The Least, First

Monte Asbury's blog

Archive for May 2009

Bible vs. homosexuality? Handle with care!

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UPDATE (June 4, 2009):  The 40-some page paper from the late 1990’s by Nazarene scholar/theologial J. Kenneth Grider, which is mentioned in the comments after this post, is now available here:  Wesleyans and Homosexuality by J. Kenneth Grider.  Grider, who died in 2006, taught at Nazarene Theological Seminary for 38 years, served on the translation committe of the New International Version (NIV) of the Bible, and wrote the 1994 book A Wesleyan-Holiness Theology. Many thanks to Lin Wells, who gave me a copy of the paper.

Further, my nephew Amos Patrick unearthed the link to Real Live Preacher’s exposition of the scriptures mentioned below: A Look at the Bible and Homosexuality. Thanks, Amos!


Caution Lights

Just how strong are those Bible arguments against gay marriage—and homosexuality in general—that we hear about?

It’s a critically important question.  Given  Jesus’ inclusion of despised people, seems like we’d want to stand on solid ground if we are to justify becoming ex-clusive.

In all the Bible, homosexuality is mentioned only six times—three in the Old Testament and three in the New.  And surprisingly, all of the six comments include tough challenges for Bible students.

Real Live Preacher sketches the problem in a challenge thrown down to those who would be judgmental:

Sit down Christian. You cannot wave your unread Bible and scare me because I know the larger story that runs through it beginning to end. […] I am your worst nightmare, a Texas preacher who knows the good book better than you do. Show me your scriptures. Show me how you justify condemning homosexual people.

Show me what you got, Christian. The Sodom story? That story is about people who wanted to commit a brutal rape. Let’s all say it together, “God doesn’t like rape”. You could have listened to your heart and learned that, Christian. Move on. What else you got?

A passage from Leviticus? Are you kidding me? Are you prepared to adhere to the whole Levitical code of behavior? No? Then why would you expect others to? Move on. What else?

Two passages – two verses from Romans and one from I Corinthians. There you stand, your justification for a worldwide campaign of hatred written on two limp pieces of paper. Have you looked closely at these passages? Do you understand their context and original language? I could show you why you don’t have much, but there is something more important you need to see.

Though few I know are involved in a “world-wide campaign of hatred,” RLP has, in a few quick strokes, revealed the dicey-ness of Bible verses often proclaimed as open-and-shut cases.

Have we done the work required to truly understand?  Do we risk over-ruling the example of Jesus—and driving away millions—by interpreting a tiny set of difficult verses through cultural preference rather than Bible context?

Those are mighty high stakes. Gonna take a lot of love to work this through. What’s your thought?

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In it but not of it (sermon for May 24)

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An older version

An older version - with the same problem!

My first regular job was in a small jewelry store in Burlington, Iowa. I was about 15, and I worked for the princely sum of $.65 per hour.  I’ll tell you about it in a moment.

First, listen to Jesus as he prays for his followers, just hours before the mob comes to take him to his death.

John 17:6-19 (NIV)
Jesus Prays for His Disciples
“I have revealed you to those whom you gave me out of the world. They were yours; you gave them to me and they have obeyed your word. Now they know that everything you have given me comes from you. For I gave them the words you gave me and they accepted them.

They knew with certainty that I came from you, and they believed that you sent me. I pray for them. I am not praying for the world, but for those you have given me, for they are yours. All I have is yours, and all you have is mine. And glory has come to me through them. I will remain in the world no longer, but they are still in the world, and I am coming to you.

That must have driven them crazy.

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Name 10 things the government does well

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A dear friend of mine left a challenge in a comment.  Here ’tis:

Other than the military, can you name 10 things that the government has done really well, better than the private sector?

It’s an important question, for skepticism toward all government (rather than reform of bad government) is not only common, but at the root of a couple of major political outlooks.  And because it’s important, it seemed worth a post of its own.

Here’s my quick response. Maybe you can do better:

You betcha. Off the top of my head, I’ll give you twenty, most of which are under-funded for the work they do:

  1. The FAA. Crashes are a rarity here, thanks to equipment safety tests and massively successful air flight controlling.
  2. Medicaid: private sector insurance companies make money by ditching their customers when they get very sick. Medicaid picks up the castoffs.
  3. Social Security: What if Mr. Bush had succeeded in privatizing SS before the markets crashed? Can you imagine how many old people would be working at WalMart, since their SS would have been cut in half? And did you know that before SS, thousands of older Americans simply starved to death?
  4. SCHIP: Healthcare insurance for children who would not otherwise have it – enormously preventive of school absence, long-term illness, loss of physical and mental development
  5. Read the rest of this entry »

The Mother’s Day Proclamation of Julia Ward Howe

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Mother’s Day began as a dream of Julia Ward Howe.  No fru-fru sentimental holiday was on Howe’s mind, but a challenge to the world to stop war and listen to the hearts of mothers.  Jonathan Klate shares this summary and Howe’s proclamation itself, courtesy of the Network of Spiritual Progressives.


