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Archive for the ‘Christianity’ Category



Time of Discernment

Dec31

by: on December 31st, 2013 | Comments Off

Many think that changes and reforms can take place in a short time. I believe that we always need time to lay the foundations for real, effective change. And this is the time of discernment. Sometimes discernment instead urges us to do precisely what you had at first thought you would do later.

Pope Francis, quoted in James Carroll’s recent New Yorker profile

What is worth discerning as 2013 draws to a close? It’s a little nuts to assess the tenor of a year on the day it ends. I get a mental image of a panel of fishes commenting on the nature of water as it rushes past: “Wet,” they say, nodding their silver heads sagely, “definitely wet.”

Still, on the cusp of 2014, I sense a sea-change in what Paulo Freire called our “thematic universe,” that stormy ocean of ideas and events in dialectical interaction that characterizes an epoch.In a thematic universe, no single idea or manifestation predominates. It’s the whole wriggling mass of ideas and their consequences that shape a moment: blind faith in fundamentalist religious dogma and its twin in overconfidence, the convictions that we’re nothing but chemicals and forces and that science will unmask all mysteries; rampant acquisition and exploitation and elective simplicity, living lightly; white supremacy and racial equality. The conjoined pairs that wriggle the most vigorously – including those I’ve mentioned – form the warp and weft of our era. But the tapestry is complex, many-colored, many-textured.


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Pope Francis on the “Different Species of Human” a.k.a. Women

Nov27

by: on November 27th, 2013 | 4 Comments »

Credit: Creative Commons

Over at the National Catholic Reporter, Sister Maureen Fielder has an intriguing critique of Pope Francis’s public discussion on women. In sum, on the subjects of women and gender, Pope Francis’s comments make Sister Maureen want to cry. I sympathize.

In his already widely-discussed document “Evangelli Guadium,”which translates as “Joy of the Gospel,” Pope Francis has once again slammed the door shut on the ordination of women, as if the first time around last July was not enough. In the new document the pope writes, “The reservation of the priesthood to males, as a sign of Christ the Spouse who gives himself in the Eucharist, is not a question open to discussion.”

Yet for those of us who support women’s ordination, what is arguably even more disturbing than the pope’s continuation of the exclusion of women from the priesthood is the language he employs to justify his position. As Sister Maureen writes,

He talks about women’s “sensitivity, intuition and other distinctive skill sets which they, more than men, tend to possess.” He mentions “the special concern which women show to others, which finds a particular, even if not exclusive, expression in motherhood.” In another sentence, he talks about the “feminine genius.”

I am firmly of the belief that when average men, “regular fellas,” use this kind of over-the-top flattery to describe women it’s usually because they have an ulterior motive. Since Tikkun Daily is a family-oriented blog, I won’t get more specific about that male ulterior motive, other than to say that its precise location can be found below the belly button, but above the thighs.

But Pope Francis is not a “regular fella” – he’s the pope. So why is this pope, who otherwise wrote a thoughtful document on the spiritual dimensions of economic inequality, employing such patronizing language about half of the human population? As a 76-year-old pope, his motives are clearly different from “regular fellas” on the hunt for – to borrow a term from singer Ciara – “goodies.” But the pope clearly wants something from Catholic women nonetheless: their ecclesiastical submission.

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Weekly Sermon: Learner’s Mind- A Fragrance Fills the House

Nov25

by: on November 25th, 2013 | 2 Comments »

Text: John 12: 1-8; 2 Corinthians 9: 1-12

The apostle Paul was a good fund-raiser. In this part of his letter to the Corinthians, he was encouraging them to take part in a campaign underway in all the new churches of the Mediterranean. He called the campaign “the ministry to the saints.” Can’t you see the four-color posters? The goal was to bring a big gift of money to Jerusalem to support the mother church. Now, Paul had had a serious fight with that mother church some time back as to whether God’s promises covered Christians who weren’t Jews. Jerusalem said No, they don’t. Paul said Yes they do – and eventually they were persuaded to support his mission. But surely it did not hurt to bind up the wounds from that dispute with real money. The saints in Jerusalem were poor. The saints in the cities of the empire had plenty. The need of the one and the abundance of others were balanced in acts of generosity.

Paul is brilliant. He is perceptive and practical and persistent. Here he favors them with comparisons to other churches; there he stings them with doubts about their failing zeal, which might embarrass all with a meager gift. Here, as elsewhere in the letter, he has them putting something aside every week. It is a wise counsel. Which of you could give in one week from your income the whole sum you offer in the course of a year? If you can, then your giving is not yet spiritually significant. Paul teaches to give regularly. He calls this practice “being ready.” He teaches giving proportionally, according to means. Then he lightens up. “You must give only as your heart leads you, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.” Then he pours again and again from the pitcher of spiritual assurance. “God who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will supply and multiply your seed. You will be enriched in every way for your great generosity.”

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Catholic Bishops Elect New Leader, Still Insist on Conflating Same-Sex Marriage and Abortion

Nov12

by: on November 12th, 2013 | 1 Comment »

Cardinal Timothy Dolan, Credit: Creative Commons

“Accordingly, Jewish difference challenges Christians not first to speak but to hear speech not their own, not simply to love but to consent to the prospect of being loved by an other.”

