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Thursday, September 06, 2007

What the Anglican Communion Can Learn From Dog Fights

It stopped me dead in my tracks.

I was out last weekend at one of the five (five, count 'em, f-i-v-e) discount malls at Rehoboth Beach for a wee bit of 'retail therapy' when I saw these T-shirts in the window of The
Big Dogs Shop.

There was also a sign in the window that said, "Big Dogs has no affiliation with Michael Vick, and deplores his actions. A portion of the proceeds from the sale of these T-shirts will be donated to dog abuse charities."

As some of you may know, Michael Vick is the NFL quarterback who, on August 30th agreed to plead guilty to federal charges stemming from his involvement in the blood sport of dog-fighting. There are additional charges that he shot, hanged and electrocuted dogs that lost.

He faces prison, the loss of millions and maybe even the end of his career.

Sounds like the beginning of justice to me.

Although, from what I'm hearing there are many people who are arguing that the punishment is far too harsh. After all, they say, pit bulls have been bred over several centuries to fight and that, after all, these are just dogs in a world where worse cruelties are suffered by humans. And why should a killer of dogs go to prison while killers of cows and hogs go to the bank?

I hear the logic. I do. Step back from the emotion and natural revulsion of these heinous acts and you'll hear it too.

But, this isn't about children or farm animals or the political or economic implications of the consumption of beef and pork.

Let's be very, very clear here: The Vick case is about suffering and death as entertainment. And, one would think that someone like Michael Vick, NFL superstar and modern gladiator, would know what's wrong with that.

I'll resist the temptation to go off on a rant about what's wrong with the violence and attendent racism of American sports.

I'll simply say this: Left untamed, the violence that lurks in the human heart can make sport of those who are perceived as weak, or less than fully human, or . . . even "insane."

Some of you know where I'm going with this thought.

The Episcopal end of the Anglican corner of cyberspace has been all abuzz with the report of something said by the Rt. Rev'd Isaac Orama, Anglican Bishop of Uyo, Nigeria.

You can find a full summary of the conversations
here at Susan Russell's fabulous blog: "An Inch At A Time."

Let me cut to the chase, as it were, and tell you the words and images from this Nigerian bishop that stopped me dead in my tracks:

"Homosexuality and lesbianism are inhuman. Those who practice them are insane, satanic and are not fit to live because they are rebels to God's purpose for man,''




"Not fit to live."

No matter your sexual or theological orientation, these are words that chill to the very marrow of the bone. I continue to be stunned by them.

Indeed, as Susan Russell reports, even some of the so-called 'orthodox' Uber-Christians in our midst have condemned theses words.

Together, they form the four building blocks of the logic that is no less chilling than that which leads people who profess to love their 'pets' to enter them into the blood sport of dog-fighting. Or, to shoot, hang or electrocute them if they lose.

But, step away for a moment, from the emotion and natural revulsion, and you can hear the logic behind these heinous words.

People like Fred Phelps don't make up the hateful words on the signs they hold up during the funerals of people with AIDS or soldiers who have died in Iraq. That self-proclaimed but unlicensed minister of God takes them right out of "The Good Book."

It is Levitical logic, of course, almost pristine in its purity and simplicity. Indeed, some of us in the LGBT community have said to our orthodox and conservative sisters and brothers that if they really believe every literal thing in Scripture, then they are compelled to pick up a rock and stone every last LGBT person to death.

Bishop Orama has heard his own Primate, Peter Akinola, apply the words of Jesus to what we should do about homosexuals.

"And if anyone causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to be thrown into the sea with a large millstone tied around his neck."
Mark 9:42

So much for "sola scriptura" and a literal interpretation of scripture.

No, I don't have a Big Dog T-shirt for sale, with a humorous depiction of "dog justice" for these two Nigerian princes of the church.

I do have two things to offer:

The first is to pray. Pray for Bishop Orama and Archbishop Akinola. Pray that God might open their minds and soften their hearts.

Pray for the Anglican Communion, especially Archbishop Rowan Williams as he prepares to meet with the Episcopal House of Bishops in a few weeks.

Pray for the Episcopal Church, indeed, pray for "the whole state of Christ's church" as we undergo yet another storm in this turbulent time of the Reformation of the Church.

Pray for our LGBT sisters and brothers, that we may remain steadfast in our faith and strong in our minds and bodies.

