Keynote Addresses

[The] Overcoming Outrage!

by Ralph Blair

[The] Overcoming Outrage is Dr. Ralph Blair’s keynote at the 2009 Evangelicals Concerned summer connECtions held at Kirkridge in the eastern Pennsylvania mountains and at the Holiday Inn in Palm Springs, California.

[The] Overcoming Outrage © 2009 by Ralph Blair

(PDF version available here.)


Have you noticed any rampant outrage these days? Lots of people are “outraged.” That’s what they claim. They’re “OUTRAGED!”—in big, bold italic caps and punctuated by exclamation points with none of the expletives deleted. Are they merely vocabulary-challenged?

And folks try to enlist others in their outrage, hoping that a chorus of outrage outdoes outrage on one’s own.

But is it all a bit overdone? Is it prompting only exasperated eyeball-rolls of, “Puh-leeze!” and angry shout-backs of, “Well, we’re outraged at your outrage! So there!”

Some outrage is sheathed in some seeming civility, but it’s still a seething resentment and passive aggression.

Outrage is over-the-top anger. When, as it feels, we’re attacked by unwanted emotions—say, fear, hurt, frustration, irritation—we try to get on top of the feelings by venting outrage as “righteous” indignation.

Outrage can be spontaneous—as in losing our temper. But lots of outrage is strictly for show—as in temper-tantrums.

And have you noticed that most of us are what so many are outraged at, i.e., LGBTs and Christians? And if we’re both, we get outrage from both. When we get outrage from them, do we get outraged at them? If so, do we get more outraged at the Christians or at the LGBTs?

Do we get outraged at ourselves? Google’s count is 17 million results for “outrage” but only 117 for “outrage at ourselves”—an unfortunate ratio. It can be useful to be outraged at ourselves since we can get our hands on it and maybe do something about it. We can’t get our hands on other’s outrage, though we might be tempted to get our hands around their necks. But that should remind us of our own outrageousness and turn us from griping to getting a grip. And, getting rid of our outrage might preempt outrage against us. But waiting for others to get over themselves is frustrating, even futile. Getting over ourselves instead of having to wait around for them to get over themselves is efficient.

And whether we’re outraged at others, or others are outraged at us, or we’re outraged at ourselves, a sober perspective can help. Read more →

“Five Centuries of Reformation Proclamation”

The 2016 Evangelicals Concerned

Ocean Grove Preaching Festival

Columbus Day Weekend

October 7-9, 2016

“Five Centuries of Reformation Proclamation”

“1516, 1616, 1716, 1816, 1916”

John Foxe   John Owen   John Berridge   Francis Asbury   J. C. Ryle   Eugenia Price

 Including Three Sermons by Dr. Ralph Blair
“Our Sufficiency in The All-Sufficient One”, “Affirming The All-Merciful’s Affirmation of Us” and “Participating in His Providence”

Dr. Ralph Blair, Speaker

(PDF version here)

Next year is the 500th Anniversary of the Protestant Reformation. On the last day of October, 1517, a 33-year-old Wittenberg University theologian, Martin Luther, took his courageous public stand for the Gospel. He posted ninety-five arguments against what he contended were Rome’s unbiblical teachings, such as the papal “indulgences” that he saw as simply scams for enriching the church hierarcy through fiancial payments for the forgiveness of sin. He argued that these shameful shakedowns mocked our “treasury of merit” in Christ alone.

Having long agonized over his own sins, and having finally found full relief in God’s unmerited mercy in Christ, he committed himself to confront the ecclesiastical establishment and comfort the ecclesiastically exploited.

In his liberating discovery of God’s grace in Christ alone, clearly revealed in the Bible, he was moved to provoke a return to the Christian witness of the early apostles and to move that witness forward into the future.

As we look forward to the Luther Quintcentenary in 2017, we pause here in 2016, to gratefully reflect on that 16th-century revival’s fruit in continued preaching of God’s Good News through each generation since Luther’s day.

Tonight, we’ll glimpse the ministries of six faithful Christians whose work sprang from the influence of that historically biblical Reformation. These faithful Christians were born or died in 1516, 1616, 1716, 1816 or 1916.

