Pastoral Musings from Rain City

it's about 'what is church?' it's about whether 'emergent' is the latest Christian trend or something more substantial. it's musing on what it means to live faithfully...in the city, in America, in community, intergenerationally, at this time in history...

Monday, January 23, 2006

Dear Reverend Ken: Enough already

The recent Seattle Times article regarding one of our local pastor’s call for a boycott of major companies (Microsoft, HP, Boeing) has been the talk of news radio and editorial pages for a week or so now.

What crime or crimes committed by this unholy corporate trinity have led to this? Are chemicals being dumped in our rivers? No. Are workers being exploited in sweat shop conditions? No. Racism? No. For some, perhaps just the fact that these are large multi-nationals would be crime enough, and yet that isn’t it either.

The problem you see, is that these three corporations want to make sure you can’t discriminate when hiring, and the good Reverend, backed by many conservative Christian organizations, is encouraging people to boycott in order to make certain that the right to discriminate remains in place.

And so once again I find myself putting my pastor suit in the closet, and putting on something else (maybe Seahawk Blue this week?) because I’m embarrassed by the association. I want to recover the dignity of the calling, want to infuse the words “Christian” and “Pastor” with associations that are joyful, just, generous, and forgiving. I want to – most days. But these spats of misfocused energy and misallocation of ecclesiastical power sometimes send me into a relapse.

The man is wrong on so many levels…

  1. First, there’s the issue itself, which I’ve addressed elsewhere (see July 4th by scrolling down on this link). I’ll see if I can get the teaching available for podcasting.

  2. Second, there’s the issue of our primary and secondary callings, as articulated by Jesus Himself. He takes all the complexity, all the power politics, all the theological posturing, and denominational complexities, and sweeps all of it away as just so much rotting waste. Instead, he offers this: Love God – Love People. How is threatening to boycott a company that wants to mandate all applicants be treated equally in any way close to the heart of Jesus’ teaching? And this from a man who should know better than the most about the price of discrimination.

  3. The early church was conspicuously lacking in political power of any kind (left or right) and yet somehow found a way to turn the world upside down. This was because she stood firmly on the ground of #2 above. This ground is fast disappearing in all corners of the religious world, as political power becomes the tool of choice for religious agendas. Pushing those who think differently than we do to the margins of the culture has no precedent with Jesus, though we’ve seen it done plenty of times throughout history in His name.
I think boycotting has a place. When workers get sixty cents a week to harvest a product and can’t afford to clothe or educate their children, perpetuating a crisis of poverty, I’ll look at a different brand of coffee. When shoes are produced on a similar wage scale, with a similar profit margin, and similar disregard for the well being of workers and the environment, I’ll just do it in a different shoe. These small actions won’t save the world, and every company, no doubt, falls short of the true moral high ground. Further, I’m complicate in the sins of the world every day, so that any boycott which creates an air of self-righteousness in me makes me uglier than if I just kept shopping. But for all that, I still think there’s a time to take a stand and say enough.

But today, I’m not saying ‘enough’ to Boeing and Microsoft. I’m saying ‘enough’ to Reverend Ken. Enough rhetoric. Enough inciting, intentioned or not, of self-righteousness. Enough creating division. Let’s try a different road. If the Samaritan could feed and clothe someone who was different than him, and he's held up as an example, maybe I can find it my heart to hire the best person for the job. I think it's what Jesus would do.

26 Comments:

At 23/1/06 10:35, Blogger lantius said...

heck yes.

 
At 23/1/06 12:28, Anonymous lisa page said...

Your healing words are a stark contrast to the hateful, fearful, misinfored, and degrading rhetoric coming from Rev. Ken and many of his followers. You, and people like you, help to soothe the wounds and bridge the divide created by Hutcherson and his ilk for many of us in the gay, lesbian, and transgendered community. This hatred will be exposed for what it is, and soon will be replaced with love. I must believe it's so!

Thank you Richard!

Thank you!

 
At 23/1/06 17:14, Blogger Patrick McClure said...

Thank you Pastor, glad to hear you are feeling well too, and Go Seahawks!

 
At 23/1/06 18:38, Blogger MountainPowerLineman said...

I heartily agree. Love God, and love your neighbor. I often wish we could all focus more on that core value. I have seen too many people judge those whom they have no right to. I wish we could all find it easier to display that love that God wishes us to display. After all, aren't they supposed to know that we are Christians by our love?

