaplains, in a military that allows gay and lesbian personnel to serve, for the chaplain to condemn or deplore the orientation of a uniformed person's sexuality. If a chaplain finds someone's sexual orientation to be offensive or unacceptable theologically, the chaplain must arrange for a less offended colleague to offer ministerial care. Or the offended chaplain must consider finding another venue for exercising her or his call to ministry.
Thursday, December 2, 2010
No American has to live in anxieties, discomfort or fear of the other. The purpose of this conference is to understand the issues and find ways to remove such fears in an open forum and restore the cohesiveness of our society and work towards building a safe and secure
When: 3:00 PM – 6:00 PM on Sunday, December 5, 2010
, Unity Church 6525 Forest Lane, Dallas, TX. 75230
PRESS RELEASE | INVITATION
Since our independence in 1776, we have been tested time and again by various political, economic and religious forces to divide us, however, at the end we have come out strong as one nation. The Civil War, the Great Depression, the World War, Pearl Harbor, Women’s rights, Abortion, the Vietnam War, Civil Rights, Budget Deficits, Unemployment, 9/11, the
The controversy over the
If we make an effort, goodness will come to our rescue. Mike Ghouse adds, “As members of diverse family of faiths, we seek to demystify the myths, malice and falsification of our respective faiths. It is time for all of us to gather and understand the Qur’aan, the holy book of Muslims, which has been the subject of attack by a few among us. Indeed, a conference is a positive response to negative sermons delivered from a few pulpits of
The Conference puts the Quraan in the hands of panelists made up of Pastors, Rabbis, Pundits, Shamans, Clergy, lay persons, elected officers and the public. The uniqueness of the event is highlighted by facing the “terrifying passages” of Quraan. For the first time in history, the actual verses from Quraan will be read directly and explained by panelists made up of Pastors, Rabbis, Pundits, Shamans, Clergy, lay persons and elected officials who have a deep interest in bringing Americans together on common grounds. The Muslim scholars either affirm their reading or share the additional information right from the very Quraan for further understanding.
It is time now to replace the ill-will with goodwill; no American has to live in anxieties, discomfort or fear of the other. The purpose of this conference is to remove such myths in an open forum in the public and restore the cohesiveness of our society and work towards building a safe and secure
Purpose: To demystify the myths about Quraan and Islam
Call: Mike Ghouse (214) 325-1916
Mike Ghouse for
A COHESIVE AMERICA,
Tuesday, November 2, 2010
Pluralism (inclusive) Prayers By Mike Ghouse
7:00 PM on Tuesday, November 2, 2010
Let's reflect, wish and pray:
Dear God, creator of the universe, please accept our gratitude in every name we call upon you, be it Ishwar, Arihantas, Manito, Adonai, Allah, Mahavir, Buddha, Wahe Guru, Mother earth, Ahura Mazda, and in the name of Jesus.
Dear Creator of the universe, guide us do the right thing every moment of our life;
Dear Causer of life, guide us to open our hearts and minds to fellow beings;
Guide us the humility to respect your creation.
Guide us to shed the arrogance in us that we are superior,
Guide us to learn to respect and accept every which way one worships you.
Guide us to become conflict mitigaters
Guide us to become good will nurturers
Guide to us to create peace and prosperity to every one of us.
Guide us in creating cohesive societies with kindness and dignity to every one.
Guide our elected officials to work for peace and prosperity of our nation and our City.
Blessed are the peace Makers
God Bless America
Wednesday, October 27, 2010
God has not signed a deal with any one behind our backs. Neither Jews, Christians, Muslims, Hindus or any one has that deal. If God were to do that, we are painting him as a villain to those whom we don't like. Let's not mess with God. God simply cannot be prejudiced, discriminative and doing favors to one and not the others. God is not a Villain.
Indeed, God wants us to get along, like a mother wants for her children, like a chef wants his customers to enjoy his or her food, like the artist who wants the whole world to cherish her work.
U.S. Bishop Says Jews Have No 'Exclusive Right' To Israel
By Francis X. Rocca
Religion News Service
VATICAN CITY (RNS) A special Vatican meeting on the Middle East ended Saturday (Oct. 23) with a flare-up in Catholic-Jewish tensions, after an American bishop declared the Bible does not give Jews privileged rights to the land of Israel.
"We Christians cannot speak of the 'promised land' as an exclusive right for a privileged Jewish people," said Archbishop Cyril Bustros, a native of Lebanon who is currently a Melkite Greek Catholic bishop in Newton, Mass.
