January 19, 2021

The IM Saturday Monks Brunch: March 2, 2019 — Season Finale

Spring Dawning

The IM Saturday Monks Brunch: March 2, 2019

This will be our last Saturday Brunch for a time. In honor of a primary traditional discipline in Lent — fasting — we will abstain for the next seven weeks from our weekly buffet. I promise something spiritually nourishing will take its place, though I’ve yet to finalize exactly what that will be.

The Lenten season starts this coming Wednesday, March 6, when the Western Church marks Ash Wednesday. I think Richard Beck’s recent post on the Ignatian practice of “indifference” describes well the attitude we take during this season.

Indifference, as I’ve come to understand it, isn’t about not caring about the world or being apathetic about the world. Indifference is a pause. Indifference isn’t about a emotional resignation and detachment. Indifference is about discernment.

Indifference is about creating a pause, a season of discernment, between the world and our response to the world. To be sure, some emotional control is required to create this space. In that sense, indifference can look stoical and ascetical. But the goal isn’t to stand stoically before everything in the world. Christians believe the world was created good. The world is full of the gifts of God. And we should receive and delight in these gifts. Indifference is, thus, the pause that allows us to discern if what stands before us, what we are currently craving and hungry for, is drawing us toward or away from God.

All that to say, don’t be put off by the word “indifference.” Indifference isn’t about not caring, detachment, resignation, or apathy. Ignatian indifference is a pause, a season to survey our hearts, creating the time and space to think about how things in the world are drawing us either closer or further away from God.

• • •


Before the fast, of course, we feast! Here is a gallery of some of the mouth-watering southern and Cajun-style dishes recommended by Taste of Home to help us all celebrate Fat Tuesday. Go to the link for recipes. Click on each picture for a larger image.

• • •


Christianity Today reports:

The United Methodist Church (UMC) voted Tuesday to maintain its traditional stance against same-sex marriage and non-celibate gay clergy, bolstered by a growing conservative contingent from Africa.

The denomination’s “Traditional Plan” passed, with 438 votes in favor and 384 against (53% to 47%), in the final hours of a special UMC conference held this week in St. Louis to address the issue of human sexuality.

…The Traditional Plan preserves existing UMC positions and adds further accountability measures for those who violate them by performing same-sex ceremonies or ordaining gay clergy.

It was not the outcome many Americans, including most UMC bishops, had been praying for. In the States, a large portion of Methodists wanted to see the church accommodate LGBT ceremonies and clergy, as other mainline denominations have done in recent years. One poll through Mainstream UMC reported at least two-thirds of US delegates supported the more-inclusive “One Church Plan” instead.

But the growing global presence among the 12 million-member denomination held more sway. Methodists from outside the US, who favor more traditional positions on sexuality, made up 41 percent of the general conference’s 864 delegates. A full 30 percent were from Africa.

• • •


  • Willow Creek: The Independent Advisory Group found accusations against Willow Creek founder and pastor Bill Hybels proved credible and would have been sufficient reason for church discipline had Hybels not left the church.
  • Southern Baptists: The Southern Baptist Convention is struggling to find unity in knowing how to deal with the sexual abuse scandal recently revealed in the Houston Chronicle and San Antonio Express-News. SBC President J. D. Greear made some bold recommendations last week, only to see them rejected by the SBC’s Executive Committee.
  • Gospel for Asia: After three years in court, Gospel for Asia announced that it would pay $37 million and a board seat to settle a class-action lawsuit. GFA had been accused of sending only 13 percent of its donations to the field instead of the 100 percent they promised. The class action originally asked for $376 million.
  • Harvest Bible Chapel (James MacDonald): With reduced offerings and an outstanding debt of $42-million, an auditor has predicted very difficult financial going for HBC. It is reported that Lawrence Swicegood from Gateway Church is involved in assisting Harvest.

From Religion News Service:

America Media and Spoke Studios present “Deliver Us,” a podcast about the sexual abuse crisis in the Catholic Church.

Will the Catholic Church’s sex abuse crisis ever end? That’s a question everyone has been asking since the wave of news in summer 2018. In “Deliver Us,” host Maggi Van Dorn is a Catholic committed to healing the church from the inside. She wants to know: How did this happen? And what, if anything, can we do to help? Hear from experts, advocates, and survivors to learn what the church can do to move forward. Because you can’t fix something until you know how it’s broken.

The season launched Wednesday, February 13, 2019 with new episodes premiering weekly. The most recent episode investigates two theories behind the sex abuse crisis: gay priests and celibacy.

To listen, visit: americamag.org/deliverus

• • •


The dog formerly known as Bryce

We have a cat named Wrigley. Obviously, she is named in honor of the ballpark my beloved Chicago Cubs play in. Fans do silly things like that. But sometimes, things just don’t work out.

The Caskey family are Washington Nationals fans. They have a Goldendoodle named “Bryce,” after the now-former star of the team, Bryce Harper. Harper signed a historic 13 year/$330 million contract with the Nationals’ competitors, the Philadelphia Phillies, this week. The Caskeys couldn’t bear the pain of constantly hearing the name “Bryce” around their house any longer.

So, the dog formerly known as Bryce has been renamed “Max,” after Washington’s star pitcher, Max Scherzer. Scherzer has three years left on his contract, so Bryce/Max may be safe a little while longer from another name change.

But, you never know…

• • •


Richard Hershberger’s new book, Strike Four: The Evolution of Baseball, will be released on Friday, March 8. Richard will have a guest post for us this next week. Here’s the poster advertising Strike Four. Note the special offer if you pre-order from the publisher (follow the link above and use the offer code on the poster).

