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    • To my Republican Friends July 6, 2020
      You voted for Trump even though you didn't like him. Doubted his character. Questioned his fitness for the job. Yet, your aversion to Hillary was even greater The post To my Republican Friends first appeared on Spirit of a Liberal.
      Obie Holmen
    • Wormwood and Gall a Midwest Book Award Finalist May 4, 2020
      The Midwest Independent Publishers Association (MIPA) recently named Wormwood and Gall as one of three finalists for a Midwest Book Award in the Religion/Philosophy category. The awards program, which is organized by MIPA, recognizes quality in independent publishing in the Midwest. The post Wormwood and Gall a Midwest Book Award Finalist first appeared on S […]
      Obie Holmen
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    • Rob Sheffield Pays Tribute to the “Peaceful and Stormy at the Same Time” Songs of Christine McVie December 6, 2022
      Rob Sheffield of Rolling Stone magazine has written a heartfelt and insightful appreciation of the life and music of Christine McVie.Following, with added images and links, are excerpts from Sheffield’s tribute that particularly caught my attention.Christine McVie always came on like the grown-up in the room, which admittedly might not be hard to do when the […]
      noreply@blogger.com (Michael J. Bayly)
    • “Your Perception Is a Choice” December 5, 2022
      My friend Iggy is dedicated to facilitating mind and body transformation – within his own life and the lives of others who are similarly interested in holistic personal growth and change. To this end, Iggy’s professional/vocational life involves providing a range of services, including mindset mentoring, naprapathic massage, and personal training in boxing, […]
      noreply@blogger.com (Michael J. Bayly)
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    • So the Former US President and Current GOP Candidate for the Presidency Calls for a Coup and the End of US Democracy — And? December 5, 2022
      President Donald J. Trump 2 March 2019, at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) at the Gaylord National Resort and Convention Center in Oxon Hill, MD; official White House photo by Tia Dufour, at Wikimedia CommonsHeather Cox Richardson, "Letters from an American: December 3, 2002":The leader of the Republican Party has just called fo […]
      noreply@blogger.com (William D. Lindsey)
    • I'm Now on Mastodon — Please Feel Free to Connect December 2, 2022
      I've now succeeded in setting up an account on Mastodon.My handle there is @wdlindsy@toad.socialPlease feel free to connect to me there if you wish. I'm hoping to reconnect via Mastodon to as many of the friends and conversation partners I had on Twitter, with whom I've lost touch after I left Twitter when Musk acquired it. I'm a total no […]
      noreply@blogger.com (William D. Lindsey)
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    • the way ahead March 23, 2013
      My current blog is called the way ahead.
      noreply@blogger.com (PrickliestPear)
  • RSS The Gay Mystic

    • A saint for the millenials: Carlo Acutis beatified today in Assisi. October 10, 2020
       A saint for the millenials: the young Italian teen, Carlo Acutis, who died in 2006 of galloping Leukemia, will be beatified today in Assisi by Pope Francis (last step before being officially declared a saint). Carlo came from a luke warm Catholic family, but at the age of 7, when he received his first 'Holy Communion', he displayed an astonishing […]
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    • Ronan Park and Jack Vidgen: The Travails of Gay Pop Stars October 28, 2019
      (Jack Vidgen)Quite by accident, through a comment from a performance arts colleague of mine, I stumbled across the recent bios of two boy teen singing sensations, both of whom made a big splash worldwide 8 years ago. The first, Jack Vidgen, won Australia's Got Talent Contest in 2011 at the age of 14, primarily for his powerful renditions of Whitney Hust […]
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    • We the People December 6, 2022
      We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.Trump has called for ... Why? So […]
      noreply@blogger.com (crystal)

A Renewed Opportunity of Hope and Reconciliation

File photo of Pope Benedict XVI leaving at the end of his weekly audience in Saint Peter's Square at the VaticanIn times of disappointment or frustration, my mother has always supplied a poignant saying that has helped me to make sense of challenging situations, “If you continue using the same method, expect the same outcome. If you want to see a different result, try something new.” Keeping this in mind, I can begin taking the necessary steps to move forward from whatever the given quandary may be.

