Tuesday, December 19, 2006

The News of the Year in Religion, 2006

We do a Burning Bowl ceremony every new year at my church, and I preach a sermon called "The News of the Year in Religion."
I used to call it "The Good News of the Year in Religion," but sometimes I forget to collect heartwarming stories of interfaith good will and harmony, and some years are just too full of scandals and failures on a grand scale that beg for some reflection.

This year I am breaking up the sermon into littler homilies and titling them as follows:

"We Are Family, I Got All My Sisters With Me" -- about the election of the Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori to the national bishop of the Episcopal Church. I will talk about the tragic rupture of the Anglican communion over the gay issue.

My second bit is called "It's a Small World After All" and focuses on Pope Benedict's Muslim controversy. My point there will be more about the stresses and challenges of communication in a global society and not so much about the content of what he said.

My third homily will be about the Ted Haggard scandal and the crisis of leadership in the Christian Coalition. So far, I don't have a title or exact focus, but I want to talk about the centrality of integrity and wholeness within the Church, the challenge of that, the constant work it requires, etc.

So, readers, what big thrilling story did I miss?Which ones should I retrieve from my bulging folder of clippings? If you were preaching this sermon, what big story in religion would you include, and why?


Blogger fausto said...

Make sure to point out that the whole Pope-vs.-Islam smackdown broke out over a speech in which Benedict was in fact delivering a defense of reason in religion against inflexible, dogmatic fanaticism. This issue, which ought to resonate strongly with UUs in one direction, was largely lost in the "clash of civilizations" aftermath, which resonated with some of us in precisely the opposite direction. It's even more noteworthy than usual precisely because of who was delivering the defense.

Which resonance is truer to who we are, or ought to be? And if the conflicting resonances point to a difference between who we are and who we ought to be, why does that difference exist?

Blogger fausto said...

Another "big thrilling story" you might want to include is that the evangelical community is beginning to embrace an environmental ethic.

Blogger Steve Caldwell said...

How about the only issue in 2006 that could create interfaith cooperation between Moslems, Jews, and Christians in Jerusalem?

Philocrites blogged about it here:

Men in dresses and fancy hats oppose gay pride festival

Blogger Ian said...

To pick up on fausto's comment, the Evangelicals are in a bit of a bind over a number of social issues. Leading the reformation is Jim Wallis, who published "God's Politics" The subtitle sums it up nicely, "How the Right gets it wrong and the Left doesn't get it." He has turned the conservatives' weapon on themselves...the Bible! The elected president of the Christian Coalition ended up not serving because he wanted to move in the direction of adding environmentalism and poverty to what the CC does. 2007 could be an interesting year over on the right end of the spectrum.

Anonymous Anonymous said...

This makes official my move from lurking to posting...

What an interesting concept for a sermon. I would love to be able to hear it myself.

One thing you haven't mentioned that I thought was particularly noteworthy and touching in the world of religion this past year was the forgiveness and love shown, in the very midst of their tragedy, by the Amish community who had lost children in the school shooting. While the shooting was sincerely a tradgey the communities response has a lot to teach us about sincerely living our faith.

Blogger PeaceBang said...

Anon, thanks for de-lurking. The Amish story is more complicated in my mind and heart, given that the Amish community has a lot of unreported domestic abuse, and the fact that the attack was obviously gender-specific went COMPLETELY uncommented upon.

It wasn't just another school shooting. It was the murder of five little girls.

Blogger Caroline Divine said...

"...that the attack was obviously gender-specific went COMPLETELY uncommented upon.
It wasn't just another school shooting. It was the murder of five little girls."

Why not talk about that? Very few people have (I think I read one op-ed on the topic), and folks should hear about it from the pulpit.

Blogger Doug Muder said...

Here's something I noticed while reading Evangelical responses to the Ted Haggard scandal: This kind of double life is related to their dualistic Heaven/Hell belief system.

When Larry King [http://transcripts.cnn.com/TRANSCRIPTS/0611/22/lkl.01.html] asked James Dobson about Haggard, he said: "He, obviously, was, again, at war with himself. He was involved in activities that I think horrified him. He said that he fought against it, but he also knew what he believed. It was not hypocrisy. It was a struggle between behavior and the belief system."

In the dualistic worldview, it's perfectly natural to be at war with yourself. You have a good side and a bad side, and sometimes the bad side takes over. The Evangelicals aren't looking for unity, they're looking for victory of good over evil. But the evil is a permanent part of you, so the battle is endless and unity will only happen in Heaven.

So Haggard can't say, "Hey, I'm gay. I'll just have to make the best of that." He has to fight for victory over it. And it's inevitable that he'll lose.


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