Friday, November 4, 2011
Wednesday, August 31, 2011
Saturday, August 27, 2011
Monday, July 18, 2011
Saturday, May 7, 2011
Friday, April 22, 2011
When I was a child, I hated having my baby teeth pulled out. I was much happier with a bloody, gnarly, hanging-by-a-sinew mess than I was with the brief ounce of agony it took to make way for a new tooth to sprout.
Note: The third paragraph from the end owes much to some writing by Walter Brueggemann.
Wednesday, March 23, 2011
Yesterday I testified at the Texas House of Representatives Committee on Investments, Pensions and Financial Services about the need for payday lending reform in Texas. Below is a copy of my prepared remarks (my spoken testimony was a bit different):
Rev. Timothy B. Tutt
Pastor, United Christian Church
To the State of
Committee on Invesments, Pensions, and Financial Services
Regarding Payday Lending legislation
Tuesday, March 22, 2011
Madame Chairman, Members of the Committee:
Monday, March 21, 2011
Earlier today, I joined thirty or so of my minister colleagues at the State Capitol to express our support for changing current payday lending laws in Texas. Right now, payday lenders operate through a loophole in Texas law that allows them to charge any rate of fees and interest that they want without any oversight or regulation by the state. Following are my remarks, explaining the theological basis of our efforts:
Remarks by Reverend Timothy B. Tutt Pastor, United Christian Church,
- Jesus himself said, in Luke Chapter 6, “If you lend to those from whom you hope to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, to receive as much again. But…do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return.”
- “It is well with the [the person] who deals generously and lends; it is well with the one whose affairs are conducted with justice.” – Psalm 112:5
- “Whoever is generous to the poor lends to the Lord, and God will repay [that person] for [those] deeds.”- Proverbs 19:17
But the current practices of the payday lending industry are not reasonable.
The current practices are immoral, out of control, and predatory. Charging 500% interest violates any sense of decency and compassion and basic fairness.
This is not just a Christian issue or a Jewish issues. The sacred writings of Islam, Buddhism, and Hinduism are equally expressive.
We are not here today just to support good public policy.
We are not here today just to take part in the legislative process.
We are here today with the firm theological conviction that 500% interest is wrong. Charging people astronomical rates and fees is wrong. Trapping people in cycles of debt is wrong.
We are here today to speak a word of justice, to call for kindness, to remind ourselves and our elected officials that God cares how treat each other. God cares especially how we treat the poor and needy among us…and we should care as well.
* Texas Faith for Fair Lending is a statewide coalition of religious groups, working to reform predatory lending in Texas.
Wednesday, March 2, 2011
Yesterday, I testified at the State Capitol in support of anti-bulling legislation. Below is a copy of my testimony:
Testimony to the
Rev. Timothy Tutt, Pastor, United Christian Church,
March 1, 2011
In Support of H.B. 224
Mr. Chairman and Members of the Committee:
Thank you for holding a hearing on this important piece of legislation.
I am the father of two elementary school children and the pastor of United Christian Church here in
Two weeks ago, I received a phone call at our church office from a man who needed someone to talk to. For the sake of his confidentiality, let’s call him Bobby. Bobby told me he was a gay man. He said he had known he was gay since he was very young. He called me because he had some theological questions. Bobby told me the church he attended had told him he was a no-good sinner, that God hated him, and he was going to burn in hell. (We can save the theology of all of that for later.) But in the course of talking with him about these issues, he also told me that when he was young he was sexually abused by a family member. And he told me that all of his growing up years, he was taunted, harassed, belittled, and bullied by other students at school.
You know, Mr. Chairman and committee members, from reading the papers, and just from common sense, that this kind of experience is all too common.
What struck me as so sad in my phone call with Bobby was that he did not feel safe anywhere. He didn’t feel safe at his house of worship, at his home, or at school.
This bill, HB 224, that Mr. Strama has put forward, helps address part of the problem.
My wife works in the Pflugerville Schools, so I am glad to see this bill provides common sense ways to help teachers to identify and prevent bullying.
I am the parent of two elementary school aged kids, so I’m glad to see that this bill addresses text messages, cell phones, and other 21st century high-tech forms of bullying.
And, I think the reporting requirements in this bill are very important. When I get calls like the one I got from Bobby two weeks ago, or when I talk to people in my church office, I hear that people who have been harassed or abused or bullied often feel all alone in the world. Having the statistics available would help victims know that they are not alone in their circumstances. And the reports would help us, as citizens of
As I said, my wife works in a public school, and we have two elementary school aged children. Providing a safe learning environment is important for education. Addressing bullying is important for human dignity.
We can’t go back and undo the damage done to Bobby, the man who called me a couple of weeks ago. Our church can work to provide a safe place for him now. And by passing this legislation we can do our part to help today’s school children.
Wednesday, February 2, 2011
Monday, January 17, 2011
Friday, January 14, 2011
As a pastor, I take prayer seriously and try to pay attention to the words I speak and to the company in which I pray. But it never occurred to me that prayer is the kind of thing that talking heads on TV should dissect.
However, before the evening was out, television commentators and others were criticizing the professor's blessing:
- On Fox News, Brit Hume called the prayer "peculiar" and seemed to smirk at the ideas included.
- Blogger Michele Malkin said the Native American rambled and babbled. She followed that up with, "Mercy."
- The blog Power Line said the prayer was "some sort of Yaqui Indian tribal thing" that was "ugly."
These comments strike me as insensitive and intolerant. Let's imagine some other scenarios:
- What if an atheist commentator ridiculed a Christian praying to God as laughable?
- What if a Christian prayed using classical Trinitarian language and a Muslim blogger called it polytheism?
- What if a Native American said that Christian eucharistic prayers were cannibalistic?
