United Methodist Church Announces Plan to Split Over Same-Sex Marriage
Under an agreement to be voted on in May, a new “traditionalist Methodist” denomination would continue to ban same-sex marriage and gay and lesbian clergy.
A group of leaders of the United Methodist Church, the second-largest Protestant denomination in the United States, announced on Friday a plan that would formally split the church, citing “fundamental differences” over same-sex marriage after years of division.
The plan would sunder a denomination with 13 million members globally — roughly half of them in the United States — and create at least one new “traditionalist Methodist” denomination that would continue to ban same-sex marriage as well as the ordination of gay and lesbian clergy.
It seems likely that the majority of the denomination’s churches in the United States would remain in the existing United Methodist Church, which would become a more liberal-leaning institution as conservative congregations worldwide depart.
Ex-pope Benedict rejects opening up priesthood to married men
Former pope Benedict XVI has publicly urged his successor Pope Francis not to open the Catholic priesthood up to married men, in a plea that Sunday stunned Vatican experts.
The ex-pontiff, who retired in 2013, issued the defence of clerical celibacy in a book written with arch-conservative Cardinal Robert Sarah, extracts of which were published in exclusive by France's Le Figaro.
"I cannot keep silent!" Benedict wrote in the book, which follows an extraordinary meeting of bishops from the Amazonian at the Vatican last year that recommended the ordination of married men in certain circumstances.
The pope emeritus, 92, and Sarah from Guinea weighed in on the controversial question of whether or not to allow "viri probati" -- married "men of proven virtue" -- to join the priesthood.
Francis is currently considering allowing it in remote locations, such as the Amazon, where communities seldom have Mass due to a lack of priests, and is expected to publish his decision in the coming weeks.
The pair asked the whole Church not to be "swayed" by "bad pleas, theatrics, diabolical lies, fashionable errors that want to devalue priestly celibacy".
"It is urgent, necessary, that everyone, bishops, priests and laity, let themselves be guided once more by faith as they look upon the Church and on priestly celibacy that protects her mystery," they wrote.
They warned of priests "confused by the incessant questioning of their consecrated celibacy".
"The conjugal state concerns man in his totality, and since the service of the Lord also requires the total gift of man, it does not seem possible to realise the two vocations simultaneously," Benedict wrote.
Sarah insisted that while celibacy can be "a trial" it is also "a liberation".
CHRISTIAN NATIONALISTS AIM TO DISMANTLE THIS CORE FREEDOM
As Frederick Clarkson noted on RD earlier this week, every January 16 we celebrate Religious Freedom Day. On this day 234 years ago, the Virginia Assembly passed the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom, setting in motion what, according to Clarkson, “may be the most revolutionary and liberatory idea in the history of civilization.”
America’s unique contribution to political science is the separation of state and church. We invented it and it’s the only guarantee for true religious liberty. The “wall of separation” that Thomas Jefferson famously wrote of—a metaphor that the Supreme Court first adopted nearly 150 years ago—is an American original. The idea was born in the Enlightenment, but it was first implemented in the American Experiment. This is not just an improvement on political science, but one of our country’s unique contributions to humanity.
Pulitzer Prize-winning author Gary Wills put it nicely in his 1990 book, Under God: Religion and American Politics. The separation of state and church:
“more than anything else, made the United States a new thing on earth… . Everything else in our Constitution—separation of powers, balanced government, bicameralism, federalism—had been anticipated both in theory and practice. . . . But we invented nothing, except disestablishment. No other government in history had launched itself without the help of officially recognized gods and their state-connected ministers.”
Until America, no other government in the history of humanity had sought to protect citizens’ right to think freely by divorcing religion and government.
We should be proud of that contribution to the world, but Christian nationalists are doing their best to destroy it. Many groups are actively protecting the wall: the Freedom From Religion Foundation, Americans United for the Separation of Church and State, the ACLU, American Atheists, the Center For Inquiry, the American Humanist Association, and others. The wall of separation is crumbling, though not from neglect. It’s being attacked.
The Trump administration is rife with Christian nationalists attempting to rewrite the Constitution by revising American history and declare this a “Christian nation.” Betsy Devos, Mike Pence, Ben Carson, Rick Perry, Jeff Sessions, Bill Barr, and Mike Pompeo have been abusing their government power to promote their personal religion. But under the U.S. Constitution, the government “has no particle of spiritual jurisdiction,” as Alexander Hamilton explained in The Federalist Papers.
