The ironic thing is that once we recognise that Biblical writers can speak with conflicting voices, we cannot fail to realise that the condemnation of homosexuality occupies an absolutely negligible space within both the Old and New Testaments in comparison to social justice issues .
For most Biblical writers, the real sin of Sodom was not to have allowed same-sex relationships but to have callously refused to care for the poor and the needy.
While I strongly doubt that God’s wrath will fall upon America because John and James love each other and strive for a lifelong marriage, I do believe that neglecting the health care of poor kids in order to allow millionaires and billionaires to pay less taxes is a crime worthy of destruction.
I recently stumbled across a picture showing another aspect of the religious hypocrisy going on.
Consequently, I feel a profound solidarity toward all people around the world whose culture and identity have been destroyed or devastated.
There is no doubt that the ordeals experienced by native Americans are worse, by many orders of magnitude, than those we went through.
Their men and women have been massively murdered, their languages and traditions have been forbidden and they have been treated as worthless foreigners on their own land.
And all those things were perpetrated by people calling themselves the worthy servitors of Christ.
Given that, it seems truly shameless to whine about having to “bear” homosexual couples being recognised in American society.
Now let me be clear about one thing. I respect other Christians believing that homosexuality is a sin, even if I believe they’re deeply wrong on that. I do appreciate there are many decent and loving people among them.
I am, however, truly angry against inconsistent bigoted Christians who focus most of their God-given energy on combating homosexuality while refusing to address the injustices committed against native Americans and the atrocious suffering of poor children who are affected by diseases which can be easily treated in any developed country.
If a perfectly good God revealed Himself through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth, I am afraid that American fundamentalists are unwittingly bearing false witness against him.
I found an interesting post written by an American atheist reporting about her negative experiences with religiously conservative members of her family.
Musings on the Eve of a Family Reunion: Things not to say to your atheist relatives if you want them to continue to enjoy your company
This weekend, we’ll be traveling for my family reunion. Usually, it’s one of the highlights of my summer, but this year…feels different.
I don’t like conflict. It’s not enjoyable for me at all. It makes me feel shaky, to the point where sometimes, I will physically shake. My head will spin a bit. In bygone times, I sometimes backed down from it for just that reason–it felt insurmountable. Nowadays, I’m not so apt to back down, in part because I usually formulate my beliefs based on reasons that I can defend if I need to. That doesn’t mean that I want to, though.
Looking down the barrel of this weekend, I’m incredibly stressed at the prospect of interacting with my family as someone who’s “out and proud” as a nonbeliever. I am afraid of having to constantly defend myself–not because I can’t, but because I don’t want to. I want to be accepted with the same acceptance that I have for them. Unconditionally.
I work best when I can take these worries put them down somewhere outside of my own head, so here’s my list of things you should never say to your atheist relatives if you want them to enjoy your company and not dread having to interact with you. Enjoy.
1. This isn’t how you were raised.
2. You’re just going through a dark time.
3. You’re just rebelling.
4. You just want to be able to sin.
5. Can’t you see God all around you?
6. *any variation of “But Christians really believe this…” or “That person is not really a Christian…”*
7. What does your life mean?
8. What if you’re wrong?
9. How can there be morality without God?
10. Why do you hate something you don’t believe in?
11. You’re just mad at God.
12. You’ve just encountered bad Christians.
13. You really believe.
14. You do have faith. You have to have faith in (science/evolution/etc).
15. Don’t you want to believe? Just in case?
16. God doesn’t believe in atheists.
17. You can’t prove that there’s no god.
18. You’ll be back to God when you need him.
19. Why don’t you give your children a choice?
This is just a brief list, some of which is compiled from personal experience and some from wider stories and interactions online.
Basically, what I’d like to see in interactions with my family is the same lack of ulterior motives that was there before I left religion. I’d like to believe that all of our interactions are in good faith.
I have reason to believe that’s not the case–if there’s one thing our family does well, it’s gossip, and there’s definitely plenty of it circulating right now. I suppose my other wish would be, if I can’t have that lack of ulterior motives, to have brash, bald-faced honesty. I’d rather put it all out there, no half-truths or veiled questions.
If I can’t have no conflict at all, I’d rather just have it out and get it over with.
Instead, I’m stuck somewhere between the two, imagining conversations that might be, and hoping that they won’t be, and wishing that I didn’t have all of this knocking about in my brain. And fully realizing, of course, that it’s just as likely that I’ve blown all of this up in my head because I’m simply an anxious person.
No way to know at the outset. As the cliché goes, the only way out, is through, and so through I go.
Here is my answer to her post where I draw on similar experiences.