The news of Pope Benedict XVI’s (now referred to as the “Pope Emeritus”) resignation has left the church, as well as unaffiliated observers around the world, reeling in shock and confusion. For the first time in 600 years, a pope has renounced the Petrine ministry. The prospects of an uncertain ecclesiastical future have now given cause for many to hold their breath, in anticipation of what could be expected from the next Bishop of Rome.

Undeniably, anyone, regardless of their beliefs, or lack thereof, can acknowledge that today the Catholic Church is enduring a systemic crisis of epic proportions. In the West, particularly throughout Europe, the volume of individuals who identify themselves as practicing Catholics decreases year after year. Any sense of credibility or spiritual integrity that the prelates of the church possessed in the past has been eroded in the wake of the worldwide sexual-abuse scandal. The lack of a definitive response to this moral pandemic has convinced many that the members of the hierarchy are not serious about solving this pervasive affliction. The fact that numerous men in positions of ecclesial prestige have merely offered empty apologies, and the window-dressing of vague guidelines aimed at preventing abuse, cements this sentiment among the general public. How can a dilemma of this magnitude ever truly be repaired if justice and accountability have not been the guiding catalysts in confronting this crisis?

Conventional wisdom has sought to designate the southern hemisphere as being the future of global Catholicism. There, an intense, vibrant expression of the faith is said to be a guaranteed key in winning further adherents to the church. Yet, a mistake is made when rigidly applying this analysis. It is commonly assumed that the scourge of pedophilic abuse is not an issue in countries of the global south. A prominent cardinal of the Roman Curia, hailing from Ghana, recently declared as much to the media, stating that this phenomenon is so rampant in the Western world because of cultural variations between the northern and southern hemispheres. He further implied that this sociological barrier existed as a result of the tolerance of homosexuality throughout most of the northern hemisphere, compared to its condemnation in countries of the southern hemisphere. Although it is not as pronounced or notable, cases of minors being sexually abused by clerics have, indeed, been documented in this region of the world.

In fact, in many countries, there is a sexual crisis of another sort. In this occasion the problem is not necessarily one of abuse. Throughout the African continent, where the numbers of entrees to seminaries constantly abounds, the vow of celibacy taken by those entering the priesthood is not always observed to the letter of the law. The custom of consciously disregarding this oath has been established by countless priests. It is not unusual for mistresses, and in numerous cases, even entire families (including multiple female partners and children) to clandestinely live with the pastor of a parish. Failing to give open acknowledgement to such arrangements does not erase their existence from the minds of most parishioners, many of whom privately condone the practice.  In the context of the African church, the notion of priestly celibacy is regarded as an irritating European aberration. In the prevailing culture, a man is expected to fall in love with a woman, to marry, and to have children — not doing so is viewed as abnormal. These conditions have become the norm throughout large portions of Africa, Asia, and Latin America.

Thus, on all geographical frontiers, questions of sexuality threaten to deteriorate the binding tapestry of faith and tradition that has composed the Catholic Church for centuries.

It seems that the former pontiff may have realized the implications all of these realities held for the church in the twenty-first century. Noticing subliminal hints of this line of reasoning in Benedict’s statement of resignation could prove helpful in establishing the criteria by which the future pope will be elected. Upon renouncing the papacy, the pope stated, “My strengths, due to an advanced age, are no longer suited to an adequate exercise of the Petrine ministry…in today’s world, subject to so many rapid changes and shaken by questions of deep relevance for the life of faith, in order to govern the barque of Saint Peter and proclaim the Gospel, both strength of mind and body are necessary, strength which in the last few months, has deteriorated in me to the extent that I have had to recognize my incapacity to adequately fulfill the ministry entrusted to me.”

