Stop worrying about my salvation, and mind your own business.

The issue of Homosexuality and the Bible will remain front and center for a while, as we move through a new phase of the growth of human thought. Christianity may be on its last breath or it may evolve. Only time will tell, but it is changing, or must change, just as it did when the world was believed to be flat, or when the industrial revolution changed things, or any number of other points throughout History.

That said, until any transformation is complete, can I just ask that you crazy Christians to stop worrying about my salvation? I am quite capable as an adult to make my own moral choices, and I don’t need you trying to control me, my life, or my relationships. If you think I’m going to hell because, I’m gay, that’s fine. Believe what you want. But past that, leave me alone! You aren’t going to be there, burning with me, so what is it to you?

I remember as far back as Grade School, being given a book by my Father’s father, about the Pilgrims and their trip to the new world. It detailed, in a youth book way, their flight from England to flee Religious persecution, and their trip to the New World. This notion of Religious Freedom has stuck with me ever since, and I am committed to it as a guiding principle, just as our Constitution is committed to it. But I am also a thinking person, who has studied much when it comes to Religion, History, Christianity, and Theology. I was raised within a Methodist household where rational thought informs all else in theological ideas.

The reality is that Christian theology isn’t that cookie-cutter clear, and if the topic is Hell, it is even a bit muddier. That said, if you want to be hung up on going to Heaven or Hell, that is your business, but I’ll appreciate you stepping out of my business. I’m not so worried about Hell, because theologically, it just doesn’t add up, so whenever I end up standing before the Creator, I’m just not worried, and you don’t need to be worried for me. Really. And if I’m wrong, well, I’ll take responsibility for that.

Imagine how much good in the world you could do, if you just stopped trying to control the lives of other people and really started to be Christ-like. If you brought people to your Faith by attraction rather than coercion. I am a huge fan of Faith! I am however, with the theologian, Søren Kierkegaard, and doubt that you really know much about what Faith is, or just how hard it is to walk a path of Faith. It is easier, I’m sure to think you have all of the answers and need to force them onto others.

I know part of your reply. It is all about the kids, right? You have to squash my freedoms because what if the kids see, and what if they are led astray? This too is theologically unsound thinking. If the God of Love that you praise so loudly is all that, the kids have nothing to worry about. The power of love will always be greater than anything that falls outside of natural for a person. If a young person is gay, or lesbian, or bisexual, or trans, none of your efforts will really stop them. Not really. They will either just hate themselves or they will come to recognize your control and rhetoric as hateful. If you honestly think that God’s love isn’t strong enough then you don’t have much Faith, and you need to stop worrying about my Salvation, and worry about your own.

Just as when people of Faith had to come to grips with the fact that the world was not flat, and the sun didn’t move around the Earth, today, you must come to grips with the fact that Biology is far more complex than you once thought. People are truly created and have different sexual orientations. There have always been non-straight people, throughout History, and our social and cultural constructions today allow gay people to be exactly as they are. This is, I believe, seeing the whole of Creation through new eyes, and in ways that good for humanity.

So, please just stop and ask yourself what you really want. Do you want to be people of Faith or do you want to try to control everyone else? You will have some power to control, but the consequence of that is also pushing many people away from Faith. Your call: be a loving community of Faith or push people away. Either way, stop worrying about my Salvation. I’m OK, and I know what I can expect come judgement day, and I have nothing to worry about. And if we are both standing there, I’m going t turn to you and say, “I told you do.”

Women and Evil.

The linked post is from ThinkProgress, and they reference The Raw Story, as they discuss this quote from a Fox News guest, and pastor, Rev. Jesse Lee Peterson. It may appear on the surface as if it were just another joke about yet another whack job on Fox News, but it is far more than that. This story encapsulates the whole current culture war that we are currently living in, and should stand out as a warning of where we will be if we fail to recognize the severity of the issue.

“Look at every place where a women is in control,” said Peterson. “You see nothing but confusion. There’s no good in it at all, none.”Peterson’s sermon began with comments about Sandra Fluke, doubling down on Rush Limbaugh’s slut remarks. But halfway through his speech, he kicked the hate into another gear:PETERSON: “I think that one of the greatest mistakes that America made was to allow women the opportunity to vote. We should have never turned that over to women.”“It was a big mistake…these women are voting in the wrong people. They’re voting in people who are evil, who agree with them…Men in the good old days understood the nature of the women, they were not afraid to deal with them.”“Wherever women are taking over, evil reigns.”

