The piece was posted on The Huffington Post on November 3 ... and when I last checked it had 7,225 "shares," 318 "tweets" and 32,729 "likes."
From there it caught the attention of someone named Joseph Backholm who is the Executive Director of something called "The Family Policy Institute." He posted a slam that started with:
Over at Huffington Post, a pastor at the First Universalist Church of We Believe in Nothing (I actually made up that name) wrote a thank-you letter to Ms. Kardashian for making it obvious that extending marriage recognition to two people of the same gender does not diminish the institution of marriage in the least ... The argument that "marriage is meaningless now anyway, so you might as well let us get married too" is both bizarre, and, I would think, insulting to those in same-sex relationships.It was also nothing LIKE the argument I was actually making, which the good folks over at Pam's House Blend picked up:
Apparently unable to think of a logical way to refute Rev. Russell’s thesis, Backholm slipped into schoolyard bully mode and simply impugned the religious convictions of Episcopalians. Rev. Russell never made statements like “marriage doesn’t matter” or “marriage is meaningless now anyway”, nor would any marriage equality advocate. Quite the opposite. Marriage equality advocates find great value in civil marriage. That is why they fight to have discriminatory marriage laws repealed.Let's hear an "AMEN" for blogger Laurel Ramseyer. (But wait ... there's more!)
Then yesterday Daily Kos picked up the story in a piece entitled:Episcopal Church: “First Universalist Church of We Believe in Nothing” which reads (in part:)
Happy Sunday, day of the Lord, people of the Episcopal Church, did you know you believe in nothing? This was news to me. Not my words. The words of Joseph Backholm, Executive Director of the Family Policy Institute. In a posting at the Family Policy Institute website, Joseph Backholm refers to the Episcopal Church as:"the First Universalist Church of We Believe in Nothing."SCORE!!
The Reverand uses the media maelstrom surrounding Kardashian's 72-day marriage to frame a tongue-in-cheek essay on the absurdity of the current state of marital law. Miss Kardashian, by virtue of her heterosexual lifestyle choice currently enjoys unlimited access to the "sacred union" that is marriage, and she can also abandon that covenant on a whim. By contrast, LGBT Americans, some of whom have sustained decades of mutual love and support and inter-dependency find themselves denied simple legal protections of their families.
Russell's point is not that "marriage doesn't matter," but rather, Alec and Jamie's marriage does matter. They are a part of her family of faith, they are a member of her community and she respects them, and their family. And it is her wish that someday United States government will respect Alec and Jamie's marriage as well.
If there is anyone here who thinks "marriage doesn't matter" it is clearly Backholm.
MEANWHILE ... back over the Family Institute webpage, I took the opportunity to clarify for Mr. Backholm the argument I was actually making in the comment section of the blog:
In point of fact, the argument being made in the Huffington Post piece (which I wrote) is not that "marriage doesn't matter because Kim Kardashian can't keep hers together" ... it is marriage DOES matter -- and what matters are the values that make up a marriage; not the gender of the couple who pledge to love, honor and cherish each other until death do they part.Mr. Backholm posted the following comment "clarifying" his position about the Episcopal Church. (Yes, it gets better.)
The Reverend Canon Susan Russell
All Saints Episcopal Church, Pasadena ... where we believe in the Good News of God's love, justice and compassion made known to us in our Lord Jesus Christ. (Just for the record.)
Since I have obviously offended some Episcopalians with my tongue-in-cheek comment about a possible name of a church, I should clarify. Once an individual or an organization puts themselves in the position of deciding that the the unambiguous words of the Bible are wrong, they have decided that they, not God, are the final arbiter of what is right and wrong.And yes, of COURSE I chose to post again ... deciding this was a teachable moment to let anybody who MIGHT be wandering by know just a little bit about what Episcopalians (or at least THIS Episcopalian) believes:
In my opinion, that position is antithetical to Christianity, particularly of the protestant variety which was founded on the concept of Sola Scriptura (by scripture alone). It also puts such a person in a position of having them appoint themselves to effectively be God, since they consider themselves free to ignore what they claim to believe God said in scripture.
Ergo, they don't believe in anything more than their own opinion. Or one might say, they believe in nothing.
At this point, scripture just has nice suggestions and stories that make them happy or hopeful. But it is no longer authoritative. While I enthusiastically defend someones right to hold that position, I do not consider it to be on the reservation of Christian orthodoxy. I also do not understand why people would bother to concern themselves at all with what the Bible says about anything if they are just going to selectively edit it according to their own preferences. If you value what it says that little, why bother? I don't expect this to make anyone feel better about the comment, but I thought a more thorough explanation was in order given the attention that comment received. Thank you all for the respectful feedback. I appreciate the conversation.
Mr. Backholm,So we'll see where this goes. That may be the end of it and it may be the beginning of something more. I don't know.
Just to make sure I'm clear here, your strategy to "clarify" having offended Episcopalians by suggesting we "believe nothing" is to dismiss hundreds of years of Anglican ethos grounded in scripture, tradition and reason because it fails your "sola scriptura" litmus test?
As a cradle Episcopalian I was raised in a church that taught that we take the Bible too seriously to take it literally. Reading the Bible as the Living Word of God -- not to be confused with the "literal words" of God -- is the foundational principle for living a life of faith committed to aligning our lives with God's love, justice and compassion.
It is the context that allowed us to hold in tension our identity as both catholic and protestant during the 16th century and continues to call us into the challenges of the 21st.
Thank God we live in a country where the First Amendment protects your right to believe "the Bible said it, I believe it, that settles it." But that same First Amendment also protects us from you writing your theology into our Constitution. That's what the marriage equality struggle is about -- whether narrow ideologues have the right to take away fundamental rights from American citizens because they do not believe God blesses same-sex marriages.
The issue isn't whether God blesses them. The issue is whether the Constitution protects them.
So, Mr. Backholm, if you really want "clarify" what Episcopalians believe then ask us. Or visit our websites. (My church is allsaints-pas.org) Engage in some dialogue. We may not believe what you believe. But I respectfully suggest that our beliefs deserve more respect than to be dismissed as "believing nothing" -- particularly by someone who purports to stand for Traditional Values. Or perhaps respect isn't on that list.
The Reverend Canon Susan Russell,
All Saints Church, Pasadena CA
But what I do know is every opportunity to witness to God's inclusive love in public platforms of communication are opportunities for evangelism. Opportunities to tell the Good News of the God of Justice to many who have only heard about the God of Judgement. Opportunties to counter the voices of those who have God confused with their own homophobia. Opportunities to take the ancient call to "preach the good news, in season and out of season" to a multiplatform 21st century world ... and preach the good news: online and offline; by blog, tweet, comment, "forward" and "share."
So thanks, Ms. Kardashian and Mr. Backholm for some fertile soil for Multiplatform Evangelism. and to HuffPost, Pam's Blend and Daily Kos for helping spread the good news. Feel free to keep it coming!