At the head of this Christian Nationalist beast is Donald Trump. Today, he’s issuing a guidance to put prayer back in public schools. He’s appointed not only the Christian nationalists above, but also megachurch preacher Paula White to a White House position for which she has no qualifications. Trump held his first 2020 campaign rally at a church run by “Apostle” Guillermo Maldonado who, like Paula White, preaches the prosperity gospel, a theology so controversial even many conservative Christian leaders denounce it as false. (Incidentally, Maldonado’s church, El Rey Jesus, likely violated IRS regulations as the Freedom From Religion Foundation and members of Congress pointed out.)
At that rally, less than two weeks before Religious Freedom Day, Trump was clear about his desire to unite state and church. He declared, “We will restore the role of faith and true foundation of American life and we will ensure that our country forever and always remains one people, one family, and one glorious nation under God.” In the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom, Jefferson skewered:
“the impious presumption of legislators and rulers, civil as well as ecclesiastical, who, being themselves but fallible and uninspired men, have assumed dominion over the faith of others, setting up their own opinions and modes of thinking as the only true and infallible, and as such endeavouring to impose them on others.”
He might have been writing about Trump.
Without the secular government our founders established, religious freedom, the foundational American value that we celebrate every January 16, cannot exist. There is no freedom of religion without a government that is free from religion. The United States realized the dream of genuine religious freedom because it embarked “upon a great and noble experiment . . . hazarded in the absence of all previous precedent—that of total separation of Church and State,” as President John Tyler put it.
On the making of gospel music, from Gospel Pearls to Jesus Is King.
On January 6, 2019, the rapper Kanye West did what no superstar rapper before him has—he launched his own Sunday Service with a dynamic eighty-person gospel choir. West was the draw, but the gospel choir was the intended centerpiece. It is the highlight of his subsequent Jesus Is King and Jesus Is Born albums. While West’s highly acclaimed 2004 single “Jesus Walks” utilized a choir and rapped the protective power of Jesus, the Sunday Service made the choir the star, highlighting its unique ability to incite churchgoers and atheists alike to stand up and clap their hands. This has always been the gospel choir’s superpower—to rouse audiences and unite them for a common cause.
Although West’s Sunday Service has been surrounded by controversy for a variety of reasons, the main debate—namely, who is worthy to sing “the good news,” as well as how and where it should be sung—is not new. It is almost as old as gospel music itself, and West’s choir is symbolic, not just of the decades-old debate, but of the evolution of gospel music and its show-stopping choirs.
Featuring a rousing gospel choir—The Samples—mostly invite-only attendees, and uniform-style outfits in lieu of traditional choir robes (approved, of course, by the rapper himself), the Sunday Service deviates from a traditional church service and refuses to be labeled as such. Instead, the church-like service typically exudes the love of God through harmonious song in lieu of the preached word. Building on the foundation laid by gospel’s forefathers and foremothers, the service literally takes the good news out into the world, as its location rotates weekly and is set to go international in 2020.
Pope Francis balks at a proposal to ordain married men in Amazonia
Instead, he urges, pray for more celibate men to take up the priesthood and become missionaries
THOUGH BRANDED a reckless radical by his conservative critics, when it comes to the rules and practices of the Catholic church, Pope Francis is anything but a revolutionary. In his handling of the clerical sex-abuse crisis, the pope’s instinct until very recently was to side with his fellow bishops, even when faced with compelling evidence that they had covered up for their subordinates.
On February 12th the pontiff gave fresh evidence of his resistance to ecclesiastical change. Faced with a recommendation from some of his own prelates that he ease open the door to the ordination of married men, Francis balked. Less unexpectedly, he also rejected a more contentious reform that would have admitted women to the clergy as deacons.
The pope’s response was contained in a so-called Apostolic Exhortation—his reply to a report from bishops and others who met at the Vatican last October to discuss the ecological, social and pastoral emergencies in the vast Amazon basin. Written in Spanish and entitled “Querida Amazonía” (Beloved Amazon), the document contains a powerful call for greater attention to be given to a region that contains 40% of the world’s rainforests; one plagued by increasing land invasions by illegal loggers, ranchers and miners, and by the weakening of legislation to protect the land and the people living on it.
Pope Francis Sets Aside Proposal on Married Priests
The decision, in a letter on Catholic life in remote Amazon areas, is a victory for conservative forces who had warned that change there would put the church on a slippery slope.
VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis has for now rejected a landmark proposal by bishops to allow the ordination of married men in remote areas underserved by priests, a potentially momentous change that conservatives had warned could set the Roman Catholic Church on a path toward lifting priestly celibacy and weakening church traditions.
The decision, in a papal letter made public on Wednesday, was welcomed by conservatives, but it was a major setback for many of the Catholics who see Francis as their best hope for bringing fundamental change to the church.
With the church facing a shortage of priests and increasing competition from evangelicals in many countries, the idea of opening up the priesthood to married men had held broad appeal for liberals worried about the church’s future.
