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Rich People Care Less

Jason Micheli —  November 7, 2013 — Leave a comment

Jesus-Christ-With-Shopping-Bags-by-BanksyWe continue our Enough sermon series this weekend with a look at Jesus’ reply to the rich man’s question: ‘What do I have to do to get into heaven?’

After a segway through the Decalogue, Jesus tells him to sell everything he has and give it to the poor.

The rich man apparently loves his stuff more than his neighbor and walks away, grieving.

According to the NY Times, he may not be the only rich person who simply doesn’t care for his poor neighbors:

Turning a blind eye. Giving someone the cold shoulder. Looking down on people. Seeing right through them.

These metaphors for condescending or dismissive behavior are more than just descriptive. They suggest, to a surprisingly accurate extent, the social distance between those with greater power and those with less — a distance that goes beyond the realm of interpersonal interactions and may exacerbate the soaring inequality in the United States.

A growing body of recent research shows that people with the most social power pay scant attention to those with little such power. This tuning out has been observed, for instance, with strangers in a mere five-minute get-acquainted session, where the more powerful person shows fewer signals of paying attention, like nodding or laughing. Higher-status people are also more likely to express disregard, through facial expressions, and are more likely to take over the conversation and interrupt or look past the other speaker.

Bringing the micropolitics of interpersonal attention to the understanding of social power, researchers are suggesting, has implications for public policy.

Of course, in any society, social power is relative; any of us may be higher or lower in a given interaction, and the research shows the effect still prevails. Though the more powerful pay less attention to us than we do to them, in other situations we are relatively higher on the totem pole of status — and we, too, tend to pay less attention to those a rung or two down.

A prerequisite to empathy is simply paying attention to the person in pain. In 2008, social psychologists from the University of Amsterdam and the University of California, Berkeley, studied pairs of strangers telling one another about difficulties they had been through, like a divorce or death of a loved one. The researchers found that the differential expressed itself in the playing down of suffering. The more powerful were less compassionate toward the hardships described by the less powerful.

Dacher Keltner, a professor of psychology at Berkeley, and Michael W. Kraus, an assistant professor of psychology at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, have done much of the research on social power and the attention deficit.

Mr. Keltner suggests that, in general, we focus the most on those we value most. While the wealthy can hire help, those with few material assets are more likely to value their social assets: like the neighbor who will keep an eye on your child from the time she gets home from school until the time you get home from work. The financial difference ends up creating a behavioral difference. Poor people are better attuned to interpersonal relations — with those of the same strata, and the more powerful — than the rich are, because they have to be.

While Mr. Keltner’s research finds that the poor, compared with the wealthy, have keenly attuned interpersonal attention in all directions, in general, those with the most power in society seem to pay particularly little attention to those with the least power. To be sure, high-status people do attend to those of equal rank — but not as well as those low of status do.

This has profound implications for societal behavior and government policy. Tuning in to the needs and feelings of another person is a prerequisite to empathy, which in turn can lead to understanding, concern and, if the circumstances are right, compassionate action.

In politics, readily dismissing inconvenient people can easily extend to dismissing inconvenient truths about them. The insistence by some House Republicans in Congress on cutting financing for food stamps and impeding the implementation of Obamacare, which would allow patients, including those with pre-existing health conditions, to obtain and pay for insurance coverage, may stem in part from the empathy gap. As political scientists have noted, redistricting and gerrymandering have led to the creation of more and more safe districts, in which elected officials don’t even have to encounter many voters from the rival party, much less empathize with them.

Social distance makes it all the easier to focus on small differences between groups and to put a negative spin on the ways of others and a positive spin on our own.

Freud called this “the narcissism of minor differences,” a theme repeated by Vamik D. Volkan, an emeritus professor of psychiatry at the University of Virginia, who was born in Cyprus to Turkish parents. Dr. Volkan remembers hearing as a small boy awful things about the hated Greek Cypriots — who, he points out, actually share many similarities with Turkish Cypriots. Yet for decades their modest-size island has been politically divided, which exacerbates the problem by letting prejudicial myths flourish.

In contrast, extensive interpersonal contact counteracts biases by letting people from hostile groups get to know one another as individuals and even friends. Thomas F. Pettigrew, a research professor of social psychology at the University of California, Santa Cruz, analyzed more than 500 studies on intergroup contact. Mr. Pettigrew, who was born in Virginia in 1931 and lived there until going to Harvard for graduate school, told me in an e-mail that it was the “the rampant racism in the Virginia of my childhood” that led him to study prejudice.

