According to some Christian outlooks we were made for another world. Perhaps, rather, we were made for
this world to recreate, reclaim, 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

Monday, October 20, 2014

Speaking Words of Peace and Love to Gay Christians




Inevitably the discussion came up from a sincere but older church member. Not unexpectantly because our church had just taken a very public stand two weeks ago to "welcome and embrace" gay Christians without condemnation, judgment, or negativity.

It was the right thing to do. The moral and civilly right thing to do, in a day-and-age that demands greater broad-mindedness from Christian churches and their congregants.

But not necessarily the popular thing to do when so many traditional Christians still are asking very fundamental questions about the subject itself.

And thus today's newest published index, along with an article speaking to the homosexual verses of the Bible, to help those interested brothers and sisters move towards a more conciliatory opinion on a very delicate subject.

A subject that over the years has been so inflammatory within its Christian assemblies and Bible fellowships supposedly united in Christ by love and forgiveness until zealous congregant speaks up and declares with indisputable biblical knowledge, "This is sin!"

And so, the question came. "What do you think of homosexuality and the Bible?"

A long pause then ensued as I gathered myself up for some kind of weak response to gauge where the questioner may be headed in his/her forthcoming statements.

And with as few words as possible I quietly replied, "Well, I'm fairly liberal on the subject." Hoping that by using the word liberal I might encourage a fairer response while discouraging a litany of bible verses sure to come.

A third person within our circle quickly became horrified by my response to a very dignified and respected Christian friend's searching question. Forthrightly this dear individual quickly jumps onto the side of the initial inquirer to bluntly announce, "He's (me) much more liberal than I am. I'm on y-o-u-r side! The Bible is clear. Homosexuality is a sin!"

"Well, so much for that," I thought. The die-had-been-cast and the discussion can go no further except as a debate between personal positions and assertions. Nothing will be learned because nothing can be learned. And I moved to walk away from our group a little disappointed by the promising start.

* * * * * * * * * * *

To debate the Bible for the Bible's sake is one thing. It's always good to honestly share with one another our beliefs and misgivings, our concerns and fears. But too many of us too soon forget how destructive our theologies have become to those boys and girls, men and women, who have had to suffer injustice, bullying, and unloving comments in a Christian society that is not very tolerant, not very accepting, nor very understanding of alternative lifestyles differing from their own traditional views.

Traditional views which re-contextualized leading questions into the form of assertive statements:

  • "Isn't homosexuality a sin?"
  • "Isn't the gay lifestyle condemned in the Bible?"
  • "Men and women don't marry the same sex!"
  • "Gay marriages invalidate the biblical passages of procreation!"
  • "God destroyed whole societies committed to sexual hedonism!"

And on, and on, and on, it goes....

To which the newly published index provided on this website may provide some direction to some of these questions. Or, at least provoke a little more thoughtfulness within our not-so-very-polite conservative Christian circles when we get together in our "Christian fellowships" to share how much holier we are because "we believe this or that. Or don't do this or that. Or, if we did, we've repented of those things and all is good now."

When cloistered within such viperous fellowships I personally tremble fearing God's wrath first to come to those of us who would have the tumidity to decry judgment upon those sinners "out there". "Woe be to you, you pit of vipers," says Jesus to the Pharisees, "may God's wrath first come to you. May your words then be upon your own heads!" (sic, my paraphrase).

So then, "do I think homosexuality is a sin?"  It can be. But it can also not be.

"Are all sins equally condemned?" Not really, "biblical" absolutes are fine as absolutes go (though usually they are just another cliche for our unrepentant personal or cultural beliefs without any bible based at all to them). But absolutes used in relationship to humanity - or absolutes used so as to keep one's humanity - don't go very well together. They actually become oxymorons which are self-contradictory statements.

What does this mean? Statedly, that sin is unequally weighted for each sinner. Rules, and rule making, can provide a general guidance only. But love casts out all rules and in its place puts hope, trust, and forgiveness. Didn't Jesus do just that with the 10 Commandments when asked which Rule was the greatest Rule to be observed??

Do I think homosexuality in the bible was rightly condemned? Perhaps for that biblical time, place, situation, and context. But does the Bible's condemnation of sin speak pervasively for all times, all situations, or all events? I think not. The Bible itself is not God. And God's divine love rules in grace and mercy, charity and forgiveness. Sin is intimately bound between the sinner and his/her God. Not us. Not our Bible Rules. And not our supposedly Christian judgments.

Should we do away with all Christian judgment and rules? Any parent will tell you that's silly. But they will also tell you all rules will become slowly abandoned as the child grows up. And the wise parent will tell you that as the child grows up your next responsibility as a parent is to try to teach your child how not to place onerous, burdensome rules upon their own chaining hearts and self-righteous spirits.

