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May 25, 2006



The juxtaposition of church controversies with the idea of raising up lambs made me think of this wonderful poem by Francis Quarles. Although its subject is the early seventeenth century conflict over clerical vestments, it seems broadly relevant. I also love the title, which is "On Those That Deserve It."

O when our Clergy, at the dreadful Day,
Shall make their Audit; when the Judge shall say
"Give your accounts: What, have my Lambs been fed?
Say, do they all stand sound? Is there none dead
By your defaults? come shepherds, bring them forth
That I may crown your labours in their worth" –
O what an answer will be given by some!
"We have been silenced: Canons struck us dumb;
The Great ones would not let us feed thy flock,
Unless we played the fools, and wore a Frock:
We were forbid unless we’d yield to sign
And cross their brows (they say, ‘a mark of thine’).
To say the truth, great Judge, they were not fed,
Lord, here they be; but, Lord, they be all dead."
Ah cruel Shepherds! Could your conscience serve
Not to be fools, and yet to let them starve?
What if your Fiery spirits had been bound
To Antic Habits; or your heads been crowned
With Peacocks' Plumes; had ye been forced to feed
Your Saviour’s dear-bought Flock in a fool’s weed;
He that was scorned, reviled; endured the Curse
Of a base death, in your behalves; nay worse,
Swallowed the cup of wrath charged up to the brim,
Durst ye not stoop to play the fools for him?


Ironically, my blog post is about just this issue today.

I was raised in a very progressive synagogue. I was not told that intermarriage is a sin, I was not required to wear a skirt or any other clothing for that matter, I was not even told that belief in God was mandatory. I am now 35 years old, I am very connected to my community. I believe with all my heart in the principles of tikkun olam and gemilut hasadim.

What I'm saying is, good job.


Pip, I love this poem -- thank you, good brother!

And thank you, faith. Tikkun olam indeed.


Hugo, as you know, I've grown up in a very Catholic home. Three years ago, I recieved the Sacrament of Confirmation on the same alter in which I was baptized. In the two years that I prepared for Confirmation, I got a VERY powerful abstinence lecture (one that I still remember almost every word of). I signed a purity pledge and wear a True Love Waits ring. I nailed my sins to the cross and participated in an alter call. And the youth room was always blasting Christian music from bands such as Jars of Clay and Switchfoot. My boyfriend also had similar experiences growing up at First Church of the Nazarene in Pasadena (commonly known as PazNaz). To put it simply, our experiences in youth group were quite the opposite - at least in some ways - than the youth of All Saints.

Don't get me wrong - I KNOW that All Saints is a wonderful, wonderful, wonderful church. I admire how progressive your community is. And I pray that the Catholic Church will become more progressive in the future, especially in terms of the priesthood. However, I feel quite thankful that abstinence was encouraged and celebrated at my church. That encouragement really helped me develop my goals for my own relationship and greatly strengthened my will to follow through with it. And it was a tremendously powerful experience participating in the alter call and nailing my sins to the cross. I feel that there was great value in those activities and experiences.

Again, this is just how I feel about growing up in the Catholic Church. My question here is simply this: Do you feel that churches shouldn't be having their teens nail their sins to the cross, sign purity pledges, etc. I believe that there are good things to be said about not having teens do those things. And I'd be interested to hear you elaborate on that. But, having grown up in a conservative youth group setting, I feel that there are also wonderful things that can be said for the "conservative Christian" teen's experiences as well.


Mermade, I definitely think that there are beautiful aspects of traditional youth groups (like the altar calls, sin-to-cross nailing, and so forth). In our Father's house, there are many rooms -- and All Saints has one room, PazNaz another, Lake Avenue still another, and my dear traditionalist Catholic friends still another.

We who love teens are all trying to feed them spiritually and to equip them to leads lives that glorify God, bring justice to the earth, and fulfill the Great Commission. I really believe it's possible to do that "All Saints style" -- but I do not believe that ours is the only way.

As you know, Mermade, I honor the commitments you've made. I rejoice in the way you integrate your faith and your feminism. But even in our unity on the essentials of a faith in Christ and His Church, we can have diversity on issues like abstinence pledges. That's the beauty of being in this big body of Christ together.


Nicely put, Hugo. I agree.


They've learned that living as a Christian is less about either an intellectual assent to theological propositions or an intense emotional response to Jesus, and more about living out lives of justice and sharing.

Yes. This is what makes religion worthwhile.

The Gonzman

They've learned that living as a Christian is less about either an intellectual assent to theological propositions or an intense emotional response to Jesus, and more about living out lives of justice and sharing.

The chapel I atend is an FSSP chapel - I have to drive a goodly distance. But I feel the prescence of God there which I do not feel in many other places. We have a new church there. Very modern- and very sterile.

The local priest here is actually a very nice guy; in fact, Hugo, except for his beard he seems a lot like I imagine you being. Even those times when I know my shit ain't right with the Man upstairs, he makes it all seem welcoming, and cozy, and comfortable..

...And that's the problem. I mistrust that. When I'm not doing right in my own life, and I get the feel goods and warm fussies, it sems to me that the church isn't doing its job. I want to feel that, to think during the confietor "Holy, smokes, Gonz - time to skip the communion line today until you go to confession and get right with the boss."

When you say "more about living out lives" I start hearing the alarms of "Sounds like putting works over faith."

That's dangerous ground there, Hugo. And as a good Protestant you should know that better than a Papist Dog like me.


Well, Gonz, you and I both know that faith without works is dead...

I do think at All Saints we can do a better job of being more explicit about faith as well as action; I think my friends in conservative churches could do a better job of connecting the gospel to public action on behalf of the marginalized.

This is not to cast stones! No youth group I've ever seen (and I've been to lots across the theological spectrum) is perfect; we all take the Message and repackage it as best we can to appeal to our teens. We can all (conservatives and liberals, traditionalists and progressive, evangelicals and mainlines, pentecostals and baptists) do better at presenting the whole gospel.

The Gonzman

We do, Hugp - but the emphasis is on individual action, not group action unless that is truly the best way to help the needy, ad when it is done, to remember the admonishment in Matthew 6, that those who do such things for their own glory recieve their reward on earth.


Something about this rubs me wrong, but it's taken me awhile to figure out what.

I think it's this: in my understanding, redemption is front and center; everything else is less important, and if it is the emphasis dilutes the message of Christianity.

Whether your focus on good works emphasizes acceptance or chastity, protecting others or not harming others, justice or compassion are details (ones on which I have opinions, but details). But "Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief" is the gospel, and nothing else is.


I agree with SamChevre--The gospel is about Jesus bringing people into the wholeness of redeemed living-- and he told us to go and make disciples everywhere. This must entail an intellectual assent to a theological proposition, as well as an emotional response to Jesus--God wants us to love him with all our heart, mind and strength. Hugo, I suspect you're contrasting your church's methods with those of churches that manipulate both the intellectual assent and emotional response. And I concur with you that's not what God wants. I work with youth, too, and I spend much of my time and energy guarding the youth in my class against the manipulation of legalism, of taking scripture out of context, of giving false assurances and of dualizing everything. My co-teacher and I seek to impart a relationship with the Jesus who called his people out of exile, and a sense of a mission with justice and mercy that flows from the wholeness of the resurrection. I'm afraid I would suffocate in a church that preached justice and mercy and compassion without redemption--that would be taking Jesus' message out of context!

Now, that being said, I'm trusting you didn't divorce the justice message from the redemption message. And I'm very glad that the kids at your church grew up without the manipulation I've seen in some communities of faith.


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