Racism In Southern Baptist Church Alive and Well

So this article caught my attention today:

The governor of Mississippi, Phil Bryant, has said it was unfortunate that a predominantly white church in the state wouldn’t allow a black couple to get married in its sanctuary, adding that the state should encourage the union of any couple – as long as it was made up of a man and a woman.

Charles and Te’Andrea Wilson said they weren’t allowed to marry in July at First Baptist Church of Crystal Springs, a small town south of Jackson.

The Rev Stan Weatherford, pastor of the church, married the Wilsons at a church nearby. The wedding was moved after some congregants at First Baptist told Weatherford they opposed allowing black people to marry in the church.

So now some folks don’t even think that black people should get married and their Baptist church honored that request. I’ll assume that they just don’t think that black people should reproduce and thus die out as a race. I can’t begin to tell you how much this angers me.

But this whole thing brings up several other streams of thought:

1) This got a lot more news play overseas and in Canada than in did in the United States.

2) What if the situation were different? A mixed race couple perhaps? Would there have been more coverage?

3) And from my perspective: If this were a CATHOLIC church that did this and not a BAPTIST church I have a feeling it would have been on the front page of every paper in the country. Lauer would have had the wedding on the Today show.

Suffice it to say that racism is alive and well. Did anyone else notice that the Governor only said it was “unfortunate” and not “wrong”?

One Young Adult’s Experience of Finding a Church…Can you Relate?

Mary Donovan summed up what I’ve come to know as “the Church Search” trying to find a community that’s a good fit for one’s self. If find older people at times wondering why no young people are in their pews. Oftentimes, it’s because for younger people church has a different context.

Check out some of Mary’s thoughts:

I’ve been church shopping for more than three years now. I’m not much of a shopper so it’s getting tiring, but I’m not about to give up. I’m choosey: I want good music, a diverse and accepting community, a priest who consistently gives relevant and challenging homilies, and a church culture that embraces social justice. I’ve found churches that have some of the things on my list, but finding all of them in one place has proven to be a challenge.

Now full disclosure, I know Mary. She was one of the volunteers in our diocese’s Catholic Charities Volunteer Service Corps last year. I encouraged her to start writing for Busted Halo® and she attended a retreat I ran last year as well. She’s even come to my parish on occasion. And you can bet your last buck that I’ll be taking her to lunch to talk further about her search and what we’re not doing right in our parish (if anything).

But I love the things she points out as being elements of a church she really wants and I really appreciated the fact that she pointed out what keeps her from church:

– not having a ride
– not seeing young families
– student masses that only connect with campus life and leave us unchallenged

And when she hasn’t been able to go to a church–how does she stay engaged spiritually?

Volunteering, having meaningful conversations about spirituality, learning about different spiritual traditions, going on retreats, and sticking with my already established spiritual practices kept me connected to God even without a church to call home and on the weeks I didn’t attend church.

Sounds like she does much more than the average person who punches their mass clock each week and lumbers out unreflectively. And that should tell us all something.

Younger people want more out of their experience on Sunday. They want to be engaged, they want to understand, they want to be challenged to take that next step. They want time to think and consider in quiet contemplation and be moved and they want the rousing engaged community to go forth from that place renewed by the spirit together to create change in a sometimes and all too often broken world.

And that’s my job to try to create that. Most days I think we do a good job. But I know I get too easily disappointed by the lack of younger people in pews everywhere–here included—and we’re not doing all that bad from what we hear from the young people who are engaged here. I shudder to think what goes on elsewhere.

So thanks, Mary. Lunch or dinner is on me. Let’s keep the conversation going.

And anyone else…let’s chat.

The Black Church & the Inauguration

I meant to blog this earlier in the week but…simply got busy. I enjoyed this take on Rev. Lowery’s benediction at the inauguration. A hat tip to Dr. Rachel Bundang for this one.

And perhaps what has been controversial in some media outlets, is the final section or Rev. Lowery’s prayer, when he said: “We ask you to help us work for that day when black will not be asked to get in back, when brown can stick around … when yellow will be mellow … when the red man can get ahead, man; and when white will embrace what is right. That all those who do justice and love mercy say Amen.”

Melissa, I was literally laughing so hard when I heard this, that I almost fell out of my seat. First, Rev. Lowery pulled out his metaphorical “jive dictionary” from the 1960’s, using expressions that were popular “back in the day.” But the moment was a significant one for two reasons: humor has always been an element of the black church tradition. We laugh to keep from crying; we take joy in a life and conditions that would have been completely unbearable for others. So knowing the black church as I do, I know that his humor was intentional, but it was not irreverent. It speaks to the joy and the jive that has helped to bring us through some weary years.