Coming seven years into Francis’ papacy, his decision also raised the question of whether his promotion of discussing once-taboo issues is resulting in a pontificate that is largely talk.
Who pays the price when the church demands celibacy?
Want the human story on priestly celibacy? Talk to someone who’s paid the price.
I am bitterly disappointed by the news that Pope Francis will not be relaxing priestly celibacy rules in remote parts of the Amazon. The idea — intended to make it easier to recruit priests in underserved areas — was supported by a Vatican Conference in October, but in his papal document, released on Wednesday, Francis ignored their suggestion.
My interest in this isn’t the mild curiosity of a lapsed Catholic. I am the child of a priest who broke his vow of celibacy and left a legacy of secrecy that was devastating to him, to my mother and particularly to me.
To hide my father’s broken vow, I was told that I was adopted. I did not know until I was 35 that my “adoptive” mother was actually my grandmother and my adoptive sister was, in reality, my mother. But even then, I wasn’t told the whole truth. At the time, I was told my father had been a businessman from Pennsylvania.
If I had only known that my real father was the beloved young pastor of our local Polish parish in Norwood, Mass. He was a regular guest in our home, and we attended weekly Mass in his church. He died at the end of my freshman year at Smith College. I didn’t find out until the age of 50, on the day of my birth mother’s funeral, that the man I adored as “Pate” — my own nickname, short for the Latin pater — and the community knew as “Father Hip” was my father.
For both traditionalists and modernizers in the Roman Catholic Church, everything seems tied up with this priestly requirement.
Pope Francis issued one of the most eagerly awaited documents of his papacy this month: a letter that could have laid the groundwork for eliminating the Roman Catholic Church’s requirement of priestly celibacy. But it didn’t. To the relief of conservative Catholics, and to the dismay of his progressive well-wishers, Francis let the matter drop.
Ever since Francis summoned 185 bishops to the Vatican in October for three weeks of discussion about the Amazon region, the church had been in a state of agitation — and not over burning rain forests or endangered indigenous cultures or the mercurial Brazilian president, Jair Bolsonaro. The controversy centered on whether certain married church deacons would be permitted to offer Mass in churches too remote for priests to reach regularly. While this might look to an outsider like a petty procedural question, it would have been a crack in the centuries-old edifice of celibacy.
Two-thirds of bishops at the conference approved the idea, arguing that it would help preserve the viability of the Catholic Church in remote parts of South America (where as many as 70 percent of Catholics have no priest to give them communion on Sunday). Some argued that priestly celibacy was dissuading young men from joining the priesthood.
Conservatives in the church, including a circle of intellectuals around former Pope Benedict XVI, countered that to speak of a “priest shortage” was to get the wrong end of the stick. The church is not a factory or a phone bank, with so many vacant “posts” — it is a holy calling. And the tradition of priestly celibacy, they argued, is central, not peripheral, to that vocation.
The Christian Response to the Coronavirus: Stay Home
When loving your neighbor means keeping your distance.
The church, the actual building that houses black bodies and souls, stands at the center of black life and culture. It is a fact hiding in plain sight that one of the first cooperative economic ventures former slaves undertook was the purchase and maintenance of churches. Without the cooperation of the church, many black colleges, universities and political organizations would not exist. To this day, American black Christians attend church at a higher rate than any other ethnic group.
It is not then surprising that when terrorists wanted to strike fear in the hearts of black believers, they burn and attack our churches. Despite the trauma, the church has remained a source of hope. The marches and sit-ins of the civil rights movement were often preceded by mass worship services.
But what happens when the church is a part of the danger?
With the novel coronavirus spreading rapidly, this is not simply a question for individual church members. The pandemic forces the church as an institution to consider its role during a time of crisis. Many religious communities are suspending their typical operations. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints has stopped services worldwide. The Catholic Church in Rome shuttered its doors temporarily. Much of Washington State has done the same. What should we think about this? Are Christians abandoning their responsibility to the sick and suffering?
Some Christians may be tempted to look back on their history of remaining physically present during times of distress. Starting around 250 A.D., A.D., a plague that at its height was said to kill 5,000 people a day ravaged the Roman empire. The Christians stood out in their service to the infirm. Because they believed that God was sovereign over death, they were willing to minister to the sick even at the cost of their lives. This witness won many to the Christian cause. Should we follow their example and gather to celebrate in word and ritual, in the sermon as well as the bread and the wine?
Doctors and nurses of faith can indeed draw upon this story today to inspire them to tend to those sickened by the pandemic. What about the rest of us? This remains certain in the ever-shifting narrative of Covid-19: the most effective ways of stopping the spread of the virus is by social distancing (avoiding large gatherings) and good personal hygiene (washing our hands). The data suggests that what the world needs now is not our physical presence, but our absence.