In his research, he found that even in areas where ethnic groups were in conflict and viewed one another through lenses of negative stereotypes, individuals who had close friends within the other group exhibited little or no such prejudice. They seemed to realize the many ways those demonized “others” were “just like me.” Whether such friendly social contact would overcome the divide between those with more and less social and economic power was not studied, but I suspect it would help.

Since the 1970s, the gap between the rich and everyone else has skyrocketed. Income inequality is at its highest level in a century. This widening gulf between the haves and have-less troubles me, but not for the obvious reasons. Apart from the financial inequities, I fear the expansion of an entirely different gap, caused by the inability to see oneself in a less advantaged person’s shoes. Reducing the economic gap may be impossible without also addressing the gap in empathy.

BELIEFS-2-articleInlineWe’ve begun the church planting process at my church after a long season of discernment and decision so I thought I would point you to this story from the NY Times about a unique church in Austin, Vox Veniae. It’s Latin for ‘voice of forgiveness.’ It’s unique for the diversity within their congregation, no small feat for any Protestant church.

Check out the church’s website for a better look. And check out the original article to watch a video of the church.

Last Sunday at Vox Veniae, a 200-person church in working-class East Austin, the volunteer baristas showed up an hour before worship services to make locally sourced coffee in the vaunted Chemex system, beloved of connoisseurs. To enhance the java-snob appeal, no milk or sugar was provided. “It’s a purist thing,” one barista said.

“Keep Austin Weird,” the local slogan goes. And the approach to coffee is just one unusual feature of this rule-breaking church in the notably alternative Texas capital.

There’s the building, for example. The church meets in what used to be Chester’s, an after-hours B.Y.O.B. club that shut down in 2007 after a fatal shooting close by. Members of Vox, as the church is known, cleaned up the building, christened it Space 12 and made it a hub for Austin-style activity. It’s their church hall, yes, but also a Wi-Fi-equipped space that freelancers can use for a small daily donation; a yoga studio; an art gallery; and the home of the Inside Books Project, which sends books to prison inmates.

But what’s really unexpected about Vox, to anyone who knows American Protestantism, is that what began as a church for Chinese-Americans quickly became multiracial. Last Sunday morning, whites were in the majority, and in addition to Asian-Americans, there were Latinos and African-Americans in the pews — or, rather, the metal folding chairs around the small stage where a six-piece band played before the pastor, the Rev. Gideon Tsang, delivered his sermon.

In a country that is growing more racially diverse, and in an evangelical movement that is becoming more politically diverse, Vox Veniae, which is Latin for “voice of forgiveness,” may be, as Jesus said, a sign of the times.

Racially diverse churches are often led by white pastors who recruit in minority communities, usually by hiring nonwhite assistant pastors. It is less common to see an ethnic church attract whites. It may be that white people avoid churches where at first they will be outnumbered. Or perhaps the ethnic churches’ worship styles feel alien (especially if prayers and sermons are in a foreign language). Whatever the reason, white churches sometimes succeed in drawing minority worshipers, but minority churches rarely attract white people.

Mr. Tsang sports arm tattoos and the modish, buzzed-on-the-sides, long-on-top haircut that many young men who request it call “the Hitler Youth.” He was raised in Toronto, the son of a Chinese-Canadian pastor of an ethnic church. In 2006, he started Vox Veniae as an independent planting of the Austin Chinese Church, a larger church that wanted a mission to young people, especially University of Texas students. In 2007, the church opened Space 12, and in 2009, it moved its worship services there. Along the way, it began to draw older people. And whiter people.

“The average age when we started was 22,” Mr. Tsang said. “Today, the average age is 27, 28.” Last Sunday, I sat behind a woman who must have been in her 60s. When she had trouble reading the passage from I Corinthians on the monitor above, her neighbor, about 40 years younger, whispered the words in her ear.

In 2011, Vox Veniae affiliated with the Evangelical Covenant Church, a large North American denomination founded in the 19th century by Swedish immigrants. This means that Vox Veniae is a multiracial church that began with Chinese roots and has recently acquired Swedish Lutheran roots.

“In the 1970s and 1980s, the Covenant made some collective decisions to be more intentional about becoming more multiethnic in every area of our life together,” Garth Bolinder, a regional superintendent for the denomination, said in an e-mail. It began to admit more non-Swedish churches, including black and Latino congregations. When Mr. Tsang was looking for institutional support for Vox Veniae, a friend suggested the Evangelical Covenant.

