IT’S LIKE FINDING THE PERFECT HALLMARK CARD

greetingcardI have sometimes wondered why the greeting card industry is so huge.  Why would I (especially as a writer) want to send somebody a card written by someone else when I could just as easily use my own words?

As crazy as it might seem, sometimes someone else has articulated exactly what you wanted to say in exactly the way you wished you could have said it.  They’ve captured the moment perfectly.

So, why mess with perfection in this moment?

Now, admittedly, this doesn’t happen very often, but when it does, I figure, why reinvent this particular wheel when it’s rolling along quite nicely on its own?

When it comes to something like expressing my love to my wife for no particular reason or sending Happy Birthday wishes to Grandma or Happy Bar Mitzvah to my neighbor’s kid, I’ll pop into the local Hallmark store and see what I can find.  Most of the time, I’m amazed at how a card writer, who knows nothing about me, can articulate the feelings I have for that particular occasion.

I like it.  It makes me feel like I’m not alone– that other people share very similar feelings with me. I’m not bothered by not being “original”, as if I’m the first one in the history of love to ever feel this way, or that someone else also had a grandmother that looked like Maxine.

But it’s not just in the realm of greeting cards that I’ve found this phenomenon.  I find it all the time in music, art, literature and even conversation with other folks.

Recently, I’ve been struggling with exactly how to articulate my faith.  How can I put into words what I’ve come to understand about what I believe?

I know that’s quite a step away from my neighbor’s kid’s bar mitzvah, and it’s something that is constantly evolving as I continue to grow, but, never the less, I’ve come across something so striking, I wanted to share it here.

In the video below, Peter Rollins is being interviewed about the Emerging Church movement, something I’ve been fascinated by.  The questions are solid and the interviewer is not lobbing softballs.  His answers, though, are a perfect articulation of what I would like to think I would have been able to say if I had been in his seat.

In sharing this video, I’m not abdicating my responsibility to speak for myself; I love talking about his kind of stuff.  I just thought it was a really nice place to start, like a really great Hallmark card.

I hope you’ll take some time with it and give it a look!

Enjoy!

THE GREAT EQUALITY DEBATE Part 7

ED7August 19, 2013

Well, we’ve gotten this far, and not without some bruising.  Truth be told, this has taken a lot longer to do than I had originally intended.

I was going to bang out a couple of posts and that would be that.  I knew it would be controversial, but I didn’t stop to think about just how impactful it could be…for all sides.

I’ve been blessed to have had the opportunity to study this and share it with you, even as the chips have fallen where they have fallen.

Let’s move on, then, to the final verses in the New Testament portion of this argument and put this to bed.

The verses in question are: I Corinthians 6: 9-11 and I Timothy 1: 8-11, and what has been made clear to me more than anything else during the course of this study is that so very much can be lost in translation.  Translate a particular word to mean a particular thing and that word can become a feather or a sledgehammer.

So, while context means everything, it is not the only thing.  Translation of particular words goes a long way in the direction of holding tight to a particular agenda.

In prior posts, I’ve gone into some detail about the etymology of the word homosexuality and its derivatives, and my argument throughout this entire series has been that, specifically regarding these words, we have interpolated meaning into texts that wasn’t there at the time of their writing.

With respect to I Corinthians 6 and I Timothy 1, there are two Greek words that are at the core of this translational juggernaut.  They are: “arsenokoitai” and “malakoi” , and some scholars speculate the former seems to be a word coined by St. Paul, himself.

“Malakoi” is translated in modern Bibles as:

  • effeminate  (NASB)
  • men who practice homosexuality  (ESV)
  • male prostitute  (NIV)
  • pervert  (CEV)
  • homosexual  (NKJV)

Arsenokoitai” is translated in modern Bibles as:

  • sodomites  (NKJV)
  • men who practice homosexuality
  • homosexuals  (NASB)
  • men who have sexual relations with other men  (ESV)
  • one who behaves like a homosexual
  • those who practice homosexuality
  • those who participate in homosexuality
  • sodomites
  • people who have sexual relations with people of the same sex
  • people who live as homosexuals
  • those who abuse themselves with men
  • perverts  (NIV)

So, clearly, what we have here is a vast range of meanings, from effeminate to prostitute, sodomites to perverts, and quite a bit in between.  That is a very wide berth and none of those meanings have anything to do with loving, committed relationships.

