Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Re-post from Last Year on Hauerwas and Rutledge

The following is an exercise I undertook in preparation for Holy Week. I hope readers find it helpful.

The Last Seven Words

Books mentioned in this article:

Cross-Shattered Christ: Meditations on the Seven Last Words, by Stanley Hauerwas. Grand Rapids: Brazos Press, 2004. Pp. 108. $14.99 (hardcover)
The Seven Last Words from the Cross, by Fleming Rutledge. Grand Rapids: Eerdmanns, 2005. Pp. 81. $12.00 (paper)
Mysterium Paschale, Hans Urs von Balthasar. Ignatius Press, 2000. Pp. 297. $16.96 (paper)

There are books on almost every topic under the Christian sun, but certain topics, likely because of their gravity, are less frequently written about than others. For a few years now, I have gone back each Lenten season to re-read selections from von Balthasar’s Mysterium Paschale, one of the few works which explicitly reflects theologically on Holy Saturday; it is certainly the best. I study von Balthasar, and think through this darkest, loneliest day of the Christian year with him, because that study strengthens me, girds up my loins for the preaching of a word that must and can be spoken even on this quietist of days.
So I rejoiced to discover that books have arrived recently by two extraordinary preachers and theologians on another holy day of the Christian year- Good Friday. Stanley Hauerwas preached his meditations at Saint Thomas Church Fifth Avenue at the invitation of Reverend Andrew Mead in 2003. Fleming Rutledge delivered his meditations two consecutive years, first at Trinity Episcopalian in Columbus, Georgia in 2002, and then at Trinity Episcopalian in Copley Square, Boston, 2003. Each of them was invited to participate in a tradition that has found traction especially in Episcopalian congregations, but also in liturgical churches around the world, the Good Friday Three Hours (Tre Ore). This “main” service on Good Friday takes place between midday and three, 3 p.m. being the traditional hour of Christ’s death. In many churches this service takes the form of a meditation based on the seven last words of Jesus on the cross, with hymns, prayers, and short sermons. These two short books are thus collected examples of these meditation series.
Within the historical liturgy of the church, worship on Good Friday has never settled on one particular form. East and west agree that it is a fast day, so Eucharist is not celebrated on this day. Instead, the Triduum, the three days, Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and Easter Vigil, make up one extended service, of which Good Friday is the middle member. The Roman Catholic rite, celebrated in many Protestant churches as well, includes readings from Scripture and a reading of the Passion account from St. John, which is often read dramatically. A crucifix is presented, with the people given an opportunity to venerate it. The service also includes a long series of formal intercessions known as the Bidding Prayer.
Thankfully, this last prayer has since Vatican II been revised to remove its more anti-Semitic elements. The historic prayer includes three bids, the first for all heretics and schismatics, the third for all pagans, and the second for the “perfidious Jews” (Oremus et pro perfidis Jud├Žis). It now reads, “Let us pray for the Jewish people, the first to hear the word of God, that they may continue to grow in the love of his name and in faithfulness to his covenant. (Silent prayer) Almighty and eternal God, long ago you gave your promise to Abraham and his posterity. Listen to your Church as we pray that the people you first made your own may arrive at the fullness of redemption. We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.” If improvements can be made on the historic liturgy, this certainly seems one example.
In addition to these two venerable liturgies, many churches also celebrate an evening Tenebrae service, including the gradual dimming of lights and extinguishing of candles, the removal of the Christ candle from the sanctuary, and a concluding Strepitus or loud noise symbolizing the earthquake and agony of creation at the death of Christ.
So let it not be said that we have no options on Good Friday. There may be only one way and one path for Christ, to the cross, then to hell, then resurrection and ascension. But for the rest of us, we have many ways to observe divine services on this “good” day.
And now we have two new companions for the journey. Fleming the itinerant and Hauerwas the intrepid both bring something of themselves to this task. Fleming preaches powerfully; Hauerwas teaches truthfully. What follows are a few paragraphs on each of the “last words”, playing Fleming and Hauerwas as a duet.

“Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do”

Fleming in her first meditation emphasizes the shame dimensions of crucifixion. Crucifixion, a gruesome form of punishment, was made even more horrific by its public and de-humanizing nature. Although we may be “used to” the cross, incorporating it in our art and jewelry, venerating and even kissing it on holy days, contemporaries of Christ were used to it in a different sense. It was a not uncommon form of execution performed publicly for all to see. So Lamentations 1:12: “Is it nothing to you, all you who pass by?” Where we blithely use the cross in art and literature without reflecting on its obsceneness, those who regularly witnessed crucifixion were inured to it. It is our and their inhuman hearts that are callous, responsible for the crucifixion of Christ, and so Fleming in his first meditation personalizes Christ’s first word from the cross- it is our shame, we the enemies of God, for which Christ prays, “Father, forgive them.” By my fault, by my own fault, by my own most grievous fault.
Hauerwas, being Hauerwas, takes a completely different tack. He says: “We think it is really very simple: Jesus had to die because we needed and need to be forgiven. But ironically, such a focus shifts attention from Jesus to us. This is a fatal turn, I fear, because as soon as we begin to think this is all about us, about our need for forgiveness, bathos drapes the cross, hiding from us the reality that here we first and foremost see God” (27-28). Hauerwas worries that we will turn this first word into an opportunity to reflect on the human condition, rather than see it for what is truly is, the interior life of the Trinity on full display, naked on the cross, revealed to the eye and ear in faith. In Fleming’s meditation, the Son reaches out from a distance and extends forgiveness; for Hauerwas, this word draws us into the life of God, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, so that we might ourselves be made “for the world the forgiveness made ours through the cross of Christ” (33). Fleming here reads declaration; Hauerwas sees participation.

“Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in Paradise”

Hauerwas believes this second word continues to frustrate our attempts to drape the cross in bathos. It leaves too much silent and unsaid, too many questions unanswered. Why one criminal and not the other? Why a savior on a cross? The gospels are reticent and spare, and this on purpose in order to draw us into, “make us participants in, the silence of redemption wrought by the cross” (39). We fear silence, because we fear we may be forgotten. Like the thief, we wish to be remembered. But in order to be remembered, we must be re-membered, made members of the body of Christ through baptism, what Hauerwas calls God’s “enfleshed memory.” Since it is God who accomplishes this, we need not know and remember all. We needn’t know the whole story, because Jesus remembers it all already.
Fleming focuses not on memory but on malefaction. The two thieves are the dregs, “bad elements”, transgessors, and Jesus is nailed up between them. We are to see ourselves in those two thieves, and so, in a way different from but commensurate with Hauerwas, we are re-membered in Fleming’s telling as well. Invoking the Old Testament’s distinct meaning of memory, Fleming reminds us that God does not simply call to mind, but actually acts for and saves us. Fleming continues his personal appeal, asking us if we can see ourselves in one of the thieves. Fleming’s turn towards the personal may not surprise when we read the hymns he is working from and between. Paul Gerhardt’s “O Sacred Head, Sore Wounded,” and Elizabeth Clephane’s “Beneath the Cross of Jesus,” two hymns that represent the shift in Christian hymnody towards the personal, poetic use of “me” and “I”.

“Woman, behold thy son!…Behold thy mother!”

It is not insignificant that where Fleming concludes his meditations with quotations from hymnody, Hauerwas selects wood block prints to begin each of his. Art and icon delineate a subtly different piety than hymn and song. Rick Beerhorst’s work, in black and white, is art that avoids any descent into the sentimental, romantic, or slick. His print of the woman and son illustrates the third word without manipulating us. We come away with no illusions that Christ is pro-family in the way so much of American Christian rhetoric argues it is. Christ is not “looking out for his mom.” Instead, He addresses her as the woman she is in faith, the firstborn of the new creation, the New Abraham, the New Eve. The beloved disciple is not to treat Mary as Jesus’ mother, but rather as “his own” mother. She is the one who, unlike Abraham, who’s son was spared, witnesses the death of her Son, and just so becomes the mother of a great nation, the church, and the firstborn member of that family.
Fleming joins Hauerwas in challenging the traditional interpretation of this third word, a tradition that reaches as far back as Augustine, that goes, a) Jesus cared for his mother, b) he is concerned about her future, c) he therefore wants to do something to ensure her future security, and d) we are called to do the same for our mothers. Instead, Fleming insists that these words are leading us into an understanding of how the church, beginning with Mary and her relationship to the Beloved Disciple, “represent[s] the way that family ties are transcended in the church by the ties of the Spirit” (32). Fleming therefore includes a verse from Samuel Stone’s “The Church’s One Foundation”, which in rich poetry proclaims a new creation by water and the Word, and a church that is now the new holy Bride of Jesus Christ. A radical new family indeed. In this word we are called to “focus” on this new family.

