Posts Tagged ‘social issues’

No Sympathy for the Devil

Monday, August 5th, 2019

Last week, I was extremely fortunate to be given tickets to the performance of the Rolling Stones in the Meadowlands. For someone like me who is of their generation, there is no better rock and roll band on the planet–and no greater performer than Mick Jagger.

It was interesting for me to recall, as I watched the four old men play their countless hits, how menacing the Stones were when they first appeared in the 1960’s. With their “sympathy for the Devil,” they seemed to threaten the very foundations of civil society. Now they seem almost warm and fuzzy.

The Devil however, as Scripture reminds us, remains alive and active. As demonstrated in the horrendous mass shootings of the past week, the Demonic in the form of young white males is very much with us. God help us all.–J. Douglas Ousley


A Hot Summer Ahead

Tuesday, July 9th, 2019

A year or so ago, the former Altman’s Department Store across from the church began an extensive exterior restoration. As part of the work, the bottom floor of the building is covered in netting. Homeless people now climb into a space behind the netting to bed down and in many cases to live. Others take advantage of the sidewalk covering and sleep on the sidewalk. A little town has sprung up.

The obvious question to ask is, why doesn’t the city do something to help these people so they aren’t forced into what the English call, “sleeping rough?” And the answer to that question is that the city isn’t very good at helping the poor.

Last night, a local television station did an investigative segment on seven of the city’s “cooling centers,” where poor people including the homeless can go for relief during hot weather. It turned out that four of the centers have no air conditioning. Moreover, they haven’t had air conditioning for weeks and they have similar problems every summer. Yet the whole purpose of these institutions is to present a comfortable environment in hot weather.

I recognize that the tolerance we have toward the homeless is in some ways admirable. They are allowed the freedom of the streets. We can be proud of our tolerance and our social freedom. But less proud of the consequences. —J. Douglas Ousley


Pride Universe

Monday, June 24th, 2019

As everyone in New York City knows, the annual Gay Pride March takes place this coming Sunday, at the end of what has been called, Pride Month.

The Episcopal Church has been on the winning side of this issue for quite a while, and we might be tempted to ask why Episcopalians and LGBT people need to bother to march in this day and age. They have virtually all the rights of straight people. Isn’t the battle over?

But we need to remember that homosexual behavior is still against the law in many, many countries throughout the world–and it is often proscribed in the name of religion. Even in this country, the largest Christian body, the Roman Catholic Church terms gay sex sinful.

Unfortunately, there is still much to march for. —J. Douglas Ousley


Maximum Security

Monday, May 6th, 2019

Despite the title, this post is not about the Kentucky Derby result–a matter I leave to the equestrian experts.

We on the Vestry have had several discussions about security during our worship services. Yesterday, we reiterated our current procedures and discussed other options. The local police precinct knows our church and sends officers quickly if we call them.

Our main threat is not an active shooter but someone with mental problems who wishes to disrupt the service by yelling or walking around. This is a genuine concern in our city with increasing numbers of homeless persons–though the matter is also tricky, since we almost always have homeless or recently homeless persons worshiping with us peacefully and happily.

The challenge is to provide a place of prayer that is both welcoming and safe. That said, we live in a fallen world and we are unlikely to find maximum security this side of heaven. —J. Douglas Ousley


Christians in the Arena

Monday, April 29th, 2019

Christians worldwide reacted in horror to the news of the bombing of Sri Lankan churches on Easter Sunday. More than 250 persons were killed and hundreds more were maimed or injured.

A prominent Wall Street Journal columnist, Gerald Baker, chided the Anglican Archbishop of York for not being more forthright in his expression of solidarity with the Sri Lankan Christians. Baker was concerned that Archbishop John Sentamu emphasized that he was against all forms of anti-religious violence. For Baker, this seemed to undermine the support the Archbishop should have expressed for the recently martyred.

This is a very tricky issue. Christians are “people of the Book ” but so are Jews and Muslims Especially given the secularization of Western culture, we Christians shouldn’t find ourselves blaming all Muslims for the crimes of a few. Faithful people have to stick together.

Nevertheless, the tragedy of Easter Sunday was all Christian. May the Sri Lankans be uplifted by the prayers and witness of all their fellow Christians–and by observant Muslims as well. —J. Douglas Ousley


On the Side of the Muslims

Saturday, March 16th, 2019

My last post might have been interpreted as being anti-Muslim. I certainly didn’t mean to imply that prejudice against Islam is somehow acceptable. Prominent Muslim leaders are often the target of such prejudice, and we Christians should defend them against such attacks.

Which brings us tragically to New Zealand, and how a climate of anti-Muslim sentiment can breed horrendous violence. Of course, there was just one fanatic who killed. But it took a village to raise him up, and a culture and social media that freely allow hate speech can’t escape blame.

Christians have to stand up against this anti-religious speech, however mild or casual or common it might be. And we also have to denounce anti-religious speech that is also racist and supremacist.

It’s often hard to determine “what would Jesus do.” In this case–in this Western culture–it isn’t. —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


Why Socialism? Why Now?

Tuesday, March 5th, 2019

This was the topic of last night’s discussion at the Men’s Group. We especially focused on the distinction between 1960’s-era socialism (what I call, “hard socialism) and today’s socialism (“soft socialism.”) The former is a system of planned political economy with the state owning and controlling the means of production. The latter calls for more governmental regulation and control of society, especially in such areas as healthcare.

Debate was spirited between proponents of big government and defenders of individual freedom. What was perhaps most interesting was the fact that most of us find ourselves as Christians in the middle of the spectrum between hard socialism/communism on the one hand and unregulated capitalism on the other.

Since the middle is the preferred place for the Anglican Way, as well as for the Broad Church movement in which Incarnation was founded, perhaps this is the best place to be. —J. Douglas Ousley


Not Slaves But Free

Monday, January 7th, 2019

Under the leadership of our Associate Rector, Incarnation has become very active in the burgeoning movement to end human trafficking in the United States. As part of our observance of the National Human Trafficking Awareness Day, we will be participating in a service at the Church of the Ascension, Fifth Avenue and 10th Street, this Thursday at 7 PM.

This movement isn’t just one more worthy cause. Trafficked women and men serve with minimal or no compensation as prostitutes, kitchen workers, nail salon workers, and other occupations, with little or no freedom of movement or basic human rights. There many within blocks of our church. The Church of England rightly doesn’t mince words; it calls such persons, “slaves.”

Incarnation has pioneered a program to increase awareness in Midtown Manhattan hotels, so that hotel employees may identify trafficking victims. Our next step will be to educate school children about the risk of being trafficked.

For most of us, the suffering induced by modern slavery is hard to imagine. We should do anything we can to help people escape or avoid this fate. Our Christian duty is clear.–J. Douglas Ousley


In Black and White

Wednesday, November 14th, 2018

Much of the annual Convention of the Diocese of New York last weekend focussed on racial and gender prejudice. A play on slavery was presented and a special liturgy centered on the #MeToo Movement.

What was striking to me as a white male was how different the perceptions of persons of color and women were from my own. Where I saw progress in race relations, black delegates saw continuing inequality. Where I saw minor sexist gestures, women saw abusive actions.

It sometimes seemed to me as though there were two different realities. Of course, there aren’t–there is only one Reality, one Truth grounded in God.

But different perceptions do exist in our diverse mental worlds. And it’s up to me to try to understand the mental worlds of those who are suffering in today’s culture. —J. Douglas Ousley