Monthly Archives: February 2011

Reader Survey Results

This is a highly unscientific attempt to see what the readers of this blog think.  Actually, I am curious about the correlation between religious affiliation and political affiliation.  During a coffee shop discussion yesterday, I discussed American Grace: How Religion Divides and Unites Us with my friend Phil.  This book explores similar issues in depth and suggests there has been a change in America in the last generation in that various religious groups have become politically homogeneous.  That is, if one belongs to xyz denomination, then there is a strong probability that such a person also belongs to abc political party.  Such a strong correspondence between religious affiliation and political affiliation is a new phenomenon, according to this book.

This may be a flop due to small sample size, but let’s have a go of it.  If meaningful results are obtained, I will publish and we can have a discussion.  To increase sample size, please forward to your friends.


Guess what?  The readership of Spirit of a Liberal blog tends to be liberal.  That’s hardly shocking, but I am a bit surprised at how overwhelming that proved to be in this survey.  Here are key results:

76 % ELCA.  No other denomination had more than 3%

An even split between clergy and laity when seminarians were considered clergy.

63% Democrat, 31% independent, 6% Republican

67% male, 33% female

67% age 45 or older

Support gay clergy 80%, against gay clergy 11%, conflicted opinion 9%

Support marriage equality 76%, support civil unions but not right to marry, 19%, against both gay marriage and civil unions 3%, conflicted 2%

I think this last finding is the most revealing.  Even for those who said they were against gay clergy, 70% supported either gay marriage or civil unions.  Similarly, self-identified Republicans supported either gay marriage or civil unions by 80% to 20%.

Add a comment if you have more specific questions.  The poll remains open for now so go ahead and take the survey if you haven’t yet done so.

Happy Valentine’s Day but don’t get married

St. ValentineValentine’s day has become a secular celebration of romantic love especially beneficial for vendors of chocolate candy, flowers, and jewelry, but the secular observance has its origins in the Christian feast of St. Valentine. 

Who was St. Valentine?  Turns out there were numerous early Roman martyrs of that name (“Valens” was very common), but the one executed and buried on February 14th, circa 270 CE is the best known, but that’s not saying a lot, and there are other candidates and traditions.

Systemic Roman persecution of Christians was at its height in the latter half of the third century, spilling over into the fourth, until the time of Constantine when the situation was reversed.  It was in this staunchly anti-Christian milieu that Valentine was convicted and executed for aiding Christians, including the unspeakable crime of performing marriage ceremonies between Christian couples. 

According to

One legend contends that Valentine was a priest who served during the third century in Rome. When Emperor Claudius II decided that single men made better soldiers than those with wives and families, he outlawed marriage for young men — his crop of potential soldiers. Valentine, realizing the injustice of the decree, defied Claudius and continued to perform marriages for young lovers in secret. When Valentine’s actions were discovered, Claudius ordered that he be put to death.

Eight months ago, I attended the Annual Conference of the Wisconsin United Methodists in the delightful river city of La Crosse, under the bluffs of the Mississippi and gateway to the Coulee Country of Wisconsin.  I was there as a vendor to sell and sign copies of my novel, and my booth happened to be placed right next to the booth for Kairos Co Motion, which is a Wisconsin-based, Methodist,  LGBT advocacy group.  Over the course of three days, I had plenty of time to visit with the folks who staffed that booth, including Pastor Amy DeLong the executive director.  At the end of the Convention, Kairos sponsored a luncheon, followed by a Eucharist service, and I was privileged to attend as a guest of my new-found friends. 

During that luncheon, Pastor Amy reported that she would likely be brought before an ecclesiastical court for the crime of performing a Holy Union ceremony for a lesbian couple.  Like pastors everywhere, she had filed a year end report of her activities (baptisms, burials, marriages, etc.), and she openly reported the Holy Union of the lesbian couple.  Called before her bishop (who was largely supportive), she refused to recant or fudge what she had done (by re-submitting a sanitized report that didn’t mention that the couple was lesbian).

“I need to be honest about their love and their relationship,” Pastor Amy said (I paraphrase).  “To fail to acknowledge the full truth would diminish them and me.”

Val and Rev AmyAmy’s trial, which will determine her future as an ordained pastor of the United Methodist Church, is scheduled for April 11, 2011.  At issue in the trial will be the Holy Union as well as Pastor Amy’s own relationship with Val, her partner of fifteen years.  A website has been created to follow Amy’s case at Love on Trial

As a side note, largely in response to the pending trial, a significant group of retired UMC bishops has issued a statement urging the UMC to remove its ban on gay clergy.   “Retired Bishop Neil L. Irons, the executive secretary of the Council of Bishops, said this is the first time in his memory when this many retired bishops have released a public statement such as this.”

“We believe the God we know in Jesus is leading us to issue this counsel and call — a call to transform our church life and our world,” says the “Statement of Counsel to the Church – 2011”.

“The statement is the result of a prayerful consideration of the Bible, the church’s Wesleyan heritage and the bishops’ experience and “conviction of God’s intention for a world transformed,” the document says.

A Wretched Man novel survey results

On January 31, we sent a survey to gauge reader response to A Wretched Man novel.  Of course, the survey was limited to those on the email list.  Unfortunately, we do not have email addresses for the anonymous folks who have purchased the book through Amazon, Barnes and Noble, bookstores, etc.  By necessity, the survey was limited to a select audience whose email addresses were known.   Please join the list by clicking the button at the bottom.

The response was overwhelming.  Thanks to all of you who participated.

Here are the results: 

  • The overall reader rating of the novel was 4.3 on a scale of 1 to 5.
  • Favorite part was split very evenly, but the humanization of the characters was at the top of the list and geography and setting was at the bottom.
  • Did readers like the scene depicting the Damascus road experience?  81% yes, 19% no.
  • Did readers like the ending?  96% yes, 4% no.
  • Did readers think the book would work well for a group discussion? 97% yes, 3% no.

Some survey participants added comments, but due to sheer volume, they cannot be reprinted here.  We have set up a page on the website that includes all of them, uncensored and unedited.  Click here to read them.

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Listen to the children

I had coffee recently with the chaplain of St. Olaf, one of Northfield’s private, liberal arts colleges and an ELCA school with deep roots in American Lutheranism.  His student based congregation is a Reconciling in Christ (RIC) congregation (open and affirming toward gays), but he said that status is old hat.  Gay rights, including gay clergy and marriage equality, are no longer issues for this generation, he said.  A fait accompliDe facto if not yet de jure.  As baby boomers like me argue, this generation has moved on.

Just last week, a lesbian couple in the twin cities, after first being banned from processing together in a high school social, were welcomed enthusiastically by fellow students.   Last fall, another twin cities student, a gay youth whose article in the school newspaper was banned, was later elected homecoming king.  By the example of their experience, they hasten the inevitable change that is becoming matter-of-fact.

Another young man spoke eloquently recently about his personal experience.  The nineteen year old college student from Iowa spoke before a legislative committee that is considering a constitutional amendment to overturn a ruling by the Iowa Supreme Court a couple of years ago authorizing gay marriage.  This high-achieving student spoke of his experience of growing up with two moms.

Hear him speak.