Friends, and readers... I realize that this is ostensibly an art blog--and that to go directly from a post about the limitations of Flash to a post about religion might cause some people a momentary loss of orientation... Still there are several things that have really put a burr under my bum, so to speak, about the way that my faith is being dragged farther and farther away from what I believe are the true teachings of Jesus.
First, The United Methodist Church, in what can only be seen as a quantum leap backward from their slogan, "Open hearts. Open minds. Open doors." has reinstated a pastor in Virginia who had been placed on involuntary leave by the judicial council for denying membership to an openly gay man. From the church's own website:
"In Decision 1031, the council dealt with the due process problems in how Johnson was disciplined. Decision 1032 was the more sweeping ruling, saying that the church’s Book of Discipline “invests discretion in the pastor-in-charge to make determination of a person’s readiness to affirm the vows of membership.”
I am not interested in quibbling over technicalities regarding what the ruling said, or what the Book of Discipline says. To me the central issues are these: (one) that an openly gay man--every bit a beloved child of god, was denied membership into the United Methodist Church and (two) that a local pastor, acting on his own authority was the one who denied that membership and that (three) that pastor now has the blessings of the governing body of the UMC to CONTINUE to deny membership to ANYONE he feels goes against the Discipline.
Friends, this is wrong. Wrong. Wrong. Wrong. Not only is it ethically wrong, it is a 180 degree turn from the UMC's own stated policy of "Open hearts. Open minds. Open doors." AND it is in complete opposition to everything we are taught as Christians. For the UMC's governing and judicial bodies to cave to the rigid right wing of the church in this way is shocking. It makes me scared for my church, my United Methodist Church, of which I have been a member all my life.
Jesus was a champion of the outcast and marginalized. He was someone who, without fear, would challenge those who would hope to limit the kingdom of God to a chosen few. He sought out the otcasts and misfits and those on the "sketchy" side and he said to them, (I'm paraphrasing) "Hey y'all! Y'all who have been locked out of the temple! Come and follow me." After they have been turned away everywhere else, where can they go BUT to the church?
I am a member of a United Methodist Church here in Atlanta. We are a stewpot congregation of broken mutants--gays, lesbians, blacks, whites, Baptists, Catholics, Bhuddists, Dancers, actors, artsists, police officers, Democrats, Republicans, Libertarians. We are all there every sunday to soak in the fellowship and to hear the Gospel. One sunday, as I was waiting to recieve Holy Communion, I looked around and saw the wonderful, bizarre, diverse family that had taken me in two years ago. I thought to myself, "This is indeed the body of Christ."
I don't know what will happen with the UMC and their policy on homosexuals within (and without) the church. I do know that every time we here on earth attempt to close our church doors to one group or another, to quote my crazy cousin Ed, "...the power of the Gospel just breaks those doors down again."
The second burr under my bum deals with the Kansas Board of Education's decision to delete the teaching of science from its science curriculum. This article illustrates part of the reason why I am so beloved by my liberal friends for being a devout Christian. This group is one of several behind the push to rid our nation's schools of the scourge of evolution instruction. Apparently, if dinosaurs actually existed, then the bedrock of scripture which our Christian faith is built upon would crumble before our eyes.
For me, whether or not we decended from Australopithecus africanus is immaterial to my life as a Christian. It doesn't affect how I worship or how I pray to my God. It doesn't affect how I read the Gospels. It doesn't in the least change how I relate to the poor or the sick. It doesn't at all deter me from working and seeking to be in ministry with my fellow Christians. While we shout and beat our chests over issues like homosexuality and evolution, poverty is killing thousands upon thousands of people every day--in every corner of the globe. The irony is enough to make one sick.
I could go on, but I seem to have burned myself out... My bed is calling...