When religious beliefs have little basis, what do they really mean?

The Kentucky clerk who refused a marriage license to two men because of her religious beliefs testified in court this week, and the judges ruling will be coming. Many are calling her a hypocrite because she has been married four times.

I’m not big on calling her a hypocrite. If she was getting married to a woman while refusing marriage to a same-sex couple– then I’d call her a hypocrite. As it is, I just think she is a woman with religious convictions that don’t make a lot of sense, and when there is little basis for one’s personal beliefs, how valuable can they really be?

Let me be clear, I don’t doubt the sincerity with which she holds her beliefs, but rather I wonder how she arrived at these beliefs and how she understands the confusion others have surrounding them. I’d really love to ask her, how she can accept being married four times, and disregard the teaching of Jesus himself regarding divorce, yet feel so strongly about denying same-sex couples the right to receive a marriage license?

19 Now when Jesus had finished these sayings, he went away from Galilee and entered the region of Judea beyond the Jordan. 2 And large crowds followed him, and he healed them there.

3 And Pharisees came up to him and tested him by asking, “Is it lawful to divorce one’s wife for any cause?” 4 He answered, “Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female, 5 and said, ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? 6 So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.” 7

And I say to you: whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another, commits adultery.”[a]

This very same passage used to “define” marriage as heterosexual, eliminates divorce. We aren’t even taking about two separate passages. (Although I will add I don’t believe this passage defines marriage. Rather it defines a man’s behavior towards his property, a wife.)

How does a person come to hold their personal religious beliefs? What are the internal thought processes by which they arrive at the place where they own a belief as their own? And, if it is personal, such that another person may have a contrary religious belief, of what value are these to humankind in general? How they have any value if they cannot be aligned with a base theology?

And possibly, most important, I’d love to ask her what role the civil marriage license plays in the religious ceremony of marriage. Like I can grasp that she can believe that gays will burn in Hell for doing what is contrary to the Bible, i.e. have a marriage ceremony. But what role is the certificate itself play? Gay and Lesbian couples have for many years had commitment ceremonies to sanctify their relationships. The license doesn’t do that. The license merely allows those couples the same civil rights as all other couples under the Constitution. The license is about the government, which in Jesus’ time was Caesar.

Then Jesus said to them, “Give back to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s.” And they were amazed at him.

Perhaps believers are still being– or would be– amazed at Jesus and the way Jesus places civil governmental obligations outside religious basis and vice versa. Today, we cite a separation between Church and State, but even Jesus knew the difference.

Why isn’t Heaven Enough for Christian Anti-gay Zealots?

A few weeks ago, there was a real controversy raised by conservative Christians, when the President reminded everyone, accurately, that violence against others, justified religious belief is not new, nor limited to Islamic extremists such as ISIS and Boko Hiram. From my vantage point, extreme violence and hate-based actions are a problem, but a more immediate terrorism that LGBTQ Americans experience on a daily basis is far less violent and every bit as dangerous because it is a relentless form of bullying that can be seen as almost like torture– we are forced to endure it day in and day out without reprieve.

If all the Christians who are so busy feeling entitled to hate the gays, would please stop and step back for a minute, and ask themselves what being a Christian is all about for them.

I think anyone would be hard pressed not to see the whole point of believing in God, and salvation through Christ as being about some expected Judgement Day as well as one’s personal relationship with God through Christ until that day. Being saved sets a person up for getting to Heaven as opposed to being thrown into the fiery pits of Hell. If that is the case, how in the world does opposing equal rights for LGBTQ persons impact a person’s position on Judgement Day in any way shape or form? Theologically and scripturally, there is no basis for any Christians to oppose Equality for Gay, Lesbian, Bi, Trans, or Queer persons. In fact the very act of antagonizing, harming, and even fighting against full equality, probably sets a Christian up to be sorely disappointed come that Judgement Day (if you believe in such a thing, that is). But before I talk about scripture related to Judgement Day, let me talk about a little about History. We know that there have been people who participate in same-sex behavior since the start of time. These folks may not have identified as “gay, lesbian, or bisexual,” because the notion of sexual identity is relatively new. But it is pretty safe to say that these individuals were just expressing their attractions, and their feelings. There is Biblical support for this. Consider the story of Jonathan and David, which I’ll talk more at length about in another post.

