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Keeping up with faith: 2-28/3-1-09

Even if one were to spend all day every day at the task, it would not be possible to stay current with all the news and developments in the field of religion and ethics.


And who besides God has time for that?

I know. That's one reason you read my blog. You think I will find the most interesting developments and highlight them for you, making brilliantly insightful comments while I'm at it. (See, even I can learn something from Rush Limbaugh.)

Well, I try. But a lot gets past me. Which is one reason I keep an ever-changing "Blogs I read" page for you under the "Check this out" headline on the right side of this page. I recognize that I can't cover or comment on it all. Even can't do that with its staff.

And there are many good sources beyond the Internet, of course, including the weekly Faith section of The Kansas City Star, even though it no longer includes my column.

But this weekend I want to highlight a redesigned Web site that tries to pay attention to the ways issues of faith intersect with pubic policy. It's a group called Faith in Public Life, and its new site includes regular updates on polling having to do with faith as well as a blog with a running stream of helpful information.

Surf around on the site and see what's there that might be helpful for you. For more detailsl on how the group was formed and what its aims are, go to the "About Us" page there. Just don't forget to wander by here, too.

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A few days ago, David Gilgoff, who writes the "God & Country" blog for U.S. News & World Report, revealed in this post that the Obama administration is vetting prayers to be given by clergy at events where the president speaks. Then Gilgoff followed with this report on the varied reaction to the first post. In some ways vetting prayers seems like an understandable policy to avoid someone saying something radically out of place. But I like this comment from Steve Waldman of "This is a great illustration of why Madison said, when in doubt, err on the side of separation. At first blush, what could be wrong with a prayer before an event? Then you realize it's a presidential event, so you have to be careful nothing crazy gets said. But being careful means someone has to read the prayers, and before long you have a White House staffer who has the job of approving prayers." Still, think how cool "White House Prayer Vetter" would look on a resume.

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P.S.: A great Jewish New Testament scholar (yes, there are some) will be speaking in the Kansas City area in April. Amy-Jill Levine will speak April 24 and 25 at Village Presbyterian Church in Prairie Village, Kan. You might want to reserve your tickets now. After she's been here I'll be leading a follow-up discussion on Tuesday, April 28. For more details, see this Village link or my "Where's Bill speaking" page. For a pdf registration form for the Levine events, click on this link: Download Levine-Flyer

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ANOTHER P.S.: The Week magazine has done this article -- pretty interesting, if too brief -- about Holocaust denial, as a follow-up to Pope Benedict XVI rescinding the excommunication of a bishop who denies the Holocaust. Holocaust denial suggests to me the fragility of human reason.

Rejecting terrorism's path: 2-27-09


One of the most interesting recent stories about terrorism didn't get enough play in most media outlets. It was the report that one of the founding fathers of al-Qaida has broken with Osama bin Laden (pictured here with the burning Twin Towers) to the point that he now says the 9/11 attacks were counterproductive and immoral and that bin Laden has all the blood of every victim of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq on his hands.

I've linked you in the previous paragraph to the London Telegraph's version of that story. For the Haaretz version, click here. For the Scotland-on-Sunday version, click here. And for an in-depth summary of all this from the Middle East Media Research Institute, click here.

I will have to leave it to terrorist experts and analysts to figure out whether all of this means the beginning of the unraveling of al-Qaida or is something much less than that.

But I think this internal fight is indicative of the fact that even within the Alice-in-Wonderland world of radical Islamists, not everyone ultimately walks in lockstep.

One of the consistent (though overly simplistic and sometimes misguided) criticisms I hear about Muslims is that they don't speak out against terrorism enough. As I say, it's a simplistic charge that generally does not bear up against the evidence.

But I find it encouraging to learn that even among people identified with al-Qaida there now are sharp differences of opinion about the direction being taken. My hope is that this will encourage Muslims who have always disagreed with the aims and means of the radicals to increase their criticism of radicalism and to offer other means forward.

I've said often before that non-Muslims cannot, in the end, resolve the battle for the heart and soul of Islam, but those of us who are non-Muslim can do some things to encourage and support the broad center of that religion that rejects the bin Laden approach. Publicizing news of this recent criticism and speaking publicly about what it all means can help.

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Catholic theologian Hans Kung has a history of being out of sync with the church's hierarchy at the Vatican, and now he's criticized Pope Benedict XVI as too isolated to deal creatively with the major issues in the church. Kung has many fans and many critics, and I think it's healthy for the church for people to feel free and brave enough to engage the church in such internal debates. As this season of Lent began, by the way, the pope asked followers to sacrifice and pray.

