Nel's New Day

November 23, 2014

Some Christians Move Forward

While some religious fundamentalists try to move the world back to an earlier millennium, others are working to create diversity for all, whether inside a religion or beside it:

Twenty years ago, women could be deacons in the Church of England, ten years later they could be priests, and now they can become bishops. Canon 33 now states, “A man or a woman may be consecrated to the office of bishop.” At this time, about 15 percent of the priests are female. The Catholic Church has had about 50,000 women deacons, but that practice stopped about the year 1000.

The Vatican has recently unveiled newly restored frescoes in an ancient catacomb that show the Catholic Church had female priestesses. Both Snostic and Montanist sects of Christianity depicted the godhead as androgynous, both male and female. Women served the Eucharist and would speak as prophets.

catholic women priest fresco

Bishop Allyson Abrams, 43, left her husband and the Zion Progress Baptist Church in Detroit because she married another woman, Diana Williams. She said, “I was open to love in whatever way the Lord would bless me.” According to Abrams, same-sex marriage is in accord with Christian teachings: “The Bible teaches that ANYONE who believes in Jesus Christ will be accepted into God’s realm. You can be a child of God and living in loving committed relationships with persons of the same sex.”

Jessica Fitzwater refused to put her hand on the bible during her swearing in on the Frederick County Council (MD). The Jewish strong supporter of separation of church and state plans to take her oath on a non-religious document such as the county’s charter or the U.S. Constitution.

Seven years after officiating at the wedding of his gay son, the Rev. Frank Schaefer has been reinstated as a clergyman in the United Methodist Church.The denomination’s top court upheld last June’s decision to return his ministerial credentials after a trial court removed them. His reinstatement includes back-pay and benefits but doesn’t sanction same-sex marriage within his church. Only a vote at the General Conference could take that step. In response to Schaefer’s punishment, some pastors married same-sex couples while progressive bishops refused to participate in trials against Methodist ministers who perform these marriages.

Seven years ago, Barry Hazle was forced to spend 100 days in prison because he refused to enter a religion-based rehab program operated by the Fresno-based WestCare California. Because Hazle complained about the requirement that he acknowledge the existence of a higher power, the California Department of Corrections put him back in jail. After seven years of court cases, culminating in the 9th Circuit Court, California has changed its policy that parolees must participate into religious treatment programs and is required to pay $1 million to Hazle. Westcare owes Hazle $925,000, according to the court’s ruling.

Last week Judge Nina Pillard used the Supreme Court’s decision in Hobby Lobby to limit employers’ abilities to deny birth control coverage to their employees. In Priests for Life v. Department of Health and Human Services, Pillard used the Hobby Lobby’s permission for the government to accommodate religious objectors through alternative methods and still provide women with free contraceptives. She also pointed out that the burden on Priests for Life could not be more insignificant. The law used by the Supreme Court applies only when laws “substantially burden a person’s exercise of religion.” Pillard explained:

“All Plaintiffs must do to opt out is express what they believe and seek what they want via a letter or two-page form. That bit of paperwork is more straightforward and minimal than many that are staples of nonprofit organizations’ compliance with law in the modern administrative state.”

Her position might not pass muster with the conservative Supreme Court justices because Samuel Alito pretty much deleted the term “burden” out of the law. He stated that the Hobby Lobby plaintiffs’ “sincerely believe that providing the insurance coverage demanded by the HHS regulations lies on the forbidden side of the line, and it is not for us to say that their religious beliefs are mistaken or insubstantial.” The majority of justices also changed the language of alternatives just days after Hobby Lobby in Wheaton College v. Burwell. Justice Sotomayor said:

“Those who are bound by our decisions usually believe they can take us at our word. Not so today.”

After the Supreme Court’s ruling that businesses don’t have to follow the law in providing contraception to women, others have decided that they can avoid all laws. Such is the case of a Christian pastor who used the Hobby Lobby ruling to avoid paying $1.1 million in back taxes that he and his wife owed for 20 years. Ronald and Dorothea Joling had stopped paying taxes because they considered the 16th Amendment, added to the U.S. Constitution in 2013, invalid. The Jolings’ attorney, Mark Weintraub, agreed with the rest of us that his clients are “totally wrong and unreasonable” but tried to persuade the court that what they did was acceptable because of their own Christian beliefs.

The Jolings had also declared that they are no longer U.S. citizens and that their Oregon property is no longer part of the United States. They also tried to hide their money, filed false tax returns, and attempted to harass the IRS with “nonsensical paperwork.” They skipped the part in the bible where Jesus said, “Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s.”

Mitchell Moore, owner of Campbell’s Bakery in Jackson (MS), has a campaign, “If You’re Buying, I’m Selling,” to fight the state’s “turn away the gays” bill” that passed earlier this year. He handed out stickers for other businesses to post, showing that they did not turn away any customers for their beliefs. After the American Family Association claimed businesses with the stickers were discriminating against the religious freedoms of Mississippians and potential customers, he posted the following questionnaire on his Facebook page. The more serious readers need to know that it’s a spoof.

surveyMany Christians, according to the media, are incensed because the government now forces them to pay for medications against their belief, such as contraception. To all the enraged Christians, there is good news. They can participate instead in health care sharing ministries which are exempt from the requirements of the Affordable Care Act. Believers pool their money for health care work like insurance with premiums, co-pays, claims, insurance cards, and deductibles. The three largest of them have 242,000 members.

They do have a few differences. Health care sharing ministries don’t pay for routine medical services such as annual physicals. In fact, the companies can decide what each one will cover. There is no guarantee for payment, and they aren’t required to cover people for pre-existing conditions. With no requirement for solvency, they can go bankrupt. Members cannot smoke, do drugs, and have sex except with a legally-married spouse. Permission to use alcohol is very limited. They also don’t pay for “immoral” substances such as contraception.

People who want to live by these rules with less medical coverage are welcome to participate in this type of insurance. They’re what insurance was before the Affordable Care Act—no guarantee that insurance payments will cover what a person needs and the ability to cancel the person with no reason. It’s all the disadvantages of small government.

To those people whining about Obamacare, just join a health care sharing ministry. You can have the same kind of insurance as before the Affordable Care Act went into effect. For those of you who want more, watch out for what the GOP members of the House are doing because this is the kind of insurance that they want to bring back—for all people, not just those who want to return to another century.

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