• • •


Mandolin Orange is an Americana folk duo out of Chapel Hill, NC, consisting of singer-songwriter Andrew Marlin and multi-instrumentalist Emily Frantz. Lately I’ve been enjoying their new album, Tides of a Teardrop, which was released on February 1.

Here’s a sample, a sublime and poignant song about loss, Golden Embers. The group’s website explains the background to this song and a main theme of the album:

On Tides of A Teardrop, Marlin wrote the songs, as he usually does, in a sort of stream of consciousness, allowing words and phrases to pour out of him as he hunted for the chords and melodies. Then, as he went back to sharpen what he found, he found something troubling and profound. Intimations of loss have always haunted the edges of their music, their lyrics hinting at impermanence and passing of time. But Tides of A Teardrop confronts a defining loss head-on: Marlin’s mother, who died of complications from surgery when he was 18.


  1. the snow starts to fall
    after midnight — who knows
    what morning will bring?

  2. Though born and raised in Roman Catholic tradition, in which Lent is a serious thing, I’ve never been much good at it. I get no further with Lenten disciplines than I do with New Year resolutions. But life has slowly, and not painlessly, been teaching me something about indifference as it is described by Richard Beck. Such indifference is not the result of rigorous control of emotions, appetites, passions; just the opposite — it is about giving up control, or the illusion of it. As such, it is more like the loosening of a death grip than holding on for dear life.

    • Christiane says

      Lent . . . a time to mourn . . . . also a time to re-image in real life what IS the more important thing lived out over a period of introspection leading to conscious acts of loving-kindness that might not have happened without a purposeful time-out

      Lent for me is time to reflect on this passage from Zechariah:

      “they shall look on me whom they have pierced, and they shall mourn for him, as one mourns for his only son”

      AND to take to heart this passage from Isaiah

      The Suffering Servant
      …3He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, acquainted with grief. Like one from whom men hide their faces, He was despised, and we esteemed Him not. 4Surely He took on our infirmities and carried our sorrows; yet we considered Him stricken by God, struck down and afflicted. 5But He was pierced for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon Him, and by His stripes we are healed.”…

      AND also to consider how so many have lived out their lives touched by the Holy Spirit selflessly for the sake of others who needed to be cared for . . . for example, one go-to every Lent is the story of ‘The Hiding Place’
      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Yn6yGnupgPo (sorry for ad, please skip ad to see film if you want to)

      Lent can be a journey into the faith in a way that brings us to our knees. But not without hope. And always with love.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says

      Though born and raised in Roman Catholic tradition, in which Lent is a serious thing…

      You think it’s serious on this side of the Adriatic, check out the EO version.

  3. Congratulations, Richard, on the forthcoming release of your baseball book. I half expect some will say that baseball did not evolve, but was specially created.

    • Richard Hershberger says

      Thank you. I had a passing concern about using “evolution” in the title, but no other word was quite right. If someone refuses to buy it for this reason, so be it.

  4. What can you say about George Pell, and the ongoing sexual abuse crisis in the Catholic Church? So much suffering, and not even the groundwork for healing has been laid yet — indeed, the trauma just deepens. Christ have mercy.

    • Pellicano Solitudinis says

      What’s worse, there are quite a few well-known people, mostly RWNJs, saying that he’s not guilty, and that it’s all a OT on the part of the evil leftist ABC (our national, publicly funded broadcaster).

      In other news, it’s hot. Again. I hope Susan and any other Aussies are weathering it all.

      • Pellicano Solitudinis says


        Not OT.


      • Susan Dumbrell says

        This trial weighs heavy on hearts.
        There is yet to be a sentencing and there will be a retrial.

        I knew two priest in the Anglican tradition in Aust who were pedophiles.
        They have died before they could be tried.

        Our children and grandchildren are so, so precious.

        May the Good Shepherd watch over our dear ones.

      • rhymeswithplague says

        Pellicano Solitudinis, please speak English and not clumps of letters. LOL I know, and JK, and ICYMI and IMNSHO, but I had to look up RWNJ and DYAC (“right wing nut job” and “damn you, autocorrect” respectively). I am apparently such a dinosaur that I had to look up SJW (“social justice warriors”) the other day.

        Remember, YCTAODNT (You can’t teach an old dog new tricks(. I made that one up myself.

        Besides, I have a theory that all this acronym-speak is not just a shortcut way of communicating but (a) a way of avoiding having to say what you really mean, out loud, plainly and also (b) secret code meant for the in-crowd*.

        *of which, at nearly 78, I am definitely not a part

        • Pellicano Solitudinis says

          OK (is that one allowed?), I see your point and I will try not to do it again.

        • Christiane says

          Hello Rhymeswithplague,

          “YCTAODNT (You can’t teach an old dog new tricks)”

          maybe true,
          but a dog may be able to teach us about compassion for those who have lost a parent

          we could use a lot of ‘therapy dogs’ out there in the land of ‘keep silent, look away’ ‘nothing to see here’ and ‘hail Trump, hail our people’

          dogs are a blessing we do not deserve

  5. You can’t blame the move against gay inclusivity on the American UMC — Two-Thirds World Methodists were the contingent decisively voting against it. Much of the worldwide spread of Christianity in this and the last century is similarly non-inclusive, I’m afraid.

    • thatotherjean says

      I strongly suspect that there is a schism coming, as happened to Episcopalians. I can’t see a way to reconcile the divisions.

      • Adam Tauno Williams says

        Agree, this goose is cooked.

      • The only open question was who was staying and keeping the UMC label, and who was leaving.

