Posts Tagged ‘partisan politics’

Lost Our Middle Way?

Monday, October 21st, 2019

Yesterday, the priest in charge of our link parish in London, the Rev. Paul Kennedy reminded us of the original goal of the Church of England to be a “via media”–a middle way that would be able to unite the various factions within Christianity.

This is particularly true of the Broad Church, which in the past has strived to accept both Anglo-Catholic and Evangelical Anglicans into the one fold under the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Queen of England. In the nineteenth century, Incarnation was part of this progressive, non-partisan wing of the Episcopal Church in the U.S.

These days, the increasing divisiveness of the political arena seems to have affected the religious realm. Christian denominations are becoming more and more political, either toward the right, as with some evangelical churches, or toward the left, as most mainline Protestant churches. One result is more politics in the pulpit and in public prayer–a phenomenon that has often put off potential members of American churches and driven present members away.

Yet, as Fr. Kennedy noted, Anglicanism strives to present the subtleties of Christianity, which doesn’t lead to easy answers or hard doctrines, and therefore will often shy away from extreme political positions.

It’s not easy to be the via media. —J. Douglas Ousley


On the Side of the Jews

Monday, March 11th, 2019

Antisemitism, as many have noted, is on the rise world-wide. Perennially confused with anti-Israel sentiment, it is increasing throughout Europe, especially in the UK, France, and Germany–countries with supposedly liberal democratic values.

The remarks by the Michigan congresswoman recently would never have been countenanced, had they been about African-Americans–or about Muslims, for that matter.

Let it be said without equivocation: prejudice against Jews is morally abhorrent. This is true whatever political views one has about the State of Israel.

For Christians, there is only one side for us to choose: the side of the Jews. —J. Douglas Ousley


Out of the Armchair

Tuesday, February 19th, 2019

While I still hold the somewhat controversial position that politics should usually be kept out of the pulpit, I am of the opposite persuasion when it comes to politics in the secular arena.

As the divide between extreme left and extreme right seems to get wider by the minute, American Christians who care about their country are obligated to weigh in with their own beliefs. For citizens, politics isn’t a mere spectator sport.

Especially if we find ourselves in the under-represented center of the political spectrum, we are bound to make our views heard. We need to find candidates to support and voices to be supported–long before the polls open. —J. Douglas Ousley


The Votes Are In

Wednesday, November 7th, 2018

After much vitriol, the mid-term elections seem to have passed quietly into history, with something for everyone to be happy about and some reasons to be disappointed. As usual, qualified people lost and unqualified people won.

There was little specifically religious in the debates as far as I could tell. All Americans could be happy that so many of us voted–and, of course, that we won’t have to look at campaign commercials for a while.

Let us pray for a period of calm and maybe even some reconciliation. In any event, we can be grateful that democracy won. —J. Douglas Ousley


Civil Conversation

Monday, September 17th, 2018

At our Men’s Group meeting last week, the goal of the evening was to look for ways to have a conversation about politics without acrimony or ill-feeling.

We followed guidelines from a web site set up to promote such conversation; it’s called Better Angels. We especially focussed on listening to each other and were careful to speak in emotionally neutral terms when possible. This worked well in Incarnation’s Broad Church tradition.

In the end, many different opinions were expressed while the general good feeling of the group was preserved. I think we all agreed that sharing our views without venting was cathartic. It might even have helped us to broaden our views.

Would that our political leaders could do the same. —J. Douglas Ousley


Pushback

Wednesday, February 7th, 2018

I will go to considerable lengths to avoid controversy. I recognize, though, that many people thrive on conflict.

Particularly in the political realm, you find men and women who love to make outrageous statements. On both the left and the right, there are lots of activists who seem to enjoy notoriety.

They even look with pride upon the antagonism their positions generate. They see themselves as “prophets”–in the biblical phrase, “speaking truth to power.”

However, in many cases, this posture smells of cheap grace: “If I’m hated, I must be doing God’s will.” Jesus was certainly not afraid to speak truth to power; his teaching got him crucified. But reveling in controversy doesn’t in itself help others to do the right thing politically. Popularity isn’t an end in itself, but neither is unpopularity.

What matters is speaking the truth as we know it in such a way that others see that truth. In that way, the Truth makes us all free. —J. Douglas Ousley

 


Talking Points

Wednesday, January 17th, 2018

At the Annual Meeting of the Parish on Sunday, I expressed a wish that the Church–specifically, our parish–could provide a safe place where Christians with strong conflicting opinions about politics might discuss their differences.

At least three parishioners have left Incarnation because they were uncomfortable with the liberal political stances of the national Episcopal Church. In each case, I urged them to stick around, assuring them that our parish includes conservatives as well as liberals. But they still felt they couldn’t remain at Incarnation.

As we see even North and South Koreans to be talking to each other, is it too much to hope that Episcopalian Christians could find enough in common that they could put their differences aside long enough to talk to each other? —J. Douglas Ousley


To Charlottesville from Ferguson

Tuesday, August 15th, 2017

As I shook hands at the door after one of our services on Sunday, a parishioner came up to me. He was nearly in tears. He reminded me that he had recently moved to New York City from Charlottesville.

Even at that early moment, he could probably sense that Charlottesville–one of the most liberal cities in the South–was about to become a by-word for racial hatred and violence.

Another parishioner rightly urged our parish to take a strong stand on this issue. I believe we can do that, because racial tolerance is not an optional virtue to be acquired or not as the spirit moves you. This is no place for Anglican comprehensiveness. The Broad Church of Jesus Christ isn’t broad enough to include racists and anti-Semites. —J. Douglas Ousley


Still On the Fence

Tuesday, March 14th, 2017

As I mentioned last week, the Vestry planned to discuss the current political climate during our annual Quiet Day on March 11.

The discussion did indeed take place, and while there were no startling opinions or conclusions, I felt the dialogue was very worthwhile. Both conservatives and liberals were able (gently!) to let off steam. And the group generally agreed that in the midst of so many passionate views, our parish should remain officially neutral.

I recognize that there are good arguments for taking a stand against or in favor of the current government. But precisely because there are arguments on each side, I’m inclined to think that the best place for us as a parish remains on the fence. —J. Douglas Ousley


Mystified

Tuesday, March 7th, 2017

Our Vestry has its annual quiet day this coming Saturday, and I have been asked to lead a discussion. The topic of the discussion is how parish life is being affected by the change of administrations in Washington.

Certainly, a lot of people are asking a lot of questions these days. Christians are not unusual in finding the current political scene perplexing. Many Christians who are conservative politically are finding it hard to confess to their liberal friends that they are Trump supporters. Many Christians who are liberal politically feel an alienation and a desperation that they haven’t felt in years.

I myself am trying to maintain a neutral stance in order to be available to people in both camps. I’m sympathetic to both sides, though I find the uncertainty in Washington troubling.

One thing we can be sure of, though: our President and the others in authority with him need our prayers!–J. Douglas Ousley