Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Two competing visions of Christianity

Last week the Wyoming Tribune-Eagle published an op-ed by Dale Johnson, a local fundamentalist accusing me of the high crime of blasphemy because of my belief that gays, lesbians, bi-sexual and transgendered persons are as much members of the family of God as he and I. That same day, WTE printed a letter from Tom Lindsey, reducing the humanity of some of our family to the role reserved for those he calls “perverts.” This may only be explained by polytheism because I certainly don’t worship the same God these writers proclaim.
Matthew Fox has issued a call for a New Reformation. Fox is a one-time Dominican priest, an old nemesis of the current Pope, having engaged the then Cardinal Ratzinger in debate about theological issues for decades. Fox has reflected, thought and written long enough about these matters to have earned respect for his opinions. When he posted his 95 Theses on the door of the Wittenberg Cathedral in 2005, he intended to evoke the response achieved centuries earlier by Martin Luther.
One afternoon in 1517, sitting in his study at Wittenberg University, Luther heard a monk hawking indulgences. "Another penny in the coffer rings, another soul to Heaven springs."  Enough was enough. Luther sat down at his desk and wrote 95 Theses, walked to the door of the Cathedral and posted them, challenging those who saw the role of the church in the life of the people differently.
The 16th Century Reformation was underway and the church would never be the same. Writings such as those posted in the WTE last week signal Matthew Fox is right. It is time for the New Reformation. What would it look like? How would people in pews or preachers in pulpits recognize it as a Reformation?
Fox has a good starting place. He believes there are two competing visions of Christianity. Those who posted their views on homosexuality in the WTE last week represent the angry God of judgment depicted in the Old Testament, a rigid view of scripture, and a fear of the role of science in revelation. Others among whom I find myself represent a view of Christianity based fully on the words, the teaching and the life of Jesus of Nazareth. We believe in the grace of a God who did not quit revealing God’s purpose on the day the last page of the Bible was written. We reject a literal reading of scripture that tends to make the Bible as much of a Golden Calf as the one crafted by the Israelites in the wilderness of their spiritual journey.
I would not presume to know enough to write a modern day version of the 95 Theses but Fox has. This is a link to his “posting.”  http://www.yesmagazine.org/issues/spiritual-uprising/1326. Among them: “God is always new, always “in the beginning” “All the names we give to God come from an understanding of ourselves. Thus people who worship a punitive father are themselves punitive” “All are called to be prophets which is to interfere with injustice”  “Fourteen billion years of evolution and unfolding of the universe bespeak the intimate sacredness of all that is” and “no religious institution is to see its task as rationing grace. Grace is abundant in God’s universe.”
Listing a handful of the 95 Theses does not do justice to Fox’s thoughtful expression of a Christ-centered alternative to Chaplain Johnson and Mr. Lindsey’s views. I hope you will read them all, think and pray about them. Decide for yourself whether you worship the God revealed in the writings of folks like Lindsey and Johnson or the vision of God offered by the thoughtful expression of Matthew Fox.

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