Saturday, July 9, 2016

By the Waters of Babylon We Lay Down and Weep: Thoughts on Dallas, America, and A Way Forward

Officer Weeps At Vigil.
The nation has been rocked again of news of gun violence. This time a sniper shooting police in Dallas. Unlike the Sig Sauer MCX rifle used in the Orlando attack in the nightclub against the GLBTQ community-- similar to AR-15 style the Dallas shooter used an SKS rifle originally produced by the Russians for their military. It is popular today with civilians. This is first and foremost a story about how an American used a weapon meant to kill, against other Americans.

Five police officers died: Brent Thompson, 43, a transit police officer; Patrick Zamarripa, 32, who had served three tours in Iraq; Michael Krol, 40, who had joined the Dallas police in 2008; Lorne Ahrens, a former semi-pro football player and 14-year Dallas police veteran; and Michael Smith, a father of two, who liked to give stickers to the children at his church. Twenty-five police officers have been killed in 2016. Seven others were wounded in the Dallas shooting.

Seven others were wounded in this shooting. Their lives will be forever changed by the events in Dallas too. They will forever be connected to this event. These are people, with families, and friends, and lives all of which will be forever changed.

To say that this violence is unique to a person, to say this man was our enemy, to disconnect the weapon from the person, to disconnect the person from his society, or to disconnect this man from other events in our society is to seek to anesthetize ourselves against the violence in our society. This man's name was Micah Johnson, he was 25, he was a college student, and served this country in the U.S. Army Reserve. He was angry. Not unlike the shooter Dylann Roof at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in downtown Charleston, South Carolina who targeted blacks in order to make things right, Micah Johnson believed he was going to make things right by killing police. Johnson was wrong just as Roof was wrong. Johnson is a person though, with a family, and friends, and a life.

The gun violence took place at the conclusion of a peaceful Black Lives Matter protest march that was in response to the shooting deaths of Philando Castile near St. Paul, MN and Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge, LA at the hands of police. Both deaths were videotaped and spread over social media. Minnesota Governor, Mark Dayton, blamed Castile’s death on racism, telling media the shooting would not have happened had Castile been white. Dayton and others have called for the Department of Justice to investigate Castile’s death, which occurred just after the DOJ took up the investigation of Sterling’s death in Louisiana. Castile and Sterling had families and friends and lives.

In 2015, more than 100 unarmed blacks were killed by police. Individuals killed in gun related police action resulted in 773 deaths of 2013; 1111 in 2014; 1208 in 2015, and halfway through 2016, stands at 609--white, Latino and black. This story then is about these growing statistics and their worrisome affect on both the society and the police. Each death, each officer, each incident has a story--thousands of people with families, friends and lives.


We have experienced an unprecedented escalation of fear and violence in our country--a violence perpetrated in many forms, with guns, between Americans. There is an escalation of hate speech and racism by politicians, pundits and the populace. The Internet has given rise to new platforms for hate and dark mobs who express an animosity towards people who are different.

In the wake of the Dallas shooting you can read former Rep. Joe Walsh let loose a series of tweets, including one (later deleted) that said, "This is now war. Watch out Obama. Watch out Black Lives Matter punks. Real America is coming after you. Still elsewhere we saw, this pitched as a "Civil War," and blame cast by still others who say: "Black Lives Kill." Texas Lieutenant Gov. Dan Patrick blamed the protesters and called them hypocrites. Still others said the police had it coming.


We are, as a number of columnists have written, addicted to our outrage. Ryan Holiday calls it "outrage porn," the steady stream of insincerely performed umbrage and gulping hysteria that seeps like super concentrated vinegar out of the web's pores every moment of every day. He writes, "'Outrage porn,' as we've come to call it, checks all the boxes of compelling content—it's high valence, it drives comments, it assuages the ego, projects guilt onto a scapegoat, and looks good in your Facebook Feed." (http://theweek.com/articles/449473/why-addicted-online-outrage)

There was, of course, an outpouring of love as well. Love and compassion poured out onto the Internet, in person, in prayer and in vigils. There were calls to pause, to look, and to see something different going on--to embrace our common humanity. The Dallas police, like Houston and many other police offices, have been working to be transparent and to curb escalation during confrontations with police. Pictures of police along side Black Lives protesters throughout the country show a far different story that that seen by the likes of Roof and Johnson.

