Fr. Christofferson writes non-apology for appearing at Trump Rally

I’ll just put this here. Problematic text I have put in bold.

 

To the parish faithful of IC, SH and SJ:

It was never my intention to ever discuss Matt Rosendale’s invitation to attend as his guest the recent Trump rally in Great Falls. But here I am doing so. I am doing so because as you all know the far left does not tolerate anyone who steps out of line and they readily come crashing down like a ton of bricks on anyone who holds opinions different from their own. Msgr. O’Neill, our administrator, has asked Fr. Chris Lebsock and myself, to prepare a written statement that he can quote in response to those who are maligning the Church and our character. So here you go. The following is the full text of the letter I sent to Msgr. O’Neill…

July 9, 2018

Dear Msgr. O’Neill,

In response to the recent uproar in the print media, certain blog posts and guest comments on our own diocesan Facebook page, I wanted to offer you an explanation regarding my motive and my intention for attending President Donald Trump’s recent campaign rally for Matt Rosendale in Great Falls, Montana on Thursday, July 5th, 2018.

My first motive for attending the rally may not be the most obvious; a sitting president was visiting my hometown of Great Falls, not a frequent occurrence, and I wanted to attend. I have not seen a sitting president in my hometown since President Jimmy Carter visited my middle school back in the 1970’s.

My second motive for attending the rally was that Divine Providence has placed the formation of the Supreme Court of the United States into the hands of President Trump, and whether we approve of his personality and his sense of humor or not, President Trump’s selection of the next supreme court nominee, if approved and sworn in, could potentially change the course of our nation’s trajectory for decades to come, placing us back on a path that respects all human life beginning from conception. I personally voted for President Trump for this very reason.

As a guest of Senate hopeful Matt Rosendale, my brother priests and I were given VIP seating privileges and we were very hospitably given a place of prominence close to the runway where we would have a good chance of greeting the president as he passed by. I want to mention that the VIP section was only at 1/3 capacity when we arrived at about 1:45 pm. We could have, I could have, asked the usher to place us in a less prestigious location out of the view of the news cameras, and in fact Fr. Lebsock did express a specific concern in that regard. I personally assume full responsibility for the seating arrangements. We were not “duped” or “used” as has been suggested.

I do regret that many unscrupulous individuals and those in the media have distorted our intentions and motives for attending the rally and have used our priesthood and the free exercise of our religious liberty as a pretext to further a deranged narrative of hatred towards President Trump while at the same time advancing their own anti-Catholic bigotry and bias. We declined at least two interviews and apart from that we spoke not one word to anyone in the media. It is so terribly unfortunate that these scandal-mongering reporters used the power of their pen in such a disgraceful and deceptive way causing so much wonderment and at times heartache among the genuinely faithful in our diocese.

By way of conclusion I do want to include with this letter one viewer’s observation posted in the comments box of an Internet blog that was sent to me by the gentleman who wrote it. It is included for your own peace of mind. A man we will never meet took the time to identify the timestamp of each of President Trump’s predictably controversial and puerile statements and with each timestamp he documents the reaction of my brother priests and myself. In all instances, my brother priests and I acted in a way in keeping with our dignity as priests given our participation in a Trump “political” rally. The reports that we were “clapping and cheering” at President Trump’s most potentially offensive remarks are patently false and the video of the rally bears that truth out.

Thank you for calling me Sunday afternoon and I am glad that we had an opportunity to discuss this matter in a cordial and fraternal way. I am always very grateful for your support and encouragement and I for my part renew my promise to you that I will strive to be a consolation to you in my faithfulness to the Church and my loyalty to you as my religious superior as we await the appointment of our next bishop.

Sincerely Yours in Christ,

Rev. Kevin Christofferson

 

The adversarial nature of this letter, I submit, is not to apologize, but to justify a broach of clerical policy and good sense. I sense- in this man I have never met- a hardness of heart that defies the Gospel of Jesus of Nazareth. This priest has embraced the notion of Divine Providence to endorse a candidate and the President he has become.

Funny, I never heard that much about Divine Providence when Barack Obama won two Presidential elections with more of the popular vote than the man now occupying the Oval Office….

It is very clear- by my positions on social media and elsewhere- that there are political policies I support and political policies and actions that I don’t support, but standing up for an accused sexual predator who has pardoned criminals who have violated the morals and principles of this country’s founding makes my head spin.

This should not go away.

MIN Pride Service Homily

This is from the Montana Interfaith Network’s Pride worship service this morning.

