Sunday, May 28, 2006

Spirit
Readers speak on church, gays and advertising

Over the course of the last several weeks, your blogstress has received a stream of e-mail in response to her May 5 essay at The American Prospect Online, which focused on a provocative advertisement about inclusion by the United Church of Christ that was rejected by the major television networks.

Drawing particular attention was a single paragraph in your Ă©crivaine's piece -- an aside, a throwaway, really -- about her own experience of feeling rejected by her own church:

In the Roman Catholic Church -- the church to which I was born -- a similar rite forms the central element of the celebration of Mass. At the Methodist service, I was beckoned to partake: "All are welcome at Christ's table," said the minister. In my own church, I am banned from receiving communion for multiple reasons (divorce, fornication, lack of commitment to the heterosexual lifestyle). No one ever asked me for my papers as I stepped up to the Communion rail, but my church's stance is often stated from the pulpit, and there doesn't seem to be much point in stealthily taking a sacrament from an ostensible man of God who is sworn to refuse it to you.
Presented below are two heartfelt letters of opposing opinions.

Adele--

As I read your article, I became dismayed at the section of your [essay] reflecting on your Catholic tradition. I won’t dispute your unfortunate circumstances. I find it disheartening, as a practicing Catholic, to hear of your anguish, the sense that you feel rejected and unable to receive Communion. And I cannot deny you probably heard the message from a pulpit, or certainly within a variety of pronouncements.

I know, too, that what is often preached is also often ignored. However, as you indicated, why should one have to receive Communion by stealth.

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I still find a depth to my Catholic roots that is supportive. But the blossoms are not as colorful or aromatic as they once were.

--Dave Murray

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I am struggling with my own relationship with the church. At 56, a former novice in a religious order, a former youth minister, and one who still attends regularly, I am growing more and more disturbed by the sexual abuse scandal particularly the manipulations of the “authority” to protect their own. I also find it disconcerting to hear priests speak out of an antiquated theology that sounds like Republican apologetics. Our church is fragmented from within, and I fear the fragmentation is spreading. I still find a depth to my Catholic roots that is supportive. But the blossoms are not as colorful or aromatic as they once were.

Indeed, Jesus welcomed all. Wherever you may find his peace, solace and courage, there he is. A rabbi once urged that I have the courage of my conclusions. That infers I must trust the “kingdom” within; my spirit/soul/psyche. Sometimes, that seems quite lonely. Yet, it is not.

Godspeed in your sojourn, and trust you will find welcoming companions…of all kinds (yes, even Catholics!)… along the way.

Dave Murray
Cedarville, Michigan
May 10, 2006
The following response was sent to The American Prospect Online, which commissioned and ran the essay under discussion.
Dear Editors,

I find the most recent work by Adele Stan (Divine Denial) to be greatly disturbing-- not in the incident she is reporting, but with regards to one of her basic premises. Someone does not become a Christian simply by stating that he or she is a Christian. It is an idea supported by a vast number of Americans, but is nonetheless illogical and irrelevant. By definition, a Christian is one who professes the belief that Jesus of Nazareth is Christ and follows his teachings.

In the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5) Jesus addresses the issue of sin relating to lust, fornication, and adultery. Jesus Christ even states that, “If your right eye causes you to sin, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell." So, it seems to logically follow that a Christian would avoid fornication and realize that one is out of God’s will. A Christian understands when a church recommends one not partake in Communion due to continued unreconciled sin.

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Expecting a Christian church to [accept those who engage in homosexual activity] is like expecting a Jew to eat pork in a synagogue during Passover.

--Patrick L. Hanks

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Adele Stan, Ron Buford [leader of the United Church of Christ's Stillspeaking Initiative], and many others seem to expect the Christian church to be welcoming with open arms “Christians” who engage in homosexual activity. It is absurd to think this, as writings in Romans (1:24-32) teach that homosexuality among believers is immoral behavior resulting from willing disobedience of God, and immoral sexual behavior should be cast out from the church (1 Corinthians 5:9-13). Expecting a Christian church to do otherwise is like expecting a Jew to eat pork in a synagogue during Passover.

The long and short of all this is that one cannot have it both ways. One cannot be a Christian and disregard the teachings of Christ and his disciples. One cannot claim the Christian faith and then promote, excuse, or rationalize a homosexual lifestyle as being in God's will. They are diametrically opposed. One must presuppose the validity and observance of the word of God/Christ when one assumes the title "Christian." Adele Stan does not seem to understand this, and it undermines the reputation and credibility of your worthwhile forum when you allow such sophomoric mistakes to be published.

Patrick L. Hanks
Austin, Texas
May 9, 2006
In his reply to an e-mail from your net-tĂȘte, Mr. Hanks wrote:
Dear Adele Stan,

I am not suprised you disagree with me, but you must admit that it is illogical to expect the Church to go against the teachings of its Savior. That said, some churches do need to improve their practices with dealing with sensitive issues.

Sincerely,
Patrick Hanks
More to come...

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