 
At 23/1/06 20:19, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Goodness gracious! If Pastor Richard isn't careful, he'll start sounding like a progressive Christian...and you KNOW where that leads. Next, he'll be suggesting that the bible isn't to be taken literally, or gawd forbid, infallible--YIKES! I say, kill all the shellfish eaters...it's an abomination, after all.

 
At 23/1/06 21:03, Blogger Pete said...

Richard...its great to hear these thoughts, and to be reminded that, yes, our duty is to love God and love others. God Bless.

 
At 25/1/06 08:30, Blogger Adam said...

Bravo; lol @ anonymous above.

 
At 26/1/06 16:51, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I agree that Richard is healing wounds, and it is wonderful. I agree with this post 100%. But let us not make statements as if Richard is endorsing the gay, lesbian, and trasgendered lifestyle. I have never heard him do that. I have only heard him remind his flock that Jesus teaching was to love each other. Jesus did not tell us to lift up, celebrate and ignore what is forbidden or written in His law. Jesus fulfilled the law, but the law is still in place. Why should I feel like I'm being "intolerant" to say so?

 
At 26/1/06 17:17, Anonymous lisa page said...

Dear Anonymous,
No one here is claiming that Richard has endorsed any said "lifesytle".
However, you must realize that many people have very different interpretations of what the bible has to say about homosexuality. Reasonable people can disagree on this matter. It's very important to not make up your mind regarding this issue in a vacuum, it's important to put it into the context of relationship. Relationship that is with a gay or lesbian person. Get to know them and your opinion about whether or not is it sinful may not change, but how you go about applying what you believe may.
As to why your statement feels "intolerant" I could never say. But we would all do wise to recall that each of us falls short of the grace of God, and yet we all remain His children.

 
At 26/1/06 19:55, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I know I strayed from Richard's message on this one. And I don't mean to take this in a different direction. I just need you to know that I know, and am friends with lots of gay/lesbian people. Maybe my "tone" doesn't come through in e-mail, because I love them as much, and in some cases more than my non-gay friends. But at the top of my list of who I am, I am a Christian, and my gay friends know this and love me regardless. I love them "regardless" as well. This mutual respect is a beautiful thing, I think. But I believe they are wrong, even though I love them. And they know I feel this way. My love for them cannot be changed by what they do/who they are. So, I guess I'm saying, don't judge me that I don't have any gay friends when you have no idea. I love them and weep for them, just as they weep for me in my hopeless human state. And back to the topic of this specific post; Richard is right...the boycotting of companies simply makes Christians look petty and self-rightous. And I believe self-rightousness is connected to the biggest of all sins: Pride.

 
At 26/1/06 20:03, Anonymous Anonymous said...

will Bethany be sued if they won't hire a gay person at the church? Should they be?

 
At 27/1/06 11:15, Anonymous Anonymous said...

That's a loaded question and not really the point of the legislation. The way I understand the wording the bill, it wouldn't apply to religious non-profits like churches anyway.

Besides, isn't it more likely that an organization who actually treats homosexuals with respect will be *less* likely to get sued by them?

 
At 27/1/06 13:44, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well in Canada the rights of pastors have been taken away to read the verses from the Bible that prohibit homosexuality. No one in this hemisphere ever saw that coming...so why would America be far behind? In other words, if the government in a democracy across the border from us can prohibit the speech of a pastor as "hate speech" when they are simply reading from the Bible...why would it be far fetched to imagine our government imposing hiring practices to churches and non-profits as it can/does to Boeing or Microsoft? On your last point; I don't think most people are advocating a move toward treating people with any less respect.

 
At 27/1/06 15:56, Anonymous lisa page said...

Anonymous, though there seem to be several of you and it's getting confusing.

Canada doesn't have our bill of rights. Nothing about this legislation or even hate crimes legislation limits the right of free speech, and never will. As a lesbian I whole heartedly support dissent, even when I disagree.

To the other anonymous, I never meant to suggest that you personally don't know any gay or lesbian people, I wouldn't make that assumption. I was making a more general point to all readers. I'm sorry if you felt targeted.

Again, I must stress that reasonable people can disagree on what the bible has to say about homosexuality.

On another note, I was there this morning for the discussion and roll call on ESHB 2661. It passed, finally! I was struck by how hurtful and degrading many of the speakers were, fully aware that they were addressing a crowd of gay and lesbian people! Times like those, true colors really show through.

 
At 27/1/06 16:00, Anonymous lisa page said...