Pride is a weird word for me. As a priest in the Christian tradition, pride is the name of the sin that CS Lewis calls “the original sin… the complete anti-God state of mind.” As a therapist, I know the word pride to be the word that best expresses self-acceptance and self-respect. As a gay man, Pride is the word that says there is nothing wrong with my sexuality, gender expression, or how I see the world.

I think there’s some truth in all definitions.

Within the Judaeo-Christian tradition, pride is deeply attached to the concept of Original Sin. Remember the story of Adam and Eve eating from the fruit of the tree because it would make them like God? That, in my opinion, is the teller’s way of saying that it is an unfortunate part of human nature that would seek power over compassion, power over reality. In short, it means I want to throw the Creator on the bonfire of history, I want to be the most powerful being in the world, I don’t care about other human beings. It is me, me, me. And that is repulsive to us in the Judaeo-Christian world- especially as it relates to reality. Ideally, Christians and Jews realize that all people need compassion. All people need to be welcomed and cared for and loved. Ideally- it is far from the facts of genocide, racial prejudice and prejudice against LGBTQ persons. It’s happening because people are more interested in power than in each other.

AS a therapist, I believe that part of my job is to help my patients see their inherent worth and value in the human family. Believing that I am worthy of respect, consideration and compassion and love is not a sinful way of being- it’s in so many of our traditions. All religious traditions have tenets promoting the dignity of every human being. The problem is, they’ve forsaken those traditions for having power. “I’m better than you” is the message of the early Christian missionaries to the Native Americans. “I’m better than you” is the message of too many religious communities to marginalized and misunderstood people. “I’m better than you” falsely inflates the rhetoric that there are a limited number of ways that human beings can glorify their Creator. “I’m better than you” makes it ok to abuse, dehumanize and even kill. That is not the way of the God I know. It is not the way of the God Jesus knew. In fact, it flies in the face of everything Christian.

Do you remember 1 Corinthinas 13? It’s read at almost every wedding in the universe- it was read at my own wedding. It is that important. Let me refresh your memory.

 

 “If I speak in the tongues of mortals and of angels, but do not have love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give away all my possessions, and if I hand over my body so that I may boast,[a] but do not have love, I gain nothing.

Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

Love never ends. But as for prophecies, they will come to an end; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will come to an end. For we know only in part, and we prophesy only in part; 10 but when the complete comes, the partial will come to an end. 11 When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child; when I became an adult, I put an end to childish ways. 12 For now we see in a mirror, dimly,[b] but then we will see face to face. Now I know only in part; then I will know fully, even as I have been fully known. 13 And now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; and the greatest of these is love.”

Paul is saying that anything without love is BS.

Paul is saying that Love is the most important thing of all.

Which is what Jesus said.

So if you believe in love, you will not believe when people tell you that you are less than, that you’re not good enough, that you’re deviants, that you’re an abomination ( a word that doesn’t exist in Hebrew, btw) that God HATES YOU- which, if you think about it, is ridiculous and impossible- if you believe it, you’re not living the life that God calls us to be.

We are called to be love. I remind myself of this by reading the passage this way:

I am patient, I am kind, I am not envious or boastful or rude. I do not insist on my own way, nor am I irritable or resentful. I do not rejoice in wrongdoing, I rejoice in the truth. I bear what I am given, I believe what is reasonable, I rejoice in the truth. I love.

And that is what makes us human. It is what makes us real to those who hate us. It is the only way forward.

Love rejoices in the truth.

And the truth is this: we are wonderfully and purposefully made-

to show the world how to love.

And God knows we’ve had to try to love a lot of very difficult people.

Easter Vigil Homily

Easter Vigil 2018

St James Episcopal Church, Bozeman, MT

“This is the Night.”

The night we celebrate all of salvation history and the ancient Christian tradition of waiting through the night for the Dawn of the Resurrection. Light is of course, the predominant symbol of the Great Easter vigil. We watch it pierce the darkness as the Christ Candle moves through the church, growing stronger with the candles being lit from it in its wake. It is the night that we celebrate the light of Jesus Risen and his message of Love, Inclusion, Mercy and Peace.

This is the night where we celebrate several revolutionary moments; that women were the first to discover the empty tomb and that Jesus first appears not to Simon Peter, and not to any of the male Apostles but to Mary Magdalene. A woman. By gender, of very low status in the ancient world. It is slightly improved today, but women are still held down by men in almost every society. It’s as if we have forgotten that Jesus never excluded women from being disciples, and never forbid them from speaking to him.

