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Monday, June 20, 2016

ISIS: Who Will Rid Us of this Meddlesome Nation? Becket Speaks to America

A man walks into #Pulse, a nightclub that is intentionally welcoming to LGBQT folk. He is armed with a handgun and a Sig Sauer MCX rifle, and, apparently, hundreds of rounds of ammo. In the narratives released so far, he proceeds, by fits and starts over an extended late night period, to murder 49 people and wound some 53 additional folks.

While on his rampage, he speaks with 9-1-1. In one of his three calls, he pledges allegiance to ISIS.

Later, we learn

  • that he had scouted this location; 
  • that he had used gay dating applications or websites; 
  • that his former wife suspected he was gay and that she heard his father call him gay; 
  • that he was incensed when, with his three year old son, he witnessed to men kissing in public; 
  • that he had been the subject of FBI investigation at least once (after making threats against co-workers); and 
  • that, when he recently sought to purchase ammo and body armor, he was denied and reported to law enforcement.

Was he a radical Islamic terrorist? Was he a self-loathing and closeted homosexual? Was he just a whacko?

If you need to be spoon fed the conclusions, just monitor the White House, DOJ, and FBI websites, they will tell you what to think.

So far, what they've told you to think is that there was no direct connection to ISIS, no evidence that his actions were "ordered" from abroad.

Okay. Am I to be comforted by that story?

Let me answer this way.

In 12th Century England, Henry II of England appointed his friend, Thomas Becket as Chancellor. When the opportunity created by the death of the Archbishop of Canterbury arose, Henry named Becket to that additional post. Henry's design was that he could consolidate power over the Catholic church if the principal prelate of England were "his man."

A dispute subsequently arose over the power of the Crown courts to try clergy for crimes. The immediate context was that a cleric alleged responsible for a murder had been acquitted by an ecclesiastical court. Great public outcry led the Crown to take advantage of the moment and insist that the Church acquiesce in a civil trial.

Becket refused. Instead, he stood with the authority of the Church to try its own. When two other English bishops disagreed and consented to this shift in power, Becket interdicted them. As personal risk grew great, Becket fled to France.

Henry and Becket made up, it seems, when Henry was in France, and Becket returned to Canterbury. While still in France, Henry learned that his restored friend refused to lift the interdiction of the bishops or to tolerate the assertion by England's civil courts over Roman clergy. In a rage, it is reported that Henry cried out:
"What sluggards, what cowards have I brought up in my court, who care nothing for their allegiance to their lord. Who will rid me of this meddlesome priest."
Taking the king's words as a command, knights took it upon themselves to confront Becket. He would not relent. When he refused to relent, they slew him on the alter of the church.

In the circumstance of the time, Henry had a thing politicians call "plausible deniability."

He didn't, it seems, mention murder or death, nor did he instruct anyone to execute Becket. He was better situated than that. He had the kind of men surrounding him whose hearts were inclined to run ahead of the king's commands and meet his needs.

Hard to relate to?

Maybe or maybe not.

If you've ever been out to dinner and noticed that your beverage glass is replenished without request, you recognize that there is a kind of servant of need that doesn't wait for need to be stated, or for the giving of instructions on how satisfaction to be given.

The murderer Mateen -- self-loathing gay or clever straight, devout Muslim or radical Islamic terrorist or madman -- didn't receive orders from ISIS (or Hamas, or al Qaeda, or the Taliban). What cold comfort that is for the hundreds of family members binding up the wounded minds and bodies of the lucky shooting survivors! What solace it must offer to the bereaved!

I think not.

ISIS has 20,000 to 35,000 armed militants (the commonly reported number dating to late 2014) or 200,000 militants (the number asserted by certain Kurdish leaders). Neither end of that range begins to illuminate just how terribly dangerous Mateen's actions show these times to be.

We are, for the most part, untouched by the acts of 20,000 or 200,000 ISIS soldiers in Iraq and Syria. Certainly, we know that we need not send to see for whom the bell tolls, that the deaths of so many touch us in a way.

But those far-flung battlefield deaths do not touch us as do the murderous rampages of Orlando, San Bernardino, Chattanooga, Fort Hood. For these acts are taken by those among us. Those who live with us, and, as in Fort Hood and San Bernardino, who work with us. Or, as facts have developed in Orlando, by those that dance with us and go clubbing with us.