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P.S.: The Hallmark Channel seems to run some of its most interesting faith-related shows at awful hours. So record this one: "Native Nations: Standing Together for Civil Rights," which will air at 6 a.m. CST this Sunday. It it tells the story of the struggle of American Indians for civil rights and of the creation of the National Indian Lutheran Board to raise funds to help in that struggle. For selected clips, click here. And for the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America's Web site about the program, click here.

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ANOTHER P.S.: If you want to sponsor me in the AIDSWalk KC 2009 edition to raise funds for the AIDS Service Foundation, click here. I do this as part of the AIDS Ministry at my church. And thanks.

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A THIRD P.S. IS A CHARM: Recently here on the blog I wrote about the exhibit at Union Station in Kansas City about Pope John Paul II and the Jewish people. I just wanted to remind you that it runs only a few more weeks and that there are several special events in connection with that exhibit, including an interfaith gathering this Sunday afternoon. For details about all related exhibit events click here.


A case for gay marriage: 2-26-09

At irregular intervals in recent times (click here for the latest) I have talked about various aspects of human sexuality, particularly whether gays and lesbians should be able to marry or at least be recognized as legally joined couples and how faith communities should deal with that.


I want to return to that subject today -- especially the question of gay marriage in Christian churches -- because I was privileged the other day to hear an excellent and thoughtful presentation on this subject by Tex Sample (pictured here), a former professor at St. Paul School of Theology. He spoke at St. Paul's United Methodist Church of Lenexa, Kan.

Tex, an author and speaker who now lives in Arizona, was speaking to a workshop of mostly Methodist clergy. And the first thing he wanted to make clear was that he now favors allowing gays and lesbians to be married within the church, although so far the United Methodist Church does not allow its pastors to perform such ceremonies.

I'll give you a brief audio clip here of Tex making that point. The sound is a little echo-y but I think you'll get his drift. Just click on this link:

Download Tex Sample-1

As he said in this clip, he elected in this talk not to go into the many reasons he believes that the Bible cannot be used to make a case against same-sex marriage. Instead, he chose to focus on the various ways the church throughout history has understood marriage and its purposes.

His conclusion was that people in same-sex marriages can fulfill all of those purposes just as well as people in traditional heterosexual marriages.

But, you might ask, what about one of the traditional ends of marriage -- procreation?

Well, Tex said that even St. Augustine, who first included procreation in a formal list of the chief ends of marriage, described procreation not as having babies but as raising up children for the kingdom of God. As Tex noted, even Romans 9:8 says that the children of God are not those born of the flesh. Rather, children of God are the ones who are inheritors of the promises of God to Abraham. And gay couples are perfectly capable, Tex said, of raising up children (whether adopted or those born by artificial insemination) who become people of faith.

I was intrigued by a question one woman raised and an answer given by another woman. The question had to do with the widespread conclusion that children do best when they are reared in a household with both a mother and a father. No doubt that generally is so, Tex said, but in such cases where that is not the case the church itself must be able to help serve as either mother or father. And one woman who said she was divorced from her husband when her child was only about three years old said that's exactly what happened in her case. The church in countless ways served as father to her child, she said.

By the way, if you want to read a defense of same-sex marriage by Tex and others, see a book called Defending Same-Sex Marriage, edited by Traci West. I advise you to find one in a library because even on Amazon this three-volume set costs $300. (Oh, and don't miss Tex's latest book, Earthy Mysticism: Spirituality for Unspiritual People, in which, among other things, he writes about the death of his son.)

Tex Sample is not arguing in favor of what's become known as civil unions. That's an issue for the state, he says. Rather, he's arguing that same-sex couples should be able to be married in a Christian church because they are capable of fulfilling all the requirements that the church historically has placed on marriage. 

I asked him about this afterward and he agreed with my position that all couples -- whether heterosexual or homosexual -- should first get a legally recognized marriage from the state and then come to their faith community to have their marriage blessed there. That would provide equality under the law, as our Constitution guarantees to everyone, supposedly, while preserving the right of faith community to say either yes or no to such marriages.

The more I hear on the subject the more it's clear to me that the Christian church will have to change its historical stances on homosexuals. Indeed, the church should be leading society in this as a model of radical inclusion, but so far society seems to be way ahead of the church. Society is not always right when it's out in front of the church on issues and in such cases the church must be a counter-cultural force. But in this case, society is getting it right more often than is the church.

