Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Protests Erupt Over Proposal 8

Although the voters have spoken by a fair majority (see previous post on this vote), the gay community is still crying crying foul. They are now actively targeting the LDS church and the well-known Saddleback Church in Forest, California for their support of the passage of Proposition 8. More comments to follow the article below.

Protests sweep across Calif. on post-Prop 8 Sunday
By THOMAS WATKINS, Associated Press Writer Thomas Watkins, Associated Press Writer – Sun Nov 9, 6:55 pm ET

LOS ANGELES – On the first Sunday after a gay marriage ban passed in California, activists rallied in defiance, including hundreds of protesters outside an Orange County megachurch whose pastor brought Barack Obama and John McCain together last summer for a "faith forum."

About 300 gay-rights advocates fanned out along sidewalks leading to Saddleback Church in Lake Forest to voice their anger of the church's support of Proposition 8, a constitutional amendment approved by voters Tuesday that overturns a state Supreme Court decision in May legalizing same-sex unions.

Ed Todeschini, a Human Rights Campaign volunteer, accused Saddleback in particular of helping propagate what he called misinformation about the Supreme Court ruling, including that gay marriage would have to be taught to kindergartners.
A message seeking comment left at the church's main office, which was closed Sunday, was not immediately returned.

"They told such obvious lies. They used their lies to deceive the public," Todeschini said of the church, which gained national attention in August when its pastor, Rick Warren, brought Obama and McCain together to discuss their religious faith. The two candidates embraced during an often-contentious presidential campaign.

Todeschini said Sunday's rally was peaceful, with demonstrators waving placards with slogans including "Equality for all" and "Shame on you."

The amendment was passed last week with 52 percent of the vote, and backlash at churches over their support swept across California on Sunday after days of protests.

In Oakland, a large protest at the city's Mormon temple led the California Highway Patrol to close two highway ramps to ensure pedestrian safety. Protest organizers said they hoped to tone down the anger that has characterized some previous demonstrations.

"Our intent is not to disturb churchgoers," organizer Tim DeBenedictis said in a statement. "Our goal is to mend fences and build bridges so that all Californians can achieve marriage equality under the law."

The pastor of the 4,000-member All Saints Church in Pasadena spoke out against Proposition 8, calling the religious community's support of it "embarrassing."
The church announced that while it could no longer legally marry same-sex couples, it would continue blessing gay civil unions.

"It's very unfortunate and embarrassing that the (Christian religion) is in large part responsible for this act of bigotry," the Rev. Ed Bacon said after his sermon.
In Sacramento, a protest at the state Capitol was boisterous but peaceful as speakers led the crowd in noisy chants. Protesters waved rainbow flags, a symbol of the gay rights movement, and "No on 8" signs as police watched from the side.

Speaking on CNN's "Late Edition" Sunday, Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger expressed disappointment at Proposition 8's passage.

"It is unfortunate," Schwarzenegger said. "But it is not the end because I think this will go back into the courts. ... It's the same as in the 1948 case when blacks and whites were not allowed to marry. This falls into the same category."_

Associated Press writer Marcus Wohlsen in San Francisco contributed to this report.
Well, I guess I am now to be labeled "bigoted" for my religious views on homosexuality. So be it. Interpreting the Scriptures as they are revealed is now considered a narrow-minded and hateful approach to Holy Writ. If the Rev. Bacon is "embarrased" by the church's involvment in promoting Proposition 8, I would like to say that I am equally "embarrased" that a Christian clergyman and his church would actively support that which the Scriptures clearly condemn. This is the division that occurs when the Bible is robbed of its inspired and infallible character.