I have been working on a post on thomascwaters.com, dealing with the current state of the Marriage Equality battle and then I read this post. There are a few things we must accept as a starting point now. The GOP is been hijacked by the far right elements of that party, and this once-fring-now-mainstream position is all about a radical far right conservative religious position. Their goal everywhere is to push a social agenda where moderate and liberal voices have no place, and we experience a return to some mythical yet perceived real social hierarchy where men rule and the Bible is the basis for everything. This is the current day’s version of the Dark Ages being born again.

The solution isn’t really so simple, even if it appears as if it should be. Down with Religion, right?  But Religion itself isn’t really the problem, simply the weapon being employed by these folks. Sure you can try and take away their weapon, but that doesn’t stop them from fighting. You can’t, no matter how hard you try, take Religion away. No amount of trivializing it or fighting it will work. THe only solution is to push back with real and constant effort and fight poor theology with good, sane, meaningful theology. And to point out what is really going on. That the men in power want to return to a space in time when they had even more power than they do today. This is not a battle against Women alone, but a battle against modernity in total.

I was listening to an interview with Erik Larson the other day about his book, Beasts in the Garden. In it he tells the story of the American Ambassador to Germany as Hitler grew in power and devastated Germany, Europe and the Jewish population. He explained that in the early days, no one really believed that anyone could conceivably do the horrific things that the rhetoric of the times seems to imply. For me the similarity is that it can seem inconceivable that our entire social structure and sense of empowerment and freedom could be in danger. But it is and can be if we do not stop and counter such horrific ideas as Peterson espouses.

via Fox News Contributor: Allowing Women To Vote A Mistake.

Photo credit: Some rights reserved by satanoid

God’s Wrath? Tornadoes Damage Midwest Towns

Saw a tweet  that llinked to the attached post, and the tweet was titled, God’s Wrath.

God and God’s wrath are commonly used as either warning or proof that [fill in the blank] whiuch is happening culturally, is opposed by God. Often these same Bible thumpers point to stories like Sodom and Gomorrah as an example of God using His wrath. Here’s the thing. This is a win/win for the Bible thumpers. They can point to anythibng and say it is proopf of whatever, because there is no real way to refute it. God doesn’t speak from the sky and say, “No, that is just the Weather.” So, fior the thumpers, it is a perfect waepon to use and fear mongering technique. If the devastation happens to them, it tells them that they aren’t fighting hard enough for God’s Will. If the devastation happens to others, it is proof that God hates whoever was devastated.

The problem is it paints a picture of a God, no sane person wants rto worship or trust. That God who can devastate anyone, no matter how hard you are trying to be a good Christian, is a pretty mean and unjust God. Additionally, it is a picture of God that can not be reconciled with  New Testament theology. Either Christians believe in the God of the New Testament, or they really aren’t Christians at all. That N.T. God sacrificed His Son so that all human beings have eternal life. The N.T. God is one who places self-sacrifice and forgiveness above all else. The N.T. God is one of unconditional love, and a God that does unbelievable things like virgin births and resurrections. It is a God that displays power through surrender and compassion.

This is why Christianity is fighting so hard to survive, and thinking people are leaving Religion inb droves, because the God these folks claim to believe in is not the same God of their Faith heritage.

The storm killed five people and injured more than two dozen in and around Woodward, a town about 140 miles northwest of Oklahoma City, but it was the only tornado that caused fatalities. Many of the touchdowns raked harmlessly across isolated stretches of rural Kansas, and though communities in Iowa and Kansas were hit, residents and officials credited days of urgent warnings from forecasters for saving lives.

via Tornadoes Damage Midwest Towns, Residents Struggling To Recover.

This is Real Methodism in Action!

Methodist Ministers Pledge to Perform Gay Marriage Despite Ban

On Monday a group of United Methodists from New York and Connecticut will release a list of pastors who plan to perform weddings for homosexual couples despite the denomination’s ban on gay marriage.The We do! Methodists Living Marriage Equality project consists of 161 clergy members, 703 lay people and six congregations representing 67 United Methodist congregations who will risk their standing and jobs with the church by announcing their support for equal rights for the LGBT community.

