Reflections on our discussion – January 9

We began our first session by talking about why each of us wanted to join this discussion. (Besides looking forward to thought-provoking conversations, several mentioned the chance to talk to the author of the book. For her part, Caroline Hall remarked that it’s difficult to talk about your own book!)


If you are participating on-line: What are you looking for in these discussions?


1.   Since the early 60’s, what changes have we seen in the culture?

Responses from those at St. Benedict’s: 

Civil rights movement of 60’s led to (>>) African-American leaders today
Women’s movement >> contraception, growing educational and employment opportunities
Changing family structure >> from ideal ‘nuclear’ family to the many forms of family we see today
Exploration of space >> developing technology
Growing environmental awareness >> Rachel Carson (1962)
Fear of nuclear weapons
Cold War and the fight against Communism
The Vietnam war
U.S. growing awareness of the Middle East, Asia
Non-western nations’ growing power
Computer and information revolution: TV and the 24-hour news cycle; internet, etc.
Religious issues:  from the ascendancy of main-line Christianity to growing agnosticism, talk of the ‘Death of God,’ revived Evangelicalism, awareness of Islam
Population growth
Growing use of ‘recreational’ drugs
Improvements in health and life span
Gay rights movement:  Stonewall riots (1969)

On-line: What would you add to this list?

2.  Since the early 60’s, what changes have we seen in the Church?

New Episcopal prayer book in 1977 >>liturgical changes and new theological emphasis
(for instance, the focus on the Baptismal Covenant led to a renewed emphasis on the ministry of the laity)
Vatican II – liturgical changes, ecumenical cooperation
Ordination of women
Evangelical revival/movement
Charismatic movement
Reduced numbers in the mainline churches
aging membership
some leave for evangelical and non-denominational churches
Interacting with social issues (such as civil rights, gay and lesbian issues)
Acceptance, welcoming gays in the church
Growing divisions between liberals and conservatives in the church – “the church should be a ‘neutral zone’”
From experiencing the Church as presenting‘one voice’ to multiple voices – voices of groups and individuals

On-line: What would you add to this list?

3.  Where are the changes in church and culture connected?

Growing awareness of marginalized people in society and church – women, blacks, gays
Growing awareness of poverty and economic changes – globalization and unemployment
But institutions respond slowly to cultural changes; churches respond even more slowly
Some try to make significant changes; some try to ignore, or at least smooth over differences
As the Episcopal Church changed,
Some members became evangelicals, even Biblical literalists
Strong subconscious feelings (racism; homophobia; sexism, etc.) were accompanied by religious rhetoric that supported and justified the status quo

On-line: What would you add to this list?

4.    Changing a culture or church requires ‘kairos moments’prepared ground and iconic events

(Kairos is Greek for ‘the right time’ (as opposed to Chronos, time which keeps moving on). A kairos moments needs fertile, prepared ground – or enough wind blowing for a spark to light a fire, such as:

Stonewall riot; Civil Rights marches; Kent State shooting
Books: ‘Silent Spring’; ‘The Feminine Mystique’
Health: the AIDS crisis (worked both ways – evoked both compassion and fear)
Love/fear – the great ‘outing’  (easier to scapegoat people you don’t know)

On-line: What would you add to this list? 

Why haven’t Americans reached a ‘kairos moment’ on the gun issue (like Australia)?

The gun issue touches deep currents in the American psyche: a desire for personal freedom; distrust of government; need for control; patriotism; patriarchy; survivalism, fear/paranoia; and fear of change

A question for everyone: In your own life, was there a kairos moment that changed your attitudes toward gays (whether it was yourself, another individual, or a group)?


5.  What makes homosexuality such a powerful issue in our culture and church? 

The ‘yuck factor’ and internalized purity codes:  These have great influence on our attitudes and behavior.   (See chapter 2 of A Thorn in the Flesh, especially ‘A Deep Longing for Purity’ and ‘The Morals of Disgust’, pages 26-29)

Scape-goating: At times of uncertainty and fear, groups of people can increase their own sense of security by defining themselves as better in some way than another group.  Systematic scapegoating has many factors.  (See chapter 2, especially ‘Scapegoating,’ p. 39-40)

Establishing our own identities: We live in a time of increasing global-mindedness coupled with increasing individualism. As individuals, we look for ways to ‘embed’ ourselves, identifying ourselves and both individuals and members of a group.  (See chapter 2, ‘Who Am I?’ and ‘Who Are we?’, p. 29-32)

Reading for next week:
Chapter 3, ‘The People of God Come Out’ and the Appendix, ‘For the Bible Tells Me So’.

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