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

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

The Divide of LGBT Marriage Equality for the Church

While I can appreciate the wisdom of silence of David Fitch's article below, it seems the church might chose the route of voicing its care and love in need to the hour at hand. To be quiet on the issue of homosexuality is to mislead those on either side of the issue. Rob Bell's outspokenness for the church to own up to the sexual brokenness around itself is a clarion bell of solidarity to the harmed and unloved excluded from fellowship and ministry.

Consequently, we must recognize that there are some within the outreach and ministries of the church who are legitimately GLBT by image and by nature. They cannot be other than themselves. To these we must say, "Enter into God's love and fellowship" without exclusion or enmity. But to those hetero-sexuals and homo-sexuals wantonly engaging in adulterous relationships we do still recognize this activity as biblical sin falling into the ranks of lust, pride and hedonism. Which is no less a sin than the sin of greed, libel, lying, cheating, ill-compassion, anger, or unkindness, if we are counting sins. As such, we should look no further than the log in our own eye instead of to the sins of others.

So, then, I give two reports today, and let you, the reader decide to which persuasion you may fall. I would also urge a fuller reading of the comments pertaining to each article in order to apprehend a fuller persuasion one way or another. I have only included a select few, trying to avoid making this discussion a Rob-issue but rather a church v. cultural issue as we have in past articles (sic, see sidebar below).

For myself, I must choose the route of compassion for those innocents around us, unloved and berated, without voice or help. Jesus went to the same - to those rejected by the Jews - and spoke to each God's love, blessings, and peace. Let us  do the same as followers of Jesus.

R.E. Slater
March 19, 2013

Rob Bell and Marriage Equality
by Scot McKnight
March 18, 2013
From HuffPo, by Greg Carey:

This Sunday Rob Bell spoke at San Francisco’s Grace Cathedral and openly endorsed marriage equality. Grace Cathedral is the Episcopal Cathedral of the Diocese of California, and I thank Julie Harris, Assistant Director of Marketing and Communications, for alerting me to his message (audio here). Bell was speaking to the Cathedral’s Grace Forum in an appearance presented in partnership with his publisher, HarperCollins.
In response to a question regarding same-sex marriage, Bell said, “I am for marriage. I am for fidelity. I am for love, whether it’s a man and woman, a woman and a woman, a man and a man. I think the ship has sailed and I think the church needs — I think this is the world we are living in and we need to affirm people wherever they are.”

Bell went on to say that while it used to be fair to equate evangelicals with social conservatism, that assumption no longer holds true. More pointedly, he said, “I think we are witnessing the death of a particular subculture that doesn’t work. I think there is a very narrow, politically intertwined, culturally ghettoized, Evangelical subculture that was told “we’re gonna change the thing” and they haven’t. And they actually have turned away lots of people. And i think that when you’re in a part of a subculture that is dying, you make a lot more noise because it’s very painful. You sort of die or you adapt. And if you adapt, it means you have to come face to face with some of the ways we’ve talked about God, which don’t actually shape people into more loving, compassionate people. And we have supported policies and ways of viewing the world that are actually destructive*. And we’ve done it in the name of God and we need to repent.”

When the Very Rev. Jane Shaw attempted to get Bell to take a firm position as to whether Christians “know” the truth in some ultimate sense, Bell veered in a different direction. “I would say that the powerful, revolutionary thing about Jesus’ message is that he says, ‘What do you do with the people that aren’t like you? What do you do with the Other? What do you do with the person that’s hardest to love?’ . . . That’s the measure of a good religion, is – you can love the people who are just like you; that’s kind of easy. So what Jesus does is takes the question and talks about fruit. He’s interested in what you actually produce. And that’s a different discussion. How do we love the people in the world that are least like us?”

*I linked AlterNet's article above, that if true, is yet another form of purposeful destruction by well-meaning Christians who have seriously mis-evaluated the political arenas into which they have interjected themselves. Coming out on the side of international oppression and injustice, serious maltreatment and harmful ruin to women and gays, their families and friends, instead of on the side of God's love and mercy. Something we cannot support nor overlook.

- R.E. Slater

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Select Comments
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Matt says:
This topic is the dividing line that has emerged most strongly within evangelicalism these days. I plan to listen to Rob’s words online, but can anyone clarify if he is addressing this from a biblical/theological perspective or cultural/political perspective?

Some may disagree with my division here, but I think it is very relevant to our discussion. Even in the comments given so far, it seems clear that we may be approaching the topic from very different angles.