Police and Protester in Dallas.















Former police chief and now Deacon Alberto Melis wrote on his Facebook the following: Look at this photo: "No, really. Look at this photo. Read, mark, learn and inwardly digest it … this photo was taken at Belo Garden Park, Dallas, and Tweeted by Dallas PD during the protests march and before the shootings. We are a polarized nation. We sit and live in our echo chambers, listening only to those who think like us and listening only to what reinforces our beliefs and values … Since the shootings I've read comments which range in the polar extremes of blaming "Black Lives Matter" to "Chickens coming home to roost." Really? Really... But I've read countless comments written from within the depths of people aching for our communal and personal loss. Indeed … Look at this photo. THIS is our nation. Beyond the hate, fear and discord, exacerbated by the ugly metrics of an election year—this is still us, this is our nation. We are in this together ..."

I have talked with and corresponded with police and their families over the last year and they are fearful of the public. Each time their officer goes out they are confronted with the fear that they are literally in the line of fire. One spouse wept and told me of how so many officers are good officers and how she worries that those who have records of complaints and who are shooting people are bringing her own husband into the line of fire. Our church has parishioners, priests and bishops who have served in blue and whose families have lived the Dallas event in reality and in their worst nightmares.

I have sat with Black parishioners and listened to their fear for their children and for themselves. I have heard them talk about the different way in which they approach the police. I have heard how Black men are frequently stopped. I have listened as parents explain how they have to teach their children how to behave when the police stop them. Black parishioners weep and they tell me that they are afraid. Our church has parishioners, priests and bishops who have been unfairly targeted due to racism and live the St. Paul and Baton Rouge event in reality and in their worst nightmares.

I am afraid too. I am afraid for my parishioners. I am afraid for our children. I am afraid for our country. I am afraid for our future. In my fear I find myself with the Psalmist and I weep.

This all makes me think of Psalm 137.
By the rivers of Babylon—
   there we sat down and there we wept
   when we remembered Zion.
On the willows there
   we hung up our harps.
For there our captors
   asked us for songs,
and our tormentors asked for mirth, saying,
   ‘Sing us one of the songs of Zion!’
How could we sing the Lord’s song
   in a foreign land?
If I forget you, O Jerusalem,
   let my right hand wither!
Let my tongue cling to the roof of my mouth,
   if I do not remember you,
if I do not set Jerusalem
   above my highest joy. 

I weep for I find myself in Babylon.

The poet Malcolm Guite was once asked, "If we should read the parts of the Bible about dashing babies against the rocks and passages like that? (Psalm 137)

Guite responds, "Well, it is there isn't it. 'Blessed shall ye surely be who taketh thy little children and dash them against the stone.' What are you going to do with that?"

The interviewer questions, "Rip it out?" Guite then says, "No. If you don't understand that is what you do to people when you oppress them. Where is that coming from? By the rivers of Babylon—there we sat down and there we wept when we remembered Zion. On the willows there we hung up our harps. For there our captors asked us for songs, and our tormentors asked for mirth,' And then the bastards made us entertain them. You know … 'Sing us one of the songs of Zion.' 'Like it is bad enough being here now you want us to turn my whole heritage into some kind of rinky-dinky entertainment for you.' Yeah. So if the people in there can't see that you have done something to me that makes me want to do this, if we don't get that, then we aren't going to get it.”

C. S. Lewis has a great riff on this psalm where he is convicted in his own internal anger and says “at least the psalmist is honest.” But he also says, “If my whole soul is an Israel that God is trying to plant and grow, then I must never do this thing to another human being because God loves every human being. But there are little thoughts in me, envy, pride, scorn, before that grows into something I can't control." (The Work of the People: http://www.theworkofthepeople.com/the-lectern)


Photo of adults shielding children and a baby in a stroller as shots are fired and the crowd breaks up in Dallas.