This does not seem like the stuff of legend. What did the church do in the year of our Lord 2020 when sickness swept our land? We met in smaller groups, washed our hands and prayed. Unglamorous as this is, it may be the shape of faithfulness in our time.
The coronavirus crisis reminds us that we are bodies, not simply souls trapped in a mortal prison.
I miss things I did not know I would.
I miss people’s smells. Isn’t that funny? I didn’t know that I even noticed people’s smells, unless they smelled very good or very bad, but now that I have to talk to friends, family and co-workers only through screens, I notice the staleness in the air that comes from sitting alone.
I miss walks with friends, how I could look in a friend’s eyes and see light in them, not flattened into two dimensions. I miss the sadness or laughter those eyes reveal up close, the hard days, the mirth. I miss how we could note the weather together, complain about it, talk casually as we walked together, notice a new for-sale sign on a house or (yet another) new macaron place opening soon.
I miss idle chat with my barista — my favorite one, who one time when I mentioned that I had a deadline and was having trouble focusing told me that I could not have a refill of my tea until I had written at least 400 words. After that, every time I ordered from him, I called it my accountabili-tea. I miss asking him about his niece. I’m only about 90 percent certain of what his name is, but I know he has a newborn niece whom he adores, and I used to ask for updates on her.
I miss bumping into people I know and giving them a side hug and asking how they are. (I am a born Texan and we hug. It’s just what we do, whether you like it or not.)
I miss the congregation singing at the church where I’ve served as a priest for three years. If I could hear them sing this morning, I wouldn’t mind if the person behind me was off key. I would even take a whole load of my least favorite songs, the ones I find plodding or cheesy or overdramatic, if I could just hear them sing with me.
And though I’m an introvert, I miss gathering together, watching the sanctuary slowly fill, hearing the soft murmur of the crowd, the trills of children, the coughs, the handshaking, strangers sitting side by side, everything that is now most dangerous.
And I miss taking and giving communion. I miss seeing hands after hands cupped open to receive. Some rough, axel grease under the nails. Some smooth and manicured. Every age, every skin color. I miss watching their faces as they receive the meal together, how tired they look, how happy some of them seem, how a few receive the bread and then close their eyes and whisper a deep, earnest “thank you,” how certain parishioners cry every single time I give them the host.
God did not sic coronavirus on us to teach us a lesson; nor does he delight in the chaos and death it is causing. God hates sickness and death. But God also lets no crisis, no suffering and nothing in our lives go to waste. God is resourceful and takes it all as the raw material of redemption.
Modern life is ugly, brutal and barren. Maybe you should try a Latin Mass.
A few weeks ago, I dialed into the Eucharist for the first time, praying for spiritual communion as my priest consumed the host in front of the altar. The webcam was clear. The sound quality was top-notch. But the Mass was decidedly old-school.
In the absence of a choir, my church, the Episcopal Church of St. Ignatius of Antioch in New York City, had the organist sing the traditional Mass in Gregorian chant. To follow along with the melody, our priest suggested the Liber Usualis, a book of religious chant music dating back to the 11th century.
This was just one of many remote religious activities I’ve participated in recently. I have also, for example, gathered over Zoom with friends for compline, a nighttime prayer with roots in the medieval monastic tradition. And I’m not alone. One friend has been dialing into Latin Masses at churches across the United States: a Washington Mass at 11 a.m.; a Chicago one at noon.
The coronavirus has led many people to seek solace from and engage more seriously with religion. But these particular expressions of faith, with their anachronistic language and sense of historical pageantry, are part of a wider trend, one that predates the pandemic, and yet which this crisis makes all the clearer.
More and more young Christians, disillusioned by the political binaries, economic uncertainties and spiritual emptiness that have come to define modern America, are finding solace in a decidedly anti-modern vision of faith. As the coronavirus and the subsequent lockdowns throw the failures of the current social order into stark relief, old forms of religiosity offer a glimpse of the transcendent beyond the present.
Many of us call ourselves “Weird Christians,” albeit partly in jest. What we have in common is that we see a return to old-school forms of worship as a way of escaping from the crisis of modernity and the liberal-capitalist faith in individualism.
Our sins are grievous, but we are not yet beyond redemption.
NASHVILLE — Since long before it was a country, our country has been in flames. When we arrived on our big ships and decimated this land’s original peoples with our viruses and our guns, when we used our Christian faith as a justification for killing both “heretic” and “heathen,” we founded this country in flames. And every month, every week, every day, for the last 400 years, we have been setting new fires.