"This promise was nullified by Christ," Bustros said at a Vatican press conference marking the end of a two-week session of the Synod of Bishops. "There is no longer a chosen people -- all men and women of all countries have become the chosen people."
Bustros' remark drew swift and strong rebukes from Israeli spokesmen.
"The comments of Archbishop Bustros reflect either shocking ignorance or insubordination in relation to the Catholic Church's teaching on Jews and Judaism," said Rabbi David Rosen, director of interreligious affairs for the American Jewish Committee and an adviser to Israel's Chief Rabbinate.
Rosen, who addressed the synod in its first week, said the Second Vatican Council of the 1960s affirmed "the eternal covenant between God and the Jewish People, which is inextricably bound up with the land of Israel."
Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon called Bustros' statement "a libel against the Jewish people and the State of Israel," and expressed "our disappointment that this important synod has become a forum for political attacks on Israel in the best history of Arab propaganda."
"The synod was hijacked by an anti-Israel majority," Ayalon said.
The two-week meeting, which was attended by 185 bishops, most of them from the 22 "Eastern Catholic" Churches loyal to Rome, focused on the precarious plight of 5.7 million Catholics in 16 Middle Eastern countries.
The synod's closing document deplored both Palestinian suffering as a consequence of the "Israeli occupation" and the "suffering and insecurity in which Israelis live." It also reiterated a frequent theme of synod participants by calling for "religious freedom and freedom of conscience" in Muslim lands.
Tuesday, October 26, 2010
Saturday, October 23, 2010
Friday, October 22, 2010
Thursday, October 21, 2010
Juan made me wonder about his mind-set; was he simply expressing his bigotry or was he bashing Islam to get into the “inner circle” of big boys for fame and fortune? Islam bashing is not only fashionable, it brings big money. The right wingers give them a big hug and help them become big. It is an irresistible bait right wingers throw at greedy men like Juan. (Right wingers are those who mess with the social cohesion of our nation and attempt to set one American against the other)
Thank God again for the media to fire Helen Thomas for criticizing Israel as it set a new precedent. If she does not have the right to criticize a nation, and the media forced her out to retirement, then most certainly NPR has a right to do the right thing. http://www.haaretz.com/news/international/helen-thomas-you-cannot-criticize-israel-in-the-u-s-and-survive-1.318705
Juan can remain on Fox, but not on NPR which is usually free from bigotry. Now, it is time for all the media to follow the suit.
Mike GhouseAmericans together For Building a cohesive America
Mike Ghouse is a speaker on Pluralism and Islam offering pluralistic solutions to the media and public on issues of the day. His blogs and sites are listed at www.MikeGhouse.net
Juan Williams FIRED: NPR Sacks Analyst Over Fox News Muslim Comments Huffington Post | Jack Mirkinson First
NPR announced late on Wednesday night that it has terminated the contract of longtime analyst Juan Williams over his comments on Fox News that, when he is on a plane with Muslims, "I get nervous."
NPR's media reporter David Folkenflik broke the news on Twitter.
Williams' comments came during a discussion with Bill O'Reilly on Monday's "O'Reilly Factor." O'Reilly asked Williams if he had been in the wrong during his now-infamous appearance on "The View" last week. (There, O'Reilly's statement that "Muslims killed us on 9/11" caused Joy Behar and Whoopi Goldberg to walk off the set in anger.)
Williams replied that he thought O'Reilly had, in fact, been right. He continued:
"I mean, look, Bill, I'm not a bigot. You know the kind of books I've written about the civil rights movement in this country. But when I get on the plane, I got to tell you, if I see people who are in Muslim garb and I think, you know, they are identifying themselves first and foremost as Muslims, I get worried. I get nervous."
Williams did go on to tell O'Reilly that he had to be "careful" to stress that he was not talking about all Muslims when he criticized some and that America was not at war with Islam. He also compared blaming all Muslims for the actions of extremists to blaming all Christians for the actions of Timothy McVeigh. (O'Reilly responded that he was "done" being careful.)
In a statement, NPR said that it had informed Williams of its decision on Wednesday night, and that his remarks were "inconsistent with our editorial standards and practices, and undermined his credibility as a news analyst with NPR."
Williams had been a contributor and analyst at NPR for decades, but his dual role on Fox News -- where he has also been a longtime and frequent contributor -- drew so many complaints from NPR's listeners that it asked Fox News to stop identifying Williams as an "NPR News Political Analyst" in 2009.
