Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Is Religious Freedom Really the Issue?

In my last post I considered some legislative attempts to preserve, under the heading of religious freedom, the right of private parties to discriminate. (The most recent example is Mississippi's "Religious Freedom Restoration Act.")

But what, exactly, is religious freedom? Doesn't our understanding of religious freedom depend on our understanding of religion?

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Religious Freedom vs Freedom to Discriminate: The Case of Mississippi's "Religious Freedom Restoration Act"

In February, the Kansas House of Representatives passed a bill aimed at protecting the "right" of its citizens to discriminate against gays and lesbians on religious grounds. In the wake of cries of segregation, the Kansas State Senate killed it.

A few weeks later, the Arizona governor vetoed a similar bill that had passed both branches of the Arizona legislature.

Earlier this month, both branches of the Mississippi legislature passed its own version of the bill, which the governor promptly signed into law. The law goes into effect in July. Unlike the earlier bills, the Mississippi bill received little media attention--despite actually becoming a law (unlike its predecessors).

Perhaps this is because the Mississippi law is a bit different from the Kansas and Arizona bills.

Friday, April 18, 2014

The Holiest Night

Before the joy of Easter comes the cross.

My faith, shaped by the Lutheran tradition, teaches me that it is on the cross that we encounter God's most profound revelation of the divine essence.

It is not through rising in glory that God's loving nature finds its most perfect expression, but rather through suffering the most humiliating and agonizing of punishments despite His perfect innocence.

It is not through defeating death that Jesus' divine nature shines forth most profoundly, but through facing it.

It is not in seeing the empty tomb that we witness the deepest truth about God. It is, rather, in seeing the incarnate God accept the very worst that humanity can do, endure the most profound rejection, and love us still. Love us with a radical, unflagging love.

In the cross we see God step into the place of debasement, the place of despair, the place where human beings are treated like something worse than things--step into that place and say, "Here I stand."

And in that moment, every scapegoat ceases to be a a sacrifice to the gods and becomes instead what we do to God. "What you do to the least of these, you do to me." On the cross we see just what that means.

In that moment, our ultimate rejection of love discovers the meaning of a love that reaches across the gap of rejection and says, "Not even this can separate us."

In that moment, our worst afflictions become moments of solidarity with the very foundation of reality. When we feel most cut off from the good, when despair and loneliness and anguish seem to consume our souls, we discover that God is there--and not just there, but there at His most human, at the point at which the divine enters most fully into the world.

By an act of stunning audacity, God turns the universe on its head, and finds a way to be most fully present to us in that space where God is felt to be most fully absent.

The empty tomb is the effect, the consequence. The cross is the thing itself.

Today is Good Friday, Silent Friday, Black Friday. Today Christians turn their thoughts to this staggering thing.

May this holiest night rip through the veils of the ordinary and move you to wonder.    

Blog Milestones

This blog has enjoyed two milestones in the past week. First, the previous post, "Slumber Parties in the Shadow of Death: A Holy Week Meditation," was my 500th post on this blog. Given how long my posts tend to be, that's a lot of pages.

Second, my post before that one, "Anti-Gay Bigotry, Sincere Belief, and Christianity," has now surpassed 10,000 page views--a first for this blog. Most of the traffic to the post seems to be coming from Facebook, meaning that a lot of people have found it challenging enough or meaningful enough (or both) to share.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Slumber Parties in the Shadow of Death: A Holy Week Meditation

In the spring after my father’s death, on the night before Easter, my then eight-year-old son announced that he wanted to invite his sister over for a slumber party. It would involve bringing her stuffed lion-bear across the hall. And her pillow. As far as slumber parties go it was a low-stress affair.

In fact he’d already invited her. The two were anxiously awaiting my blessing. My daughter—a twirly five-year-old—clung to my leg saying, “Can we, Daddy? Can we? Can we?” Her brother was perched on his toes, hands clasped over his belly and eyebrows raised. “It’s Easter Eve! It’s a special occasion!”

I found myself looking down at my children with an ache. They weren’t thinking about it, but it was hard for me to think of anything else. Hard not to see in this eager moment the shadow of October; hard not to hear that same request, born then from the need for comfort in the dark.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Anti-Gay Bigotry, Sincere Belief, and Christianity

There's a meme going around on social media that looks like this:


A recent Huffington Post article, "The Myth of Christian Discrimination in the LGBT Rights Movement," did a pretty nice job of explaining some of the key problems with this meme. But there are things I wish the article would have said--and there is a grain of truth in the meme that I want to acknowledge.