The news is full of Christians turning on each other

All too often, we hear politicians and celebrities using divisive rhetoric to divide Christians up into groups they call “believers” and “nonbelievers,” and pit them against each other. Recently we have heard Joshua Black make the claim that it’s time to arrest and “hang [President Obama] high,” this right after Phil Robertson was waxing philosophical on the sinfulness of homosexuality.

Farther down in the headlines are the stories of retired United Methodist pastor, The Rev. Dr. Tom Ogletree, who is also a former dean of Yale Divinity School and is soon going to trial for officiating at a same-sex wedding, and Valerie Lu, a Lutheran elementary school teacher who was accused of confiscating Christmas gifts a child wanted to give out at her school, candy canes affixed with the legend of how a candy maker invented them to symbolize the life of Christ.

Can’t Christians change tactics from shouting matches to conversations? We support those who are trying to make the church more inclusive, like Tom Ogletree, and those, like Valerie Lu, who are being vilified by those who are trying to shrink it in their own image.

A Pastor On Trial

The Rev. Dr. Tom Ogletree will be put on trial by the United Methodist Church on March 10 for conducting a same-sex marriage for his son. Just last November, Frank Schaefer was put on trial by the UMC for the same exact reason. We call on Christians to stand by these pastors and parents. They need us to show support for their cause, and we need to establish, as an actualized reality, that all members of the Body of Christ are allowed to participate in the church’s life and institutions.

Our friends at Reconciling Ministries Network Blog have quoted Ogletree as saying “I could not with any integrity as a Christian refuse my son’s request to preside at his wedding. It is a shame that the church is choosing to prosecute me for this act of love, which is entirely in keeping with my ordination vows to ‘seek peace, justice, and freedom for all people’ and with Methodism’s historic commitment to inclusive ministry embodied in its slogan ‘open hearts, open minds, open doors.'”

Ogletree’s stand is important because he is an academic and retired minister, but it is crucial for those actively engaged as pastors of congregations to continue coming together in support of him, Frank Schaefer, and all of the LGBT faithful. The world is carefully watching these trials and ways in which the UMC is currently challenged. What develops will be very telling and important. We call on Christians of all affiliations to support those in the Methodist Church who are taking a stand for inclusion and suffering ecclesiastical persecution. We call on you to offer your voices in support.

A Teacher Slandered

Valerie Lu has become the poster child for the evils committed against Christmas by unbelievers. When she obeyed her principal by refusing to allow a child to use candy as a way to spread the name of Jesus to all classmates, she was accused of hating Christmas, its gifts, and its Lord. Constitutional realities aside, Valerie Lu is not anti-Christian, she is a faithful Lutheran. Her pastor, Korey Maas,says she is a theologically conservative, Missouri Synod Lutheran.

Discourse in the American public square has become so polarized that any chance of discussing the appropriate role of religion in public schools has become all but impossible, and any opportunity in this instance has been squashed. We don’t really hold conversations of the sort in which there is give and take and an openness in learning from one another. We engage in win-lose rhetoric, cutting soundbites, diatribes, and speeches. Instead of talking and learning from one another, we either strive to win or shut down when when we hear something we don’t like.

Christians, meet Valerie Lu, a faithful, conservative and regular churchgoer who wants to obey the law as it has been established. Christians, meet other conservative Americans who want to change the law so that children can give Christmas gifts to anyone they want in their classrooms. It sounds like this could lead to an interesting discussion.

Perhaps we live in a day when there is a special need to guide disagreements back to the more neutral ground of conversation, so that everyone can have a place in the discussion.

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