With this many possibilities, it seems that interpretation of the two texts only makes sense within the situations that Paul is correcting when directly addressing the Corinthians and Timothy.  This takes us back to context.

In both I Corinthians and again in I Timothy, Paul is listing behaviors that are unrighteous, behaviors that are unlawful.  The Law, Paul says, is made for the unlawful not the righteous.  In other words, the only reason there is a Law in the first place is to hold accountable those who live in opposition to the will of God.  The Law makes straight the paths of those who stray from God and guides them back to communion with God.

But Paul’s ultimate argument is always that righteousness is not found in the Law but only in the fulfillment of the Law; and that fulfillment of the Law is Jesus.

Over and over again, in the New Testament and the Old Testament, the overarching will of God is that Humankind should love one another.  If God is Love, then to be like God is to love, to live a life full of love.  If Jesus was God made flesh, then in Jesus, we see what a life filled with God looks like.  If in Jesus, God has reconciled the world to God’s self by fulfilling the Law, then what does Humankind have left to do but live lives filled with love?

To those who seek to use the Law as a tool to repress, separate and subjugate, Paul reminds them of the fulfillment of the Law:

 Romans 13:8-10  Owe nothing to anyone except to love one another; for he who loves his neighbor has fulfilled the law. For this, “You shall not commit adultery, You shall not murder, You shall not steal, You shall not covet,” and if there is any other commandment, it is summed up in this saying, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.

So, where am I going with this?

To be entirely truthful, part of what’s taken me so long to write these seven pieces is the fact that I honestly felt like I was basically done at the end of the first post.  I’m not in the habit of quoting myself, but by way of reminder, here is what I wrote the day before Easter of this year:

“For me, God is love. Even the most conservative Christian would agree that God is described as being like a “refiner’s fire.”  Therefore, love, itself, is a refiner’s fire. That is to say, love burns away hate. Love is more powerful and overcomes all evil, leaving only love standing in the end. When hate is confronted by love, it cannot stay. Hate cannot exist where love continues to reside.

And so, I begin with love, and thus, I begin with God.”

When all of these verses on homosexuality are broken down, and arguments on hermeneutic have been made, what comes out on the other end for me is, Where is love in all of this? 

At the end of the day, when I seriously consider Paul’s writings on this subject, I see Paul’s list of vices and problems of unrighteous living, and then I see him offer a solution to those problems.  The solution is always found in love.  Paul exhorts his readers to change their unrighteous ways by returning to the ways of God.  If God is Love, then, following the way of love is following the way of God.

So, if there are those in the gay community who live their lives with the claim of truly seeking to be the authentic and complete version of what God created them to be, and in their searching find another with whom they desire to spend the rest of their lives living in a committed and God centered relationship (and there are many!), those who defend a traditional reading of the Bible on homosexuality can conclude nothing less than those people are simply lying; they are not truly following the convictions of their hearts but are actually deliberately perverting what they know deep down in their hearts to be the truth, that they are not actually homosexual, but have simply given themselves over to a perverted and unrighteous way of behaving.

I cannot buy that argument.

I know too many people who have so painfully struggled with who they truly are and have spent many an hour trying to “pray away” their homosexuality.  I cannot disagree with the notion that we all have our own individual struggles to work through in this life, while on our way to trying to grow into what God has truly intended for us to be.  But, I cannot put homosexuality alongside a bad temper or a proclivity toward gambling as vices on which one needs to work and pray about.

So, I conclude this series here and will move on to other things.  I have never considered that I have the definitive scholarly view on this subject, but only claim that I have done all I can to see this situation with my heart and mind committed to love.

If this subject is a struggle for you, please study it for yourself.  Pray for guidance and compassion as you also pray for wisdom, and keep your compass always pointed in the direction of love.  It is only in love that we find peace, compassion, understanding and hope.