And finally, this last little bit of humor pays tribute to the urban and rural blues/folk traditions that have helped to shape the black church, most especially the music, sermons, and worship style of the black church. As a syncretic faith, pulling from African and Western influences, the black church is also a “patchwork” faith that has been influenced by, and has also greatly influenced, many secular forms of art, music, dance, and culture. So Rev. Lowery’s benediction highlighted the black church tradition at its best; a tradition of African descent, but American born and made.

Good points all around from Dr Yolanda Pierce. I do wonder however, that even if this “jive” was intentional–and an attempt to be funny, if the fact that many were hurt by his comments has any bearing at all to people who found it inoffensive. It still didn’t lessen the racist overtones for me even after reading this.

I will say this. Rev. Lowery has forgotten more moments in a white-dominated culture that were racist than I probably have experiences either towards me or towards others. So I’m apt to give him a pass. In his mind, white people have offended him so many times that he needs to remind us all of that injustice.

I still don’t get the “yellow mellow” part though–unless he just needed a rhyme to be funny?

Contraception, Legitimate Fear and the Church’s Wisdom

The Obama story below on contraception brought out some comments from people who questioned the church’s prohibition on contraception. I wanted to expound on that a bit as there is often misconceptions about the church’s position–so I typed this as a comment in the thread but am also reposting here.

The thing that most people don’t know is that the church isn’t against the spacing of births. Rather, what it is against is doing it in an un-natural way. The second thing that many people don’t know is that Natural Family Planning (NFP) which is the church’s recommended use of spacing births is not the old-school rhythm method (less known as Vatican roulette).

Instead of playing a mere guessing game with regards to fertility (I think I’m fertile now because it’s the 24th, honey so we shouldn’t have sex tonight), it uses scientific signs of ovulation to more accurately predict a woman’s fertility cycle and thus abstain during that period of time. I know of several couples who use it with great accuracy not only to avoid getting pregnant but more importantly to get pregnant! (Ex. I know I’m fertile right now so let’s knock some boots!)

The main element here I think is fear on all sides. In the political world, Democrats fear that people who don’t use birth control will have children that they can’t care for–which in my mind is a legitimate fear. We all have a stake here as few people go out of their way for a pregnant teen.

Republicans fear that teens and others will have sex out of wedlock easier if birth control is made widely available and encouraged publicly, thus promoting sexual promiscuity. Also a legitimate fear in my mind. We don’t talk about how this also makes prostitution more readily accessible and makes the porn industry more able to produce more of their “materials.” AN ancillary result but one we should also concern ourselves with as they often prey on young runaways and other at-risk teens and individuals.

With regards to all of this…what if we all lived as if we had genuine respect for one another? If we valued sex because we valued not sex but rather a genuine commitment to another and to family. What if we didn’t try to make deals all the time? Such as, “I’ll have sex with you but only if I can be guaranteed that you won’t get pregnant!” Maybe our mantra should be that sex should be simply reserved not for procreation but rather for people who can be responsibly committed to one another. In other words, I love you so much that I will deal with the consequences of what could happen if we have sex and will abstain from sex because I know what the consequences will be? What if we welcomed children unconditionally instead of considering them a burden on our good time?

I think that might not only welcome more children into the world but also foster better communication and conversation in marriage–thus leading to fewer divorces–which is something that neither the GOP nor the dems have much to say on.

Lastly, I don’t know if most people are ready or think they can handle this kind of commitment. Indeed it is counter-cultural and goes against our very individualistic culture that values personal choice and comfort above all–especially amongst the young. So proclaiming the wisdom of church teaching often fails when it comes to practical implications for many Catholics. Some are just too scared to try something that they are unfamiliar with–and too afraid that it might not work. Women with strange menstrual cycles might feel uncomfortable with this and people for whom it might be dangerous for the wife to become pregnant also will probably choose to take fewer chances that they don’t completely trust. Does this mean that they don’t trust God to care for them in the midst of all of this is the large question–and the answer may be yes–which is really what is at the heart of this “sin.” “I know better than God.” “I can’t handle my finances with a baby.” Etc,. Again, all legitimate fears but our responses to those fears may be understandable but not necessarily the right call.

I’d like to see someone do a survey of 5000 married couples who have been married for over 30 years and see what they have to say about the communication aspects of this topic. How have they dealt with the things life has dealt them? I think we’d have a lot to learn.