White Christians who came before us captured human beings and beat them and raped them and stole their babies from them and stole their parents from them and stole their husbands and their wives from them and locked them in chains and made them work in inhuman conditions. Our spiritual ancestors went to church and listened to their pastors argue that these human beings weren’t human at all.
Our pastors don’t tell us that anymore, but we are still setting fires.
Christians set a fire every time we allow our leaders to weaponize our fears against us. We set a fire every time our faith in good police officers prevents us from seeing the bad ones. Christian voters preserve a system that permits police violence, unjust prosecutions and hellhole prisons filled with people who should have received the same addiction treatment we give our own troubled kids.
We set a fire every time we fail to scrutinize a police culture that allows an officer’s own fear and hatred to justify the most casual brutality against another human being. It would be almost unbelievable to match an adjective like “casual” with a noun like “brutality,” but we have seen the videos. Watch the faces of justice shove an old man aside and leave him bleeding on the ground. Watch them drive their vehicles into protesters protected by the United States Constitution. Watch them fire rubber bullets directly at journalists doing work that is also protected by the United States Constitution. In video after video, note their unconcern with people who are bleeding or screaming in pain.
Make yourself look https://www.nytimes.com/2020/05/31/us/george-floyd-investigation.html?searchResultPosition=3. Study the air of perfect nonchalance on Derek Chauvin’s face as he kneels on the neck of George Floyd. Register the blithe indifference in his posture, the way he puts his hand in his pocket as though he were just walking along the street on a sunny summer day. Nothing in his whole body suggests concern. He is not the least bit troubled by taking another human life.
We created Derek Chauvin.
Every single aspect of our criminal justice system is permeated by racism, but too many Christians continue to vote for “law and order” candidates anyway, failing to notice that more cops and more weapons and more prisons have done exactly nothing to make us safer. Failing to notice that they have instead endangered all Americans, but black people most of all.
We should know better by now. There are so many resources to help us know better, yet too many Christians ignore the history books that document the terrible legacy of slavery. We ignore the novelists who tell us why the caged bird sings. We ignore the poets who teach us the cruel cost of a dream deferred. In our carefully preserved ignorance, we pile all their books up in a great pyre, and we set them on fire.
We set the fire when we heard a peaceful crowd singing, “We shall overcome someday,” and understood that someday would never be today, that someday was at best still decades and decades away. We set the fire when we heard a peaceful crowd singing, “Lean on me when you’re not strong,” and believed it was time to call in the military. We set the fire when our “Christian” president cleared a peaceful crowd by spraying them with tear gas as though they were enemy combatants, marched to a nearby church for a photo-op and held up a Bible to imply that God is on his side.
We have to stop letting this president turn our faith into a travesty. Love is the only way to put out this fire, love and listening and the hard work of changing, but this “Christian” president doesn’t want to put out the fire. Fire is his homeplace. Fire is his native land.
Perhaps it is ours, as well.
“Blessed are the merciful,” Jesus taught us, but we built prison after prison. “If anyone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also,” Jesus taught us, but we did not turn our cheek. We turned instead our billy stick. We turned instead our pepper spray. We turned instead our rubber bullets and our tear gas and our riot gear. To George Floyd, and so many others, we turned instead our knee.
There are positive models for what Christian faith in the public sphere can look like. Think of John Alexander, a Baptist philosophy teacher who published a journal designed to convert white evangelicals to the cause of civil rights. Think of the Rev. Daniel J. Berrigan, a Jesuit priest who opposed the Vietnam War. Think of the Rev. Jennifer Butler, a Presbyterian minister who founded the activist group Faith in Public Life. Here in Nashville we have the Rev. Stacy Rector, the Presbyterian executive director of Tennesseans for Alternatives to the Death Penalty, and the Rev. Becca Stevens, an Episcopal priest and founder of a nonprofit group that works to “rise up against systems that commoditize, criminalize and abuse women,” as the Thistle Farms website puts it. There are many, many others, all across the country.
Our sins are grievous, but these Christians remind us that we are not yet beyond redemption. It is time to act on what we say we believe. We need to remember the words of the prophet Isaiah: “And they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks.” We need to remember the words of Jesus — “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’s sake” — and join the righteous cause of the protesters. For theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
The Psalms are not silent about the rage of the oppressed.
There are videos of Eric Garner and George Floyd being choked to death by police officers while pleading for their lives. There is a video of Tamir Rice, a 12-year-old boy who was shot to death while playing with a toy gun. There is a video of Ahmaud Arbery, who was hunted and killed while out on a run. There is a video of a police officer mounting and handcuffing Dajerria Becton, 15 years old at the time, at a pool party.