Joe says:
Mar 18, 2013 @ 16:43 at 4:43 PM

I agree with those who concur with Bell’s conclusion but who are concerned about how he got there. While it is true that the world is moving on with respect to gay marriage and leaving the Church behind, that is not necessarily a good reason for the Church to change.

On the other hand, I believe there are some solid theological reasons for the Church to support (or at least not oppose) state-sanctioned same-sex marriage. For me, it is a simple application of the Jesus Creed. The state sanctioning same sex marriage has nothing to do with what Christians believe about the morality of homosexuality.

More to the point, it’s probably about time the Church severed the connection between state-sanctioned marriage and Church-sanctioned marriage. This has always been an unholy alliance and there is no better reason than this to do what should have been done a long time ago.

Kim says:
Mar 18, 2013 @ 16:54 at 4:54 PM

[Quote] - “We cease to be the Church when we allow society to change our values. We are not counter-cultural.”

I’m not sure opposition to marriage equality was Jesus’ dearest desire for us in the way of being counter-cultural. He didn’t mention it.  Jesus did, however, talk about turning the other cheek, love for enemy, radical grace toward the other, loving others as much as we love ourselves, and more. If we lived these out we would be counter cultural in the extreme.

Andrew says:
Mar 19, 2013 @ 8:17 at 8:17 AM

MatthewS; Jesus only called people out for their wrong actions and hypocrisy... he never tore someone down simply because they were born a certain way. His one statement about about “not giving to the dogs (non-Jews)” he ended up correcting himself.

I don’t understand the fuss about gay marriage b/c logically the arguments against it don’t hold up, so then you end up appealing to Scripture. And appealing to Scripture against sound logic/scientific knowledge is one reason why young people are leaving Christianity in droves. A majority of scientific literature points to homosexual attraction having genetic roots. That also makes sense to me given that I personally have no “hidden desire” for homosexual sex, and most of the gay people I’ve known came from good families (i.e., it wasn’t a byproduct of abuse/poor upbringing etc.)

So if a minority of people are naturally born a certain way, why not affirm healthy choices they make with other people of that makeup? That’s the fundamental question. Until a conservative evangelical can adequately address that, they will continue to be trounced in this debate.

Phil says:
A man who abuses his wife does not need affirmation where he’s at, nor does a man who refuses to provide for his family due to being lazy or substance-addicted.
I do think that there is room for interpretation in regards to what Bell meant with his statement, but on its face, Rob did not say that we need to affirm people’s behavior whatever it is, but rather, he said, “we need to affirm people wherever they are”. There is a difference between those two statements. People do need affirmation. Even the person who is living in open rebellion against God can be affirmed in the sense that we can affirm that they are loved by God and God sees them as having infinite worth.

That’s the thing about unconditional love. It ceases to be unconditional once we add an “if” to it. Now if someone wants to talk about whether certain behaviors are the best or most God-honoring, sure let’s have that conversation. But let’s only have that conversation if we agree that we make it about all of us, not just about some of us.

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Why You Shouldn't Have a Position
by David Fitch
March 18, 2013

Taking a public stance on homosexuality does more missional harm than good.

One of the best discussions I’ve had in a long time happened on Facebook over the weekend. It was a discussion about the ‘dreaded’ issue of Christianity, the church, and LGBTQ sexual relations. The discussion started with my statement which was something like:
To the question, “What is your position on LGBTQ?” I think the best answer (in these times) is “we have no position” The question itself misses the point of any other answer? Agree?
To which I got good fruitful pushback from all sides. I was “abnegating!” I was doing the equivalent of “standing aside and being silent during the civil rights movement.” “There is no neutral on this!” some said. From this discussion, I came away with four points that need clarifying as to how/why someone would say “I have no position.” These four points push us as Christians (no matter what sexual issues we are involved in at this time) toward a new posture regarding alternative sexualities that opens doors for mission and God’s Kingdom to break in.


By taking a non-position to this question, we are not feigning neutrality. We are refusing to either single out a particular person’s sexual brokenness as an issue above others, or act like there is no sexual brokenness at all in any of us. Instead, our position is that we are ALL in some way or another sexually broken and moving toward maturity in Christ, and this means that we all submit our brokenness to the healing and reconciling work of Christ in the context of Christian community?