I’m an European progressive Christian and really love this post of yours:-)
“I want to be accepted with the same acceptance that I have for them. Unconditionally.”
I truly like that part. I can very well relate to this and hope that things will get better in your case.
Many atheist philosophers would answer that no such thing is possible.
I also want to react to
“19. Why don’t you give your children a choice?”
I am all in favour of giving children a choice. I think that good enlightened Christian parents should always say something similar to that to their offspring: “Look, we’re Christians, we think this is the best worldview and we believe that atheism is wrong and flawed. Yet, we do recognise there are reasonable and lovely people among other religious communities and atheists. Therefore, we really encourage you, our beloved child, to make up your own mind. If you sincerely conclude that atheism is true based, for example, on the problem of evil, then you should follow your conscience and Reason and give up your faith. God will never punish a sincere person following his or her honestly acquired convictions. Either way, stay always kind, loving and humble.”
Since your relatives would most likely never say that to their kids, they’re probably hypocrites ,
Now I wanna share my own experience.
I’m a Germanic Frenchman born in secular France and I often went through an ordeal similar to the one you’ve described.
In France, the reigning ideology is called Jacobinisme and it can be summarised as follows: “French is the only language of the country. All dialects and other languages ought to disappear from the public sphere. Religion is a relic of the past which ought to disappear completely or at the very least become insignificant“.
I fell away from Jacobinisme by beginning to proudly speak and defend the declining German dialect of my region and becoming a Christian.
I then began to hear the following things from relatives and acquaintances:
1) You’re an old-fashioned fossil
2) You’re religious just because you’re “a weak animal”
3) (mocking my German accent)
4) You shouldn’t speak in dialect in the presence of French people
(after I had just whispered something to my father in our Germanic dialect)
5) What a religious brain-washing you underwent!
6) You speak German because you’re a Nazi!
(forgetting that my half-Jewish motherly grandfather could have perished in a Nazi death camp)
I usually also base my beliefs on reasons I can defend and a while ago I decided to react to these claims while trying to remain as kind and respectful as possible.
As a rule, I have no problem defeating their weak arguments and the discussions evolve in other directions 🙂
I wish you good luck with your relatives.
I hope we’ll have opportunities to interact with each other in the future.
Best wishes from Lorraine / Lothringen (my homeland).
Why white Christians need to listen to Amos and Isaiah
“But let justice roll down like waters; and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.” Amos 5:24 is a verse that gets thrown around a lot in times of protest like the most recent unrest in Baltimore. Taken by itself, this verse is pretty innocuous. Who’s opposed to the idea of justice and righteousness? But it becomes a very different message when we read it in context, starting with verse 21:
I hate, I despise your festivals, and I take no delight in your solemn assemblies. Even though you offer me your burnt offerings and grain offerings, I will not accept them; and the offerings of well-being of your fatted animals I will not look upon. Take away from me the noise of your songs; I will not listen to the melody of your harps. But let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.
Do you hear what God is telling the Israelites through Amos? He hates their worship. He hates their inspiring, accessible sermon series on Biblical living. He hates it when they go on and on about how much he deserves to be praised. He hates their relevant pop culture video clips. He hates the way that the pianist plays softly under the preacher’s prayer. He hates their smiles and their Jesus jukes. He hates their exhibitionist false humility.
Why does God hate these things? Because they have not produced justice. Old Testament prophets like Amos are unanimous in their declaration that worship without justice is a mockery to God. Isaiah 1:12-17 says the same thing:
When you come to appear before me, who asked this from your hand? Trample my courts no more; bringing offerings is futile;incense is an abomination to me. New moon and sabbath and calling of convocation— I cannot endure solemn assemblies with iniquity. Your new moons and your appointed festivals my soul hates; they have become a burden to me, I am weary of bearing them. When you stretch out your hands, I will hide my eyes from you; even though you make many prayers, I will not listen; your hands are full of blood. Wash yourselves; make yourselves clean; remove the evil of your doings from before my eyes; cease to do evil, learn to do good; seek justice, rescue the oppressed, defend the orphan, plead for the widow.
What if God is actually angry, just not for the things we want him to be angry about and not at the people we want him to be angry at? Many Christians who like to talk about an angry God define sin in such a way that they could never be the objects of God’s wrath. But what if God is angry at us, the people who love to sing happy songs about him and talk about how grateful and humble we are? What if the rage in Baltimore this past week is part of how God is articulating his wrath against the church that’s supposed to be fighting injustice? If Amos and Isaiah were alive today, they wouldn’t have any qualms about naming the Baltimore riots as a sign of God’s wrath.