 

John Foxe (1516 – April 18, 1587)

In Germany, in the year before Luther posted his call for Gospel purity, there was a call for purity of another staple on Luther’s table. He’d quipped: “Whoever drinks beer is quick to sleep; whoever sleeps long, doesn’t sin; whoever doesn’t sin, enters Heaven! So, let’s drink beer!” Germany’s Beer Purity Law, Das Reinheitsgebot was adopted in 1516. It became the world’s longest lasting food quality control for more than four and a half centuries – until 1987, when it was ditched by some bureaucrats in the European Union.

Over in England in that same year of 1516, a boy named John Foxe was born. It was the year that England’s Master of the Posts, predecessor of the Royal Mail, was set up and the year that Thomas More finished Utopia, his fictional “nowhere”, so often mistaken as a “good place”. Over at Basel, Erasmus was publishing his Greek New Testament, Hieronymus Bosch, the artist of intoxicating triptychs, died, and the cleric and cartographer Martin Waldseemüller produced the latest of his world maps. His 1507 version had depicted a newly discovered continent that he designated, Americi.

In Venice, Jews were being forced to reside inside a district called the “Venetian Ghetto”, ever after lending its name to all restrained residential neighborhoods. The Ottoman Empire declared war on other Muslims in Egypt and Syria and defeated the Muslim owned slave-soldiers of Gaza.

Luther died when Foxe was 30 years old, so, Foxe’s more immediate contemporaries among the Protestant Reformers were really Calvin, Beza and Bullinger.

We honor Foxe for his life’s consuming work, Actes and Monuments. It’s a multivolume history of centuries of persecuted Christians. First published in Latin at Basel in 1554, and reprinted for centuries since, it’s known today as, Foxe’s Book of Martyrs. For many years, among the poor, it was the one book they owned besides the Bible. A century later, John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress would become the third volume in those little libraries.   Read more →

Affirming The All-Merciful’s Affirmation of Us

“Affirming The All-Merciful’s Affirmation of Us”

“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”
John 3:16

by Dr. Ralph Blair

(PDF version here)

Along with Philippians 4:13, Tim Tebow’s favored eyeblack is John 3:16, the second most tweeted Bible verse and the most searched verse at BibleGateway.com.

On Sunday, January 8, 2012, in the NFL AFC playoff game in Denver, Tebow led the Broncos to an overtime win against the Pittsburgh Steelers.  He did it with an 80-yard touchdown pass on the first play of overtime. Time magazine said it “left the Steelers and the watching world simply stunned”.  But the reporter could not resist labeling this “out” Christian quarterback, “polarizing”.  Of course, had Tebow been an “out” gay player, “polarizing” would not have been the politically correct adjective.

Tebow had set an NFL playoff record by throwing three hundred sixteen yards, 31.6 yards per completion.  316?  31.6? John 3:16! And wait, there’s more!  The CBS rating peaked at 31.6.  31.6? John 3:16! Wait, there’s more!  CNN noted that Tebow had “John 3:16” painted under his eyes when, three years to the day before this Denver play, he led the Florida Gators to their national championship.

Well, Bible numerologists were off and running. And alongside them, it’s not surprising that, the next day, Google Trends’ top three searches were: “John 3:16”, “Tebow” and “Tim Tebow”.

But, as you know, neither John nor any of the original writers of the Bible divided their texts into numbered verses.  These numbers were first inserted in 1551 by the meticulous printer, Robert Stephanus.  So, even Luther would have been stumped had he been asked to quote “John 3:16”.  He’d died five years before.  And, of course, “John 3:16” wouldn’t have rung a bell for John himself.  We shouldn’t read into strings of 3-1-6 what’s not in the text.

But, what’s been in John’s Gospel from the beginning, is so infinitely more significant than all the sports trivia and supposed numerical codes that get fussed over by folks with too much time on their hands, is this utterly earthshaking – indeed, Heaven’s shaking earth awake: “God so loved the world that he gave his only son, that whosoever trusts in him should not perish but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16)

No sentence in the whole Bible better sums up the basic message of the whole Bible than John 3:16.  The world has never received better news than this Good News encapsulated in the words of John 3:16.