For it is in love, and only love, that we find God.
I wish you peace,

Scott

THE GREAT EQUALITY DEBATE Part 6

ED6July 31, 2013

We begin with Part 6.

I say, “begin” because, for a significant number of Christians today, the Old Testament (or, Hebrew Bible) has been largely supplanted by what they refer to as the “New Covenant”–that being the New Testament.

In other words, the Old Law has been done away with and does not apply to Christians, today.  It’s only the New Testament that truly matters in terms of what is required of us in living our daily lives as Christians.  So, while the Old Testament scriptures we’ve been examining so far may be argued away as being irrelevant or no longer applying to the modern Christian, if the New Testament says that homosexuality is a sin, then the argument is over.  Maybe you’ve seen the bumper sticker:

“The Bible says it. I believe it. That’s the end of it!”

But, the obvious next question for me is: Do the writings in the Bible (and, more importantly for most Western Christians today, the New Testament, in particular) actually mean what we’ve come to say they do?

I take us now into the New Testament passages of the Bible that many point to when they refer to what they believe Saint Paul has to say about homosexuality.

Perhaps Paul’s most significant comments on what we call homosexuality occur in Romans 1:26-27.

“26 Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural sexual relations for unnatural ones. 27 In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed shameful acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their error.”

The first thing to be remembered here (as I’ve written about this in earlier posts) is that Paul is not writing about homosexuality as we have come to understand it.  The idea and science of sexual orientation simply did not exist at the time of Paul’s writing.  What Paul is writing about here is the fallen nature of humankind, and it is in this fallen nature that humanity exchanges the truth of God for a lie.

To back up a few verses to Romans 1:16, Paul, here, lays out the main idea of his argument: that the Gospel is for all.  His intention is to unite the Jews and the Gentiles by proclaiming the message of the Gospel, that a life filled with God is a life filled with love, compassion, and understanding; in others words, a life “in Christ.”

Paul proclaims that it is only the grace of the Gospel that unites because, though everyone knew God, they rejected God anyway.  According to Paul, Jews would have known God through God’s revelation and their election, and the Gentiles would have known God because of what can be inherently known about God through the creation itself.  Paul speaks of the Gentiles, beginning in verse 19, when he writes:

“19 since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. 20 For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.”

Paul makes the point that all of humanity had knowledge of the ways of God; God had given it to all.  Yet, all of humanity rejected God, and God allowed them to give themselves over to their own lusts and evil ways.  It is the corrupted humanity that separates all people from God and it is the grace of the Gospel that restores everyone to God.  All of humanity has a choice, and Paul is making it clear that there are many who have chosen to go against the ways of God and, though they claimed to be wise, actually became fools.

In making this argument, Paul goes on to list a set of vices that would be associated with those who have rejected God and God’s ways and describes what it’s like to be one living in this fallen state.  Evidences of this way of living are clearly seen in the world of Paul and those who have given themselves over to their own lusts would have seen the consequences of that way of living.

What would not be known at the time of Paul, however, was the idea of sexual orientation.  The first century Roman world saw sexuality on a spectrum of lust, meaning, sex for procreation on the lowest end of the scale and the abandoning of relations with opposite sex partners for relations with same sex partners on the other.  In other words, the assumption would have been that everyone is created as having a natural desire for the opposite sex and then those corrupted would exchange that natural desire for someone of the same sex.  They would have given themselves over to the unnatural desires of their fallen hearts.

Dio Chrysostom, a first century Greek orator, writer, philosopher, and historian put it this way:

“The man whose appetite is insatiate in such things…will have contempt for the easy and scorn for a woman’s love as a thing too easily given…and will turn his assault against the male quarters…believing that in them, he will find a kind of pleasure difficult and hard to procure.”

What we have come to know about human sexuality in the 2,000 or so years since the writings of Paul and other first century writers, both anecdotally and scientifically, is that for many, the natural state of their existence is one in which they have a sexual desire for others of the same gender; this is what is natural for them.