        • Patriciamc says

          Splits would have occurred long before now if the overall organization did not own the buildings and property. I know of at least one lawsuit in the Episcopal church over that.

    • Richard Hershberger says

      This. What we are seeing here is an artifact of UMC polity. Most of the mainlines are organized on national lines, making this a much easier vote, for the American parts.

  6. johnbarry says

    Robert F. IF the UMC t went into Africa years ago with their proposed “inclusive’ gay affirming agenda would they have found the acceptance and converts that they have gathered? The African UMC members seem to believe what the UMC taught them and find it a sane and biblical mandate. The same is true of the Catholic Church where the conservative foundations of the church are understood and defended in Africa.

    So the UMC went into Africa and spread the teachings of the Bible, the people in Africa believed the teachings, customs and beliefs of the UMC and then the UMC wanted to vote to change what they taught the African members of the UMC and the majority of the African UMC said “no”, you cannot changed what you taught us as that was part of our understanding of the Bible. what else will you change. Have I got that right?

    Who should leave the UMC, the people who believe what the UMC taught and believed before or the “new” believers of the same sex agenda. A house divided cannot stand according to HGTV and others. As usual, just asking, as the cool people say, Just asking.

    • Robert F says

      The house is divided. It is no use staying in two different edifices and pretending you live under the same roof. Many American United Methodists will do what Protestants do in this kind of situation — leave and establish their own communion. Unfortunately for the Two-Thirds World Methodists, this will involve the loss of much financial assistance from their more affluent American coreligionists.

    • “So the UMC went into Africa and spread the teachings of the Bible”

      The UMC taught the traditional Christian stance on sexuality. That isn’t necessarily the same thing.

    • Robert F says

      The same is true of the Catholic Church where the conservative foundations of the church are understood and defended in Africa.

      It is the “conservative foundations” of the Catholic Church that are responsible for the worldwide sexual abuse crisis that Church is in the grip of: control, secrecy, autocratic authority, exclusion of the weakest and most disenfranchised from full participation. If you think that crisis doesn’t exist in Africa, you are wrong. Sadly, because most of Africa lacks a free press and strong secular democratic institutions, the crisis may never be investigated and exposed, the way it has been here in the U.S. But you can be sure it is there under the pious exterior.

      • No. You can’t lay this at the foot of “conservative foundations”, especially when so many involved are some of the most progressive in the Catholic church, including Pope Francis who has done a great deal of looking the other way or even stopping anything actually being done. Control, secrecy, autocratic authority, and exclusion can be found in any group of people, conservative or liberal. It is unfortunately a human condition. And if progressives or liberals somehow think they aren’t as prone to it as conservatives, it is only because they refuse to recognize it in history and among themselves.

        • senecagriggs says

          As Adam would say – + 1,000

        • Robert F says

          You notice that I put quotation marks around the phrase. Still, it’s true that I believe it is the traditional structure and culture of the Church that has made this abuse possible, and fed its malignancy. Pope Francis either lacks the ability, or the will, to let enough air and light into that traditional structure and culture to reveal it and start the Church on the road to healing. And the exact extent of the malignancy worldwide will never be known unless the Church opens itself up to investigation and reckoning as a an international institution, but also as a network of national ones. The “conservative”, or you can call them fundamentalist if you prefer, bishops of the national Catholic Churches in Africa, who are so concerned to keep gay people out, will never allow that; if the problem occasionally surface, they will blame it on the presence of gays in the Church. Many of the conservatives/fundamentalists in Rome itself want to blame the problem on liberalization in Europe and America, including the inclusion of gay men in the priesthood; that is nothing but a diversionary tactic, and I hope it doesn’t work, but in the global environment that exists at present it just may. In that case, the extent of the abuse will never be known or addressed, and the abuse will continue in epidemic proportions.

        • Robert F says

          @Jon — You say you can’t lay the sexual abuse problem at the foot of conservatives, because of the existence of the factors that make it possible in all groups of people. Well then you can’t lay it at the feet of the presence of gay priests in the Church, but that’s what the conservative bishops in Rome are trying to do.

          • Robert, I lay this at the feet of human depravity. Too often we try to attach blame for a scandal to the “other side” and say it is because of what they teach or believe. And yet if we are honest the same sins affect us all. You and I differ on a lot of things, but I’m not assigning blame to any particular group. You will find abusers among the most conservative and traditional, and among the most liberal and progressive. What is the connecting point among two groups so far apart on so many things? Sin, which exists in every one us.

            • Robert F says

              But are you saying that nothing can be done systemically about it, because sin? Because if that’s the conclusion drawn, it’s the wrong conclusion.

            • Donalbain says

              No. This “sin” does not affect us all. I have not chosen to be part of an organisation that, as a matter of ultimate policy, thinks it is OK not to report confession child abusers

              • Really? I said “sin” exists in everyone of us. Meaning as a general category, not necessarily this particular sin. But since we are all sinners, whether conservative, moderate, or progressive, it is a reality that in all of our organizations the possibility of a molester, or abuser, or someone who just wants to cover stuff up, exists. Let me just put this as plainly as possible before anyone else reads something into my comments that is clearly not there. This is not a conservative or progressive or moderate problem. It is a human problem. So all people, regardless of their affiliations should take the necessary precautions to reduce the occurrences of abuse as much as possible.

          • Robert, you are right you can’t lay it all at the feet of gay priests but if 80% of the crimes involve adolescent and seminarians males then the summit did nothing and wasn’t even discussed. To have a summit to say that abuse against children are wrong is almost beyond belief. But until all issues are discussed the Catholic Church will continue to falter. Francis talks about unfit people for the priesthood but until he tells what he covered up there is no blue skies on the horizon.