Trivialized, even mocked, by those who may seem to have no clue as to its true meaning, but then, possibly may suspect something of its true meaning, they reject it with defensive fury.  Meanwhile, its eternal truth has been and is still received with eternal awe and eternal praise by all who know even a bit more than something of its amazing grace, even while in this world.

Popular black contemporary gospel singer Kirk Franklin has been apologizing to gay people for antigay attitudes in black churches.  He says: “More than anything, I’m trying to peel back those layers [that] keep people away from God and keep people away from experiencing the love of God and knowing God’s love as a father.  I’m trying through [my recent] album to erase the dogma and the ideology that gets in the way of the true essence of one of the most simplest things we could ever say to somebody: ‘For God so loved the world that he gave his only son.  Whoever believes in him should not perish but have everlasting life’.” Read more →

Participating in His Providence

“Participating in His Providence”

“ ‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future’.”  

Jeremiah 29:11

(PDF version here)

Each of the three top-tweeted Bible verses reveals that God initiates our relationship with Him and invites and empowers our response to Him.

Yesterday, we looked into our sufficiency in the all-sufficiency of God in Christ. (Phil 4:13)  We also looked into our affirming God’s affirmation of us in Christ. (John 3:16)  This morning we look into our participation in God’s providence, assured that His love in Christ reaches out to us, even from everlasting to everlasting.

In this morning’s text, Jeremiah the prophet conveys God’s providential words to Israelites in Babylonian captivity.  There’s good news: “ ‘I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future’.” (Jeremiah 29:11)  Well, it’s easy to see why folks today are so favorably disposed to use this text – without its context – and frame it to footnote all their fondest fantasies.

But there’s good reason Jeremiah is called “the weeping prophet”.  He deeply experienced the pain of fellow Israelites in captivity for their sins.  And he suffered pain in their pushing back against his preaching the truth.  And, as far as it’s even humanly possible, he identified with and anguished over God’s grief over this wayward people.  Jeremiah’s head was so clogged with tears that he wished his eyes were great fountains to relieve such great grief.

As we attempt to look into this text from Jeremiah’s prophecy, we’d be wise to begin our thoughts on God’s providence by recalling the sage advice of John Owen: “There is and always was, much about God’s providential management of this world, that even the most improved reason of mere men cannot reach into.”

In attempting to look into God’s providence, humility is surely the only appropriate starting point. And humility is surely the only appropriate way to wend our way through such inquiry. Finally, humility is surely the only appropriate way to conclude our inquiry – humility under the everlasting sovereign grace of the God of all providence.

These words of caution are especially important if we’re stuck in a systematic theology of whatever stripe, for in such cramped and crowded quarters, we easily mistake that trap for the whole truth or fruit of the Spirit. Read more →

THY Kingdom Come”

“THY Kingdom Come”
by Dr. Ralph Blair
Dr. Blair’s keynote address at connECtion 2016, the summer conferences of Evangelicals Concerned at Kirkridge in the eastern Pennsylvania mountains.

(PDF version here)


Have you noticed how “un-Presidential” presidential campaigns can get? Instead of what we might assume befits a wannabe president, we get mere precedent and more prestidigitation. Huh? Dirty card tricks of class, sex, gender, faith, ethnicity and race!

Political “establishments” are accused of offering “been there, done that” that doesn’t do it. So, there’s an opting for outliers as if they’re from a whole different realm. Dah!

But, whether “establishment” or “outlier”, voters fall for the idiocy of idolatry – worshipping at shrines of two ancient temptresses, Nostalgia and Fantasy. Nostalgia’s stuck in her delusions of the past, swamped as ever, in her historical illiteracy and self-serving selective recall. And habitually blindsided Fantasy, too, is stuck in her delusions – her expectations of all she blindly predicts and then projects, though it’s nothing but figments of her delusional daydreams or nightmares. So, whether wistful, wishful or worried, voters flock in lockstep, following in the faltering footsteps of Nostalgia or Fantasy, while getting hung up on politicians’ plans and promises.