And yet "no connection has been made between the shooter and ISIS."

Does ISIS have to quote Henry II before this administration realizes that the instructions of radical Islamic terrorists abroad could not be more clearly given to radical Islamic terrorists at home? What must ISIS do for this administration to come to terms with this mortal enemy? Must they send telegrams or Instagrams or Tweets to particular wolves among us, naming particular targets among us for the Obama collective to grasp the fact that ISIS is not just waging war against Iraq, against Syria, against Israel (after all, why else would it call itself the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant).

As surely as Henry II caused the death of Becket by his plaintive cry in the hearing of willing hearts, ISIS has placed a contract on America through its messages.

In fact, we know that ISIS is waging war against social services workers (San Bernardino), military recruiters (Chattanooga), soldiers and civil servants (Fort Hood), and members of the LGBQT community (Orlando). The simpering foolishness that comes from Obama, in a televised tantrum over the insistence that he call these attacks instances of radical Islamic terrorism, shames him and embarrasses us. The nonsensical and now failed effort to shield from public view the direct evidence of radical Islamic terrorist motivation evidenced in the remarks of Mateen shames Attorney General Lynch and embarrasses us.

But I've been embarrassed and survived. You probably have survived embarrassments too. The problem with Obama's pandering pedantry is that it produces results that are NOT survivable. Results such as being ventilated by a madman with a gun. It is past time, hopefully not impossibly past time, for the insanity to end. All our lives may depend on it.

Sunday, June 19, 2016

How the Church Built the Argument for Marriage Equality ... Pill by Pill and Condom by Condom

