Posts by EC

Signs of Jonah

A Sermon Preached at City Church, New York, June 23, 2002

What do you think is America’s No. 1-selling children’s video? It’s a Bible story starring a talking tomato and cucumber. And in October, more than a thousand big screens across the country will be showing the VeggieTales version of Jonah and the Whale.

But a sermon on “Jonah and the Whale?” This stuff of tacky tchotchkes and bubble bath for kids? A sermon on a silly story about a guy who gets swallowed by a whale? And any Bible Quiz nerd knows it wasn’t a whale anyway. It was a “big fish.” So – don’t “save the whale” part. But then it’s a silly story about a guy who gets swallowed by a big fish. So it still sounds far-fetched, even – dare we say – fishy. Sounds like something right out of The National Enquirer! Read more →

The Bond that Breaks the Boundaries

An expanded version of a lecture by Dr. Ralph Blair to Courage Trust at the Anglican Church of St. James the Less, Pimlico, London, November 2, 2001

When it comes to the subject of gay and lesbian evangelical Christians, most evangelical Christians agree with most gays and lesbians. Just as Grape-Nuts is neither grapes nor nuts and Christian Science is neither Christian nor science and Therapeutic Touch is neither therapeutic nor touch, to most evangelicals and to most gay people, a gay evangelical Christian is neither truly gay nor truly Christian. For most people, you cannot be both an openly evangelical Christian and an openly gay man or lesbian.

EVANGELICAL AND GAY/LESBIAN DIVERSITY

Actually there are all sorts of evangelicals – from the all-out-of-sorts kind to those who aren’t. And there are all sorts of gay men and lesbians – from the all-out-of-sorts kind to those who aren’t.

According to an evangelical history professor: “Once past a shared commitment to a supernatural gospel, evangelicals are all over the place theologically.” [Mark Noll] The president of Southern Baptist Seminary joins a church historian at Westminster Seminary to declare that “No single evangelical tradition exists.” [Albert Mohler, Jr. and D. G. Hart] A Regent College Read more →

Get it in Writing!

A Sermon Preached by Dr. Ralph Blair at City Church, August 26, 2001

Last Sunday’s Style section of The Times featured a report on lavishly crass crosses as statements of fashion if not statements of faith. We’re told that trendsetters disavow Christianity but wear the cross as “a badge of status,” “the latest in hip,” “a testament to chic,” and even for “shock.” As always, in this world, nothing truly Christian is sacred.

There’s a new, glossy Bible due with the fall fashion season. The publishers had first teased that it would picture supermodels as Adam and Eve in the nude. Instead, it’ll show a not-so-famous bi-racial Adam and Eve. Along with other Bible characters, they’ll be shot by famous high fashion photographers. The publishers are still promising “nudity because [as they say] the Bible is very sensual and we are going to exploit that. We want to take the Bible off the dusty back shelf and put it on coffee tables.” But these self-appointed pacesetters are bringing Read more →

Bride’s Biography

A Sermon Preached by Dr. Ralph Blair at City Church, New York, on June 24, 2001

It’s June – the month of brides. And the oldest of all brides is here today in church. She is church. She’s us. As scripture says: We are the Bride of Christ.

From the creeds that lie behind the letters of Paul, we see that from the beginning, Christians have affirmed our belief that we are recreated creations of God, living in a world that God created through Christ and is recreating through Christ. It’s now been some 2,000 years since the everlasting action of God’s mercy began to be lived out in the life-unto-death of Jesus of Nazareth. And it’s now been almost that long since the everlasting action of God’s mercy continued to be lived out in the coming of God’s Holy Spirit in and through the Church, the Bride of Christ. Read more →

I Love To Tell The Story

Ralph Blair’s opening remarks at Philadelphia’s Pridefest, 1998.

Emmylou Harris and Robert Duvall sing a duet on the CD of “The Apostle.” It’s a mid-nineteenth century hymn written by an English woman. Here’s some of what she wrote: “I love to tell the story of Jesus and His love … because I know ‘tis true [and] some have never heard the old, old story/Of Jesus and His love.” Jesus and His love. They’re very simple words. And yet it was Jesus and His love that gave her life its most profound meaning. It was in being thus loved that she worked with other Christians for the abolition of slavery.