Well, what else do most folks know to do? What is there to do, if politicians’ plans and promises are the only options? Indeed, these are the only options, if there’s insufficient or no awareness of the Hope that’s ours in the Reign of God, already here, with so much more on the way.

In Christ’s return to reign, Bob Dylan is mindful of what so many resist. As he puts it: “Of every earthly plan that be known to man, He is unconcerned. He’s got plans of His own to set up His throne when He returns.”

Keep this in mind. Before we conclude, we’ll return to this blessed Hope of Christ’s return to reign, while others are adrift, unanchored and awash in nostalgia and fantasy of mere political hope. In the prayer Jesus authorized for us, we petition: “Thy Kingdom come!” Bring Your Reign! And we have his assurance that we’re asking by his authority, and so, it will come to pass. (John 14:13) Read more →

ENTHUSIASM

by Dr. Ralph Blair

This booklet is based on material presented by Dr. Blair at the two 1997 summer conferences of Evangelicals Concerned held in Pennsylvania and California.
Copyright 1997 Evangelicals Concerned, Inc.

INTRODUCTION

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.

So enthusiasm can be fleeting. It can also be forced and false. A British prime minister once said that “It’s unfortunate … that so few enthusiasts can be trusted to speak the truth.” [Arthur James Balfour] Is this a clue that much enthusiasm depends on something less than the truth, something not quite the fuller story? When a private Old South military school was forced by the Supreme Court to drop its long-standing “men only” policy, it wasn’t only feminists who voiced enthusiasm. The Citadel itself announced it would “enthusiastically accept” women. But soon after the school year began, two of the female cadets were set on fire.

Enthusiasm can run hot and cold. It can be contradictory and confusing. Andrew Sullivan says Newt Gingrich “burst[s] with messianic enthusiasm that alternately inspires and bewilders.” Some enthusiasm makes no sense and apparently doesn’t even have to make any sense. If those of us who aren’t lesbians can’t comprehend the baseballese that fans throw at us, we’re told we should just interject an occasional comment that’s “thoughtful, enthusiastic and content free.” [John Leo]

There’s enthusiasm that’s merely hype. A New Age learning center in New York City promises evenings with assorted gurus that will be “amazing … electrifying … explosive … exhilarating … sensational … extraordinary … and [as it’s stated repeatedly] much more!” Prospective students are promised “enhanced energy” and even “boundless energy, … incredible power” and even “unlimited power”—though I do notice that there will be only “limited seating” for the session on “unlimited power!” They’re told that they’ll learn “techniques to maximize spiritual quotient, … heighten psychic abilities … ignite inner potential … [and] learn how to achieve, have and do all [they] want and desire.” They’ll learn the “secrets of a detailed plan for meeting and marrying money” and they’ll even be shown “how to attract every man in a room” and become a “man-magnet!” Read more →

Paul Who?

Paul Who?

by Dr. Ralph Blair

This is an expanded version of Dr. Blair’s keynote address at connECtion87, the summer conferences of Evangelicals Concerned. The section on homosexuality was also presented at the 199th General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (USA) in 1987.

(PDF version available here)


He was not the first Jew for Jesus. He would not be the last. But more than any other Jew or Gentile in nearly 2,000 years, and time and again, he has jolted his readers back to a Jesus that neither he nor they, by orthodox religious tradition or wild wishful thinking, were ever prepared to recognize.

A very few years after Jesus’ execution, he was offending fellow Pharisees with a shocking law-free proclamation of good news: Jesus’ death and resurrection opened God’s kingdom to everyone everywhere — without their having to become Jews or obey commandments in the Hebrew Bible. Some 15 years later, this rebel rabbi dictated a letter to faithing assemblies in Galatia. He warned them not to let legalistic religionist “trouble-makers” load them up with rules and rituals and thereby deprive them of their freedom in Jesus Christ.

Twenty centuries later and half a world away, the most powerful leader on earth was copying one of these sentences, inscribing it into a book already containing several of the rabbi’s letters.

