A Minister’s Confession

Here’s an old prayer, from The Valley of Vision.  Humbling and, therefore, so needful, this prayer should really be a part of every pastor’s routine:

“O GOD,

I know that I often do thy work
without thy power,
and sin by my dead, heartless, blind service,
my lack of inward light, love, delight,
my mind, heart, tongue moving
without thy help.
I see sin in my heart in seeking the approbation
of others;
This is my vileness, to make men’s opinion
my rule, whereas
I should see what good I have done,
and give thee glory,
consider what sin I have committed
and mourn for that.
It is my deceit to preach, and pray,
and to stir up others’ spiritual affections
in order to beget commendations,
whereas my rule should be daily
to consider myself more vile than any man
in my own eyes.
But thou dost show thy power by my frailty,
so that the more feeble I am,
the more fit to be used,
for thou dost pitch a tent of grace
in my weakness.
Help me to rejoice in my infirmities
and give thee praise,
to acknowledge my deficiencies before others
and not be discouraged by them,
that they may see thy glory more clearly.
Teach me that I must act by a power supernatural,
whereby I can attempt things above my strength,
and bear evils beyond my strength,
acting for Christ in all,
and have his superior power to help me.
Let me learn of Paul
whose presence was mean,
his weakness great,
his utterance contemptible,
yet thou didst account him faithful and blessed.
Lord, let me lean on thee as he did,
and find my ministry thine.”

Margaret Sanger in Her Own Words

By Dr. George Grant (from “The Quick and the Dead“)

These quotes, as the title indicates, reflect Margaret Sanger in her own words.  The sources are all footnoted in Dr. Grant’s book “Grand Illusions”:

“We must discourage the defective and diseased elements of humanity from their reckless and irresponsible swarming and spawning.”

“The mass of Negroes, particularly in the South, still breed carelessly and disastrously, with the result that the increase among Negroes, even more than among Whites, is from that portion of the population least intelligent and fit.”

“We propose to hire three or four colored ministers, preferably with social-service backgrounds, and with engaging personalities. The most successful educational approach to the Negro is through a religious appeal. And we do not want word to go out that we want to exterminate the Negro population, and the minister is the man who can straighten out that idea if it ever occurs to any of their more rebellious members.”

“The most merciful thing a large family can do to one of its infant members is to kill it.”

“The government of the United States deliberately encourages and even makes necessary by its laws the breeding–with a breakneck rapidity–of idiots, defectives, diseased, feebleminded, and criminal classes. Billions of dollars are expended by our state and federal governments and by private charities and philanthropies for the care, the maintenance, and the perpetuation of these classes. Year by year their numbers are mounting. Year by year more money is expended . . . to maintain an increasing race of morons which threatens the very foundations of our civilization.”

“We can all vote, even the mentally arrested. And so it is no surprise to find that the moron’s vote is as good as the vote of the genius. The outlook is not a cheerful one.”

“The dullard, the gawk, the numbskull, the simpleton, the weakling, and the scatterbrain are amongst us in overshadowing numbers–intermarrying, breeding, inordinately prolific, literally threatening to overwhelm the world with their useless and terrifying get.”

“Birth control appeals to the advanced radical because it is calculated to undermine the authority of the Christian churches. I look forward to seeing humanity free someday of the tyranny of Christianity no less than Capitalism.”

“Even if we accept organized charity at its own valuation, and grant it does the best it can, it is exposed to a more profound criticism. It reveals a fundamental and irremedial defect. Its very success, its very efficiency, its very necessity to the social order are the most unanswerable indictment. Organized charity is the symptom of a malignant social disease. Those vast, complex, interrelated organizations aiming to control and to diminish the spread of misery and destitution and all the menacing evils that spring out of this sinisterly fertile soil, are the surest sign that our civilization has bred, is breeding, and is perpetuating constantly increasing numbers of defectives, delinquents, and dependents. My criticism, therefore is not directed at the failure of philanthropy, but rather at its success. These dangers inherent in the very idea of humanitarianism and altruism, dangers which have today produced their full harvest of human waste.”

“The most serious charge that can be brought against modern benevolence is that it encourages the perpetuation of defectives, delinquents, and dependents. These are the most dangerous elements in the world community, the most devestating curse on human progress and expression. Philanthropy is a gesture characteristic of modern business lavishing upon the unfit the profits extorted from the community at large. Looked at impartially, this compensatory generosity is in its final effect probably more dangerous, more dysgenic, more blighting than the initial practice of profiteering.”

“Why I Hate Religion, But Love Jesus”: A Response

Fr. Andrew Stephen Damick, with whom I am largely unfamiliar, wrote a line-by-line response to the above video that is simply outstanding.  It begins:

The above video by Jefferson Bethke has been making the rounds lately via various bits of social media. A few people have sent to it me to ask what I think. This touches on a lot of themes that I’ve written on before, and while it doesn’t particularly make any new theological claims—it’s really just a sort of standard, monergistic, anti-ecclesial, sentimentalist Evangelical Protestantism—for whatever reason (perhaps the emotionally moving music in the background), it seems to be getting some attention.

Read the rest at Fr. Damick’s blog by clicking HERE.

Supreme Court Upholds Church Rights

The U.S. Supreme Court has returned its decision in the lawsuit of Cheryl Perich against Hosanna-Tabor Evangelical Lutheran Church and School.

The Associated Press reports:

WASHINGTON (AP) — In a groundbreaking case, the Supreme Court on Wednesday held for the first time that religious employees of a church cannot sue for employment discrimination.