The fear, the anxiety, the hopelessness, the poverty and desperation of people in this country, of people in our churches, is deeply connected to the violence we are facing as a nation. It is not some kind of out of body experience but is deeply rooted in our DNA. We are faced with many human dilemmas in this one event: violence, access to weapons, hate, racism, classism, authority(s) and power(s). The American situation will not be classified in the code system we have been using for some time and it will not be easily solve-able.

We have set aside the experience of the lived body under the guise of scientific observation. We might even excuse these events as oddities carried out by people who are not us, not real, not American. We as individuals see ourselves from outside – just as we see this experience in Dallas from outside. We can barely comprehend this event as a symptom of underlying problems in America. However, the violence, the death, and sickness within our society is very real – and we are all connected to it. We are living in a very real bodily experience with very real interconnections with one another. We have families, friends, and lives.

As Christians, we recognize that we live in a metaphorical Babylon and that our world of entertainment masks the torments of living in a society that is fearful and violent--and justly so. We do not long for a false yesteryear, but for Zion itself--a heavenly city that is out of our reach today and before us--there our citizenship lies. As Christians we know that this is our country but we are citizens of a different reign. We see the broken, enmeshed world of violence and we weep. We weep.

Martin Luther King confronted this violence in his time. In a sermon at Riverside Church he directed his comments directly to systems of Babylon and their violence. He wrote:

As I have walked among the desperate, rejected, and angry young men, I have told them that Molotov cocktails and rifles would not solve their problems. I have tried to offer them my deepest compassion while maintaining my conviction that social change comes most meaningfully through nonviolent action. But they asked, and rightly so, “What about Vietnam?” They asked if our own nation wasn’t using massive doses of violence to solve its problems, to bring about the changes it wanted. Their questions hit home, and I knew that I could never again raise my voice against the violence of the oppressed in the ghettos without having first spoken clearly to the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today: my own government. For the sake of those boys, for the sake of this government, for the sake of the hundreds of thousands trembling under our violence, I cannot be silent. 
He turned his attention in that same sermon to society and called us to act and do something about the Babylon in which we are living. Using the parable of the Good Samaritan and the road to Jericho, he called our attention to the work we have left to do:
On the one hand we are called to play the good Samaritan on life's roadside; but that will be only an initial act. One day we must come to see that the whole Jericho road must be transformed so that men and women will not be constantly beaten and robbed as they make their journey on life's highway. True compassion is more than flinging a coin to a beggar; it is not haphazard and superficial. It comes to see that an edifice which produces beggars needs restructuring.
So on this day, and in the days to come, we weep. By the rivers of Babylon I sit down and here I weep as I remember my heavenly citizenship in Zion and the broken and violent world in which I live. I hope you will join me and weep--weep and pray.

Then, instead of explosively spewing more hate and fear and anxiety into the world, let us, as C. S. Lewis invited us to do, nurture the Israel, the Zion, which is already planted within us and without. Let us be citizens of God's heavenly Jerusalem. Let us be convicted of our internal sin and repent and let us build a new city. Let us seek real conversation with one another a way forward. Let us reject talking at one another for a platform of talking with one another. Let us reject, out of Christian unity, the idea that we are enemies. Instead let us join our hands as family and find our peaceful way forward.


Prayers for Dallas and America
From the Book of Common Prayer, Burial Office

I am Resurrection and I am Life, says the Lord.
Whoever has faith in me shall have life,
even though he die.
And everyone who has life,
and has committed himself to me in faith,
shall not die for ever.
As for me, I know that my Redeemer lives
and that at the last he will stand upon the earth. 
After my awaking, he will raise me up;
and in my body I shall see God.
I myself shall see, and my eyes behold him
who is my friend and not a stranger.
For none of us has life in himself,
and none becomes his own master when he dies. 
For if we have life, we are alive in the Lord, 
and if we die, we die in the Lord.
So, then, whether we live or die,
we are the Lord's possession.

Happy from now on
are those who die in the Lord!
So it is, says the Spirit,
for they rest from their labors.


                   The Lord be with you.
People        And also with you.
Celebrant    Let us pray.