At first, Mr. Tsang resisted, believing his church was “so specific to Austin and the culture of Austin.” Ultimately, he met with Evangelical Covenant pastors, and he decided it was a good fit. “We think it’s healthy to be connected to something bigger,” Mr. Tsang said.

That Swedish/Chinese mingling is a significant innovation in American church history, but it’s not what brings new worshipers to Space 12 on Sunday mornings. Hannah Perez, 24, works for Cuvee Coffee, the local roaster whose beans she was putting through the Chemex. She grew up in a Methodist church in Indiana, and her husband’s church was Hispanic Pentecostal. But when they moved to Austin, they joined Vox.

“We felt like: ‘Wow, this is awesome. It feels like hanging out in someone’s house,’ ” Ms. Perez said.

Space 12 is one large room, with comfortable chairs scattered about. Mr. Tsang preaches from a stool, like a slam poet intimate with his audience. The books for the prisoner project line one wall. There are no crosses, although “Resurrection” is spelled in red thread strung between nails.

When Leena Pacak, now 33, was growing up, her parents were nonobservant Hindus. Ms. Pacak was baptized when she was 24, and met her husband, also now a Vox member, at a church in Chicago. She said that before becoming a Christian, she had to overcome negative impressions about evangelicals, who always seemed to be intertwined with the religious right.

“My impression from the community is there is a real mix, including a lot of liberal-thinking people here,” said Ms. Pacak, a midwifery student.

Her husband, Cole, said Vox felt freer than other churches on issues like abortion and gay marriage, poverty and Middle Eastern politics. “Vox is a church where no one political viewpoint is pushed, which is great,” Mr. Pacak said.

Some hope that this kind of postpolitical, postracial congregation is the future of evangelicalism. But Mr. Tsang has complicated feelings about his success. He is, after all, the son of an immigrant church, whose rich tradition is joyously obliterated in this diverse congregation.

“I’m struggling to have a better understanding of my own Christian heritage, and of my own Chinese Christian heritage,” he said.

But James Miller, an Arkansas native and one of three white musicians in the band that played last Sunday, pointed out that Austin Chinese Church, when it planted Vox, wanted it to be “an Austin-centered church.” If the original idea was to provide English-language services for Americanized Chinese, it was perhaps inevitable that, with a preacher like Mr. Tsang, and in a city like Austin, the racial lines would not hold.

“So I figure,” Mr. Miller said, “we’re living out their vision.”

21Mag-priest-slide-VRM7-articleLargePaul writes in Romans that “There is no distinction; all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” Paul’s point, I think, is that because all of us fall short of God’s glory, its incumbent upon us to offer grace to all.

Damien Cave has a beautiful essay in Sunday’s NY Times Magazine about Father Robert Coogan, a Brooklyn-born Catholic priest who has served as the chaplain of a Mexican prison in Saltillo for the past decade. Coogan’s ministry is a wonderful testimony to what it means to offer grace to others, without distinction. In the Saltillo prison, Coogan ministers primarily to members of the Zetas, a dangerous Mexican cartel gang.

Coogan is the sort of priest that makes it just a little bit harder to feel jaded about the Church; he’s the sort of priest who makes me proud to share his vocation- the sort of priest you’d expect to find in the pages of Graham Greene.

Here are two great excerpts. I encourage you to take the time to click over and read the entire essay. It’s worth it. Here’s the link.

“To the extent that Father Coogan has influence within the prison, it is in part because he grasps their motivations. He not only comes to the aid of those being victimized by the gang, but he also offers the Zetas what no cop or judge ever would — an open mind. While Mexican officials describe the gang members as coldblooded killers, Coogan prefers to see them, as he sees everyone else in the prison, as vulnerable, flawed and capable of change. “These guys who enter the Zetas become part of a system where they find their dignity,” he said.

“It’s a terrible way to do it, but I respect them for doing what the church should be doing: giving meaning to people’s lives.”

“It’s true that for all their infamous cruelty ­­­­ — beheadings, kidnappings, the mass murder of 72 Central and South American migrants in 2010 ­ — the Zetas are also known for their respect of the Catholic Church. After I wrote in 2011 about a chapel that Lazcano, one of the cartel’s founders, built in his hometown, word trickled back to Saltillo’s Zetas, who insisted on doing something similar for Coogan. “What color would you like the chapel painted?” one of the leaders asked him. Coogan said he liked it the way it was and told them not to bother because the roof leaked. “Two hours later they had people on the roof,” he said. “There was nothing you could do about it. They made a decision.”