I remember this hymn from my childhood. Its theme formed my own self-identity, my understanding of my deepest self, long before I ever identified as gay or understood what that could mean.

“Jesus and His love” means I am loved. It also means that I’m to love, too. One way that I try to express that love is to work on behalf of other gay men and lesbians. I’ve been doing that Read more →

Enthusiasm

Based on material presented by Dr. Blair at the two 1997 summer conferences of Evangelicals Concerned held in Pennsylvania and California.

“An enthusiastic religion is the perfection of common sense. And to be beside oneself for Christ’s sake is to be beside Christ, which is our chief end for time and eternity.”
– Henry Drummond – The Ideal Life

There’s way too much enthusiasm. And there’s also way too little. That’s because there’s enthusiasm and enthusiasm. So we’d better not be too quick to enthuse over just any enthusiasm.

Enthusiasm is supposed to be enlivening, but much of it is rather short-lived. Remember these words? “Get other names at 100,000 or more, 50,000 or more… . Ready to start overnights right away.” That’s from the White House memo launching Bill Clinton’s bed and breakfast deal. The New York Times headlined: “His Enthusiasm is Made Clear in a Memo.” But his enthusiasm didn’t last. It was dashed by the press’s enthusiasm for scandal — real or imagined. But even the enthusiasm of self-righteous journalists can be sustained by any particular scandal for only so long. Here’s another Times headline of erstwhile enthusiasm: “Addition of Kemp Offers Strength to Dole, Foremost on Tax Policy and Enthusiasm.” The publisher of a talk-radio digest enthused: “For the first time, there’s a lot of energy and enthusiasm about Dole-Kemp.” He might just as well have said it was for the last time. The enthusiasm didn’t last. Read more →

TRUST

Based on an address Dr. Blair gave at the eastern and western connECtions96 in the summer of 1996.

(PDF version available here.)

by Dr. Ralph Blair


INTRODUCTION

Tennessee Williams used to say that “at New York cocktail parties, I drink martinis almost as fast as I can snatch them from the tray.” He said it was at these parties that he “always had a particularly keen and truly awful sense of impermanence” that, he said, haunts all of us. He called “fear and evasion … the two little beasts that chase each other’s tails in the revolving wirecage of our nervous world.”

Fear and Primal Fear aren’t just Marky Mark and Richard Gere movies. They’re our own home videos, channeled through the little amygdala alarm in our brains. Once that alarm goes off, we experience fear, whether or not there’s any good reason to be afraid. Psychiatrist Karl Menninger said that “fear is probably the first emotion experienced” though he added that it’s “so inextricably fused and regularly associated [with anger] that it is difficult to make useful distinctions” between them. Overcoming such fear becomes our “first spiritual duty,” according to philosopher Nikolai Berdyaev. Freud called fear “the fundamental phenomenon and the central problem of neurosis.” According to the National Institute of Mental Health, more than 23 million Americans suffer from serious anxiety, over twice as many as suffer from depression and other psychiatric disorders.

Cognitively speaking, fears and anxiety can be prompted and sustained by lack of trust. They can also be resolved by trust. Psychologically, trust is an absence of anxiety. Philosopher John Dewey once said: “To me, faith [or trust] means not worrying.” Theologian Reinhold Niebuhr defined trust as “the final triumph over incongruity.” He went on to say that trust is “the final assertion of the meaningfulness of existence.” Read more →

Anger

An expanded version of Dr. Blair’s address on anger at connECtion95, the summer conferences of Evangelicals Concerned at Kirkridge and Mills College, June and July, 1995.

In a promo for New York City’s Lesbian and Gay Community Center, cartoonist Howard Cruse depicts a gay guy asking his lesbian friend: “Where’s the meeting for people who’re mad as hell and aren’t going to take it anymore?” She consults the Center’s schedule and replies: “Hm — Depends on what night of the week it is.” Gay columnist Bruce Bawer rightly objects to the fact that “many gay leaders and commentators persist in encouraging us to celebrate rage.” Of course, lesbians and gay men are not the only people who are feeling angry these days.