Some children don't get it. Others do. But legalism is a very real part of our human constitution so that the only Savior we wish is ourselves. Yeah, verily, our dear Lord knows this worst of all sins.

So what do we do? How can homosexuality and alternative lifestyles be more intelligently discussed away from its heavy religious overtones?

For myself, and because of my ultra-conservative Christian heritage, I've discovered that perhaps by substituting another word or idea may help in my discussion with myself and others as to whether homosexuality is sinful. Or unlawful. Or condemned by God.

The idea goes like this -

Let us substitute the world "civil rights" in the place of the word "sin." Now let's review our short list of questions above and ask if God grants the civil right to men and women to behave as they wish?

The answer is yes.

Can such a civil union be Healthy? Healing? Supportive? Again, the answer can be yes. But it can also be no.

Are civil rights sinful if they are healthy, healing, and supportive? No, not really. More actually they can be righteous, holy, God-ordained and affirming statements to one another.

Are civil unions permissible before God? Yes, without qualification.

Can homosexual lifestyles be sinful. Yes, but so too can heterosexual lifestyles be sinful. It just depends.

Why?

Remember, sin is a personal issue. But so too is guilt, and there are too many gay people living with self-placed guilt for errantly thinking their identity is wrong, or sinful, or unbiblical. This personal identity crisis is for God to determine. Not us. Nor society.

Self-identity is a very intimate discussion between a gay man or woman meant only for mature, deeply supportive friends and family. Such a process can be healthy and healing or be filled with angst, guilt, and self-recrimination.

What is our responsibility to the gay child or adult? To be image-makers.

What are image-makers? Those people who share with others the idea that identity and value are usually misplaced when based upon the values and ideals of others about what our identity should be.

For the gay man or woman who are truly gay they need to know that God loves them without reservation for all who they are, and can be someday, irrespective of a society that can be harsh and cruel with its words and thoughts.

That real identity is found in Jesus who vouchsafes all His children unto His welcoming and loving embrace. And if Jesus so speaks love to the sincere, or troubled, gay man or woman, then let His church so speak love often and frequently as well. Forbearing one another to do no less and much more. Amen.


R.E. Slater
October 20, 2014

---


13 “But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites, because you shut off the kingdom of heaven [c]from [d]people; for you do not enter in yourselves, nor do you allow those who are entering to go in. 14 [[e]Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites, because you devour widows’ houses, and for a pretense you make long prayers; therefore you will receive greater condemnation.]

15 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites, because you travel around on sea and land to make one [f]proselyte; and when he becomes one, you make him twice as much a son of [g]hell as yourselves.

16 “Woe to you, blind guides, who say, ‘Whoever swears by the [h]temple, that is nothing; but whoever swears by the gold of the [i]temple is obligated.’ 17 You fools and blind men!Which is [j]more important, the gold or the [k]temple that sanctified the gold? 18 And, ‘Whoever swears by the altar, that is nothing, but whoever swears by the [l]offering on it, he is obligated.’ 19 You blind men, which is [m]more important, the [n]offering, or the altar that sanctifies the [o]offering? 20 Therefore, [p]whoever swears by the altar, swears both by[q]the altar and by everything on it. 21 And [r]whoever swears by the [s]temple, swears both by [t]the temple and by Him who dwells within it. 22 And [u]whoever swears by heaven,swears both by the throne of God and by Him who sits upon it.

23 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and[v]cummin, and have neglected the weightier provisions of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness; but these are the things you should have done without neglecting the others.24 You blind guides, who strain out a gnat and swallow a camel!

25 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you clean the outside of the cup and of the dish, but inside they are full [w]of robbery and self-indulgence. 26 You blind Pharisee, first clean the inside of the cup and of the dish, so that the outside of it may become clean also.

27 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs which on the outside appear beautiful, but inside they are full of dead men’s bones and all uncleanness. 28 So you, too, outwardly appear righteous to men, but inwardly you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.

29 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you build the tombs of the prophets and adorn the monuments of the righteous, 30 and say, ‘If we had been living in the days of our fathers, we would not have been partners with them in shedding the blood of the prophets.’ 31 So you testify against yourselves, that you are [x]sons of those who murdered the prophets. 32 Fill up, then, the measure of the guilt of your fathers. 33 You serpents, you brood of vipers, how [y]will you escape the [z]sentence of [aa]hell?

34 “Therefore, behold, I am sending you prophets and wise men and scribes; some of them you will kill and crucify, and some of them you will scourge in your synagogues, and persecute from city to city, 35 so that upon you may fall the guilt of all the righteous blood shed on earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah, the son of Berechiah, whom you murdered between the [ab]temple and the altar. 36 Truly I say to you, all these things will come upon this generation.





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