Rick Warren Under Fire….Again

Pastor Rick Warren

Rick Warren, pastor of Saddleback Church and controversial figure who President Obama chose to deliver the invocation at his inauguration, is under fire yet again.  This time it is for his association with Martin Ssempa, a Ugandan pastor who supports the new legislation there to imprison and even execute people for homosexual acts and having HIV/AIDs, and for Warren’s soft stance on the legislation itself, according to the this Newsweek blog, and The Huffington Post.

Warren has distanced himself from Ssempa, saying that he neither represents him, or his ministries.  When asked to comment on the legislation, Warren would not condemn it outright, although he did say, “The fundamental dignity of every person, our right to be free, and the freedom to make moral choices are gifts endowed by God, our creator. However, it is not my personal calling as a pastor in America to comment or interfere in the political process of other nations.”

Alright.  I understand being outraged at this legislation, I really do, but I think directing this outrage at Rick Warren is a bit ridiculous.  His statement is not a support for the legislation, it actually is pretty good condemnation without going as far as condemning it.  Can we not assume that Warren, if he thought it would do any good, would condemn the legislation?  Maybe he is trying to use his relationship with the pastor in Uganda to lobby against it and an outright condemnation would ruin that position?  We have no idea.

Has Warren called this on himself?  He was a vocal supporter of Proposition 8 in California.  That Proposition, although only a pro-traditional marriage amendment, was seen as very anti-homosexual.  Could he be holding himself to a double standard?  I think its best for pastors to stay out of politics altogether.  He did not have to be such a vocal supporter of legislation, he could have only clearly defined his stance on marriage in his church and the church as a whole.  But still, to call him a hater of homosexuals is taking it a bit far.

Outrage should be directed to the appropriate people.  Maybe our politicians and leaders who can actually do something instead of saying something.  And maybe instead of assuming that people, who haven’t shown hate to anyone, are haters, we should give them the benefit of the doubt.  Let’s look at what people are doing instead of what they are not doing.

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Kennedy v Tobin

Bishop Thomas Tobin and RI Rep. Patrick Kennedy

Representative Patrick J. Kennedy may not be attending mass this next weekend.  His Bishop, Thomas J. Tobin, asked him not to receive holy communion since his actions and statements about abortion were not lining up with the Catholic belief, according to a New York Times article.

Kennedy is not enthused about this recent development in the twos public feud that has been going on for a couple of months now.  Kennedy has been attacking the Catholic Church’s position on the healthcare legislation, specifically its pro-life stance, and its threats to pull support for any bill that covers abortion.

Bishop Tobin has been an outspoken critic of Kennedy, saying he is concerned for his well being (Kennedy has been in and out of rehab for substance abuse, according to this article), and that Kennedy has been acting “erratically”.  The Bishop said that if this is how he is going to continue on, then he should look elsewhere to foster his faith.

I see the Bishop’s point.  If someone is a part of the church, but out speaking against it, and disowning a core belief of the church, that life is to be cherished, then he should look elsewhere to attend.  People may criticize the Bishop’s move, but I think it is good to note that he did not make this public, Kennedy did.  Bishop Tobin only speaks about his decision now because Kennedy made it public.

Kennedy obviously has an agenda here, and the Bishop is caught up in this public feud, trying to defend his church and its position.  The fact that this ugly feud is playing out before the publics eyes is unfortunate, but it is not only the fault of the Bishop, but Kennedy as well.

This is an interesting feud, and I will continue to watch it unfold.  What do you think?  Should Kennedy be speaking out so much against the church he claims to be apart of?  Should the church be allowed to basically disown him?  Tell me in the comments section.

Wisdom Above Opinion

Catholics support healthcare that protects life.Beliefnet posted a blog expressing frustration with the way the Catholic Bishops influenced the newly passed house healthcare bill.  Rev. Barry W. Lynn expressed his belief that it is unfair that tax-exempt churches are aloud to lobby with little or no restrictions.  He is also frustrated that, although majority of the Catholic population supports healthcare reform regardless of abortion language, they Bishops seem unshakable in their position.

Rev. Lynn, I can see why you would think that the Bishops, or Church leaders in general would want or maybe need to conform to the opinion of the public on social issues and policy, but that isn’t how the Church is supposed to work.  As someone who has worked for or with the church for quit some time, I would hope that you knew that.

I think that is why so many people are frustrated with the Church, and its leaders, we are seen as stubborn.  There are some issues that the Church has fought for that, I believe, were not worth fighting over.  Abortion, although a majority of Americans seem to be pro-choice, is not an issue that Church leaders should back down from or change their stance on.  Especially when it comes to public funding.

The Church is not an organization governed by representatives.  Its leaders are not elected but should be leaders based on a calling, character, and gifts.  The leadership should not waver with the the opinion of the world, but needs to be fully based in scripture.

20Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world?

27But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong;

1 Corinthians 1:20 & 27 ESV

The wisdom of man is always changing, look at the past and you can see that.  God is steadfast and unchanging, and so is His wisdom.  The Church should be relying on that wisdom and not any other.  So it makes sense that the Church would seem stubborn and unbending.  But in the case of abortion, I think it is important to remain firm and continue to advocate for life.