I’m not saying that the individuals who burn down buildings aren’t committing sins by doing so. But I do believe the collective rage that has exploded into violence is an expression of God’s wrath. When truth and human dignity have been violated repeatedly in millions of ways as they have in the lives of our country’s black community, God’s wrath is kindled.
To understand this, we have to recognize that God’s hatred of sin comes from a place of solidarity with victims, not sanctimony about law. That’s what Jesus teaches us over and over again in his debates with the Pharisees. God does not hate imperfection and rule-breaking on account of his ego as a lawmaker. God hates it when our collective idolatry and selfishness cultivate a world order that crushes the most vulnerable. Worshiping God is supposed to help us get over ourselves and purge our hearts of the idols and selfish agendas that make us aloof to injustice.
The problem is that worship for privileged people too often becomes an indirect form of self-congratulation just like it was for the people Amos and Isaiah were yelling at thousands of years ago. The more that I go on and on about how good God is, the more likely it is that I’m doing it to show other people how good I am at talking about God’s goodness. Even sitting through “tough” sermons about sin can make me feel even more satisfied with myself for having a dour, sober perspective about the wickedness of humanity rather than convicting me personally into true repentance and humility.
If worship is doing what it’s supposed to do, it’s supposed to melt me. It’s supposed to leave me the opposite of self-satisfied. It’s not supposed to produce a snide scoffer, but a heart that is wounded by God’s mercy and burdened by the need to share it with others. I wonder what Amos and Isaiah would say about the self-satisfied scorn that so many white Christians have been spewing out into social media in response to the rage in Baltimore. What would they say about the efficacy of our worship? Would they tell us to “trample [God’s] courts no more”?
While agreeing with almost everything he wrote, I couldn’t help but express my frustration with what I view as the selective moral indignation of the progressive crowd.
I completely agree with the general principles about social justice you evoked.
I’ve also no doubt at all that a strong anti-black racism among American law enforcement officials is still alive and well in 2015.
But I fear that often times Western liberals can be as callous, self-righteous and harmful as Conservatives.
One perfect example is their widespread belief in the legitimacy of collective punishment which is a logical consequence of their belief in unconditional positive discrimination, the idea that a female person should be favoured over a male person and a black one over a white one, regardless of the life conditions of the two individuals in question.
As I once explained, I think this can lead to quite wicked decisions if their respective well-being isn’t taken into consideration. I think it is profoundly wrong to disadvantage a very poor man against a wealthy female because the former isn’t born with two X chromosomes. I think it is profoundly wrong to disadvantage a very poor white person against a wealthy black person because the former isn’t born with the genes responsible for a black pigmentation.
I strongly believe that liberals defending the morality of these actions are NOT “fighting injustice” and rescuing the oppressed.
While I cannot speak about modern America, I can say that acts of racial violence targeting innocent white folks are very real in France.
I think that the very worst thing liberals can do consists of misusing such tragedies affecting black people as a justification for the suffering of innocent white persons. Western liberals need to listen to the prophet Ezekiel who remind us that “the child will not share the guilt of the parent, nor will the parent share the guilt of the child.” By acting in this way, they’re upholding a vicious circle of hatred and planting the seeds of the destruction of us all.
What frustrates me enormously is that some “progressives” I explain my views to call me a “white supremacist” even if they know absolutely nothing about me.
I’m a Germanic Frenchman and after the terrorist attacks in Paris, I’ve been loudly saiying that many Muslims find this appalling as well and that we should absolutely overcome the temptation to lump them together with militant fundamentalists. I often stand for the right of Muslim women to wear a headscarf in the public sphere and in enterprises if they choose to.
I hardly know any “other” white supremacist who acts in such a manner.
I find it a real pity that instead of challenging any ideas getting in the way of justice, political progressivism has degenerated into the unconditional adherence to a set of dogmas with no tolerance towards heretics such as myself.
I did not write all these things as a criticism of your blog post but rather as an expression of my frustration with the progressive movement as a whole .
I find that the ideas you convey here are really excellent and I’ll surely take a look at other posts you wrote.
My only concern would be the choice of your title. I agree that white American Christians are more likely to ignore problems of social justice than Christians with an Afro-American background owing to historical and cultural factors.
But is it really true that, on a worldwide scale, white Christians tend to neglect their duties towards the poor much more often than non-white Christians (keeping Jesus’ parable about the poor widow in mind)? I haven’t seen any evidence showing this.
Finally, it is worth noting that my criticism of liberal biases is not akin to downplaying the extent of the atrocities American blacks still suffer from.
Here is the answer of Morgan.
Thanks for your thoughtful engagement. The title was my weakest point. I wasn’t sure who needed to read Amos exactly. I think we all do.
