“A person must not be identified by their sexual orientation”

A New York archbishop shut down a “gay mass” that was held regularly in a SoHo church.  His explanation why there must not be a distinct worship service for homosexuals–the one mass is for everyone–makes a further interesting point about human identity:

First among the principles of pastoral care is the innate dignity of every person and the respect in which they must be held. Also, of great importance, is the teaching of the Church that a person must not be identified by their sexual orientation. The moral teaching of the Church is that the proper use of our sexual faculty is within a marriage, between a man and a woman, open to the procreation and nurturing of new human life.

Comments David Mills:

That “must not be identified by their sexual orientation,” for example, also means “must not identify themselves by their sexual orientation,” which is to say, must not assume they can or must act upon their desires.

You are not first a homosexual, the archdiocese is saying to the people who attended that Mass. You are first and primarily a human being, and therefore someone called to chastity, and the proper expressions of your sexuality are defined and limited and do not include homosexual practice. Being homosexual is only the personal context in which you are called to be chaste, as being heterosexual is the context for most people. But it is not an identity that brings with it a way of life.

via First Thoughts | A First Things Blog.

How does this help to frame the issue of homosexuality and pastoral care to gay people (that is, to human beings with same sex attraction)?  On the other hand, what is distinctly Catholic about this formulation?

Voting for “plan B” would not violate the pledge

In the fiscal cliff negotiations, President Obama wants to renew the Bush tax cuts for everyone except those who make $250,000.  House Speaker Boehner, in what he is calling his “plan B,” is saying that Republicans would be willing to let taxes go up for people making $1 million and more.  (He may be hoping to split the difference with a proposal once made by former House Speaker Pelosi to put the cut-off at $400,000.)

Interestingly, Grover Norquist at Americans for Tax Reform, which has been collecting pledges from Republican lawmakers that they would never vote for new taxes, is saying that a vote for plan B would not violate the pledge, presumably because the vote would be to renew the tax cuts and that letting some tax cuts expire is not the same as actively voting to raise taxes.  (But wouldn’t that logic apply to the $250,000 level also?)  Here is the ATR statement:

“Republicans supporting this bill are this week affirming to their constituents in writing that this bill — the sole purpose of which is to prevent tax increases — is consistent with the pledge they made to them. In ATR’s analysis, it is extremely difficult — if not impossible — to fault these Republicans’ assertion,” reads the statement posted on ATR’s website Wednesday morning.

“In particular, in this Congress the House has already voted twice to prevent any tax increases on any American,” the statement continues. “When viewed with this in mind, and considering this tax bill contains no tax increases of any kind — in fact, it permanently prevents them — matters become more clear. Having finally seen actual legislation in writing, ATR is now able to make its determination about a legislative proposal related to the fiscal cliff. ATR will not consider a vote for this measure a violation of the Taxpayer Protection Pledge.”

via Conservative groups, but not ATR, line up against ‘Plan B’ | The Daily Caller.

Nevertheless, other conservative groups are rejecting Plan B, and President Obama and congressional Democrats are still holding firm for the $250,000 cut-off.

Would those numbers matter to you in your support for a fiscal cliff bill?  Does the new Norquist logic make sense, or is it mere casuistry to give lawmakers a cover to break their promises?  Is letting some Americans’ taxes go up preferable to making all Americans’ taxes go up, which is what would happen on January 1 if no legislation gets passed?

UPDATE:  Boehner put his plan before Congress, but it was shot down, as even Republicans failed to support it.

 

Should Christians smoke (legal) marijuana?

The recreational use of marijuana is now legal in Colorado and Washington state.  So is there any reason why Christians in those states should not use marijuana?

Interestingly, one medical marijuana dispensary in California is run by evangelical Christians, who seem to be using their business as a ministry, witnessing to their customers and giving out Bibles, even as they join the effort for legalized pot:

A medical marijuana dispensary in California expresses evangelical Christian views and is known to hand out Bibles along with the controversial drug.

Canna Care of Sacramento, a family owned dispensary known for supplying medical marijuana and advocating for decriminalization, evangelizes and prays with its customers. Canna Care oversees group prayers in a typical day around 6:00 p.m. and has handed out an estimated 3,000 Bibles to those who come for their services.

Kris Hermes, spokesperson for the nationwide pro-marijuana legalization group Americans for Safe Access, told The Christian Post about its ties to Canna Care.

“Canna Care has been a supporter of Americans for Safe Access as have scores of dispensaries across the country,” said Hermes. “We have also worked with the operators of Canna Care on a number of political campaigns over the years, given their active involvement in advancing medical marijuana policy.”

Hermes also told CP about the building of bridges between ASA and faith communities in the United States in the effort to decriminalize the drug.

via Calif. Marijuana Dispensary Owned by Evangelical Christian Family.

Mark Driscoll, a cutting-edged Reformed pastor says that Christians should stay away from marijuana, making an interesting distinction between “sin” and what the Bible describes as “folly.”

I would add that moral issues are not necessarily just a matter of isolated  individual behavior.   Buying marijuana may well involve a person financially supporting the murderous drug cartels.  So let’s stipulate what is not presently common, the use of weed that is locally and legally produced.

Is there a Biblical difference between marijuana and alcohol?  Isn’t it true that alcohol, according to the Bible, can be used without intoxication, whereas intoxication is the whole point of smoking marijuana?

(Note:  I am not proposing that we debate whether drugs should be legalized.  I am asking whether, if they are legalized, Christians should nevertheless refrain from using them.)

Breaking pledges

Republican lawmakers are bailing on the formal pledge they made not to vote for a tax increase.

