For a skeptic, I spend a lot of time reading and thinking about religion --- perhaps because the Christian church, and Christians in general, have been the enemy for so much of my life. And it's always a good idea to keep an eye on those out to do a guy harm.
Occasionally, however, friendly faces appear --- and Rachel Held Evans (above) certainly is one of those. I was moved this week by a brief video Evans made in conjunction with The Work of the People entitled "Broken and Beloved." Because of formatting issues, it wouldn't embed here --- so if interested you'll have to follow this link. The illustration is just a screen capture. Nothing will be accomplished by clicking on it.
Evans refers, during the clip, to a lovely translation by Eugene Peterson in "The Message" of vs. 28-30 of the 11th chapter of the Gospel according to Matthew: “Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me — watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”
That poetic combination of words, "Learn the unforced rhythms of grace," is my favorite line this week from the realm of holyspeak.
Also interesting was this Time piece headlined, "Southern Baptists Strike a Different Tone than Catholics in Conference," contrasting the tones of two recent gatherings, the Extraordinary Synod of the Bishops called in Rome by Pope Francis and the Southern Baptists' three-day "The Gospel, Homosexuality and the Future of Marriage" get-together in Nashville.
Both were called to consider matters related to family and marriage, but the Rome conference was designed to address a variety of issues; the Baptist conference --- only the hazards presented by those wicked gay people. Although women, not unexpectedly, were marginalized at both gatherings, Catholic bishops were invited to speak their minds; Baptists, to toe the official line. In the end, America's bad-boy bishops and others skewed the final report from Rome away from graciousness, but still ....
Although I certainly don't want to encourage Catholics opposed to marriage equality, I've always had a bit more respect for the dilemma in that faith tradition. Most protestants have a rather low view of marriage, but in the Catholic realm, marriage is sacramental. The same can be said for Mormons, who add the concept of unions sealed not only for time but also for eternity. It's kind of fun to envision the elderly gentlemen at the head of the LDS church banging their heads against walls in Salt Lake City while trying to figure out how to fit same-sex spouses into that scheme of things.
Speaking of sacraments, here's Richard Beck's take on baptism as it relates to the fundamentalist/evangelical protestant concept of "born again," a somewhat puzzling process in which one "accepts" Jesus. As Beck points out, the only response to the Gospel prescribed in the Bible is baptism, which of course was the response adopted by the early church, carried forward by its Roman Catholic and Orthodox successors as a sacrament and followed, too, in much of what's today is called "mainline" protestantism but with a broader range of opinion regarding significance and consequence.
This also was the week during which noted Baptist theologian David P. Gushee officially "changed his mind" and came out as a supporter of the LGBT community and its quest for marriage equality and equal rights. You'll find a Washington Post piece by Gushee explaining his change of heart here.
This is significant because the most noted proponents of LBGT equality operating within evangelical protestant circles to date have been young men and women like Matthew Vines (Reformation Project), Jason Lee (Gay Christian Network), Rachel Held Evans and others. None of these good folks are trained formally as theologians, therefore considered dismissible by some, but Gushee is and therefore harder to dismiss.
It's always interesting to discover that outlooks quite often change after a family member comes out. In this instance, it was Gushee's younger sister.
Finally, here's a link to a piece by Fr. James Martin, a Jesuit, entitled "10 Things I Wish Everyone Knew about Jesus." Lots of food for thought here, too --- although "miracles" are not my thing.