            • Pellicano Solitudinis says

              “80% of the crimes involve adolescent and seminarian males”

              I suspect this is chiefly a question of access. Choir boys and seminarians are always male, and male clergy tended to work in boys’ schools, while girls were in the charge of nuns.

              • Access or orientation aside priests and nuns take a vow of celibacy. If they can’t nobody is forcing them to stay. Whenever we don’t like the rules we feel justified to break them. My main point is that reported abuse was among older males and this was never discussed in any context. The summit was just about children and not the other 80%. Until the full scope comes to light nothing will change. When Pope Francis was asked about several instances in which he was involved he said we should draw our own conclusions and he would speak no further on the matter, So much for transparency. If he won’t answer the whole thing is a house of cards that will collapse.

        • Robert F says

          And when you say, “It is unfortunately a human condition”, you seem to be saying that, “There’s nothing really to be done systemically, the victims are just going to have to suck it up, because human beings are sinful.” That is an unacceptable conclusion, Jon, if it’s what your comment leads to. Don’t expect the non-religious world to buy it, because they know it’s nothing but a religious, and Christian, cop-out.

          • You are reading an awful lot into my comments. I’m not saying nothing can be done. If anything it means we need to realize that precautions must be established because we can’t always know what is in a person’s heart. It is not enough to just say “I trust this person.” We should do our best to make sure that no one is in a position where they can abuse someone else and get away with it. But it is a reality that people will continue to try to abuse others, just like people will continue to try to steal, murder, and commit adultery no matter what safe guards we put up. It is just a reality, but it doesn’t mean we can’t reduce it and make it harder for people to do.

            • Robert F says

              Okay, that’s why I asked. Then the question becomes: what sort of institutional features make it more likely that people will be able to get away with acting out their sinful predisposition in sexual abuse crime, and how do we change those institutional features? I say that if you look at many of the institutional features of the Roman Catholic Church, you will get an idea writ large not only of how such features enable this kind of crime in the RCC, but also in many non-Catholic religious institutions. I think the lessons we could draw from the RCC situation, and the systemic changes that could be made to prevent widespread abuse, could be used in a multitude of religious settings. The universal model for religious dysfunction as it relates to sexual abuse is most readily seen in the gargantuan RCC institutions.

              • Donalbain says

                Then the question becomes: what sort of institutional features make it more likely that people will be able to get away with acting out their sinful predisposition in sexual abuse crime.

                The seal of the confession. As long as that exists, the Catholic Church will be a willing accomplice in the rape of children.

                • Robert F says

                  The seal of confession does seem to mark the end of transparency, and transparency is an indispensable quality in dealing with the sexual assault crisis.

                  • Dana Ames says

                    I don’t know how Catholic priests are instructed to handle crimes when confessed in the sacrament, but I know of one Orthodox monk who will not pray absolution over the person confessing, if that person has confessed a crime, until the person turns him/herself in to the police. The seal of confession can be worked around.


                    • Robert F says

                      Withholding absolution does not force the person to turn themselves in. Unless this is a rule established by the Church for confessors, it isn’t even necessarily what every confessor would do. You say know of one monk who keeps this rule himself, but you don’t say that confessors are taught by the Church to do this as policy. Rules need to be set in place that protect children, and other victims, and that uphold a policy of zero tolerance. Otherwise it’s all just whistling in the wind.

                    • Dana Ames says

                      As far as I know, this is the case with all Orthodox priests in this country, esp those of Russian heritage – OCA and ROCOR.


            • Robert F says

              In fact, the changes needed to prevent widespread sexual abuse have been implemented in the institutions of the American National Catholic Church in the last 15 years or so. As a result, the schools and other institutions of the ANCC are likely the safest to religious institutions to send your children to in this country, in terms of safety from abuse/sexual abuse. But these measure have not been taken in most national Catholic Churches, and they are not likely to unless Rome requires it. Rome doesn’t look like it is anywhere close to requiring it; there are factions in the Church resistant to any such change.

              • And the American National Catholic Church made and implemented these sexual abuse prevention changes without altering any doctrine or teachings; if they had altered them, you can be sure Rome would’ve called them to task for it, and very quickly.

                • Christiane says

                  Hello Robert F,

                  the American National Catholic Church is not in union with Rome.

                  It is not considered a Roman Catholic Church and does not answer to Rome, no.

                  I wouldn’t call it ‘Catholic’, no.

                  • Robert F says

                    The Catholic Church in the United States. Sorry, I was using the wrong name, but that’s the entity I’m referring to.

              • Radagast says

                As someone on the inside I agree with Robert F on the implementation of policies and procedures to minimize or eliminate risk to children in the American Church.

                Some of my thoughts.

                The problem seem to be greatest from the 50’s to about 1990 though we don’t have a lot of data on what went on before.

                I don’t believe each Diocese has done a good job of reporting all the occurrences.
                I believe the seminary gatekeepers had an agenda and should be held accountable. I believe the psychologists who sent the priests back out among kids should be held accountable too.

                I believe the statistical numbers of abuse are greater than the norm in the Church at the time stated above. I believe it was more of a pedastry issue and more man-on-boy and greater than the statistical norm.

                I believe the Vatican has a lot of cleanup to do in its own backyard with bishops and cardinals living openly active gay lifestyles.

                I believe it can be fixed but by the time we are fixed the numbers still calling themselves Catholic will have diminished.

                I believe the issues in Africa have more to do with culture and the problems with celibacy. I believe the nuns there are at huge risk.