21Mag-priest-slide-K0JB-jumbo

 

Sigh. Actually, sigh isn’t strong enough of an expression for how this makes me feel. Yet again, this will be another example of how people refuse to follow Jesus simply because they’re revolted by the people who do follow Jesus.

I’ve often thought the NY Times wedding pages are a good harbinger of the trends to come. Long before ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ died a relatively quiet death and well before a seeming cultural consensus settled about homosexuality, the NY Times posted wedding announcements celebrating gay couples like they we just ordinary couples.

That’s not a comment on the rightness/wrongness of the issue; it’s just a comment that the Times foreshadow future trends.

So here’s another trend.

Those same wedding pages this week wrote a story about the ever-increasing trend of couples getting friends, duly vested in made-up online religions, to preside over their ceremony.

As much as I refuse to pimp myself out to marry couples who are just treating me in the same way they do the caterer, it’s also depressing that an increasing number of people prefer to circumvent any faith element in their wedding altogether.

This is the cultural climate in which we’ll need to figure out how to do Church into the future.

Here’s the article…and before you get your friend to perform your wedding after a few minutes on Google make sure he/she is legal.

IN the days leading up to their August wedding at the Ram’s Head Inn on Shelter Island, Kinara Flagg and Paul Fileri chose Andrew Case, a friend and former law school classmate of Ms. Flagg’s, to officiate.

In some places, online ministers may need backup.

In the eyes of the couple, Mr. Case, who had become a Universal Life minister through a quick online ordination, was the right man for the job. In the eyes of the law, however, Mr. Case, who was not a part of an active ministry, was officiating in the wrong county.

An increasing number of couples are steering away from traditional religious and civil wedding officiants in favor of friends and relatives who become ordained through online ministries. But many couples are unaware that while New York State recognizes marriages performed by those who became ministers by the power vested in a mouse, there are five downstate counties where such officiants are not technically legal.

Ms. Flagg and Mr. Fileri, who knew that Suffolk County on Long Island, which includes Shelter Island, was among the handful of no-online-minister zones in the state, obtained their marriage license in Monroe County (where Mr. Fileri grew up and which recognizes online ministries), making their wedding a legal union after all.

“It’s surprising that Suffolk County does not recognize these online ministers,” Ms. Flagg said.

Neither do the counties of Nassau, Westchester, Putnam or Dutchess, owing to a 1989 ruling by the Appellate Division of the State Supreme Court in a case involving a Suffolk County couple who were then embroiled in a divorce. In that case, the court ruled that the couple’s marriage and prenuptial agreement were void because their officiant was a Universal Life minister.

Though Ms. Flagg speaks for many married couples when she says “we wanted a friend to marry us, someone who could speak about us to our friends and family, rather than a person who doesn’t really know us and recites a lot of formulaic vows,” it remains that Connecticut, Alabama, Virginia, Tennessee, a part of Pennsylvania and (of all places) Las Vegas do not necessarily recognize the credentials of officiants who were created, for better or worse, through such online ministries as the Universal Life Church, the Church of Spiritual Humanism, Rose Ministries and the Temple of Earth.

For many years, New York City also did not recognize online ministers, but in 2006 began allowing them to officiate at weddings in the five boroughs. But the appellate court’s ruling still holds for the other counties. (In September 2007, a couple in York County, Pa., who had been married two months earlier by an online minister received a call from a county clerk who told them that a judge had ruled that ministers who do not have a “regularly established church or congregation” cannot perform marriages under state law. Their marriage, they were told, might not be valid. Representatives of the American Civil Liberties Union advised them to seek help from the organization if the legality of their marriage was ever challenged.)

New York Assemblywoman Sandy Galef, a Westchester County Democrat, who has been trying since 2005 to pass a bill in Albany that would give online officiants legal power to marry couples throughout the state, said, “We need to change the law so that people everywhere can be legally married by online ministers.”

“I have had lots of conversations about this issue with the Judiciary Committee staff in Albany, and everyone knows something needs to be done,” Ms. Galef said. “I’m not quite sure what is blocking this bill. Is there opposition from priests, rabbis and other clergymen who see this as both a competitive and economic thing? I just don’t know.”