This was seen as an expression on the part of the Pope Emeritus that not only were the effects of his age physically impacting his daily routine, but also, that his escalating frailty prevented him from responding comprehensively, and genuinely, to the pressing questions of the times we now live in. Longtime observers of Joseph Ratzinger’s theological temperament could very well have predicted this outcome from the first day of his election as pope. Although in his youth he did attend the Second Vatican Council, and was fairly progressive-minded in its wake, Ratzinger would eventually succumb to a crippling attitude of fear. As innovations following the historic assembly were implemented on a fairly rapid scale, Ratzinger began to view these changes as being rash and excessive. Criticizing new trends of liturgical practice and theological nuance, he began to complain that the Council’s message had been interpreted far too liberally. Soon, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger would become the institutional church’s chief proponent for nostalgically looking to a bygone era of the past. In this world, the notions of hierarchy, doctrine, and obedience formed the basis of the Catholic faith, instead of the values of episcopal collegiality, primacy of the individual conscience, and theological objectivity that Vatican II would espouse.

Still, a question begs to be asked: How can the problems of the 21st Century be solved with 18th Century solutions?

In a candid conversation with my parish priest, I once asked him his thoughts on what he felt Jesus of Nazareth would have to say if He were living and breathing in the flesh, in today’s world. His reply was to quote one of Jesus’ most comforting and repeated exhortations in the Gospels, “Be not afraid!” (Matthew 14:27) This summons to courage was utilized so often by the late, Blessed John Paul II that it is often described as the unofficial motto of his pontificate.

This same hopeful premise was also the underlying theme in most of the documents of the Second Vatican Council. When it was finally completed, the entire trajectory and driving purpose of this monumental gathering was intended to impel the Catholic Church to have a greater, more intense dialogue with the modern world. Rather than seeing the church as diametrically opposed to all of the implications that modernity had to offer, Vatican II painted the church as an entity that was in the world, and not removed from it. In the words of Blessed John XXIII, who convened the Council, but would not live to see its completion, “We feel we must disagree with those prophets of gloom, who are always forecasting disaster, as though the end of the world were at hand. In the present order of things, Divine Providence is leading us to a new order of human relations which, by men’s own efforts and even beyond their very expectations, are directed toward the fulfillment of God’s superior and inscrutable designs. And everything, even human differences, leads to the greater good of the Church.”

Undoubtedly, the failure on the part of the hierarchy to confront the global, human questions that the “signs of the times” have engendered is the biggest mistake the institutional church has made in the fifty years that have passed since the conclusion of Vatican II.

Earlier today, the College of Cardinals entered, and were subsequently locked within, the Sistine Chapel to elect Benedict XVI’s successor. This year, the events leading up to, and taking place during the Conclave have all occurred under the auspices of the liturgical season of Lent — traditionally observed as a time of conversion and repentance. Conventionally, repentance is usually understood as being contrite and remorseful for one’s sins. However, the biblical calls , to “repent” or “convert”, as Jesus of Nazareth and John the Baptist urged their followers to do, mean not to simply be sorry for one’s failings, but also, to turn towards God, and to adopt a new mode of being. This should make it all the more clear to the cardinals gathered in Rome that the Conclave of 2013 should not be business as usual.

My mother’s always-appropriate expression happens to paraphrase a similar message that can be found echoing from the mouth of Jesus in Matthew’s Gospel, “Neither is new wine, put into old wineskins, otherwise, the skins burst, and the wine is spilled, and the skins are destroyed; but new wine is put into fresh wineskins, and so both are preserved.” (Matthew 9:17) In today’s paradigm, the wine described can symbolically be identified with the Catholic faith. The enlightening truth of the Gospel, (namely, God’s self-communication of love to us in the person of Christ) and the enduring traditions of the church must always be maintained. But new approaches (new “wineskins”) and insights must be used in transmitting the faith, allowing it to stay fresh and relevant for coming generations.

May we all pray that the College of Cardinals elects a pope who does not simply preserve the theological and bureaucratic status quo, that has been the norm in the Vatican for centuries, but instead realizes that whoever the next pope will be, he will have as his mission the task of emulating and personifying the Christ of the Gospels — engaging all members of the human family in a spirit of love, justice, and peace.