If you study John Wesley, the founder of Methodism, you will find that he was a man who bucked the system and acted out- or I should say- took action when he felt the organizational structures within the Church stopped people from participating in the Body of Christ. I have been a Methodist my entire life, although I have not been active in that denomination for the last 15 years. I have always believed however, that women and men if courage, within the ministry or the laity would eventually act similarly to John Wesley, and do what they knew to be right rather than merely following what they were ordered to do

This effort is not the first act of courage however. I have already written about how Methodist ministers in the Washington DC area spoke out and committed to perform same-sex marriages. And historically, my friend, Jimmy Creech, lost his church because he did what he knew to be right and married two memberas of his congregation some 16 or so years ago. I have just been surprised that it has taken this long for more M<ethodists to step up and act like true Methodists.

via Methodist Ministers Pledge to Perform Gay Marriage Despite Ban | Long Island Press.

13th annual International Transgender Day of Remembrance (TDOR)

I saw the linked and quoted post below in the newsletter for More Light Presbyterians, and the full story is found on their website.

Sunday, November 20th is the 13th annual International Transgender Day of Remembrance (TDOR). TDOR is a day to recognize the vulnerability of transgender persons to injustice, violence and death; to remember the transgender persons we have lost this year; and to work for change.

The nine year old son of a good friend of mine once described transgender people as those “whose spirits do not match the bodies they were given.” My friend’s eloquent son recognized the calling transgender people feel to fully express with their bodies the spirit God gave them.  And yet, every day, in every corner of the globe, and in your own community, transgender people face discrimination in attempting to find a place to live, in attempting to access medical care, and even in attempting to find a restroom in a public place. In these moments of discrimination, the person behind the counter, or the person monitoring the lobby of a public place, or the person working at TSA, or police or medical staff did not agree the spirit that person was trying to express counted as worthy to be granted access to basic human rights as housing, medical treatment, or a bathroom.

 

Read the rest of the article written by Alex McNeil: via More Light Presbyterians – Our Spirits, Ourselves.

When Love Wins Out

A Lutheran pastor resigned from Trinity Lutheran Church in Alabama last week after experiencing a “change of heart” towards equality for gay and lesbian people. Pastor Bert Oelschig had initially opposed Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA)’s 2009 decision to “allow openly gay pastors” in “committed, lifelong and monogamous relationships” to serve in the clergy and even threatened to “break away with the national denomination.” But in June, Oelschig experienced a revelation and attempted to explain his newfound support for LGBT equality to his church.

This is a really wonderful story in most regards, and the type we need to see more like it. I especially love the theological basis for how he explains this. God (Love) trumps chromosomes (i.e. gender).

“Before there was any creation, God was love,” Oelschig said, citing imagery from his original sermon. “After creation, gender came along, but God’s essence was still love. It’s my belief that the love between people is not a function of gender. (Homosexual couples) can express love, faith and affection just as we all can … it’s blessed by God.

“Love trumps chromosomes.”

Methodist Group Vows to Support Lesbian and Gay Couples

If you know my past, then you know that I was a lay preacher/pastor within the United Methodist Church. Although, I haven’t been engaged in that denomination for probably a dozen years now. But it still brought a real smile to my face to see a blog post today concerning this new Methodist group which is supporting gay and lesbian couples.

We refuse to discriminate against any of God’s children and pledge to make marriage equality a lived reality within the New York Annual Conference, regardless of sexual orientation or gender expression,” the group declared in statement called “A Covenant of Conscience” and signed by 164 clergy members, 732 lay people and six entire congregations. In all, 74 congregations within the New York Annual Conference (NYAC) are represented among the signers. NYAC is the regional church body representing United Methodist congregations from Long Island to the Catskills and in southern Connecticut.

Individual clergy are also speaking out. “My ordination vows require me to minister to all people in my congregation,” said Rev. Sara Lamar-Sterling, the minister at First and Summerfield United Methodist Church in New Haven, Conn. “This is about pastoral care, about welcoming all people, but especially the marginalized and the oppressed, like Jesus did.”

At least in my memory, one of the first UMC clergy to support gay and lesbian relationships was the Rev Jimmy Creech, who was removed from his position after performing a marriage for two women in his congregation. Jimmy, a straight man with the support of his wife was so courageous, and he touched my life in a very big way. But this new development is truly amazing, and I really don’t have words to express how exciting it is to see so many stand up and speak out for what they feel is truly right in the eyes of God.

via Methodist Group Vows to Support Lesbian and Gay Couples | GLAAD.

When churches teach hate.

This story is quite remarkable and sad at the same time.