One more note: With due respect to the Governor, this is not the same as when blacks and whites were not allowed to marry. That was an issue of race, and clearly wrong. But homosexuality is a behavior issue. While we have the freedom to behave as we wish, assuming no one is injured or wronged, the issue of gay marriage is about changing the definition of a cultural institution. Gay may continue to legally live together. That is not the argument here. The point is whether the legal definition of marriage is going to be changed. To this the voters of California have clearly answered. They said no. Let's leave it at that.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Executive Orders Under Review Affect Status of Unborn

According to FOX news, President-elect Obama is expected, as many would have anticipated, to review and most likely reverse many of George Bush's executive orders. The most troubling, though, are those that once again place the unborn in needless peril.

"Presidents long have used executive orders to impose policy and set priorities. One of Bush's first acts was to reinstate full abortion restrictions on U.S. overseas aid. The restrictions were first ordered by President Reagan and the first President Bush followed suit. President Clinton lifted them soon after he occupied the Oval Office and it wouldn't be surprising if Obama did the same.

Executive orders "have the power of law and they can cover just about anything," Tobias said in a telephone interview.

Bush used his executive power to limit federal spending on embryonic stem cell research, a position championed by opponents of abortion rights who argue that destroying embryos is akin to killing a fetus. Obama has supported the research in an effort to find cures for diseases such as Alzheimer's. Many moderate Republicans also support the research, giving it the stamp of bipartisanship."

What a shame that we cheapen human life for the sake of bipartisan support. We should protect life for the simple fact that it is the right thing to do.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Assisted Suicide Approved in Washington State

After hearing about the results of this important vote in Washington State on the radio this afternoon, I found the following from the Wall Street Journal:

Washington Passes Initiative 1000, Legalizing Physician-Assisted Suicide
Posted by Jacob Goldstein

Voters in Washington State gave a clear answer yesterday to a thorny ethical question: Should a doctor be allowed to prescribe a lethal dose of drugs to a dying patient?

A state measure known as Initiative 1000 passed by a margin of 59% to 41%, making it legal for doctors to prescribe a lethal dose of medication for patients with less than six months to live.

As we reported last week, the law is packed with provisions intended to limit the practice. Patients must make two separate requests, orally and in writing, more than two weeks apart; must be of sound mind and not suffering from depression; and must have their request approved by two separate doctors. Doctors are not allowed to administer the lethal dose.

Backers of the bill, including national right-to-die organizations and a former Democratic governor who has Parkinson’s, raised $4.9 million to support it. Opponents, including several Catholic organizations, raised $1.6 million to fund their fight, the Seattle Times reports.

In Oregon, the only other state with a similar law, some 341 patients have committed physician-assisted suicide in the 11 years the law has been in effect, the New York Times reported last week.

This is not a good sign regarding our attitude toward life in this country. Viewed together with the atrocity of legalized abortion on demand, we see the erosion of the value of human life coming from both ends of the spectrum. What is to keep us from adopting mandatory euthanasia measures for the sick and infirm, not to mention those in frail, vegetative states? I fear for the future. The very question of life's value hangs in an ever-tipping balance and our culture seems intent on being its own god in determining the beginning and end of our own existence. This is clearly self-destructive and self-defeating.

Important Decisions in California Largely Ignored

While the mainstream media was consumed with the presidential election, equally important election results in California regarding significant proposition issues seemed completely ignored. Late into the night I switched channels looking for results on the fate of Proposition 8 which endeavored to secure the traditional institution of marriage. Nothing. Not a word. Was it just too close to call? Or would that even matter? Or was it not reported on because it was losing and such a loss was a disappointment to the mainstream media that normally throws it support toward same-sex rights?

Evangelicals were greatly concerned about this proposition and the cultural domino effect that would ensue if it was defeated. For those not familiar with the issue, the Supreme Court of California back in May struck down a ban on same-sex unions. According to a CNN article at the time,

The California Supreme Court struck down the state's ban on same-sex marriage Thursday, saying sexual orientation, like race or gender, "does not constitute a legitimate basis upon which to deny or withhold legal rights."

