Obama, gay marriage and Christianity

So, if you haven’t heard (perhaps your head had been disconnected from your shoulders or your internet connection was down), President Obama yesterday came out in support of legalizing gay marriage.  What is interesting to me is not Obama’s support for gay marriage (or as I like to call it, “marriage,” since, as one viral post puts it, I didn’t have “gay lunch” today, I had lunch) but his reference to his Christian faith as informing this decision.

This, of course, is not going to be a huge news item, although many news agencies are running it as a secondary story.  However, as a practicing and committed Christian, it is very interesting to me to look at what the President said and at the reaction it garnered from religious leaders.

Obama made reference to two Christian theological topics, soteriology and the Golden Rule.  First, soteriology, the study of Christ’s sacrificial action in his life, death and resurrection, then in another post, the Golden Rule, and finally an assessment of the President’s theology.

Traditional Christian soteriology focuses on what has been termed “atonement.” The classic statement on atonement is Anselm of Canterbury’s treatise Cur deus homo (“Why God became human”).  In this treatise, Anselm, writing at the end of the 11th century summarized the theology of his day; God was offended by Adam’s sin and required a blood sacrifice to appease God’s honor.  The only acceptable sacrifice was the death of God’s own son, Jesus, who was sinless but willingly died for the sins of the world.

Most of us will be familiar with this idea.  It is enshrined in our liturgies: “Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world, have mercy on us.” It even appears at sporting events: we’ve all seen the “John 3:16” signs.  John 3:16 is the portion of scripture that reads, “For God so loved the world that he gave his only son….”  It has become such a commonplace idea that we don’t really think about it.  We just repeat it: “For us and for our salvation, he came down from heaven….was crucified, suffered death….”

When you think about it, this idea is horrific.  God was angry and required blood?  Is this the God who is love or is it some Pacific island volcano god demanding the sacrifice of a virgin?

To Anselm’s contemporaries, this idea would have made complete and total sense.  They knew about honor and blood-debts.  Medieval society essentially revolved around these concepts.  Our contemporary culture find them abhorrent.

So, how do we understand and formulate a modern soteriology?  It’s not easy, but it is possible.

The first path is to believe and proclaim that “Jesus Saves” without explaining how.  The second path is to try and forge a new understanding of sin and redemption.

The first outlines, a tenuous start, might be to recognize that our society, collectively, is sinful.  Our society, due to the individual sins of each person and due to corporate sins, attempts to remove itself from God’s grace.  Jesus bridges this gap by becoming human and giving us a way to repent and live the kingdom.

The difference is somewhat subtle, but it is important.  In the medieval iteration, God is bloodthirsty.  In the second iteration, God is compassionate and wants to show us a new way.

So, what does this mean for the President’s statement. He said, “when we think about our faith, the thing at root that we think about is, not only Christ sacrificing himself on our behalf.” So, soteriology is at the root of Christianity for Obama.

He probably has not thought about it beyond the John 3:16 signs, but the President is tapping into centuries of Christian thought (I haven’t even examined the biblical roots of this theology).

So, to interpret Obama’s comments, the President is say that while Christ’s sacrifice is important, the entirety of Christianity involves more than that.  It means that we must move beyond the Cross to the Resurrection.

And that is where the gay community can connect.  We have been living with the Cross (discrimination, violence, inequality and more) for many years.  Now is our time of resurrected life.

Too often soteriology focuses on the Cross, but forgets that all of Jesus’ life, including the Cross and especially the Resurrection, is redemptive.

The President, perhaps unwittingly, has pointed to the way forward for Christians.  We must focus on the Cross, but Jesus’ life and Resurrection are equally important.  This type of theology is the way Christian life can be reinvigorated and renewed, and the way in which Christian values can be helpful in politics; not by legislating morality, but by setting people free to live full and whole lives.

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the putative bishop of Rome

As an Episcopalian, I take real affront to the recent actions of the person calling himself the bishop of Rome. He is not interested in learned discussion, only in obsessive obedience to a dictator. In the Episcopal Church we allow a diversity of opinion on non-doctrinal statements. This is a good thing. Do you doubt Christ’s divinity? Sorry, we like you, but cannot allow that to be part of our faith. Do you wish to exclude the Holy Spirit from the faithful? Sorry, we like you, but cannot accept you as part of the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic faith. Either the Holy Spirit works through all the faithful or she does not; the latter is the Catholic position. To disagree with that proposition puts one outside the Catholic faith. Submit to whomever you wish, however, the Holy Spirit will do as she pleases, regardless of the Roman hierarchy. To disagree with Rome is not wrong, nor does it make one less Catholic. To blindly submit to the whims of a human being who happens to be bishop of Rome makes one not only less Catholic, but an idiot. The bishop of Rome does not control the Catholic faith. The Holy Spirit does that. The bishop of Rome is not head of the Church, Christ is the head. The bishop of Rome is the “servus servorum Dei.” the servant of the servants of God. It’s time he started acting as such instead of destroying God’s Church.  This fear of the “Pope” and his mechanisms (“the Curia”) only weakens the Catholic faith and make Christians worship the man with the pointy hat in Rome, rather than worship God and follow his Son, Our Lord Jesus Christ.  Choose: Christ or the “pope.”