Reaffirming Julia Ward Howe’s Mother’s Day Vision

Julia Ward Howe
Image via Wikipedia

Julia Ward Howe offered her Mother’s Day Proclamation to the world in 1870Her dream was the establishment of an international Mothers’ Day Festival dedicated to the cause of nonviolent resolution of conflict and international solidarity among all women.

Her pacifist consciousness had been provoked by the bloodshed of the Franco-Prussian War.  Her activism was cultivated in the struggles for abolition of slavery and the quest for women’s suffrage.  She had the proclamation translated into French, Spanish, Italian, German, and Swedish, working for the establishment of Mother’s Day in concert with women internationally celebrating peace and women’s empowerment.

Howe died in 1910, four years before President Woodrow Wilson officially declared the day in 1914 in response to the burgeoning success of the movement she inspired.  But Wilson avoided any mention of the thrust of Howe’s cause in his declaration, instead emphasizing only the nurturing “home and hearth” dimension of motherhood.  He also spurned the internationalist concern that was central to Howe’s consciousness, distorting this into American nationalism.

Howe’s central concerns, the universality of motherhood and its natural expression in anti-war sentiment, was excised from the official meaning of the day.

President Wilson proclaimed:  “Now, therefore, I, Woodrow Wilson, President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the said Joint Resolution, do hereby direct the government officials to display the United States flag on all government buildings and do invite the people of the United States to display the flag at their homes or other suitable places on the second Sunday in May as a public expression of our love and reverence for the mothers of our country.”

Compare this to Howe’s far more high minded vision, still so desperately needed in this suffering divided world. Here is the text of her 1870 Mother’s Day Proclamation, so prescient in its understanding, so courageous in its call, so plaintiff in its currency nearly a century and a half later.

Arise then…women of this day!
Arise, all women who have hearts!
Whether your baptism be of water or of tears!
Say firmly:
“We will not have questions answered by irrelevant agencies,
Our husbands will not come to us, reeking with carnage,
For caresses and applause.
Our sons shall not be taken from us to unlearn
All that we have been able to teach them of charity, mercy and patience.
We, the women of one country,
Will be too tender of those of another country
To allow our sons to be trained to injure theirs.”

From the voice of a devastated Earth a voice goes up with
Our own. It says: “Disarm! Disarm!
The sword of murder is not the balance of justice.”
Blood does not wipe our dishonor,
Nor violence indicate possession.
As men have often forsaken the plough and the anvil
At the summons of war,
Let women now leave all that may be left of home
For a great and earnest day of counsel.
Let them meet first, as women, to bewail and commemorate the dead.
Let them solemnly take counsel with each other as to the means
Whereby the great human family can live in peace…
Each bearing after his own time the sacred impress, not of Caesar,
But of God –
In the name of womanhood and humanity, I earnestly ask
That a general congress of women without limit of nationality,
May be appointed and held at someplace deemed most convenient
And the earliest period consistent with its objects,
To promote the alliance of the different nationalities,
The amicable settlement of international questions,
The great and general interests of peace.

Jonathan Klate who resides in Amherst, Massachusetts where he writes frequently about spirituality, compassionate politics, and the relationship between these two. Please feel welcome to forward.


web: www.spiritualprogressives.org
email: info@spiritualprogressives.org
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“I am the vine:” bearing fruit in a brutal world

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Urban poverty is common in developing countrie...
Image via Wikipedia

Tomorrow’s gospel reading is from Jesus’ “I am the vine, you are the branches” lesson.  It’s a beauty, about which we evangelicals can easily be moved to misty-eyed marveling.

But read along as Lawrence Moore begins his analysis at Disclosing New Worlds:

Vines, branches, fruit and pruning – and “abiding”.  This is one of those “purple passages” from John’s gospel that most of us know well.  It’s a time to expound parables of grafting, pruning, getting rid of excess foliage so the grapes are plentiful and fat, about feasting and celebration … and stuff about “abiding” that hovers constantly on the edge of twee and a bit precious.

Any tendency towards twee and precious should cause us to pause.  This world is a brutal, death-dealing place.  Most inhabitants of this planet live below the breadline.  The scale of global poverty is staggering; the magnitude of starvation is terrifyingly obscene.

What makes the statistics significant is not simply the scale.  The scale is tragic.  Yet if it was inevitable and unpreventable, that is all we could call it.  It is the fact that it is preventable that is significant.  The world has never been globally richer, nor has it ever produced more food.

Global poverty is not an accident but a deliberate human creation.  It is deliberate, not in the sense that we set out to cause starvation, but in that we build a global economy that gives those of us in the west a particular standard of living so that two thirds of the planet necessarily live in abject poverty.

Some tools utilized for pruning.

Image via Wikipedia

And “we” – the people with the power and decision-making ability – reckon that is an acceptable cost.  That is what makes the global statistics so obscene.

We in the West hold most of the world’s power.  We in the West hold most of the world’s money.  We could end starvation in a year.  We choose to try to get more power and money instead.

We’re busy fussing over government power or gay marriage or how we’d rather give through our churches.  And year after year, people die in droves.  Who is responsible for this holocaust?

If I were God, I’m afraid I’d begin pruning.  Maybe some other “branch,” if entrusted with the world’s riches and power, would get serious about bearing fruit.

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