“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

Fleming and Hauerwas agree. Although this is the fourth word, it should have been first (says von Balthasar), and is the one to have if you’re only having one. In spite of this pre-eminence, it is the saying that makes us tremble. It “asks too much of us,” says Hauerwas (26). It is the one saying from which Bach withdraws his halo of strings in the Matthaus Passion. It is also the most difficult saying to find words for. Fleming, for example, comments on and draws stories from the U.S. government’s current military engagements to fill the space the halos left (our current militarism runs as a sub-text through both of these meditations). These he mentions to remind us that there is a thing like Sin still active in our lives and the world, even if this word sin is more and more frequently excised from our liturgies and public language of faith. Somehow this sin, and the curse of God (or wrath of God), is responsible for Christ’s derelict cry from the cross, for “he who knew no sin” “was made sin.” Fleming sneaks in “his human nature absorbed the curse of the Law” (45), so that the cry of dereliction is largely about Christ’s identification with us in and under the power of Sin through some form of exchange.
Hauerwas has little time for this facile move towards traditional theories of Atonement. Hauerwas floats a significant “maybe”: “Maybe God does understand our suffering. Maybe God even suffers with us, which some seem to think comforting given the fact it is very clear God is incapable of doing anything about our suffering” (60). Here Hauerwas’s razor-sharp wit emerges in spite of himself. We might as well be ironic if Christ is truly godforsaken. But no, for Hauerwas, Christ’s cry of Eloi, Eloi Lama Sabachthani does not prove a theory of Atonement, but is rather an expression of the outworking of the mystery called Trinity. Contra Fleming, Hauerwas believes there is not a god whose wrath must be satisfied that we might be saved. God “refuses to let our sin determine our relation to him” (65).
“I thirst”

This fifth word is an enigma, not because it is difficult, but more because it seems so simple. Such a sudden shift from existential prayer to subjective need. Nevertheless, water and thirst find place in John’s Gospel at two significant points. Jesus declares to the Samaritan woman at the well that he will give water that will gush up to eternal life (John 4). In the seventh chapter of John, this same image appears, now as rivers of living water flowing from the believer’s heart. Hauerwas reads this language as grounded in desire, drinking of the Lord for which we desire, giving living water to others who thirst for God’s kingdom.
Fleming riffs better on this word than Hauerwas. Like Hauerwas, he sees from an historical critical perspective how the words of the Psalms shape the gospel-writers memory of the events surrounding the cross. This puts a new and helpful spin on Scripture and its fulfillment in Christ. For Fleming, Christ is about his work, the work he has spoken of throughout God’s gospel, but this work is now accomplished dry-mouthed. The One who saves by way of water thirsts. The end is near.

“It is finished”

Consummatum est. The Latin serves better than the English equivalent, because this is not an end, but something completed and perfected. Fleming knows that we have trouble believing that everything is accomplished at this point. There must be something more to do. Fleming continues to paint Christ’s death as a once-for-all sacrifice, one that accomplishes forgiveness for those deeds we believe unforgivable.
Hauerwas agrees that the “it is finished” is a cry of victory rather than defeat. The work or task Christ set for him self is completed. This is not to say that the resurrection is ancillary to or additional to the total work of Christ on the cross (though this has been much debated). Jesus will be resurrected, but the resurrected is still the crucified. On Good Friday, at this sixth word, Hauerwas rightly stays with the crucifixion, just as Jesus remains the crucified, the one whom Pascal remarked would be “in agony until the end of the world.”
But Hauerwas reminds us that this agony is the agony of birth pains, for on the day of crucifixion, Christ was crucified, conceived, and the world was made. Or, in Hauerwas’s paraphrase of Nicholas Lash, on the day of crucifixion “God brings all things alive, creating ex nihilo, making a home in our sin-scarred world. Like the sixth day of creation, everything has been made, it is very good, and “it is finished” (85).
So Christ’s death is not capitulation, giving in, but rather re-capitulation, new creation. Richard Neuhaus gets it just right in another reflection on the seven words. “’It is finished.’ But it is not over.” There is still the seventh day of creation, the day of God’s kingdom, the day of the church’s everlasting rest and peace. The seventh day commences at these words, “It is finished.”

“Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit”

The wood block for the seventh word in Cross-Shattered Christ depicts two hands extended from the top of the painting down to receive a flower emerging from the fertile head of Jesus crowned with thorns. O blessed Trinity! Nevertheless, as comforting as this icon of the Trinity may be, it is not meant to hide from us the reality that Jesus truly dies and descends to hell. With Jesus dead, there is a day we must face, Holy Saturday, the day when the Son, without whom no on can see the Father, is inaccessible.
Even at this moment when the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit seem most involved in a conversation that does not involve us, we remember that these words are not original to Jesus, but are instead from the psalms, specifically Psalm 31. The Psalms were foundation for Israel’s prayer, are quoted often by Christ in his prayers, and are the prayers prayed almost constantly by Christian communities throughout the world yet today. Unfortunately, as perichoretic as this last act of Jesus is, Fleming, though keeping the language of participation, makes Christ’s last act a model of our own personal prayer of conversion. “Even as you read, you can give yourself up in this hour to the prayer of our Redeemer and commit yourself to our Father through him” (79).
If Christ’s last words are a model for Christian prayer, then Hauerwas comes closer to praying it right. They are prayed on our way to death, or in commendation of those who have died. They are words less of commitment than of comfort. Christ has done something here that makes possible, not as an act of will, but by way of baptism, our participation in his life and death. Even Hauerwas has trouble not tipping over into language of enablement. But mostly, he speaks of “being made part of,” we only now “begin to understand what we pray and sing when we pray and sing the Psalms” (100). Jesus has become the Father’s Psalm for the world, and we, in our prayer, though Hauerwas does not say it, become Christ’s Psalm for the world, singing “Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit.”

Saturday, March 25, 2006

The Appreciative Inquiry Commons

Not unrelated to getting real is the concept of Appreciative Inquiry (AI), and you can join The Appreciative Inquiry Commons to learn more.

This way of thinking takes a lot of mental energy to put in place, but it is a solid approach. For example, what if the next time you got together for a planning meeting at church or elsewhere, you focused on assets rather than needs, as the main focus of your work and planning?

Friday, March 24, 2006

Annunciation

Annunciation

Salvation to all that will is nigh,
That All, which always is All everywhere,
Which cannot sin, and yet all sins must bear,
Which cannot die, yet cannot choose but die,
Loe, faithful Virgin, yields himself to lie
In prison, in thy womb; and though he there
Can take no sin, nor thou give, yet he'will wear
Taken from thence, flesh, which death's force may try.
Ere by the spheres time was created, thou
Wast in his mind, who is thy Son, and Brother,
Whom thou conceiv'st, conceiv'd; yea thou art now
Thy maker's maker, and thy Father's mother,
Thou hast light in dark; and shutst in little room,
Immensity cloistered in thy dear womb.

- Courtesy of John Donne, who always seems to have an appropriate verse for the occasion

Get Real

Bob Sitze has a great book out called Not Trying Too Hard: New Basics for Sustainable Congregations. It's a solid book, one of those volumes that's as helpful for what it points you to in the bibliography, and summarizes in brief boxes, as it is for the actual content.

Anyway, in the middle of the book he encourages congregations and pastors to "get real". By this he means they should encounter reality full-faced. Some examples: read the business section of the newspaper first, visit people in their places of work and have them tell you about things they are expert in, analyze your weekly schedule and look for places where you are too comfortable, living in the same small circle, listen to a new radio station for a few weeks, etc.

Basically, the idea seems to a) broaden your horizons, and b) challenge yourself and the reality you might tend to create for yourself by reading the same journal year after year, participating in the same kind of work or hobbies, hanging out with the same people.

He includes a "reality check" exercise that is very clever and that I plan to do, but first, I wanted to itemize some things I think I need to do in my own context in order to "get real." This is a good blog topic, so I encourage it's use more widely.

