Jan 13, 2004
A half century after the Nuremberg trials, the United Nations set up war crimes tribunals, in 1993 for Yugoslavia and in 1994 for Rwanda. Five years ago diplomats agreed to create a permanent International Criminal Court, inaugurated this year, for war crimes, genocide and crimes against humanity. And tribunals of international and national judges currently prosecute atrocities in Kosovo, East Timor and Sierra Leone, with another planned in Cambodia.
All this international experience, one might suppose, would be brought to bear in the trial of Saddam Hussein.
My installation as pastor at a Manhattan congregation began with a festive outdoor procession weaving through public housing projects and then looping around to the parking lot near the pricey apartments and condos on the other side of the street. We wanted the procession to declare our commitment to both sides of the street. In addition to a long line of people of every age and hue, we had drums, banners and balloons to draw attention to our presence.
Theologians are paying attention to strange recommendations about theology from financier John Templeton—and not just because Templeton has the resources of a large foundation behind his ideas. Templeton is interested in “spiritual information,” or as Christians might express it, information about God and God’s actions in the world. His controversial idea is to obtain new spiritual information by linking theology much more closely to natural science.
I’m uncomfortably aware that this room contains two very different groups of Presbyterians—both of which have ministered to me. One is made up of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered people. The church has developed the bad habit of talking about this group as if it is a problem for the denomination. Let me address you directly: You have not been a problem for me. Quite the opposite: you have provided me with luminous examples of how to live a Christian life under very adverse conditions.
I have spent a number of years engaged in Jewish-Christian dialogue. More recently, I have been involved in extensive exchanges with Muslim scholars. I regularly visit Utah for off-the-record discussions with Mormon leaders about deep disagreements between Mormons and evangelicals. I approach all these conversations with great enthusiasm. And yet I have found myself regularly breaking into a cold sweat at the thought of engaging in dialogue with fellow Presbyterians about homosexuality. Why the anxiety in this case?
Peter Jackson’s adaptation of J. R. R. Tolkien’s epic fantasy trilogy reaches its conclusion with Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, and it’s doubtful that any viewer will be disappointed. In the last stages of the war to preserve the human race from the forces of Sauron, Tolkien’s warrior heroes, led by the king without a throne, Aragorn (Viggo Mortensen), hold the field.