O God of grace and glory, we remember before you this day 
our brothers and sisters who have been killed because of racism, 
bigotry, and violence in America. We thank you for giving them
to us, their family and friends, to know and to love as a companions on 
our earthly pilgrimage. In your boundless compassion, 
console us who mourn. Give us faith to see in death the gate 
of eternal life, so that in quiet confidence we may continue 
our course on earth, until, by your call, we are reunited with 
those who have gone before; through Jesus Christ our Lord. 
Amen.

A reading from Paul's Letter to the Romans chapter 8 beginning
at the 24th verse:
For in hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what is seen? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.
Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes* with sighs too deep for words. And God, who searches the heart, knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.
We know that all things work together for good* for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn within a large family. And those whom he predestined he also called; and those whom he called he also justified; and those whom he justified he also glorified.

What then are we to say about these things? If God is for us, who is against us? He who did not withhold his own Son, but gave him up for all of us, will he not with him also give us everything else?  Who will bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? It is Christ Jesus, who died, yes, who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who indeed intercedes for us. Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will hardship, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written,‘For your sake we are being killed all day long; we are accounted as sheep to be slaughtered.’
No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. 
Reader       The Word of the Lord.
People       Thanks be to God.

God the Father,
Have mercy on your servants.
God the Son,
Have mercy on your servants.
God the Holy Spirit,
Have mercy on your servants.

Holy Trinity, one God,
Have mercy on your servants.
From all evil, from all sin, from all tribulation,
Good Lord, deliver them.
By your holy Incarnation, by your Cross and Passion, by 
your precious Death and Burial,
Good Lord, deliver them.
By your glorious Resurrection and Ascension, and by the 
Coming of the Holy Spirit,
Good Lord, deliver them.
We sinners beseech you to hear us, Lord Christ: That it may 
please you to deliver the souls of your servants from the power 
of evil, and from eternal death,
We beseech you to hear us, good Lord.
That it may please you mercifully to pardon all their sins,
We beseech you to hear us, good Lord.
That it may please you to grant them a place of refreshment 
and everlasting blessedness,
We beseech you to hear us, good Lord.
That it may please you to give them joy and gladness in your 
kingdom, with your saints in light,
We beseech you to hear us, good Lord.
Jesus, Lamb of God:
Have mercy on him.
Jesus, bearer of our sins:
Have mercy on him.
Jesus, redeemer of the world:
Give him your peace.

Lord, have mercy.
Christ, have mercy.
Lord, have mercy.

Our Father, who art in heaven,
    hallowed be thy Name, 
    thy kingdom come, 
    thy will be done, 
        on earth as it is in heaven. 
Give us this day our daily bread. 
And forgive us our tresspasses, 
    as we forgive those 
        who trespass against us. 
And lead us not into temptation, 
    but deliver us from evil.

Lord Jesus Christ, we commend to you our brothers and sisters who
have been killed because of racism, bigotry, and violence. 
Grant that their death may recall to us your victory over death, 
and be an occasion for us to renew our trust in your Father's 
love. Give us, we pray, the faith to follow where you have led 
the way; and where you live and reign with the Father and the Holy 
Spirit, to the ages of ages. Amen.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Letters to the Bishop - "Your Political Agenda"

In the wake of the shooting in Florida I have gotten mixed comments about my views on the issue. Many of the comments seek to justify keeping guns, killing attackers, and protecting ourselves from terrorists. Other comments have been supportive. It has been a mixed bag as you can imagine. In part because I am the Bishop of Texas and we like our guns in Texas. 

I cannot possibly respond to all the letters so I thought I would respond to one. I am sure this will stir this up again. But I think it is important to be clear. I am uninterested in having political views which challenge my Christianity. I am interested in having my Christianity challenge my life and my political views.