Grover Norquist’s anti-tax pledge has been a sacred and unchallenged keystone of the Republican platform for more than two decades, playing a central role in almost every budget battle in Congress since 1986. But Norquist and his pledge, signed by 95 percent of congressional Republicans, are now in danger of becoming Washington relics as more and more defectors inch toward accepting tax increases to avert the “fiscal cliff.”

On Monday, Sen. Bob Corker (Tenn.) became the latest in a handful of prominent Republican lawmakers to take to the airwaves in recent days and say they are willing to break their pledge to oppose all tax increases.

“I’m not obligated on the pledge,” Corker told CBS’s Charlie Rose. “I made Tennesseans aware, I was just elected, the only thing I’m honoring is the oath I take when I serve when I’m sworn in this January.”

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) also suggested Monday that Norquist’s anti-tax pledge would not dictate the GOP’s strategy on the fiscal cliff, raising questions across Washington about whether Norquist’s ironclad hold on the Republican Party has loosened. . . .

Even House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) expressed dismay with Norquist’s pledge and his role in the GOP at the time. . . .

Last November, 100 House members, 40 of them Republicans, wrote a letter to Congress’s deficit-reduction “supercommittee” urging it to consider all options — a vague pronouncement that, at least in theory, endorsed tax increases forbidden by Norquist. A number of House members, including freshman Rep. Scott Rigell (R-Va.), said openly that they no longer felt bound by the pledge they had signed when running for office. Rigell was reelected this month. . . .

And now, with severe cuts in line if Congress doesn’t reach a deal on the fiscal cliff, coming to an agreement is paramount. Analysts have a hard time forecasting a deal that doesn’t include tax increases — especially after President Obama won reelection, having run in large part on letting tax cuts for the wealthy expire.

Some Republicans are bowing to that version of reality. Over the weekend and on Monday, Sens. Lindsey O. Graham (S.C.), Saxby Chambliss (Ga.) and Corker (Tenn.), along with Rep. Peter T. King (N.Y.), said they would be willing to violate the pledge under the right circumstances.

via Will the fiscal cliff break Grover Norquist’s hold on Republicans? – The Washington Post.

Now I can agree that it is foolish to bind oneself in a pledge like this.  There may well be a time when it is in the republic’s interest to raise taxes.  Perhaps this is such a time.  But it is still highly unethical to violate one’s word.  (And how about Scott Rigell not feeling bound by the pledge because he made it while running for office?  As if campaign promises, by definition, don’t need to be kept!)

But if lawmakers no longer believe in what they once pledged, they still are obliged to keep that pledge.   The honorable course of action would be to resign their office so that their governor can appoint someone who has not made the pledge.

The fate of moral issues

The Republicans did not make a big deal of  moral or “cultural” issues during the last election.  Little was said about abortion.  Conservatives were well-behaved when it came to gay marriage.  Unlike previous elections, Republicans–including social conservatives who care a great deal about these issues–pretty much left them alone.

But the Democrats, in contrast, did run on moral and cultural issues.  They attacked conservatives for opposing abortion and gay marriage.  They went further, scaring the general public that the Republicans would outlaw birth control and enslave women.

And the Democrats won on these issues.  Their take on moral and social issues was, in fact, very important.  Single women voted overwhelmingly for Obama, largely, according to the exit polls, because of “women’s issues.”  Clumsy and unsophisticated treatment of the “rape exception” for abortion on the part of two pro-life candidates cost arguably cost Republicans the Senate.

So we have reached the point at which conservative moral issues are political losers and liberal moral issues–gay marriage, abortion on demand–are political winners.

So what now for social conservatives?

Changing the culture by hospitality

My colleague Mark Mitchell argues that we should change our model of cultural engagement from that of warfare to that of hospitality:

In two recent pieces, I argued that 1) the language of “culture war” is not helpful and should be discarded, and 2) that to the extent that liberalism is rooted in a denial of limits, it is anti-culture, for culture is, at the very least, a set of established norms that include prohibitions as well as prescriptions. In short, to weaponize culture is to destroy culture, and to attempt to forge a culture that denies limits is incoherent conceptually and disastrous socially.

So where does that leave us? I want to suggest that we need rethink the meaning of cultural engagement. “Engaging” culture in the idiom of warfare has not produced much in the way of results. Yet at the same time, those who want to preserve historic norms regarding marriage, sexuality, and even life and death are understandably reticent to simply abandon the field to those who seek to undermine or destroy those norms.

To rethink the possibilities, we might find help in a most unlikely place: a late second century letter from an otherwise unknown author named Mathetes to an equally obscure recipient named Diognetus. The letter is an apologetic of sorts, a kind of primer on what set the new Christian sect apart from the pagan religions of the time as well as from Judaism. In a section dedicated to describing the manners of the Christians, Mathetes remarks that “they marry, as do all [others]; they beget children but they do not destroy their offspring. They have a common table, but not a common bed.” If we unpack these lines, I think we can find a plausible alternative to the culture war, an alternative that Christians, Jews, Muslims, and other men and women of good will can employ as a means of engaging the culture creatively and winsomely.

The phrase I want to focus on is this: they have a common table, but not a common bed.” Of course, the author is describing the lifestyle of the early Christian community, who were known for sharing meals with each other. They were also known for the limits they recognized: they were exclusive sexually even as they were promiscuous in their hospitality.

The emphasis here is the practice of hospitality (with obvious limits), and I want to suggest that hospitality is a radical alternative to both the language and practice of culture wars. [Read more…]