The Rev. Kent Winters-Hazelton, who once served in a no-online-minister zone at the United Community Church of Wantagh on Long Island, in Nassau County, and is now pastor of the First Presbyterian Church in Lawrence, Kan., said that he understood why some states still do not recognize online ministers.

“In some places, there is still an understanding that certain qualifications have to be met by a minister or a justice of the peace before they are legally able to perform marriages,” he said. “And I agree with that.”

Here’s the rest of the article.

Ask yourself: Do I communicate primarily through inside jokes and pop culture references? What percentage of my speech is meaningful? How much hyperbolic language do I use? Do I feign indifference? Look at your clothes. What parts of your wardrobe could be described as costume-like, derivative or reminiscent of some specific style archetype? In other words, is your style an anti-style?

I like beards.

And, as I’ve mentioned before, I home-brewed before it was trendy to do so.

That’s about where I part ways with the hipster movement- that, and being a tail-end Gen Xer, I’m too old for the movement.

Take a look at seminary campuses, however, and you will see the hipster’s intentionally cultivated look of antiquation everywhere. It might lead you to conclude the trend is but a form of Christian subterfuge.

And yet….and yet…perhaps at root there’s something about hipsterism that’s deeply at odds with the Christian faith.

Consider the argument made in the NY Times by Christy Wampole:

The irony of the Hipster is the most self-defensive mode, as it allows a person to dodge responsibility for his or her choices, aesthetic and otherwise. To live ironically is to hide in public. It is flagrantly indirect, a form of subterfuge, which means etymologically to “secretly flee” (subter + fuge). Somehow, directness has become unbearable to us.

One of the points I like to make to couples preparing for their wedding is that marriage is a means of grace precisely because it forces us into a relationship of mutual vulnerability. Physical nakedness isn’t the only kind of nakedness required by marriage. There’s an emotional nakedness too.

And, in this way, I think marriage points out a deeper, more fundamental truth about what it means to be a Christian; namely, just as Jesus makes himself completely vulnerable to the Father and follows his path in faithfulness, we demonstrate our faith by our willingness to be vulnerable, genuine, real and authentic to others.

If this so then there’s something incongruent between following Jesus and following an intentionally defensive posture. 

Of course, maybe this speculation hits home for me because, while fashion may not be my thing, I am ironic to the core. What Wampole says about herself could easily be my own confession:

I find it difficult to give sincere gifts. Instead, I often give what in the past would have been accepted only at a White Elephant gift exchange: a kitschy painting from a thrift store, a coffee mug with flashy images of “Texas, the Lone Star State,” plastic Mexican wrestler figures. Good for a chuckle in the moment, but worth little in the long term. Something about the responsibility of choosing a personal, meaningful gift for a friend feels too intimate, too momentous. I somehow cannot bear the thought of a friend disliking a gift I’d chosen with sincerity. The simple act of noticing my self-defensive behavior has made me think deeply about how potentially toxic ironic posturing could be.

Realizing I’m guilty as charged, I wonder if it’s not, after all, a bad thing that, as my 6 year old son likes to point out with glee, it only takes a 20 second trailer of The Blind Side (‘You threaten my son, you threaten me’) to get me to weeping like a baby. Seriously. 

I’ve always been embarrassed by falling prey to such a saccharine movie but now I wonder if it might not be good news.

Here’s the full article by Wampole.

 

Gosh, I really hope people read more than the header.

According to the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, specific facial cues may be an indicator of party affiliation and the results suggest that women identifying with the Democratic Party appear…mannish?

What exactly is one to do with a study like this?

1. Wonder what worthless, juvenile interest prompted it?

2. Wonder why on earth this matters?

3. Wonder why psychologists couldn’t spend their time researching something that could be a bit more helpful to society?

4. Send it up in witty mockery?

That’s what Samantha Bee, from the Daily Show, does in Sunday’s NY Times. It’s pretty hilarious and not only because she works in both references to Smoky and the Bandit and ‘boob honking.’

DID you know that science can teach you all sorts of amazing things about how the world works and why it works that way and how the dinosaurs probably all had feathers? Did you know that it can also teach you things that you never wanted to know and now not-so-secretly wish you didn’t?