Things Clint should do to get real:

1. Go hunting during deer season.
2. Watch American Idol.
3. Go to the local NASCAR or auto racing track for a Friday night race.
4. Eat lunch at the high school.
5. Fix something on my car.
6. Read the Purpose-Driven Life.
7. And Your Best Life Now.
8. Go to karaoke somewhere.
9. Get recommendations from people for a journal I should read that I currently don't.
10. Visit the local land fill.
11. Visit the Seventh-Day Adventist church. Ditto for the evangelical free church.
12. Visit more shops in Cambridge.
13. Find out how I would apply for social services (welfare, housing and utility assistance, etc.) if I needed to.
14. Ask 10 people what are other things I could do to "get real."

I purposefully limited myself to five minutes of brainstorming to keep this list manageable. Analysis and comment of the list is welcome.

Thanks, Bob!

Saturday, March 18, 2006

New Commentary series from Brazos Press, art on front is from Luther Memorial in Madison, WI


Log of Blogs

I've just updated the blog roll, and finally made the switch over to Blogrolling. It's cool because if you hover over the link, it should display a brief description, if I remembered to enter one.

So, if you think a certain blog should be on the blog roll, post a comment here, and I'll see what I can do. No promises.

Friday, March 17, 2006

Refugees and Material Support

Issue: Material Support

These provisions redefining terrorist activity and “material support” to such organizations are being applied to two important categories of refugees. One group consists of those who have provided supplies or money to armed groups that have opposed dictatorships. A second group consists of those who have been forced to provide money, including ransom, to armed groups. Both groups may be denied refugee status, sometimes for the very same reasons that made them flee persecution.

These are some of the effects of the current interpretation of “material support”:

• More asylum seekers are determined to be ineligible—the burden of proof is on the applicant who must meet high credibility and corroboration standards.
• More asylees are denied adjustmentto legal permanent residency and naturalization because of previous “material support.”
• Thousands of refugees are denied resettlementto the United States. UNHCR has temporarily suspended the referral of Burmese refugees in Malaysia and Thailand to the U.S. resettlement program. We are also concerned about the situation of Colombians and other groups who may either have been forced to provide money, or provided minimal support to armed groups.

Victims of Interpretation

This issue is difficult to understand. Of course none of us wants terrorists or terrorist supporters to come to the United States! But the following stories illustrate howvulnerable people, themselves victims of terror, are being denied help and protectionunder current interpretations of material support provisions in U.S. law:

In Colombia, a farmer’s family was terrorized by members of the leftist guerilla group FARC. The guerillas ultimately demanded money, and when the farmer could not come up with enough money, the guerillas took livestock from the farm, brutally beat and raped the man’s wife and her sister, and shot and killed him. The survivors reported the murder to the police, but when they realized that no action was being taken against the perpetrators, the woman fled to Ecuador where she had relatives. This woman and her sister were resettled in Canada, because the United States refused to help them because farm animals turned over to the armed militia under duress were deemed to be “material support” under U.S. law.

A Burmese family allowed several members of a pro-democracy group stay in their home for two nights while fighting the Burmese dictatorship. Because this group was armed, the United States denied the family refugee resettlement for having offered “material assistance” to a “foreign terrorist organization” even though it is fighting a brutal government the United States opposes.

Action

Please urge your representative and President Bush to do the following:

• Restore the protection of the United States for deserving refugees and asylum seekers.
• Establish a process for dealing with refugees and asylum seekers whose “material support” is made under duress or is involuntary, inadvertent or insignificant.
• Institute a waiver program or other means by which exceptions can be made for deserving refugees and otherwise eligible resettlement populations such as the Burmese refugees in Thailand, Malaysia and India.
• Make it clear that it is not Congress’ intent to bar deserving refugees through material support provisions.

If you prefer to call, you can reach your representative via the U.S. Capitol switchboard at 202/224-3121, and the White House at 202/456-1111.

If you prefer to write, visit the House website to find your representative's fax numbers (you can also look up your representative's name if you are unsure of it. You can fax the president at 202/456-2461. Use our sample letters for representatives and for the president as the basis for your own correspondence. Click here for general tips on writing to elected officials.

