A woman and a man were walking down a busy, noisy city sidewalk when the woman suddenly stopped and said: “Did you hear that songbird singing?” The man said: “Are you crazy, who could hear a songbird singing with the sound of jackhammers, car horns, and people yelling all around us?” She looked around at the people walking passed them and nobody seemed to notice. She replied: “But I heard it clearly.” Then she reached in her purse, took out a handful of coins and dropped them on the pavement. Immediately, the passersby all stopped, got on their knees, and began picking up the coins. The woman turned to the man and said: “We hear what we learn to hear.”

And that brings us to the parables we have as this Sunday’s Gospel lesson from Mark 4. I’ve heard numerous sermons on these two parables over the years. I’ve read many commentaries about what they mean. I have to conclude that most get it wrong. I did, too, for the longest time. After all, “we hear what we learn to hear.” Since most of us we’re raised in an American culture that worships the almighty self, we learn to hear things through that filter. When hearing something new, we filter it through our cultural shaping, which is individualistic and self-oriented. We can’t hear the proverbial songbird singing, because all we hear is the sound of coins clinking on the pavement.

So, when we read the Parable of the Growing Seed or the Parable of the Mustard Seed, we tend to place ourselves at the center of both parables. In the Growing Seed, its the seed of faith growing in us, which eventually grows into a full grain at the harvest (our resurrection). In the Mustard Seed, it’s smallest of all seeds growing in us, but even though it’s small, eventually it becomes a substantial tree by the time we’re resurrected. Notice how the self is at the center of both parables. The problem is: That’s not what Jesus says. Inconvenient that. Read both and you’ll hopefully hear what he’s saying.

Jesus says the seed is God’s Kingdom growing and not the seed of faith in us. In both parables, humanity isn’t in control. Yes, in the Growing Seed the sower scatters, but then she takes a nap, heads to the gym, does her business’ books, and then picks up the kids at carpool. All the while God’s Kingdom is growing, but she “knows not how” (4:27). And in the Mustard Seed, God’s Kingdom is this seed, which defies appearances and grows beyond expectations. We had no role in it becoming the “greatest of all shrubs.” We’re merely the blessed knuckleheads that get to nap in its shade (4:32).

But our culture has taught us that we should have a more prominent role. Don’t we have to toil, sweat, and from our cleverness and productivity produce the harvest of the Kingdom? It must depend on us because it’s all about us, isn’t it? Sure, go ahead and believe that. Yet, that’s not what Jesus says of the Kingdom, whose harvest comes about by God’s grace and not our mistaken merit, no matter how clever or productive we are. Our role is simply one of “praise and thanksgiving” as the Eucharist tells us. We’re the blessed knuckleheads that get invited into the shade of God’s restful grace. And there are lots of other knuckleheads out there who’d be amazed to learn that there’s a God who’d bring about such grace. Let’s show them what that looks like.

+Scott

 

Later this month the Supreme Court of the United States may make a definitive ruling on what many call “marriage equality,” that is, whether same-sex couples will have the same rights and responsibilities as heterosexual couples in legal marriage. To me, this is a basic issue of justice and civil rights under our Constitution. Two people, provided they’ve reached the age of majority, should have the right to choose to whom they wish to be married. And I pray that’s how the Court will decide.

The Episcopal Church, however, has a different standard and set of expectations when a couple enters into Christian Marriage as this Church has received that sacrament in our tradition. So, in the Church we aren’t primarily discerning justice and civil rights, but the theology and doctrine of Christian Marriage. It’s one thing to support justice and civil rights for all, but it’s another thing to contemplate changing how the Church understands her sacramental theology. Of course, The Episcopal Church significantly changed its theology of marriage about 50 years ago when we allowed remarriage after divorce. This sacrament, which had been understood as life-long, was now not necessarily so. Since that time, a divorced person can remarry in the Church, provided the Diocesan Bishop grants the required petition. With divorce so prevalent these days, very few people question the wisdom of the Church’s action then. So, we’ve changed our sacramental theology rather recently. The question remains: should we change it again?

My hunch is that everyone in our Church has different standards for what they see as acceptable sexual behavior. For example, how about consensual premarital sex? Is it OK after one becomes an adult, but not before? How about once one is engaged, but before the wedding? What about retired couples who, because of social security and pension reasons, see marriage as out of the question? Is it OK for them? If we’re honest with ourselves, we didn’t answer all the above questions the same. Yet, the traditional answer for all of them is “no.” In other words, we each have our own line that can’t be crossed, but it’s our line, and not necessarily God’s line.