One of the arguments made by the LGBQT community over the question of marriage definition risks resembling a jeremiad from a Church father against the Church contemporary. Supporters of traditionally defined marriage invoke the important aspect of marriage to the stability of how children are reared, to the interest in creating a legal framework within which couples conceive and bear children. From that view, marriage is about as related to same sex relationships as are fish to bicycles. Because simply by saying that I may offend, I mean that in our current biological state, a physical act of union might occur in three separate kinds of two-person couplings: between two men, between two women, between a man and a woman. Despite popular headlines about a transgendered man giving birth, which involved a biologically female person that identified as a male, only the male-female couple is independently capable of fecundity. Men only in a physical act of coupling never become pregnant. Women only in a physical act of coupling never become pregnant. So, essentially, this particular argument against redefining marriage reflected the erection and maintenance of social and legal structures to assist the fecund in procreating, bearing, and raising children. The LGBQT community offered several answering arguments. For example, they argued that, with sperm donation, artificial insemination, and adoption, gay couples and lesbian couples too could become the parents of children needing the supporting social and legal structures of marriage. Of course, much offense -- whether intended or not, well-founded or not -- was created when traditional marriage advocates contended that recognizing and normalizing same sex marriage would institutionalize a harm for children, namely that they would be denied thereby the best possible outcome by being denied a stable, opposite sex couple as parents. Another argument made by the LGBQT community for recasting the institution of marriage was that, de facto, society had already has recast marriage. By that, they did not imply that society redefined marriage to include same sex couples. Rather, they meant that society had opened marriage to include opposite sex couples that were not physically capable of producing, or even possibly likely to see, offspring result from a physical act of union. Think of it: we have elderly couples -- who meet in Senior Living communities -- falling in love and marrying. But the wife will have long since passed menopause and be infertile and for the husband, unless the little blue pill or its variants are available, the ability to successfully conduct the unitive act is likely to be substantially degraded. We have scarlet fever victims who marry -- just as George Washington -- whose illness was, effectively, a biological vasectomy. And we have survivors of uterine and ovarian and testicular cancer that marry, even though they can never produce offspring. Yet society was not asking Fred if he had been mechanically castrated by a farm accident or Wilma if she had survived ovarian cancer but had lost her ovaries. In these circumstances, society was testifying that procreation was no more than "a part" of the reason for marriage, and, indeed, not so significant a part as to insure that there was at least a biological possibility of producing offspring.
One argument that I never saw in the long battle over same sex marriage was that society had also testified loudly and proudly against this very interest by helping to develop, to widely distribute, and to make moral the use of artificial contraception to control fertility. Yet, and I realize again that I may be stepping on toes, by the widespread teaching and availability of artificial birth control, by its acceptance in churches, by its use in marriage, they do exactly that. They testify to a certain perspective, namely that marriage isn't always, or even principally about, fecundity and the bearing and rearing of children. Some who've read this far will suspect that I am foisting a falsity on them, the falsity being that there was ever a time when churches generally agreed that artificial contraception and abortion violated God's design for marriage. It's a funny thing, that. A thing becomes so commonplace that one disputes that another condition -- the absence of that thing -- ever existed. For example, I recently saw a Tweet from a knucklehead who queried in a Twitter post why old push button home phones had a hashtag ("#") key, when Twitter wasn't even invented until 2006? Well, in much the same way, Christian folk who are not versed in the history of our society nor in the teachings of the church over time may suspect that, setting aside the rather bizarre Roman Catholics, all other Christian denominations had always recognized that artificial contraception was an important tool for married couples. The fact is that, until very modern times there was little dispute amongst the denominations about the nature and purposes of marriage, and that, as such methods became available, the use of artificial contraception struck a defiant note against God's design. Let me take an aside here. Do you enjoy C.S. Lewis? Perhaps his Chronicles of Narnia, or some of his nonfiction? I'll start with an honest confession. I have read **some** C.S. Lewis, specifically Mere Christianity, The Great Divorce, and Mere Christianity. I also read his Space Trilogy, Out of the Silent Planet, Perelandra, and That Hideous Strength. Here's the confession, I tried and tried to read The Chronicles of Narnia, but I just never was captivated by them as I was with his Space Trilogy or with J.R.R. Tolkien's Ring Saga. But I loved Lewis' Space Trilogy, loved it and read and re-read it.
The last book in the trilogy is, essentially, apocalyptic literature. It speaks of a great confluence between forces of good and forces of evil. I recommend the trilogy for a good summer read, and I heartily recommend That Hideous Strength. In That Hideous Strength, there is a scene that relates to my musings here. Allow me to relay it to you: As the forces of evil and of good are separately drawing together and organizing, both look to the rediscovery and reintroduction into Britain of the legendary Merlin, of the Arthurian legends. In Lewis' version, Merlin, not dead, lies buried and awaiting a re-awakening. Evil believed that Merlin would join forces with it, but that reflected Evil's failed misinterpretation of history. Merlin seeks out and finds Good. It is in the finding of the fellowship of Good that the scene I have in mind occurs. Merlin is in the company of the man that leads the Good and that, like he, is part of an ancient order. As they are speaking in an ancient language, one of the book's protagonists, Jane, comes into Merlin's presence. Merlin discerns a truth about Jane, a youngish, and fairly recently married woman. That truth is that she and her husband have deliberately avoided conception of young in their physical couplings. Lewis leaves no doubt that Jane and her husband unite sexually. An earlier passage in the book pokes fun at how little time it takes for that shared activity to be completed and her husband to be soundly asleep. So, this wasn't a couple on the outs, withholding from one another in physical relations. Rather, as Merlin discerned the matter, this was a deliberate defiance of the Creator's plan. Lewis wrote the passage thus:
"Up to the first landing they were in darkness; on the second and last the light from the first floor fell.
"Looking down on them from the balustrade were two men, one clothed in sweepy garments of red and the other in blue. It was the Director who wore blue, and for one instant a thought that was pure nightmare crossed Jane's mind. The two robed figures looked to be two of the same sort. . . and what, after all, did she know of this Director? And there they were, the pair of them, talking their secrets, the man who had been dug up out of the earth and the man who had been in outer space. . . . All this time she had hardly looked at the Stranger. Next moment she noticed his size. The man was monstrous. And the two men were allies. And the Stranger was speaking and pointing at her as he spoke.
"She did not understand the words: but Dimble did, and heard Merlin saying in what seemed to him a rather strange kind of Latin:
"Sir, you have in your house the falsest lady of any at this time alive."
And Dimble heard the Director answer, "Sir, you are mistaken. She is doubtless like all of us a sinner: but the woman is chaste."
"Sir," said Merlin, "know well that she has done in Logres a thing of which no less sorrow shall come than came of the stroke that Balinus struck. For, sir, it was the purpose of God that she and her lord should between them have begotten a child by whom the enemies should have been put out of Logres for a thousand years."
"She is but lately married," said Ransom. " The child may yet be born."
"Sir," said Merlin, "be assured that the child will never be born, for the hour of its begetting is passed. Of their own will they are barren: I did not know till now that the usages of Sulva were so common among you. For a hundred generations in two lines the begetting of this child was prepared; and unless God should rip up the work of time, such seed, and such an hour, in such a land, shall never be again."
"Enough said," answered Ransom. "The woman perceives that we are speaking of her."
"It would be great charity," said Merlin, "if you gave order that her head should be cut from her shoulders; for it is a weariness to look at her.""
So there you have it, Jane and her husband, though fecund in the strict sense of capacity, had made themselves barren.

