Sunday, July 29, 2012

Sunday Inspiration - There Is Hope For Christians, After All!

Col. Timothy Wagoner : "He embodies the best of the chaplain corps." 

Slowly, but surely, decent Christians everywhere are beginning to step back and take a good hard look at what has been happening to their religion.  Slowly, but surely, decent people are gathering the strength to brave the inevitable backlash in order to speak out against the evil that is being said and done in the name of their religion.

A long-serving military chaplain, Col. Timothy Wagoner, has parted ways with the Southern Baptist Convention after being publicly admonished over his attendance at the first gay marriage in the military. He will remain as a chaplain in the military, affiliated with the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship which holds more moderate views than the SBC.

“I find very little that is more important and nothing that is more exhilarating than providing for the religious freedoms and spiritual care of all service members and their families — and will joyfully continue to do so,” Wagoner said Friday in an e-mail to The Associated Press. (Military Times story here).

Col. Wagoner joins a whisper-thin but steady drizzle of believers who are trickling out of the fold of the most extreme conservative churches, as they realize that the political agendas of these churches have little to do with the teachings of Jesus and everything to do with political power and social control. They join a steadier, but still thin, stream of moderate Christians from putatively moderate churches whose individual congregations claim to be more tolerant and accepting than the parent denomination, but who nevertheless contribute to the continued rightward lurch of Christianity through financial support of conservative parent hierarchies.

This is the ugly underbelly of religion.
The silent support of the moderate majority has
 allowed it to flourish but finally, good people of faith
are finding the courage within themselves to speak out.
Maybe it is only a trickle now, but I am hopeful that it will soon become a torrent.

More and more religious people are realizing that their beloved faith has been hijacked by the extreme right wing and more and more of them are taking the incredibly courageous step of walking away - not from their belief in God, but from the pernicious influence of the destructive conservative religious juggernaut and its powerful religious institutions.

And it does take courage to walk away from one's church.

The term "social animals"  does not mean that we merely enjoy spending time with kith and kin. Being social animals means that our connection to, and reliance upon, our social groups is vital to our physical and psychological health. People rarely rebel against social norms -  we rarely challenge the will of the dominant social group (often a large powerful religion) - because we know on a deeply visceral level that to do so could have dangerous consequences.

Society threatens apostates with total ostracism. We know what can happen if we criticize our social/religious group. Friends turn away, families are torn apart, careers are destroyed and lives are even threatened or lost in the vicious backlash that an outspoken member of a religious identity group experiences. We all know this is true. The fear of losing everything we know and love - especially our sense of belonging within the security of a large, powerful, familiar group identity - is what keeps people silent. It is what keeps people uneasily trying to perform a balancing act between what we know is morally right and what our churches say we must say and do.

I am inspired this Sunday morning by Col. Timothy Wagoner.  He is both courageous and righteous.  I hope this story goes viral. I hope it will encourage others to follow his example.

From Justin Griffith, via Rock Beyond Belief: Air Force chaplain quits Southern Baptist Convention over gay wedding.

Update: Ed Brayton (Dispatches From the Culture Wars) added to the hopeful news out of the military last night by posting a young soldier's re-enlistment speech.  Honest, unpolished and sincere, a chaplain's assistant named Nick spoke movingly and courageously about bigotry and homophobia both within the military and out in civilian society.  I could not find a YouTube link for the speech, but I hope this speech also goes viral. You'll find it in Ed's blog at this link.
The look of love: Tech. Sgt. Erwynn Umali wed civilian Will Behrens on June 23, 2012 in New Jersey.

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