The first century rabbi was Paul. The twentieth century leader was Ronald Reagan. The book? A Bible purchased by Ollie North and autographed in the Oval Office in October, 1986. It was intended for Iranian officials ruling ancient Persian territory some 900 miles east of where Paul’s Galatians had lived. The inscription was this: “And the Scripture, farseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, ‘All the nations shall be blest in you.'” It isn’t clear why the President chose these words to bless the secret sale of weapons from what they call “the Great Satan” to what he called “loony tunes” of an “international version of Murder Incorporated.” It’s been suggested that it was to confirm some sort of brotherhood between Moslems, Jews, and Christians. Church Lady would snap: “Well, isn’t that special.” It’s enigmatic how weapons meant to kill Iraqis (half way back to old Galatia) are expressions of the good news of God’s grace and peace, justification by faith, and blessings to all nations. Actually, maybe it wasn’t even meant to be read for it wasn’t in Persian or Kurdish or Farsi. This Bible was in English.

But we shouldn’t be too hard on the President for not quite getting Paul’s point, even in translation. After all, Paul’s contemporaries didn’t always get it. His own dear “foolish Galatians” were confused. And II Peter warns that Paul’s letters “contain some things that are hard to understand, which ignorant and unstable people distort.” There have always been people who never take the trouble to understand. People who like what they say Paul says and people who hate what they say Paul says maybe don’t much know what Paul says. And maybe they don’t much want to know. They invent appalling pop Pauls. Such pseudo Pauls are anti-sex, anti-women, anti-gay, anti-Semitic, anti-everything someone might innocently value. It’s hard to believe that the earliest pop Paul was an “anything goes” antinomian. That would surprise Dudley Moore who fictionalized Paul writing: “Ah, dear Ephiscans, … stop enjoying yourself … stop having a good time, resign yourself not to have a picnic, cover yourself with ashes and start flailing yourselves.” Read more →

Evangelism: Proclaiming God’s Good News—with every bad -ism crossed out

Evangelism: Proclaiming God’s Good News—with every bad -ism crossed out

by Dr. Ralph Blair
This booklet is an expanded version of Dr. Blair’s keynote address at connECtion 1994, the summer conferences of Evangelicals Concerned at Kirkridge in the eastern Pennsylvania mountains and at Chapman University in Orange, California.

Introduction

Have you ever seen the guy who goes to ball games with his John 3:16 sign? I’m sure that at least you lesbians have. You gay men may have been watching a different channel. The John 3:16 guy gets into trouble with sports stadium officials. When they say his evangelism violates “good taste / bad taste policy,” his lawyer gets a judge to say that the policy violates free speech rights. When the Cincinnati Reds then responded by prohibiting all signs that were not related to baseball, he showed up with a sign that said: “Go Reds! John 3:16.” The Reds management then reacted by banning all non-commercial signs, claiming thereby “to protect the family-oriented atmosphere.” The supposedly “family-oriented” beer and cigarette signs remained and the John 3:16 guy has gone elsewhere. According to his lawyer: “It’s unfortunate that the Reds have to take the fun out of baseball.”

Did you ever think of evangelism as fun? To say it’s fun may be to trivialize the gospel, but fun is at least a hint of the joy that is the good news. Too much evangelism is so dreary or full of self-righteous spite and fright that it’s anything but fun—anything but good news. Why shouldn’t it be a real pleasure to proclaim the truly joyous news that “God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son so that no one need be destroyed but, by relying on him, anyone can have a whole and lasting life?”

Last September the Southern Baptist Home Mission Board estimated that 46.1 percent of the folks down in Alabama are going to hell. Now how did that Mission Board know what Paul says all “creation is eagerly waiting to have revealed” only on the last day? (Rom 8:19) Well, the Board did a county by county statistical analysis. They subtracted the Southern Baptists from the population of each county and then estimated the “unsaved” in the remaining churches on the basis of how closely those groups’ beliefs matched Southern Baptist doctrine. Why did they do this? It wasn’t for idle curiosity. It wasn’t only to look good in their own eyes. It wasn’t in order to look bad in the eyes of southern Methodists, Roman Catholics or Crimson Tide secularists over at the University. And it wasn’t in order to be ridiculed by hostile national news media. It was in order to strategize for evangelism.

