mercredi, mai 09, 2012

The death of Constantine: why the church should get out of the marriage business

Perhaps it's time for Christian churches to stop being proxy agents of the state.

Every time I sign a marriage license, I have to shake myself and ask -- what the heck am I doing?

Why IS this authority vested in me?

I'm an ordained minister, not a clerk or a judge.

Neither are my ordained brothers and sisters of any faith.

As the debate about North Carolina's decision to ban gay marriage and the President's avowal of support for it splashed across my Facebook page today, I pondered the legacy of the compromises that the church made with the state in the centuries after Constantine and his famed, if fake "donation" (a forged decree in which the emperor gave power over the western part of his empire to the Pope).

That was the beginning of a power game that the Catholic Church mastered, as the years went by -- and that Christian denominations have tried to play, more or less successfully, ever since.

But in the long run, the faithful who attempt to the move  chess pieces straight or slantwise on the board really can't win.

Lord Acton was right. Power does corrupt. One has only to look at the crisis in the Roman Catholic church and its bitter fruit to realize what a deadly mixture faith and politics can be.

Christians who try to drag the church into the political arena often end up knee deep in dirt.

A look at my denomination reveals the perils of  possessing too close historical ties with the government.

For centuries, Anglicans were way over-represented in the halls of  Congress and the American aristocracy.

But battles over women's ordination, gay ordination and gay marriage revealed the Episcopal Church for what it is -- an ecclesiastical institution built on a secular governmental model -- without a theological foundation.  The closer the relationship between church and state, the more the church suffers -- or becomes remade in the image of the state.

Let the state decide who can be married, as it has and is doing.

Then the church can be an agent of blessing, rather than another secular arbiter.

Perhaps then Constantine can rest in peace. At least, that is, when it comes to the sins of the churches.

It never really was his fault, anyway.

lundi, mai 07, 2012

The Limbo lovers

Dancing together
Spun in endless waltz
Until there is no more music, echo itself escapes them
Embracing air
For words only they own
No truth here
They circle
Long ago they conned the lines
A virtual simulacrum of love
They make
Forgetting all the times they thought
They loved
Lost in vaporous wonder.
Not me.
No lover's limbo do I embrace.
Instead I choose to love in truth
Beastly and rare
Truth that much more beautiful
For grace even in scars
And harsh daylight

dimanche, mai 06, 2012

My Wildflower world

When I was a teenager, I discovered the novels of British writer R. F. Delderfield.

A novelist who died around 40 years ago, Delderfield penned sagas of England in the 19th and 20th centuries.

Classically liberal in temperament, he brought a thoughtful civility to the world of the blooming upper middle class, schoolmasters returned from the wreckage of the First World War, and country life in all of its particulars.

The novelist used details such as flowers and birds, smells and buildings to evoke a particular place -- Devon farms, London during the years when the railroad made it such a dangerous, dirty, fascinating Victorian town.

It is because of him that I have learned to watch for wildflowers.

We have lots of them around here. As spring turns to summer, and then to fall, the lovely ones that adorn our roads will bloom and die, giving up their spots (until next year) to other volunteers until the chill of autumn covers them with leaves.

As much as I loved to read about Delderfields's lovely forests and pastures, I am horrible about remembering the names of the flowers that beautify the roadsides and farms on my long walks through Glenmoore.

Wild violets. Bluets. Queen Anne's lace and buttercups. I can't get much further without a book or some pictures online.

But I feel the wildflowers. They transport me to a more romantic time, when I was pacing the moors, or scanning the sea from the cliffs, waiting for my lover to come and rescue me from the mundane realities of homework and dinner.

Know what?

They still, in memory, take me there.

Even if I have no idea what they are called. The child of decades ago didn't know, either.

She just knew they were magical...