Gay Couple Assaulted — At Church

Jerry Pittman, Jr., and his boyfriend, Dustin Lee, were attacked when they tried to go to church at Grace Fellowship in Fruitland, Tennessee:
I went over to take the keys out of the ignition and all the sudden I hear someone say ‘sick’em,’” said Gibson County resident, Jerry Pittman Jr.

 

Pittman said the attacked was prompted by the pastor of the church, Jerry Pittman, his father. “My uncle and two other deacons came over to the car per my dad’s request. My uncle smash me in the door as the other deacon knocked my boyfriend back so he couldn’t help me, punching him in his face and his chest. The other deacon came and hit me through my car window in my back,” said Pittman. He said bystanders did not offer assistance. He said the deacon yelled derogatory homosexual slurs, even after officers arrived. He said the officers never intervened to stop the deacons from yelling the slurs.

 

Back in graduate school, I rtead a bvook about snake handling churches that has stuck with me over these past 14 years. David Covinton’s book, Salvation on Sand Mountian tells the amazing story of this practice of Faith, but the above story brings it to mind for another reason. You see, Covington got involved with snake handling after following the trail of a pastor accused of trying to murder his wife with snake bites.  He wasn’t a very righteous pastor really if I remember the story. He was having an affair and this was a way to get rid of his wife, so he forced her to stick her hand into a rattler’s cage. But she didn’t die.

When individuals use their sense of entitlement as evidence that their actions do not have to be aligned with their supposed calling, it is always a bad sign.

The link has more details as well as video.

 

Are Biblical Laws About Homosexuality Eternal?

The linked post is especially interesting in the articulation of the passages about homosexuality in Leviticus:

So we sought to contribute another perspective that we believe can be helpful on this subject. The text identifies male homosexual acts by the technical term to’ebah, translated in English here as “an offensive thing” or in older translations as “an abomination.” This is important because most things that are forbidden in biblical law are not identified with this word. In both of the contexts in Leviticus (chapters 18 and 20), male homosexuality is the only act to be called this. (Other acts are included broadly in a line at the end of chapter 18.) So this term, which is an important one in the Bible in general, is particularly important with regard to the law about male homosexual acts.

The question is: Is this term to’ebah an absolute, meaning that an act that is a to’ebah is wrong in itself and can never be otherwise? Or is the term relative — meaning that something that is a to’ebah to one person may not be offensive to another, or something that is a to’ebah in one culture may not be offensive in another, or something that is a to’ebah in one generation or time period may not be offensive in another — in which case the law may change as people’s perceptions change?

When one examines all the occurrences of this technical term in the Hebrew Bible, one finds that elsewhere the term is in fact relative. For example, in the story of Joseph and his brothers in Genesis, Joseph tells his brothers that, if the Pharaoh asks them what their occupation is, they should say that they’re cowherds. They must not say that they are shepherds. Why? Because, Joseph explains, all shepherds are an offensive thing (to’ebah) to the Egyptians. But shepherds are not an offensive thing to the Israelites or Moabites or many other cultures. In another passage in that story, we read that Egyptians don’t eat with Israelites because that would be an offensive thing (to’ebah) to them. But Arameans and Canaanites eat with Israelites and don’t find it offensive. See also the story of the Exodus from Egypt, where Moses tells Pharaoh that the things that Israelites sacrifice would be an offensive thing (to’ebah) to the Egyptians. But these things are certainly not an offensive thing to the Israelites.

 

The authors have written a book, and this post is both a response to a critique, as well as an explanation. I think this is a book, I’d enjoy reading and will be looking for it.

Very true: the Bible isn’t going away, nor is its role or the way it is used by people who believe it to be “the word of God.” So, the more we can understand about it, the better. On the other hand, does this old text really deserve the force given to it? Is it really relevant today, or do those who seek to keep it relevant do so out of their own human motives?

Theologically, what does it say that a God who is al powerful, all knowing, and all loving stopped communicating with human beings some 2000 years ago? How is it that this book is supposed to contain the fullness of the revelation of god’s word?

As we seek to understand the Bible, isn’t it also time to put it into perspective and see it as a history of the faithful (or not so faithful) and their quest to understand the Divine? Is it possible that if we stopped claiming that these translated (sometimes poorly) words from so long ago are the only revelation of the Will of the divine, we might actually start to find the divine?

 

 

 

via Richard Elliott Friedman: Are Biblical Laws About Homosexuality Eternal?.