We’ve already declared that a priest of our Church can bless same-sex relationships in God’s name. I wholeheartedly support such blessings and I see such blessings as an analogous, yet distinct good, from the practice of Christian Marriage. It’s similar, but it’s not the same. An example of analogous, yet distinct goods is the orders of ministry within the Church (laity, bishop, priest, deacon). Each share vocational virtues, but each is still distinct, offering particular charisms for building up the whole Body of Christ.

About the same time that the Supreme Court issues its ruling, our Church’s General Convention will gather in Salt Lake City. There, we’ll prayerfully debate and then discern what we believe God is calling us to do in terms of same-sex marriage. I don’t perceive there’s a consensus in our Church for one particular way forward. There are strong convictions on all sides concerning this discernment. But, because we tend to resolve hard questions like this by majority vote, my guess is we’ll in some way resolve this question in such a manner…at least for the next three years.

+Scott

 

Our Anglican tradition provides us with tried and tested practices that, if lived into, profoundly shape our discipleship. These spiritual practices, or disciplines, are specifically enumerated in what’s often called a Rule of Life. Such a Rule provides coherence and shape to our daily lives. The consistency created by a Rule creates space for us to rest in God, to listen in obedience to God’s word for us, and thus to be open to the continual conversion of our life so it may be lived, as St Paul says, “not for ourselves, but for Christ Jesus.” So variety, novelty, and surprise aren’t helpful in a Rule. They’re the last things we need. When such things don’t distract us, we have the capacity and space to listen to God, which is a needful thing if we’re to live as disciples of Jesus.

My friend, Fr Ken Leech, loved to tell the story of Fr Neville who was a long-serving chaplain at a theological college in England. Fr Neville was quite committed to his Rule of Life and its spiritual discipline. His Rule shaped the whole of his life and ministry. He was much loved by the college’s students and faculty for his gentle demeanor and good humor. While they found him to be a bit of an odd duck, they cherished and valued his witness to them of a life given over to God. Every afternoon, part of Fr Neville’s daily spiritual practice was to take a nap from 2 pm to 4 pm. Regardless of what was going on in his life, in the life of the college, or in the life of the world, at 2 pm he’d stop whatever he was doing, retire to his quarters, and take that nap.

One morning, the dean of the college received an urgent message that the bishop of the diocese needed to see him that very afternoon. This presented the dean with a dilemma. He was hosting a visiting bishop from Africa and this bishop was scheduled to speak and then to lead a symposium for the entire student body and faculty that afternoon. The dean couldn’t stand up the bishop (hear, hear!), so he went to Fr Neville and asked him to host the visiting bishop for the rest of the day, introduce him at the symposium, and close the gathering with prayer. This visiting bishop was scheduled to speak at 2 pm.

Fr Neville readily agreed to stand in for the dean. The dean, much relieved, made plans for his trip to the bishop’s office. That day after lunch, Fr Neville met with the visiting bishop, and after a good visit during which they became acquainted, he escorted him to the auditorium for the symposium. Fr Neville welcomed the students and faculty, gave a warm and thoughtful introduction of the esteemed visiting bishop, and as the bishop came to the podium, Fr Neville quietly excused himself and went to his quarters to take his nap. He arose, as was his custom, at 4 pm and returned to the auditorium just in time for the symposium to conclude. He stepped to podium, thanked the visiting bishop for an outstanding presentation, and closed the symposium with a prayer.

While I’ve always found this story “laugh out loud funny,” I’ve also appreciated what it’s taught me about my own spiritual practice. As Jesus helped Martha see in Luke 10: 40-42: We are worried and distracted by many things; there is need of only one thing.” Jesus knows us better than we know ourselves, doesn’t he? A Rule of Life helps us all to create the capacity to choose what Jesus clearly called “the better part.”