Wednesday, October 20, 2010
To commemorate the suicide of 6 young boys who were harassed and driven to committ suicide. This reflects un-civility on our part. We have to work for a society, where everyone's space, culture, ethnicity, sexual orientation and belief is respected. If you can wear or show purple today, it reflects your support for the innocent victims.
Please take the time to watch this 12 minute video. I salute the council man Joe you for standing up for them, it is the duty of whole humanity to do that. Joel, You have restored my faith in you as a human, unburdened by bias propagated by self appointed guardians of religions... to feel the pain and to stand up for the oppressed is what religion teaches one to be, every religion indeed.
BUILDING COHESIVE SOCIETIES
An initiative of the Foundation for Pluralism & World Muslim
Tuesday, October 19, 2010
Perhaps many of you are already subscribed to "A New Christianity For A New World: Bishop John Shelby Spong on the News and Christian Faith." If so you received this note a few days ago, and perhaps shared it far and wide already. We hope that if you haven't, maybe now you will. As you may know, Bishop Spong is one of the most vocal and passionate advocates of LGBT people everywhere. So when this article came across our inbox well, we knew we had to share it. We do so by permission of Waterfront Media, Brooklyn, NY, Website www.johnshelbyspong.com.
A Manifesto! The Time Has Come!
I have made a decision. I will no longer debate the issue of homosexuality in the church with anyone. I will no longer engage the biblical ignorance that emanates from so many right-wing Christians about how the Bible condemns homosexuality, as if that point of view still has any credibility. I will no longer discuss with them or listen to them tell me how homosexuality is "an abomination to God," about how homosexuality is a "chosen lifestyle," or about how through prayer and "spiritual counseling" homosexual persons can be "cured." Those arguments are no longer worthy of my time or energy. I will no longer dignify by listening to the thoughts of those who advocate "reparative therapy," as if homosexual persons are somehow broken and need to be repaired. I will no longer talk to those who believe that the unity of the church can or should be achieved by rejecting the presence of, or at least at the expense of, gay and lesbian people. I will no longer take the time to refute the unlearned and undocumentable claims of certain world religious leaders who call homosexuality "deviant." I will no longer listen to that pious sentimentality that certain Christian leaders continue to employ, which suggests some version of that strange and overtly dishonest phrase that "we love the sinner but hate the sin." That statement is, I have concluded, nothing more than a self-serving lie designed to cover the fact that these people hate homosexual persons and fear homosexuality itself, but somehow know that hatred is incompatible with the Christ they claim to profess, so they adopt this face-saving and absolutely false statement. I will no longer temper my understanding of truth in order to pretend that I have even a tiny smidgen of respect for the appalling negativity that continues to emanate from religious circles where the church has for centuries conveniently perfumed its ongoing prejudices against blacks, Jews, women and homosexual persons with what it assumes is "high-sounding, pious rhetoric." The day for that mentality has quite simply come to an end for me. I will personally neither tolerate it nor listen to it any longer. The world has moved on, leaving these elements of the Christian Church that cannot adjust to new knowledge or a new consciousness lost in a sea of their own irrelevance. They no longer talk to anyone but themselves. I will no longer seek to slow down the witness to inclusiveness by pretending that there is some middle ground between prejudice and oppression. There isn't. Justice postponed is justice denied. That can be a resting place no longer for anyone. An old civil rights song proclaimed that the only choice awaiting those who cannot adjust to a new understanding was to "Roll on over or we'll roll on over you!" Time waits for no one.
I will particularly ignore those members of my own Episcopal Church who seek to break away from this body to form a "new church," claiming that this new and bigoted instrument alone now represents the Anglican Communion. Such a new ecclesiastical body is designed to allow these pathetic human beings, who are so deeply locked into a world that no longer exists, to form a community in which they can continue to hate gay people, distort gay people with their hopeless rhetoric and to be part of a religious fellowship in which they can continue to feel justified in their homophobic prejudices for the rest of their tortured lives. Church unity can never be a virtue that is preserved by allowing injustice, oppression and psychological tyranny to go unchallenged.
In my personal life, I will no longer listen to televised debates conducted by "fair-minded" channels that seek to give "both sides" of this issue "equal time." I am aware that these stations no longer give equal time to the advocates of treating women as if they are the property of men or to the advocates of reinstating either segregation or slavery, despite the fact that when these evil institutions were coming to an end the Bible was still being quoted frequently on each of these subjects. It is time for the media to announce that there are no longer two sides to the issue of full humanity for gay and lesbian people. There is no way that justice for homosexual people can be compromised any longer.