Some contemporary Christians claim that the emergence or acceptance of LGBTQ persons and granting full civil rights to LGBTQ persons is a sign of society breaking down, but there is no rational basis for such ideas. So, if you hear Christian zealots claim that they are fighting against Equality to save society, it is a delusional fantasy they have cooked up in their mind to justify their hate. These same zealots often nostalgically point to an earlier era in America where Faith seemed to play a bigger role in daily life and the fabric of society. But in reality, the only difference between now and then, is that today, Gay, Lesbian, and Bi persons are less closeted. They existed then, and they exist now.

Becoming a Christian is a process of accepting Christ as your personal savior, and living as a Christian is about the choices you make to remain true to that.

Romans 5:10

For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life.

Matthew 22:36-40 New International Version (NIV)

36 “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”

37 Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’[a] 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’[b] 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

It is logical that a Christian might believe that a person who is Lesbian, Gay, Bi, Trans, or Queer, may be doomed to Hell. But an important Christian tenet is remembering that God alone can judge others. No where in this can you find a justification for the harming, or shunning or bullying of others. The New Testament in it’s entirely suggests only ways a person should act within their own life, and a part of that is love and hospitality towards others.

So, why are some Christian zealots so hell-bent on forcing their beliefs onto others in ways that destroy the very basis of Christianity?

I think mostly because they are busy forcing it upon themselves and they don’t realize that if it is such a hard fit, that it must be so forced, there is a problem somewhere.

 

 

Huckabee, Ham, and Homos

If you have any thought that the crazy Far Right Christian attacks on the LGBTQ people will cease because we’ve made some gains in Marriage Equality, well just put those silly thoughts away! I predict that the attacks and the insanity will not only increase in quality, but also in quality— although trying to describe insanity as having quality, is pushing it, I’ll admit.

Some are really up in arms about Huckabee’s recent comments:

“We’re so sensitive to make sure we don’t offend certain religions, but then we act like Christians can’t have the convictions that they have had for over 2,000 years,”

…forcing people of faith to accept gay marriage as policy is on par with telling Jews that they must serve “bacon-wrapped shrimp in their deli.”

I think he has actually demonstrated clearly the error in the Christianist idea– that the Bible can be used as if it is clear-cut evidence against some specific behavior. And, yes! I said, ‘behavior’ on purpose. There are two Biblical arguments to be made against same-sex relationships, and both are failing arguments when you examine them closely. Huckabee’s poor theology in this case relies on the first of the two.

Huckabee is alluding to purity codes within Hebrew Scripture, created and aligned with the Jewish People before the fall of the first temple. Remember now, Huckabee is a Christian/Baptist pastor (former) who is used to seeing the Old Testament as little more than justification for the New Testament. And here’s the thing that we need to realize. Jewish people overall, take very different approaches to their scripture. Some believers adhere to the dietary laws and others do not. And overall, the entirety of the Jewish Faith is all right with that. If we accept that parts of purity codes are not followed by all believers, why wouldn’t the same be true of other parts of the purity codes?

Purity codes however are utterly misunderstood by Christians. They aren’t rules merely about what to eat or not eat, but rather, they are tools to use in preparation for engaging with the Divine, and specifically, the Divine of the First Temple era Hebrew people.

So, to summarize, a Christianist cites Hebrew ideas about purity, which are not followed by all Jewish people. Following these dietary laws, a part of the purity code, are choices people make as part of the path towards being engaged with the temple-era understanding of the Hebrew God. If Jews can follow or not follow these laws, what’s to say that people can’t choose to follow or not follow the purity laws regarding same-sex behavior?

The pastor Huckabee can screw up the theology and get the religion stuff all wrong as much as he wants in the pulpit, but he is also talking as a politician and as a potential candidate for President in 2016. He gets it all really wrong in that regard too! Purity codes are about self management of behavior. They are not laws about how to control other peoples’ behavior. American Jewish people are not demanding laws forcing their religious beliefs onto others or refusing to support laws that differ from their own beliefs, and neither should Christians.

But the real offense of Huckabee’s commentary is the way it disrespects the very notion of Kosher by equating it with Christianist justifications for discrimination. Kosher delis carry kosher food. Food that isn’t kosher isn’t kosher. Bakeries carry wedding cakes (among other things.) A wedding cake is a wedding cake. See how these are alike?

See Huckabee considers someone wanting a wedding cake, an item the bakery always makes it to be like someone “forcing a deli to sell something they don’t sell.” See how these are alike?

Huckabee’s real intention, aside from spreading bad theology, bad history, and shoddy policy, is to paint gays and lesbians who demand Equality as mean and rude. I wrote about that here the other day on thomascwaters.com. His language– claiming anyone is forcing something onto others is very telling because in fact he (and Christianists) want to force their ideas onto others.