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Astronomers may have one up on theologians. This report says they've taken a photo in deep space of the eye of God. Talk about anthropomorphic approaches to the deity.

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Today's religious holiday: Intercalary days begin (Baha'i)

A reading of ashes: 2-25-09

On this Ash Wednesday, I'd like to share with you a reading of a 2007 column I wrote for The Kansas City Star about the Lenten season and its meaning.


The column grew out of the tedious conversations I often hear around Lent about people who are giving up, say, chocolate or wine. Oh, puh-leeze. That has so little to do with Lent, just as the Easter Bunny has so little to do with Easter and Santa has so little to do with Christmas.

Rather, Lent is a time for Christian introspection and repentance, just as in many ways Ramadan is that for Muslims and the High Holy Days that for Jews.

So I wrote the column with that in mind. Even if you're not Christian, I hope it says something important to you. It runs about five minutes. Just click on the link here:

Download Lenten column

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Here comes the first U.S. Supreme Court case about religion that the Obama administration will have to take a stand on. It seems to me to be a case not of not primary importance and is one about which I think reasonable people could disagree. What do you think?

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Today's religious holiday: Ash Wednesday, or start of Lent (Christianity)

Praying to convert Jews: 2-24-09

Back in the 1970s when I was not a columnist but a reporter for The Kansas City Star, I did a story about a young man who had been paralyzed in a football game in North Kansas City. His name was Pat Bickle, and to interview him I went to a small town not far from Jefferson City where his brother Mike was starting some kind of Christian ministry.


Since then Mike has created something of a religious sensation in the south portion of the Kansas City metro area. His church is called the International House of Prayer, or IHOP. This congregation runs something called an "Israel Mandate," which, from what I can tell, essentially prays for Jews to convert to Christianity.

I was intrigued by this story about the Israel Mandate done recently by Rick Hellman, editor of the Kansas City Jewish Chronicle. It'll take you a few minutes to read, but it's worth it. Please understand that Rick focused on this because it's of interest to his Jewish readers but that IHOP does lots of ministry activity beyond the Israel Mandate.

There are, of course, various ways to understand Christian prayers for the conversion of Jews. It should not be surprising that most Jews probably see such prayers as one more anti-Jewish activity in a long, long history of anti-Judaism in Christian history. (For my essay on that subject, look under the "Check this out" headline on the right side of this page.)

One branch of Christian theology holds that the Second Coming of Christ cannot occur until Jews (meaning Israel) take control of the Temple Mount in Jerusalem now controlled by Muslims. That explains the radically pro-Israel stance of the so-called Christian Zionist movement.

As a Christian, I don't hold the theology I just described. I think it results largely from a literalistic misreading of the marvelously mysterious book of Revelation.

But I do think it's helpful to be aware of how whatever theology we hold about people outside our faith tradition is understood by those people. We may believe we are engaging in loving thoughts and actions toward others while they see it as threatening. Indeed, it's hard for Jews to see this branch of Christian theology to be anything but antisemitic if the end result of it projects the end of the Jewish people.

Well, have a look at Rick's story and wander about at the IHOP site and tell me what you conclude.

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Pope Benedict XVI, the focus of considerable recent controversy, is calling for healing and unity in the church. I think unity is the right word, and not uniformity. Unity implies a sense of mutual harmony within the same spirit, while uniformity speaks of rigid rules at places where such rules probably are unnecessary and even counterproductive. Thus, there can be unity in Christianity (or any faith), theoretically, even though there may still be various branches and denominations within the faith.

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P.S.: If you want to sponsor me in the AIDSWalk KC 2009 edition to raise funds for the AIDS Service Foundation, click here. I do this as part of the AIDS Ministry at my church. And thanks.

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Today's religious holiday: Shrove Tuesday and St. Matthew's Day (both Christianity)

Fudging on honesty: 2-23-09

OK, I admit I'm a day late with this, but that's only because for decades I've had the name of a humor book wrong in my head.


I thought it was Will Not Run Feb. 23. Turns out it's Will Not Run Feb. 22, which I read some time after 1956 because I now see that it was published in 1956.

Why was I going to bring it up at all on Feb. 23? Well, because the book had to do (if memory serves -- ha!) with how to survive as a regular rider on a commuter train. And because one section described in some detail how to steal a newspaper on such a train.

