27 June 2015

A Christian Islamic State

Dear Church,

If you don't want to live under Sharia law, don't try to impose your understanding of "Biblical" law on anyone else.

The governmental version of marriage and ours are NOT inextricably intertwined.

Jesus came to establish a kingdom transcending human government. Why are you trying to make them the same thing? Jesus explicitly rejected every attempt to force him into that role. What makes you think he changed his mind?

Give up that yoke. It's killing you and causing more collateral damage than you can imagine.

26 June 2015

Love And Hate- the Gay Marriage Ruling

I took today off to work on my book but it's been hard to concentrate given the hullabaloo around the SCOTUS ruling today on gay marriage. My gay friends are naturally thrilled. The rest of my friends, scattered across various spectrums of beliefs, vary from thrilled to wary to livid to terrified. My liberal friends mostly celebrate and my conservative friends mostly wail. This is to be expected.

What should NOT be expected is that some (and it's far from all, thank God) of my Christian friends- my self-professed family- are acting furious, angry, and downright nasty toward gays, toward the court, toward elected leaders, and toward Christians who disagree with them on both sides of the issue!

I may well hurt or anger people on all sides of the issue with this blog- especially if you don't read all the way through with an open mind. If you're not willing to do that, you should probably just move along until you are. But hurt and anger are the farthest things from my intent.

First off, if we're going to demand that the government stay out of religion we need to be careful not to impose religion via government. If marriage is a sacrament, something the Church should be involved in, then the Church needs to differentiate that from what the government considers marriage. The government deals in legal technicalities, taxes, and control. This applies to marriage as much as anything. Personally, I wish another word were used; I see all marriages as civil unions from a governmental standpoint. Or we can change the term the Church uses. I really don't care. My point is that they are two completely separate things and the Church should not be up in arms over the government changing the legal definition of marriage. My gay friends have every legal right to expect equal protection and equal rights under the law.

Religious groups, on the other hand, have every right to interpret the religious meaning of marriage based on their interpretation of spiritual revelation, whatever form that takes- be it the Torah, the Christian Bible, the Book of Mormon, the Koran, or wisdom handed down orally by generations of elders. No pastor, priest, imam, or other religious leader should be told s/he must violate her/his conscience to perform a marriage.

I speak of the Church and marriage, but even that wording is fraught with peril today as various Christians argue over what the Bible says, or whether it is even relevant in this case. Ten different people may mean ten different things when they say, "the Church"- or when they say "I believe the Bible".

I believe the Bible is God's word. I'm not sure it's 100% inerrant in its wording, especially in its interpretation today. I have no doubt the gist of it is correct. I have met God. I have a deep, intimate relationship with the God of the Bible. I have been kissed by God.[1] I know God pretty well. And I know that God transcends that book.

The Bible itself says that Jesus was (is) the Word of God. How can the letter matter more than the person? Jesus said far more things than are in the Bible (according to the Bible!) And yet he never said a word about homosexuality.

There are only a tiny handful of passages about homosexuality in the Bible. They are not as clear as most of us would like. At the same time, the attempts to explain them away are no more definitive. It looks to me like these passages support the notion that homosexuality is a sin. I don't like that. I have gay friends, friends so close they are family. At least one of my dopta-daughters is gay, and several more have had happy same-sex experiences even though they don't consider themselves gay. I know these people. I love them. Many of them know God, exhibit fruits and even gifts of the Spirit. Every one struggled with their identity and believes God told them they are OK as they are.

I don't know what to do with all of that; I still don't understand. As much as I would like to believe that being gay is perfectly fine, those few verses nag at me. But that's OK. There are lots of things I don't understand in the Bible. I don't sweat that; if studying gets me nowhere I put them aside and trust God to show me what I need to know when I need to know it.

And yet... Jesus died for all sins. ALL sins. Yours, mine, President Bush's, President Obama's, my wonderful straight wife's, my precious, gay daughter Corey, my dear friend and brother Neal. That same Jesus, when asked which of the commandments was the greatest, didn't name any of the Big Ten. He didn't reach into the bowel of the OT and pull out "a man shall not lay with a man". He said to love God with everything in you, and to love your neighbor as yourself.

Note the restrictions there. Look carefully; write them down. Enumerate them. If you want to get all Old testament, write them on your pillars and doorways, and put them in boxes on your wrists and foreheads. Go ahead. I counted them so you can be sure you got them all.

Zero. None. Nada. The empty set. A non-intersecting Venn Diagram. A blank spreadsheet.

"Love your neighbor." Not just the person who believes as you do. Not just Christians. Not just your family. Not just straight or gay people. Not just people of a certain skin tone. In another parable Jesus made it clear that most of us wouldn't recognize our neighbor even if she were saving our life. Because everyone is our neighbor.

Every. Last. One.

We can discuss the issues. That's a good thing. Arguing? Not so much. Vituperous proclamations, degradations, damnation, and general nastiness? That's the kind of thing that earned the hypocrites among the religious leaders a scathing retort from Jesus.

I've seen a lot of people saying "LOVE WINS!" on Facebook today. But from some (again, nowhere near all!) of my FB friends who proclaim their Christianity the loudest, I see only condemnation and judgment. Don't expect too many people to listen. In fact, I pray they don't.

I encourage all of you to seek someone out who believes differently. Get to know them. Show some love. If you're a believer (or even if you aren't sure), pray together. You won't get cooties. You won't get a demon. But you might well encounter God- the Jesus who redeemed us, the Father/Mother who lovingly made and sustains us, the Holy Spirit who brings us in unity with God and each other.

It's not my job to "save" anyone or fix anyone. That's up to God. I'm here to love, and I love you. As does God. Straight, gay, however you see yourself. But when you look in the mirror know that you were created in the image of God. Every last one of you.


[1] If you care, it was extremely intimate. It was romantic. It was pure love. It was powerful. It was many things. But it was not homosexual or heterosexual.