And my final reply.
Thanks for your quick answer!
I understand you had very good intentions. I think this might unfortunately lead to prejudices against white persons not having this despicable mentality.
I greatly appreciate your humility. Be blessed.
I was very glad that our exchange remained so friendly. I think that things might have unfolded in a very different direction if I had started out using a culture-war rhetoric. I really think that kindness and humility are two essential moral features which help one not cause or ramp up heated and loveless arguments.
I had recently the immense privilege to interview Roger Wolsey who is a fascinating man in many respects.
Hi Roger, thank you very much for having accepted my invitation. Could you please tell us what your background is?
Sure. It’s an honor. I’m a 46 year old “Gen X” American. I was born and raised in Minnesota. I’m a Christian and grew up in the United Methodist Church. I originally thought I’d pursue a career either in politics or in conflict resolution/mediation – yet felt a call from God to become a pastor 2 years after I graduated from college. I earned a Masters of Divinity degree from the Iliff School of Theology in Denver, CO and am an ordained United Methodist pastor. I currently serve as the director of the Wesley Foundation campus ministry at the University of Colorado in Boulder. I am an advocate for progressive Christianity and have written a book called “Kissing Fish: christianity for people who don’t like christianity” – which is an introduction to progressive Christianity. I also blog for Pathos, Elephant Journal, and The Huffington Post.
a typo up there, should be Patheos. Alright! And you owe your own existence to this methodist congregation, am I correct? 😉 Indeed. In fact, my parents met each other when they were grad students at the Wesley Foundation at the University of Kansas at Lawrence. : )
I was born in 1968, the year that the UMC became a new denomination – and was likely one of the first people baptized in that new denomination. (along with my twin sister)
That’s truly a cute tale 🙂 You obviously believe one can honor God by being a passionate trumpet player, don’t you?
Well, yes. For me, playing my trumpet is one of the ways that I pray and commune with God. Music inspires others in ways that spoken word can’t always do. Do you identify yourself as a progressive or as an emergent Christian?
Progressive. I understand progressive Christianity as being the post-modern influenced evolution of mainline liberal Christianity. What’s the main difference between progressive and liberal Christianity?
Well, there are several. Progressive Christianity is less colonial and less patriarchal. And, while progressive Christianity fully embraces the insights of contemporary science, including the theory of evolution, it is less overly enamored with science and less willing to cede everything to science. It’s less needing to find scientific explanations of various miracle stories in the Biblical text, and more willing to simply receive the text as it is – as story. Progressive Christianity is less modern and more post-modern – willing to accept that God’s fully at work in all other world religions. Finally, progressive Christianity has more consensus that homosexuality isn’t a sin.
Re: science, progressive Christianity is more willing to embrace paradox and mystery than liberal Christianity was.
Finally, it’s more passionate than liberal Christianity and more embracing of poetry and the arts. Oh, it’s also more eclectic and willing to draw insights, prayers, and practices from the entirety of the Christian – and even non-Christian- traditions. I wholeheartedly agree with the bit about homosexuality. Theologian Roger Olson once defined liberal Christianity as the rejection of anything supernatural (at least in our world). Do you think it’s a good summary?
Answer: Perhaps. That certainly rings true for me. However, another progressive Christian writer, Roger Lee Ray, also fully rejects the supernatural. He and I disagree on that. That said, I embrace panentheism instead of supernatural theism. However, for me, there really is some portion of God that is transcendent and “relatable as a person.” I don’t pray to myself.
I pray to God. That’s truly fascinating. Could you (shortly) explain what you mean by this panentheistic personhood?
It’s a bit hard to do justice to that question in a Skype interview. I describe that in full in the chapter about God in my book Kissing Fish. However, in the panentheist view, God is fully immanent within all of Creation – and – fully transcendent from the Created order. Both aspects are ways for various people to connect and relate to God. Some can commune with God simply by being in nature, others do so in a more private inner prayer life that can take place just as readily in an ornate gothic cathedral as in a plastic booth at McDonalds. That’s the more transcendent aspect IMO. Though — as with a circle, if you go far enough in either direction – you reach the same point. Paradox.
That said, as a Christian, I believe that the qualities and characteristics of God are well conveyed in the person of Jesus – including God’s passions and emotions. However, I don’t pray to Jesus, I pray to the God that Jesus prayed to. Okay, thanks.. For most (albeit not all) Conservative Evangelicals, the Gospel might be summarized as follows: 1) God created Adam and Eve in a state of moral perfection 2) they ate the wrong fruit 3) consequently God cursed their billions of descendants with a sinful nature 4) everyone deserves an eternal stay in God’s torture chamber due to an imperfection the Almighty Himself made inevitable 5) Therefore people can only avoid this fate by believing in Jesus 6) All people dying as non-Christian will agonize during billions, billions and billions of years… Can one call this a “good new”?