My claim in this series of posts on homosexuality (as is my claim on all discussions involving the Bible) is that context is everything.  When the book of Romans is taken as a whole, it becomes clear that Paul is talking about those who have chosen to reject the ways of God for the ways of a corrupt and fallen world.  His context involves taking what God has created and called “good” and exchanging that for something opposite.  If one is created by God to naturally have a desire for someone of the same sex, then that is what is natural for him.  He has been created homosexual.

The passage is not intended to speak about gay couples who are living in loving, committed relationships.  It is intended to speak to those who are naturally heterosexual and have abandoned that natural propensity for homosexual relations.  Paul is clearly speaking of heterosexual men and women who have thrown aside what is natural for them in order to fulfill their own lustful desires.

If we were to actually take this passage seriously, knowing what we know now in our modern time, wouldn’t we have to say that it is sinful for a man or woman, who knows in his or her heart that they are homosexual, to engage in relations with someone of the opposite gender?

At the root of my fight for equality is the notion that God has created each and everyone of us just as we should be.  We are who we are, and each of us have our own individual quest to become all that we were meant to be.

It is most natural for us to be called into loving relationships with our fellow human beings.  Where love is, there is God.

In my next post, I will bring this discussion to a close as we examine the final two passages of Scripture wrongly used to condemn homosexuality.

Until then, peace to you all!

P.S.  If you’re so inclined, you can follow me on Twitter at: @scotylang

THE GREAT EQUALITY DEBATE Part 5

ED5April 26, 2013

I am currently acting in a production of the musical MAME! at the Media Theater in Media, PA; soon we’ll be moving to the Bucks County Playhouse.  It’s a terrific show and a lot of fun to do!

The other day, I came out the stage door and was approached by a lovely woman who wanted to stop me and tell me how much she enjoyed the show.  It’s always nice to hear when someone is moved by the work you do; I was deeply appreciative.

At the same time, however, I felt the need to stone her.

See, she was wearing a cotton/polyester blended blouse. (Lev. 19:19)

A mile and a half from my house is a wonderful family farm- The Stults Farm.  It’s a beautiful place where we get our pumpkins every fall, and we’ve even taken the kids (when they were younger, of course…geeze, Dad!) on the Hay Rides.  In the spring and summer months, you can pick-ur-own fruits and vegetables for much less than what you’d pay at the Acme or Piggly Wiggly.

As I drive by there, though, I’m always compelled to burn the place down since it is clearly operating in defiance of God’s will.

See, they continually plant more than one kind of seed in their fields. (Also Lev. 19:19)

Ok, you get me…I’m obviously being a bit dramatic (a bit…), but I do want to be memorable, here. 

Leviticus 18:22 reads, “You shall not lie with a male as one lies with a female; it is an abomination.”

Now, you could very easily say to me, “Scott, that passage is very clear.  You cannot argue that it’s not.”

To which, I would say to you, “The passage may be very clear, but the context is not and, for me, context makes all the difference.”

(Read all of Leviticus HERE)

The section of Leviticus pointed to by people opposed to homosexuality is part of what is known to the Jewish tradition as the Holiness Code. The rules set up in the Holiness Code were designed for a very particular purpose in a very particular setting.

God had given the Jewish people the land of Canaan, and the Holiness Code was established to provide a standard of moral behavior that would distinguish the Jews from the Canaanites.  The Jews were not to worship the god, Molech, as the Canaanites did, nor were they allowed to adopt the practices of the people they had conquered. 

What we see in this context is a list of commandments (laws) put together in an effort to promote specific ritual and ethnic purity for a new nation. Their purpose is nation building and their context is a people’s entry into a promised but very foreign land.

Under these extreme circumstances, the rules were made to keep a community very different from the community that formerly inhabited the land.  They were a frontier community in need of very specific instructions.

But, look at some of these specific instructions:

Round haircuts are forbidden, as are tattoos; cattle inbreeding is a no no; keeping the Sabbath is essential; and children who dishonor their parents are to be put to death.  This is just to name a few.

The context is cultural identity, protection, and procreation (the nation must be peopled, after all). In this context, homosexual conduct would put all three of these things at risk. But, we have long since passed the discussion of God’s frontier community as it existed when the people of Israel first arrived in the Promised Land.  The context is clearly culturally different and, at the same time, it is theologically different.

