Monday, May 19, 2008

Desert Angels

There is a mixed bag of good works listed in Chapter 4 of the Rule of St Benedict. Benedict starts off with the 2 Great Commandments. IMO, everything that follows in Ch 4 and indeed the entire RB is commentary upon the 2 Great Commandments. How to incarnate these 2 Great Commandments in to our lives and beings.

"Not to become attached to pleasures" is an interesting one, would you agree? Pleasures do come to us, some we seek out, but we are not to become attached to them because, I think, it means they would to that extent have replaced God in our lives. And nothing must do that, Benedict teaches us.

"To bury the dead" has a slightly new meaning to me today than it did on, say, Saturday. Last evening while driving somewhere, I listened to an interview. Well, part of one. It was on my favorite local jazz radio station (KSDS 88.3 San Diego if any are interested). At 6PM on Sunday they interrupt the jazz for interviews. I d din;t catch who was being interviewed or who was interviewing, but they were discussing 2 volunteer groups here in San Diego: The Border Angels and the Desert Angels.

Both of these groups have a heart for the basic, common, simple humanitarian needs that we all share. Their out reach is to those trying to cross illegally from Mexico into Southern California. A good deal of our common border is desert or the Peninsular Mountain Range. The Border Angels deliver fresh water to several locations and they have signs up in the wild places telling people where to find the water.

The Desert Angles have a different purpose. Crossing the border has become a life threatening situation. The Border patrol on occasion have shot illegal immigrants. Much more frequent is that the Border Patrol chase vehicles. The drivers try to elude the patrol and there are these high speed chases on the freeways or even surface streets. Inevitably there is an accident and people die. Another issue is that people who walk across the desert get lost and die of hunger, thirst or mountain lion. So if a family in Mexico hasn't heard from their loved one, they contact the Desert Angels who go out and search. If the Desert Angels find a dead body, they not only return it to the grieving family, but they also put up a cross and plant flowers where they found the body. They honor the dead.

When I heard this, I immediately thought of this passage in the RB. Many people here in Southern California only think in punitive terms when it comes to those crossing the border illegally. You may remember how much of So CA was destroyed by the wildfires this past autumn. When people came to the shelters, they were carded to see if they were illegal immigrants or not. If they were, they were denied food, water, clothing and were loaded into vans and taken into Mexico. If they were Mexican, of course. if they were of other nationalities they were imprisoned pending deportation.

Reading this section of the Rule, I note that as did Jesus, Benedict does not limit those on the receiving end to the worthy, deserving or the legal. Human need is human need, they both seem to me to say.

Friday, May 09, 2008

Akinola links Polygamists to his anti-lgbt stance

I read the following recently:

Archbishop Peter J. Akinola has broken his long silence regarding the increasing practice of polygamy in Nigeria. Last week Akinola called for an Anglican ban on polygamy in Nigeria.

"'Those of us who are in the forefront of the prophetic call for a return to Biblical truth, cannot close our eyes to the increasingly blatant disregard for the teaching of the Bible on family life,'Archbishop Peter Akinola stressed.

"He warned that any attempt to trivialise the Bible's teaching on monogamy as the ultimate standard for the Christian family 'will make a mockery of whatever else we stand for.

"'Sadly, sometimes, even our leadership has looked the other way on this matter'."

See the article at

This was immediately followed by this question:

Can anyone point me to a place in scripture that bans polygamy?

Many of the posts attempted to answer this question and I see that none of them have touched on the evangelical basis for marriage which is in Genesis 2:24: " For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh."

This is the basis of any claim that monogamy is God's will since the beginning of time.

IMO, in turning his attention to polygamy, Akinola is doing a few things. For one, he may have misinterpreted his critics who say things like "What, he makes this huge fuss over gays and yet allows polygamy?"

For another, he may be tacitly admitting that he lost the battle over gays and now turns his attention to another issue. Clearly readers of this list do not need to be informed of the potential violence women and their children may experience.

What I have always understood and would be grateful to have my information corrected if I am in error, is that it has been the policy of African bishops to allow a convert to Christianity to retain all his wives in order to protect them from lives of prostitution, slavery etc that would otherwise be their certain lot if they were cast off or returned to their parents. Not to mention what would happen to the children.

IMO, one of the most problematic issues with evangelicalism is the second class citizenship of women and children. I am a graduate of an evangelical seminary north of Boston, MA and I cannot tell you the number of cases where the student husband beat his wife or the kids would be locked in closets. I was in group therapy with a woman who drove 200 miles round trip to be in our group because her abusive husband was a prominent leader among evangelicals. She begged me not to ever say anything because the "evangelical community is so small in New England."

I am no longer evangelical and I also realize that evangelicals have not cornered the market on battered wives and abused kids. Islam's history of the treatment of women has been pretty horrific. According to a survey I read recently the other fastest growing religion in the world ,The Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter Day Saints, holds the record in the USA for the highest incidence of wife beating.

One of my professors at seminary, David Scholer, taught stuff which robbed him of any chance at tenure at my seminary. He taught was that the witness of the New Testament and Paul in particular and indeed the Creation account, is of equality among the genders, that a true Christian marriage is an egalitarian one. Among Christians there are no divisions like ethnicity, gender, status, all are one in Christ Jesus.

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