Visible evidence of black suffering is not new. We have photographs of black lynchings. The screams of black voices and the smell of charred flesh was insufficient to mar the smiling poses gathered ’round our corpses.
The videos are a reminder that the issue was never about a lack of evidence. They reveal the lengths to which those in power will go to avoid facing the truth. What is happening in those videos is a manifestation of systemic racism — and to acknowledge that would call into question the system that benefits the powerful.
When these videos stack one upon another and are added to our personal slights, a deep unsettling anger rises in the soul of a disinherited and beleaguered people. James Baldwin said, “To be a Negro in this country and to be relatively conscious is to be in a rage almost all the time.”
What is the focus of our rage? Are we upset with the police officer who placed his knee on the neck of a man pleading for his life for nearly nine minutes while three fellow officers looked on? Are we mad at the vigilantes who got in a pickup truck to hunt down an unarmed black man? Are we enraged by the white woman who tried to weaponize the police by claiming that a black man who requested that she leash her dog in Central Park was threatening her life? Are we frustrated by the laws and customs that cast a pall over the black experience? Are we wearied with the apathy of so many?
The Bible is not silent about the rage of the oppressed. One of the most startlingly violent passages in the Bible comes from the lips of the disinherited. In Psalm 137 the psalmist says, “Daughter Babylon, doomed to destruction, happy is the one who repays you according to what you have done to us. Happy is the one who seizes your infants and dashes them against the rocks.”
How can wishing such an atrocity be in any sense a religious text? Psalm 137 is a psalm of the traumatized. It depicts the aftermath of the destruction of Jerusalem, the sack of the city, sexual assault and brutalization of the innocent. What kind of song do you write if you are forced to watch the murder of your wife, your child, your neighbor?
Psalm 137 is trauma literature, the rage of those who lived. The question isn’t why the Psalmist wrote this. The question is what kind of song would the families of Ahmaud Arbery, George Floyd and Eric Garner be tempted to write after watching the video of their deaths? It would be raw and unfiltered. But more than an expression of rage, this psalm is a written record in time. It is a call to remember. This psalm, and the other psalms of rage, require us to remember the trauma that led to their composition.
The miracle of the Bible is not that it records the rage of the oppressed. The miracle is that it has more to say. The same texts that include a call for vengeance upon Israel’s enemies look to the salvation of its oppressors. Isaiah 49 says, “It is too small a thing for you to be my servant to restore the tribes of Jacob and bring back those of Israel I have kept. I will also make you a light for the Gentiles, that my salvation may reach to the ends of the earth.”
For Christians, rage (Psalm 137) must eventually give way to hope (Isaiah 49). And we find the spiritual resources to make this transition at the cross. Jesus could have called down the psalms of rage upon his enemies and shouted a final word of defiance before he breathed his last. Instead he called for forgiveness: “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing,” he says in Luke 23.
It was not a false reconciliation: Jesus experienced the reality of state-sponsored terror. That is why the black Christian has always felt a particular kinship with this crucified king from an oppressed ethnic group. The cross helps us make sense of the lynching tree.
And Jesus’ resurrection three days after his crucifixion shows that neither the lynching tree nor the cross have the final say about those whom God values. The state thought that violence could stop God’s purposes. For the Christian, the resurrection makes clear the futility of the attempt. Further, Jesus’ profound act of forgiving his opponents provides me with the theological resources to hope.
Dare we speak of hope when chants of “I can’t breathe” echo in the streets? Do we risk the criticism commonly levied at Christians that we move too quickly to hope because faith pacifies? Resurrection hope doesn’t remove the Christian from the struggle for justice. It empties the state’s greatest weapon — the fear of death — of its power.
Hope is possible if we recognize that it does not rule out justice. It is what separates justice from vengeance. Howard Thurman wrote in his classic work “Jesus and the Disinherited” about how rage, once unleashed, tends to spill out beyond its intended target and consume everything. The hatred of our enemy that we take to the streets returns with us to our friendships, marriages and communities. It damages our own souls.
Christians contend for justice because we care about black lives, families and communities. We contend for reconciliation after the establishment of justice because there must be a future that is more than mutual contempt and suspicion. But justice and reconciliation cannot come at the cost of black lives. The only peaceful future is a just future. And because Christians should be a people for peace, we must be a people for justice even when it seems ever to elude us. Too many black lives have been lost to accept anything else.
Statue Wars come for JESUS as activist claims Christ and Virgin Mary are ‘white supremacy’
22 Jun, 2020 23:03
It began with Confederate generals and quickly escalated to Columbus and former US presidents; now the monument-removal crusade has come for Jesus, with racial activist Shaun King insisting his depictions are ‘racist propaganda.’