This is the night when we realize that the Original Sin of seeking the Love of Power is overcome and vanquished by the Power of Love.

This is the night that links us with 2,000 years of Christian history- some of it good, some of it horrible. The Church has always lost its way when it has sought power in this world and forgotten to be humble, merciful hard workers for the Gospel of Love. But through it all the Holy Spirit sustains us still.

This is the night when we are once again reminded that we are “to seek Christ in all persons, loving our neighbors as ourselves”, and we promise “to strive for justice and peace among all people, and respect the dignity of EVERY human being.”

This is the night that we remember that God is not found in power, but in the powerless. God is always with the poor, the marginalized, the persecuted, the imprisoned, the diseased, and those with no voice. Human beings may abandon each other- just as the Apostles abandoned Jesus- but God is always with them. If you wish to meet God, go meet those lowly people. Jesus did.

This is the night that we raise our voices in song to proclaim the goodness of creation, and the Goodness of God in Word and Eucharist. Where we take in the ancient words and celebrate the Lord’s Supper.

But I think, most importantly, this is the Night in which we promise to be more like Jesus- a light to the world. Why is that important? Our world needs it now as much as ever. People are polarized, afraid, angry. We are distressed by the cruelty and violence that is inflicted in the name of politics, of religion, of money and power and greed.

The exact opposite of the message of Jesus.

This is the night we vow, for another year, to listen to the better angels of our nature- and hopefully those angels reflect the words of the angel in the Gospel,  “Do not be afraid.”

This is THE night.

The night the Light is celebrated, praised and promised- a Light that the Darkness can never overcome!

No Montana HIV Organizations applied for a Pride Foundation Grant This Year

  • I have to say that I’m very disappointed that thousands of dollars available were simply not applied for in Montana for HIV prevention and treatment dollars,

Lets get our act together, people,

Hospitality Is the Best of Humanity

Nearly all of the world’s faith traditions call their faithful to protect and offer hospitality to immigrants. Judeo Christian scriptures urge adherents time and again to welcome the stranger and offer special care for widows and orphans. We are called to welcome our immigrant sisters and brothers with compassion, and to keep families together, regardless of faith or place of birth.

Yet, in communities across our nation, including in Montana, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security routinely employs Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents who subvert protocols and training, and terrorize citizenry with arbitrary practices which threaten to destroy the trust that local leaders have built with their communities and should have with local police. As a result, immigrant families and those connected to them may not ask for help or report crimes, fearing the repercussions if local law enforcement would turn them in to immigration officials.

Many methods promoted by the Department of Homeland Security tear apart families, rend the fabric of our communities, and threaten policies that would harm our local economies. Many such policies and actions are also opposed by a majority of U.S. citizens. The Montana Interfaith Network questions budgets which further fund suffering and hate. With the Rev. Jim Wallis of the Sojourners community, of Washington, D.C., we see budgets as moral documents. From private households to municipal, state and federal levels, the way we designate our common resources indicates where our priorities lie, as families, cities and as a nation. Will we designate our common resources and tax dollars for efforts that promote fear, threaten public safety and destroy families? As interfaith leaders, our traditions call instead for us to treat each other with dignity, compassion and peace.

For these reasons, the Montana Interfaith Network urges our national representatives to oppose any expansion of funding to the Department of Homeland Security. Our federal budget should reflect the values of compassion and peace, lift up families and support thriving communities. As Montanans, we do not want our common resources spent on suffering, hate, and division. We are our brother and sisters’ keeper. We belong to each other. No matter where someone came from or how they arrived in the United States, their life is of value and they deserve to be treated with dignity and compassion.

We ask for an end to budget policies that would further current Department of Homeland Security efforts that incite fear and division, and we urge our federal lawmakers to deny further funding of Immigration and Customs Enforcement practices that do more harm than good. Let’s instead designate those common resources, our tax dollars, towards the things that makes us thrive like education, bridges and disaster response, care for our veterans and seniors, and maintaining this beautiful landscape that all of us call home.

In Solidarity,

Montana Interfaith Network

Clergy to Daines: Healthcare is vital

Signatures:
1) Montana Interfaith Network
Direct Contact: Executive Director Rev D Gregory Smith, STL, MA
montanainterfaithnetwork@gmail.com
406-442-5506

2) Bishop Karen P. Oliveto
The United Methodist Church
ExecAssist@MountainSkyUMC.org
303.733.0083

3) Rev. Dr. Marc Ian Stewart
Conference Minister
MT-NWy Conference United Church of Christ
marc@mnwcucc.org
406.657.0822

As leaders within our faith communities, we hold a deep respect for human life and recognize the inherent dignity of each person, regardless of his or her economic status. At our churches, we especially preach about upholding the dignity of all people: the poor, the sick, the imprisoned, the elderly, the hungry, the immigrant, and so on.