When we take “positions,” we buy into anti-relational dynamics which thwart God’s Kingdom. We see people as categories rather than individuals. Conceptualizing distances us from the people Christ loves. By refusing to make an aprior judgment against anyone, we are in essence saying the only prejudgment is that we are all sexually broken and we come seeking redemption. And if you are sexually whole and have no need for redemption, you are blessed. But we who are broken come as real people in real situations to submit together to what God is doing in and among us. This to me is the opening of space for God’s Kingdom to break in on any issue.


Taking a position on the LGBTQ issue feeds the political conditions that have made sexual orientation a person's primary identity. So, evangelicals who make public statements about their position of not affirming LGBTQ relations, are in effect reinforcing what they deny. They lift LGBTQ above other sexual issues, and make it the one issue. Likewise, the progressive Christians do the same when they lift up LGBTQ relations as a banner issue, ignoring all the other sexual issues of our time. This works against God in Christ doing anything different among us and our sexual lives. In essence, by playing into the elevation of LGBTQ as a “position,” we cement the status quo firmly in place with all its antagonisms. The state of our sexual lives, including any and all sexual pathologies that may exist among us, are now firmly in place. We get nowhere. There is no open space for sexual redemption. On the other hand, to not take a position, in effect creates space for a whole new conversation, a space for a new dynamic (what I would seek as the Kingdom of God). Sadly, my guess is, neither side wants this.


Posting one’s “position” (any position) as Christians to outsiders in a culture which does not understand who we are or why we do what we do is communication-suicide. It can only be misunderstood as judgment and hate. Instead, we must have a compelling way of life, a richness to our sexual purposes, as displayed in a way of life (the way we marry and have children, and the way we incorporate singles into families) from which to speak to others about God’s redemptive work in sexuality. People in these post-Christendom days in the West need to be on the inside to make sense of our thick descriptions of God’s sexual order. This means the church in the West must first cultivate our own sexual faithfulness as a way of life. For instance, Christians do not believe sex is for self-satisfaction or personal-fulfillment. It is for mutual self-giving and ultimate pro-creation. The fact that this does not make sense to the outsider (even in our own churches) means that the church must first live this, and then offer it as an embodied witness, communicate it to people we come into contact with who ask, “What manner of life is this?” Again, we should focus on witness and refuse to take “positions.”


When I am living and intersecting with real people, or discussing sexual issues, I do not discern sin in other people’s lives when I do not know these people, when I am not in relationship with them, and I have not lived “with” them. I should refuse to take such “positions” mainly because (a) I do not even know these people, and (b) they do not know what I might mean by the word “sin” even if I did know them. Instead, I will only name sexual pathologies of my own life. I will testify of my own story of redemption. This is “witness.” I also will commit to sitting with people in my own Christian community whom I know and love, who share in the language and story of Christ, and can participate with me in the naming of sexual “pathologies” when we gather to mutually submit to the Spirit in prayer. This is good and important work, the inbreaking of the Kingdom as well. But here we have the language and posture to receive the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit in His Kingdom. Other than these situations, I refuse to name other people’s sin. This kind of work comes only after being “with” people.

For all these reasons, when I am asked “What is your position on LGBTQ sexual relations?” I respond by saying “I don’t have one.” What say you?

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Some Thots from Homebrewed Christianity
Rob Bell is Gay Affirming but not everyone is happy about it
Big Platforms Coming Out For Marriage Equality


... I have had a couple great conversations with some fellow young progressive Jesus lovers. They were bemoaning all the slow moves towards embracing the LGBT community and advocating for Same Sex Marriage. If you are supportive any move that direction could be a good one but sometimes you just want people to ‘break on through to the other side’ so we can spend our energy on bigger issues like justice & caring for the planet....


... 58% of the country is supportive of [same-sex marriage] (SSM). The longer the church continues to sound backwards and advocate against a human right they will continue to be dismissed when they describe a God who knows and loves all of humanity.

No one is bullied and shamed when we advocate for fidelity in covenants, forgiveness in relationships, healing & wholeness in our sexuality, or insist that a marriage & a home with parents is the ideal place to welcome a new child of God into the world.

When we get over this issue we can start doing real life ministry! Being a human is hard work. Being married is hard work. Being a parent is hard work. But it is also beautiful! So many of my GLTBQ brothers and sisters are left to outside of the church or are keeping silent within the church because too many Christian gate keepers miss the boat on marriage. I long for the day when the church is invested in the content and character of the marriage and the home it supports rather than the parts people use to celebrate their love in the bed room.

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