A bishop who names names: 10-27-09
October 27, 2009
As many of you are aware, the presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church is Katharine Jefferts Schori (pictured here), who is doing her best to hold together and lead a faith community split by all kinds of issues, including the question of whether it should have allowed the ordination of an openly gay man as bishop of New Hampshire a few years ago.
Since her election as bishop in 2006, Jefferts Schori has made at least two trips to the Kansas City area. Her last journey here was just a year ago, and I had a chance then to interview her. I wrote about that on the blog in this entry.
This past weekend, she was in town to preach and speak at St. Michael and All Angels Episcopal Church in Mission, Kan.
To hear her sermon (well, mostly Anglicans and Catholics call sermons homilies, and they tend to be shorter than the average sermon in my Presbyterian denomination; Jefferts Schori's homily at the first service on Sunday at St. Michael's ran just over 12 minutes) click on this link:
The audio begins just a few seconds into her remarks as she's mentioning Anglicans in various countries around the world.
What I liked about her homily was the emphasis on names. She insisted that it's vital that members of faith communities know each other's name as a way of acknowledging the common humanity of the other person. She noted that often in New Testament stories of Jesus healing people, those healed are not named. But she told a story from the gospel of Mark of someone who was both healed and named -- Bartimaeus, son of Timaeus.
I was thrilled to hear the presiding bishop speaking about my ancestors (I figure Timaeus must be an old relative), though I've always wondered why they couldn't spell our name very well. But the Timaeus name is pronounced just like the Tammeus name -- tuh-MAY-us. (I thanked Jefferts-Schori afterward for dragging in my old relatives to make her point.)
But the point was well taken. When we refer to others just as, say, "my wife" or "my father" without giving them names, it diminishes them, devalues them, making them seem somehow unimportant. In sacred writ, often women's names are left out. It's a sign of how they were valued at the time. An exception is in the book of Job, when Job's three daughters are named at the end of the book.
Taking away names dehumanizes us. It's one reason the Nazis put numbers on the arms of Jews in concentration and death camps.
In the Hebrew tradition, God gives people the power to name animals. It's a way of bringing people into the creative process. And, in small ways, we affirm the reality of someone's life when we bother to know -- and then speak -- his or her name.
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SEEKING COMMON CATHOLIC GROUND
The Vatican has decided to begin reconciliation talks with the Society of Saint Pius X, a breakaway traditionalist group. Nothing wrong with reconciliation efforts, but let's hope Pope Benedict XVI is more careful in this than he was early this year when he revoked the excommunication of one of the society's bishops, a known Holocaust denier.
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NOTE: I'm so tired of the belittling, off-topic, mean, callous, surly comments being left here that -- just for today and as an experiment -- I'm not going to publish any comment that I judge to be insufferable in one of those ways. At the end of the day today, there may be no comments published here at all. And I'll be fine with that. But I hope you will respond by making your comments respectful, kind and on-topic. If they aren't, they will stay unpublished today. Thanks for your help. Bill.
Marginalization starts by taking away names, whether someone is labeled gay or lesbian, or whether they are labeled Christian, Jew, or atheist. Labeling is the primary way that marginalization takes place.
It is a process by which people may begin to make each and every person in a particular group responsible for each and every thing that anyone in that group has ever done wrong.
I watched various videos on Dawkins' site where supposedly rational speakers were paraded through to make one nasty comment after another about believers, people they did not know and have never met. ALL believers were labeled in derogatory ways. Judging from Dawkins warm reception of such abuse, I'd say that it was, no doubt, a prerequisite for speaking at any Dawkins event. I began to admire how governments allow those who regularly feed from government troughs to attack religions as they do. Just like Bill, our government values Free Speech and Free Press more highly than any other ideal.
Surely in the interest of Free Speech, Bill should return to allowing WWE-style puffery. That would be reasonable. That would be the ideal of Free Speech and Freedom of the Press. After all, what could a reporter possibly hold more dear than Free Speech, and Freedom of the Press? Why is Bill suddenly editing? What value has Bill suddenly put above the most cherished of his ideals? Bill would never sell out his values, and seek to squelch Fred Phelps, would he?
