Friday, June 17, 2005

Onward, Moderate Christian Soldiers

Good morning everyone! Just read this in the NY Times. It was so refreshing to read a point of view that I could actually support and agree with!
John C. Danforth is an Episcopal minister and former Republican senator from Missouri.

Onward, Moderate Christian Soldiers

It would be an oversimplification to say that America's culture wars are now between people of faith and nonbelievers. People of faith are not of one mind, whether on specific issues like stem cell research and government intervention in the case of Terri Schiavo, or the more general issue of how religion relates to politics. In recent years, conservative Christians have presented themselves as representing the one authentic Christian perspective on politics. With due respect for our conservative friends, equally devout Christians come to very different conclusions.

It is important for those of us who are sometimes called moderates to make the case that we, too, have strongly held Christian convictions, that we speak from the depths of our beliefs, and that our approach to politics is at least as faithful as that of those who are more conservative. Our difference concerns the extent to which government should, or even can, translate religious beliefs into the laws of the state.

People of faith have the right, and perhaps the obligation, to bring their values to bear in politics. Many conservative Christians approach politics with a certainty that they know God's truth, and that they can advance the kingdom of God through governmental action. So they have developed a political agenda that they believe advances God's kingdom, one that includes efforts to "put God back" into the public square and to pass a constitutional amendment intended to protect marriage from the perceived threat of homosexuality.

Moderate Christians are less certain about when and how our beliefs can be translated into statutory form, not because of a lack of faith in God but because of a healthy acknowledgement of the limitations of human beings. Like conservative Christians, we attend church, read the Bible and say our prayers.

But for us, the only absolute standard of behavior is the commandment to love our neighbors as ourselves. Repeatedly in the Gospels, we find that the Love Commandment takes precedence when it conflicts with laws. We struggle to follow that commandment as we face the realities of everyday living, and we do not agree that our responsibility to live as Christians can be codified by legislators.

When, on television, we see a person in a persistent vegetative state, one who will never recover, we believe that allowing the natural and merciful end to her ordeal is more loving than imposing government power to keep her hooked up to a feeding tube.

When we see an opportunity to save our neighbors' lives through stem cell research, we believe that it is our duty to pursue that research, and to oppose legislation that would impede us from doing so.

We think that efforts to haul references of God into the public square, into schools and courthouses, are far more apt to divide Americans than to advance faith.
Following a Lord who reached out in compassion to all human beings, we oppose amending the Constitution in a way that would humiliate homosexuals.

For us, living the Love Commandment may be at odds with efforts to encapsulate Christianity in a political agenda. We strongly support the separation of church and state, both because that principle is essential to holding together a diverse country, and because the policies of the state always fall short of the demands of faith. Aware that even our most passionate ventures into politics are efforts to carry the treasure of religion in the earthen vessel of government, we proceed in a spirit of humility lacking in our conservative colleagues.

In the decade since I left the Senate, American politics has been characterized by two phenomena: the increased activism of the Christian right, especially in the Republican Party, and the collapse of bipartisan collegiality. I do not think it is a stretch to suggest a relationship between the two. To assert that I am on God's side and you are not, that I know God's will and you do not, and that I will use the power of government to advance my understanding of God's kingdom is certain to produce hostility.

By contrast, moderate Christians see ourselves, literally, as moderators. Far from claiming to possess God's truth, we claim only to be imperfect seekers of the truth. We reject the notion that religion should present a series of wedge issues useful at election time for energizing a political base. We believe it is God's work to practice humility, to wear tolerance on our sleeves, to reach out to those with whom we disagree, and to overcome the meanness we see in today's politics.

For us, religion should be inclusive, and it should seek to bridge the differences that separate people. We do not exclude from worship those whose opinions differ from ours. Following a Lord who sat at the table with tax collectors and sinners, we welcome to the Lord's table all who would come. Following a Lord who cited love of God and love of neighbor as encompassing all the commandments, we reject a political agenda that displaces that love. Christians who hold these convictions ought to add their clear voice of moderation to the debate on religion in politics.

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Farewell to the Land of Morning Calm

In the tradition of Letterman's Top Ten List- note how I found more to love than to hate!

Things I WILL miss about Korea: (in no particular order)
1. Catchy K-pop music in the streets
2. Norebang (private karaoke rooms)
3. Poodles with dyed colored ears!
4. Plethora of neon signs
5. Color-changing bull's eye targets in bathroom urinals, "etiquette" buttons in the stalls.
6. Fun underwear stores
7. Cheap Korean liquor (soju, sansechun, baeksayju)
8. no comercials in the middle of the TV shows
9. quirky tea and coffee shops
10. FREE delivery! Dry cleaning, water, groceries, furniture, even coffee-amazing!
11. Great service even without the incentive of tips (tipping is not a custom here)
12. The dancing girls for business openings with matching outfits, kickin' it under a balloon arch!
13. The Han River in Seoul- with the bridges, lights, boats and the fountain. ahhh!

Things I WON'T miss about Korea:
1. Hawking (spitting loogees) in the street
2. Super spicy or bizarre food that do bad things to my system
3. TV that's way behind the current season (in the US)
4. Smelly drunk adjushis (old men)
5. Only three kinds of paper bills (1,000 5,000 and 10,000 bills)
6. Difficulty in phoning back home (time zones, bad connections, stupid phone cards)

Monday, June 06, 2005

Shoo-Fly Don't Bother Me

Since moving to Korea four years ago, I have signed up to get the New York Times delivered to my email box daily. It's free (I'm a big fan of free) and it's really kept me in the loop with what's going on in the US. Last week I read with interest a recent article (linked above to MSN) about fruit flies. Without going into specifics, the experiment leads one to believe genetics plays a big part in our sexual orientation. My first response was "well DUH" and I flipped on to the next article. Coming back to my apartment on the bus today I started to realize the full implications.

First of all, there's the Church. If it can be proved (and a growing body of scientific evidence supports this), then the Church has no argument to stand on. Gay people are creations of God as much as the rest of us with glasses, double-joints, dominant left-hands, premature balding, red-hair or color-blindedness. None of these things are "bad" so to speak and who would think of making a moral judgment based on having these traits? Just one thing about you that makes you slightly different than the rest. However if the Church admits they were actually WRONG about their rejection of homosexuality being God-given, this would lead one to wonder if they are as infallible as they would have us believe. In otherwords, don't hold your breath!

Secondly, if all it took to change a fly is changing one gene, how far are we from a cure for homosexuality in humans? Many years back, I got involved in a fun conversation topic-"If there was a cure-all pill, would you take it?" To be honest, I said "yes" emphatically and immediately. My life was confusing and complicated. I wanted desperately to fit in, no matter what the cost or who I hurt. Now however I'd like to think my answer has matured. What would be the point in changing what God has predetermined? To make family/friends/society more comfortable around me? To make me a "better" person? And what about my relationship of 3-years? How often does someone find an amazing person who loves you, warts and all? (Sidebar: I've always thought the ultimate metaphor for God is love, be it romantic,brotherly, filial.)

The fact of the matter is, I guess I'm pretty resigned to being gay by this point. In fact the Bible commands us to give thanks and praise to God for all things. And I honestly don't know who I would be if I had a surgery and woke up the next day straight. Would I still be me? How much is this part of my identity now?

I feel like it would be something akin to having all memories of Kansas removed from my brain and waking up the next day from California. Or nowhere in particular. I would be less somehow if I wasn't from Kansas. That's what makes me, me!
So that brings me back full circle to when I first read this pesky fruit fly article.
"Well DUH" -and Next!