I suppose that view may work for some. But it’s clearly circular reasoning, clearly triumphalisitic and exlusiveistic, and clearly dysfunctional.
Those premises and ways of viewing the faith don’t work for many people today. Hence, the rise of progressive and emerging Christianity.
That view, to my mind, isn’t truly a robust faith in God, but instead, merely “fire insurance” — believing because you have to. : P Would you be able to put your own view of the Gospel in a nutshell?
Hmm. Let me give a crack at it.
God created the world and the people in it. Life has the potential for real joy and beauty, but due to our free will, humans have a tendency to not act wisely or in our truest best interest. We abuse our free will and oppress and limit ourselves and others. Through the life, teachings, and example of Jesus, God has provided a way for humans to transform from a more reptilian – fear based – way of living, toward a more trusting, just, and compassionate way of relating to ourselves and others. To the extent that we follow the Way of Jesus, we can know and experience salvation/wholeness. And the good new is that we don’t do it all on our own. God’s grace provides when our efforts can’t — but again to the extent that we allow and receive it.
I’d also say that the good news is that each day is a new day, a fresh start, and we aren’t defined by or limited by our past. Thanks 🙂 You obviously don’t believe in inerrancy. Is there a sense in which one can say that the Bible is inspired?
True, I don’t believe that the Bible is without fault. That said, I’d contend that everything that I just stated is amply supported by the Biblical texts. I’d say that everything that humans create is in some way inspired by God. Part of how we are created “in God’s image” is our creativity. We’re co-creators with God. I believe that some of our creations are more blessed and condoned by God than others, and that those things that are truly blessed and condoned by God are especially inspired. Many poets, artists, musicians, song-writers, etc. tap in to “the muse” – which is a metaphor for the Holy Spirit – and the people who wrote the texts in the Bible were especially seeking to tap into God’s inspiration and co-create with God. To the extent that they got it right – it’s notable. As are the glaring instances when they were off the mark. Amen to that! What’s your take on how to approach social justice issues?
Well, again, I devote a chapter to that in my book. Here’s a link to a sermon that I wrote that explains it pretty well. “Band-aids aren’t enough” http://www.patheos.com/blogs/rogerwolsey/2012/08/band-aids-arent-enough-progressive-christian-social-justice
Essentially, I’d say that as a prophet, Jesus and his message were as political as they are spiritual. The top two subjects that Jesus spoke about were politics (proclaiming and describing the kingdom/empire of God which is subversive to worldly powers) and economics – money and our relationship to it.
Authentic Christianity comforts the afflicted and afflicts the comfortable. It soothes our souls and lights a fire under our butts to effect social change. To your mind, why are so many American Christians convinced that they ought to be Republicans in order to follow Christ?
I think that’s less the case than it used to be. That notion arose in about 1980 with the wedding of the election of Ronald Reagan with the creation of the so-called “Moral Majority” – which essentially turned the Grand Old Party into “God’s Own Party.” That was the same time that the Southern Baptist Convention was hijacked by fundamentalists. Since they are the largest Protestant denomination in the U.S., that set the tone for popular American Christianity for many years. Thankfully, that era is waning and more and more younger American evangelicals are overtly seeking to distance themselves from the Republican party. Indeed, more and more Americans are “coming out” as Christian Liberals. Check out the massive growth of “The Christian Left” Facebook page!
Okay, thanks for this summary. What are you up to now?
I’m going to be taking a sabbatical the first half of 2015 in order to write a new book – and collaborate with two other writers on another book yet.
The working title for my upcoming book is “Orange Duct Tape Jesus.” Stay tuned for developments! That will most likely be truly stunning! 😉 I thank you very much for all the time you granted me.
I found a pretty worrisome article I want to respond to.
Gay ‘marriage’ a ‘sign of the apocalypse’: Russian Patriarch
MOSCOW, July 22, 2013 (LifeSiteNews.com) – In his Sunday sermon this weekend in Kazan Cathedral in Moscow, Patriarch Kirill, Primate, of the Russian Orthodox Church, warned against the extraordinary rise in many western countries of the homosexualist movement. Kirill said that the trend of legalizing “gay marriage” is “a very dangerous sign of the apocalypse.”
It “means people are choosing a path of self-destruction,” he said. He said he supports the recently passed national ban on homosexualist propaganda that has prohibited the Gay Pride festivities that have become a prominent feature of national life elsewhere.
