Archive for June, 2018

In the World

Tuesday, June 26th, 2018

Christians are taught to recognize that while they are “in the world” in the sense that they inhabit the material world, they are not “of the world” because they are part of the spiritual body of Christ.

The ambivalence of our human straddling of two worlds has been particularly stressful as we attempt to deal with the current political situation. It seems like almost every day I get agitated messages from people on one or the other side of the political divide: anti-President and pro-President. The immigrant crisis of the moment has of course made this conflict even worse, with children and their parents suffering the consequences.

When do we “speak out”–we who are in the world but not of it? And if we speak out, what difference does it make? Both political camps have been doing lots of talking without much effect, it seems to me. Vocal Christians have been on both sides, though the immigrant situation has drawn many to the side of the children–one would think, inevitably.

In our parish, we will be looking for new ways to promote dialogue. Perhaps the upcoming General Convention of the Episcopal Church will pass resolutions that can provide a focus for discussion.

In the meantime, we remain in the world, whether we like it or not. —J. Douglas Ousley


To Medicate or Not

Tuesday, June 19th, 2018

Last Saturday, an informal memorial evening was held for the woman I mentioned in a previous blog who hung herself some weeks before the suicide of Kate Spade. I was asked to participate both as a friend and as a representative clergyperson.

Among the many testimonies that were offered by the woman’s friends in the course of two hours were comments regarding her decision to try to do without the medications she took for her mental issues. Some of her friends felt she should have kept taking them; others applauded her wish to free herself from drugs.

For what it’s worth, my own non-professional opinion is that people shouldn’t feel that it is a weakness to take psychotherapeutic drugs if they are prescribed by a doctor. To me, it’s like taking aspirin for a headache or undergoing chemotherapy to treat an occurrence of cancer.

These medicines are gifts of God, and God wants us to take advantage of them so that we can live happier, more productive lives. —J. Douglas Ousley


Near-Terminal Decline?

Monday, June 11th, 2018

In a recent interview, New York Times’ columnist Ross Douthat discussed liberalizing trends in the Roman Catholic Church. (A Catholic himself, Douthat has just published a book on Pope Francis.)

Douthat remarked that, “…a big part of the case for liberalization…is historicist; we’re constantly being told that these changes are what the Holy Spirit wants now, what this age demands, what the signs of the times are pointing toward. And so long as that rhetorical argument is being deployed, it seems pretty reasonable to ask, if this is all the will of the Holy Spirit, etc., why an all but fully liberalized body such as the Episcopal Church isn’t showing all the fruits of the Spirit right now and instead appears to be in near-terminal decline.”

Now I don’t agree that our church is in near-terminal decline. But I would agree that it has been declining in membership for decades, even though it has many gifted clergy and laypeople, and it continues to draw numerous adult converts from diverse backgrounds. The church also faces headwinds that are hard to resist, such as a very low birthrate.

That said, is it too much to ask that the upcoming General Convention of the Episcopal Church make evangelism and church-planting priorities in its work and in its budgetary decisions? —J. Douglas Ousley


The Sad End of Kate Spade

Wednesday, June 6th, 2018

While the underlying causes of Kate Spade’s death are at the moment unclear, the tragedy of her death is immensely sad.

The event is not unique: CNN reports a study that concluded that between 1999 and 2014, the death rate from suicide for white women increased by 60%.

As it happens, I was asked just last weekend to participate in a memorial evening for a young woman almost exactly Kate Spade’s age who had hanged herself a couple of weeks ago. In this case, too, the motives are not certain; the woman I knew may have decided to stop taking her anti-depressant medication.

As a Christian, I struggle to made sense of two women in their mid-fifties hanging themselves, one of whom I admired from afar, the other someone I knew since she was a teenager. But I can commend them to a just and loving God, and I can hope and pray that those prone to suicide will find the help they need. —J. Douglas Ousley