Friday, September 18, 2009

Mark Tooley: See 4(b)

JERK
Pronunciation: \ˈjərk\
Function: noun
Etymology: probably alteration of yerk
Date: 1575
1 : a single quick motion of short duration
2 a : jolting, bouncing, or thrusting motions b : a tendency to produce spasmodic motions
3 a : an involuntary spasmodic muscular movement due to reflex action b plural : involuntary twitchings due to nervous excitement
4 a : an annoyingly stupid or foolish person b : an unlikable person; especially : one who is cruel, rude, or small-minded
5 : the pushing of a weight from shoulder height to a position overhead in weight lifting

Sometimes, people can give church renewal a bad name.

Since Mark wrote me a letter and addressed it "Dear Sky," I don't have any problems being a bit casual with my remarks. And since I cannot abide "liberals" or "conservatives" who take things out of context, here is his letter in its entirety:

September 18, 2009

Church Officials Start to Acknowledge
Persecution of Christians by Radical Islam

Dear Sky,

Would you believe that liberal church officials are actually starting to speak out about radical Islam and persecution of Christians?

Yes, it’s quite amazing, and good news certainly. The recent ravaging of two Pakistani Christian communities, resulting in scores of burned homes and 7 dead Christians, has sparked distress. A bishop from The Church of Pakistan also recently visited offices in New York for the National Council of Churches, the United Methodist General Board of Global Ministries, and the Episcopal Church, igniting statements of concern from all.

The
statement by United Methodist West Ohio Bishop Bruce Ough, as president of Global Ministries, was especially good. Encourage him with a supportive email, thanking him.

And here’s
my article, quoting Bishop Ough and others.

This Pakistani bishop especially expressed alarm about his country’s Blasphemy Law, which makes illegal any criticism of Muhammad or the Koran. Angry Islamist mobs exploit the law to create rumors about Christians and then to attack them. Theocratic laws forbidding criticism of Islam are common throughout Muslim majority countries and are often aimed like a knife against vulnerable Christians and other religious minorities.

But typically, left-leaning church officials say nothing about persecution of Christians by Islamists. They prefer to think of Christianity, and the West, especially the U.S., as the persecutor, and Muslims everywhere as only victims. Liberal church officials often prefer apologizing for the Crusades of 1,000 years ago rather than recognizing today’s injustices. The outrages in Pakistan seem to have aroused some new concern. Let’s pray the Holy Spirit will water and grow this concern for persecuted Christians!

Of course, most of the Religious Left will remain silent about persecution of Christians, whether by Islamist or Marxist regimes. The Religious Left prefers its usual political themes, such as attacking capitalism as a cosmic threat to Planet Earth. A group of Presbyterian and Congregationalist theologians from around the world recently convened to issue their denunciation of free markets as the supposed tormentor of the poor.
Here’s my article.

Which has sustained more poverty in the world? Free markets and protection of private property, or state control and corruption of markets? Tens of millions of previously poor people in the Global South, especially in India and China, have escaped centuries of poverty and experienced relief thanks to the former. But the Religious Left prefers its own ideology, to reality and traditional Christian thought. Unfortunately, at least if you are a Mainline Protestant, the Religious is often funded by your donations to your local church!

Please continue to pray for our churches, for the persecuted church globally, for our country, and for IRD’s ministry of church reform. Your contribution allows IRD to report and to speak about what is happening in our churches. Your gift of $25 will help us continue. Please easily donate here.

With appreciation,


Mark Tooley
IRD President

It is a weird letter that at best congratulates leadership in a backhanded way while still labeling them and getting in the Talking Head-Like-Jab that seems to be so obligatory these days.

Rude: "Would you believe that liberal church officials are actually starting to speak out about radical Islam and persecution of Christians? Yes, it’s quite amazing, and good news certainly."

Small minded (and broad generalization): "But typically, left-leaning church officials say nothing about persecution of Christians by Islamists. They prefer to think of Christianity, and the West, especially the U.S., as the persecutor, and Muslims everywhere as only victims. Liberal church officials often prefer apologizing for the Crusades of 1,000 years ago rather than recognizing today’s injustices." What a liberal use of generalization, and right out of the Liberal's handbook at that!! Take Stephen King's advice about words like "typically": use adverbs sparingly. (A sense of humor helps too).

Sarcastic: "Of course, most of the Religious Left will remain silent about persecution of Christians, whether by Islamist or Marxist regimes. The Religious Left prefers its usual political themes, such as attacking capitalism as a cosmic threat to Planet Earth." Good grief, give that tired old jab of hyberbole a rest.

Pretty close to a lie: "But the Religious Left prefers its own ideology, to reality and traditional Christian thought. Unfortunately, at least if you are a Mainline Protestant, the Religious is often funded by your donations to your local church!" Just about anyone could refute several parts of that. Better learn some qualifiers, Mark, like "some" or even "most." The problem with generalizations is the same problem when you assume; it definitely makes an "ass" of "u" and "me," Plus, there's a comma splice in there too.

I tried being a liberal - and found it weak on doctrine and continuity of faith. I tried being a conservative - and found the same thing. This power struggle between Left and Right is becoming a game the United Methodist Church cannot afford to play anymore. More to the point: the people in the pews are getting tired of it, and are no longer impressed. We need less liberals and conservatives and more radicals, in the radicalness of Jesus.