“Lately, we have enormous temptations, when a number of countries opting for sin is approved and justified by the law, and those who, acting in good conscience, are struggling with such laws imposed by a minority, being repressed,” Kirill said.
He added that everything must be done to prevent the approval of sin “on the spaces of Holy Russia.” Otherwise, “the people are embarking on the path of self-destruction”.
The sermon came the Sunday following the passage in Britain of the Cameron government’s so-called “equal marriage” bill. Religious leaders and democracy campaigners both strenuously warned the government that its passage would seriously threaten foundational democratic freedoms.
Colossal forces have set out “to convince us all that the only value is the freedom of choice,” said the patriarch, “and no one has the right to infringe on that value, even when a person chooses evil, even when a person chooses a socially dangerous behavior.”
Even the most perfect laws, however, cannot eradicate corruption, lies, evil and confrontation, he said: “These can be eradicated only by the person who has made a free choice in favor of the good.”
In recent months, Kirill’s has emerged as the strongest and most uncompromising religious voice in Europe against the apparently unstoppable political juggernaut of the international homosexualist movement. His comments yesterday follow his warning at a meeting in Moscow in May this year with Secretary General of the Council of Europe, Thorbjorn Jagland, where he said, “Today we have a very dangerous development, the laws regarding same-sex marriages and adoption of their children which go against the moral nature of man.”
“If people choose this lifestyle,” the Polish news service Interfax quoted him saying, “it is their right, but the responsibility of the Church is to say that it is a sin before God”.
What the Russian Orthodox Church is concerned about, Kirill said, “is not the fact of the existence of this sin – it has always existed. But we are deeply concerned that for the first time in the history of the human race sin is being justified by law. This opens up the prospect of a dangerous development, which will contribute to the moral degradation of society.”
I don’t feel any hatred towards patriarch Kirill. However I do believe that his utterances reflect an extraordinary ignorance which should put to shame the Russian orthodox Church.
In my last post, I explained why we’ve strong grounds for doubting that homosexuality is sinful. In other words, I fail to see how to commit oneself to a loving same-sex relationship is to “choose evil”. But that isn’t what shocked me in this article.
I was dumbstruck by the sentence: “But we are deeply concerned that for the first time in the history of the human race sin is being justified by law. “.
It’s so obviously wrong that no educated priest should ever make such a mistake. I just can’t understand how a patriarch could state this.
This assertion implies that:
– laws about racial segregation weren’t sinful
– laws discriminating Christians in Islamist countries aren’t sinful
– laws of Nazi Germany against Jews weren’t sinful
– laws of Russian communists against religious people weren’t sinful
and so on and so forth.
That’s crazy talk.
I feel the duty to say I am in no position to judge Patriarch Kirill as a moral person. I don’t know him and there might be many domains where he outshines me.There is no way I can say I’m a better man than he is.
But I think he’s intellectually and probably also morally completely wrong on that particular issue.
I’d say that unlike laws about gay marriage, laws protecting much more the rights of billionaires than those of poor children and old people suffering from illnesses are unequivocally wicked and sinful.
Actually, there are many Conservative Evangelicals outside America who agree and strive for social justice as well besides their activism against what they see as sexual perversions.
Still in the US they tend to focus the greatest part of their moral indignation on gay people and abortion and much less on the ordeals real children outside their mother’s womb are going trough.
(I’d personally not say that ALL conservatives act in this way but this picture illustrates rather well the positions many of them hold.)
It goes without saying I must write that with fear and trembling because I’m really far from being perfect myself. And I also think it’s vital to resist the tendency of numerous progressive Christians to treat harshly any opponent to gay marriage.
My goal here is not to judge them as moral persons but to call them to reconsider their sense of priorities. And I’d like a greater number of them to imagine the unnecessary pain a sick child of unemployed parents might feel.
She confessed me she also has a chaotic mind so that our mutual dialog won’t necessarily be always well structured 🙂
Hi Michelle, thank you so much for having joined me! Could you please tell us more about your background?
Good afternoon! Thanks for inviting me. I have a long and interesting background but I will try to give you the shortened version. When I was a very young girl my family was involved in the Methodist church. However when I was about 5 my parents became involved with The Way International. After I got married, my husband and I left the Way and kind of were on our own, occasionally meeting with other people who had left that ministry. After a few years we began attending a non-denominational evangelical church. About 5 years ago we started our own community, Novitas Church.
There is really so much more to the story. Did you start your journey with Conservative views regarding the Bible?