                My thoughts….

    • Robert F says

      It’s interesting how the African Christians are so concerned to prevent the inclusion of gay people, as if this is a nonnegotiable feature of the faith, but turn a blind eye to the widespread practice of polygamy by Christians all around them.

      • Plenty of “biblical” support for polygamy…

      • I believe (though I don’t know much) that the African Methodists are opposed to polygamy but may be divided on what to do if a convert is already in a polygamist marriage. If a man, is he suppose to abandon all but his first wife and their children? If a woman and not the first wife, is she suppose to leave her husband? Some there take a hardline position, some are a bit more understanding but as far as I know once a Christian (Methodist) you do not enter a polygamous marriage.

      • Dana Ames says

        I have a friend who served as a missionary in Uganda for nearly 20 years. African culture is not focused as the individual, as ours is. The thing about polygamy in Africa is that it is not just about sex. When you have a wife, that means you are also obliged to help that woman’s family members earn a living and get started in business, and take care of people who are ill, can’t work, etc., not to mention the children involved. It involves financial commitment as well. The missionary group with which my friend served realized this was a delicate situation and did not barge in and say, “OK, pick one wife and cut the others loose!” They worked with families and made sure that financial and other obligations were met, so that Christian teaching was not defamed. The next generations have kept to that teaching, for the most part. There were plenty of families who wanted and were happy with the one man/one woman set-up, as long as the expectations of help for the wider family were not disregarded.


        • johnbarry says

          Dana, a great reminder of how issues are more complex than they appear. Also how culture can be respected if understood but it takes more “work” than most people realize.

        • Robert F says

          Understanding and accommodating contextual nuance is certainly a wonderfully compassionate way to approach people and cultures, Dana. But it is exactly the way gay people, and their subculture, are not being approached by traditionalists, here or in Africa. Although there are different opinions regarding this, some say that homophobia was imported to many places in Africa by Christian-European colonialism and missionaries. Why the difference in understanding and accommodation, and compassion, in treatment of polygamy and homosexuality?

          • Burro (Mule) says

            Because polygamy is still male-female sex, which is an enactment in the cislunar sphere of the mating of the Abo theSky Father and the Immu the Earth Mother, which nourishes crops and makes babies fat. Sodomy is the work of Ikka the Mosquito. It brings plagues and withers crops in the field.

            • Robert F says

              It brings plagues and withers crops in the field.

              That demons real name is anthropocentric climate change.

              • Headless Unicorn Guy says

                Which according to American Born-Again Christians, DOES NOT EXIST.
                FAKE NEWS!

                Not joking about that last line. Several years ago, I heard that employees of the State of Florida (almost all of which is a few meters above current sea level) were forbidden from even using the words “Climate Change” or “Global Warming”.
                The reason given?
                Genesis 9:11-13.

          • Dana Ames says

            Because in Matt 19.1-12 Jesus has always been understood as teaching that the proper relationship for sexual congress is that of one man and one woman in marriage, even by scholars who don’t themselves believe that. No, Jesus didn’t say anything in Scripture about homosexuality, but you can be sure he knew all about it from the Greco-Roman culture that took hold among even some Jews in Palestine in his day (to the point that some of the men had surgery to get “uncircumcised” because of the standards of beauty for male bodies in that G-R culture).

            Jesus is saying that divorce should be rare, and that if anyone is not in a one man/one woman marriage, that person is to live as a eunuch, which is celibate. The disciples are described in the Gospel as being completely perplexed about this, because divorce was not uncommon, and they all understood celibacy is difficult. It IS difficult to follow that teaching, especially when one is young and hormones are involved. (I couldn’t keep that teaching, even though I professed it; my husband and I didn’t wait until we were married, which I greatly regret, and also that I had consensual sex one other time with one other man before I was married. I loved my fiance, who became my husband, but otherwise both situations happened for the wrong reasons.)

            Yes, many Christians have failed to act according to what they profess, on this and other matters. That doesn’t change what Jesus taught, which has been the teaching handed down to his followers for 2000 years, and was thought to be just as crazy in G-R culture as our culture thinks it is today. Jesus knew it is difficult, which is why he said, ““Not everyone can accept this teaching, but only those to whom it is given…. Let anyone accept this who can.”

            The reason for this restriction is not to try to deny someone’s humanity or to condemn people to loneliness. It’s because Christianity is an iconic faith; the marriage of one man and one woman is an icon of the intimate relationship between Christ and the Church (which hearkens back to God as Israel’s husband), and the proper outcome of that love is the engendering of life – children in the normal course of events for a married couple, and converts coming into the Body of Christ. This is in fact a “core element” of Christian doctrine, because it’s about the meaning of humanity’s relationship to God, and human persons’ relationships to one another, whether married or not.

            Christians are wrong to try to impose this restriction on people who aren’t Christians, and to my knowledge there weren’t any Christians in at least the first 300 years of the Church who wanted to do so, even if they could have had the power to legislate it, which they most decidedly did not. All the same, if someone wants to follow Jesus, this is part of that path, and everyone understood that in those early days of the Church. And in Eastern Christianity, marriage is valued equally with celibacy; marriage is the “normal” course of things for most people, and all humans can attain holiness by means of living in Christ in the sacramental life in both marriage and celibacy.

            I think Christians missed a huge opportunity in the ’80s: we should have pushed for legislation for civil unions for **everybody** as the way the State recognizes the civil rights of any two people who wish to be joined; if those people belonged to a faith tradition that holds marriage as only between a man and a woman, they could have a religious ceremony afterwards, but for civil rights, the civil union would be the one that “counted”. This is how it’s done in many places in Europe, and it would have solved many legal problems for us in the US; we probably wouldn’t have gotten to the Obergefell case at all.