There is nothing Biblical or Christian about selling a wedding cake. The cake has nothing to do with the religious ritual of marriage, but see how these are alike?

In actuality, good real Christian theology would suggest that Christian bakers would gladly make a cake for a gay or lesbian couple. Consider Matthew 5:38-44

You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if anyone would sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. Give to the one who begs from you, and do not refuse the one who would borrow from you.

You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.

This passage is meant to help believers understand an appropriate response to those they see as persecutors. Same-sex marriage proponents may not see themselves as persecutors, but some Christians, Huckabee included feel persecuted, so what does Christian scripture suggest? Does it suggest you refuse to serve your persecutor? Not at all. Just the opposite.

The Very Queer Christmas Story Retold.

 

I wrote the basis of this post last year in reply to a tizzy being thrown by Pat Robertson. This year, I read an account of the Christmas Story as told by Brian Brown of the National Organization of Marriage and it has prompted me to re-post.The base of the post is the same with a few minor changes made to more directly respond to Brian’s ideas.

Brian Brown politicizes the Christmas Story selfishly to have it meet his own needs, but in doing so, he misses the real miracle of the holiday, and the deep theological significance of the story itself. Brown’s use of scripture as well as his bastardization of Christianity is killing Faith and killing Christianity. We can hope and pray that real Love conquers the hatred.

I absolutely love the Christmas Story, and I spend the season from Thanksgiving until New Years picturing in my mind memories of Christmas Eves of my childhood and the magic I experienced in church hearing the glory of the  Christmas Story.

I want to start with a reminder of the meaning of queer, as I fog on to call the Christmas Story a queer story:

queer (kwîr)

adj. queer·er, queer·est
1. Deviating from the expected or normal; strange: a queer situation.
2. Odd or unconventional, as in behavior; eccentric. See Synonyms at strange.
3. Of a questionable nature or character; suspicious.
4. Slang Fake; counterfeit.
5. Feeling slightly ill; queasy.
6. Offensive Slang Homosexual.
7. Usage Problem Of or relating to lesbians, gay men, bisexuals, or transgendered people.
n.
1. Offensive Slang Used as a disparaging term for a homosexual person.
2. Usage Problem A lesbian, gay male, bisexual, or transgendered person.
tr.v. queered, queer·ing, queers Slang
1. To ruin or thwart: “might try to queer the Games with anything from troop movements . . . to a bomb attack” (Newsweek).
2. To put (someone) in a bad position.

Christmas is truly a queer holiday when you stop and think about it. Everything about it is peculiar, odd and out of the ordinary. These things ought to lead a Christian to be even more humbled, but doesn’t seem to work that way. Some seem so self-assured and even cocky- as if they have all of the answers. For me the holiday and the religious significance comes from just the opposite. The queerness of Christmas is that it calls us to take everything we are so sure about and turn it upside down, and consider the possibility that there is something totally outside our realm of understanding to see and grasp within it. Too many tell the  Christmas Story as if it is so well known. Nothing new in it, nothing unexpected, and to me that is such a shame. The real power of the holiday is lost to these people (and Brian Brown falls into this category).

There truly is no historical basis for the Christmas Story. No records of a census, or an inn with no rooms or even the birth of a baby. No record of wise men’s travels, angels or any other aspect of the tale. We know that it could not have happened in December either. And yet, in spite of this lack of supporting material, we as a whole culture treat it as fact. I’m not questioning the history however. No real point. In fact the value of the holiday comes from the fact that believers believe, regardless. But there is so much more to this holiday when we start to grasp how queer it really is and dig a little deeper than what a few conceived “historical facts.” The story is strong and meaningful because many of the actual facts pale in significance to larger mythic values that reside within the simplicity of the story. These deeper values make the story more real than any historical evidence could.

We can’t easily see the world through the eyes of women and men in the actual days in which Jesus was supposedly born, but what if we tried? In some ways it would share similarities to our own time. Imagine for a brief moment what Mary faced, as others found she was pregnant and unmarried. How alone and isolated she may have felt. How misunderstood, how shamed she may have been. All of those people would have felt so assured of their condemnation of her– they had their own religious texts with which to judge her. Imagine Joseph who had spent his whole life believing how things were supposed to go, and here, he finds himself becoming betrothed to a woman already with child. How out of the ordinary to be sure. How queer! Joseph, Mary and baby were perhaps the first non-traditional family. Even without joking that Jesus had two daddies, you have to see this as odd. All of the people around Joseph and Mary would have.