In a 4-3 120-page ruling issue, the justices wrote that "responsibly to care for and raise children does not depend upon the individual's sexual orientation."
"We therefore conclude that in view of the substance and significance of the fundamental constitutional right to form a family relationship, the California Constitution properly must be interpreted to guarantee this basic civil right to all Californians, whether gay or heterosexual, and to same-sex couples as well as to opposite-sex couples," Chief Justice Ronald George wrote for the majority.

This was not the last word, however. As the San Fransisco Chronicle reports today:

Californians appeared poised to overturn a state Supreme Court decision in a historical move that would write a ban on gay marriage into the state Constitution, while other bond measures proposed during a weakening economy were defeated or struggled with a narrow lead.

The outcome of the same-sex marriage ban dominated the list of ballot initiatives faced by California voters, with proponents saying religious liberty and the building blocks of society were at stake. Opponents called Proposition 8 a civil rights battle, that tested the American ideals of equality and personal freedom.

By early Wednesday, with nearly three quarters of the precincts reporting, the measure appeared to be passing with 52 percent support but was too close to call.

CBS News online this morning, which likewise declared the outcome too close yet to call, also noted that:

Similar measures have prevailed previously in 27 states, but none were in California's situation - with thousands of gay couples already married in the aftermath of a state Supreme Court ruling in May. Reporting on Proposition 8, Barbara Simon, Executive Producer of CBS News on LOGO, says polls have gone back and forth with extremely slim margins, and right now, approval of Prop. 8 is leading by three points, according to a poll from our CBS station KPIX-TV in San Francisco. The margin of error is 4. Similar ballot measures banning same-sex marriage were up for vote in Arizona and Florida. CBS News projects that Arizona voters have passed the same-sex marriage ban.

For clarification it should be noted that the proposition seeks to add to the California constitution the words "only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California." Thus, it does not technically ban same-sex unions, as such, or even preclude all benefits that they may enjoy by such unions. What it does seek is to preserve the language and institution of marriage as it has been historically defined, namely the union between one man and one woman.

Concerned Christians should continue to keep a watch on the outcome of this vote, as a defeat would have profound implications across the nation. As Shannon Minter, attorney for one of the plaintiffs in the case that brought about original Supreme Court decision, noted: "California sets the tone, and this will have a huge effect across the nation to bringing wider acceptance for gay and lesbian couples."

Ironically, the outcome of other proposition decisions in California indicated once again the general confusion of moral truth that exists in the country today. As the San Fransisco Chronicle also reported:

Proposition 4, another divisive social issue that would require doctors to notify parents or guardians when minors seek an abortion, appeared to be headed for defeat. California voters defeated similar initiatives twice before, in 2005 and 2006.

Proposition 2, the Standards for Confining Farm Animals Act, passed. With nearly three quarters of the votes tallied, 62 percent of voters supported the measure.

The measure drew some high-profile backers, including Ellen DeGeneres and wife Portia de Rossi. The initiative sought to outlaw cramped cages for egg-laying chickens, but opponents said it would drive egg producers out of state if approved.

How is it that we care so much for crowded chickens but care nothing for the rights of unborn humans and the sanctity of life in our own species?

Regarding other news on election season life issues CBS reported on ballot decisions elsewhere, noting:

...that voters in South Dakota voted down Measure 11, which would have prohibited abortions except in cases where the mother's life or health is at a substantial and irreversible risk, and in cases of reported rape and incest. If it had passed, it would likely have triggered a legal challenge which could have lead to the U.S. Supreme Court and a reconsideration of the 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling that established the right to abortion....In Colorado, CBS News projects that voters rejected Amendment 48, which would have defined the term "person" to include any human being from the moment of fertilization.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Today I Vote for Life