            There is compassion for LGBTQ folks in the Church; it’s just that it’s being expressed most effectively under the radar, away from those who tend to speak the loudest condemnations. It’s a very difficult situation and does require nuance and sympathy and empathy and better ways of talking about it than we seem to be able to do most of the time, and we need to truly come alongside those who struggle in celibacy, both gay and straight, and be family for them and real friends to them. There are congregations and parishes who are trying to do this, even hamhandedly.

            It is possible to have an intimate relationship without having sex; we barely know how to do this because in our culture we’ve devalued friendship, and put the sex act on an impossibly high pedestal as the solution to all our emotional needs. But reality is that, though sex is good, sex is not the be-all and end-all of life, and a human being who has never had sex (or children) is still a full, complete human being, as Jesus was and is. To think otherwise is to think wrongly.

            So now you know, if you didn’t before, how dreadfully regressive and hard-hearted and non-accommodating and downright Traditional I am about Christian marriage. If you disagree, I’m not going to try to browbeat you; it’s been really hard lately for me to not comment on all this, because I’m well aware of the positions the regulars here hold and I am fond of and respect all of you even while holding a different position than most. Sorry if I disappoint… and not sorry about striving to live in a one-storey universe, where EVERYTHING is connected and has meaning – much more deeply than nearly all of of us can imagine nearly all of the time.


            • Robert F says

              I agree with you that the sex act has been put on an impossibly high pedestal, and cannot meet all our emotional needs; but when early marriage, entered into by very young people (by our reckoning), was sanctioned and advocated as the norm by most societies, the sex act was also there, along with the marriages that legitimated it. Do you know of an earlier society in which this impossibly high regard for the sex act, within the framework of early marriage, was not the norm? I don’t think you can count the existence of a statistically tiny group of celibate monks/nuns as indicating a society did not have this impossibly high regard for the sex act-within-marriage. The sex act has always been on that pedestal.

              • Dana Ames says

                I don’t know what the case was in any early society before Christianity. But again, in what has come down to us from early Christianity, the sex act was not held in “impossibly high” regard. It was always viewed as good (and has been everywhere that Augustine’s thought did not hold sway), but not as something necessary for a person to be regarded as a fully human being, whether that person was part of a monastic community or not. The point is to eventually be able to live in Christ in a way that transcends the necessities of this life, good though they may be.

                I do know that in the late western Roman Empire, marriage was important for families with means and land, and women were urged to get married and have children for the Empire, which was undergoing depopulation. Married women were expected to only have sex with their husbands so that their children would be legitimate; that expectation did not apply to the husbands, who could have sex with whomever they wished.

                One of the reasons there were so many Christian female martyrs – the so-called “virgin martyrs”, even though they were probably raped as part of their torture – especially in the 200s, was that in Christianity women had some freedom to **not** marry even Christian men (whether they became monastics or not), because their value and full humanity did not depend on marrying and having children. There are plenty of records of Christian women who refused marriage to non-Christian men; these erstwhile fiances, and sometimes the woman’s own non-Christian family, then denounced those women and sent them to the executioner.


    • Michael Z says

      The way the CT article phrases it is a little misleading: the decision was *not* to just maintain the status quo but to initiate a new crackdown on dissenting voices. If a core element of Christian doctrine were at stake that might be warranted, but that kind of infighting over secondary issues is just a distraction from the actual work of spreading the Gospel.

  7. Mardi Gras comes next week, but the Poles do differently. The last Thursday before lent is Fat Thursday – Tlusty Czwartek – and it’s a day for eating doughnuts called paczki, filled with rose petal jam.

    It’s an interesting time to reflect: membership of the EU brought a huge wave of Poles to Britain (and Jersey, where I live) about fifteen years ago. This is now a part of our culture – and this is what the xenophobes who are promoting Brexit want to deny us.

    Wish us luck, because the fight against Brexit for an open and inclusive society is still very much on.

    • Robert F says

      I don’t think that most Americans realize that xenophobia and acts of xenophobic hate in Great Britain are directed even more at migrant Poles than at people from, say, the Middle East and Asia, because the largest community of non-British nationals in Britain is the Polish community. Polish community centers in GB are more likely than mosques to be attacked by British racists. And this is par for the historical course of European racism, similar to the way Nazi Germany considered the Polish and other Europeans to be subhuman. If you want nationalism to revive in Europe, you should know that this cross-European national ethnic hatred and animosity is what it will look like. Europeans had been at war with each other for centuries before WWII; post War Pan-Europeanism and the European Union are attempts to undo centuries of intra-European hatred, xenophobia, and war, all rooted in nationalism.

    • Robert F says

      Here in central Pennsylvania, Lancaster County, Fat Tuesday is called Fasnacht Day. It is celebrated by excessive consumption of Fasnachts, crispy but not very sweet doughnuts sometimes made with potato flour, which traditionally had no hole in the middle and were sweetened with jelly or molasses.

      • My church, like many others, will host a pancake supper on Shrove Tuesday. I’ll have to miss it, but it will hopefully work out well as a nice social gathering as well as a good fundraiser.

        An engineer at a firm where I previously worked was from the New Orleans area. He used to have a King Cake shipped to our office every year in time for Shrove Tuesday. That was a treat we looked forward to and a treat I missed when he left the company and relocated to another city.

        • Robert F says

          My Lutheran parish will also have a pancake supper on Shrove Tuesday, though I’ve never been able to attend one. Along with the supper there used to be a “Talent Show” in the spirit of Mardi Gras tomfoolery, but it ended a couple years ago due to lack of participation.