Shouldn't Churches have the right to rally against those who choose homosexuality? Of course, in the name of Free Speech and Free Press, it must be allowed. Those ideals are the most important, by far, and should be especially cherished by a reporter. What could be more sacred than Free Speech and Free Press to a reporter? Nothing.
Posted by: Just Thinking | October 27, 2009 at 02:36 AM
"Katharine Jefferts Schoriis, presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church, is doing her best to hold together and lead a faith community split by all kinds of issues." -
"The Vatican has decided to begin reconciliation talks with the Society of Saint Pius X, a breakaway traditionalist group."
The only reason there are so many 'faith' communities is because of so many interpretations of Religious Scriptures and Myths.
Who accepts the Supernatural Creation of Life on Earth, and the Reproduction of Eve from Adam's Rib, in Genesis 1,2, as Literal Facts about Life on our Planet?
Today a High Tech Science Translation will Literally explain, that Earth was Colonized by High Tech Humans in our Image. How can Humans accept a Literal High Tech Colonization, and the Evolution Theory be Literal also?
Does our High Tech today, with Knowledge of the Creation of Life on a Planet, and Supernatural Human Reproduction in the lab, reflect Genesis? Is the Supernatural Creation in Religion, a Myth, or a High Tech Fact?
Do Humans that accept the Supernatural Actions of God/Us in our Image, accept these Supernatural Acts as Evolution?
Is Genesis Writings by Humans, writings without High Tech Knowledge? Did they imagine these Supernatural Human Acts as Truth, and passed it down Generation after Generation by Celibate Priests as Truth, as to How Life Began on Earth?
If Life Evolved on Earth, what a waste of Time and Human Energy was used to write and translate Holy Scriptures, and build all these Temples of Worship by Human Hands.
No Human today with our High Tech Science, can prove Who or What Made the LIFE Elements of our Universe. No Human can make the Universe Elements. So Who or What is GOD?
Posted by: Dolores Lear | October 27, 2009 at 06:59 AM
How can this God/Us, in Genesis', in our 'Human Image', make the Elements they were made from? Can High Tech Humans today make the Elements of LIFE?
Genesis 2:22. KJV. "And the rib, which the LORD God had taken from man, made he a woman."
These Humans were not made by Body Birth. Evolution teaches that the First Humans were born on Earth, from Animals that 'evolved' into Humans.
How can Humans today accept this Supernatural God in our Image, was the Source of of Evolution Life on Earth, instead of High Tech Colonization and Reproduction?
Humans do make a Human Fetus in the Lab, but have not made a High Tech Womb, to finish making a Perfect Genetic and Physical Humans like Adam and Eve.
Humans can Clone Animals. Humans could also Reproduce Clones like God/Us did 'in the beginning'. Humans today Reproduced Nuclear Bombs instead of Life. Make sense?
Genesis does not include how LIFE began in the Universe of Invisible and Visible Elements and LIFE Forms. This Creation of LIFE cannot be done by Human 'Beings'.
It is Possible to Prove how Life Species began on Earth in Genesis with High Tech, but Not how LIFE began in the Universe.
Religious Writings written by Humans, and translated by Humans as God, LORD God, Elohim, Jehovah, Allah, and many other names, are Religious Faith Beliefs, not Literal.
Humans cannot Prove how LIFE began in the Universe. But the Religious Scriptures and Myth, can Prove Life was Colonized on Earth, by High Tech Science Humans.
Posted by: Dolores Lear | October 27, 2009 at 06:59 AM
I have never responded to your writing before, although I own some of your books and have read your articles for years. This probably the only response you will ever get from me.
I hope you continue to leave out the comments that are not respectful, kind and on-topic.
I have trouble understanding the thinking that goes into those types of comments, but they reflect poorly on the writer, and contribute little to the discussion.