Letter

Dear Bishop Doyle,
Your “Statement” after the Orlando massacre was so political that I no longer can support you and my Diocese of Texas. 
In your first sentence, you properly address “hatred.”  In your second sentence, you express concern that this evil event will be exploited for political purposes. 
In your fourth sentence you violate your own concern of political involvement:  “Availability of weapons” 
As one who has remained a lifelong Episcopalian and tolerated the social and doctrinal changes foisted on me, you have now pushed me to rebel.  Although I had the honor to serve in the U. S. Army, I have never purchased and do not own a “gun.”  
There is so much more I would love to tell you of my love for the Episcopal church from my presentation by Scott Field Bailey to my confirmation by Bishop Quinn, my parents’ marriage in All Saints, Austin,  summer camp at Camp Allen, Baytown, and college days at Sewanee before I returned, upon my father’s death, to our family business in ____________.  
I believe this church is my church, even more than yours!  But I am asking that Christ Church no longer share any of my giving for God’s work through Christ Church to your diocese.   
You, as my bishop, do not share my Christian values and seem, above all, to promote your church’s political agendas. 
Please tell me how I should remain a communicant in good standing of Christ Church and not financially support your political agenda.
My Response

Dear _________,

I received your note. I am not sure what to do with it. Are you writing to engage in a conversation or are you writing to simply make a statement? I am assuming you continue to be the reasonable man that I have known over the past 13 years since I was canon to the ordinary. So I think you are interested in an actual conversation and exchange.

First, as a Christian how can "this church be more (your church) than my church? Isn't it Christ's church? Is this not what we proclaim? And aren't we both invited to share it? Is it really more your church than anybody else's? Just as it is not the liberal’s church more than the conservative’s church. Such statements seem to be statements that are incompatible with the gospel.

I think what I hear you saying, and because I have known you for a while, that you love this church as your family has loved this church. You are saying that you have a long history with this church. This is true I think and one worth pondering. It is obvious that you are angry about some kind of political agenda. I would say that I think that is assumed and actually comes from having a political eye towards the church and what I have said. 

I know you enough, I think, that you will at least give me an opportunity to offer my perspective.

I don’t think I was being political nor is it political for the church to ask the government to be responsible and protect its citizens. People should be safe in this country.

I am always curious why people are willing to have their politicians tell the church what it and its parishioners should believe and how they should vote based on those beliefs. At the same time, it is curious how when the church speaks out and challenges political beliefs about Christianity that the church is to be silent. Have you ever noticed that the church is always to be silent on those things the politicians want it to be silent about? So it is that I am curious why you think that as Christians we don’t have a responsibility to speak out against violence? And, that speaking out creates some kind of a problem?

I mean where is it that Jesus says or encourages us not to speak out against hate? Does Jesus not say that he has come to raise the burden of the law? That when you hate someone you actually do as much harm as to murder them? 

Matthew 5:21 says: “‘You have heard that it was said to those of ancient times, “You shall not murder”; and “whoever murders shall be liable to judgement.” But I say to you that if you are angry with a brother or sister, you will be liable to judgement; and if you insult a brother or sister, you will be liable to the council; and if you say, “You fool”, you will be liable to the hell of fire. So when you are offering your gift at the altar, if you remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother or sister, and then come and offer your gift.” 

Hate speech of every kind is not Christian. Inspiring people to hate others is not Christian. Instilling fear of the other into society with mass generalizations is not Christian. You assume I have some political agenda here, or that I support one side of the political fray or the other. I do not. This country on all sides is engendering hate for the other – whoever the other is: gay, straight, conservative, liberal. It doesn’t matter. In the case of the Orlando mass shooting it was hate against gays. We are not given permission by the scripture and by Jesus to hate people or to kill people.

I think you believe that this shooting was awful. I think you agree with me on that. Don’t you? So yes I spoke out against those who use hate for political gain and those who hate others.  

On to your next point about the availability of weapons to a known person on the watch list because of our gun laws. This is a political issue. I agree with you. Politicians who are responsible to their citizens are to protect us. The shooter acquired the weapon without a background check – that is the law. I believe that law should change. Why? I think you assume a lot about me, and my relationship with guns. I like to shoot guns. I like to hunt. I like to enjoy a day at the firing range with my friends. But I don’t think that such weapons should be allowed in the hands of criminals, the mentally ill, or terrorists. I don’t think that, from a Christian perspective, we should allow people who might use weapons to harm others to have them. I bet that you believe that is true as well. Now people will say if you outlaw guns only outlaws will have guns. First, I didn’t say to outlaw guns. And, the shooter in the Orlando case only became an outlaw because he obtained a weapon legally. Our gun laws allow people to buy weapons from us and then use them without intervention because we do not require background checks. I am guilty of having this opinion and you may not agree. I think you probably do agree that we should do something to prevent loss of life though and that such life is sacred.

