Friday, October 2, 2015

Both the pope and Kim Davis have said things which I completely agree with, and as Christians we really do have to try to find some ground for agreement.

First Kim Davis:  "I am just a County Clerk who loves Jesus and desires with all my heart to serve him.”

I believe that's probably true. I think it's how she thinks of herself, and I imagine it's one of the ways that Jesus thinks of her.  You can be sincere, though, and still be sincerely wrong. That's a thing the Baptists used to say to me, and it's true. I do not doubt Kim Davis's sincerity for a minute. I embrace her as a sister in Christ and a fellow struggler.

I don't even have a problem with Kim Davis's theology. It's not my own, but I'm in no position to point my fingers at anyone and say that this one is right and this one is wrong. In many quarters there is no theology, so the fact that Kim Davis has a theology at all seems like good news to me. Go out, everybody, and get some theology. Find a quack, or a saint, or somebody who has said something about God and think about it for awhile. There are lots worse things you can spend your time thinking about than God.

For the Christian, and I assume for Kim Davis, life can't be compartmentalized into little boxes. What we do at work is intrinsically related to what we do in Church, at home, and in the rest of our lives. That is why people like me try to teach with love, my ayie cleans with joy, and people give their best selves to work when they are working. In this way, everything becomes an offering to God. I understand that Kim Davis can not reconcile her job requirements with her faith. (I don't agree with her, but I do understand.) And that is why she should quit her job.

Kim Davis would not be the first Christian to leave a job because it conflicted with her faith. The early church encouraged members not to work as gladiators or actors. Whether or not to serve in the military has always been in question, with many objecting to combat roles and taking on other roles (sometimes even more dangerous) instead. Holding political office has been a hot-topic too, as has being an inn keeper, making guns, being a merchant, and even banking. Most recently, David Brooks of the New York Times suggested that professional athletes who are Christians should quit. "The moral ethos of sport, " he said, is out of sync with "the moral ethos of Christianity" which requires humility. Some may disagree, it is acknowledged, though, that some jobs are not fit for Christian people.

At it's most basic level Christian vocation is to love God and to love others. That can take the form of healing them, preaching to them, selling them food, or helping them make money. It might even include entertaining them, the way actors, singers, and prostitu.... uh-oh. The lines are not clear. What a Christian can do is ask these questions: Am I loving God? Am I loving my neighbor? There may be more than one answer to the same question. In charity for one another we allow for that.

We also allow for religious workers to be accommodated. In the USA most workers can arrange to have significant religious holidays off, they are permitted to wear special clothing, or abstain from food or drink that is not allowed in their religion. Most people of one faith are willing to work for someone of a different faith, exchanging work holidays between religions. I've done that. I think most people have. I am glad my country requires workplace accommodations.

Here is what we don't allow:  We don't allow the religion of one person or group to disrupt the work. If the work is being a doctor, but your religion doesn't allow you to care for gay and lesbian patients, then you can't be a doctor. If you are a vet, but your religion doesn't allow you to care for dogs, then you can't be a vet. And, if you are a county clerk, but your religion doesn't allow you to issue marriage licenses, then you can't be a county clerk, because that is the work. Religion can not disrupt the work.

Kim Davis should either join that rather large group of other conscientious objectors who have quit their jobs, or she should be fired for not doing the work. That is what happens even when people love Jesus very, very much.

Now for the pope: Pope Francis said that conscientious objection is a human right of everyone, including government officials.

He is right. Conscientious objection is a right. It's in both Nuremberg and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Rights do not come without cost, though. In The United States we have certain rights: Freedom of speech, the right to assemble, pursuit of happiness. These rights were not free, though, they were bought for us by the first United Staters. Many of them gave their very lives for the rights that United Staters enjoy today. 

Quakers, or the Religious Society of Friends, are perhaps the best known conscientious objectors, though Mennonites, the Amish, and Brethren are also war pacifists.* Joshua Pollard Blanchard is the first US conscientious objector that I know of. He was a Quaker who refused to serve in the war of 1812 and there was a trial about it, though I don't know the outcome. There was another early United Stater who refused to serve in the Union Army. He also refused to supply the army with goods from his business, and the business nearly went under for it. As the USA entered the world wars, Quakers began to have a harder time of it. Some went to prison for long terms for their refusal to serve. Between the wars the churches began to set up alternative service which allowed many to serve in non-war positions. Some of those positions, like smoke jumper, were very dangerous but they allowed conscientious objectors to be true to their conscious without being unfaithful to their country. 
Here's what never happened, at least in modern times:  Conscientious objectors never just continued on as before. Conscientious objectors to war make a sacrifice, they serve, or they pay, they may leave their country, or they go to prison, but they do not simply go on.

Kim Davis is trying to play it both ways. She wants to be a conscientious objector, as she has every right to be, AND she wants her life, and salary and benefit package, to go on as before. That is not being a conscientious objector, that's called running a scam. It's not at all the same thing. So, when the pope tells her to stay strong, he is basically telling her that it's OK, and that he approves of her overthrow of the rule of law and flouting the principles of conscientious objection. I am not sure that's what the pope intended to say, but that's what came through loud and clear.

I really suspect that we have not heard the last of Kim Davis and the pope. My suspicion is that the pope is more complex and nuanced as all that, and that Kim Davis is not. There is a lot which is not known, but quite enough that is.

When I think about the pope and the things he has said, I can't bring myself to believe that he really has it in for the homos, the trannies, or the women whom he just ignores. He has surely had gay friends -- probably no lesbians -- but gay priests, gay students, gay parishioners. He can't have remained completely unexposed to their lives. My suspicion is that he never wished them any harm, though I doubt that he understood their lives very well either.

What I see in the pope is an unwillingness to do anything to change a very misguided system. It may be that cowardice, or just the clerical love of the status quo are his biggest sins. I have sins too.

Either way, it's nice to know that I can agree with both of them.


We are on the cusp of ANOTHER stunning day here in ShangHai.

Yesterday I took moon cakes to my neighbors along with a note telling them my name and some things about where I from and about my family. Not they are all bringing me presents and saying Lin Da and Tax Is.

I have recently figured out why the Chinese go to such unbelievable contortions of the calendar when they have a holiday. It's balance. We have to maintain the balance in the society at all times. Thus, if you take off a Tuesday, there has to be another Tuesday before the close of the week so you can make it up otherwise the balance is all off. I shared this revelation with a Chinese friend who just said, "Yes, of course." Of course... all this time I have marveled at the crazy, crazy scheduling around the holidays. But then I was thinking of society in another context and balance and it hit me: The calendar has to stay in balance. See, it does make sense. Oh, these Chinese, they are a mystery and a bafflement. And occasionally I figure out something.

My ayie came this morning. She has recently moved in just a couple of houses from me and she took me down there this morning to show me her new apartment. She is proud of it, and it's a nice joint. I wonder how she affords it. There are secrets I do not know yet.

As for the lectionary, I find that I am more interest in Job than in the other readings. There are so many extra-canonical stories about him, and his wife too, including one I wrote a few years back. That's how great stories are:  They inspire other stories, people sit around talking about them, they have life in them.

OK. No real news. And I think we've all heard quite enough from me today anyway..

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