According to some Christian outlooks we were made for another world. Perhaps, rather, we were made for this world to recreate, reclaim, redeem, and renew unto God's future aspiration by the power of His Spirit. - R.E. Slater
Secularization theory has been massively falsified. We don't live in an age of secularity. We live in an age of explosive, pervasive religiosity... an age of religious pluralism. - Peter L. Berger
Exploring the edge of life and faith in a post-everything world. - Todd Littleton
I don't need another reason to believe, your love is all around for me to see. – anon
Thou art our need; and in giving us more of thyself thou givest us all. - Khalil Gibran, Prayer XXIII
Be careful what you pretend to be. You become what you pretend to be. - Kurt Vonnegut
Religious beliefs, far from being primary, are often shaped and adjusted by our social goals. - Jim Forest
People, even more than things, need to be restored, renewed, revived, reclaimed, and redeemed; never throw out anyone. – anon
Certainly God's love has made fools of us all. - R.E. Slater
An apocalyptic Christian faith doesn't wait for Jesus to come, but for Jesus to become in our midst. - R.E. Slater
Christian belief in God begins with the cross and resurrection of Jesus, not with rational apologetics. - Eberhard Jüngel, Jürgen Moltmann
Our knowledge of God is through the 'I-Thou' encounter, not in finding God at the end of a syllogism or argument. There is a grave danger in any Christian treatment of God as an object. The God of Jesus Christ and Scripture is irreducibly subject and never made as an object, a force, a power, or a principle that can be manipulated. - Emil Brunner
Ehyeh Asher Ehyeh means "I will be that who I have yet to become." - God (Ex 3.14)
Our job is to love others without stopping to inquire whether or not they are worthy. - Thomas Merton
The church is God's world-changing social experiment of bringing unlikes and differents to the Eucharist/Communion table to share life with one another as a new kind of family. When this happens we show to the world what love, justice, peace, reconciliation, and life together is designed by God to be. The church is God's show-and-tell for the world to see how God wants us to live as a blended, global, polypluralistic family united with one will, by one Lord, and baptized by one Spirit. – anon
The cross that is planted at the heart of the history of the world cannot be uprooted. - Jacques Ellul
The Unity in whose loving presence the universe unfolds is inside each person as a call to welcome the stranger, protect animals and the earth, respect the dignity of each person, think new thoughts, and help bring about ecological civilizations. - John Cobb & Farhan A. Shah
If you board the wrong train it is of no use running along the corridors of the train in the other direction. - Dietrich Bonhoeffer
God's justice is restorative rather than punitive; His discipline is merciful rather than punishing; His power is made perfect in weakness; and His grace is sufficient for all. – anon
Our little [biblical] systems have their day; they have their day and cease to be. They are but broken lights of Thee, and Thou, O God art more than they. - Alfred Lord Tennyson

Monday, January 23, 2012

Homosexuality: Paul and the Narrative of God's Love

I would refer the reader to this blog journal's sidebar Gay Rights and Marriage for additional discussions on homosexuality. I especially found helpful Justin Lee's interview on "A Gay Christian Responds to Christ and Culture."  Meanwhile, I hope to shortly begin following the Jesus/Paul blog tour by Daniel Kirk but am submitting here Mason Slater's review of one of Kirk's chapter's that continually needs highlighting as we go forward with the Gospel of Christ into all the world.

R.E. Slater
January 21, 2012

* * * * * * * * * * * * *

Paul, Homosexuality, and a Narrative of Love

by Mason Slater
January 19, 2012

“A Christian culture dominated by believing the right things about Jesus too often forgets that believing in Christ and walking in love are inseparable. In this case, followers of Jesus have too often forgotten that articulating a position on homosexuality does not in itself answer the questions: What does it mean to love my homosexual neighbor as myself? What does it look like for me to do unto my homosexual neighbor as I would have done to myself?”
For quite a while now Daniel Kirk’s Storied Theology has been one of my favorite blogs [really, you should be bookmarking it now, I’ll wait], so I was excited to learn he was going to share some of his work in narrative theology and Pauline studies in the book Jesus Have I Loved, but Paul? and agreed straight away when I was asked to participate in this blog tour.

The chapter I’m reflecting on is “Homosexuality Under the Reign of Christ” No easy task, as this is proving to be one of the most difficult issues facing the church today.

Daniel starts by laying out what the biblical text says about homosexuality, and honestly it’s not that much – far less than one would assume when you consider how much evangelicals in particular have tended to obsess over the issue.

Granted, what is said is uniformly negative, but even that is less straightforward than it might first appear. The infamous “abomination” line in Leviticus for example is hardly usable in current debates, as it comes in the midst of a whole list of other national laws that we no longer consider relevant, including another “abomination,” eating unclean foods (so next time you see someone eating a cheeseburger, haul out the protest signs).

The New Testament statements, almost exclusively from Paul, come in the midst of vice lists that lay out a classically Jewish diatribe against practices that are seen as the symptoms of paganism and idolatry. They do indeed portray homosexual acts in a negative light, a fact which Daniel insists we refuse to brush aside, but there is more going on linguistically and hermeneutically than we often want to admit.

So we are left with a picture of the Biblical testimony that is far more nuanced, and gives no justification for singling out homosexuality as somehow different or worse than any other sexual sin, but is still essentially negative.

Where do we go from there?

In the aside “Arguing for Homosexual Practice,” which is directed at those who affirm homosexuality either for textual reasons or because they believe the Spirit is doing something new in our day, Kirk suggests that if you take this path it must go hand in hand with the Biblical narrative of fidelity and lifelong commitment. So that GLBT affirming churches should at the same time fight against the cultural trends towards easy divorce and casual hookups.

But the real thesis of the chapter, the theme that (rightly I think) trumps everything else, is love.

Central to our calling as Christians is love of others, and it is here that much of the church has failed spectacularly in its approach towards the GLBT community.

Jesus sums up the entire law with “Love the Lord your God with all your … and, love your neighbor as yourself” and then when asked who this neighbor might be, Jesus tells a parable which turns all the audience’s expectations upside-down and shows a hated outsider as more faithfully following the way of Jesus than the religious insiders.
“No clearer story could be told to show us that our predilection for keeping our love restricted to ourselves runs counter to the way of Jesus. When we restrict our love to those who roughly fall within the boundaries of those who are living lives pleasing to God, or when we use biblical regulations as reasons for excluding ourselves from the duty of providing for a person in need, we violate the command to love our neighbor as ourselves.”
Daniel continues by bringing this story to bear on the discussion of homosexuality,
“the homosexual is the Christian’s neighbor, and Christian’s duty is to love homosexuals as ourselves. If the result of our biblical convictions is that we stand on the streets with “God Hates Fags” signs, we are not holding a Christian position but are using a Christian idea to prop up our rebellion against the life that Jesus calls us to.”
So what does it look like to love our homosexual neighbor as ourselves? The last few pages of the chapter wrestle with that admittedly complex question. I won’t delve into specifics at the moment, but the general thrust is this – is it loving the GLBT community as we would want to be loved if we deny them rights that we would never want others to deny to us?

We’ve failed miserably in our treatment this group of people, but the Christian narrative of love and self sacrifice might just point a way forward.

Daniel begins this chapter with a quote from Love, Love, Love

*Baker sent me a free copy of this book as a participant in the blog tour – no stipulations were made on the content of my review, but if you think I can be bought off with free books then this information might be relevant to you. And with that I think I’ve fulfilled my FTC obligations.*

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