Imagine Mary, whose experience was unlike pretty much every other woman she knew. How might she have felt and what did she do to hold onto what she knew in her heart was real for her? It isn’t hard to sort out what Jewish Law says about pregnancy outside of marriage. Isn’t it conceivable that she would have experienced comments and disdain? Hebrew scripture would have been used against her, yes? Yet, today we praise her for knowing in her heart was was real for her and her destiny.

At the heart of the Christmas Story is the essence of how God creates and places God’s Self (aka LOVE) into the midst of the human experience. It doesn’t happen based on the status quo, nor by some way recognized by the masses. It happens in the most amazing, and unexplainable ways. It happens in queer ways.

Our failure today, to even pause and contemplate the birth in real time is a symptom of the failure of Christianity, and why most humans are so lost. Indeed why most Christians act in ways that are so utterly unchristian. Stop and think about it for a minute. Consider everything that Jesus’ ministry and journey was all about, and what are the good Christians hyper about? Poverty, inequality, lack of human dignity- none of these even raise an eyebrow for most contemporary Christians, but mention allowing two persons who love each other to get married, and the whole world is now crumbling!

The other aspect of the Christmas Story which is so queer is that it is a fully manufactured piece of fiction. Even if there was a Mary, Joseph and virgin birth. It couldn’t have happened in December for example. That the story is manufactured doesn’t make it less real or less meaningful, but it ought to remind us that so many of our judgements about what should and shouldn’t be are also manufactured. They are constructions too, and we as a whole choose which constructs we will accept and which we will not. We can even grasp the need for construction if we stop and consider how impossible it would be to place into simple words the magnificence of God’s injection into humans’ lives. Where we ought to be in such utter awe, we treat it as a simple children’s tale. If we really believe that God can do such things, we would all need to be beside ourselves with fear and trembling.

Brown focuses his Christmas message on the idea that Jesus was lucky because he had both a mother and a father. But this is a really outrageous reading of a story which highlights an unmarried virgin giving birth in a barn. The only ordinary elements of the story was that there was both a man and a woman present. They weren’t even married! But the National Organization for Marriage wants to focus on this tidbit?

Almost no one would have believed Mary, Joseph and those who were witness to whatever miracle  happened. But a few may have. A few had enough Faith to recognize what was possible outside of the status quo. Too bad that people like Brian Brown can’t.

If the power of that miracle is to continue to change the world, then today, we have to be willing to let go of our fears, expectations and judgements and have Faith in what might be possible. We must be willing to grasp and embrace the queerness of the Christmas Story.

Boswell, History, and Women

There was one element of the preface I didn’t mention in my previous post because it deserves commentary of its own. Even Boswell devotes less than 100 words even though it is really a huge deal. He puts it this way;

History was written by men about men, and where women are mentioned, it is generally peripherally.

In a big way therefore, any discussion about the Bible and homosexuality, isn’t really about Sexual Orientation or homosexuality in general, but rather it is about the Bible and male gender roles and how male sexual expression aligns with gender role expectations. It is a true statement: there is nothing in the Bible about Sexual Orientation, just as there is nothing in the Bible about dinosaurs, the Ice Age, the plethora of galaxies out there I n the Universe, or even that a Universe exists. But again, Boswell’s purpose is History, and the history of attitudes from the beginning of the Christian Era to the fourteenth century.

It is not a part of his book, but the degree to which intolerance of homosexuality is really just the intolerance towards gay male behavior is or ought to be a primary argument against anyone who claims that the Bible is against homosexuality or claims that religious intolerance is the reason for social intolerance.

I have some thoughts about what this means and how we respond because of it, and that will most likely come out as we move through the book.

This past is part of a series on Boswell’s text.Christianity, Social Tolerance, and Homosexuality.

Boswell, History, and Theology: the preface.

So often, the preface isn’t all that important, and it is easy to skip ahead to where the actual book begins and start reading, but in the case of Boswell’s “Christianity, Social Tolerance, and Homosexuality: Gay People in Western Europe from the Beginning of the Christian Era to the Fourteenth Century,” that would be a mistake. The premise laid out within his preface is crucially important to grasp , and so I want to devote this first post to those four and a half pages. This is important, and if we don’t come to terms with what this means, we won’t really be able to put the rest of the book to much use. For this post, I used Boswell’s original paperbound book, copyright 1980.

History and the role of the historian

One of the most important statements made by Boswell within this entire book begins the preface:

“No matter how much historians and their readers may wish to avoid contaminating their understanding of the past with the values of the present, they can not ignore the fact that both writer and reader are inevitably affectedly the assumptions and beliefs of the age(s) in which they write and read.”