From the Christian side there is more here to ponder. Where is it that Jesus says we should be able to bear arms to protect ourselves? Is not our God a God of peace? Does our God not want us to sacrifice and turn the other cheek? Does our God not want us to put away war and weapons? Does Jesus not ask us to love our enemies? To pray for our enemies? To understand that God loves all humanity even our enemies?

Matthew 5:43: “‘You have heard that it was said, “You shall love your neighbour and hate your enemy.” But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax-collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers and sisters, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”

Or in the previous verse…

Matthew 5:38: “‘You have heard that it was said, “An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.” But I say to you, Do not resist an evildoer. But if anyone strikes you on the right cheek, turn the other also; and if anyone wants to sue you and take your coat, give your cloak as well; and if anyone forces you to go one mile, go also the second mile. Give to everyone who begs from you, and do not refuse anyone who wants to borrow from you.”

In the garden when they come to arrest Jesus, does he not tell his own followers to put away their swords?

Matthew 26:51: “Suddenly, one of those with Jesus put his hand on his sword, drew it, and struck the slave of the high priest, cutting off his ear. Then Jesus said to him, ‘Put your sword back into its place; for all who take the sword will perish by the sword.’”

Why is it that people are willing for their politicians to quote scripture but unwilling to listen to a contrary view from their pastors who know scripture? How is saying that we should put down our weapons for the sake of peace contrary to the Gospel?  

I hear you telling me that I am somehow being political about weapons and violence and hatred. I would argue that I am being an apostle. While Christians served in the army and continue to do so, the church has a very ancient history of saying that we should resist violence and put down our weapons. My witness to this in our tradition is rooted in the scripture and the first church fathers who believed as I do.

I do not wish to be a king; I am not anxious to be rich; I decline military command... Die to the world, repudiating the madness that is in it.

— Tatian's Address to the Greeks 11

Whatever Christians would not wish others to do to them, they do not to others. And they comfort their oppressors and make them their friends; they do good to their enemies…. Through love towards their oppressors, they persuade them to become Christians.

— The Apology of Aristides 15

A soldier of the civil authority must be taught not to kill men and to refuse to do so if he is commanded, and to refuse to take an oath. If he is unwilling to comply, he must be rejected for baptism. A military commander or civic magistrate must resign or be rejected. If a believer seeks to become a soldier, he must be rejected, for he has despised God.

— Hippolytus of Rome

One soul cannot be due to two masters—God and Cæsar. And yet Moses carried a rod, and Aaron wore a buckle, and John (Baptist) is girt with leather and Joshua the son of Nun leads a line of march; and the People warred: if it pleases you to sport with the subject. But how will a Christian man war, nay, how will he serve even in peace, without a sword, which the Lord has taken away? For albeit soldiers had come unto John, and had received the formula of their rule; albeit, likewise, a centurion had believed; still the Lord afterward, in disarming Peter, unbelted every soldier. No dress is lawful among us, if assigned to any unlawful action.

— Tertullian, On Idolatry Chapter 19: Concerning Military Service

For since we, a numerous band of men as we are, have learned from His teaching and His laws that evil ought not to be requited with evil, that it is better to suffer wrong than to inflict it, that we should rather shed our own blood than stain our hands and our conscience with that of another, an ungrateful world is now for a long period enjoying a benefit from Christ, inasmuch as by His means the rage of savage ferocity has been softened, and has begun to withhold hostile hands from the blood of a fellow-creature.

— Arnobius, Adversus Gentes I:VI

Consider the roads blocked up by robbers, the seas beset with pirates, wars scattered all over the earth with the bloody horror of camps. The whole world is wet with mutual blood; and murder, which in the case of an individual is admitted to be a crime, is called a virtue when it is committed wholesale.

— Cyprian of Carthage

Those soldiers were filled with wonder and admiration at the grandeur of the man's piety and generosity and were struck with amazement. They felt the force of this example of pity. As a result, many of them were added to the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ and threw off the belt of military service.