Posted by: Joe F. Smith | October 27, 2009 at 07:54 AM
I recently spoke with a friend who is from England. He told me the subject of gay people is not even a subject to talk about where he is from.. He is amazed it is of subject here in the USA. So am I…
What is all the controversy with people being different? Why is it wrong? Why should it be accepted? Perhaps this is some kind of truth. What matters what we look like or how we behave if it harms nobody? It can only harm if we allow words or innocent actions to do so.
Why do religions still disagree over what god wants…? Who knows what god wants?
Bill said, “Taking away names dehumanizes us.”
I also think giving names, like gays, separates us, which can dehumanize us. When will this not be an issue in the USA?
In a recent group of emails sent to me from the KCStar was a response from a Jew inviting us to a Torah Study, which we plan to attend (seems like a very nice person) and also invited to a different service, that includes a “nosh” (a light snack) beforehand…
I was told we did not have to leave our brains at the door. I will talk about gay issues and an important project I am working on, sending a woman to college in Zambia. Susan, I am still working on this.
For a recently new X friend of mine: Amen.
Bill, none of what you ask for will happen until every one is a first class citizen in a secular society. Secular is neither theist or non-theist. It is fairness.
Peace For the Sake of Goodness Cole
Posted by: memberofKCFreeThinkers.org | October 27, 2009 at 08:11 AM
Bishop Jefferts Schori is one of my modern religious heroes. I am reading her Gospel in the Global Village: Seeking God's Dream of Shalom. It is a book of sermons. I recommend it to anyone who has not yet read it.
Posted by: Joe Barone | October 27, 2009 at 08:30 AM
For a number of years, when your column appeared in The Kansas City Star, I loooked forward to it--and now I am enjoying your online musings.
I must admit, I hadn't thought about how dehumanizing it can be to refer to someone only by a title or description, but it does make sense. As I look back on my own life, I realize how frustrated I have gotten when I have only been thought of as "a person with MS," "the daughter of...," "the wife of...," "the mother of...," etc., etc., etc.
Thanks for the reminder of the importance of calling people by name.
Posted by: www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1648324352 | October 27, 2009 at 09:18 AM
Pam and others,
I wonder if you ever looked at the Bible and Jesus' saying "dehumanizing" things about people? - e.g. "dog" to a Syrian woman, "vipers" to Pharisees, "fools"?
I believe that we can all plug along, but we can never avoid "dehumanizing" and "labeling" (as someone will see it directed against them), because this is how our "reductive" minds work - there has to be a line drawn somewhere between "them and us."
Call it "pride/vanity", "tribalism", "intolerance", "labeling" - even babies 6 month old already display "selectiveness" based on the color of people's skin, tone of voice, etc.
Multiple psychological studies have confirmed it - we cannot get away from it, only "partially" or "one sidedly".
Such is life.
Posted by: IGGY - www.KCFreeThinkers.org | October 27, 2009 at 09:53 AM
Thank you, Bill, for taking some control of the comments and trying to get the focus back on your posts and constructive discussion. Maybe there can actually be some productive exchanges back and forth now, rather than the petty insults and sniping (yes, I admit I'm guilty of that, too).
FWIW - I've always enjoyed your posts and insights, although I don't always agree with your conclusions or viewpoints.
Posted by: Chuck Lunney | October 27, 2009 at 10:02 AM
Dagney Pullin, a former pastor at the largest Methodist Church in America in Leawood, KS has just gotten a response to her blog which I think is pretty interesting considering the subject of today "Labeling".
I think that "labeling" is often times in today's world comes out of "certainty" - in after life when it comes to God by believers or "rebelling" when it comes to "I don't give a hoot about God" by non believers - either "disbelief" or "rejection" of god, or "really I don't give anything", take your pick.
"During Life" is a great argument - why not worry about today instead of an "imaginary" world? Pink Unicorns and Jesus can never have a real life battle for the after life, only in our imagination?