As has been my practice for 20+ years now I will not publicly announce who I am voting for today. However, I can tell you that my trip to the township hall where I will vote has a higher mission than just voting for a candidate. Of all the issues discussed this season there is always one that stands out as of primary concern for any voter. For me that issue is LIFE. Life for the unborn. The next four years will provide the next president the unique opportunity to influence the rights of this silent mass of humanity by his appointment of judges to the Supreme Court. Roe v. Wade has been a blight on this nation that has historically defended the rights of all. My vote may not change the this judicial atrocity. Judges may be appointed that guarantee the entrenchment of this decision for generations to come. However, it is my privilege to at least speak quietly for those who cannot speak for themselves by that single vote. Today I vote for life.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

A Couple of Books of Interest

This past week when I was at our district's Professional Church Worker's Conference, I was once again blessed to find some worthwhile books to add to my library. The two highlighted here are 2008 publications of Concordia Publishing House.

For those familiar with Bo Giertz (1905-1998), best known as author of The Hammer of God (1941) and one time bishop in the Lutheran Church of Sweden, the recent translation of his devotional To Live with Christ is a true gem to acquire. 830 pages, arranged according to the church calendar with short devotional readings and prayer, hardbound, and my copy was secured for only $16.00 ($19.99 list price at CPH.)

Arthur A. Just Jr. is a name familiar to any who attended Concordia-Ft. Wayne in the last 20 years. He came to the seminary during my student days (1983-1987.) I was able to take some of his new liturgical courses before I graduated, and in a cursory look of his most recent work Heaven on Earth: The Gifts of Christ in the Divine Service, I saw several familiar illustrations from my old student notes. This work is a capstone collection of many articles and notes collected over the years and well worth the price of only $12.00 I paid at the conference ($14.99 list price, although you can get it for less through Amazon.com)-- 307 pages, paperback. For those interested in liturgical history and practice, especially as it is traced from its Jewish and Early Church roots through the time of the Lutheran liturgical renewal, this would be a good addition to anyone's library.

After This I Looked, and Behold, a Great Multitude

All Saints’ Day
November 2, 2008
Text: Rev. 7:9-17
Theme: A Vision of the Triumphant Church

When my mother passed away I freely admitted that I would not want her to have to come back to this life - even though I missed her a lot. I’ve heard others say this as well. After watching someone suffer you’re relieved, in a sense, to know that the one we love doesn’t have to endure the pain anymore. Death is hard to face, but there’s the comfort knowing something better came out of it. No more struggle. No more agony. No more limitations. No more frustration. And for those who die believing in Jesus we have the added anticipation of all the good that awaits them beyond this “veil of tears.” We are allowed, for a moment, to start dreaming again. Dreaming about the heaven Jesus prepared for us. Dreaming about a place where there is no hunger, no thirst, no death, no sickness, no disease, no injury, no sadness.

All Saints’ Day is the day for the Church itself to dream too - dream in the midst of death. For most of the year we live through days filled with intermittent clouds. Clouds of dark reality that hang over our lives like a dreary Fall day. We know that death and suffering are always there, visiting one this day, and then another tomorrow. We can pretend it’s not there, but we know better.

But today is an exception. Today is different. Today we can behave as if the rules have changed.
The reading for All Saints Day from Revelation 7 is the dream of hope between the realities of suffering and hardship we witness in Revelation 6 and 8. In chapter 7 the curtain is pulled away for just a moment to let us see what awaits us, to let us dream again, and in that dream we find the comfort to make it through the suffering we must still endure in the days ahead.

And what do we see behind this curtain? In a way I envy John who saw this with his own eyes. Words can only paint so much of the picture; it‘s like the difference between a single photograph of one portion of the Grand Canyon and actually standing there on the edge of a rocky precipice peering into the endless expanses stretching before you as far as the eye can see . And in that we must be willing to stand back and try to see the immensity of what opens before us here. This vision is enormous and expansive like the Grand Canyon; way beyond many of the smaller images many have of heaven and the life to come.