+Scott

 

On NPR’s Marketplace recently their reporters dealt with stories of economic transactions and how different types have profound effects on people’s lives. The first story was romantic. A young man sits one seat away from a young woman at an NBA game in Milwaukee. His friend is sitting between them and, while his friend chats with the young woman, he hardly says a word to her. His only memory of her was she was wearing an Indiana University sweatshirt. Then weeks later, the young man is at the Detroit airport waiting for a flight. He sees the young woman in the same IU sweatshirt. That causes him to recognize her. They talk recounting how they met at the game. When the plane boards, they wish each other a nice flight thinking that’s it. But they end up sitting next to one another on that flight. They talk for the whole flight, exchange phone numbers, and long story short: They’re now married with a child. “It was meant to be, the young woman said. They’re transactions involving game tickets, flights, and especially buying that IU sweatshirt, led to their life together.

The second story was about a family’s long desired vacation to Hawaii. They research and plan for months. They book a condo, flights, and a rental car for the week. Right before they leave, they learn that the husband’s mother is dying. She has just weeks to live. They readily cancel their long anticipated vacation to be with her. They’ll lose most of their non-refundable flight costs. They can cancel the rental car with no penalty. The condo agreement, however, clearly states that a late cancellation would require them to forfeit the week’s rent. The wife emails the condo owner explaining why they must cancel. The owner writes back saying he’ll return all their money. He tells her his wife was diagnosed with ALS last year. He knows they’re grieving. He’s been moved by the compassion others have shared with his family. The wife whose mother-in-law was dying said she was overwhelmed by a total stranger’s kindness. It transformed her life. She would now treat others similarly in the future. If that family had never transacted for the condo, then they never would’ve had this profound experience.

The Marketplace story saw these two stories to be about transactional grace,” which is really oxymoronic. The first “transaction” wasn’t about grace. It might’ve been about coincidence, or even providence, or as is said in The Princess Bride, “true love,” but no one sacrificed anything except the money to buy game and flight tickets and that sweatshirt. While it’s a beautiful story, there was no personal cost” to the two people involved. They simply took advantage of the opportunity the transactions provided.

The second transaction is about grace. For grace always requires an intentional sacrifice. The condo owner knowingly sacrificed his entitled rental fee even though he could’ve kept it. If there is no intentional sacrifice or cost, then there is no grace. We should understand grace that way, because it will help us fathom just how amazing it is, both with the graces we offer and receive in our lives and with God’s Grace freely given us in Jesus Christ. And once such “costly grace (to use Bonhoeffer’s phrase) sinks home, we’ll want to practice such grace with others, not as a quid pro quo transaction, but as the way God has called you and me to live in this world.

+Scott

 

Since we’re now in Ascensiontide (you can look it up), I’m reminded of one of my favorite icons of the Ascension: The disciples are gathered in a circle with their eyes gazing into heaven. And just at the top of the icon one can see just the feet and ankles of Jesus as he ascends. That icon serves as a cautionary tale for the Church. We can spend much of our time figuratively looking into the heavens. We can focus so much of our energies on the fine details of liturgy or the intensity of committee work that we fail to look out at a world that’s dying for the Gospel of Jesus. There’s an old Johnny Cash song that sums this up well. It’s called “You’re so heavenly minded, you’re no earthly good.”

Now there’s nothing wrong with looking into the heavens. We all need time for rest and retreat so we might gain wisdom and perspective on our lives. The temptation, however, is to stay there. As long as we look up, we don’t have to look out for one another. We don’t have to deal with the hard work of human community. With our eyes to the heavens, we can honestly report that we can’t see the pain and struggle of others.

That’s why, I believe, those two men approached the disciples as Jesus disappeared from their sight. They pointedly asked the disciples: “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking up toward heaven?” Nineteen Centuries later, Bishop Frank Weston asked a similar question as he addressed the Church of England at the height of the Industrial Revolution. He asked: Can we claim to worship Jesus in the Church if we do not show Jesus compassion in the street? Can we worship Jesus in the Sacrament of his Body & Blood while we are ignoring Jesus in the suffering of his sisters and brothers?

A poem written by the Orthodox nun, Maria Skobtsova, illustrates this charge. She practiced and lived radical hospitality in her ministry in Paris during World War II.

I searched for thinkers and prophets who wait by the ladder to heaven,
see signs of the mysterious end, sing songs beyond our comprehension.

And I found people restless, orphaned, poor, drunk, despairing, useless,
lost whichever way they went, homeless, naked, lacking bread.