Here is the blog comment and the links to Dagney's blog below...
"Here I go again, telling you I have thought this for years. But once again, it is true. Religion is an opiate, a cyanide, and many times a punishment, even if it is just self-inflicted. And I really have to wonder if we need to focus on the afterlife so much, when there is so much in the duringlife we really have to address.
Visit the blog comments - https://www.blogger.com/comment.g?blogID=4084454563972244705&postID=4282060930579071914&pli=1
or blog itself http://pastordagney.blogspot.com/
Posted by: IGGY - www.KCFreeThinkers.org | October 27, 2009 at 10:09 AM
JT wrote: "I watched various videos on Dawkins' site where supposedly rational speakers were paraded through to make one nasty comment after another about believers, people they did not know and have never met."
And I've watched similar events held by religious groups where atheists, people of other faiths, blacks, gays, etc were all attacked and insulted from the speakers -- and with the nodding, smiling consent of the religious leaders. Why focus only on one side, JT? You do realize nastiness, insults and marginalization are spewed out from all sides?
JT wrote: "ALL believers were labeled in derogatory ways. Judging from Dawkins warm reception of such abuse, I'd say that it was, no doubt, a prerequisite for speaking at any Dawkins event."
Substitute blacks, atheists, or any other marginalized group for "believers", and switch "Dawkins" to "the church", and you'd have an equally valid statement.
JT wrote: "I began to admire how governments allow those who regularly feed from government troughs to attack religions as they do. Just like Bill, our government values Free Speech and Free Press more highly than any other ideal."
Evidence? Last I checked, the Faith-Based Initiative was still thriving under the current president. And why shouldn't the First Amendment rights be valued in our Constitution?
Posted by: Chuck Lunney | October 27, 2009 at 10:18 AM
JT wrote: "Why is Bill suddenly editing? What value has Bill suddenly put above the most cherished of his ideals?"
Perhaps civility, topicality and relevance are also important to him?
JT wrote: "Bill would never sell out his values, and seek to squelch Fred Phelps, would he?"
Would you allow Fred Phelps to talk at your church? Don't you value free speech?
JT wrote: "Shouldn't Churches have the right to rally against those who choose homosexuality? Of course, in the name of Free Speech and Free Press, it must be allowed."
I don't see anywhere in what Bill wrote that those groups don't have the free speech right to say what they want. The point was that by doing so, we dehumanize and delegitimatize. And that makes it harder for civil discussion and rational, reasonable exchanges to take place. You are free to preach hatred, evil, immorality and injustice all you want. But don't expect that to resonate with others who are more open minded or less prejudiced than you to agree. And, those who disagree with the church's stances are also free to speak out against such behavior -- as Bill explains very well above.
JT wrote: "Those ideals are the most important, by far, and should be especially cherished by a reporter. What could be more sacred than Free Speech and Free Press to a reporter? Nothing."
Once again with the black-and-white thinking, JT. A reporter isn't just a pen chasing the next story. Reporters are people, too. Some may be very focused on specific issues, but I highly doubt that the majority would rank Free Speech and Free Press as "more sacred" than everything else (although those would probably be fairly high on their lists). And being free to speak doesn't mean you should abandon your manners and civility in the process. We've seen that too many times on the comments here (and elsewhere).
Posted by: Chuck Lunney | October 27, 2009 at 10:19 AM
Another way that marginalization works is that people become afraid of dealing with an issue because of the label that they could end up acquiring in the process. Alcoholic relatives are sometimes ignored because of fear of a label. That's a form of marginalization where people are so afraid of a label that they fail to act with proper concern for the individual involved. That's another way that labels can be dangerous.
People with a red, rounded, ruddy complexion or with a red, bulbous nose may be alcoholic or have a long-term problem with alcohol. The issue should be addressed, especially if they didn't start off life with a red, bulbous nose. There's no shame in getting someone help with such a problem, if it exists, and it's definitely worth watching to see if there is a problem. Marginalization is where you don't care what happens to the person.