From a Christian perspective, Jesus came to fulfill the Law of Israel, and Saint Paul tells us that the gift of the Holy Spirit is available to us as the guidance that was once given to the Jews through the Law.  Both Jesus and Saint Paul were concerned entirely with the purity of one’s heart, not the letter of the Law.

In addition, there must be a distinction made between that which is ritually impure and that which is intrinsically wrong. The key to this distinction is found in the word “abomination.”

The word “abomination” is not used to describe something intrinsically evil, like rape or murder, but, rather, something ritually impure, like, eating pork or planting two types of seed in a field or wearing a cotton/polyester blend to a matinee performance of MAME!.

An abomination, in this context, is what the Gentiles were doing, but that, in and of itself, is not necessarily a violation of the Commandments or an intrinsically evil notion.   So, as a new nation (the chosen nation of God) the instructions are clear: Don’t do as the Gentiles do!

It’s funny to me that I’ve been criticized as “picking and choosing” from the Bible in order to justify my faith.  When I look at things a little more closely, I tend to see certain Christians ignoring the Holiness Code, believing it to be irrelevant in light of a New Testament understanding of purity of heart under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, and yet cite Leviticus as the basis for their feelings on the prohibition of all homosexuality.

Also, I’d like to take a moment to go back to my original position on this topic and reassert that, regarding the prohibition of homosexuality in Scripture, the concerns of the writers have nothing to do with loving, monogamous relationships.  The prohibition is directed at the deviant behavior of men and women who have left what is natural for them and participated in behavior that is unloving and destructive.

In Leviticus in particular, and in the New Testament scriptures we will visit in the next post, what is being addressed, among other things, is participation in pagan temple prostitution. Prostitution on any level, whether heterosexual or homosexual, denigrates the participants and is an unloving act.  No good comes of it.

What we are talking about when we talk about homosexuality today is much different than what the writers of these passages were talking about.  What is biologically relevant today was not an issue then.  All that’s being addressed is unloving and destructive behavior, the kind that would surely be heartbreaking to God, even today.

Next time, we will venture into the New Testament and examine the passages that, for most Christians, hold the most relevant authority on this subject.

Until next time…

 

Peace to you all,

Scott

THE GREAT EQUALITY DEBATE Part 4

ED4April 13, 2013

Transitioning now from the myth of The Creation Story found in Genesis to history remembered about the fall of the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah, we find our second text from which an argument is often made regarding the condemnation of homosexual relationships.

The story, found in Genesis chapter 19, is exactly the type of plot one might find in a modern day film or television show; it’s brutal, to say the least. There are bad guys trying to break down doors, good guys in imminent danger trying desperately to stay alive, and a narrow escape that has you biting your nails until the final verse!  It truly is an example of great story telling!

I won’t relay the full story for you in this post; you can read the complete text here. The gist of the story centers on a terrible wickedness displayed by the people of the cities and God’s intention to destroy the two cities as a result.  God sends two angels down to the city of Sodom, where Lot is living with his family, to warn him of the impending doom so that he might gather his family and flee the city before it is destroyed.

Lot takes the two angels (who appear as men) into his home and shows them great hospitality. Not too long after the angels arrive, all of the men of the city of Sodom show up at Lot’s house demanding to see the two visitors so that they can have sex with them.  (I told you it was brutal!)

The angels eventually lead Lot and his family out of Sodom before it is destroyed, and from the name of this city came the term sodomy.

It is important to note, here, that the word come to be known as sodomy does not come from a Hebrew word, but was first introduced around the year 1300, originating from an Old French term, sodomie. The Latin term, sodomita is what is translated into the King James Version of the Bible, and in every instance this term is used in that translation, the reference is to male prostitutes associated with places of worship.(1)

The temptation has been to assume that the wickedness of the citizens of Sodom was that all of the males were homosexuals and, on the surface, that’s a fair assumption. Or, is it?

If we pause to look at the story for only a moment, we must surely ask the question, “What is it we’re actually reading here?”