There are no prophecies. But life performs in a prophetic manner;
The end approaches, the days grow shorter; You took a servant’s form — Hosanna

When the Nazis invaded, Jews began coming to her convent in Paris to get baptismal certificates, which she gladly provided them to fool the Nazis. Later, many came to live in her convent and she helped most escape. Eventually the Nazis closed the convent and took her to a prison camp in Germany. On Holy Saturday, 1945, just days before the war’s end, she was executed. As Maria suggests in her poem, we can wait by the ladder to heaven for all sorts of “signs, thinkers, and prophets.” But if we do, we’ll miss the restless, the lost, and the despairing ones. Our Lord’s Ascension proclaims to us that you and I have the privilege of leaving the safety of our church buildings to follow Jesus into this beautiful, yet broken and hurting, world he so loves. 

+Scott

 

 

Human nature is so faulty that it can resist any amount of grace and most of the time it does.
The Habit of Being: Letters of Flannery O’Connor

When I was reading again some of Flannery O’Connor’s letters the above quote hit me like a 2×4 up the side of my head. “Yes,” I said out loud (and I usually don’t speak out loud when I’m reading). Ms. O’Connor’s insight into human nature and God’s grace has always walloped me. We resist grace because it comes to us not on our own terms. In a culture that rewards achievement and merit, grace makes no sense. Thus, we rebel against it as if it were foreign to our experience, which of course it so often is. We can’t earn it. We can’t claim it as our own. We can’t rationalize receiving it as a just reward. It’s a pure gift from God through Jesus Christ in which we must trust.

One of Ms. O’Connor’s characters in her short story, A Good Man is Hard to Find, says: “Jesus thrown everything off balance.” That’s what grace does. It throws “off balance” a world based on personal achievement or self-justification. And of all things, our cultural celebration of Christmas helps distort our comprehension of grace. I’ll explain. Let’s say at Christmas we receive a gift from someone from whom we didn’t expect to receive a gift. To our discomfort, we really love the gift. What’s our first reaction? Exactly: We didn’t get that person a gift of equal or greater value. Grace is the gift for which we can give nothing in return to even things out. That’s why “Jesus thrown everything off balance” is on point. Grace undermines our assumptions about how life should work.

Elsewhere Ms. O’Connor writes: “The operation of the Church is entirely set up for the sinner; which creates much misunderstanding among the smug.” The “smug,” the self-justifying, the pull-yourself-up-by your-own-bootstraps types don’t care much for grace. It doesn’t fit into their worldview of how things should be. They prefer to divide the world into worthy folk like themselves and others who are sinners. They’ll in most cases acknowledge their own sin, but see it as small potatoes compared to others. It’s easy to find someone else who’s a worse sinner. It aids one’s self-justification.

Ms. O’Connor writes in Everything That Rises Must Converge: “She was a good Christian woman with a large respect for religion, though she did not, of course, believe any of it was true.” While “the operation of the Church is entirely set up for the sinner,” often those who have “a large respect for religion” don’t believe the Church should really operate that way, because deep down, they refuse to believe in a God who would be that weak-kneed by letting sinners off the hook. Religion for such folks isn’t about the grace given to sinners through the cross of Jesus. No, for such folk religion is about controlling other people and making sure they follow the rules.

Trusting in God’s grace and practicing it with everyone else, changes us. Ms. O’Connor writes: “All human nature vigorously resists grace because grace changes us.” But when we let go of our resistance to God’s grace we’ll come to realize that such grace isn’t only God’s way of changing us, it’s God’s way of transforming the world into God’s likeness.

+Scott

 

As we live through the rapid change of our contemporary culture, some are fearful that Christianity is losing its traditional, privileged place. Demographers tell us that the fastest growing cohort is the so-called “nones,” those with no religious affiliation or particular religious practice. Those who are fearful about this development warn that the lost, privileged place of the Church’s faith will inevitably lead to a growing hostility toward Christianity. Every fear has at least a kernel of truth to it, so there’s reason for us to pay attention. But I don’t think fear about the changing nature of the culture is a faithful response, even as we pay attention to it. Fear is never faithful. All culture is highly elastic and, at least partly, cyclical. Historians look back and find times when particular social, religious, political, and economic conditions in one era were similar to those in another. That’s true of Church history as it overlaps with the larger cultural history. In every age then, the Church faces new as well as familiar challenges for how she will be faithful to the Gospel of Jesus.