Yes and no. The Way had very diverse views, on the one hand they believed in the inerrancy of the Scriptures and on the other they were non-trinitarian, believed in the gifts of the spirit, the concept of soul sleep and the law of believing. However, as an adult I became an evangelical and bought into most of the standard doctrines and practices of the evangelical church.
My views have definitely evolved over the years. That is to say there was a time where you held fast to the Chicago statement on inerrancy, according to which everything a Biblical writer intended to convey is true, right?
Yes. I was definitely taught that the Bible in its original state was without error and was “the Word and Will of God”. What called this conviction into question?
As with so many things it is a build up I think of many things over many years, but I think the turning point for me personally was a book called The Blue Parakeet by Scot McKnight. What is this book about?
Blue Parakeet is a book about how we read and relate to the Bible. It talks about how the Bible is actually more of a library of books that contain the stories of how people throughout time have related to God. But Scot himself holds fast on inerrancy, doesn’t he?
It suggests that we should flip the book over as it were and picture Jesus as the spine and read both the Old and New Testaments through the lens of Jesus’ life.
You know, I am not 100% sure where Scot stands on inerrancy.
I just know that for me, looking at the Scriptures in a new way, does not detract from them at all but rather it allows me to reinterpret them in light of the life of Jesus.
Where people related to God as judgmental and honestly a little genocidal in the old testament, we see through the life of Jesus, that that was simply the way the people of that time understood God.
Frank Schaeffer was just here with us last weekend and he puts it in a really great way…
He likes to say that Jesus came to edit our views about who God is. In fact the way Jesus dealt with the Torah (the only Scriptures he had access to) was to question it at every turn. He would often say, it says this but I say this in direct contradiction to the law. My own journey has led me to view Scriptures as people reporting their own experience with God in the same way many of them did outside the Protestant Canon.I, for example, don’t view the author of Hebrews as necessarily more inspired than C.S. Lewis. But I do believe that both men have had terrific experiences with the Almighty. Is it something you might be sympathetic to?
I wholeheartedly agree. I believe God spoke through the scriptures but he is still speaking today and I can learn just as much from you as I can from Paul. Blasphemy, I know. 🙂 (I return you the blasphemous compliment 🙂 ) I think that historical critical scholarship makes it extremely hard to maintain the notion that God speaks through a limited set of ancient books.
I do as well and I think that everyday life bears this out as well.
And, as I said before, I think Jesus himself proves this to be true.
He was decidedly not a “man of the book” in the sense that he was constantly running afoul of Levitical rules.
Touching the leper
Touching dead bodies
Letting a bleeding woman touch him
Calling the women out of the kitchen to come and talk to him
Talking to the Samaritan woman
Working on the Sabbath
Not picking up a stone to kill the woman caught in adultery.
What is your response to Conservative Evangelicals saying that Jesus DID believe these laws to be inerrant BUT also temporarily limited?
So you say. Were you there to ask him?
How do you know?
We have no evidence, written or otherwise that would indicate that.
In my opinion they find that kind of freedom unnerving. Yeah, but they might say we have no evidence either that he did not approve of these laws.
It is much harder to control people if my way is correct.
Actually we do, his own words and actions. To my mind, it’s clear that Christ viewed these laws as a hindrance against charity.
Jesus had but one law. The law of love.
He said EVERYTHING depended on it Precisely! This is the very basis of my argument for Gay marriage. All things forbidden are forbidden because they run against Love and are harmful.
Agreed. But homosexuality isn’t harmful and doesn’t go against Lovetherefore Gay marriage should not be forbidden
I did a whole series on the so called “clobber passages” the verses used to condemn homosexuality. Many of these verses are far more ambiguous than many people think, even if one accepts inerrancy. People can find the series here. Thanks!
I think people are often surprised when they learn how few verses actually talk about the subject in the scriptures and how misinterpreted they often are. The link is for the conclusion post but has links to all the previous posts in the series. It is also stunning that “sodomy” can be better interpreted as gluttony and lack of charityaccording to several Biblical writers
Indeed! Is it fair to say that caring for the poor is in the Bible (as far as the volume is concerned) 2000 more important than same-sex relationships?
Not sure how many times exactly, but for sure far far more verses on caring for the poor and yet most of the western Christians I know are more concerned with stopping gay marriage than they are with feeding the poor, especially if the government has anything to do about it. The gospel of Jesus is all too often replaced with the gospel of Ayn Rand and the Christian Coalition. What is the Gospel of the Christian Coalition?
The Christian Coalition, is a group started by Pat Robertson to give Christians a voice in government. Their website says: The Coalition is a political organization, made up of pro-family Americans who care deeply about ensuring that government serves to strengthen and preserve, rather than threaten, our families and our values. To that end, we work continuously to identify, educate and mobilize Christians for effective political action.