Pope Benedict Responds to SSPX

Rocco Palmo has the scoop:

Pope Benedict’s thoughts then turned to the Shoah, the memorial of which was celebrated this week. He said “the memories and images of my many visits to Auschwitz come back to me in these days, a death camp in which blind racial and religious hatred led to the ferocious extermination of millions of Jews and other innocent victims”.

Then Pope Benedict firmly said “While I renew my affection for and complete solidarity with our Brothers of the First Alliance, I urge that the memory of the Shoah lead humanity to reflect on the unforeseeable power of evil when it conquers the Human Heart. May the Shoah be a warning to all against oblivion, against denial or revisionism, because violence committed against any one single human being is violence against all humanity. No man is an island, a well known poet once wrote. The Shoah teaches both the new and older generations, that only the demanding journey of listening and dialogue, of love and forgiveness can lead the world’s peoples, cultures and religions towards the desired goal of brotherhood and peace in truth. Never again may violence humiliate the dignity of man!”.

Obama asks Dems to drop Contraception Program from Stimulus Package

Perhaps this picture is not inaccurate?

A huge hat tip to Deacon Greg Kandra here:

A $200 million provision for contraception programs is being dropped from the $825 billion stimulus package following criticism from pro-lifers and Republican congressmen.

President Barack Obama personally called House Democratic leaders to ask them to remove the provision, an Obama aide told CNN. One of his calls reportedly went to Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA), chairman of the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform and one of the most influential liberal members of Congress.

The president reportedly urged the provision’s removal because it was a hot button issue among Republicans and did not focus on creating jobs as quickly as possible.

Wow! Could this be a great sign at how collaborative the new President might be? Democrats from the past would almost never do anything to appease the Pro-life crowd.

This gives me an opportunity to again repeat my mantra. I’m all for changing the law that would make abortion illegal, but what if we all lived our lives in such a way that would allow women to not fear having their babies. What if we supported women who got pregnant–even stupidly–and made it a less fearful experience and turned it into a moment of joy?

Until then…the hot button issue will always remain despite the law–not because of it.

Commonweal on the SSPX statement

Grant Gallicho is right on the money here.

Shrewd move, as far as it goes. I would have preferred something stronger (”ill-advised” doesn’t begin to describe what Williamson spews), sooner (why did it take so long for Fellay to publicly condemn Williamson’s unhinged views about the Shoah when he has been repeating them for years?), and less, well, huffy (yes, yes, you’re respected the world over, but why not name the Jewish people in your apology to the pope and to “all people of good will”?).

I do think that the Superior could’ve chosen to say nothing. Grant is just as suspicious as I am about where the impetus for the apology really began though.

SSPX Superior to Holocaust Denier: Shut Up!

This just in from the National Catholic Reporter

A statement from: Bishop Bernard Fellay, superior of the Priestly Fraternity of St. Pius X (right):

We have become aware of an interview released by Bishop Richard Williamson, a member of our Fraternity of St. Pius X, to Swedish television. In this interview, he expressed himself on historical questions, and in particular on the question of the genocide against the Jews carried out by the Nazis.

It’s clear that a Catholic bishop cannot speak with ecclesiastical authority except on questions that regard faith and morals. Our Fraternity does not claim any authority on other matters. Its mission is the propagation and restoration of authentic Catholic doctrine, expressed in the dogmas of the faith. It’s for this reason that we are known, accepted and respected in the entire world.

It’s with great sadness that we recognize the extent to which the violation of this mandate has done damage to our mission. The affirmations of Bishop Williamson do not reflect in any sense the position of our Fraternity. For this reason I have prohibited him, pending any new orders, from taking any public positions on political or historical questions.

We ask the forgiveness of the Supreme Pontiff, and of all people of good will, for the dramatic consequences of this act. Because we recognize how ill-advised these declarations were, we can only look with sadness at the way in which they have directly struck our Fraternity, discrediting its mission.

This is something we cannot accept, and we declare that we will continue to preach Catholic doctrine and to administer the sacraments of grace of Our Lord Jesus Christ.

Good to know someone in the fraternity doesn’t share those views. It’s also likely that because this group is fairly small that Bishop Fellay may have single handedly forged the reconciliation with the Pope on behalf of the fraternity.

SSPX: “Never really Excommunicated”

Deacon Greg puts forth a great resource today about the SSPX and the Pope’s reconciliation.

Deacon Greg notes that the SSPX says they were “never really excommunicated” and they haven’t recanted their refusal to accept the Second Vatican Council.

So why exactly are they back in union with the RC Church? Now I’m confused. Perhaps he’s dabbling in “extreme theology?”