Is the story trying to make the point that every man (after all, the passage says, “ALL the men of Sodom”) somehow, as a result of his wicked choices, suddenly (or even over time) “became” a homosexual? Or, is the author of the story attempting to demonstrate the depth of their wickedness by invoking one of the most heinous actions imaginable: gang rape?

No matter our differences on religious issues, I’m sure we must agree that an example of attempted gang rape is in no way related, nor should it ever be compared, to a loving, committed relationship between two people of the same sex.

Homosexual rape, like heterosexual rape, is never to be condoned. It is horrific is every sense, and God must surely weep when it occurs.

Heterosexuals and homosexuals alike act in extremely sinful ways and make terrible choices everyday. Just because a certain group of people made certain destructive choices does not mean we can superimpose those choices onto another group of people and call that group naturally and inevitably perverse.

The city of Sodom is noted throughout the Old Testament as having been a place of wickedness and worthy of its destruction, but nowhere does it state that homosexuality was its wickedness.  The opinion of Jesus on the matter seems to be that Sodom and Gomorrah were destroyed because of their unwelcoming ways, for he evokes the two cities in a conversation with his disciples regarding cities that might not welcome them on their travels.  (Matthew 10:14-15)

Whatever the case may be, the story of Sodom has nothing to do with natural, loving relationships. The people of the city rejected the ways of love and thus, the ways of God. What the specific sins were is not clear. What is clear is that when we reject the ways of God, and act in unloving ways, the consequences will surely lead to sadness and tragedy.

In my next post, we will make our way over to Leviticus and what is known in the Jewish tradition as The Holiness Code.

Until then, peace be with you!

 

(1).  Jeffrey S. Striker, “How to Decide? Homosexual Christians, the Bible, and Gentile Inclusion,” Theology Today, Vol.52, No. 2, July 1994.

THE GREAT EQUALITY DEBATE Part 3

ED3April 8, 2013

I return to this very sensitive subject, knowing how divisive it is, with a slight sense of foreboding.  I have had several friends lovingly challenge me on my position during the past week, expressing heartfelt concern and, in some cases, admonishing me for my departure from my former conservative ways.

Conflict of any kind is never a fun thing, but challenging one another inside of civil discourse always leads to growth; I am convinced of that.

At the same time, I have a renewed vigor and resolve. Since my last post, I have spent a great deal of time in study and prayer, and am more convinced than I have ever been that the traditional reading of the Bible regarding passages concerning homosexuality does not accurately reflect the original writers’ intentions and must be revisited in light of what we now know about human sexuality and the human condition in general.

And so, I turn now to the traditional set of texts used to perpetuate the argument against same sex marriage and homosexuality as a whole.

Genesis 1-2  The Creation Story 

I begin with the Old Testament and The Creation Story found in Genesis 1-2.

Many critics of homosexuality go immediately to the Genesis story of creation and Adam and Eve to make their point that God did not create man and woman to be anything but heterosexual. After all, God created Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve, as I once heard Little Richard say in an interview. But, the danger one runs into when looking at this story through the lenses of post-Enlightenment science is that the authors of the Genesis story were doing just that–telling a story. The story they were telling about creation was intent on answering an extremely important, yet very complicated question: Where did we come from?

To say that, because it excludes homosexuality from its verses, the story privileges heterosexuality is a very weak argument. It never mentions the single life or the choice of a celibate lifestyle, for example, nor does it deal with parents without children.

The creation story was never intended to be a history of anthropology, nor was it intended to be a run down of every human relationship. It is not meant to be the standard by which every marriage is judged, but, rather, a story about the establishment of humanity and its society.

Because relations between a man and a woman (“Adam” and “Eve”) were needed to begin and then perpetuate our human society (and still are to this day, of course; no one is denying this biological fact), the story focuses on this aspect of human relationships.

The story of Creation in Genesis could never have been written to be understood through the lenses of “creationist science.” The way in which we talk about scientific ways of knowing did not exist in that day. It is, and was originally intended to be, a beautifully constructed myth that serves as an explanation for the beginning of things.

Does that make the story untrue? Absolutely not! The story is ripe with truth and will always be one worthy of discussion. However,  it does not fall into the realm of biological science.