We don’t tend to think of that however, either while writing or as a reader. History, we tell ourselves, is a set of facts and so they are what they are, no matter who is telling them, when and for what reason, right?  Not according to Boswell: both the writer and the reader carry all sorts of stuff to the text- to the history- and considering what these things may be is essential to understanding the text and history. To some, this may seem obvious, but in a huge way it isn’t and leads to false ideas, or is intentionally overlooked, again leading to false ideas. Why is this important? He writes:

“If religious texts are widely supposed to have been the origin of a medieval prejudice, their role in determining the attitude in question must be carefully understood.”

Today, the morality of homosexuality is the issue, and too much of the dialogue revolves around the question, ‘are religious ideas the basis for discrimination against homosexuality and gay and lesbian people.’ Boswell doesn’t set out to argue the morality of homosexuality, rather his goal is to illuminate ideas about homosexuality in the period from the beginning of Christianity until the fourteenth century, not to speak either for or against them.

History is not theology

Two points are at the center of his work in this book:

  1. To display that what may have seemed to be the source of antipathy  in the past, often was not;
  2. To clarify the differences between ancient objections to homosexuality and modern objections.

Now many readers, and I include myself in that group when I first read this book, simply want Boswell to tell us that theologians have had it wrong all along and the Bible isn’t negative about gay and lesbian people. But we aren’t going to get that from Boswell or this book if that is what we are looking for. We will get something far more important if we are open to it and willing to do the work for it. Because the argument, “The Bible is this or isn’t this” is a useless argument because we will never come to any final outcome: we will simply spin our wheels, and at the same time allow those who claim the Bible is anti-gay to have more power than they deserve.  When we begin to demystify the Bible and the history of it- the historical reasons it is what it is, then the text itself loses all of that magic mojo that the opponents of the LGBTQ movement try to use against us.

People object to or support the full acceptance of gay, lesbian, bi, trans, and queer people. They may use the Bible as a weapon to support their position of opposition, but it only has as much power as we allow it. One of the strongest arguments that the anti-gay people use, is that culture, and especially Christian culture has always felt this way about gay people, but is this really true? Or are oppositions that exist now a modern thing, not well supported by the past.

Methodology and the reader

Before we dig into the meat of the book, just a word about methodology. Boswell heavily footnotes his text: what are we as readers to take from that, or how are we to read that? It almost becomes two texts: the book itself, and the footnotes. Unlike some books where the footnotes are only citations supporting where claims or ideas come from, in this text, they go a bit beyond that. Sometimes they are small forays into a tangential discussion. For example, in the Introduction, footnote #2 is a wildly interesting aside about social tolerance, intolerance and acceptance. My personal suggestion is to read the text at least twice. The first time through, ignore the footnotes. Then, read through the footnotes and refer back to the text where each is cited as you go. And lastly, sometimes it will be helpful re-read portions of the text itself after considering the footnote.

Lastly, my suggestion is to do what I’m doing here to a degree, and make notes as you read. Jot down phrases, words, or short sentences that summarize what you are reading. Do it, as you read- don’t wait to get to the end of a chapter to jot some things down.The idea isn’t to merely spend the time to get from page 1 to page whatever. Rather it is to end up with a new appreciation, awareness or understanding from that time spent. This doesn’t have to be like school. No one is going to test you. But you will leave the experience happier and perhaps smarter.

New Series: The Bible and Homosexuality

Beginning June 1st, I’m starting a new series and invite my blog readers to join me in a book study and discussion regarding what the Bible says about homosexuality. Issues surrounding Gay Rights and the morality of same-sex marriage as well as homosexuality itself will remain front page news as more and more US States accept same-sex marriage, and everyone who cares about this Justice issue ought to be able to converse about what the Bible does and doesn’t say, even those who do not believe in the importance of the Bible.

Those who oppose same-sex marriage and the general acceptance of the LGBT Community, claim that what the Bible says is crystal clear, but there is scholarly work done that sheds different light on the subject. John Boswell’s seminal work, “Christianity, Social Tolerance, and Homosexuality: Gay People in Western Europe from the Beginning of the Christian Era to the Fourteenth Century” calls into question many of the ideas scholars and theologians have had about the subject. His book is not the easiest read, full of footnotes and written with a depth that allows it to be considered solid scholarship. But it is a valuable read none the less. So, get a copy of the book, and join me! Each week or so, I’ll post as I read through the book, cover to cover, exploring Boswell’s ideas. Read with me, or merely join the discussion offering your comments each week to my blog posts.