And the religious liberty we need isn't some newfangled, touchy-feely, latter-day liberal concoction. It is rooted in the profound respect for the human conscience.
In 1920, Baptist pastor George W. Truett said in a famous sermon: "It is the natural and fundamental and indefeasible right of every human being to worship God or not, according to the dictates of his conscience, and, as long as he does not infringe upon the rights of others, he is to be held accountable alone to God for all religious beliefs and practices. Our contention is not for mere toleration, but for absolute liberty."
Seems to me, these commentators should have given the professor the liberty to let his prayer stand as his effort to connect with God according the dictates of his conscience.
Back to Truett's sermon. He was a man of his time. He went on to make what seem to me to be some rather intolerant broadsides in that same sermon.
However, he circled back round to his point to talk about those who sought religious liberty:
"They dared to be odd, to stand alone, to refuse to conform, though it cost them suffering and even life itself. They dared to defy traditions and customs, and deliberately chose the day of non conformity..."
So, while some critique, question and make fun of the religious traditions of others, at least those who take a different path have old Truett's blessing "to be odd, to stand alone, to refuse to conform."
Evidently, others agree with me. Because a group of Harley-riding, leather-wearing motorcyclists showed up at the funeral to honor the life of the child and to form a ring of protection around the mourners, keeping the protesters away.
Which just goes to show you -- human decency makes for strange bedfellows. I doubt this little girl had much interaction with motorcycle clubs. But in the face of grief and loss, a circle of human kindness was formed that goes beyond looks or customs and past connections.
A similar thing happened in Egypt last week.
On January 7, the Coptic Christian day to celebrate Christmas, a group of terrorists set off a bomb at a Coptic church. Thirty-one people were injured. (As an aside, the Muslim terrorists who set the bomb are the Egyptian equivalent of America's Westboro Baptists. Both groups pervert their respective faith traditions. They are intolerant cousins.)
Then, just as the motorcycle riders decided to help out at the funeral in Tuscon, an unlikely group stepped forth in Egypt -- a group of Muslims (numbering in the hundreds) showed up to escort the Coptic Christians to church, to stand vigil at their place of worship, and to offer solidarity.
Sadly, the strains of intolerance stretch around the globe -- from Westboro Baptist Church in Topeka to bombers in Egypt. (Parenthetically, I should say that it appears the Westboro group did not picket at the funeral because they got the publicity they wanted from the uproar.)
But, even more hopeful is the interesting connections between a group of motorcycle riders in Tuscon and a group of caring Muslims in Egypt. My hunch is some new friendships were formed between mourners and the motorcycle club who stood with them. And I imagine new friendships were formed between the Copts and the Muslims who walked to church with them.
Now, we need to get the Egyptian Muslims and the American Harley riders together to expand the circle.
Monday, January 10, 2011
In the sermons that I preached yesterday at the church I serve as pastor, I called for turning down the rhetoric in American today. I said we need to change the tone of our public discourse. I said we need to stop calling names, stop pointing fingers, and stop using derogatory terms for politicians, for ethnic groups, for opposing football teams, and for our neighbors.
My comments were not fully formed or very eloquent. My ideas were not unique to me. Pima County, AZ, Sheriff Clarence Dupnik, liberal commentator Keith Olbermann, a Republican U.S. Senator, and others said the same thing.
However, writing on slate.com, in an article entitled, "In Defense of Inflamed Rhetoric," Jack Shafer said, No, we don't to turn down the volume. He specifically took argument with Sheriff Dupnik's comments that vitriolic rhetoric can create problems.
I disagree with Mr. Shafer.
In defending over-the-top speech, Mr. Shafer said that neither he nor anybody else he knows has been led to acts of violence due to heated, inflammatory rhetoric. That's good. But Sheriff Dupnik’s eloquent, off-the-cuff statements weren’t about Mr. Shafer and other well-adjusted people. His comments were about “unbalanced” people – people like Saturday’s shooter, like Lee Harvey Oswald, like Timothy McVeigh, like James Earl Ray, like the 9/11 airplane highjackers. We all hear the same language. Some of us (hopefully) have the good sense to know that political rhetoric is just that, rhetoric – maybe it’s even a game to some.
However, not everyone is able to make that nuanced distinction. Some, sadly, take those words of violence and think they are calls to acts of violence. I think Sherriff Dupnik (and the sermon I preached yesterday) and other calls to “deflame” the rhetoric are efforts to call us to public accountability. Words matter. As a journalist Mr. Shafer should know that. As a preacher I need to remember that. The call to turn down the volume of our public discourse is simply a call to responsible civil speech and behavior.
Mr. Shafer also wrote that for as long he's been alive, crosshairs and bull’s eyes have been an accepted part of the political lexicon. Maybe so, but that is poor logic. My great-grandmother could have written that for as long as she lived it was accepted to not let African-Americans vote. That doesn't make it right. Just because we’ve always done it that way, doesn’t mean that’s the way it should be done.
Third, Mr. Shafer wrote that, "Any call to cool 'inflammatory' speech is a call to police all speech." Not so. Just because I urge someone not to engage in a certain behavior does not mean I want their behavior monitored or made illegal. Mr. Shafer's statement there seems to cross the line between understanding the difference between 'can' and 'ought.' Jack Shafer, Sarah Palin, Keith Olbermann and most anyone have the right to say most anything at most any volume. That doesn’t mean they should say it. I don’t want anyone’s speech to be policed by anyone other than the speaker.
Finally, a nine year-old child was killed Saturday. Five other people are dead. A young Congresswoman lies gravely injured. A dozen or so others are injured. All due to a violent outburst. Yet Mr Shafer publicly supports violent imagery. And he caps his support with an offer to punch someone’s lights out.
His comments seem poorly thought-through, horribly ill-timed, and painfully insensitive.