Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Fred Phelps and The West Virginia Miners

Fred Phelps Westboro Baptist Church picketing the funerals of West Virginia Coal miners caused Joe Cutbirth to write a piece for the Huffington Post. It includes an video Interview with Nate Phelps who left the family decades ago. It's really worth watching...

Phelps and his hateful clan spent this weekend in West Virginia taunting innocent families whose fathers, brothers and sons were buried alive in the Upper Big Branch mine disaster. The last four of 29 miners were pronounced dead on Saturday. The Phelpses actually complained they didn't get adequate police protection during a picket at the state Capitol, where they carried signs that read: "Thank God for Dead Miners," "God Hates Your Tears" and "God Hates West Virginia."

It's a new low for The Most Hated Family In America, as they were dubbed in a 2007 BBC documentary about the Westboro Baptist Church, whose members routinely picket funerals of American soldiers. They claim God smites our military because America tolerates lesbian and gay people. The group is so obsessed with anti-homosexual theology it adopted the slogan "God hates fags" for the name of its website.

I've always ignored these psychopaths and refused to give them the media attention they crave. But information about them that can't be ignored surfaced last week on The Standard, a Vancouver-based public affairs program. In his first-ever television interview, Fred's son Nate Phelps says the family could turn violent if his father ever finds a Bible verse to justify it.

Read more and watch the Interview at The Huffington Post

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Why Now with the Gun Thing

For 8 years under President Bush there was little protest about 2nd amendment restrictions... now, with President Obama in office, there are protests that the right to bear arms is under attack. So what has changed? Actually, in regard to the right to carry a gun, it is now legal to have a gun in a national park. President Obama allowed that to happen. So why protest now? Let's see. If gun rights have been expanded, is there another variable that might have someone scared?

Folks, it's called racism. Own it and pray that you are cured of it. That IS a choice.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Opposite Approaches to Denominational Faith

I've been reading the viral approach to creating a denominational image from the United Church of Christ. Besides thinking it theologically appealing, it provides a frame of reference to measure how the Episcopal Church has chosen to be defined ... as opposed to defining itself. There is good grounds to claim that by our actions they will know us. But God is still speaking without regard to the UCC putting a trademark to that claim. God is still speaking in new ways to a new generation. God speaks on MSNBC and FOX and FaceBook and Twitter... and denying that will condemn us to fate of the 1928 Book of Common Prayer adherents... worship a false idol, fixed in time.

Yesterday the Episcopalians for Traditional Faith issued a request that everyone pray for "Our Country" using the following text. Seriously! You know that God doesn't really understand "Thee" means "You."

ALMIGHTY God, who hast given us this good land for our heritage; We humbly beseech thee that we may always prove ourselves a people mindful of thy favour and glad to do thy will. Bless our land with honourable industry, sound learning, and pure manners. Save us from violence, discord, and confusion; from pride and arrogancy, and from every evil way. Defend our liberties, and fashion into one united people the multitudes brought hither out of many kindreds and tongues.. Endue with the spirit of wisdom those to whom in thy Name we entrust the authority of government, that there may be justice and peace at home, and that, through obedience to thy law, we may show forth thy praise among the nations of the earth. In the time of prosperity, fill our hearts with thankfulness, and in the day of trouble, suffer not our trust in thee to fail; all which we ask through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
-- The 1928 Book of Common Prayer, page 36

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Closing Our Nursery School

I suppose I should preface every entry with the same disclaimer: This may be frivolous and may be profound. In truth it is more frivolous than I would like to believe and likewise less profound.

At St. John's, my small parish is an small town, we will be closing our nursery school at the end of the school year. It was not a completely fiscal nor a completely mission driven decision. It just seemed time.

As usual I am much better at reacting than forecasting in situations like this. There is much I wish I had said earlier. Don't get me wrong. It WAS the right decision for this time.

I spent much to much time in the garden this afternoon. The affects of UV attest to that. But I could not leave. There was much to be done and it is the only time that I really spend praying. OK, praying is not what most would call it, but it is having that internal dialogue that takes me closer to meditation than anything in my life. And after I have exhausted my monologue with uninterested bugs and dirt and weeds and flowers I finally settled into the issue that weighs.

Today, it was the nursery school. It is safe to say that St. John's is the least dogmatic church in the community. There is a Roman church, a Presbyterian and Methodist place to go on Sunday morning. Thanks to the past 40 years of evolution in the Episcopal Church and being in a parish and a diocese that has embraced that evolution we are the least dogmatic. We are the risk takers. We have openly straight and gay parishioners, our rector is a red-headed dervish and, with few exceptions, we supported President Obama. Let me quickly add, lest the IRS is tuned in, I speak individually not corporately. Our attempt at a book group always dissolves into a group of radicals bemoaning the reign of Republicans masquerading as Christians.

So what does this have to do with the nursery school? Well, I don't know. But I have a great curiosity about the possibilities.

Few parishioners have ever had children in the nursery school. It was a community institution and for that reason as good Episcopalians we avoided cramming religion down the throats of these little tykes. We respected the fact that there may have been Jews, Papists, Muslims, Druids or devote atheist there. The head teacher was not Episcopalian and so we had a largely non-denominational, perhaps even secular curriculum. I, in my Episcopalianess, supported that fully...

But now I wonder.

What if we had made it perfectly clear that this was an Episcopal school and because of that there would be religious education... But completely on our terms. We would teach of a God that was not necessarily male or female. We would talk openly about how God dwells in each of us... and we would teach that we are all created in God's image... regardless of color, ethnicity and sexual orientation. We would have "Heather has Two Mommies" read aloud. We would include alternative family structures, including same sex couples.

In other words we would lay the groundwork for the moral equality of LGBT folk.

We would make this clear. We would not teach sex education. Parents would know this and if they could not buy into it they would take their children elsewhere.

What if we had done that? Would it have made a difference? Would the school have closed earlier or would it have provided a welcome alternative in an affluent, well educated community?

How does this apply to the bigger church?