This section of this satirical book has for decades stayed with me (unlike the name of the book) because it raises this irritating question: How much dishonesty to we engage in regularly and how much harm does it do?

Now, as I recall, the section on stealing a newspaper on a commuter train was all in fun and told you how to borrow a section from someone near you and never give it back. Stuff like that.

But even though all the great religions suggest honesty is the best policy, it seems to me we all have our own limits to that. We won't tell our wives or husbands they look fat in this or that piece of clothing. We tell our children how gorgeous they are when, well, they might be pretty average looking. We fudge a little on mileage expense forms. We walk away from the office with paper clips and manila folders. Like that.

And I'm wondering whether you set your own boundaries just outside what complete honesty would require in some cases and, if you do, how you justify it. And I'm wondering this: once we get on such a slippery slope of dishonesty when do we lose control and end up like a Bernie Madoff?

How often is your thumb on the scale? And when it is, do you seek divine forgiveness or just let it ride?

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In a new poll of people considered heroes, Barack Obama came in ahead of Jesus. No surprise. As far as I know Jesus never signed a $787-billion stimulus package to spend money on people.

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P.S.: Last week here on the blog I wrote about reforms taking place in Saudi Arabia. Click here for another small example -- more press freedom. Good. Don't stop now, King Abdullah. By the way, for a fascinating review in the New York Review of Books of a book about the bin Laden family of Saudi Arabia (yes, Osama bin Laden and his kin) click here.

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Today's religious holiday: Maha Shivarati (Hinduism)

When satire fails: 2-21/22-09

For many years as an editorial page columnist for The Kansas City Star, I wrote satire. I understand the use of satire. I approve the use of satire. I admire good satire. And I hate to explain satire to anyone. It's similar to explaining a joke, and E.B. White once wrote that explaining a joke is like dissecting a frog -- no one much cares and the frog dies of it.


But there's satire and there's satire.

And some satire, instead of opening eyes and poking good fun at something that needs poking, strikes me as a tool for reinforcing the idea that truth can be found only in certain places and approved by certain authorities. This kind of satire does not engender good conversation. Rather, it ends it. And satire that ends conversation is worse than useless.

I found an example of this kind of satire the other day on David Gibson's "Pontifications" blog. It's a piece by Rhode Island Bishop Thomas Tobin (pictured here) that is an imaginary interview with President Barack Obama about the subject of abortion.

"But I think his imaginary interview with Obama stretches the imagination a bit too far," Gibson writes. Well, yes, but that's not it's only problem.

For the full -- and, frankly, amateurish -- Tobin column, click here. And note, please, that it bears the distressing subtitle, "Without a Doubt." People without doubts frankly scare the devil out of me. You can't get to true faith without walking through the valley of the shadow of doubt. Faith is not having all the answers. It's being willing to live confidently without them.

What I find most distressing about the Tobin writing is not that it challenges the legality of abortion or Obama's positions. That's what good satire is supposed to do on this subject. Rather, it's that it adopts such a "without a doubt" position as to cut off debate completely. There can be no more discussion about the issue, only about the way he presents it, which is what I'm doing here.

Look, I'm about 98 percent anti-abortion myself. But I believe there are some circumstances in which abortion is the least evil of a series of evil choices and, thus, it must remain a legal option. And I wish people who hold that it is always and everywhere a murderous sin at least could have enough of a sense of Benedictine humility to entertain the possibility that they may be wrong -- as I may be wrong about my position.

But I'm guessing I'd never hear that from Bishop Tobin.

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A few years ago I was given a tuition scholarship by the Religion Newswriters Association to attend any religion class I wanted to at a college or seminary. I chose to audit a two-semester course in Christian history at Central Baptist Theological Seminary, an American Baptist institution in the Kansas City area. It was a great experience and I think it helped round out my skills and knowledge as a religion journalist. Terry Mattingly, who has written about religion in a column for years, has suggested in this blog posting that much more of this kind of education of journalists is needed. And I agree. The problem, however, is that major metropolitan newspapers are cutting staff, including religion writers, as they struggle in this bad economy and as they try to figure out how to be profitable both in print and online. As you know, I'm a victim of such cuts. My weekly Faith section column for The Kansas City Star was killed this past November. But we'll never get a new crop of well-trained journalists to cover religion if editors don't think readers care. So don't hesitate to express your views to any media outlet you use or subscribe to, including The Star.

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P.S.: If you want to sponsor me in the AIDSWalk KC 2009 edition to raise funds for the AIDS Service Foundation, click here. And thanks.