Healthcare and Religion

Amy Sullivan, Time MagazineHere is an interesting interview I found on the Washington Post’s On Faith website.  Amy Sullivan, an editor at Time Magazine has some good insights into the healthcare debate when it comes to religion.

Sullivan’s analysis almost makes the religious right sound like cattle being herded around by republican leaders.  I don’t think she is that far off.  She says a few times that the main arguments republicans are using are not coming from religious voices.  They just have the weight of the religious right behind them, because the church is seen as a wing of the republican party.  What a shame.

Good interview.  Sullivan does a really good job of pointing out hypocracy more as inquiry than accusation.

Healthcare From My Point of View

I was very busy last week studying for a midterm, and have been playing catch up this week, including catching up on all the current events.  The majority of media coverage is about the healthcare overhaul.  As this does not traditionally fall under religion and politics, I feel like I can still analyze this debate from that point of view…so I will.

I think it is our government’s job to level the playing field.  I think this gets confused in a lot of ways.  I feel like when people say they want equal opportunity, they expect that those equal opportunities will create equal results, but that is not, and will never be the case.  Opportunities do not promise results, as I have observed of my friends from high school who have had every opportunity I have had and yet the results have been staggered.

I do think that it should be the governments desire to level the starting line as best as they can.  That, in my opinion, should be their goal in legislation.  So when talking about healthcare, I have that perspective.

Do I think there is a certain perspective the church as a whole should have on healthcare.  Not really.  As long as we are caring about sick people, there are lots of solutions to helping them.  But this debate has gotten lost.  Its not about the people who need help anymore, but about political posturing and money.

Do I think that healthcare should be government run?  I don’t know.  Its worked several places, and it hasn’t others.  But I feel like if this debate was more focused on the people we are trying to help instead of the political ramifications of any overhaul, our country would be better off.

Maybe the churches role in the debate is to put a human face on healthcare.  What if that was the churches role in government always?  We are here to make sure that people aren’t lost on the politics.  That hasn’t been our role.  I would like to see us rise to the occasion.

What is your take on healthcare, or government in general lately?

Marriage

Its a slow news day, but while reading The Caucus, the New York Times political blog, I stumbled upon this entry about Sen. Arlene Specter of Pennslyvania.

Is anyone else tired of gay marriage being a political issue that people use to rally their bases?  A group of people feel legitimately discriminated against and all Washington can do is use that to get votes.

Not to mention the Church using it to scare people into voting for a republican.

The L.G.B.T. community is still going to exist whether or not they are allowed to marry.  And see, everything is fine, our country is still OK.

Marriage is about faith and love, not politics.  No one is making anyone marry someone they don’t want to.  What good is it to stand in the way of people who are in a committed relationship with each other and want to marry?

Why do we care about what people do so much instead of the people themselves?

Everyone in this country does not believe the same thing, so while some believe in Jesus, and his teachings about marriage, others do not.  This is diversity, and freedom of religion.  The fight about homosexuality in the church, that is more understandable.  Obviously is someone is claiming to believe the same thing you believe but living contrary to that belief, there is a problem there.  Fighting with people who do not believe the same thing as you do, trying to get them to by restricting them, I don’t see that working out.

Also I think it is almost laughable that the church considers itself an authority on marriage when we have a divorce rate that matches the national divorce rate of between 40% and 50%.

Maybe when 100% of marriages in the church work out we can start telling people how its done.

The Church and Healthcare

Medical SymbolThe Washington Post’s On Faith website had a great post about what is going on with Cath0lic Bishops and Rep. Patrick J. Kennedy (D-R.I.) about healthcare.  The Bishops won’t support a healthcare bill that covers abortion, and Kennedy is claiming that the Bishops are being hypocritical.  The post outlines how the Bishops’ position is anything but.

While reading the article though, I was reminded of my vision for healthcare.  Remember the days when the church acted as the church should?  Wait, what is that even supposed to look like?

Well, what did Jesus do in his ministry?  He fed the hungry, healed the sick and lame, loved anyone he encountered.  Then he told his disciples to do likewise.

When the church started, as chronicled in the book of acts, they took care of widows and sick people and those who couldn’t take care of themselves.  What happened to that?  Now the church seems to only take care of its own, and does a terrible job at that even.

You don’t have to drive far in the Bible Belt to see a huge church building with a cross on a steeple.  What goes on in those buildings?  Giant churches are no new thing.  I traveled Europe two summers ago and have no lack of pictures of great cathedrals.  Where does all this money come from?  What if it was spent on something else?

What if the Bishops of the Catholic church, realizing that the governments healthcare plan is insufficient, made their own plan.  They have the organization, maybe not the money, but they could find some, especially if they partnered with other denominations.  No strings attached to the plan, all you need to do if you need health coverage, come to your local church, get fixed right up, you might have to make some friends in the process, but nothing pushed on you but wellness.

Wouldn’t that be revolutionary?  The church actually doing something for the sick again besides just visiting its members in the hospital, but helping the sick in the community who can not help themselves.

Its crazy.  It could never work, right?