Oh, and regarding churches being forcedto hire gay and lesbian people, it's simply purposterous. And, why in the world would a gay or lesbian person want to work in a religious environment that wouldn't welcome them?!

Religious organizations and employers with less than 8 employees are exempt from this legislation, and have been exempt from similiar bills (regarding discrimination on the basis of race, etc.) for a very long time without legal challenge.

 
At 27/1/06 16:31, Anonymous Anonymous said...

from the anonymous that supports the bill:

I thank you, Lisa, for kindly clarifying the obvious. :-) (not sarcasm - I really mean that!) It passed... Cool!

 
At 27/1/06 17:38, Anonymous Anonymous said...

you can only disagree about what the Bible says about homosexuality if you decide to re-define what words mean. What the Bible says about love, and loving everyone, regardless of what you agree or disagree about with them is clear. Just as clear as what it says about being homosexual. There's too much here of wanting to be two things at one time...and you can't do that! ...Although...with my hypocracy on some things...I am just as guilty.

 
At 28/1/06 16:23, Anonymous lisa page said...

To the anonymous who doesn't seem to support this bill...

I spent more time thinking about your question, about Canada, and rights on speech, and religious freedoms. Perhaps instead of answering your question I should have addressed the real issue. The underlying issue here, I believe, is an effort on the part of those opposed to gay-rights to promote unfounded fear and doomsday scenarios. I've heard countless claims that this bill will lead to open acceptance of beastiality and pedophilia, even the destruction of marriage. First, beastiality and pedophilia are clearly not consensual arrangements between two adults, it's exploitive by it's very nature. This would never be deemed legal and certainly not acceptable. Second, gay and lesbian families will always exist, denying the rights, priviledges, and protections afforded by marriage only serves to put our children and families at greater risk. Risk of poverty in the event of the death of a parent (social security is only transferrable between spouses), risk of poverty (even when same-sex spouses are eligible for health insurance it's counted as ordinary income and we pay taxes through the nose on it, it's pretax for spouses), risk of separation when health matters arise (I've heard many stories of same-sex partners not being able to make crucial decisions for their partners in the event of a medical emergency). These are the real risks.

I'm just sick and tired of people turning the tables on this issue. Presenting it as the minority imposing our morals on the majority. The only time this bill would ever affect anyone who disagrees with homosexuality is if they were attempting to force their morals on a gay or lesbian person.

To those of you at Bethany who support this, I thank you from the bottom of my heart. We may not agree on everything, but our support and love for one another despite our differences is what strengthens our community. Feeling loved and welcome in our church community is a very precious thing for me. Thanks again!

 
At 29/1/06 14:41, Anonymous Kristin said...

Lisa,

AMEN! Absolutely agree!!! Your words are eloquent, intelligent and insiring. You are loved and welcome at Bethany, and we are lucky to have you. Thank you for your continued courageous contributions. And thank you again to Richard for your words and your spirit as well. Together, I believe we can show love and peace within our chaotic and arrogant world, and it is indeed what Jesus would do.

 
At 1/2/06 11:25, Anonymous Anonymous said...

In response to Lisa's post regarding "doomsday scenario's". Her quote: "First, beastiality and pedophilia are clearly not consensual arrangements between two adults..."

I don't think any (or many) people that are "against" re-defined civil rights for groups of people based on sexual preferences (or, as I would imagine you would say, "in-born sexual identity")think that the next step in this debate is necessarily going to move to beastiality and pedophilia. But let's just take the logical next step, based on "consenting" adults. Should we allow brothers and sisters to marry? Fathers and daughters? Fathers and sons? Cousins? If they are "conseting adults", and they want to live their life married to their sibling, who has the right, based on your logic, to stop them?

There are things that are foundational to the existence of a civilized and sane culture. "Doomsday scenarios" may be what you call the behaviors you mentioned...but it wasn't too long ago that homosexuality was scandalous, and "hidden". I believe it should still be that way. People that struggle with homosexuality should be wept for and prayed for. I don't think people should be treated with contempt because they are gay. They should be treated with all the love Christ tells us to treat our neighbors with. But let us not forget that Christ is God...and God tells us very clearly what He thinks about sexual "sin". And to re-define what He says about sexual sin, to an issue of "hospitality", is a stretch and wishful thinking.

 
At 1/2/06 14:00, Anonymous lisa page said...

