Sunday, September 25, 2011

The Proper Matter

I got myself involved in a very unproductive exchange of comments over at Mark Harris's blog Preludium. The exchange prompted me to think - once again - about the very different reactions that there have been to the ordination of women and to the blessing of same-sex unions. I suggested that both controversies involved disagreements about the proper matter for a sacrament. Traditionally the proper matter for the sacrament of holy orders was an adult male and there were those among the faithful who believed - and still do - that ordaining a woman was not only wrong but simply impossible. Traditionally the proper matter for the sacrament of holy matrimony has been an adult male and female couple and there are some among the faithful who believe that the uniting of two men or two women in holy matrimony is simply impossible.

I am still puzzled by the way in which Anglicans have found themselves unable to maintain relationships with those who disagree about the proper matter of holy matrimony when they had been able to live with diversity of convictions about the proper matter of holy orders. Is there a logic to this that is beyond my capacity to understand? Or is this simply heterosexism, a clinging to heterosexual privilege? If it is heterosexism, perhaps the way forward is a path quite like that which many opponents of the ordination of women followed a generation. My bishop at the time said that his mind was changed when he met women who exhibited the same kind of gifts and sense of calling that he saw in men preparing for ordination. I know that the witness of the lives of the same-sex couples that I have been blessed to know have helped to change my mind - along with some serious reading of Scripture.

The traditionalists are right in asserting that this way of understanding marriage is a departure from the past, a new thing. Changing our thinking about matters, especially matters of importance like holy matrimony and holy orders, is clearly a big deal, and not, to paraphrase the marriage rite itself, to be done hastily, but soberly and deliberately. We know that we may get it all wrong, that decades later we may come to realize that we made a mistake. But for me the greater mistake, the one that does incalculable damage to God's beloved children, is to cling to the old understandings.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Taxes, Anyone?

There has been some talk about continuing the payroll tax cuts that have put a bit more money in the pockets of working people. Some members of the GOP, who seem to like every tax cut, are not so happy about this one, or the tax credits that have help working people get out of poverty. Their argument is that everyone should pay taxes as a way to have a stake in the game. But nearly everyone, even those who don't pay income tax, pays federal taxes. For every tank of gas that I buy, the federal government gets $2.76 in fuel tax. That's not much, but it is a stake in the game. And if I didn't own a car, I would still be contributing to some trucking company's tax payments every time I bought anything. Put simply, we all have a stake in the game.

When I was a teenager my politics began to shift to the left. This got me in some trouble with my unwavering Republican grandmother. I wasn't allowed to wear Democrat's campaign pins in her house and I quickly learned to keep my politic convictions to myself. For a long time the memory of being told to take off a campaign bothered me. Years after her death, I found a way to make a kind of peace with my grandmother. I put a bumper sticker on my car: FRIENDS DON'T LET FRIENDS VOTE REPUBLICAN! 

Over the years that I drove that car and even after I passed it on to our son, I got a few negative responses to the bumper sticker, to which I always responded by saying that the bumper sticker was only a joke, and a very mild one at that. But this year I'm not so sure. With many Republicans in Congress unwilling to see that spending cuts alone won't eliminate the federal budget deficit or that spending increases for infrastructure would help the economy, I'm beginning to think that friends should not let friends vote for some of these Republicans.