— Disputation of Archelaus and Manes

How can a man be master of another's life, if he is not even master of his own? Hence he ought to be poor in spirit, and look at Him who for our sake became poor of His own will; let him consider that we are all equal by nature, and not exalt himself impertinently against his own race[...]

— Gregory of Nyssa, Homilies on the Beatitudes

If I'm wrong about the scripture or the history of the Christian church tell me. Is life sacred because it is given by God or is it not sacred? It is not a political thing for me to say this it is a Christian thing to say. 

If we have told you that Christianity offered some other doctrine than this then I apologize. Otherwise, I am not sure what you are referring to when you speak of a change of doctrine on this issue. I know that you would not encourage or support violence against gays and lesbians - so this isn’t about that. I know that even if you disagree on the scripture or rights of the GLBT community you would never say that such violence perpetrated repeatedly on that group was justified. As an American citizen and as Christians we believe that people should not be harmed because of who they are.

So, you can see that on the issue of hatred, weapons, and violence against others I am unclear how I have offered a political non-Christian non-biblical non-historically Christian doctrine.

Your last question asks me, “Please tell me how I should remain a communicant in good standing of Christ Church and not financially support your political agenda.” I don’t think you are supporting my agenda at all. First, you are supporting Christ’s church not yours and not mine. You are supporting the work of missionaries locally and abroad. You are supporting the spread of the Gospel of Good News. You are supporting a proclamation of a God who loves all people and is wiling to become a victim to humanity’s curse of violence and justified political protection so that all humanity might have life and have it abundantly. You are supporting outreach ministries and service programs that are changing the lives of veterans, men, women, and children. And, you are supporting a bishop who while you disagree with him, loves you enough to spar with you.

You can go elsewhere, find someone and some group who may agree with you politically, but when you do that you are simply allowing politics to shape your faith which is what you say you are against. So I challenge you to look at your own motives and reasons for believing as you do. Are they based upon the scripture and teachings of Jesus? Or are your views shaped first by your allegiance to an accepted civil religion?

I think it is much better to stay together, to do good work, and be challenged by the tradition that we have inherited in Christ’s church. It is much better to remember and work together because it is Christ’s church and God intends to change both of us and our church and the world and make it into a peaceable kingdom. Such a kingdom does not come without disagreement and it does not come without Christ and his words informing our actions. It does not come with passively allowing others to tell us what our religion should support politically without question. Instead it comes by understanding the great prophetic vision God has for us and attempting to shape the world into a better place, working with all who would join us. 

Are we not to uphold a vision that says God shall judge between the nations, and shall arbitrate for many peoples – it is not for us to do. Are we not to uphold a vision that says when we see God as our judge that we are to put down our weapons and beat our swords into ploughshares, and our spears into pruning-hooks; and that we shall not teach or learn war any more. (Isaiah 2:4)

You should stay because as challenging as my little post was, or this longer missive is, I believe you and I hope for the transformative love of Jesus to bring about a new world, a recreated world, a world of peace and love for all people. Together, you and I believe, despite our differences on many things, that God will win. God who is love and peace and mercy and forgiveness will win. Together we believe the prophecy of Isaiah 11:6: “The wolf shall live with the lamb, the leopard shall lie down with the kid, the calf and the lion and the fatling together, and a little child shall lead them. The cow and the bear shall graze, their young shall lie down together; and the lion shall eat straw like the ox. The nursing child shall play over the hole of the asp, and the weaned child shall put its hand on the adder’s den. They will not hurt or destroy on all my holy mountain; for the earth will be full of the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea.”

I hope you will stay. We and Christ’s church would be better for it to be sure. But if you chose to leave you will have to leave because your political agenda won’t allow you to stay in a church that has a Christianity that belongs to Christ and is bigger than any political view. 

You will in the end say whatever you wish to say but you will not be telling the truth if you say, “The bishop’s speaking out against the mass murder of gays and lesbians by a shooter who legally acquired a weapon is incongruous with Christianity.” This is not political, this is about Christian values and the words of Jesus. And, I should prepare you. I am going to speak out again when it happens again, no matter who the shooter is, and no matter who the victims are. You see I am not interested in comforting people on their political views. I am interested in challenging people because of Jesus and Jesus’ views.