“Yes, I think the statues of the white European they claim is Jesus should also come down,” King tweeted on Monday. “They are a form of white supremacy. Always have been.”
He also argued that all “murals and stained glass windows of white Jesus, and his European mother, and their white friends should also come down,” calling them “a gross form white supremacy… tools of oppression [and] Racist propaganda.”
Replying to @shaunking
All murals and stained glass windows of white Jesus, and his European mother, and their white friends should also come down.
They are a gross form white supremacy.
Created as tools of oppression.
They should all come down.
Sorry, there's this thing called freedom of religion in US. Easier solution to your neuroses Shaun: just start your own new church and make your own artistic representations.
This could actually be a viable career option for you.
4:46 PM - Jun 22, 2020
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King is no fringe figure, either – the well-known racial justice activist rose to prominence through the Black Lives Matter movement and most recently served as a surrogate for Bernie Sanders, the Vermont senator who sought the Democrat presidential nomination.
His tweets came just a day after conservative pundits predicted the statue-smashing spree would come after Jesus.
Statues of Jesus are next. It won't end. Pray for the USA
912 people are talking about this
For several weeks now, protesters across the US have targeted “racist” statues – starting with generals who fought for the Confederacy during the American Civil War, but quickly moving onto Christopher Columbus, President Ulysses S. Grant, and others, including Thomas Jefferson and George Washington, two of the Founding Fathers of the US.
Not even the monument to the 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry – an African-American regiment that fought in the Civil War – was spared vandalism. Meanwhile, the Natural History Museum in New York has decided to remove the statue of 26th US President Theodore Roosevelt, saying that its depictions of Native Americans and Africans made it a “hurtful symbol of systemic racism.”
King’s tweet amounted to inciting federal hate crimes, argued conservative filmmaker Mike Cernovich, comparing it to the Ku Klux Klan’s terror campaign against churches.
History's Most Dangerous Toddler
The Daily BeastJuly 5, 2020, 4:14 AM CDT
On Easter Sunday, 1475, in the city of Trent, a German-Italian city in what is now Northern Italy, a tragedy occurred. A 2-year-old boy named Simon was found dead. His death, a devastating blow to his family, would set in motion a chain of events that would leave almost all of the male members of the Jewish community in Trent dead, create an almost heretical flock of devoted followers who saw him as the new baby Jesus, and perpetuate and foster widespread anti-Semitism in the region for hundreds of years.
According to historian Po-Chia Hsia in his book Trent 1475: Stories of a Ritual Murder Trial, Simon went missing in the early evening of Thursday, 23 March and the following day, Good Friday, the boy’s father had asked the prince-bishop of the city, Johannes Hinderbach, for help in locating his missing son.
Searches ensued and by Easter Saturday suspicion had lighted on the small Jewish community in the city. The chief magistrate, Giovanni de Salis, had the households of the three main Jewish families searched, but Simon was not to be found. Then on Easter Sunday Seligman, a cook in the household of Samuel (a moneylender), discovered Simon’s body in a water cellar on Samuel’s extensive property. As all historians agree, the body had clearly been planted there. Samuel could have fled but had, up until this point, enjoyed an amicable relationship with the city’s authorities. So, instead, he “trusted the system” and reported the discovery. He also insisted that all members of the community stay put, including visitors who just happened to be in town for the Jewish Passover. That Samuel came forward and complied with the authorities was never mentioned in the ensuing trials.
In the aftermath of the discovery, things escalated quickly. Anti-Jewish feeling in the city had recently been inflamed by the arrival of an itinerant Franciscan preacher, Bernardino da Feltre, who had spent the Lenten season railing against Jewish usury and amplifying local hostilities. There were others in the local community, Hsia writes, who had exploited the vulnerability of this small religious minority in order to blackmail members of the Jewish community. All of these elements coupled with centuries-old rumors of blood libel (the dangerous myth that Jews used the blood of Christian children in their religious rituals) combined to create a kind of tinderbox of hatred that was sparked by Simon’s death.
Over the course of several months, the entire Jewish community were arrested and tortured and were forced to confess to having murdered Simon in order to use his blood in their Passover rituals. At first, Samuel withstood several bouts of torture and protested that Jews simply did not use human blood in their rituals. When he reached the limits of his endurance and in an effort to spare others, he confessed that only he and one other had suffocated Simon with a handkerchief. Other members of the community were forced both to confess and to invent fictitious religious motivations for exsanguinating the child. By the time the torture was over 15 male members of the Jewish community were sentenced to death: they were subsequently burned at the stake. Interestingly, female members of the community escaped on the grounds that, as women, they were unable to participate in these rituals (They were eventually freed in 1478 after the pope intervened). The news of the trials spread throughout Northern Italy to Veneto, Lombardy and Tyrol. By 1479 Jewish moneylending had been banned and by 1486 Jews were expelled from the region.