According to the Billy Graham Professor of Evangelism at Southern [Baptist] Seminary: “The whole Christian Right movement feeds off of a ‘theology of resentment.'” [Ken Chafin] A prominent evangelical journalist reports that “Moods of … anger dominate the conservative evangelical subculture.” [Rodney Clapp] Evangelist Luis Palau warns: “I fear the Age of the Angry Evangelical is upon us. That we are getting to be an angry bunch isn’t merely a caricature created by the so-called ‘secular humanist media elite.’ Evangelicals are getting far too angry about far too many things, … we American evangelicals are now known nationally (and internationally) by our anger.” Read more →

REVIEW. Winter 1995 Vol. 20 No. 1.

“Ordination of Women and of Gays: Are They on a Par?” by Cornelius Plantinga, Jr., Calvin Seminary Forum, Spring 1994.

Flannery O’Connor knew that “it seems to be a fact that you have to suffer as much from the Church as for it.”  Now even the Pope is taking a few tentative steps to admit this in recommending repentance for “the lack of discernment, which at times became even acquiescence, shown by many Christians concerning the violation of fundamental human rights: over the ages.  One level of explanation for such oppression by “Christians” is noted by an Asbury Seminary professor who recently wrote: “Our church subculture has erected dozens of barriers that separate many people from the possibility of becoming disciples” of Christ, and “virtually all these barriers are essentially cultural barriers and hve little or nothing to do with ‘the faith once delivered to the saints.”  It’s crucial to remember this historical context as we turn to Plantinga’s article.  Of course, churches aren’t alone in abusing people.  Wherever institutions of whatever kind exercise authority, opportunity for abuse is often indulged.  But abuse at the hands of churches is uniquely egregious given Christ’s unconditional love, to which also he calls his followers.  Read more →

Temptation & The Truly Alternative Lifestyle

This booklet is an expanded version of Dr. Blair’s keynote address at connECtion 1992, the summer conferences of Evangelicals Concerned, at Kirkridge in the eastern Pennsylvania mountains and at Chapman University in Orange, California.

(PDF version available here.)
(PDF of book format available here.)

by Dr. Ralph Blair

“Though vine nor fig-tree neither
Their wonted fruit shall bear;
Though all the field should wither
Nor flocks nor herds be there:
Yet God the same abiding,
His praise shall tune my voice;
For while in Him confiding
I cannot but rejoice.”
Habakkuk 3:17-18


Oscar Wilde could not resist it. In Lady Windemere’s Fan he couldn’t resist saying “I can resist everything except temptation.” And I couldn’t resist repeating it.

Temptation. What do we get out of getting into it? How do we get into getting out of it? We face it every day. Think of the temptations we’ve faced just in the past 24 hours, or just so far this morning, or just at this very moment.

Are we tempted to act unjustly, to be unkind, to reject God’s will? (Micah 6:8)

Are we tempted to disguise our motives? To gossip? To trespass into another person’s private space? Are we tempted to neglect conferees we don’t find attractive? To join in as a friend is nasty about someone else behind her back? Are we tempted to behave seductively? Are we tempted to make excuses for ourselves while giving little or no benefit of the doubt to anyone else? Are we tempted to be discouragingly critical? To gloat over somebody else’s troubles? To ignore those troubles? To free-load? To spend ourselves into debt on ourselves while withholding money from others who really do need some? Are we tempted to be Madonna’s “material girls?” To be perfectionistic? To be lax? To condemn? To manipulate and exploit someone who finds us sexy? To exploit others by renting or viewing pornography? To engage in phone sex? To break promises? To rush unwisely and unlovingly into romantic relationships? To steal? To lash out? To hold a grudge? To procrastinate? To avoid pulling our own weight? To withhold forgiveness? To neglect family and friends? To pout? To gripe about the food? To be ungrateful? To neglect opportunities to encourage others? To claim we have a right to do whatever we want to do with our bodies, our money, our time, our talents? Are we tempted to apply these thoughts on temptation to anyone but ourselves? To focus on a disagreement over something I’ve said so as not to see that most of what else I’ve said easily applies to us all—individually and collectively? Am I tempted to pretend I’m a stranger to all these temptations? Are you tempted to believe me? Are we tempted to think that God is not ready and willing to forgive us? Are we tempted to take God’s forgiveness for granted? How seriously do we want to resist these temptations?

How selectively? How soon? What do we get out of getting into temptation? How do we get out of getting into temptation? Our presence here this weekend probably indicates that we want to resist temptation better than we do. But why not go beyond mere resistance, to a seriously heroic discipleship? Read more →

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