Nor was theirs a conscienceless coupling like rabbits. The backstory reveals both a church wedding, and an intimate recall on Jane's part, at least, of the vows she spoke.
I mention C.S. Lewis for my Christian friends who may think what I am saying about artificial contraception is solely a matter of concern for Catholics, and doesn't reflect a teaching common to Christian churches in any era of church history. While C.S. Lewis enjoyed a great friendship with the Catholic author Tolkien, Lewis was no Catholic. He was, however, both a Christian, and a learned man. My surmise is this: the controversial Lambeth Conference of Anglican Bishops of 1930 admitted for the first time that certain circumstances might warrant artificial contraception and avoidance of pregnancy in a Christian marriage. The Lambeth Conference was highly controversial and both the product of and instigator of conversation about human sexuality and marriage. When Lewis published the Space Trilogy the 1930 Conference was just fifteen years past, certainly it was even more recent while he was in the process of writing the series. Lewis followed the Lambeth Conferences. We know that he did. He wrote a letter to the 1948 Conference on the topic of admitting women to Anglican priesthood. I think Lewis perceived the moral error of Lambeth, of teaching that salting the womb could be a moral right. And so, when the unleashed terror of holy judgments -- Merlin -- is restored to life and perceives the self-inflicted infertility, he simply states what is, to him, obvious. Here there is a gross moral imbalance.
Now, do I think you should draw your moral theology from, or solely from, the fiction of C.S. Lewis? Hardly. The point of the story's use here is Lewis' use of the commonplace recognition of God's role in the marital bed and procreation, and the offensiveness of asserting an essentially atheistic autonomy in the face of what had been designed by God. Returning to the topic on which I began writing, there are vials and vials of expended bile in the word wars between those that support and those that oppose expanding the definition of marriage to include same sex couples. I haven't seen, however, any acceptance of (im)moral responsibility on the part of churches and Christians for their own abandonment of God's marital designs and their own personally justified rebellions against God's purposes in their lives. I suppose that if Churches and Christians hope for a revival and reversal of fortunes in the land, they might begin with profound repentance to God for turning away from Life's door the living gifts they rejected in contraception and abortion. Until they do, they will always be weakened by their own insistence on defiant autonomy.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Requiesce in pace, mi anime

Let's not pretend.

Some blame the AR-15, a rifle that was NOT EVEN present at the scene.

Some blame all ISLAM, when all ISLAM was not at the scene.

Some blame a public display of affection, two men observed kissing in a time and place where the killer saw them do so.

Some blame the killer's latent homosexuality, his conversion to radical Islamic jihad.

Some blame churches for creating a culture where violence against LGBQT folk is acceptable.

What matters?

Forty-nine dead humans.

Perhaps some were gay, after all ‪#‎Pulse‬ was a place were the owners intentionally created an environment welcoming to LGBQT folk.

We know many were Latino or Hispanic.

Yet every one of them was ... human.

Some have posted on here that the greatest crime of these murders is that in killing these people at that time, Mateen was sending their souls straight to Hell.

What the hell?

You sit in the judgment seat of Christ? You sifted the hearts and reins of men?

What matters is that these deaths robbed us all.

Yes, I know it robbed us of some part of our sense of safety and security. Followed by word of an as yet to be released list of 8,000 Americans targeted by ISIS, it was bound to have that effect when the shooter took the time out of his murderous spree to call 9-1-1 and state a pledge of loyalty to ISIS.

But that isn't the robbery -- of our safety -- to which I refer.

Yes, I know it robbed us of the peace we enjoy -- to the extent we do -- both in the murder and in the vile disputations that follow. Not just a disgusting tirade by the President, but disgusting tirades from at least pulpits in which "Christian" pastors celebrated the deaths of those killed.