Message

When you speak with your member of Congress, make sure tomention the following points on material support:



• The United States must create a process for dealing with refugees, asylum seekers and asylees whose “material support” was given under duress or is involuntary, inadvertent or insignificant.The “material support” provisions should be applied only to those who intend to harm our country, not to deserving refugees and asylum seekers in need of protection. For many of these vulnerable populations, the very circumstances that form the basis of their refugee or asylum claim have been interpreted to make them ineligible for refugee or asylum status in the United States.
• A waiver program or other means of exception is needed for populations such as the Burmese refugees.Freedom fighters resisting brutal, totalitarian governments that are condemned by the United States must not be penalized when their resistance leads to persecution. We must not turn away the very people who have a history of working with the United States to advance democracy throughout the world.
• The president needs to hear the intent of Congress not to bar deserving refugees and asylum seekers through material support provisions.The legitimate aim of the USA PATRIOT Act and the REAL ID Act to protect U.S. citizens from those who seek to hurt us must not be interpreted to apply to refugees and asylum seekers fleeing persecution.

Thank you!

We appreciate your taking the time to make your voice heard on this vital issue.

For more information on the policy and advocacy work of Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service, please visit our website.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Analytical Philosophy and Theology

R.R. Reno has an essay in the latest First Things that seems, on first read, a doubtful thesis. His argument is that most theologians look to Continental philosophy (Heidegger and his offspring) for their philosophical conversation partners on "the big questions," when in fact it is analytical philosophy, especially Quine, that can provide a resource theology that is foundational in the way Reno intends the term foundational to be used.

If you've ever read any analytical philosophy, you'll understand why it is hard to get your head around the idea that Reno is onto something here. He lifts up Bruce Marshall's book Trinity and Truth as an exemplary piece of theology in the vein (analytical rather than continental) he is encouraging. With all respect to Marshall, that book, though interesting, isn't particularly readable.

I further note that Reno and Marshall both recently converted to Roman Catholicism- within the last 12 months. One from Anglicanism, the other from Lutheranism.

So Quine is, apparently, on the road to Rome.

Reno is not the first theologian in America to preference analytical philosophy. Hauerwas read Wittgenstein, and became Hauerwas, and now everybody reads Wittgenstein. But then, Wittgenstein dealth aphoristically at times with "the big questions" in a way comparable to Heidegger and his offspring, so you can see how temptation lies that way. But Quine?

I myself am often enamored of continental philosophy. As obfuscating as the prose often is, I have enjoyed reading Levinas, Zizek, Foucault, and Derrida. They do make you think in directions that seem fruitful, rather than captivating.

But on this point I think Reno is right. They are more distracting than they are actually helpful. I just don't agree that analytical philosophy is the way forward. I'll read his essay again, nevertheless, to see if I can be convinced.

Saturday, March 11, 2006

Folk-Rock Lutheran Liturgy

I now am aware of at least two high quality Lutheran musicians who are doing settings of the liturgy. See Jonathan Rundman's page for a lot of his music, and watch this summer for his new album, which includes a folk-rock version of the ordo. Titles of albums include: Sound Theology, and Public Library. If you know me and my spouse, there aren't more ideal titles for albums than these.

Then, there's this blue grass, Kent Gustavson, who hangs out at Holden Village a lot, and has written, in addition to a number of liturgies, musical settings of all 150 psalms.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Psalms Chanted on mp3

Who knew that there was a Lutheran Liturgical Prayer Brotherhood? They've recorded versions of the psalms chanted Gregorian-ly... Which reminds me that I had a dream the other day where I was listing my favorite Psalms to a group, for some unknown reason. They were pretty typical: Psalm 1 (the law), Psalms 22 & 23, Psalm 50 & 51 (confession), Psalm 34 (he keeps all their bones), Psalm 95, Psalm 119. Maybe the most unusual to make the list, but my actual favorite, is Psalm 82, "I say, 'You are gods, children of the Most High, all of you."

Maybe if I keep reading the psalms regularly, they'll become more and more part of my dreams. that would be wonderful!

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

It's Hip to Be Square

Friend and fellow ELCA pastor Chip is hosting a discussion of the ten commandments at Decablogue. This is a very proper, catechetical, and confessional thing to do during the Lenten season, and I commend him in it. I'd like to see him put up some of the woodcut art from the Weimar Ausgabe, maybe the text of some of the 10 Commandment hymns, that kind of thing. In any event, if you need more in the way of Lenten study and discipline, deca-click on over.