While Hinderbach supported the trials and even forged documents to promote the idea that Jews in Trent were responsible for Simon’s death, the pope was not so sure. In early August 1475, Pope Sixtus IV, commanded Hinderbach to suspend the trials until his representative, Battista De’ Giudici, arrived in Trent. At every turn Hinderbach thwarted De’ Giudici’s attempts to investigate: De’ Giudici was not granted access to those accused and was denied proper access to the original trial documents. When De’ Giudici voiced concerns about the process at Rome, he was accused of being paid off by Jews. He eventually wrote several treatises including an Apology for the Jews defending himself and the Jewish community of any wrongdoing. In 1478, Sixtus IV issued a papal bull on the matter that was something of a political compromise: he accepted that the trials in Trent had been legal but did not acknowledge either the conclusions of the trial or the supposed cause of death of the child. He also reasserted papal protections for Jews and reiterated the ban on blood libel trials.
While this power struggle played out in the halls of ecclesial power, a different more popular movement was gaining support in Northern Italy. There were many who wanted to canonize the murdered toddler. Within three weeks of the Simon’s death a “passio” (an account of his martyrdom) was circulating throughout the region. Hinderbach gathered together documentation that included over a hundred miracles supposedly performed by the boy ‘martyr’ and support for his canonization as a saint gathered steam in Austria, Italy, and Germany.
Sixtus IV, however, was having none of it. The Simon of Trent cult was dangerous and a threat to his authority. He forbade the production of images of Simon (although many grizzly violence-inducing woodcuts of his murder have survived). He was also understandably alarmed by the ferocity of devotion Simon inspired. De’ Giudici reported in his Apology for the Jews that the people in Trent “adored their blessed one as a second Christ and as a second Messiah.” Statements like this, which border on heresy, were troubling to the Franciscan pope, who correctly noted that toddlers are incapable of choosing to die as martyrs. As Christopher MacEvitt, a professor at Dartmouth, told The Daily Beast, “Sixtus IV did not canonize Simon of Trent not because he was particularly sympathetic to the plight of Jewish communities, but because he was determined to uphold papal authority; the popes had made clear that accusations of blood libel and putting Jews on trial for such claims was unacceptable.”
Part of Sixtus IV’s refusal to canonize the child as a martyr was motivated by what was in his mind a far more pressing problem involving non-Christian murderers and persecutors. In 1480 the Ottomans invaded Southern Italy and drew steadily closer to Rome, the pope, and the heart of Christianity. It was a political and military threat as much as a religious one. Sixtus IV wanted martyrs to rally Christians to the anti-Ottoman cause. He turned to five Franciscans who had died attempting to evangelize in Muslim countries roughly a century earlier. There was very little popular interest or support for these martyrs; they had been demonstrably unsuccessful and had failed to convert any Muslims whatsoever. On the contrary, as MacEvitt told me, when Franciscans engaged in efforts to evangelize in Muslim countries “they tended to focus on… fellow Christians living in Muslim lands—merchants, mercenaries, and captives.”
But these martyrs who, like Sixtus IV, were Franciscans, were politically and religiously useful. In his exquisitely written and recently published The Martyrdom of the Franciscans: Islam, the Papacy, and an Order of Conflict, MacEvitt shows that Sixtus IV found that, “Martyrdom was useful for Christians as a way to depict the Ottomans not as a rival for political and economic power in the Mediterranean and eastern Europe, but as a primordial threat to Christians and Christendom. Stories of martyrdom assimilated the Ottomans with demonic forces that were the enemy of goodness, virtue, and salvation.” Over time, MacEvitt shows, “death by Saracen” came to rival other definitions of what made someone a martyr.
All of Sixtus IV’s power, however, could not crush the cult of Simon the child martyr. Stories, poems, and images of his supposed martyrdom continued to circulate. In 1588, Pope Sixtus V beatified him (he was never made a saint) and approved his veneration in Trent. It was only in 1965, in the wake of the Holocaust and Vatican II, that Pope Paul VI removed Simon of Trent from the Roman Martyrology and formally tried to suppress his cult. Yet, most of the statues and images of Simon in the city of Trent are, as Sara Lipton has noted, unaccompanied by placards explaining the anti-Semitic history of his veneration. Three years ago a reddit thread for traditional Catholics discussed the “feast day of Simon of Trent” and there’s even a wildly anti-Semitic webpage bearing his name. Five hundred years after his death, slanderous propaganda about the tragic death of this abducted child continues to languish online and among conservative groups.
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