Because our faith calls us to care for others, we find the Senate GOP health care plan, the Better Care Reconciliation Act, reprehensible. Health care is a life or death matter. This unjust plan is destined to cause many members of our delegations undue hardship and suffering.

Senators who support this bill will be voting to take away health insurance from the elderly, the disabled, and children. Medical bills often drive families, especially those who struggle to make ends meet, into hunger and poverty. These families we speak of are our friends and neighbors whom we see each Sunday to gather in prayer and reflection.

Even with a longer timeline to phase out funding, the GOP health care plan would dismantle Montana’s Medicaid program. We know this program serves as a lifeline for many across the state. Currently Medicaid provides coverage for one in every three children in Montana. Medicaid also offers critical health services for people of all ages with disabilities to stay in their homes and live with dignity.

Where will these families go when they no longer have coverage and access to care? Where can our friends and neighbors turn when rural clinics are shuttered and small-town health programs are eliminated?

As people of faith, we believe health is a community value. Cold, virus, plague, disability, and death are not something we experience as individuals but are something we experience and react to through our schools, work places, health care networks, ecosystems, and faith communities. Our holy texts often describe ‘healing’ as a return to community, and this leads me to believe that caring for others in their time of need stands as the cornerstone of a strong community. In our congregations, we help our neighbors. We do the very best we can to help each other during hard times and serve our communities. While prayer, pastoral care, and loving friends are critical for holistic health, they cannot replace quality, life-saving, life-sustaining medical care.

On the topic of the health care debate, Senator Daines has said, “Government should serve the people it’s meant to serve.” Unfortunately, the Senate GOP attempt at a health care plan prioritizes excessive accumulation of wealth for the most powerful at the expense of ordinary people’s lives, health, and wellbeing.

This is not the faithful way forward. Our faith challenges us to heal the sick and care for the most vulnerable in our society. This Republican bill does the opposite. We urge our Senators to vote NO on the Better Care Reconciliation Act. Instead of making our health care system less accessible to those who need coverage most, Congress should strive to improve the system so that all Americans have the health care coverage they need. Lives are at stake.

Why Gay Rights are not Special Rights

First off: the fact that I have to write this out is problematic for me- this falls under the category of “General Sense of Decency” for me, but here goes.

I was born a gay male, with dark brown hair and hazel eyes. I don’t like cauliflower or the color orange. I am interested in psychology, spirituality, social justice and equal rights for all human beings. I like chocolate- but not really bitter dark chocolate. Why?

It’s a mystery.

There are many mysteries about our humanity, but sexuality isn’t one of them. Science is on my side: I was born attracted to other men. I know that because I certainly wouldn’t have chosen this difficult life for myself. I can’t help what piques my curiosity or interest. It just happens.

There’s an excitement that happens when we see an attractive person- that’s how we know they’re attractive. I can honestly say that I have never felt that for a woman. I tried. but I realized that going against nature is a waste of time.

My church respects me. My Federal Government (for now) respects me. My State can’t be bothered to get to know me.

Or else it wouldn’t have so callously dismissed HB417.

A bill that would add a few words to take away the significant pain that LGBTQA Montanans are feeling (and if you love an LGBTQ person, you’re the “A”).  As a psychotherapist, I am privy daily to stories of LGBTQ persons feeling disrespected, feeling afraid of an uncertain future. It breaks my heart. And as a Christian, I have to wonder why our culture is so willing to promote and add to the pain of another human being?

Monsters are the only things that do that- and I need to believe the people of Montana are not monsters.

This is an easy fix- adding a few words.
A few words will be a step toward decreasing pain in the lives of thousands of Montanans. And it’s there, believe me.

Being gay is who I am- it is not a choice (who would choose to be so discriminated against?). And being who I am should be good enough to add me and my brothers and sisters to the Montana Human Rights Act.

If a landlord refused to rent to me because I am an Episcopal priest, they would be in legal trouble. Ditto if I was refused service because of my race, national origin, beliefs or disability. But as a gay man, I have little recourse.

Back in graduate psychology, I learned that a hallmark of bullying is exclusion. By definition, this exclusion of LGBTQIA persons from The Montana Human Rights Act is bullying with legislation.

It must stop.