I believe we’re in a similar time as to what the Church experienced in the 4th Century. Christianity then had a foothold in the culture, but it was by no means the dominant religion. The Roman Empire had grown vast, outgrowing its own power to govern and control that vastness. In the other words, the Pax Romana wasn’t what it had been. This resulted in great social anxiety as groups sought to blame other groups for why Rome wasn’t what it used to be. Some blamed the Christians. Others blamed the laxness of the traditional Pagan practices. What was evident was this: No one group was dominant or privileged in its ability to guide the culture. This was also the time of the great Church Councils of Nicea and Chalcedon. At these Councils, the Church struggled to define her own faith, identity, and practice. But even amidst the great debate within the Church, we continued to witness to the grace, compassion, and mercy of God. In the middle of the 4th century the Roman emperor Julian (later he had the moniker the Apostate” attached to his name, which, let’s just say, wasn’t a term he chose) wrote a sarcastic complaint about the Christians he observed: “These impious Galileans not only feed their own poor, but ours also. While our pagan priests neglect the poor, these hated Galileans devote themselves to works of charity.” 

The Church today is struggling, as we always have, to live out our faith, identity, and practice. As was true 17 centuries ago, today we’re not all of one mind on various issues. But that has never stopped the Church from its essential witness to the world’s redemption by our Lord Jesus Christ. We’ll need to continue to find ever more creative and effective ways of sharing and dispensing God’s grace to this beautiful, yet broken world, especially as it becomes more disinterested in or indifferent to the Gospel. So, I believe the truth claims we make about Jesus will never win the day if they’re limited to a “we’re right and your wrong” contest. I think the Emperor Julian (the Apostate) unwittingly showed us the most effective way: A steadfast commitment to sharing God’s unmerited grace with others, particularly to those who are lonely, lost, or left out in our culture, through specific acts that make tangible God’s grace in their lives. The old camp song has it so right: “They will know we are Christians by our love.”

+Scott

 

Change is Hard (eCrozier #260)

Change is hard. We resist it. I resist it. I prefer the familiar, the known, the comfortable. It helps me make sense of the world. I’m drawn to rules and routines because it reduces the level of chaos in my life.

Some rules, routines, habits, and customs are life-giving. They help shape our faithful living as long as they remain realistic and manageable, rather than become yet another piece of evidence of how we have failed to live up to some standard (our or others). When that happens, we can fall into the trap of unhelpful self-judgment leading to the downward spiral of self-condemnation.

This means that personal change, or what we in faith would call spiritual transformation, must come from the inside working of the Holy Spirit in our lives rather than from the outside critique of others. I know from personal experience that the changes I’ve made in my life and the spiritual transformation I’ve experienced never was aided by constant nagging from others or from their very willing desire to point out my many faults. Some “trolls” don’t just live in cyberspace. Such change and transformation, if it is to be real and lasting, comes from the inside out.

This is not to say that feedback from others should be ignored simply because it comes from outside of us. Those who love us enough to be truthful with us are indispensable partners in our personal and spiritual growth. We need to hear from them. While such feedback may not always be pleasant to receive, if we can avoid getting defensive, it can be an important ingredient in our work of personal and spiritual growth.

Even then, making a change in the way we live our lives, rather than displaying the pretension of change (see the New Yorker cartoon above), is still no walk in the park. If we fail (and often, we will, at least in our initial efforts), we can spiritually beat ourselves up and see ourselves as complete failures, which then reinforces unhelpful self-judgment. But if we succeed, we actually open ourselves to another danger of developing a self-righteous stance in the world. In effect we’d be saying: “See what I did! Why can’t

everyone be like me?”

Personal, spiritual change is hard. As we seek it, we should avoid connecting it to God’s grace-filled love for us. God loves us whether we make a desired change or not. This is actually the most liberating news we can receive. It can give us the grace and the courage to become what God desires for us.

+Scott

 

Sanctus bells have served an important role in the Church’s worship. Traditionally, they were a call for the congregation gathered to pay attention to what was happening at the altar. In a time before pews and when the mass length was much longer, Sanctus bells called people out of whatever distraction, or dare we say sleep, to give their attention to the Blessed Sacrament of the Church that was being celebrated at the altar.

Our culture receives the ring of a Sanctus bell from time to time to call us to attention. It can call us to a deeper awareness of the kind of culture we’ve nurtured over hundreds of years. Such a ring can also sound out a truth about ourselves we may not wish to hear (e.g. we’ve been asleep). We’ve received a number of clear Sanctus bells over the last year. Michael Brown, Eric Garner, and now Walter Scott were all unarmed African-American men killed by a member of the police force. They’re not the only ones. There are many others who have received less notice and media attention.

