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March 21, 2004

Culture War from the Inside Out

On the very same day that a Seattle-area United Methodist church steps onto what may prove to be the path to internal discord that the U.S. Episcopal Church has blazed, the Washington Post profiles another congregation of the same Church across the country in Maryland in reaction to this finding:

Late last year, a commission convened by Dartmouth Medical School, among others, studied years of research on kids, including brain-imaging studies, and concluded that young people who are religious are better off in significant ways than their secular peers. They are less likely than nonbelievers to smoke and drink and more likely to eat well; less likely to commit crimes and more likely to wear seat belts; less likely to be depressed and more likely to be satisfied with their families and school.

The article, which I found via Amy Welborn's blog, is well worth reading, despite its length, but something odd creeps in at the bottom of the third html page (of four):

Some girls in the study group don't challenge the Bible or church teachings. Kimbrey, however, is a questioner, and her questions are taken seriously, she says. One discussion she remembers centered on the ordination of gay clergy. Wendy Brubaker, her Bible group sponsor, said gays shouldn't be ordained but Kimbrey argued that "all sins are equal in God's sight." She isn't convinced that homosexuality is a sin, but if it is, she argued, "you can't judge a person just by the sins you see." The church unknowingly ordains ministers who commit abuse and other acts condemned by the Bible. Why should homosexuals be excluded?

The next page picks up:

"I won the argument," she says proudly.

Ah, pride! According to the telling of Post writer Laura Sessions Stepp, Kimbrey really does seem to be a fantastic kid, but two questions come to mind. Did none of her Bible-study peers think to suggest that the problem lies in the degree to which this particular sin is worn as an impregnable, unimpeachable identity? One suspects that open abusers would be somewhat less welcome than even open and active homosexuals.

The second question is why, in a piece about the benefits of religion, Ms. Stepp devotes so much (unbalanced) time applauding a girl who refutes it on this particular issue. To ask this question is to answer it, and the answer carries through to the last individual profile of the piece, a twelve-year-old girl who gets the final word:

Wicca, a form of pagan nature worship, could be the answer, she says. Because "in Wicca, you have a goddess and a god. God will still be there for me."

Thus, the preadolescent sage assists la journaliste sophistiquée in assuring the reader that — while the formula currently eludes the experts — the benefits of religion may yet be distilled away from organizations that insist on tradition, dogma, and stuff.

Posted by Justin Katz at March 21, 2004 7:02 PM

I fault the United Methodist lesbian preacher for defying church law. However, I support changing church law to allow for the ordination of homosexuals.

Civil disobedience has its place in society, but those in positions of authority must either abide by the rules and laws or resign as a matter of conscience.

I prefer that the United Methodist Church remain as one body; in a schism, the liberals would be too left and the conservatives would be too reactionary.

Conservatives may fault liberals for no longer regarding homosexuality as a sin, but liberals fault conservatives for no longer regarding greed as a sin.

Woe to anyone who uses their brain when reading the Bible, though. Many fundamentalists went bezerk when James Dobson of Focus on the Family suggested that masturbation is virtually irresistible to teens and is not necessarily a moral failure. Masturbation not a sin! Blasphemy!

Posted by: Joel Thomas at March 21, 2004 9:08 PM


I agree with some of what you write, but I think this statement is at least problematic:

Conservatives may fault liberals for no longer regarding homosexuality as a sin, but liberals fault conservatives for no longer regarding greed as a sin.

Homosexuality is much more associated (both actually and in perception) with liberals than greed is with conservatives, particularly in a religious context. Of course, there's also the difference that very few people will actually argue for greed on principle.

Posted by: Justin Katz at March 21, 2004 10:47 PM

Conservatives have been the driving force behind eliminating or watering down usury laws. It is very rare for a conservative pastor to preach on the subject. That is but one example related to greed.

Posted by: Joel Thomas at March 21, 2004 11:39 PM

Guess that's a problem amongs protestants. Us catholic are very different. Greed is a lot more alien to most of us, regardless of the silly geometrical position.

Posted by: Peter at March 22, 2004 6:52 AM

Yes! "all sins are equal in God's sight"! Now I'm free to kill the person I get angry with because anger and murder are equal.

She must've attended the Howard Dean School of Theology (tm).

Posted by: Josh M. at March 22, 2004 4:30 PM

I like reading the responses to the article. And as a response to that last post, yes, to me all sins are equal. All sins disgrace God, no matter how you look at it. You can't discriminate, who are you to say which ones are worse? If we don't allow homosexuals, then we shouldn't allow all sinners. But oh, we all sin, it's human nature after all. "Let he who has not sin cast the fist stone." The reporter didn't give the background as to why we got on that subject, and she really shortened our conversation, but she did give the main point. I also don't appreciate you calling me a lesbian, I am not, I only use the love that God has given me to accept all Christians as He has made them. I only hope you do not let your personal opinions cloud your view of other human beings, all of which we are not supposed to judge and therefore love and accept.

Posted by: Kimbrey at May 19, 2005 1:26 PM

I was also thinking, if you actually read the article it might help. I'm also pictured there with my finance.

Posted by: Kimbrey at May 19, 2005 1:48 PM