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.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

The Not So Mysterious Trinity


Preached at St. Thomas Houston and Trinity Port Neches


Check out this episode!

Pentecost Sunday - The Inside and Outside of Church


Preached at St. Timothy's Lake Jackson, St. Mark's Houston


Check out this episode!

Saturday, May 14, 2016

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