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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, who died last Wednesday, November 30.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 admit […]
      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 […]
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    • the way ahead March 23, 2013
      My current blog is called the way ahead.
      noreply@blogger.com (PrickliestPear)
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    • 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 […]
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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

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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

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

Bishop Spong’s “The Time Has Come” Manifesto and New Conversation Spaces

Eleanor Roosevelt with U.N. Declaration of Human Rights, 1949

In another, wiser version of my life, I would be a more careful collector of those stray tidbits of illuminating discourse we all run across in unexpected places on a daily basis, make a mental note to file away, and then lose sight of.  A case in point:

Research projects sometimes have me scanning back issues of my state’s daily newspapers in periods of crucial social transition like the 1950s and 1960s.  As I do that, looking for the single piece of information I need, I inevitably find myself lured into reading the letters column to see what people were thinking and saying during decades when I was too young to pay attention to public discourse about political and cultural events unfolding around me.  I wish I had had the foresight to clip these letters as I’ve read them over the years, because of their power to illuminate contemporary debates about the bible and its cultural uses.

Invariably, I’m fascinated—and often repulsed—by what I find when I read them.  In my area during the 1950s and 1960s, it wasn’t at all uncommon for fellow citizens to write the local paper and declare confidently that 1) the bible clearly demonstrates that God made some people white and others black, with the intent of keeping the two races separate; 2) the bible shows plainly that God made the black race to serve the white race; and 3) anyone who doubts these “facts” questions God and is probably an immoral socialist.

Oh, and of course, those writing these letters (white folks, it goes without saying, white Christian folks) declare with equal confidence that they love their black brothers and sisters and mean them no harm.  But when the bible says something, what can one do except stand where the Word tells you to stand?  The whole world turns upside down when we let folks question the divine Word of God.

Turn the clock back and dip into letters written during the first decades of the 20th century, as women began entering the workforce and claiming the right to vote, and you’ll find—I know; I read them frequently, when I scan old newspapers—people declaring with equal certainty that 1) God made men and women different and complementary for reason; 2) specifically, God made men strong and women weak; 3) the bible clearly demonstrates that female subordination to males is God’s plan for the created world; and 4) allowing women to do “men’s” work and to vote overturns God’s divine order and subverts the plain meaning of the bible.

Not much seems to have changed in the new century, has it?  Nowadays, though there may still be considerable pockets of American culture that cling to these totally untenable understandings of God and the bible when it comes to matters of race and gender, hardly anyone would dare to voice such declarations in public any longer.* Though many people may whisper their untenable and prejudice-laden readings of the bible vis-à-vis race or gender in private, even within the confines of their church, they seldom dare to bring these readings to the light of public discourse, where they know that light will illuminate an unsavory darkness at the heart of their use of the bible to keep others in subordination to themselves. 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

Scripture and the Catholic Tradition

Several months ago, I had a troublesome interchange at “Queering the Church” with a commenter who kept referring me back to “the Church says”, and to “Scripture says”.  These are standard responses thrown out by people who prefer not to think, often in complete ignorance of what the Church and Scripture really do say, beyond the well-known headline sections. Still, the experience left me thinking, so I set off in search of what the Church itself has to say about Scripture. I thought the results were revealing: This is what I wrote.

The problem with attempting to deal with the Magisterium of the Church is that it is so vast, that the only way to do it is as one would eat an elephant:  one piece at a time.  I propose to do just that.  Today’s contribution represents just the first course – more will follow.

As the people who insist we follow the Magisterium often also refer us to the Bible, I thought it would be helpful to begin with a look at what the Magisterium has to say about the interpretation of Scripture. Even this is a vast topic.  One good starting point is to look at the useful report of the Pontifical Biblical Commission in 1993, “The Interpretation of the Bible in the Church” (which may be read in full at the excellent “Catholic Resources” website of Felix Just, SJ).

Continue reading