Will world end Monday?: 2-20-09


When the whole world seemed to be full of anxiety in the late 1990s about the approach of the new millennium, I wrote a longish piece for The Star about various views of how the world will end and the accuracy of such prophecies.

If you have my book, A Gift of Meaning, you can find that piece on page 106. If you don't have my book, stop what you're doing and go buy a dozen copies. Think of it as a Tammeus Stimulus Package.

I was thinking about that article when I read this Baptist Press piece about how many Americans believe the world will end in their lifetimes.

Turns out, nowhere near a majority. A group called LifeWay Research asked 1,600 people if they thought the world would end in their lifetimes and only 11 percent said yes.

Well, I say "only," but that means 11 out of every 100 people wandering about think Doomsday is just around the corner. My, oh, my.

Now, I have no inside information about this, but as I said at the end of the piece I mentioned at the start here, "although there are no guarantees, the date-setters' consistent failure suggests there will continue to be plenty of problems to solve in the new millennium -- and lots of time in which to solve them."

It's really hard to do, but I think we're all better off if we live as if each day is a gift and this day might be the last such gift we'll get. But folks who form a prophecy industry about the end of the world strike me as mostly charlatans -- and in many cases theological charlatans.

So what do you think about the end of the world? Is Monday a good guess or not?

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On Wednesday here on the blog, I talked about various ways Christians are approaching the issue of homosexuality, and specifically same-sex unions. Good timing. Yesterday, a task foce of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America did the right thing by recommending, in the words of this Chicago Tribune story, that "that its leaders officially recognize same-sex unions and allow gays in committed relationships to serve as clergy." Eventually (by which I mean over the next 100 or 200 years), I think all churches will move to (or at least toward) such a position. In my view, there is no biblical reason not to and there are plenty of biblical and other reasons to do that. To read the entire ELCA report, "Human Sexuality: Gift and Trust," click here. And notice the group's attempt to recognize that not everyone in the church is on the same page on this issue. I think it's crucial to be aware of that and to find ways to live in love within a church even when you disagree.

Reforming Saudi Arabia: 2-19-09

Ever since I spent some time in Saudi Arabia in 2002 and met the then-Crown Prince, now-King Abdullah (pictured here), I have considered him something of a reformer.


A slow, deliberate, oppressive reformer to be sure, but still someone willing to pay attention to how the rest of the world views the House of Saud and the country and to make adjustments.

So I was not surprised -- just pleased -- when the king recently announced a Cabinet shuffle that seems to have as one of its aims giving a more prominent voice to religious moderates and to marginalizing religious hard-liners.

It's telling that these changes include the appointment of the first woman to be a government minister. (For an Arab News analysis of alll this, click here.)

As many of you know, the modern state of Saudi Arabia came into being in the 1930s with the current king's father as the founding monarch. That king found it politically convenient to have the support of the rigid Wahhabi religious establishment, so in effect he abandoned any serious oversight of religion, though officially in the kingdom there is no mosque-state separation, and the country's constitution is the Qur'an.

One of the terrible results of that approach to governance has been that the country has been a breeding ground for radical Islam, which helps to explain why 16 of the 19 9/11 hijackers were from Saudi Arabia, which is also the original home of Osama bin Laden.

In recent years, King Abdullah has been looking for ways to break the stranglehold on religion that the most rigid religious leaders have, and he's slowly been finding ways to do just that. Now, understand that Abdullah is to liberalism what Dom Deluise is to pole-vaulting. Still, I think Abdullah would like Saudi Arabia not to be a seedbed of terrorism and to be respected by democracies around the world.

This situation bears close watching because the king is in his 80s and one never knows how long he'll last or what the next king might do in a country that has been experiencing a population explosion and has lots of restless and unemployed young people, especially men.

But our government should be encouraging his reforms.

By the way, the Saudi education system has included some terrible textbooks that mislead children about various subjects, including Jews. But that sort of junk may be on its way out, too. Click here for a story about the new education minister. Outside Saudi experts should keep a close watch on the education system so it's not producing people infected by irrational fear and prejudice.

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For the sake of treating all sacred writing equally, librarians in Britain are moving Bibles and Qur'ans to the top shelf. Ah, one more small battle to anticipate in the U.S. (if it's not here already) as we learn how to negotiate life in a religiously pluralistic society. On the whole, I think solving such issues is good for us.