One might say, that what the Bible says is irrelevant given that here in the US, the Constitution is the basis of our laws and civil culture. But 100% of the vitriol and opposition to the full respect and equality for gay, lesbian, bi, trans, and queer persons is rooted in and supported by the use of this ancient text. We can expect the opposition to remain vocal, loud, and will grow only more hostile as same-sex marriage gets accepted everywhere. But full respect, inclusion, and equality is not a done deal here in the United States, and across the globe, there are many places more hostile towards LGBTQ folks. Our ability to counter the opposition is essential.

I’ll be using an electronic ebook from the University of Chicago Press. The book is available from them as a paperback, or as a download. It is also available for rent from your local library as well as purchase from other sources. You may be like me and have an original copy on the bookshelf as well. Get it down and read along with me.

Boswell died too soon, and I don’t believe anyone has really followed his lead in this area of scholarship. I won’t simply take his word as if he is definitely correct and thousands of years of the status quo are simply wrong in their understanding, but asking why Boswell has arrived at his conclusions and how they differ from traditional ideas will be the basis of discussion.

Are you ready for this series? I hope so! Summer is a perfect time to sit back with a book,so I hope you will choose this one and read along. Then each week participate in our discussion here about what I’ve read.

 

The very queer Christmas Story.

queer (kwîr)
adj. queer·er, queer·est
1. Deviating from the expected or normal; strange: a queer situation.
2. Odd or unconventional, as in behavior; eccentric. See Synonyms at strange.
3. Of a questionable nature or character; suspicious.
4. Slang Fake; counterfeit.
5. Feeling slightly ill; queasy.
6. Offensive Slang Homosexual.
7. Usage Problem Of or relating to lesbians, gay men, bisexuals, or transgendered people.
n.
1. Offensive Slang Used as a disparaging term for a homosexual person.
2. Usage Problem A lesbian, gay male, bisexual, or transgendered person.
tr.v. queered, queer·ing, queers Slang
1. To ruin or thwart: “might try to queer the Games with anything from troop movements . . . to a bomb attack” (Newsweek).
2. To put (someone) in a bad position.

Last week, I got caught up in a thread on Facebook regarding the religious liberty supposedly being withheld from Phil Robertson . I was really struck how a few, some even being pastors, had such am odd sense of how inappropriate Robertson’s comments were. They seemed perfectly happy to defend him, when in reality Christian theology and Jesus himself would demand the exact opposite. Funny for me too, thinking of this happening in the week prior to when we celebrate Christmas and the birth of the Christian Savior.

Christmas is truly a queer holiday when you stop and think about it. Everything about it is peculiar, odd and out of the ordinary. These things ought to lead a Christian to be even more humbled, but doesn’t seem to work that way. Some seem so self-assured and even cocky- as if they have all of the answers. For me the holiday and the religious significance comes from the opposite. The queerness of Christmas is that it calls us to take everything we are so sure about and turn it upside down, and consider the possibility that there is something totally outside our realm of understanding to see and grasp. But so often, this Christmas story is taken as if it is so well known. Nothing new in it, nothing unexpected, and to me that is such a shame. The real power of the holiday is lost to these people.

There truly is no historical basis for the Christmas Story. No records of a census, or an inn with no rooms or even the birth of a baby. No record of wise men’s travels, angels or any other aspect of the tale. We know that it could not have happened in December too. And yet, in spite of this lack of supporting material, we as a whole culture treat it as fact. I don’t mean to question that either. No real point. In fact the value of the holiday comes from the fact that believers believe, regardless. But there is so much more to this holiday when we start to grasp how queer it really is.

We can’t easily see the world through the eyes of women and men in the actual days in which Jesus was supposedly born, but what if we tried? In some ways it would share similarities to our own time. Imagine for a brief moment what Mary faced, as others found she was pregnant and unmarried. How alone and isolated she may have been. How misunderstood, how ashamed she may have been. All of those people would have felt so assured of their condemnation of her- they had their own religious texts to prove and judge her with. Imagine Joseph who had spent his whole life believing how things were supposed to go, and here, he finds himself becoming betrothed to a woman already with child. How queer! How out of the ordinary to be sure. Joseph, Mary and baby were perhaps the first non-traditional family. Even without joking that Jesus had two daddies, you have to see this as odd. All of the people around Joseph and Mary would have.