          • Patriciamc says

            My Anglican church is doing a pancake supper and karaoke singing. I can’t wait, although I sill not be doing the singing!

      • Dana Ames says

        Y’all know that this flurry of pancake and donut eating is about using up your milk and eggs before the fasting season, yes?

        Orthodox don’t slam into Lent; we enter into the season step by step. The week before last we did not abstain from meat and dairy on Wednesday and Friday as usual; this was one of our four “fast-free” weeks during the year. This past week was our last to eat meat and fish before Lent. The coming week is our last to eat dairy and eggs. This year, our Lent begins on Sunday evening the 10th when we have the Vespers of Forgiveness, during which each person asks forgiveness of every other person in the parish face-to-face. Then we’re ready to begin the journey to Pascha.


        • Robert F says

          Yes, we know. But despite that, Fasnachts are decidedly unpalatable greasy donuts that are not easily consumed without liberal applications of sugar or other sweet condiments.

        • Patriciamc says

          CM’s reminder that this site will fast from the weekend brunch is similar to what I’ll be doing this year. Last year, I fasted from commenting on most sites I visit while this year I’m expanding that to not visiting most or all religious sites at all. I know that sounds strange, but I’ve found that reading various Christian websites has distracted me from Christ, the Bible, and true teachings. I’ve developed a cynical view towards many Christians and even to the Bible (complementarian articles and remarks have really messed with me), so I’m cutting it out for Lent and focusing just on Christ. Now, if something major happens on a national scale, then oh yeah, I’ll be back commenting!

  8. The author of the excerpt above is spot on to say indifference has nothing to do with apathy and uncaring. But Ignatian indifference has most everything to do with detachment – – detachment in the sense of seeking to free ourselves of the habits and behaviors, and the emotional and spiritual ties that prevent us from growing closer to God. Ignatius of Loyola, the founder of what we know as Ignatian Spiritualty, refers to these ties that bind us as “disordered affections.” Disordered affections can include our soul- relationship to material possessions, selfishness, pride, the sinful ways we treat others, and those things unique to each one of us that distort our ability to respond to the call of Christ and to serve others in the manner Jesus wants us to.

    Indifference is a grace we seek from the Lord through “discernment”. By taking on an enriching prayer discipline, meditating and contemplating scripture and the life of Jesus, seeking the wise counsel of a trained spiritual director, and making consequential life changes, we can gain freedom from those things that block growth in our spiritual life and embrace actions that enable us to draw closer to God and to follow God’s will in our life.

    Jesus’ encounter with the rich young man is an example from scripture of what Ignatius is getting at. The young man approaches Jesus with a good heart, a desire to seek to do good — and he knows the law well. He asks Jesus what more he can do to attain eternal life. Jesus explains to him the cost of discipleship and the young man goes away despondent because he is still too closely attached to his possessions to respond fully to Jesus’ love for him.

    Lent is a great time to consider those things in our lives which keep us from responding fully to Jesus’ invitation to labor with him in building the kingdom of God. Doing so yields sweet rewards.

  9. Phil Dickens says

    What a beautiful song. I lost my mom when I was 15 and this touched my heart. Thank you CM.

  10. Having always lived in a Baptist tradition one thing I have missed out on is participating in the church calendar, and I think that is one area that Baptists have messed up on. I believe that following the church year would be a helpful way of focusing our teaching and pointing us to Jesus rather than whatever was on the preacher’s mind. I also believe the days we observe and give special attention to have an influence on who we are. Unfortunately, rather than observing and paying attention to the Christian year, Baptist churches have adopted the secular calendar. So we don’t observe Lent, but we do make sure to give special attention to mother’s day, father’s day, memorial day, the fourth of July, veteran’s day, and Thanksgiving. The only Christian holidays we recognize are Easter and Christmas, and Christmas better not fall on a Sunday.

    • Christiane says

      Hello Jon,
      why do you think ‘Christmas’ and ‘Easter’ survived in the evangelical tradition of the Baptists?

      • Christmas has actually not always survived in some Protestant circles, not sure if Baptists ever refused to recognize it. But I think the reason is that the incarnation and the resurrection are the two biggest miracles of Christ without which we wouldn’t have any hope in this world. They are also both events which are recorded in Scripture. Of course so is the Crucifixion, but few Baptist churches have a service on Good Friday.

        • Easter was the first feast celebrated, every Sunday, by the historic Church, and Eastertide was the first of the liturgical seasons observed. Christmas didn’t come until a century or two later.

      • One interesting things to me is that Amish, who are ana-baptist, recognize ascension day, which is something I had never even heard of growing up.

        • Not only do they recognize it, but they observe it in a big way, by closing businesses, having special services, and suspending normal daily activities — at least the Amish/Mennonites here in Lancaster County do, though I understand it’s not so with the Amish/Mennonites in other places. I’m not sure how the local Anabaptists came to hold Ascension Day in such high regard; it is so unusual for most Protestants.

    • Clay Crouch says

      You left out Halloween (All Hallows’ Eve). Around here (the South) it is far and away the largest celebration in the Baptist Church year.

      • This is true, lots of trunk or treats going on. But if you say All Hallow’s Eve to some one you’ll just get funny looks.

    • Burro (Mule) says

      Super Bowl Sunday probably has greater liturgical impact here than any other holiday on the calendar.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says

      So we don’t observe Lent, but we do make sure to give special attention to mother’s day, father’s day, memorial day, the fourth of July, veteran’s day, and Thanksgiving.