Last July, strategists from the Southern Baptist Convention, Campus Crusade for Christ, and other rightward religious efforts met in Colorado Springs—the antigay capital of America—to plan what they call “Assessment 2000: A Global Survey of the Unfinished Task” of world evangelization. Read more →

Jesus Who?

Jesus Who?

by Dr. Ralph Blair

This publication is an expanded version of Dr. Blair’s keynote address at connECtion86, the summer conferences of Evangelicals Concerned, an organization he founded in 1976.

Copyright 1986
(PDF available here.)


“If you could spend an evening with any one person, living, deceased or fictional, whom would you choose and why?” This was a question recently put to prospective students of the University of Pennsylvania. The top three choices of these 8,000 teenagers were God, Jesus, and Chrysler Corporation Chairman Lee Iacocca. The inclusions of Iacocca and God may represent, respectively, the short-sightedness and spontaneous presumption of adolescence, but that of Jesus testifies to the persistent popularity of this first century man of the Middle East—even now in the fast lane of a “post Christian” Yuppie youth culture.

Every time we put a date on anything we inadvertently note the most significant single person in the history of the world. People pray in his name and curse in his name; show kindness in his name and kill in his name. The instrument of his own execution emblazons flags of the world, from Greece and Great Britain to Tonga and Tuvalu. His birth is the excuse that keeps “Toys R Us” in the black. Charlie Brown says of himself that he himself is “always sure about things that are a matter of opinion.” Well, opinions about this person have ranged from the idea that he never was at all to the idea that he is all that ever was. Some say that he was only a man. Some say that he was not even a man. Some say that he was a man and more.

In discussion of Jesus today, we dare not assume that we’re all thinking and talking of the same Jesus. This fact is lamented by two of our century’s most gifted writers, Dorothy Sayers and Flannery O’Connor. Each of these women saw the difficulties the modern world has with discussion of him. In 1949 Sayers said: “The brutal fact is that in this Christian country [she was speaking of England] not one person in a hundred has the faintest notion what the Church teaches about … the person of Jesus Christ.” O’Connor noted something even deeper when she wrote in one of her letters: “One of the awful things about writing when you are a Christian is that for you the ultimate reality is the Incarnation, the present reality is the Incarnation, and nobody believes in the Incarnation … ”

In the first century, Jesus was perceived as an agent of the devil, a blasphemer, and as the very word of God in the flesh. Much later there was the 11th century “Monk Who Rules the World,” the 16th century “Universal Man,” the 18th century “Teacher of Common Sense,” the 19th century Moralizer of Victorian parlors, and the 20th century “Liberator” of South American fruit-pickers and North American “fruits.” There’s the “Superstar” Jesus of Broadway and the skate-boarding Jesus of Vacation Bible School. There’s Jesus Falwell, Jesus Cardinal O’Connor, Jesus Baker Eddy, and Jesus Myung Moon. There’s Jesus the household god of suburban American nuclear families and Jesus the boyfriend of the “beloved disciple” in gay religionism. There’s the Jeffrey Hunter Jesus and the Max von Sydow Jesus. There’s the Mormon Jesus, the Unitarian Jesus, and the avatar Jesus of Vishnu. There’s the joyless Jesus of Fulton Oursler and Kazantzakis, the journalist’s Jesus of Jim Bishop and the “Positive Thinker” of Norman Vincent Peale. There’s the “swooning” Jesus of The Passover Plot and the UFO Jesus of Globe and The Star. There’s the blue-eyed blond Jesus of Neo-Nazis, son of Mary and a fair-skinned Aryan soldier in outpost Palestine . (Didn’t Goebbels himself say: “Christ cannot possibly have been a Jew. I don’t have to prove it scientifically. It’s a fact”?) Read more →