About five years ago, I heard a wonderful lecture given by Dr. Marcus Borg (Canon Theologian; Professor of Religion and Philosophy at Oregon State University) in which he gave the most remarkable definition of the word Myth I had ever heard:

“A myth is a story (and it is always a story, by the way) about the way things always are but never were.”

This means that a myth does not have to be “factually true” in order to be “profoundly true.” Actually, it is the case with most everything to do with the human condition that when we wish to find the “truth” of things, we turn to the great works of art, theater, music and literature. The Creation Story, in this sense, tells us the profound truth of how humanity came into being.

Is the relationship of marriage between a man and a woman as seen in the story of Adam and Eve one that has been created and sanctioned by God? It most certainly is. But, to claim that it is the only relationship created and sanctioned by God, simply because it mentions no other type, is not a solid ground on which to argue the point.

In my next post, we will remain in the book of Genesis and spend some time with a doomed city– Sodom.

Until then, peace be with you!

THE GREAT EQUALITY DEBATE Part 2

ED2April 1, 2013

To say the least, the debate over equal rights for all people is not about to go away anytime soon. Christians of all stripes have come a long way over the years in battling inequality, making strides in the contentious areas of race relations and women’s issues, to name only two.

In most cases today, Christians confronted with racism would speak out against any form of inequality. Regarding women’s issues, the cry for equal rights is loud and strong, though in some denominations, what equality means is still a matter of debate.

In any case, whether it is an issue of race or gender, how one has been created by God is celebrated in the Christian faith. St. Paul sums up this Christian idea of inclusion beautifully in Galatians 3:28:

There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.

However, when it comes to the homosexual community, it seems, for some Christians, the sentiment is,  All are one in Christ Jesus, except you, because you aren’t made that way, you’re choosing a lifestyle.

Now, I understand the impetus for my conservative Christian brothers and sisters to jump in here and ask, as St. Paul does in Romans 6,  “Are we to go on sinning so that grace may increase?” I understand this impetus because I understand that they believe homosexuality to be a “sin,” alongside all of the other sins that Paul names as immorality.

But, is that what Paul is truly speaking of?  Is he talking about what we are talking about when we talk of homosexuality?

Epistemology

Let me begin with the term, Epistemology.  Loosely defined, epistemology is the study of meaning and knowledge; the nature and grounds of knowledge. It questions what knowledge is, how it is acquired, and the possible extent to which a given subject or entity can be known.

How we see things, how we know what we know, can be compared to a set of lenses through which we look at the world around us. They are our epistemological framework or, another way to say it, our paradigm.

For example, before we knew the earth revolved around the sun, our epistemological framework gave us the only paradigm we could know-everything must revolve around the earth. But, now we know that is not true.

Homosexuality is a subject that we know a great deal more about today than ever. Though the debate rages in some corners about whether it is a choice or how one is created, we have scientific evidence that homosexual activity is present in over 1500 different species. It cannot be ignored as something occurring in the natural world. As far as human relations are concerned, every gay individual that I know makes the most passionate claim that he or she is truly born with the desires that they have for others of the same sex. It is simply as unnatural for them to desire someone of the opposite sex as it is for me to desire someone of my same gender.

When looking at the Bible, we also know that the subject of homosexuality is not mentioned in the Ten Commandments, nor is it found in the Summary of the Law. There is no prophet who makes mention of it, neither does Jesus make any mention of it in his teachings.

The term homosexuality itself did not exist in any of the manuscripts, which were used to form our English Bible; it was not even coined until the late nineteenth century. Historian John Boswell gives his conclusion on the matter from his groundbreaking study:

In spite of misleading English translations, which may imply the contrary, the word “homosexual” does not occur in the Bible; no extant text or manuscript, Hebrew, Greek, Syrian or Aramaic, contains such a word. In fact, none of these languages ever contained a word corresponding to the English “homosexual,” nor did any language have such a term before the late nineteenth century. (1)
It is only in recent translations that you will find the term at all. Since the Revised Standard Version in 1946, some translators have applied the term to biblical situations they assumed corresponded to the meaning of the word. There is no doubt, however, that you would not have found the word homosexuality in any Bible, in any language, prior to 1946. (2)

So, what is written in the Bible about homosexuality, and what can we make of it?