"In more aggressive or severe forms of rosacea, the nose can become particularly affected, becoming swollen and bulbous. This is known medically as rhinophyma and is usually associated with alcoholics, although it's not necessarily confined just to this group" -- BBC
Posted by: Just Thinking | October 27, 2009 at 10:32 AM
Bill, great move in getting control of your blog.
But I disagree with Chuck Lunney thats its only about insults (which can mean pretty much anything someone takes offense to), and which we have been guilty of, but it is also about borderline threats and intimidation tactics, and suggestions of "multiple personality disorders", etc., ( and such as the suggestion that personal information, falsely stated at that, will be used if some of us seek higher level jobs or even political office.)
So, if that stuff is no longer going to be displayed, I think we can get some real discussions going, at that is the last I will say about those things. (Unless of course people want to keep bringing it up.
Looking forward to it to discussions.1
Posted by: adam harrison | October 27, 2009 at 11:43 AM
Bill, I am looking forward to more civil discussions, too!
I don't think valuing free speech means permitting other people to publish whatever the heck they want to say in YOUR space. There's a reason why all newspapers have editors on staff, right? We are all still free to say whatever we want to say -- we can start our own blogs if we don't like the gentle contstraints being placed on us here.
I loved what Bishop Schori had to say about naming, especially this quote: "Being known and named is crucial to being a whole human being." This reminds me of Meg Murray, the lead character in Madeleine L'Enle's "Wrinkle in Time" series of books (Mrs. L'Engle was also Episcopalian, incidentally). Meg learns that her gift is to be a "namer." She even names, and learns to love, Mr. Jenkins, the school principal she's always been at odds with.
I think labeling is hugely-different from naming WITH LOVE. Labeling separates the other person or group from "us" -- naming embraces them as part of us while highly-esteeming their unique contributions.
On the one hand, I agree with what Just Thinking said about not blaming an entire group of people for the actions of a few people in that group. On the other hand, I think Daniel Dennett makes a good point in Breaking the Spell. I'm just now finishing the chapter where he talks about morality and religion -- and he touches on what Sam Harris has said about moderate religious people -- that by their good deeds, they can end up shielding the more radical and violent members of their religion.
Dennett feels we all have a moral responsibility to "own" the crimes committed by others who profess to be part of our religion.
Posted by: Susan | October 27, 2009 at 01:09 PM
J.T. -- Thanks for the public service announcement on alcoholism. I'll try to keep closer tabs on my nose from here on out.
2 spelling corrections of my last post: Madeleine L'Engle and Meg Murry is the proper spelling of those 2 names.
Posted by: Susan | October 27, 2009 at 01:39 PM
I haven't read L'Engle since high school. One of these days, I should re-read her stories. And I agree that moderates in a group who don't condemn/deny the radical and violent members of their overarching group can end up providing a legitimizing cover for the offenses.
That's one reason I don't respond to Iggy, and have said numerous times that he's wrong in what he writes and how he acts. I do think there is some ethical responsibility to not only one's own actions, but for anyone else who professes membership or allegiance to a mutual group. I don't agree with all of what is written by the more strident athiests, but I don't know of any who have committed crimes SOLELY on the basis of atheism. On the other hand, religion is often the sole ingredient needed to commit some of the most heinous, violent acts of terror and injustice.
Posted by: Chuck Lunney | October 27, 2009 at 02:37 PM
Susan, your comments in your 1:09 pm post about Dennet and Harris are very interesting; have you gotten to the part in Breaking the Spell where he says all Christians are responsible for, example, abortion clinic bombers?
And just to see if I have this straight, I seriously don't want to misrepresent you, are you saying you agree with SAM HARRIS that moderate religious people are shielding the more radical and violent members of their religion?
It seems to me, and this is a question for discussion, that if Dennet and Harris want to say that all Christians are responsible for these things, then atheists are responsible for what officially atheistic governments do.