Homophobia in the Churches

The following text, HOMOPHOBIA IN THE CHURCHES, was a keynote address delivered by Dr. Blair at the Strategy Conference on Homophobia in the Churches on May 5, 1979. Two other keynote addresses were given during the weekend conference by Joan Clark (a staff person in the Dallas office of the Women’s Division, Board of Global Ministries of the United Methodist Church, who was fired recently because she is a lesbian) and by Rosemary Radford Ruether (Georgia Harkness Professor at Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary).
This historic first meeting of gay and non-gay representatives of 16 Christian denominations began a process of developing strategies for dealing with homophobia in the churches. The meeting, held in Potomac, Maryland, brought together 60 representatives of national staffs, boards and agencies of many denominations, members of gay caucuses of the church groups, and other organizations concerned about homophobia in the churches.
Attending the conference were representatives of the American Baptist Church, the American Lutheran Church, the Association of Evangelical Lutheran Churches, the Church of the Brethren, the Roman Catholic Church, the Episcopal Church, the Mennonites, the Reformed Church in America, the Reformed Presbyterian Church, the Presbyterian Church in U.S., the United Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A., the United Methodist Church, the Seventh-Day Adventists, the Unitarian-Universalist Association, the Universal Fellowship of Metropolitan Community Churches, the United Church of Christ, the United Church of Canada, Evangelicals Concerned, Lutherans Concerned, Affirmation, Dignity, Integrity, Presbyterians for Gay Concerns, the National Organization for Women, the National Gay Task Force, the Quixote Center, the New Ways Ministry, the Commission on Women in Ministry of the National Council of Churches, Men Allied Nationally for the ERA, and Clergy and Laity Concerned.
Copyright 1979 by Ralph Blair All rights reserved
(PDF available here.)
(Original booklet PDF available here.)

by Dr. Ralph Blair

As a preface to this evening’s considerations, I’d like to call our attention to a summary of a life lived in preparation for our meeting here this weekend. The summary was written by David Augsburger (1) of the pastoral care faculty of the Associated Mennonite Biblical Seminaries:

Look at Jesus Christ.

He was born in the most rigidly ethnic culture of all time; born in a fiercely nationalistic nation; born in Galilee, the most bigoted backwoods of that nation; born into a family of snobbish royal lineage; born in a time when revolutionary fanaticism fired every heart with hatred for the Roman oppressors; born in a country practicing the apartheid of rigid segregation between Jews and Samaritans.

Jesus Christ was born in a world peopled with prejudiced, partisan, fanatical, intolerant, ob- stinate, opinionated, bigoted, dogmatic zealots — Roman, Samaritan, and Jewish.

Yet He showed not a trace of it.

Read and reread the documents of His life. There is absolutely nothing that you can find to indicate feelings of racial superiority, national prejudice, or personal discrimination.

Those who stand on the side of Jesus Christ reject prejudice whenever, however, and wherever they find it. In themselves first of all; then, and only then, in the world about them.

As true as this summary is of Jesus, it is not often true of those of us who say we follow Jesus.

Definition of Terms

Our three key terms are: “strategy,” “homophobia,” and “churches.”

If at times this weekend’s deliberations seem to have an air of an armed camp, perhaps we should not be surprised. We are here to map strategy. “Strategy” is a military term (from the Greek for “military general” or “army”). We’re dealing with plans for action and we can easily fall into plans for the waging of a war. Some “liberation” rhetoric and activity can become quite militaristic. There is talk of “our enemies.” We can get stuck into “we” and “they” or “us” and “them.” Perhaps it would be better for us, as Christians, to think in terms of tactics (from the Latin for “touch”). In being in touch, our point of contact will more likely be an embrace than an assault. Our perspective and procedure will determine whether we will be more apt to slap a cheek in revenge or slap the palm of a hand in friendship. It would be well to pray that that with which we leave this working conference enable us to touch our homophobic sisters and brothers rather than to fight at them. After all, the modus operandi of a Christian can be real love, even for an enemy. We must learn how to be in touch with our beloved enemies.

The second of our key terms is “homophobia.” We have heard the effect of homophobia in the slur of a single syllable and in the diatribe of a dozen sermons. We have seen it in a glance and in a stare. We have experienced it in the maneuverings of smoke-filled bishops’ chambers. We have read it in what is not written and in what is written over and over for hundreds of pages. We have felt it in the pit of our stomachs and in the split of a skull. It’s easier to recognize than to define. But, if we must define it, let’s say that homophobia is an expression of fear of homosexuality. We’ll leave for just a moment or two, an analysis of the meaning of that fear. Read more →

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