Scriptural texts

Traditionally, the texts to which people point when making any argument against homosexuality are found in only five places in the Bible. Those particular scriptures are:

Genesis 1-2 (The Creation Story); Genesis 19:1-9 (Sodom and Gomorrah); Leviticus 18:22 and 20:13 (The Holiness Code for the Jews newly entering Caanan); Romans 1:26-27 (Paul’s explanation of God’s wrath against sinful Humanity); and 1 Corinthians 6:9 and 1 Timothy 1-10 (Paul’s list of vices). (3)

Next time, I will begin to take each of these passages in turn and give my take on why I don’t believe we are to continue to subjugate homosexuals as inferior and second-class citizens. We must look at those who are yearning to truly be who they are meant to be and surround them with love, compassion and acceptance.

Peace to you all!

(1) Christianity, Social Tolerance, and Homosexuality. John Boswell, 1980.

(2) The Moral Teaching Of Paul. Victor Paul Furnish, 1985.

(3) The Good Book. Peter Gomes 1996

 

THE GREAT EQUALITY DEBATE Part 1

ED1March 30, 2013

I have to say, I really do love Facebook; so many people with so many different views on things. On my page at least, there have been a number of wonderful exchanges and comments from various people in my life. I’m constantly reminded of how blessed I am to have such a diverse group of friends.

The controversy this past week, of course, has been the issue of Gay Marriage and whether or not it should be legalized. It may have come as a surprise to some of my friends on Facebook to learn that I am in complete and total support of marriage equality. The reason it may have done so is that I am a Christian.

Not all of my friends on Facebook are Christian, in fact, many are not. Those who are, however, inevitably fall into two camps on this issue: those who agree with me and those who do not. Those who disagree have remained loving and respectful toward me in their disagreement, simply asking me to explain my position further, if they’ve made any comments at all (many, I’m sure, have stayed silent or “un-friended” me). So, in order to have more space to elaborate and explain, I’ve chosen my Blog as a place to make my case for why I hold my position so strongly.

So as to not take up too much of your time on a single read, I’ve chosen to break this explanation down into a series of posts over the next few days. I want to be as thorough as I can be, and there’s just so much to cover.

A great deal of significant scholarship has been devoted to those Bible verses deemed definitive in determining the Bible’s (and thus, God’s) view of homosexuals and homosexuality. To those who have suggested that I am “picking and choosing” what I want the Bible to say in order to justify my position, I will not answer by asking, haven’t you done the same? Instead, I will take the scriptures in question and offer what I believe is a more accurate and informed reading; one that examines the context of the writings, the audiences to whom they were originally intended, the worldview of all concerned at the time, and, most importantly, one determined to be infused with love.

Let me pause to say this: I reject, entirely, the notion of, “Love the sinner, Hate the sin.” I find that sentiment to have been used many, many times over the years to justify the separation and subjugation of individuals and groups of people who, for one reason or another, have been deemed lesser. For me, God is love. Even the most conservative Christian would agree that God is described as being like a “refiner’s fire.”  Therefore, love, itself, is a refiner’s fire. That is to say, love burns away hate. Love is more powerful and overcomes all evil, leaving only love standing in the end. When hate is confronted by love, it cannot stay. Hate cannot exist where love continues to reside.

And so, I begin with love, and thus, I begin with God.

This does not mean that I espouse to know all the answers or that I am speaking for God. Never! It is impossible to fully know God at all, let alone speak on God’s behalf. How could anyone possibly speak on behalf of that which cannot even be named? As soon as one begins to speak of God, he is no longer speaking of God. God is too great to be comprehended in any complete respect. Therefore, I go to my “heart” where love abides, and wrestle, as Jacob did so many years ago, with what I believe God’s will to be.

I fully confess my inadequacy, and I may very well be wrong, but I am firmly committed to doing all I can to act in love as an ambassador of Christ, guided by the Holy Spirit.

So, in my next post, we go to the center of the controversy, the place where the debate over homosexuality itself is born: the Bible.

Have a truly blessed Easter!