Imagine Mary, whose experience was unlike pretty much every other woman she knew. How might she have felt and what did she do to hold onto what she knew in her heart was real for her? It isn’t hard to sort out what Jewish Law says about pregnancy outside of marriage. Isn’t it conceivable that she would have experienced comments and disdain similar to what Robertson expressed about homosexuals? He used scripture, just as Hebrew scripture would have been used against her, yes? Yet, today we praise her for knowing in her heart was was real for her and her destiny. Even as some criticize gays and lesbians for speaking their truth.

At the heart of the Christmas Story is the essence of how God creates and places God’s Self (AKA Love) into the midst of the human experience. It doesn’t happen based on the status quo, nor by some way recognized by the masses. It happens in the most amazing, and unexplainable ways. It happens in queer ways.

Our failure today, to even pause of contemplate the birth in real time is a symptom of the failure of Christianity, and why most humans are so lost. Indeed why most Christians act in ways that are so utterly unchristian. Stop and think about it for a minute. Consider everything that Jesus’ ministry and journey was all about, and what are the good Christians hyper about? Poverty, inequality, lack of human dignity- none of these even raise an eyebrow, but mention allowing two persons who love each other to get married, and the whole world is now crumbling for some Christians.

The other aspect of the Christmas Story which is so queer is that it is a fully manufactured piece of fiction. Even if there was a Mary, Joseph and virgin birth. It couldn’t have happened in December for example. That the story is manufactured doesn’t make it less real or less meaningful, but it ought to remind us that so many of our judgements about what should and shouldn’t be are also manufactured. They are constructions too, and we as a whole choose which constructs we will accept and which we will not. We can even grasp the need for construction if we stop and consider how impossible it would be to place into simple words the magnificence of God’s injection into humans’ lives. Where we ought to be in such utter awe, we treat it as a simple children’s tale. If we really believe that God can do such things, we would all need to be beside ourselves with fear and trembling.

Almost no one would have believed Mary, Joseph and those who were witness to whatever miracle  happened. But a few would have. A few had enough Faith to recognize what was possible outside of the status quo.

If the power of that miracle is to continue to change the world, then today, we have to be willing to let go of our fears, expectations and judgements and have Faith in what might be possible. We must be willing to grasp and embrace the queerness of the Christmas Story.

The basis of Christianity and Scott Lively.

Earlier, I wrote about evangelical pastor, Scott Lively who is in court facing charges of crimes against humanity. The Liberty Counsel, who is defending him claims:

The suit is a direct attempt to silence Rev. Lively and intimidate other pastors against teaching the Biblical position on homosexuality. Mathew Staver, Founder and Chairman of Liberty Counsel, said, “This lawsuit against Rev. Scott Lively is a gross attempt to use a vague international law to silence, and eventually criminalize, speech by U.S. citizens on homosexuality and moral issues. This suit should cause everyone to be concerned, because it a direct threat against freedom of speech.”

However, Scott Lively’s involvement in Uganda is seen as foundational to what has been deemed the Ugandan, “Kill the Gays” bill, where a person suspected of being gay can be punished with the death penalty.

The point I want to draw here is for Christians and non-believers alike. I believe this case encapsulates very clearly  the problem Christianity is facing, and individuals like Scott Lively are destroying Christianity as they distort the very basis of the Faith tradition.  

Consider, where in the New Testament, the foundation of Christianity, do we find anything that would suggest the death penalty (perpetrated by the Government) for gay people? If faith in the Birth, Death, and Resurrection of Jesus Christ is the basis of Christianity, there is no way to see Scott Lively’s missionary work and its result as connected to Christianity.

The battle against homosexuality by so-called Christians is firmly rooted in the Old Testament and not in Jesus Christ in any way. For Gary Bauer of the Family Research Council, the basis for the fight against homosexuality and same-sex marriage is in the Book of Genesis.

Bauer said that the court dismissed the “consent of the governed” and “rejected thousands of years of Judeo-Christian understanding” in their rulings on the Defense of Marriage Act and Proposition 8. “It seems as though America is on the verge of criminalizing the Book of Genesis,”

10 CommandmentsNow, I respect anyone’s right to their own religious perspective, but that is limited to how they choose to live their own life. The desire to force others to live by their beliefs goes far beyond and can not be misconstrued as “Christian” in any way.

As a general whole, Christianity is declining with fewer and fewer self-identifying as Christians except in growing third-world areas like Africa where this misguided and non-Christlike brand of legalist propaganda is being used to manipulate and control people. For real Christians who seek a personal salvation in Christ, it is time to wake up and recognize how hate-mongers are killing Christianity by a hate-filled focus.