I will no longer act as if the Papal office is to be respected if the present occupant of that office is either not willing or not able to inform and educate himself on public issues on which he dares to speak with embarrassing ineptitude. I will no longer be respectful of the leadership of the Archbishop of Canterbury, who seems to believe that rude behavior, intolerance and even killing prejudice is somehow acceptable, so long as it comes from third-world religious leaders, who more than anything else reveal in themselves the price that colonial oppression has required of the minds and hearts of so many of our world's population. I see no way that ignorance and truth can be placed side by side, nor do I believe that evil is somehow less evil if the Bible is quoted to justify it. I will dismiss as unworthy of any more of my attention the wild, false and uninformed opinions of such would-be religious leaders as Pat Robertson, James Dobson, Jerry Falwell, Jimmy Swaggart, Albert Mohler, and Robert Duncan. My country and my church have both already spent too much time, energy and money trying to accommodate these backward points of view when they are no longer even tolerable.
I make these statements because it is time to move on. The battle is over. The victory has been won. There is no reasonable doubt as to what the final outcome of this struggle will be. Homosexual people will be accepted as equal, full human beings, who have a legitimate claim on every right that both church and society have to offer any of us. Homosexual marriages will become legal, recognized by the state and pronounced holy by the church. "Don't ask, don't tell" will be dismantled as the policy of our armed forces. We will and we must learn that equality of citizenship is not something that should ever be submitted to a referendum. Equality under and before the law is a solemn promise conveyed to all our citizens in the Constitution itself. Can any of us imagine having a public referendum on whether slavery should continue, whether segregation should be dismantled, whether voting privileges should be offered to women? The time has come for politicians to stop hiding behind unjust laws that they themselves helped to enact, and to abandon that convenient shield of demanding a vote on the rights of full citizenship because they do not understand the difference between a constitutional democracy, which this nation has, and a "mobocracy," which this nation rejected when it adopted its constitution. We do not put the civil rights of a minority to the vote of a plebiscite.
I will also no longer act as if I need a majority vote of some ecclesiastical body in order to bless, ordain, recognize and celebrate the lives and gifts of gay and lesbian people in the life of the church. No one should ever again be forced to submit the privilege of citizenship in this nation or membership in the Christian Church to the will of a majority vote.
The battle in both our culture and our church to rid our souls of this dying prejudice is finished. A new consciousness has arisen. A decision has quite clearly been made. Inequality for gay and lesbian people is no longer a debatable issue in either church or state. Therefore, I will from this moment on refuse to dignify the continued public expression of ignorant prejudice by engaging it. I do not tolerate racism or sexism any longer. From this moment on, I will no longer tolerate our culture's various forms of homophobia. I do not care who it is who articulates these attitudes or who tries to make them sound holy with religious jargon.
I have been part of this debate for years, but things do get settled and this issue is now settled for me. I do not debate any longer with members of the "Flat Earth Society" either. I do not debate with people who think we should treat epilepsy by casting demons out of the epileptic person; I do not waste time engaging those medical opinions that suggest that bleeding the patient might release the infection. I do not converse with people who think that Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans as punishment for the sin of being the birthplace of Ellen DeGeneres or that the terrorists hit the United Sates on 9/11 because we tolerated homosexual people, abortions, feminism or the American Civil Liberties Union. I am tired of being embarrassed by so much of my church's participation in causes that are quite unworthy of the Christ I serve or the God whose mystery and wonder I appreciate more each day. Indeed I feel the Christian Church should not only apologize, but do public penance for the way we have treated people of color, women, adherents of other religions and those we designated heretics, as well as gay and lesbian people.
Life moves on. As the poet James Russell Lowell once put it more than a century ago: "New occasions teach new duties, Time makes ancient good uncouth." I am ready now to claim the victory. I will from now on assume it and live into it. I am unwilling to argue about it or to discuss it as if there are two equally valid, competing positions any longer. The day for that mentality has simply gone forever.
This is my manifesto and my creed. I proclaim it today. I invite others to join me in this public declaration. I believe that such a public outpouring will help cleanse both the church and this nation of its own distorting past. It will restore integrity and honor to both church and state. It will signal that a new day has dawned and we are ready not just to embrace it, but also to rejoice in it and to celebrate it.
– John Shelby Spong