Saturday, December 20, 2008

Inaugural Prayer by Rick Warren

Barack Obama has selected Pastor Rick Warren, author of "The Purpose Driven Life," to provide the inaugural invocation, or prayer to invoke God's presence among the proceedings. He could have made worse choices, and few are better served to Barack's purpose of being a president to all the people.

It is worth noting that few of Pastor Warren's Saddleback Church probably voted for Barack Obama. When the "Civil Forum" was held there, hosted by Pastor Warren and featuring separate conversations with Obama and John McCain, the crowd was seen as more in favor of McCain. This is Orange County, California, after all.

While Pastor Warren is known for being against gay marriage and in favor of overturning Roe v. Wade he is also known for being a preacher that speaks to the issues of protecting the environment, eliminating poverty, and a couple of other issues that most evangelical preachers don't give much attention to. This is Orange County, California, after all.

I have heard that the GLBT community would prefer that Pastor Warren not be chosen for this honor. I can understand why, but I don't join them in that effort. This country is not yet ready for gay marriage and to have some preacher up there that is out of the closet on the issue would be a divisive move. Barack Obama is not about divisiveness.

As I've said elsewhere, I am in favor of gay marriage, thinking it fair to give them the opportunity to commit to each other in the same manner as any other couple. It nauseates me when I hear, as Mike Huckabee does relentlessly, that the next thing after gay marriage is plural marriage, animal marriage, childhood marriage, and if possible, anything worse he could think of.

That all said, gay marriages will likely not be performed in the church I am a member of. Our congregation isn't ready for that and I don't want to slap some of them, especially the older folk, with this. I think time will turn the tide.

The plain truth is that in California, seen as one of the most liberal states in the union, gay marriage was voted down by a significant plurality. That is what democracy is all about. The country isn't ready for gay marriage yet, I guess. Jerry Brown is trying to overturn the vote, and I've got no issue with that, wish him luck in fact, but don't know that he'll get it done.

I do think gay rights will come to include marriage sometime in the near future. The youth of America are much more accepting of gay folk as they see more of them. The parallel of an African American president finally being elected after fifty years or so of growing acceptance and understanding by those that aren't African American, is pretty clear.

Gays have really only been mainstreaming for twenty, maybe thirty years, and in much of the country less than that. It takes time to turn public opinion and that opinion will turn. But I digress.

Obama's selection of Rick Warren is Obama trying to reach all people. Rick is highly respected in the evangelical community if not quite a Frank Dobson. Rick is also pretty well respected in the progressive Christian crowd because so many read and put to practice the principles of his book.

Progressive Christians can read a book by a less progressive writer and get what they want from it, while overlooking that which they disagree with. It's digging out the gold and tossing the dross. Conservative Christians aren't as likely to be able to overlook the minutia of theology, finding it necessary to ignore the totality rather than take in some of the bad along with the good. For this reason, Rick Warren is a wise selection for the invocation, all who are tuned in will fairly accept what he says.

But the question may be - how many conservative evangelical Christians will be watching the inauguration?

Anyone know a true conservative that is a happy camper with the Obama presidency?

I think we're all holding our breath to see how Obama actually handles the issues he's been dealt. So far, so good. A quick start is certainly in the works. I'm excited by the possibilities that are ahead as much as I am fearful of the economy and still ticked off by the Wall Street grab done behind closed doors.

Regardless of your perception of Pastor Rick Warren, I ask that right now you close the door to your room, take a private moment, and pray to God yourself for Obama to take his understanding and turn it into His wisdom, that the cabinet might work together towards successful ends, that God might bless this world with a sense of peace, and all those soldiers be safe wherever they are and keep us safe by means seen as acceptable by all but our enemies.

May the peace of our Lord with with us all!

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Flawed Theology

It came to me first from a young guy, a couple years out of college and working with the youth group that I'm also a leader of. Three of us adults were chatting as the group was gathering and I shared that I had recently read a wonderful book. "Blue Like Jazz" is a sweet read. I spoke that the main character, a young minister without a church who has found his way back to college, was broken, beautifully so and quite personally told, but also really in touch with God. The young teacher came back at me with, "Oh, that. His theology is terribly flawed."

Dismissed. Deemed unacceptable. Not worthy of further comment. I should note this young teacher is now at seminary.

Tonight I was chatting with another learned gentleman as we stood outside waiting for youth to arrive. We like to greet them and wave to the parents who mostly wave back. I had absolutely devoured the book "The Shack" on Sunday and, while I saw a few points that I couldn't embrace wholeheartedly, I truly loved the book. So I mentioned it to this guy and got "Heresy" and a shake of the head in response. And he hadn't even read the book.

Not to spoil it for anyone that might pick it up (and this won't), but the guy's problem with the book was that the Holy Spirit is depicted as an Asian woman, albeit a bit of an apparition. He had read this in some review. By his thinking, Jesus mentioned the Holy Spirit as a "he" and therefor the Holy Spirit is male.

I'll say maybe. Perhaps probably. But I don't care.

In the first place, Jerusalem at the time of Christ was male-centric and Jesus may well have been speaking of the Holy Spirit as male simply because that made it easier for his audience to understand. What if He had called the Holy Spirit an "it"? Probably closer to the truth. Doesn't matter.

Truly God and the Holy Trinity are beyond our understanding. It's kind of like insanity - the only people that are insane are those that are certain they aren't. In understanding God, I think the only ones that are certainly wrong are those that think themselves absolutely certainly right. We need to be like kids, in wonder and amazement, in our thinking of God.

As for the book, it's a work of fiction that paints a wonderful picture of the Holy Trinity with perhaps a touch of Buddhist undertones. I've got no issue with that. What I got from it was a better sense of the Trinity working together, a beautiful sense of their individual and triumvirate nature, their love for each of us, individually regardless of our flaws, and a desire on their part to let us know of that love.

Can there be anything wrong with that?

Now I'm feeling guilty for beating on these guys here. I do appreciate the intent both have with teaching others of God, and even more so wish them success, but I still think certainty of much beyond the basics is a dangerous thing. FWIW, I didn't back down in my conversation tonight, clearly stating that I had no issue with the Holy Spirit's feminine depiction, and I guess it came to a draw between us.

Fortunately, some kids came along and we had to say "Hi!" shake hands and wave to the parents as they drove away. It was, actually, a good night.

Oops. Another FWIW: In chatting with our senior pastor some time back he astounded me by saying that as churches grow, they usually start having problems about the time that they open seminaries. I didn't get it at first but his thinking was along the lines of faith needing to be shared personally and, given a lecture hall and all the pomp of teacher to pupil, that can get lost. Not does, but can get lost.

On the Sunday bulletin it notes our pastors by name and title, and I'm paraphrasing here as I don't have it in front of me but it also notes "all the congregation" as "pastoral ministers". Probably got both of those wrong but it really does come down to each of us sharing the word as we can, sharing the sense of God that we feel in our lives so that others may come to a sense of their own.

That comes from sharing the Bible to come to a rational understanding of the history of God. It also comes with sharing your life, your faith, your feeling. Without that, it's just another class. It's a bit different for each of us. That's OK.