Now, more than ever, the Spirit of God must prevail, instead of the finite whims of fallible men. The credibility of the Roman Catholic Church has been universally placed under scrutiny. The church’s future hangs in the balance. Will it continue to remain a viable spiritual path, or is it destined to gradually be reduced to a reactionary cult?

Veni Creator Spiritus!

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Rev. Jeremiah Wright Preaches: What He Said, What I Heard

This is a somewhat more personally pitched post than ones I have shared previously at Open Tabernacle.  It’s a personal—and, as the post says, perhaps idiosyncratic—reflection on a sermon I heard Rev. Jeremiah Wright preach this past Sunday.  I’m sharing this posting (which originally appeared on my Bilgrimage blog) here because a number of correspondents have asked me about Rev. Wright’s sermon and my reaction to it.  Due to Rev. Wright’s prominence as a national religious figure in the U.S., the public has an understandable interest in his understanding of the Christian life and how Christian discipleship yields political decisions.

I’m also posting this piece here because it continues the discussion of a theme that I think churches today have no option except to keep confronting: what will communities of faith that point to Jesus as their founder do about the fact that the world in which they minister includes gay and lesbian human beings?  Who will no longer remain silent about our identities and lives?  And so here’s my response to Rev. Wright’s sermon last Sunday. Continue reading

Women, the Bible, and Fundamentalist Gay-Bashing: Feminist Lessons in Biblical Interpretation

ELCA Assembly, August 2009

The following posting is a topical piece from my blog Bilgrimage, which was written in the aftermath of the decision of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America (ELCA) to accept ministers in committed, monogamous same-sex unions.  Though the posting was topical, in that it addressed the controversy that ensued when the ELCA made this decision, I offer it here as a companion piece to my last posting at Open Tabernacle, about the ownership and interpretation of holy stories.  As the discussion following that posting suggests, the question of what the bible means and how it should be applied to our culture remains very much alive in the American context.  And so I trust that the following posting remains alive in its observations about this topic:

Last fall, as I followed the predictable fall-out from the decision of the ELCA to abolish barriers to ministry by gays in monogamous relationships, I became fascinated by the persistence of a strand of fundamentalism in American Christianity so unthinking and so easily disputed that one wonders why anyone bothers advancing its arguments any longer.  Continue reading

Holy Stories and Marginalized Communities: Shift to New Readings of Scripture in the Churches Today

Our Lady of Guadalupe

In its liturgical calendar for December, the Catholic church celebrates each year a devotion to the Virgin Mary that has deep roots in and strong resonance for Latin American Catholicism.  For those living in places in which there are not large concentrations of people from that part of the world, the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe often comes and goes without notice.

I’ve long had a particular interest in the Guadalupe story, however—for personal reasons.  My father died late on the night of the Guadalupe feast.  And I later made a life-altering pilgrimage to the shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico City, at a period in which I was searching for my vocational path and needed to pray with others desperate to find meaning in their lives.  In what follows, I’d like to reflect on the significance I’ve come to see in the Guadalupe story as I’ve struggled with it over the years—and, in particular, for what this story of the appearance of an Aztec holy maiden to an Aztec peasant implies about the ownership and interpretation of holy stories, including the biblical narratives. Continue reading

Why This Gay Man Takes Heart from the Feast of the Holy Family

On the recent Feast of the Holy Family my mother and I attended Mass at St. Agnes Roman Catholic Church in Port Macquarie, Australia. I’m currently in the “Great South Land” – visiting my parents, family, and friends – from my “other home” in Minnesota, USA.

As I sat waiting for the homily to begin I braced myself for a diatribe against perceived threats to the family – such as gay marriage. But I need not have worried.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m sure there are some members of the clerical leadership in the Australian church who would choose to use such a feast day to malign the lives and relationships of gay people. But, by-and-large, the Australian Catholic Church, I’ve discovered, reflects the wider “live and let live” ethos of Australian society. That, of course, is a far cry from the current case in the United States.