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P.S.: Speaking of Charles Darwin's 200th birthday this month (as I did in this January posting), First Baptist Church of Kansas City is among some 900 congregations around the country participating in Evolution Weekend. The weekend officially was last weekend, but First Baptist (an American Baptist congregation) is going to hold an event this Sunday, a 9:30 a.m. seminar at which some biologists will speak. For more details call the church office at 816-942-1866 or click on the link I've given you to the church's Web site. Scroll down that opening page and you'll find information about the event.

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NOTICE: This is a reminder that I won't publish your comment unless it's limited to about 300 words. If you simply can't hold it to that, divide it into more than one comment. But the limit per person is five comments a day. Thanks. Bill.

Same-sex questions: 2-18-09

But first: An impromptu prayer service on behalf of persecuted members of the Baha'i faith in Iran will be held at 7 this evening at the Baha’i Faith Center, 6515 Independence Ave., Kansas City, Mo. For a recent commentary about this persecution, click here. As this annual report from the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom says, Baha'is "are seen as heretics and are not recognized by Iranian authorities."

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For several reasons, I'm returning today to a topic I've written about many times before and no doubt will again -- the way faith communities, particularly Christianity, approach questions having to do with homosexuality.


There are two reasons I am doing this. One is that a Methodist pastor and I made a presentation about this subject -- specifically on same-sex marriage and what the church should do about that -- this past Sunday in an adult education class at my church. And I want to make a few points from that experience.

The other reason is an intriguing piece in the current (March) issue of The Atlantic, "The Velvet Reformation," which talks about the archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, who seems to have this difficult goal, according to the author of the piece: "to enable the church he leads to become fully open to gays and lesbians without breaking apart." To read the whole piece, click here.

The Atlantic piece suggests that Williams is trying to find a middle way in this contentious dispute, and in the process is angering almost everyone, though Paul Elie, who wrote the piece, says that "if this church cannot find a way forward on homosexuality, then none can -- and the clash between gays and Christians over marriage and the like may go on for much of the millennium."

Well, I'm not willing to place all my equality eggs in the Anglican basket, but I do wish Williams success in finding what Elie calls a way forward.

When the Rev. Diane Nunnelee and I spoke about this subject this past Sunday, we tried to offer people a vew of the widely varying history of marriage and the many, many forms it has taken over the years. To suggest that since the beginning of time marriage has always been between one man and one woman is simply historical nonsense.

We also tried to help people understand the difference between civil marriage and sacred, or sacramental, marriage. The two get conflated today when clergy act as agents of the state as well as representatives of their faith communities in the same wedding ceremony.

Civil marriage is what gives people all the legal rights, privileges and responsibilities of marriage, and in my view should be available both to heterosexual and homosexual couples so all may have equality under the law. Sacred marriage is what happens when a faith community blesses a union.

My proposal is for everyone who wants to get married first to go to the government and do the necessary paperwork for legal recognition of the proposed union -- not unlike the way we now go to the Department of Motor Vehicles to get a driver's license. Then any couple joined together legally in that way could, if desired, come to a religious community and seek a blessing. Whether they got that blessing or not, they still would legally be a couple in the eyes of the state. And faith communities would be free to say yes or no to same-sex unions according to their own theological beliefs.

Our constitutional mandate to treat all citizens equally under the law eventually will have to result in a system similar to what I've just described. And the sooner the better, as far as I'm concerned.

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Pope Benedict XVI plans to visit the Holy Land in May, and as part of that journey will spend some time at a mosque in Jordan. Good. The pope still has some repair work to do with Muslims after his 2006 Regensburg speech, and this is a laudable move in that direction. Perhaps he also can say a good word for the need for an end to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and offer his good offices to help with that.

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P.S.: This excellent analysis by JTA, the Jewish news service, of relations between Pope Benedict XVI and Jews does two things: It makes a point I've tried to make about this pope, which is that he sometimes seems to speak first and think through the ramifications of his words later. And it gives me a chance to remind you to go see the excellent exhibit at Union Station in Kansas City about Pope John Paul II and the Jewish people. It's called "A Blessing to One Another," and you'll find my description of it by clicking here. For a list of lectures and similar events connected with that exhibit, click here. Students from Notre Dame de Sion High School will visit the exhibit this week. Will you?

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ANOTHER P.S.: The annual AIDSWalk Kansas City will be held April 25, and as usual I'll be walking as part of the AIDS Ministry team from my church. If you'd like to help by making a donation of any size to help, click here.