Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Madison Avenue or the Holy Spirit: conflicted Presbyterians

Have you ever heard a progressive member of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) suggest that with the passage of 10-A and the adopting of different moral standards the Holy Spirit is doing a new thing? Well, it turns out that instead of the Holy Spirit it was the Arcus Foundation funding a project put together by Fenton, a group helping organizations with campaigns centered in social issues, and Goodwin & Simon a group which provides statistics and research—and all of this through Auburn Media, a division of Auburn Theological Seminary.

Auburn Media advertizes a booklet, described as a toolkit, entitled My Mind Was Changed: A New Way to Talk to Conflicted Christians about Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender People in Church and Society. It is also linked to at Presbyterian Welcome. The booklet attempts to give secular and progressive people a method for  persuading Christians who are conflicted about homosexuality a way to accept the LGBT lifestyle.

The concept is that Christians will not listen to arguments based on a secular version of rights or equality so the arguments need to be reframed and the reframing must possess some Christian characteristics.

1. They need to be “based on moral truths and Christian tenets.”

2. They must be “built around the search for God’s truth and leads conflicted Christians to a God-inspired revelation.”

3. They should be based “in moral clarity.” “There is no moral wiggle room because the frameworks are inspired by God-given moral absolutes.”

4. They need to be “Christ-centric.” That means “they are built around the moral teachings of Jesus.”

These are the frames:

1. Inclusion—Jesus never excluded anyone.

2. Jesus taught that God loves everyone.

3. “Judge not.” Under this the authors write, “They [conflicted Christians] are in search of a third way that will allow them to integrate LGBT people into their moral worldview while still adhering to their perceptions of God’s word.”

Some of this needs to be addressed and I will do so after explaining how this all supposedly affected the outcome of the vote on 10-A.

Toward the end of the booklet the authors explain how well this all works by pointing to the PC (U.S.A.) and our 2009-10 vote on ordination, under the subtitle, “Real world Case Study: Presbyterians shine a light on inclusion.” They write:
They’ve [Presbyterian presbyteries] also historically opposed LGBT inclusion in leadership positions. In 2009 when votes were cast for a similar amendment it failed to reach the majority needed by nine presbyteries.

This time around More Light Presbyterians brought on Fenton to develop a narrative and advertizing campaign that would run in the largest Presbyterian magazine during the course of the voting. Fenton saw this as a perfect opportunity to try out the tactics described in this toolkit with a real group of conflicted Christians.
The authors go on to explain that they listened to conflicted Presbyterians in order to use the right language. Then they divided their advertisements into some of the same categories used in the booklet. And supposedly not only were the advertisements in the magazine, they were also handed out during voting in presbyteries. Fenton thinks they are the cause of the victory—so we could say that Madison Avenue worked its wiles on the Presbyterian denomination.

The authors go on to state that “As of this writing, Fenton is working with More Light Presbyterians to tell the next chapter on inclusion with the media and church-based audiences: the stories of LGBT candidates for ordination.”

As for the frames used in the booklet they are themselves good examples of Madison Avenue cliché. They are simplistic ideas that have not been filled with the rich meat of God’s word. For instance—inclusion-the idea that Jesus never excluded anyone therefore LGBT people should not be excluded. But here are two very big problems with that frame.

1) Jesus did include many marginalized people in many ways, eating with them, touching them, healing them. He allowed women to follow him and to set at his feet learning from him. But he also forgave sinners and told them to “go and sin no more.” The inclusiveness of Jesus embraced the sinner, but not her sin.

2) The question that the conflicted Christian is concerned about is ordination. Jesus never suggested that the unrepentant sinner should be in leadership. Jesus’ inclusiveness is not about leadership at all—but about tending to sheep, feeding them and causing them to flourish in their life in him. Jesus’ inclusiveness does not answer the question the conflicted Christian is asking.

The frames are not based on Christian tenets, not even Christian morals and certainly not on Christian absolutes. In fact, the frames are themselves immoral because they are half truths useful only for snaring the people of God into accepting as good what God has called sin. The people of God need the pure word of God, unhindered by subterfuge. There is a way to integrate LGBT persons into the Christian’s understanding of God’s word. That is, to love them, care for them and lead them to the Savior who will begin a transformation in their lives.


Mary E said...

Thanks Viola for the post. This is another example of an old story trying to be retold hoping someone else will fall for it.

I do understand what they are saying and it is easy to believe what they are saying. But once you start to follow their line of logic that is where it really all falls apart.

Blessings, Mary E.
STEP ONE: Introduce logic, morality and humanism and really push the fact of how important that is.

STEP TWO: Limit the amount of biblical references. This is crucial step if someone thinks too deeply about previous religious information they lose to person to the facts. Meaning the facts they have always know about the bible.

STEP THREE: Now having introduced their biblical theology or as I like to say "Fortune Cookie Christian Theology" of all you need know in the bible this 1 verse:

“‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’

and this is the crux of their thinking know this verse AND NOTHING ELSE.

Once you have drowned someone with philosophical debates and moralist thinking. Limiting any theological information by strongly restricting biblical references to only what they want to focus on, then you have a believable argument.

They all use they same template for this argument. Boring.

Blessings, Mary E.

Viola Larson said...

Mary E. It is boring. Nothing the angels would care to look into.

Chas Jay said...

Thank you for this post. What has been used is as old as the serpent with Adam and Eve. The serpent twisted just a little that sounded so good as well. That little twist was just as much of a lie in the garden as it is today. The tactics today are exactly the same as they were then.

Viola Larson said...

They never change, Chas Jay-we should take note-the Church is still here.

Chas Jay said...

AMEN! The Church is still here.
I immediately thought of the Gaither song - The Church Triumphant.