What the priest at yesterday’s Mass did talk about actually resonated with me as a gay Catholic man. He noted that, contrary to the rosy, holy card images we’re so often presented with, the reality is that Jesus’ family knew conflict and misunderstanding – just like any other family. Of course, nowhere is this more evident than in the story of the finding of the boy Jesus in the Temple.

This story served as yesterday’s Gospel reading, and in it we are presented with a young Jesus disobeying his parents; confusing, perhaps even disappointing them – all so that he can be true to the person he knew God had called him to be. As I listened to the priest describe this popular story of the Holy Family in this way, I realized that it is something to which many gay people can relate. Accordingly, it’s something to which many families can relate.

Like Jesus, young people coming into awareness of who they are sexually often have to retreat from their families so as to attune themselves to and embrace what’s awakening within them. For many gay people, answers and support are initially found outside the family. Parents are seldom the first to know that their child is gay.

These were my thoughts as I reflected upon yesterday the young Jesus leaving his family and the caravan bound for Nazareth so as to seek out the wisdom and insights of those in the Temple. I’m sure that as they busily prepared to leave Jerusalem, Mary and Joseph had instructed Jesus “not to wander off.” And yet that’s exactly what he did. He required answers and experiences beyond those which his family could provide, and so he went in search of them. This to me seems a healthy thing; a sacred journey or quest, if you like.

Once found by his parents, Jesus, in a way, “comes out” to them. He’s not the boy they thought he was. There’s definitely something different about him. He challenges them, confuses them, and, no doubt, disappoints them. Yet despite all of this they accept him as he is and, as a family, they resume their journey home together.

Sound familiar? I hope it resonates with you – especially if you’re gay, because here’s the bottom line: God calls gay people to something very special; something very sacred. God calls us to journeys of faith and consciousness that often compel us to “wander off” and seek answers elsewhere, despite the disapproval of others – even our parents, even “Mother Church.” And, no, this “something” is not a life of sexual abstinence – as the clerical leadership of the Roman expression of Catholicism would have us believe. Rather it’s a life of abundance as the relational beings that God created us to be. And, yes, God created some of us with relational capacities that are gay in orientation. Accordingly, for most gay people, a life of abundance means seeking, building, and maintaining a loving relationship with another of the same gender – a relationship that is experienced and expressed as something that is both sacred and sexual. I’ve come to believe that the seeking, building, and maintaining of such a relationship is always about “doing God’s work.”

I take to heart and am nourished and encouraged by the journeys in consciousness and compassion conveyed in the trusting, loving and accepting relational dynamics of Jesus and his family. They are journeys in and of faith. And, for me, they are what make this family – and so many others – holy.

Born and raised in rural Australia, Michael Bayly now lives in the US where he serves as the executive coordinator of the Minneapolis-based Catholic Pastoral Committee on Sexual Minorities (CPCSM). He is also the editor of The Progressive Catholic Voice, and a co-chair of the Minnesota-based Catholic Coalition for Church Reform. His book Creating Safe Environments for LGBT Students: A Catholic Schools Perspective was published in 2007 by Harrington Park Press. He established his blog The Wild Reed in 2006, as a “sign of solidarity with all who are dedicated to living lives of integration and wholeness – though, in particular, with gay people seeking to be true to both the gift of their sexuality and their Catholic faith.”

The Abomination of Heterosexual Intercourse: The Sin of Gibeah (Judges 19)

We are all familiar with the story of Sodom, and how it is frequently used (without any justification) as an argument to justify opposition to homosexuality. I will come back later to the story of Sodom, but first, to show just how ludicrous the argument is, I will apply exactly the same reasoning to a remarkably similar story, that of  Gibeah in Judges 19. (See, even the chapter number is the same.) If the argument from Sodom were sound, then the same argument applied to Gibeah should lead us to conclude that heterosexual intercourse is sinful. Of course, that conclusion is patently false.  An investigation of the story of Gibeah is useful because it helps to show the inadequacy of the historical interpretation of Sodom (now rejected by most reputable modern scholars), but it also shows clearly how inappropriate it is to base modern sexual ethics on Old Testament Biblical standards – which also underpin the entire patriarchal structure of the Church as we have it.