      Doesn’t IMonk have a category for “American Idolatry”?

  11. Michael Z says

    Why are you all talking about all these other things instead of worrying about whether that poor dog is ever going to be able to figure out that his name has been changed arbitrarily, and when his owners say “Max” they now mean him? 🙂

    • thatotherjean says


      Poor confused pup!

    • Christiane says

      oh dear, my beloved ‘Noah’ has been called at various times, by me, other names on certain occasions:
      ‘Buddy, Bear-Bear when in great need of grooming, and when appropriate, ‘Puddle’

      what have I done ?
      mea culpa

      Love that cute goldendoodle, whatever they call him . . . those eyes! so sweet the little guy

    • I realized that we accidentally taught our dog his name is “Supper”. We finally gave up trying to fix it.

  12. One of the saddest things I’ve ever seen was the press conference conducted shortly before the Obergefell decision by an influential group of African-American ministers here in the DC area, agitating against equal protection for gay couples. Here was a group of folks who historically had been discriminated against not for anything they’d done but for who they were arguing against extending civil rights to another group who had historically been discriminated against not for what they’d done but for who they were. It made me want to cry.

    Did social progress end in the first century? The very success of these African-American minsters indicated it did not! Religiously sanctioned bigotry is still bigotry.

    • Yeah, it was sort of mind-boggling. I gotta wonder though if psychologically and emotionally at some level it was a kind of cycle of abuse thing. Those who have themselves been abused are more likely to become abusers.

      Of course, other factors, probably didn’t help either, such as white American evangelical conservatives cozying up to and encouraging the death penalty for being LGBTQ in places like Uganda.

      The things people do under the cover of religion and allegedly in the name of Jesus just continue to make me mourn and weep. God help us.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says

      Just because your tribe got stomped on in the past doesn’t mean you’re not going to turn around and stomp on the next out-group. Historically, this happened all the time in the 19th Century with various “Native American” movements stomping on those subhuman Irish/Slavs/Poles/Jews coming off the boats. Most of these subhuman immigrants ended up assimilating and swelling the next Nativist movement against the next subhuman race coming off the boats to contaminate America’s Race Purity.

      • Christiane says

        I don’t know about this, Headless.

        Jewish people have been persecuted endlessly, but if you look at the Holocaust memorial sites, you find a plea for a return to humane behavior towards all people . . .

        it is a shame that the nation of Israel cannot work out some fair homeland for Palestinians . . . . in that one area, I hope for change, yes

        but on the whole, if I look to Judaism, I see a call for being humane and respectful towards all living. In spite of what the Jews have endured at the hands of others . . . . and I find this admirable indeed.

        They will speak for those who have no voice. Exception: Palestinians . . . Israel doesn’t seem to be able to resolve all that needs to be worked out in that area . . . . and the peace of the Middle East and even of the world hinges on that being done in my opinion

  13. johnbarry says

    Stephen , slippery slope here. Is being against female genital mutilation religious bigotry? Is a secular law against arranged marriages of a minor to an adult religious bigotry?

    The Christians you cite as being bigoted put their Christian beliefs above all else. You cannot change your race, color and genetic markers but these Christians believe that being born black or white or whatever is not the same as living a lifestyle that they believe to be sinful. When they find the “gay” gene that changes the ball game.

    I guess it ties in with the African UMC voting. Strange is it not.

  14. Donalbain says

    The Christians you cite as being bigoted put their Christian beliefs above all else. You cannot change your race, color and genetic markers but these Christians believe that being born black or white or whatever is not the same as living a lifestyle that they believe to be sinful. When they find the “miscegenation” gene that changes the ball game.

  15. johnbarry says

    So they have as much chance finding the miscegenation gene as the homosexual gene. Although I, for years thought Mis Cegenation was the one of the consolation titles like Mis Congeniality, Mis Hospitality etc in the Miss America beauty contest. Bess Meyerson was the first Miss America that was Jewish, maybe her name should have been Ester.

    So is it nature or nuture , in todays world we will never know. It would seem like the frustrating evangelicals do not have as much influence in Africa as the RCC and UMC but yet somehow they influenced the non acceptance of homosexual church leader by the African Christians. Maybe the RCC and UMC were listening to the evangelicals and passing it on. Where did the crazy Africans come up with the idea of marriage being a sacrament ?

    • senecagriggs says

      Well said Johnbarry.

      “Where did the crazy Africans come up with the idea of marriage being a sacrament?”

      [ Where indeed ]

    • Whether it’s nature or nurture, or as is most likely a combination, is irrelevant. The mandate of the government based on its charter (the Constitution) is to treat all its citizens equally under the law. The Christians I cite seem to assume that it is the obligation of the state to privilege their religious opinions. The Supreme Court wasn’t doing theology. How the Christians feel about homosexuality is also irrelevant.

      I agree that the writings of the Bible condemn same sex relationships. But so what? The writers of the Bible thought the earth was flat. That women were property. That slavery was part of God’s plan. I don’t go to the bible for my cosmology or my sexual biology or for a prescription to validate a specific social order.

      Assuming you already agree that the biblical cosmology has been superceded and that women are no longer property, and that slavery is immoral then I assume you will agree that social progress has been made since the first century. Now we are coming to realize that one’s sexuality should be treated like every other aspect of their personal identity. The secular state steps in and restricts our freedoms only when it has demonstrated a compelling reason to do so. Bigotry against gays is not a compelling reason. If you claim it’s God’s opinion well God had some other opinions too but you don’t seem to be bothered by those anymore.

  16. senecagriggs says

    It’s a fine Sunday morning – hint, hint.

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