But that isn't the robbery -- of our peace -- to which I refer.

No. These deaths robbed us of those lives lost.

I didn't know anyone of those who died. Yet, I know everyone of them. They are my brothers and sisters, my sons and daughters, my fathers and mothers. They are my neighbors. They are my co-workers.

Oh. Yes. I saw photographs of the inside of #Pulse. I know it was a bar. I know there is every likelihood that many of those killed were LGBQT folk. I didn't love them more for their sexual identity. Nor did I love them the less for it.

I loved them as I love every man and every woman, because early in my fractured, broken and disreputable walk with Jesus, I learned a truth that I find easy to hold onto because of my own overpowering brokenness: each of us -- the poor, the rich, the criminal, the upstanding citizen, the black, the white, the gay, the straight, the Catholic, the Protestant, the Jew, the Sikh, the Hindu, the Muslim -- is the object of God's love and affection.

Now it is enough to suffer the sorrow of these losses, to mourn with those who mourn. To bind up the brokenhearted. To walk alongside the fearful.

Another day is sufficient to continue conversations and collisions over guns, over radical Islamic terrorism, and over the questions our society confronts as LGBQT folks stand up for themselves in the matters of how they choose to live.

When those days of argument and collision come, I hope that all involved can bear in mind that the "others" with whom they engage are, like the lives we lost this weekend, made worthy of decent and respectful treatment because they are too the objects of Creator God's love and affection.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Attorney Strangio Blames Orlando on the Church: Though Wrong, His Charge Warrants Self-Examination

An ACLU attorney, Chase Strangio, who works on LGBQT issues for the organization, tweeted his accusatory tweet, laying responsibility for the Orlando Massacre at the feet of churches in the United States. You can read Chase Strangio's tweets, including his no more than 144 character indictment of the church on his Twitter profile. I've linked it here.

I don't agree with his indictment.



There is something I would ask you to think about in the light of his accusation.

The Holocaust did not spring fully formed from Adolf Hitler's head, as Athena did from the head of Zeus. Rather, there preceded the Holocaust more than a century of continuous invective, bile, recriminations, and remonstrances against Jews in the journals, papers, and broadsides of Germany. By the time Hitler developed a Final Solution, the people of Germany were conditioned to view the Jews as a problem that cried out for a solution.

I've mentioned before the devastatingly detailed examination of the rhetorical conditioning of the German people for the eventual Holocaust conducted by Professor William Brennan, Professor of Social Work at St. Louis University. His analysis helps illuminate how an otherwise "decent" people could become the fount of horror that Nazi Germany became. Again, I just want his idea that language can condition the mind to miss the humanity in others to linger in your head.
Let's go back to ACLU attorney Chase Strangio. He is just as unable to prove the assertion he made as anyone else currently is to prove Mateen acted out of self-loathing, or that he acted as a Jihadi -- his telephonic statement a contrary signal marker of seeming reliability.

But suppose I don't want to prove Strangio wrong ... or right.

Suppose I just want you to hear is a caution: the LGBQT community sees and hears what Christians do and say, and finds in it, at some level, personal hostility above and beyond what I would hope Strangio could, in turn, recognize to be concerns for the protection of deeply held beliefs of long-standing about topics like marriage.

While Fred Phelps and his cultic Westboro Baptist Church are the clumsy, misshapen blade of hate, I have seen -- in my own life, expressed in my presence, deeply vituperative and hateful language about LGBQT people. Whether you agree with Phelps -- and you celebrate the deaths of Gays and Soldiers as proof of God's righteous judgment -- or whether, with me, you are stunned at the breathtaking temerity of those that speak as though they were God's Appointed Executioner, surely you understand that how we speak of others  today can be just as dangerous as the Nazi regime proved it could be?

I'm okay with you disagreeing with me.

I'm okay with you deleting me for your false perception that I am agreeing with the charge Strangio has made. I think it's worth taking the time to ask, each of himself, How Jesus-like am I seen to be by those who need to see Jesus in me?

If your retort is that Steven L. Anderson's version of Jesus is just fine with you ... dancing on the not yet dug graves of young men and women ... well, I just don't see Jesus in that, or in your dance. I hope you'll reconsider.

If you are among those that are cheering Chase Strangio's indictment of the church, I hope that you find the toleration that you indict the church for lacking.