But the court’s unanimous decision in a case from Michigan did not specify the distinction between a secular employee, who can take advantage of the government’s protection from discrimination and retaliation, and a religious employee, who can’t.

It was, nevertheless, the first time the high court has acknowledged the existence of a “ministerial exception” to anti-discrimination laws — a doctrine developed in lower court rulings. This doctrine says the First Amendment’s guarantee of freedom of religion shields churches and their operations from the reach of such protective laws when the issue involves employees of these institutions.

The case came before the court because the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission sued the Hosanna-Tabor Evangelical Lutheran Church and School of Redford, Mich., on behalf of employee Cheryl Perich, over her firing, which happened after she complained of discrimination under the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Writing the court’s opinion, Chief Justice John Roberts said allowing anti-discrimination lawsuits against religious organizations could end up forcing churches to take religious leaders they no longer want.

“Such action interferes with the internal governance of the church, depriving the church of control over the selection of those who will personify its beliefs,” Roberts said. “By imposing an unwantedminister, the state infringes the Free Exercise Clause, which protects a religious group’s right to shape its own faith and mission through its appointments.”

The court’s decision will make it virtually impossible for ministers to take on their employers for being fired for complaining about issues like sexual harassment, said the Rev. Barry W. Lynn, executive director of Americans United.

“Clergy who are fired for reasons unrelated to matters of theology — no matter how capricious or venal those reasons may be — have just had the courthouse door slammed in their faces,” Lynn said.

But Douglass Laycock, who argued the case for Hosanna-Tabor, called it a “huge win for religious liberty.”

“The court has unanimously confirmed the right of churches to select their own ministers and religious leaders,” he said.

But since this was the first time the high court has ever considered the “ministerial exception,” it would not set hard and fast rules on who can be considered a religious employee of a religious organization, Roberts said.

“We are reluctant … to adopt a rigid formula for deciding when an employee qualifies as a minister,” he said. “It is enough for us to conclude, in this, our first case involving the ministerial exception, that the exception covers Perich, given all the circumstances of her employment.”

Perich was promoted from a temporary lay teacher to a “called” teacher in 2000 by a vote of the church’s congregation and was hired as a commissioned minister. She taught secular classes as well as a religious class four days a week. She also occasionally led chapel service.

She got sick in 2004 but tried to return to work from disability leave despite being diagnosed with narcolepsy. The school said she couldn’t return because they had hired a substitute for that year. They fired her and removed her from the church ministry after she showed up at the school and threatened to sue to get her job back.

Perich complained to the EEOC, which sued the church for violations of the disabilities act.

A federal judge threw out the lawsuit on grounds that Perich fell under the ADA’s ministerial exception, which keeps the government from interfering with church affairs. But the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals reinstated her lawsuit, saying Perich’s “primary function was teaching secular subjects” so the ministerial exception didn’t apply.

The federal appeals court’s reasoning was wrong, Roberts said. He said that Perich had been ordained as a minister and the lower court put too much weight on the fact that regular teachers also performed the same religious duties as she did.

The 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals also placed too much emphasis on the fact that Perich’s religious duties only took up 45 minutes of her workday, while secular duties consumed the rest, Roberts said.

“The issue before us … is not one that can be resolved by a stopwatch,” he said.

The court’s decision was a narrow one, with Roberts refusing to extend the ministerial exception to other types of lawsuits that religious employees might bring against their employers. “We express no view on whether the exception bars other types of suits, including actions by employees alleging breach of contract or tortious conduct by their religious employers,” Roberts said.

Justice Samuel Alito, who wrote a separate opinion, argued that the exception should be tailored for only an employee “who leads a religious organization, conducts worship services or important religious ceremonies or rituals or serves as a messenger or teacher of its faith.”

But “while a purely secular teacher would not qualify for the ‘ministerial exception,’ the constitutional protection of religious teachers is not somehow diminished when they take on secular functions in addition to their religious ones,” Alito said.

The Danger of Theology Unapplied

by Wendell Berry

Having written some pages in favor of Jesus,
I receive a solemn communication crediting me
with the possession of a “theology” by which
I acquire the strange dignity of being wrong
forever or forever right. Have I gauged exactly
enough the weights of sins? Have I found
too much of the Hereafter in the Here? Or
the other way around? Have I found too much
pleasure, too much beauty and goodness, in this
our unreturning world? O Lord, please forgive
any smidgen of such distinctions I may
have still in my mind. I meant to leave them
all behind a long time ago. If I’m a theologian
I am one to the extent I have learned to duck
when the small, haughty doctrines fly overhead,
dropping their loads of whitewash at random
on the faces of those who look toward Heaven.
Look down, look down, and save your soul
by honester dirt, that receives with a lordly
indifference this off-fall of the air. Christmas
night and Easter morning are this soil’s only laws.
The depth and volume of the waters of baptism,
the true taxonomy of sins, the field marks
of those most surely saved, God’s own only true
interpretation of the Scripture: these would be
causes of eternal amusement, could we forget
how we have hated one another, how vilified
and hurt and killed one another, bloodying
the world, by means of such questions, wrongly
asked, never to be rightly answered, but asked and
wrongly answered, hour after hour, day after day,
year after year — such is my belief — in Hell.
—————————————————————————————————

Due to a dear friend’s recent recommendation, I have begun reading some of the works of Wendell Berry and, thus far, I have been far from disappointed.  This particular poem addresses an all-too-common danger among American Christians – believing doctrines that are never lived out, theology that does not come out the fingertips.