A simplistic response to these particular Sanctus bells would seek only to blame the individual police officers involved. They’re the few so-called “bad apples.” To solve this problem then means to get rid of these policemen. But that is akin to a physician treating a cancer in someone’s leg deciding just to cut off the leg and not look at the patient’s whole body for other signs that the cancer might be present as well. The cancer of racism has infected the whole body of America. For generation upon generation it’s infected us all with irrational fears and false conclusions about one another. It’s distorted and deranged our ability to see and understand clearly.

Police officers have a difficult, dangerous vocation. We can’t expect them to be social workers or clinical psychologists. They’re formed and shaped by the same culture in which we were raised. Their police training can’t trump the culture of racism. It’s too big and pervasive. They’ve become a reflection of the deeper problem racism creates. That helps explain what happened when Officer Thomas Slager of the North Charleston Police Department stopped Mr. Walter Scott for having a broken car taillight. Because of racism’s cancerous effects, each one “knew” something about the other. Mr. Scott “knew” of the historical power of the police to kill black men, even for a broken taillight. So, he fled. Officer Slager “knew” of the power of black men, even an unarmed one much older than he, to possibly kill him. So, he shot Mr. Scott in the back four times as he fled. What they “knew” about each other led to this tragedy.

Officer Slager should face criminal consequences for this murder. It will be overly facile, however, if we believe that’s all that needs doing. We must learn to “unknow” the distorted and deranged “knowledge” that racism has bequeathed to us. That’ll be hard work for us all, but it’s work we all must do. We haven’t done this work either because we didn’t want to believe it was still necessary or because we never believed it was necessary in the first place. I hope it’s the former and not the latter. Because if we remain willfully ignorant of what racism has done and is still doing to our body politic, we’ll ignore the cancer that infects us all. The Sanctus bell is ringing loudly and clearly.

+Scott

 

 

“Democracy is the worst form of government, except for all the others.”
― Winston S. Churchill

The states of Indiana and Arkansas have recently enacted laws purportedly to protect the religious freedom of their citizens. Some see these laws as back door efforts to discriminate against others, particularly gay and lesbian citizens. Other people see these laws as needed in order to protect their religious beliefs and convictions. So, through the democratic process we as citizens are trying to honor what may appear to be competing moral claims: On one hand, the right to practice one’s religion as one sees fit, and on the other hand, the right not to be discriminated against because of who you are.

But are these really competing moral claims? I don’t think so, not if we’re actually committed to honoring both. Yet, in order to honor both we must first acknowledge what’s happening. There are those who aren’t being honest about their real agenda. Some pushing for the religious freedom laws really do want to discriminate against gay and lesbian persons because they believe such person’s sexuality is against God’s law. But they feel they can’t get what they want if they present it that way, so they seek the cover of such laws. Then there are some who oppose these religious freedom laws because they really don’t want to protect religious beliefs with which they disagree. Laws that protect such religious belief, in their mind, will simply further legitimize that belief. But they, too, don’t feel they can get what they want if they present it that way.

Democracy is messy. Laws help sort through this messiness, but laws alone can never make us respect the dignity of all persons. Laws can make us behave within certain boundaries, but enacting laws will never be able to change our hearts and minds so mutual respect can flourish. Learning to honor the dignity of others, even those with whom we disagree, is the necessary first step. Otherwise people on the extremes will prevail. That means religious believers who are opposed to gay and lesbian person’s sexuality must insist that gay and lesbian persons won’t have their dignity abused by discrimination. Likewise gay and lesbian persons must respect people’s religious beliefs that lead them to oppose homosexuality. That means not calling such persons bigots or suing them when they won’t provide a service. Rather they should support the huge and growing number of service providers who will gladly provide that service.

People on the extremes will oppose this. Depending on their views, what I’ve proposed will lack either a religious or a justice backbone. Both extreme positions demand complete purity and total fealty to their way of seeing the world. They are the Pharisees of the extremes. There’s a way forward that doesn’t capitulate to such Pharisees. It’ll require a critical mass on all sides of this issue to exercise genuine humility and to show remarkable restraint. This will lead us all toward an empathic compassion for those who disagree with us. Such humility, restraint, and compassion will invite us to recognize that each of us has a common human dignity imprinted with the image of God. God’s image is even present with those who we might find objectionable or offensive.

+Scott