Amen.

Karl Plank, a Jewish literature and thought professor at Davidson College, penned those words for his section of the book Merton and Judaism, an excellent multi-author examination of Cistercian monk Thomas Merton’s relationship with Judaism, including an examination of his correspondence with his contemporary, Abraham Joshua Heschel.

Plank is on to something mighty big with the quoted passage: namely, the strong tendency in Christendom to contort the very concept of love itself into a personal power tool. As if Person A (the high and mighty Christian) is a spiritual masterpiece, oozing with divine love, almost selfless, and Person B (Person A’s peer) is just a lowly, selfish desperado, lost and confused, and in need of Person A’s oh-so transcendent love and wisdom. Of course, the whole relationship or interaction between Person A and Person B has nothing whatsoever to do with real love, but is rather part and parcel of Person A’s gambit to assert their dominance – moral, spiritual, you name it – in their social universe.

Person B is merely the conduit to achieve that end.

Gay Catholics who are sick and tired of the never-ending “love the sinner, hate the sin” claptrap from Catholic clergymen would do well to meditate on Karl Plank’s insight into Christian-Jewish relations and, I would certainly argue, apply it to what is now and has been happening between gay lay Catholics and Catholic priests, and the bishops in particular. Namely, the former becoming nothing more than conduits for the latter’s efforts at the self-purgation of their own homosexual desires.

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Weekly Sermon- Learner’s Mind: Make The Inside Out

Nov11

by: on November 11th, 2013 | Comments Off

Text: Isaiah 58: 1-9; Luke 12: 54-59

Forty years ago, in the wake of the rebellion at Attica Prison, Rev. Robert Polk of the Riverside clergy founded the Riverside Prison Ministry. Throughout this past weekend, the Prison Ministry has been celebrating this anniversary by anchoring a year-long campaign to bring light and change to life-destroying parole practices in this state and in this society.

Forty-one years ago, in response to that rebellion at Attica, a Rochester man named Steere began a ministry at Attica prison. It still goes on. Volunteers and men inside join each week in a conversation about one thing only, what it is like to be in your own skin, with your own burdens, and how you learn from it. From what I learned and experienced during ten years with that program, I have brought you a number of things over the years.

Forty years of ministry is a good thing. But let’s let that number, “forty years,” seep into our skin alongside the ancient scriptures we have just heard, for our societies haven’t much to show for long exposure to the word of God; and in these United States, the last forty years have looked more like years of wilderness wandering with no Moses and no true law at all. Since those terrible days at Attica, the criminal American justice system has multiplied its prison population sixfold, from 350,000 to more than two million. Those being watched by parole and probation exceed five million men and women. They are blocked from public housing or help with the price of food. “The box” blocks them from working. It’s that box on employment applications – “Have you ever been convicted of a crime?” States block the formerly incarcerated from voting, ever, as if to say you will never have a place among us. It seems that society aims to destroy them.

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Micah Meets Mark Braverman

Nov6

by: Robert Cohen on November 6th, 2013 | 5 Comments »

This month the Jewish American writer and Israel/Palestine activist, Mark Braverman, publishes his second book ‘A Wall in Jerusalem’. It follows ‘Fatal Embrace’ in 2010 which quickly established Braverman as an important new voice in the Israel/Palestine debate. Below you can read Braverman’s first interview to mark the new book’s publication given exclusively to Micah’s Paradigm Shift.

Braverman, who has deep family roots in Israel, has developed what he describes as a ‘calling’ to speak to the Church in a spirit of Christian teaching that sees Jesus as a radical Jew rebelling against the Jewish establishment and the Roman occupation of first century Palestine. In his new book he successfully straddles Jewish and Christian theological thinking to create a shared dialogue of justice and compassion. Braverman is determined to articulate a Christian approach to Palestinian solidarity that counters evangelical Christian Zionism while remaining rooted in the teaching of Jesus. He also challenges the phenomenon of Christian post-Holocaust guilt that leads to a reluctance by the Church to confront Israeli injustice against the Palestinian people for fear of disturbing Jewish-Christian interfaith dialogue.

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Weekly Sermon: Learner’s Mind- Make Love Stronger Than Death

Nov4

by: on November 4th, 2013 | Comments Off

Text: Daniel 7:1-18; Luke 6: 17-31

As this November marches on, the news will be noting well the ways by which we have come. On the 22ndof the month come ’round fifty years since that day in Dallas when Pres. Kennedy lay dead from a bullet. On Nov. 19th, we mark 150 years since Pres. Lincoln traveled to Gettysburg, Penna. for the dedication of this country’s first national cemetery. The 278 words of his speech, which Lincoln supposed the world would “little note nor long remember,” cut a new channel for the constitution of the young nation. His theme was the meaning of “these honored dead.” Late this month, we will celebrate Thanksgiving. Perhaps we will be reminded of the holiday’s origin, not with Pilgrims but with Pres. Lincoln, for it was just one week after his speech at Gettysburg that Americans first celebrated the national Thanksgiving holiday. Lincoln’s proclamation read, in part:

It has seemed to me fit and proper that . . . the gracious gifts of the Most High God . . . should be solemnly, reverently and gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and voice by the whole American people. I do therefore invite my fellow citizens . . . to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father . . . And I recommend to them that . . . they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to his tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged . . .

In a word, Thanksgiving was established for a country dealing with death. Now here we are at All Saints, having remembered our beloved dead, with all the saints who from their labors rest. In a moment, we will share in the Lord’s Supper, and once more “proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes again.” From every angle, the mask of death regards us. Usually we turn from it. Yet surely it is a gift of faith in God to face what is real. Death is real. Indeed, every piston in the engines of culture and personal aspiration is driven by our relationship with death. Death is real. Let us turn and look.

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The Sacred Heart of Jesus is not an ATM Machine

Oct16

by: on October 16th, 2013 | 5 Comments »

Today in the Roman Catholic church we celebrate the feast of St. Margaret Mary Alacoque, a 17th century French nun. Jesus not only appeared and spoke to St. Margaret Mary, a nun of the Visitation order, He let the nun, like St. John the Beloved at the Last Supper, rest her head on His heart. Some outside of the Catholic church mistakenly believe that we Catholics worship the saints. Nothing could be further from the truth: we venerate the saints. Indeed, every Christian, Catholic or not, whose Christian life has been enhanced by devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus has great reason to thank St. Margaret Mary Alacoque.

I’ve been thinking a great deal about St. Margaret Mary today, not only because it’s her feast day, but because I think if the nun lived in the world today, and in this particular money-obsessed country, the poor woman would have had to go on Xanax. The financial exploitation of Jesus Christ not only occurs in every region of the United States of America, it is has become entirely normative.

Equally devastating, American Catholic bishops, who otherwise never hesitate to inject themselves into any number of modern-day events and issues, remain largely mum about the galloping spread of the total lie that is called the “prosperity gospel.” For decades, as televangelists have reinvented, refocused, and altogether sharpened their tool of spiritual destruction known as the prosperity gospel, Catholic bishops have been out to lunch. Perhaps the reluctance to forcefully challenge the purveryors of this naked distortion of Christ’s teaching is rooted in fear: How can Roman Catholic bishops throw stones at prosperity gospel preachers when some of them are living in glass mansions themselves?

Yet I think it is important to emphasize to all spiritual progressives, regardless of faith tradition or no tradition, this particular point: When Roman Catholic clergy, and I would include Mainline Protestant clergy also, keep mum in the face of the spread of the so-called “prosperity gospel,” your lives are undoubtedly impacted as well. For if we, in the name of religious freedom, consent to living in a society where Jesus Christ can be turned into a personal ATM machine without anyone standing firmly against it – or at most just give a roll of our eyes at the practice – don’t be surprised when you find yourself living in a society that is simply brimming with people who are trying to turn you into an ATM machine as well.

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Weekly Sermon: Learner’s Mind- Between Empire and Kingdom Come

Oct14

by: on October 14th, 2013 | Comments Off

Text:Jeremiah 29: 1-7; Luke 17: 11-18

In the first pages of Howard Zinn’s A People’s History of the United States, the reader confronts a Columbus quite different from the one we learned in school. Some may be aware that he sailed on condition of receiving a large share in the profits from his gold-seeking adventure, but everyone knows that early on October 12, 1492, a sailor finally sighted land.

Columbus’ ship was met by Arawak Indians swimming out to greet the visitors. In his journal, the explorer wrote of these Indians:

They are well-built, with good bodies and handsome features. . . [They] are so naïve and free with their possessions that no one who has not witnessed them would believe it. When you ask for something they have, they never say No. To the contrary, they offer to share with anyone… They do not bear arms and do not know them. . . They have no iron. Their spears are made of cane… They would make fine servants… With fifty men, we could subjugate them all and make them do whatever we want .. .


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Thou Shalt Not Employ a Transgender Professor? It’s Not a Verse in the Bible

Sep27

by: on September 27th, 2013 | 6 Comments »

I don’t know H. Adam Ackley, the professor of theology at Christian Azusa Pacific University who was recently fired after coming out as transgender after teaching there for fifteen years, but having gone through my own difficult coming-out experience at Yeshiva University, I can imagine some of what Professor Ackley is going through.

ackley

Dr. H. Adam Ackley tells his students for the first time of his transgender identity. He had just written his name on the board. Credit: RNS/Annie Z. Yu.

Unlike Yeshiva University, Azusa doesn’t grant tenure. If I hadn’t received tenure before coming out, I am sure that like Professor Ackley, I would have been terminated, and for similar reasons. Some may think that religious universities are driven in this regard by fear of God, but there is no verse in the Bible in which God says, “Thou shalt not employ a transgender professor.” No, religious universities, like secular organizations that fire transgender employees, are acting out of fear of human beings: fear that students won’t register for classes with a transgender professor; fear of parents, who might send their children and tuition elsewhere; and fear, above all, of alienating alumni and other donors whose contributions keep the lights on and the doors open.

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