Even in West Virginia There Is a Gay Christian

In fact, he’s a very prominent leader:


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Hot Button Issues and Theological Polarization

Over Duke’s Call & Response Blog, sociologist Mark Chaves has posted an interesting graph and some reflections on it.  American politics has become more polarized of late, and sociologists attribute that not to a change a people’s viewpoints, but to the fact that the two political parties have placed hot button issues at the center of their agendas, thus forcing the electorate to once side or another.

Chaves wondered if, in the three mainline denominations dealing with homosexuality, the same thing was happening.  And, sure enough, it is.

Chaves writes,

In short, it seems that in the Episcopal Church, the PC(USA), and the ELCA, churches that lean in the conservative direction on homosexuality may have been pushed by national developments within these denominations to declare themselves to be more theologically conservative, even though their views may not have become more conservative over the last decade. If people within a denomination now are more likely to sort themselves into congregations based on those congregations’ stand on homosexuality, this could produce fewer churches with theologically middle-of-the-road identities. If churches are forced to choose sides on an issue, people will be more likely to choose churches based on which side they are on.

This seems a very reasonable conclusion to draw.

For me, that produces some sadness.  The church in which I was reared, and then served for seven years, was a yellow church.  “We’re centrist,” I heard from the pulpit several times when I was a pastor there, “Not the mushy middle, but centered on Christ and not thrown off course by one theological topic or another.”  And yet, I know that the pastor who preached that and the one who followed him were both asked the litmus test question, “What do you think about gays?” during the interview process.

That church is, once again, searching for a senior minister.  And, if Chaves is right about there being less centrist mainline churches, I bet there are also less centrist clergy candidates from which to choose.

Weekend Politics

Two of my favorite members of the punditocracy went at it on Friday night on Real Time.  I most appreciate both Bill Maher and Andrew Sullivan for their honesty.  I agree with each of them on some things and disagree on others.  I tend to agree with Maher on the present state of America and the current administration and I love his acerbic wit (plus the linguistic freedom that he is afforded on HBO), but I find his views on religion to be odious and reactionary.  I appreciate Sullivan’s wholehearted commitment to democracy and capitalism, but I think he’s living in lala land to believe that either could achieve the idealistic state that he envisions (in fact, Naomi Klein really busted Sullivan’s chops on this very point on the show).

I think Sullivan is one of the best guests that Maher has on, primarily because Andrew is not the least bit intimidated by Bill’s intellect and tongue.  This clip is a classic repartee between the two of them on the subject of religion:


In other news, journalists are finally started to talk publicly about the power of the racist vote in America, and about the McCain campaign’s unwillingness to speak boldly against it.  Mark Ambinder has written about it here and here in the last couple days, and Nicholas Kristof today argues that the lingering lies about BO being an underground Muslim is really a foil for racism.

I do think there’s something to this, unfortunately.  In fact, the only way I see BO losing the election is if a certain segments of whites don’t vote for him because of latent racism.  How sad is that?

More on Obama and Abortion

There has been a robust conversation in the comments section of my previous post on abortion.  There are clearly some policy wonks who read my blog, and I’m not one of them.  I mean, I’m not a policy wonk; not that I don’t read my blog.  Anyway, I appreciate those of you who can quote particular pieces of legislation and particular votes.  My interest is more on the overarching principles at hand, although it does seem to me that BO made it abundantly clear that his most odious vote to pro-lifers was because he thought the bill would be struck down as unconstitutional (HT: Keith).

I am thankful that my friend, Carla Jo, fought the good fight in the comments.  For those of you who don’t know her, CJ has a raft of evangelical credentials.  In other words, she’s no leftist idealogue.  She’s simply trying to deal with the complexity of the issue — I must say, much as BO does.

And I am particularly indebted to the two women who posted about their own abortions.  In the wake of that terrible decision, they’ve come to different conclusions about the issue, but their journeys to those conclusions, IMHO, seem a lot more honest than some others who commented.  Honestly, I cannot imagine either of them, though they stand on different sides of the debate, referring to someone as a “faggot” or “callous, selfish, and unrepentant.”

I was on the weekly O religious outreach call last night, and I again brought up the issue of abortion.  And, again, I was outnumbered.  But what I said there I’ll say here: I don’t expect any of you who are ideological about the issue of abortion to be swayed by my reasoning, or by BO’s for that matter.  You can go ahead and vote for McCain/Palin and assume that they’ll actually change things.  You can keep telling yourself, “We just need one…more…justice to overturn Roe v. Wade.”  You can keep throwing good money after bad and support candidates who pander to you on ideological grounds.  That’s your prerogative.

But for my part, I’m more interested in convincing moderate and progressive evangelicals to vote for BO.  So, to those of you on the fence, let me say a few things: progressive Christians don’t love abortion, they despise it.  It’s a terrible blight on our society.  But criminalizing an activity does not eliminate it from society, be it crystal meth, rape, or graffiti.  So when people say to you, “The point isn’t to reduce abortions, the point is to eliminate them,” you can say to them, “I think you need to go feed your unicorn and see if the leprechaun is still guarding your pot of gold.”

The point was made again on the call last night that BO is going to go straight after the systemic causes that all too often force women into the terrible predicament.  He is going to propose legislation that provides significant tax credits for adoption; he’s going to increase the funding to programs that aid single mothers (particularly young ones) in finding childcare and finding work; he’s going to make more robust education programs for ill-prepared moms; and he’s going to signifcantly enhance early childhood family education funding (a program that I’ve been involved with in my own community).

In short, it’s time to get pragmatic.  Let’s do something about this blight on our society, a blight that is inextriably tied up with issues of poverty, urban struggle, and sexual morality.

In other news, the O campaign today announced a “Faith, Family, and Values Tour” using surrogates to talk about BO’s commitments to the very issues that concern Jesus-followers.  One of the first such events will be in Colorado Springs and will be headlined by Don Miller.

[UPDATE: Abortions have declined during both the Clinton and Bush administrations.]