It begins with an endless sea of humanity stretching beyond the horizon: “a great multitude,” John writes, “that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes, and peoples and languages.” Sometimes the church can seem quite small. And if you are suffering under persecution like John on the little island of Patmos it seem smaller yet. The Church Militant on earth at the beginning of chapter 7 is described by a very large number - but it still seems limited. By verse 9 the entirety of the church from distant past to unseen future stretches out before us. We never imagined it this large. And if this is not too much we have all the angels of heaven gathered there as well. All of them, which we know number thousands of thousands, ten thousand upon ten thousand.

And as they gather before the divine throne and the Lamb they are full of life and overflowing with confidence. Their praises are anything but meek and half-hearted. They “cry out with a loud voice,” John says. The walls reverberate with the thunder of their song. We all know that it’s tough to get any church to really sing to their fullness on every Sunday. Depending on the hymn it sometimes sounds half it’s own size. And sometimes we hold back even when we know the tune, despite the fact that the song begs to be literally shouted. But not here. Not in this place. The hearts of the faithful are overflowing with the joy of their salvation, from the tone-deaf worshiper to the accomplished chorister. The victory of Good Friday and Easter is now complete. Suffering is past tense. Death is no more. The devil is defeated. His hoards of demons cast into the endless pit of hell’s everlasting fires.

Thus they wave palm branches - signs of victory and triumph - just like they did the day Jesus came into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday. Yes, the day Jesus was on His way to His own great suffering and death, they were cheering for victory. Victory on the way to death.

This contrast was brought to mind recently as I was listening to a book on tape by the name of GHOST SOLDIERS by Hampton Sides. Sides told in vivid detail about the notorious World War II Bataan Death March of 1942. 75,000 starving and diseased American and Filipino soldiers surrendered to the Japanese that year in the Philippines, and were subsequently forced to march 90 miles in their weakened state. Only 54,000 of the original 75,000 eventually made it to the prison camps. Along the way thousands dropped from exhaustion and were beaten and executed in horribly brutal ways. At one point Sides describes the march as it passed through a Filipino village. Villagers attempted to aid the soldiers with water and food. But then Sides also describes a curious event in the middle of this march to death. Villagers lining the road held up their fingers in the familiar “victory sign.” Did they see in these dying men their long awaited victors from their savage captors? How could they envision victory in the midst of so much death?
In a way we are also on a kind of “death march.” Today we will pause to remember four of our members who passed away over the last 12 months. Each year we say good-bye to a few more. More of us will pass away in the year to come. One day we too will die.

And yet in the middle of this ‘march of death’ the saints are holding up the victory sign. They are not mourning, they are cheering. There are no tears here, but shouts of triumph. That great multitude that no one could count is cheering us on. As the writer to the Hebrews once said: “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfector of our faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider Him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.”

And there it is. There’s the real victory in the midst of the march to seeming defeat and death: Jesus the crucified. Jesus the risen. Jesus the ascended and glorified. That’s why the multitude shouted “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne and to the Lamb!”
Revelation fast-forwards us to the day when that march of death ends in heaven and allows us to see ourselves as we truly are in Christ. The soldiers the Filipino villagers encouraged were torn and tattered and emaciated shadows. I suspect, however, that they looked past this and saw more. They saw the whole of the U.S. Army come to save them. They saw what they hoped was the superior force.

Today we see ourselves as John describes as the “ones coming out of the great tribulation,” or great suffering. The tattered remains of our former lives are now exchanged for bright white robes - robes of Christ’s own holiness given us lovingly in our Baptisms where we were buried with Him in death and raised to newness of life. For these robes, we are told, were “washed…and…made…white in the blood of the Lamb.”

And beginning with today there is also a subtle change in our worship in the weeks to come as we near the end of the church‘s calendar year. Our eyes will be fixed more and more on the great final day to come and the treasures that await us in our heavenly home. A vision that will even spill into the first Sunday in Advent itself. For the church’s march of death ends in life and victory, and that is our dream, our vision, our confidence, our enduring faith.

In Jesus’ name, Amen.