Here's a generalization I'll make after attending four General Conferences, one of them as a delegate:

The Left: Lacks a lot on tradition and theological consistency. Bad technology geeks. Great meals and hospitality.
The Right: Holds (selectively) to tradition and theology. Great technology geeks. Bad food, and lacking in hospitality.

If you want to do the cause justice, Mark - encourage good behavior and validate it, rather than mock it. Your tactics have their place and work well for politics and rhetoric and CIA-type deception and propaganda... but I suspect they are suspect when it comes to the Kingdom of God. The ends never justify the means.

In short, Mark, if you want to make a difference, be kind. Be charitable. Don't be a clanging cymbal. Love is never rude or boastful. That goes for all you liberal lefties out there, too... as well as my own self; I know that I can be a jerk too.

God forgive me. And God forgive all of us for making His Kingdom an ideological playground.

Pax,
Sky+

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Added Cast

I just thought of new cast members for the UMC movie:

Mark Tooley as Sean Hannity.
Jim Winkler as Chris Matthews (or Arianna Huffington)

Just a thought for fun.

Monday, September 07, 2009

Dividing By Zero

You know, division in the United Methodist Church is, in essence, almost like dividing by zero. In mathematical terms, it is an expression that has no meaning. In practical terms, it cripples us. About 12 years ago, a divide by zero error on board the naval cruiser USS Yorktown (CG-48) computers brought down all the machines on the network, and their propulsion system failed. It stalled out over a weekend while in port.

My Labor Day was pretty quiet until I got a phone call from an old friend regarding something he had read about the United Methodist Church. I told him what our denomination's stance was on the issue and said he must have misread the article. So then I looked it up... and I owed my friend an apology.

For a long time, my denomination has been in a power struggle: left versus right. Or, to use dirty (and now meaningless) words: "Liberal" and "Conservative." Church liberals now want to be called "progressives." I am sure the church conservatives will be thinking up a new label for themselves before too long to keep up.

Every General Conference, we "fight" over homosexuality. And every General Conference, we keep things basically the same (the vote margin is getting maybe a little larger). But neither side ever wants to let it go. More importantly, neither side seems to CARE that while trying to win this argument, the church is hemorrhaging - numerically, spiritually, and financially. In essence, whether intended or not, regardless of what side we stand, we have made homosexuality a juggernaut and idol. Our love for or against the argument has gone from concern to ridiculous. As if we can blame the hemorrhaging of the UMC on homosexuality!

This article has been posted by the General Board of Church and Society. It is entitled "Sex and the Church: Adolescent Sexuality," and while there were certainly some good points in it, there were some that were indefensible. A great point was this:
Parenting style can make a big difference in teenagers’ sexual decisions. In homes where parents talk to their teens about their sexuality values and have regular discussions about sexuality, their children are more likely to delay having sexual intercourse.
And then there is this quote:
More than 15 years ago, I developed a framework for a moral sexual relationship. I believe, based on my more than 30 years as a sexuality educator and now as a minister, that a moral, ethical sexual relationship — whether one is married or single, 16 or 35 or 80, gay, bisexual or straight — is defined by five criteria: It is consensual, non-exploitative, honest, mutually pleasurable and protected, if any type of intercourse occurs.
So if the General Boards don't like what the denomination decides about itself, it'll just stick our noses in what they think is right and rub it in until we get it right? As a pastor who vowed to uphold the Discipline, how can I teach one thing about United Methodism and then have an official agency of the church teach something at variance with it?

Of course, the other side is no better. While not an official agency of the United Methodist Church, one poster of a bulletin board gives the article this moniker: "GBCS - Sex, Church and Rock and Roll." Like a lot of titles this gentleman gives his news articles about the UMC, it's at best a half-truth and more like gossip (I mean, where was the Rock and Roll!?).

If we were to make a movie, I think the Confessing Movement could be played by Fox News and our Boards and Agencies could be played by CNN. Ugh.

Of course, I'm probably contributing to the cause by giving both of these sides any press at all. When faithfulness and honesty won't work, there's always slander, talking heads, and sensationalism. Ever watch or listen to the news? We certainly get our attitudes and strategies to deceive honestly! We can be good at bullying people and try to slam them into submission. It strikes me as odd sometimes that some of those who push inclusivity the hardest seem to be the ones who are the least tolerant of those different from them.

Why does the American Church LOVE to mirror U.S. politics? Why do we pick one side, hate the other - when neither side holds a monopoly on truth nor is free from sin (and picks and chooses their whipping boy sins at that)? It would make a whole lot more sense to be on the Lord's side. But that's just not politically correct - for either side.

Jesus wasn't liberal or conservative: he was radical. That means he *issed just about everyone off around him because he did what God wanted Him to do, not what society or any group expected. I heard a judge once say that when she made a decision of law in court that didn't make either lawyer happy, she knew she'd made the right decision.

Conservatives often (not always) seem to be lacking in grace. Liberals often (not always) seem to be lacking in accountability. Both understand covenant in THEIR terms, but not necessarily in God's terms. Life in the Body of Christ can be wonderful. But it is often messy. I know that my house doesn't clean itself.

From now on there will be five in one family divided against each other, three against two and two against three. They will be divided, father against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother, mother-in-law against daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law. - Luke 12:52-53
Jesus didn't come to make us happy or justify "our side." He came to set us free. Why fight it?

Pax,
Sky+