Showing posts from April, 2017

Schism is Coming

Bishop Karen Oliveto meets with her accusers prior to the Judicial Council hearing that will rule her election illegal. In the end, it was--and will continue to be, to the bitter end of the due process--as Methodist a defrocking as could ever be. It was inevitable from the moment Karen Oliveto was elected to the United Methodist episcopacy by the Western Jurisdiction that the legitimacy of that election would be appeal to the Judicial Council, the denomination's highest court. The Council's duties parallel those of the US Supreme Court: it is the ultimate arbiter in disputes over the Discipline , a copious and often self-contradictory book of rules and regulations that is, to some Methodists, more significant than the Bible. The Discipline  can only be amended by the General Conference, a representative body of the entire global denomination that is equal parts clergy and laity, and which meets quadrennially. If the General Conference met more often, perhaps the Judicial C

Our First Atheist President

He certainly likes to show off executive orders. Congratulations, Bill Maher. Your lifelong dream has come true: the United States of America has an atheist President. Of course, Maher, being a principled atheist, will insist that Trump's lack of knowledge of or interest in religion does not make him an atheist. The President is not actively anti-Christian; much to the contrary, he insists his faith credentials are as legitimate as anyone who's occupied the Oval Office. He has to: evangelical Christians are a large part of his base. During the election, he actively courted their votes, reaching out to readers of the Christian Right who, after endorsing him, sought to downplay his obvious discomfort with fundamental Christian values like charity, mercy, and tolerance, not to mention his long record of marital infidelity and sexual assault. He'll get us the Supreme Court, they said, and that means overturning Roe V. Wade, protecting religious homophobia, revivi

But Is It Blasphemy?

"Believe me!" It's hard to know where to begin. I mean...ew. Just...ew. But seriously, let's start with the provenance of this piece Two days ago it went up on a Twitter feed attributed to Tiffany Trump, but most likely a fake. It was accompanied by this prayer: Dear Lord, I pray in the Mighty name of Jesus, that you would give Donald J Trump wisdom and that you would protect him and fill him with Your Spirit and help him to withstand the fiery darts of the enemy. Now, in and of itself, there's nothing remarkable about such a prayer. The language is consistent with evangelical prayers for politicians perceived to be friendly to conservative Christianity, up to and including a nod to the opposition that associates them with demonic forces. Associating it with this picture--which, I learned from a quick Google search, has been in circulation at least since January, long before the faux Tiffany Trump turned it into an Easter tweet; though I was u

If the Prefix Fits...

This... ...or this? I'm looking for a word to describe a freak of politics. It'll be a word that combines elements of other words in a clever, ironic, or satirical way. The technical term for such a word is "portmanteau," which describes a word that, through such a combination, creates a new word, often describing something that was not around for previous editions of the dictionary. A prime example is "motel," a word combining "motor" and "hotel" that would have had no meaning, nor reason for existing, prior to the proliferation of the automobile. (And yes, I know a portmanteau also describes a sort of hybrid suitcase that opens up into a mini-wardrobe, hence the picture at the top of the page.) But "portmanteau" may be too mild a word for what I have in mind, since we are, after all, about to discuss a truly Gothic monster of a political phenomenon. That's why I'm leaning more toward "chimera," a

Making Feudalism Great Again

Trump's closest historical antecedent. There is broad consensus among both supporters and detractors of the Trump regime that the President's slogan--"Make America Great Again"--is an appeal to nostalgia. Ah, for the good old days, when men were men, women knew their place was the kitchen and the boudoir, and people with natural (as opposed to tanning booth) pigmentation stayed on their side of the tracks. Since coming to office, though, Trump has been evoking good old days far older than the 1950s. He's styled himself an autocrat who's above the law, who takes his unpopularity as license to simply ignore those who disagree with him--when he's not publicly attacking them, even referring to them as enemies. This is not a President for all the people, or even for the narrow slice of the people who voted for him (which, I'll remind you, was around 18% of the population of the United States): he exists to satisfy just one constituency, himself. Tha

Presidential Improv Bombs

Worst. Improviser. Ever. The first improv performance I ever attended was a sermon. The year was 1988. I was student pastor of a tiny rural church five miles south of Oblong, Illinois. My advisor, Professor Virgil Howard, had come up from Dallas to see how I was doing. While he was there, he guest-preached for a Sunday evening service. He sat on a stool in the middle of the sanctuary, and like any good improviser, asked for a suggestion: "What's your favorite Bible story? And what are some things going on in your lives?" He took everything the congregation threw at him, and wove it into an amazing conversational narrative that was moving, personal, and inspirational.  By the time he'd finished, I knew exactly what kind of preacher I wanted to be: not a lecturer, not a poet, not a stem-winder, but an improvisational storyteller. For the remaining twelve years of my pastoral career, and the ten years after that that I continued to occasionally preach, I ho