Faithfully yours,

The Rt. Rev. C. Andrew Doyle, D.D.
Episcopal Bishop Diocesan of Texas

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Florida Shootings




In the modern history of mass shootings in America, Orlando is the deadliest - Hate engendered violence leading to more hatred. This shooting, its shooter, and victims, will be politically used to create more hate that will lead to more violence. The shooting is caused by hate for those who are different and it will expand hatred for still others. Availability of weapons that can cause this level will be defended due to the hate. All of which is unjustifiable. We live in a nation that pretends civility and Christian values while rejecting the core and central tenets of Christian faith: love God and love neighbor and help create a peaceable kingdom. We live in a country that is revealing its underbelly of death, hate, and love of violence.

I pray for the victims of hatred, I pray for those who use fear and hatred to inspire further violence towards others, I pray for our country.

Our Texas Lt. Governor Dan Patrick, or a staff member on his behalf, posted a piece in the wake of the shootings, it is from Galatians 6:7: "Do not be deceived. God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows." He now states it was a mistake and planned before the shooting. It was taken down. Maybe it was taken down because it was in poor taste and timing.

The shooter is now believed to be a radical terrorist of Isis. The shooter was on a watch list but able to purchase an assault rifle because of our sad state of gun laws in the US.

The Internet is already full of unchristian, disrespectful, and horrific responses supporting the shooting and demonizing Islam.

The reality is that we in this country are responsible for creating a place where hate speech is glorified, unnecessary weapons of mass destruction are freely accessible, and violence is cheered. All of this came to bear on the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered community in Orlando. It is the same deadly mix that fell upon the African Americans in Charleston. As in Charleston there will be a clamoring to scapegoat Islam for Orlando - our newly appointed "other". The choosing of particular communities who have been our scapegoats in this society is no accident. As a society of violence we will have to perpetuate this in one fashion or another.

JoAnne and I pondered that it has been 18 years since Matthew Shepard. And, how in that time our fears for our LGBT friends has only increased. This nightclub attack will bring back to mind the violence in 1969 at the Stonewall Inn, or the Upstairs Lounge in 1973, or the Otherside Lounge 1997, or the New Beford attack in 2006 plus the countless beatings and deaths of individuals. (You can read the history of violence against the GLBT community here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_violence_against_LGBT_people_in_the_United_States)

Today I weep with my brothers and sisters in the LGBT community just as I wept with those in the African American community. And, I fear I will weep with future victims of American violence most of which will come via a shooter with a high powered rifle of some kind. I wonder how many more will it take? How many more of the least, the lost, the scapegoats, and the voiceless will have to be killed before we as a country have had enough?

Yes America, we are reaping what we sow.

Violence and hatred shall beget only more violence and hatred. Lord have mercy. Christ have mercy. Lord have mercy.

Blog Archive

Quotes

  • "Christianity is not a theory or speculation, but a life; not a philosophy of life, but a life and a living process." Samuel Taylor Coleridge
  • "Most people are willing to take the Sermon on the Mount as a flag to sail under, but few will use it as a rudder by which to steer." Oliver Wendell Holmes
  • "Perfection, in a Christian sense, means becoming mature enough to give ourselves to others." Kathleen Norris
  • "Do all the good you can, by all the means you can, in all the ways you can, in all the places you can, at all the times you can, to all the people you can, as long as ever you can." John Wesley
  • "The Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting; it has been found difficult and left untried." G. K. Chesterton
  • "One of our great allies at present is the Church itself. Do not misunderstand me. I do not mean the Church as we see her spread out through all time and space and rooted in eternity, terrible as an army with banners. That, I confess, is a spectacle which makes our boldest tempters uneasy. But fortunately it is quite invisible to these humans." C. S. Lewis
  • "When we say, 'I love Jesus, but I hate the Church,' we end up losing not only the Church but Jesus too. The challenge is to forgive the Church. This challenge is especially great because the church seldom asks us for forgiveness." Henri Nouwen, Bread for the Journey
  • "Christians are hard to tolerate; I don't know how Jesus does it." Bono
  • "It's too easy to get caught in our little church subcultures, and the result is that the only younger people we might know are Christians who are already inside the church." Dan Kimball