I am referring to a recent study out of the U.C.L.A. Department of Psychology that determined that the women of the Grand Old Party have more feminine faces than those of their female Democratic colleagues. In conducting the study, researchers analyzed the faces of the House of Representatives in the 111th Congress based on objective measures of feminine facial structure. The faces were then rated according to gender-typical femininity, and shown to undergraduate students, who (in exchange for course credit) were asked to judge which political party they thought each face was affiliated with. The students guessed correctly with surprising accuracy.

The resulting data suggested that the more conservative a female politician is, the more likely her face will conform to subtleties that are considered typically feminine. The flip side being that more liberal female politicians tend to have less feminine facial structures. As in: they’re more masculine, I guess. As in: terrific.

The researchers call it the “Michele Bachmann Effect.” Funny, but that’s exactly how I refer to the tingly feeling that overtakes me when I read or hear something so profoundly ridiculous that I briefly consider living the rest of my life in monkish isolation on a mountaintop with only the cold wind for companionship.

Listen, anybody who has ever attended the Democratic National Convention knows that Democratic women prefer flats over heels, by an estimated ratio of 10 to 1. After all, if the sensible shoe fits… But this is anecdotal. It’s the type of research done after three days of being yelled at on the convention floor by people in 10-gallon hats, with only a steady diet of Coke Zero and SunChips to keep you upright. You’re punchy. Who can blame you for slumping on the floor outside a women’s washroom and counting people’s feet as they go by?

But this U.C.L.A. study contains measurable scientific data collected by actual professional scientists who have just basically given us the green light to go ahead and judge a book by its cover. And though the data offered no evidence as to the relative “attractiveness” of either party’s representatives (as the face-modeling software controlled for superficial markers like makeup and hairstyles), why would that stop anyone from conflating gender typicality with sex appeal? The answer is ha ha, of course it wouldn’t, but I adore your innocence.

I can’t figure out which part of this story is the most unforgivably retro. Is it the part where the Internet is flooded by a tsunami of bickering over which political party has the “prettier” members of Congress and/or prettier voters? Followed by smug accusations of sour grapes, actual sour grapes, and finally resentful grumbling by lots of women in comfort clogs, maybe even including me. (It’s none of your business but I require them for the back support. Take it easy, I have a doctor’s note.)

Or is it the part that suggests that a key factor in the electability and, dare I say, presence of a female politician on a national stage can be dependent on something as random as the placement of her eyebrows? Are there really subtle ways in which people would consider a woman suitable for office that are rooted in their visceral reaction to the width and prominence of her cheekbones? Well, probably.

All I know is that once I finished reading the study I’m pretty sure 1970s Burt Reynolds reached across the passenger seat of his Trans Am to give me a wink and a boob honk.

Thankfully, the “sex typical” phenomenon applies only to female members of Congress. When it comes to male members of Congress, the results of the study are somewhat less conclusive. So guys, feel free to go to work on behalf of your constituents without wondering for a second whether psych undergrads around the country are hotly debating whether or not you got hit at birth with an ugly stick. Don’t you worry your pretty little man-heads about it.

In the end, of course, it’s hard to know what the take-away is for voters: What should bother us more — that a scholarly journal decided to float this information out into the pre-election maelstrom of partisan nastiness or that some people will relish the findings and distribute the study as a voting guide?

Perhaps over time the answer — and the usefulness of this research — will reveal itself. But until that comes to pass, perhaps science could take a crack at something I can use right now, like time manipulation, since I can’t help but yearn for the person I was before reading this study. The person not compelled to consider the possibility that her own facial structure could be construed as “mannish.” By a certain light.

 

What does scripture say about homosexuality?

Does scripture condemn loving, monogamous gay relationships? Does it? Are you sure?

The NY Times ran a story on Sunday about Matthew Vines a young gay Christian whose lifelong church, and many lifelong friends, couldn’t abide his sexuality nor his insistence that he was still in the parameters of scripture.

I’ve written here before that Christians of good will can and do disagree over this issue, but here’s what I have no patience for: Christians- on either side- who make their arguments and pronouncements pro or con but have no actual knowledge of what scripture says. I hear a lot of ‘the bible teaches…’ by people who don’t seem to really know what in fact the bible teaches.

And that’s what I admire about Matthew Vines’ story. Rejected by his church and many friends, he’s responded A) not in anger or despair and B) not by giving up on the faith. Instead he’s taken on a teaching mission to unpack just what scripture says on these thorny issues. Disagree with him if you like; however, his drive and zeal to be counted among God’s People is to be admired.

Here’s the story. And just below is Matthew’s presentation on You Tube. It’s worth a full watch.