Mormon Ralph Hancock says something that strikes me as shockingly candid:
“Eternal Truth,” for those devoutly committed to the distinctive LDS principle of continuing revelation, means, apparently, at most “we’ll go with this until April conference.” Peter had to learn the hard way to be open-minded about cheeseburgers and shellfish, so let us not cling to any prejudice about details such as traditional norms (or any norms, I suppose) governing sexuality.
I had not stopped to think what it feels like to believe in “continuing revelation” in the sense that the putative successors to the Apostles may not just clarify what the Church has always believed, in response to novel challenges, but to totally flip-flop.
It seems, too, that this ability is what the press imputes to Popes when they pore over the words of someone like Pope Francis like a steaming bowl of chicken guts or tea leaves. “Will he lift ‘the ban on same-sex marriage’ or at least say that contraception, cohabitation and sodomy are okay now?”
This experience of mutable eternal verities, though, isn’t unique to Mormons. Ironically, it applies to the “How Firm a Foundation” folks, too, as, for instance, Bob Jones University abandons the principle of racial segregation – a principle that in my youth they surely insisted was firmly and unalterably Biblical. (The link the the lyrics of the rousing old Protestant hymn, which actually isn’t about the Bible though you could have fooled me when I was in that camp, is from the website “Timeless Truths.”)
I lived something analogous to ““we’ll go with this until April conference” in the somewhat more magisterial Christian Reformed Church as well. The issue of women’s eligibility for the offices of Deacon, Elder and Pastor came back year after year until the innovators won. No question was settled until it was settled to their liking. When I was in an Elder seat during such debates, I studied the scriptures and found them, ahem, less that perspicacious on this issue. “What we are supposed to be open to always fits a progressive moral-political agenda of ever more individual freedom and equality,” notes Hancock.
So I don’t think you can lay the Protestant version of “we’ll go with this until April conference” at the door of bad faith subversion by the enemy, unless you say The Enemy planted that sola scriptura malignancy in Protestant doctrine. Nor is the cure merely excising that malignancy, as the Episcopalians did at their founding, as they reap the whirlwind now.
The cure, you’ll be shocked to hear, starts with getting into the one holy catholic and apostolic church. Yes, there is such a thing. And it has a very special friend in the very highest of high places looking out for it.
[Marilynne] Robinson and I could have a conversation, and work together, across political and religious lines. Robinson is undeniably a serious Christian; it is impossible to read her work and fail to get this. One reason her writing resonates so much with me is that there is so much wisdom and depth in it. What I usually associate with liberal Christianity is the Democratic Party at prayer, or a light theological gloss on the Left’s cultural politics. (Interestingly, in American Grace, Putnam & Campbell cite studies showing that liberal Christian pulpits are more politicized than conservative Christian pulpits.)
I had to fill out a Medicaid application on an infuriatingly redesigned Indiana government website Wednesday. Where there formerly was a businesslike interface, now there’s frou-frou, and pastel colors, and lively artwork, and annoying explanations of what the next section of the application is about (which you sort of feel obliged to read in case they say something like “We’re really gaslighting you. You could have stopped this application four sections ago! Bwaahahahaha!”).
By the time I got to the part where is asked for sex, I sort of expected a slider instead of a binary checkbox.
The nature of our economy requires a mobile population – mobile both in where we live as well as mobile in what we do. That you will get a job at a company, work and retire is no longer an option for most – companies will need you to leave or become something different long before a career is finished. Cultural Christianity has obliged this changing market place and created a theology of vocation that gives Divine sanction to our vocational mobility. Indeed, the failure to know “what we want to do,” is almost never seen as a failure of the marketplace, a product of absurd dislocations and even more absurd educational planning. Instead, we view it as personal failure. “I never could figure out what I wanted to do,” the displaced, unplaced, unplaceable worker thinks.
My heart grieves for the false dilemmas that face young people today (and many others as well). How can anyone know what they want to be when they grow up?
(Fr. Stephen Freeman, The All Consuming Vocation)
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“The remarks made in this essay do not represent scholarly research. They are intended as topical stimulations for conversation among intelligent and informed people.” (Gerhart Niemeyer)