Lot leaving Sodom - Rubens

The Story of Gibeah

Unlike Sodom, the story of Gibeah is not well known, although it should be. I present it now in the words of the Finnish Biblical scholar, Marti Nissinen.

“In those days when no king ruled in Israel” – so begins the story of Judges 19 – it happened that a certain Levite, who lived in the hill country of Ephraim, stopped at the Benjamite town of Gibeah. He was accompanied by his (anonymous) wife of second rank, whom he had recaptured from her refuge in Bethlehem at her father’s house. The Gibeahites were unfriendly toward travellers; only by late evening did an old man accommodate them. The man,also from the hill country of Ephraim, invited them to his house and showed them great hospitality.  But then suddenly something horrible happened:

While they were enjoying themselves, some of the worst scoundrels in the town surrounded the house, hurling themselves against the door and shouting to the old man who owned the house: “Bring out the man who has gone into our house, for us to have intercourse with him” (19:22, NEB)

The old man wanted to protect his guest and offered his own daughter and his guest’s wife instead.  When this did not appease the scoundrels, the Levite gave his wife up to the men, who then fell on her sexually and abused her all night till the morning”(19:25).  The woman died of her injuries, and the incident led to a war between the Benjaminites and the other tribes of Israel. Continue reading

Women as Property: The Biblical View

My recent post “Here Comes Everybody” drew a query in the comments thread from a prolific commenter, Mark, who asked for some substantiation of my statement that in the Biblical world, women were seen as property. Responding, I assured Mark that I had a post in preparation in which I would provide this. That post has now been completed in draft, but given the importance of this topic, I thought it would be helpful to discuss it first in its own, dedicated piece.

Even a cursory reading of the Hebrew Bible should make clear the appallingly low status of Hebrew women, and their complete dependence on their men folk. It is this very dependence that makes the story of Ruth and Naomi important:  deprived of family and male support, they sustain each other, until at last they can re-establish economic security- by working together to arrange Ruth’s re-marriage.

Ruth and Naomi: William Blake

But to more fully appreciate the extent of women’s subservience, we need the help of writers who have looked more closely at the texts, and reflected on them to show us their significance.  William L. Countryman is just one of many who have done this, but his book “Dirt, Greed and Sex”, with a full chapter on women and children as property in the Hebrew Bible, is the one I have at hand, and the one I have drawn on for what follows. Continue reading

And the Word became one of us, and dwelt among mankind.

“Et Verbum caro factum est, et habitavit in nobis” (And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us). This is the momentous and joyous occasion that we Christians celebrate and commemorate during this beautiful Christmas season. Christmas isn’t just about a babe being born in a manger, it’s about God coming to join us, even to become one of us, and thereby, to save and liberate us by sharing in and uniting Himself to our frail humanity.

What does it mean then that God became a human being?

It might be wise to consider the direct ramifications and implications of the Incarnation (God becoming man) before asking any further questions.

We as human beings are creatures of God, made by His designs. Yet, God consented to assume the form of His creatures in order to dwell among us. Scripture proclaims, God in His very nature is a Being of unending, unconditional love. In fact, St. John goes so far as to say that God is love (1 John 4:16). Think about it; this means that before the creation of our world, the universe, or all other forms of tangible elements, nothing else existed besides the eternal force of Love. Thus, God becomes tangible in Jesus Christ, descending, even taken on our humanity which He created, to show forth His boundless Love, which is the very essence of His being. Not only was the Almighty Word made flesh in Jesus Christ, but Love, was made incarnate, tangible, and real upon this earth. In order to understand the ways of real love and hope to imitate them genuinely, we must ponder and contemplate the actions of Jesus Christ, for He was the only perfect human expression of Love itself! Continue reading