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What is important

So, we’ll blog.

My stomach hurts.

The pope likes condoms.

It’s Advent.

I’d be tempted to post on any of these topics (although my stomach doesn’t hurt at this time; Thanksgiving was a different story).

However, I was moved to tears about the arson in Oregon:


Really?  Violence met with violence only meets with more violence.  For some reason, we seem loathe to realize this.  We think that meeting violence by Muslims with more violence will silence them, yet we KNOW that Islam is like the Hydra; cut off one head and it sprouts two more.

So, why can’t we approach Islam like they are our sisters and brothers?  In Judaism, Christianity and Islam we all call Abraham “father.”  Yet, the Mosque of a suspected terrorist is torched only hours after the accusation is made.

This will only lead to more violence.  We must come to some understanding or come to the understanding that we will lose; Islam is a religion that doesn’t stop until it wins.  Christianity is passive (for Christians who want to argue this: when were you last in church and when did you last do something evangelical?).

It is time to make peace with our Muslim brothers and sisters; at the very least, it is time to stop burning their places of worship in retaliation for one person’s actions.  Just imagine what would happen if every time a Christian committed a crime we burned his/her place of worship; there wouldn’t be a church left in these United States.

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From papists to royalists

So, enough with the Pope of Rome and on to more important people.

Of course, I have been fascinated by the coverage of the engagement of Catherine Middleton and Prince William of Wales.  Finally, they have chosen their venue (Westminster Abbey, although I was hoping they might break all traditions and hop over the Thames to Southwark) and their date (29 August–the day I was confirmed).  For those of you who don’t know, I am an ardent monarchist, as long as it’s someone else’s country!  It’s fun to watch from this side of the pond.

While others are concerned with the dress and other details, what interests me are the titles.  It is somewhat of a tradition that royal princes receive a title from the monarch on the eve of their marriage (e.g., Prince Andrew was made Duke of York, Earl of Inverness and Baron Killyleagh on the eve of his wedding to Sarah Ferguson, and is therefore not properly “Prince Andrew,” but HRH the Duke of York).  One of the editors of Debrett’s believes that the title will be “Duke of Sussex,” but I am hoping it will be Duke of Clarence (William IV was granted the title by his father, George III, and was known as Duke of Clarence and St Andrews).  Not only would it be appropriate for Prince William to have the title of his namesake (he will be William V on his accession to the throne), but since St Andrews is where the couple met, it has a romantic tone to it.

Of course, what happens remains to be seen.  William’s uncle, Prince Edward, was not made a duke, but was given the title Earl of Wessex (the assumption is that he will be made Duke of Edinburgh when that title merges with the crown upon his parents’ deaths).  “Prince” may seem like enough of a title, but it is a courtesy title and not a peerage, which in the UK makes a lot of difference, at least in court circles.  As the future king, it would be odd for William not to be made a duke.

Subsidiary titles are always another question.  Most nobles have them, and their heirs use one of the titles as a courtesy (my kinsman, the Marquess of Waterford is also Earl of Tyrone, Viscount Tyrone, Baron Beresford, Baron of Tyrone and Baronet of Coleraine–his heir is known as the Earl of Tyrone).  Usually royal dukes are given an earldom and a barony, one with a placename from Scotland and the other with a placename from Northern Ireland, thus connecting the three kingdoms in the United Kingdom.

I’m short on speculation about subsidiary titles. Any ideas from other whacko royalists?

In other news, I plan to be in London on 29 April, and a friend of mine who is a travel agent is putting together a group package.  If you are interested, let me know!

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I have been fascinated by the recent news media surrounding the bishop of Rome’s comments admitting that male prostitutes might use condoms.

Rejoice, male prostitutes!  The Pope has set you free!

Really, this is silly.  The Pope of Rome has attempted to make an exception (albeit a tenuous one), and it has been reported by the news media as a major shift in Catholic teaching.


First, I want to know how many male prostitutes the Pope has met (or maybe I don’t), but if this announcement is without context, it is without worth.  Next, I want to know why male prostitutes can use condoms, but female prostitutes cannot.  Third, why are condoms still prohibited to stem the spread of HIV from infected husbands to uninfected wives?

I do not usually criticize the media (Laurie Goodstein is a friend), but I cannot understand the media’s love of this story.  Ratzinger, for all his intelligence, is stupid.  Really, he will set free prostitutes but not wives of HIV infected husbands?  He should be more intelligent than that.

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Another blog from another liberal…

I’ve been inspired by my friend Dan at datinggod.org to begin blogging.

Not that there’s a need for another blogger, but because it will be a way for me to coalesce my ideas into something concrete.

I decided to call this blog “cranmerrulez,” because of an off-handed comment from a friend.  As an Episcopalian, growing in that way of viewing the world, I value the beginnings of the Anglican world, although current politics has left the Anglican world wanting.

So, this is pretty weak for a first post, but those who know me know that I will have some fiery and controversial things to say (more on the bishop of Rome and rubbers tomorrow).

Have fun reading!

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