Theologians have for centuries discussed to relationship of the Old and New Testaments. Jesus himself is quoted as talking about how the “Law and the Prophets” are affected by his “new” teachings. And the Early Church is documented as struggling with the role of Hebrew Laws for Gentile Christians and believers as a whole. In some regard, this is nothing new. What is new however, is the dramatic decline of Christians. Will Christianity survive abuses of Faith by individuals like Lively and Bauer, or will they lead to the Fall of a Faith doctrine that grew from hope and the belief in eternal life?

Note:

Critics are likely to point out that there is New Testament Scripture that supposedly condemns homosexuals. Id ask those individuals to consider:

  • Read the New Testament in the original language in which it was written.  There is no word for homosexual to be found there. The English term “homosexual” is a mistranslation of several other terms and they describe very specific same-sex sexual practices, not homosexuality in general, and most certainly not Gay people we we understand what Gay means today.
  • It can be argued that Paul cites that arsenokoitai and malakoi will not enter the Kingdom of Heaven. It in no way suggests that individuals have a right to tell others what they can or can not do, or whom they can or can not love.
  • Remember, Paul wasn’t right about everything. He was one man expressing his ideas, nothing more. Really.

 

 

Luke 12:51

Last week, the Archdiocese of San Francisco raised a stir when it appropriated the HRC’s effort to turn Facebook red in awareness of the US Supreme Court’s hearing of two Same-sex marriage cases. Any real activist worth his or her weight has to recognize it was a stroke of real genius, although for anyone on the pro-equality side, frustrating and infuriating nonetheless. It is activism 101 to try and appropriate the media tools being used against you, and that is part of what happened here.

But there is another aspect to this that I want to focus on today, and one I hope pro-equality Christians take up and dialogue about as the struggle for Full Equality continues.

Luke 12:51
The Archdiocese graphic

 

HRC_Equals

HRC Equals in Red

Aside from the PR “win” accomplished by the Catholic Church, what does this really mean and is the Church’s exegesis of the scripture right on the money? Here is Luke 12:51 as found in the KJV:

51 Suppose ye that I am come to give peace on earth? I tell you, Nay; but rather division:

52 For from henceforth there shall be five in one house divided, three against two, and two against three.

53 The father shall be divided against the son, and the son against the father; the mother against the daughter, and the daughter against the mother; the mother in law against her daughter in law, and the daughter in law against her mother in law.

Now, I don’t personally believe that theological arguments matter when it comes to Marriage Equality, and I won’t change my mind there until the Church comes out and condemns all who divorce, wear mixed cloths, eat shell fish, and a host of other abominations that can be found within their Holy Bible. Marriage Equality is a Civil issue pertaining to the Government’s ability to issue marriage licenses, and the unfair discrimination that stops same-sex couples from being treated fairly by a secular government.

But since the only opposition to Marriage Equality is based upon the far-fetched notion that the Church owns the definition of Marriage, theological perspectives become applicable. Let’s use the NIV translation as it seems more modern as well as straightforward.

51 Do you think I came to bring peace on earth? No, I tell you, but division.

This seems like such an odd scripture for the Church to raise given what the Holy Bible tells us about the ministry of Jesus. He spoke out in so many ways against the institutionalized “Church” of his time, the Hebrew Temple and Priests. He spoke out and acted out, if we are to believe Matthew 21:12  , against the status quo and what we are led to believe he saw as a hierarchical abuse of Faith and Power. Luke plays an important part in Liberation Theology, as Jesus in Luke seems especially concerned with the poor and underserved. This seems counter to the Church’s stance demanding submission to the status quo  and their control over our bodies and our relationships.

But I think there is another side to this which isn’t really theological at all. Jesus, the Prince of Peace and Lord of Love s now being “framed” by the Church as being about division instead of Peace; Confrontation instead of Love at a time when the notion of Love is swaying public opinion towards Marriage Equality. Why can’t two people who love each other be married everyone is now asking? The Catholic Church looks to separate the idea of Jesus as Lord of Love, and Love as the basis of marriage.

On the other hand, the Church’s action is very telling. This issue- Marriage Equality appears to be the line they are drawing in the sand as one step too far across the line. Odd, really, given that Divorce is so clearly condemned in the Bible, but the Church never fought it so hard. Marriage Equality is the dividing entity, much as Jesus called himself the one of division.

via Luke 12:51-53 KJV – Suppose ye that I am come to give peace – Bible Gateway.