Saturday, March 04, 2006

A Fair Wisconsin Votes No

Why the Civil Unions and Marriage Ban is Wrong

This is the text of the constitutional ban that Wisconsin voters will consider on November 7th:

"Only a marriage between one man and one woman shall be valid or recognized as a marriage in this state. A legal status identical or substantially similar to that of marriage for unmarried individuals shall not be valid or recognized in this state."

The ban has two equally significant sentences. The first sentence would permanently deny marriage rights to loving, committed gay families who live in every Wisconsin county. The second would foreclose the possibility of civil unions. It would also seriously endanger existing legal protections for all unmarried couples.

The ban will hurt real Wisconsin families

The denial of marriage hurts loving and committed lesbian and gay couples who live in every part of Wisconsin. These couples have taken on the responsibilities of marriage, yet they are denied the critical legal protections that marriage provides. The proposed constitutional ban on civil unions and marriage will make that denial of marriage permanent.

A marriage license extends over 1,000 rights, benefits, and responsibilities under federal law and nearly 200 more under Wisconsin law. These include basic things like being able to share health and retirement benefits and take bereavement leave in the case of a death in the family. Denying the important legal protections of marriage hurts real families who live in every part of the state.

The ban is extreme and far reaching

The ban goes beyond banning marriage for gay couples. It will also ban civil unions and threaten any legal protections for unmarried couples. Mainstream Christian leaders and institutions, including Lutherans, Presbyterians, and Methodists, oppose the ban because they believe it is simply unjust.

A majority of Wisconsinites support civil unions, which could offer many of the rights of marriage to gay couples. Statewide polls have shown that around 60% of people in our state support civil unions or marriage for gay couples. If people support civil unions, they should oppose the ban.

The ban could have a far-reaching impact beyond denying civil unions and marriage.

The experience of other states that have passed similar bans provides real-life evidence. The national Human Rights Campaign has compiled a report that details far-reaching consequences in these states. For example, Ohio judges have dismissed domestic violence cases involving unmarried heterosexual couples because the victims were not married to their alleged abusers. Even though the women were not gay, the judges ruled that the state's new ban prohibits legal recognition for any unmarried couples--even when it comes to domestic violence. Because of these concerns, the Wisconsin Coalition Against Domestic Violence has spoken out against the ban proposed here.

In Michigan, the state attorney general ruled that the constitutional ban there overturns domestic partner policies that have been in place in some cities for years. The City of Kalamazoo recently took away health coverage that they had been offering to the domestic partners of city employees.

Friday, March 03, 2006

Anders Osborne Ash Wednesday Blues

Blues is as appropriate as any genre of music for this week, and this recording artist is better than most. Check out track #4 on his homepage.

If we took seriously that we were dust, we wouldn't run so scared from the prospect of being set on fire by the Holy Spirit. After all, the result of being on fire for Christ is, as it were, ashes. And we know what God the Spirit can do with dead bones and ashes.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Wisconsin Film Festival

Oh, the joy of it. We will once again enjoy our tremendous Wisconsin Film Festival here in Madison. There are a few things my wife and I nerd out on- books, our son, and film.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Moravian Daily Text

I receive each day the Moravian Daily text in my inbox. It is an excellent devotional resource. Also, penitential greetings to all this Ash Wednesday, and celebrations in honor of the Unitas Fratrum.

Wednesday, March 1
March 1, 1457: Beginning of the Unity of the Brethren in Bohemia

Psalm 31:10-20
Exodus 6:13-7:24; Matthew 20:1-16

Ash Wednesday -- Joel 2:1-2,12-17; Psalm 51:1-17

2 Corinthians 5:20b-6:10; Matthew 6:1-6,16-21

Jacob said to his household, "Put away the foreign gods that are
among you, and purify yourselves." Genesis 35:2

Now the Passover of the Jews was near, and many went up from the
country to Jerusalem before the Passover to purify themselves.
John 11:55

Holy God, we are inclined to make idols of our wealth, our
schedules, our comfort. Forgive us; purify our lives and our
worship. Grant us unaltered love and unlimited trust in our
Savior, Jesus Christ. We pray in his name. Amen.