Would you agree that he might be trying to have it both ways?
Posted by: adam harrison | October 27, 2009 at 03:57 PM
Chuck, you make an important point about distinguishing between crimes/wrongs committed by people BECAUSE of their relgious/philosophical affiliations, and crimes committed "just because" people wanted to do them, and these people just incidentally "happen" to be part of a group we identify with.
I.e., people professing Christ may sometimes act like real jerks, cutting others off in traffic or what-have-you -- but I don't think that's something other Christians need to publicly own and denounce in the same way that we should speak out against people acting cruelly and saying they're being mean "for Jesus," or some such nonsense.
Posted by: Susan | October 27, 2009 at 04:39 PM
In my previous post, I forgot to add that Dennett was talking about denouncing evils committed IN THE NAME OF a religious group we're part of -- I don't think he meant that we had to own or assume the blame for every jerky thing that another member of our group has ever done -- it's only when they claim to be acting in behalf of our religion or God that we need to get very concerned and denounce their behavior.
Though of course we should all denounce evil, regardless of what the evildoers are citing as their motive.
Posted by: Susan | October 27, 2009 at 04:47 PM
Chuck, I think it would be great if everyone here would read (or re-read) some Madeleine L'Engle. I think her writing is an excellent springboard for interfaith dialog, and for the expression of true mutual respect between all kinds of diverse people.
Of course, Bill's writing is an excellent springboard, too, for those of us who have caught his vision. Keep up the good work, Bill! Some of us really are listening.
Posted by: Susan | October 27, 2009 at 05:24 PM
Gene Robinson is the bishop who Katharine Jefferts Schori has defended for Bishop. Honestly, I see Robinson as a bad role model for anyone. He knew he was gay. He hid it, he married, had children, and finally left his family to be with his boyfriend. Sorry, Gene, you have an obligation at that point!
Regardless of what you think about his sexuality, he's a lousy choice for leadership. He knew what he was doing, and he should not have involved others in his dishonest charade if he wasn't going to follow through. He should have had the guts to stand up for the right thing from the beginning. Or, he should have the guts to do the right thing for his family now. But he chooses to do it all wrong. He's no leader. It's too late for Gene to look respectable now.
The Episcopal Church should find someone who has the guts to admit and be who they are from the beginning, instead of living a lie for 20 years. They need *real* leaders who are not afraid. Robinson's not much different than Haggard, except that Haggard never did admit that he was gay. Haggard was reformed, you know. You betcha.
Posted by: Just Thinking | October 27, 2009 at 06:20 PM
For those who are interested in learning about the heinous, violent acts of terror and injustice that Chuck refers to as needing only the sole ingredient of religion (2:37 pm post)...but then denies that such things happen SOLELY because of atheism...I would suggest taking a look at the three volume series, The Gulag Archipelago, by Alexander Solzhenitsyn.
He gives many, many examples of such acts being committed by atheists against believers, SOLELY because of their atheism in that they wanted to eliminate religion.
Posted by: adam harrison | October 27, 2009 at 07:03 PM
Instead of Humans standing up for the God or Government, when are we going to Unite as One Planet, and join against all the Evil Humans are doing in the Name of God or their Government or Atheists.
How much more Toxic Pollution, and Nuclear Waste can our Home Planet hold?
How about All Humans reforming and not join together in a Religion but in the Human Species for Peace and Clean Housekeeping of our Home Planet.
All the past name calling on Bill's Blog is a micro example of what is happening on our Home Planet.
Humans talk about the Slums, and defective Humans, but our Whole Planet is becoming a Slum. Who practices Clean Living on Earth today, or ever since the Fall?
Can we even recover a Living Eco Balance on our Polluted land and seas?
What are we going to do with our Nuclear Bombs, and the Nuclear Waste that cannot be destroyed?
Will All Die in the Planetary Fire, prophesied in the Christian Religion, that will start burning like a California Fire?
Posted by: Dolores Lear | October 27, 2009 at 07:21 PM