Anonymous,
I'm sure you would appreciate it if all of us homosexuals crawled back into our closets. That way you wouldn't have to deal with us as human beings and could rest peacefully with your opinions about how our lives should be. Scandlous and hidden to use your words.

But, I'm choosing life. You needn't weep for me. Weep instead for something really important. Such as 30,000 children dying each day from preventable disease. Our dependence on oil that thrusts us into endless bloody conflicts. Our willingness to label, villify, and isolate our neighbors. Weep for men like Ken Hutcherson who's mouth has become a tool of evil and serves to push thousands and thousands of people further away from the truth of a loving God.

You may continue to insist that there is only one way to interpret what the bible says about homosexuality, but I know better. The sin of sodom is referenced a number of times subsequent to the original story, and never once does it mention anything having to do with the type of loving, committed relationship that my partner and I share. There is sexual sin, to be sure, and I would never want to deny that. But I don't believe that my relationship falls into that category.

As for your questions regarding brother marrying sisters, etc., I would have to wonder how often that situation would arise, at least in a consentual context. I'd venture to guess it's not even close to approaching 5% of the population, or even .005%. Do you seriously see this conversation going in the direction of beastiality? I merely brought it up to point out the obvious flaw in the arugment that many lay out as a way to provoke fear and to continue to oppress gay and lesbian people.

What did Jesus say about homosexuality? What did He say about judging others? What did He say about loving our neighbors? What did Jesus say about pride, humility, wealth, and poverty? What was Jesus' main message?

 
At 1/2/06 14:47, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Again, I agree with Richard's original post. And I think Pastor Ken is over-stepping on this. But to call Ken Hutcherson "evil" because he is calling the church back to--yes, BACK to--what it has always taught. And I think the church too often today talks about the Love part of God, and has forgotten about the judgement part. I love that Ken Hutcherson is "spouting evil". Once again Lisa, I will ask you to take your own advice and not judge until you speak with, or be-friend someone you are so intolerant of...like Pastor Hutcherson. Why don't you talk to him? Set up a meeting with him! I bet he'd meet with you. In the same way that you think people who disagree with the church "embracing" homosexuality need only meet some gay people and they'd change their mind. Please, look into what Mr. Hutcherson has done that is good. Like starting an adoption service that is free to people who want to adopt. He feels adoption has turned into an evil business that is similar to the trading/buying/selling of human beings. That is a good, noble cause. If only you'd get to know Ken, instead of ripping him without knowing him, Lisa, maybe you'd change your mind. Just like you want everyone else to change their mind and think like you. I can only pray it doesn't happen.

 
At 1/2/06 14:58, Anonymous Anonymous said...

let me re-phrase something from my last post: I wrote "I love that Ken Hutcherson is "spouting evil". That is not what I meant. "I love" should actually read "laugh at" the idea that Ken Hutcherson is trying to inform the culture about getting back to traditional family values, but HE is touting evil? Strange times we live in.

 
At 2/2/06 09:37, Anonymous lisa page said...

Anonymous,
I actually know quite a lot about Ken Hutcherson. I have in fact befriended people from his congregation and even attempted to listen earnestly to his sermons online. Furthermore, I never said that the man himself is evil, but instead that his mouth has become a tool of evil. I'm more famililar than you can know with his adoption work, and I think it's a great thing to do. As for him calling his church back, in a good sense, on this issue, I couldn't disagree with you more.

Also, I've never insisted that people think like me, to use your words. I've only engaged in this blog to share my experience. To have a conversation and point out how this issue impacts my life. A perspective that in my experience is largely missing in Christian conversations.

 
At 2/2/06 10:57, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ok. Can I ask where, in the Bible, you come to the conclusion that continuing in homosexuality is okay? I realize this is turning into a rather terse discussion/back and forth...but this is important stuff.

 
At 2/2/06 12:07, Blogger Richard Dahlstrom said...

I'm going to suggest, in the interest of making the conversation more personal, that Lisa and the annonymous person take the debate offline. I can be reached at coffee.dahlstrom@gmail.com and if you would kindly send me your e-mail address, I'll connect the two of you. This isn't about inhibiting free speech, and I'd be hesitant to ever remove someone's comments. But debate and the hammering out of doctrinal issues is often enhanced when there are real people involved (which is, of course, one of my main points w/ respect to the homosexuality debate within the church - as I encourage people to hold their convictions in the context of real relationships). The present tone will, perhaps change if annonymous becomes a person, and vice versa.

 

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