The resilient humor of the LGBT community is legendary, running the gamut from the caustic humor of the acid-tongue drag queen to humor laced with both political savvy and searing critique.

But, even we have limits.

This stuff begins to get to you after a while. If Susan Sontag is right and all illness is metaphor, then there's no surprise that some of our leaders are frequently sidelined with migraine headaches, low back pain and bouts of bronchitis.

This kind of toxicity can be a real "pain in the neck."

The long, hard, unending labor of justice can be "backbreaking."

The level of violence and venom can simply take your breath away.

Do not dismiss the power of what a 'cover of prayer' can do for our LGBT leadership and our straight allies as we face the next round of challenge in the church for which so many will try to make us scapegoats.

Then, get up off your knees and begin to take action. I would encourage you to routinely monitor the web
"Akinola, Repudiate Anti-Gay Violence" which is an organized movement to call upon ++Peter Akinola to repudiate violence against LGBT folks.

Write to Primate Akinola with your protest. Primate Akinola's e-mail is

Write your own bishop and share your thoughts on this matter.

Write. Just write.

Write an article to your own diocesan newspaper. Write an article to your own church newsletter. Write an article for your local newspaper.

If you don't think you can write, copy and send around articles you fell express your thoughts and feelings on this matter. (You have my permission to use this, if you think it will help.)

Are you a visual artist? Do you know how to use "Photo Shop" or another graphic program? No? Got a sense of humor and a friend with technological skills? Design your own T-shirt and sell them at Cafe Press. Send the proceeds to IntegrityUSA or your favorite LGBT justice organization.

There is so much we can do together to right this terrible, terrible wrong.

The most powerful, however, may simply be to resist the temptation to fight back.

There is a dog fight of another sort that has been arranged in the church by those who take their entertainment in violence. It is become a blood sport all its own between two dogs whose breed is known only in ecclesiastic circles.

In the first Reformation, Luther loudly protested against the 'dumb dogs' of his day - clerics who could quote scripture, but knew not the fullness of its interpretation. They were simply imitating, mimicking what their master had taught them. Like 'dumb dogs', they were nothing if not obedient, blindly serving a foreign magisterium.

In scripture, Jesus has an exchange with a woman from Samaria - the 'mongrel dogs' of the Jewish nation - about how "it is not fair to take the children's bread and throw it to the dogs" (Mt 15:21-28)

Let those who have ears, hear.

The worst thing we mongrel dogs can do is to allow ourselves to be baited into a blood-sport by those who glorify and are entertained by violence.

We must resist that temptation with every thing that is in us. This is not about us. It is not about homosexuality or even scriptural interpretation.

This is about power and violence and we who claim the high calling of Christ Jesus must be about peace and justice, mercy and compassion, and walking humbly with God.

This is neither our fight nor our sport. Let's not dignify it with our blood. Let us not insult the blood that was shed for our salvation.

Let us, instead, like our Samaritan sisters and brothers in Christ, use our wit and our intelligence.

The Samaritan woman, that mongrel dog, said to Jesus, "Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters' table." (Mt. 15:27)

And Jesus said to her, "O woman, great is your faith! Be it done for you as you desire." (Mt 15:28)

May it be so for us in our day and time.

And may God have mercy on us all.

The link to the BIG DOGS site is:

The link to the story about Bishop Orama is:

The link to Susan Russell's Blog is:

The link to "Akinola, Repudiate Anti-Gay Violence" is:


David said...

Thank-you Elizabeth for reminding us of the real 'bigger picture.'

Bill said...

What the Rt. Rev'd Isaac Orama, said: "Homosexuality and lesbianism are inhuman. Those who practice them are insane, satanic and are not fit to live because they are rebels to God's purpose for man,'' Is three or four steps down that “slippery slope” that will eventually lead all the way back to the ovens of Auschwitz. For those of us too young to remember or naive enough to believe otherwise, the political police, known as the Gestapo, imposed “protective custody” on a wide variety of political opponents: Communists, socialists, religious dissenters, Jehovah’s Witnesses, and Jews. The criminal police, known as the Kripo, imposed “preventive arrest” on professional criminals and numerous groups of so-called asocials: Roma (Gypsies), homosexuals, and prostitutes. More than 6 million persons, the majority of whom were Jews, perished in the Nazi camps. These pogroms and purges are not just history, they are now, they are in the future. They can and will happen every time we look the other way. We must always be vigilant. We must always be activists.