You can find their agenda here.
It includes, defunding Obamacare, Defending the second amendment, defending traditional marriage, outlawing abortion, defending gun rights, standing with Israel, posing Liberal judicial nominees etc.
yada yada yada And what about the poorest members of American society?
To hell with them. Sorry. I know that seems a little harsh, but for the most part when it comes to government programs to aid the poor there is little to no compassion to be found.
People often state they think taking care of the poor is the church’s job not the government’s. But comparisons with Continental Europe aren’t very flattering, right?
The problem with that is if you do a little digging, most churches spend about 3% of their budget on benevolence.
No, in my opinion, they are not very flattering.
I did a piece on this a while back as well. It can be found here. Is it STILL the case that, in highly modern America, poor children are receiving a terrible and inhumane healthcare?
It is! Obamacare has actually done a lot to mitigate the problem but there is still a long way to go.
For example, in states like mine (I live in Texas) Governor Perry has refuse to take much of the federal money available for helathcare. Most Conservatives I know are no moral monsters. But they say that it’s not the job of the STATE to care for poor children, this should be the concern of their family, relatives, communities, Churches and so on.
I totally agree. Most conservatives I know are kind and loving people. But there is this huge disconnect when it comes to the government helping the poor. What are the shortcomings of their solutions?
There just isn’t enough money in the church coffers to get the job done.
Even if we spent 100% of the money in the church budget.
I outline all of it in the article I posted. Of course. But what about FREE donations of rich people?
There are a lot of numbers. You would be surprised.
I actually have a huge problem with the whole way we have the church structured. From the pastoral/priest system to the way we do church with big buildings and big congregations, to the seminary system. It seems set up to create Pharisees.
And often cults of personality. Like that about Mark Driscoll?
Exactly like Mark Driscoll.
Mark is just a man like any other man and the system is set up to elevate men like him to a position they should never be expected to fill. It is set up to become a Machiavellian nightmare.
Make no mistake, he is responsible for his own actions, but they system is set up to feed it. Could you sum up what you view as his worst sins?
People will go to a church with thousands and a huge light show and a rock climbing wall and a gym over a small church that meets in a bar. Often they choose a show over a community.
I don’t know that rehashing Mark’s sins by me is profitable at this point. He is a sinner in need of grace just like me. However I do think the need for repentance is real and as of yet that seems to be non-existent. Oh yeah I completely agree we should never see ourselves as morally superior to our enemiesbut I do think we must sometimes talk about bad things they did…both for their victims and the health of their own soul. I meant his bullying concerning Gays and women. I think this needs to be clearly exposed for avoiding history to repeat itself.
Agreed. Even if Mark might have been disfavored by a bad psychological background, so it’s not about judging ourselves as superior to him.
Mark’s bullying and misogyny are well documented and evil for sure. Could you perhaps give examples of him or anyone else bullying people in this manner?
I think we begin to heal from this sort of thing when we recognize that often as people we want someone like Mark to tell us what to do. Many people gravitate to a person who will control them because it makes them feel safe. If you tell me what God wants from me and then I do it I can feel like I know that I am okay with God. In my opinion we should never allow anyone the voice or opportunity to decide for us who God is or who is “in” or “out”. When we give people that kind of power we should not be surprised that they abuse that power. Amen!
The examples of Mark’s bullying and misogyny are all over the internet.
There is a great article about this by John Shore. As he says, you can’t allow people to pee in your pool. lol There is a growing number of people in America who leave the Church and become resentful anti-theists. What’s your take on this?
Here is a quote from the post which sums it up quite well for me: “The idea of letting other people tell me, or in any way decide for me, who God is, or what the nature of God is, is … repelling to me. I mean, I get why eventually any sane person would just go, “Something’s wrong here. Christianity appears to be a solid FAIL. I gave it my all. But enough is enough. I’m out.” But, for me, screw that. If people keep peeing in my pool, I don’t abandon the pool. I refresh the water, and then build a fence to keep people the freak out. I stop letting strangers in my … pool area. (Um … to be clear: I’m not advocating keeping people away from Christianity–as if anyone in this culture could, given that, you know, it’s everywhere. What I mean is that I have no interest in … letting, well, pee-ers—by which I mean toxic people whom I don’t know or don’t respect—to … sully my waters, pee in my pool, get into my yard, define for me my Christianity–which, for the record, is unimpeachably rational and militantly non-invasive.)”
My faith is my faith no one else’s. It is my responsibility to continuously choose love over judgment, to welcome everyone in the name of Jesus, to choose freedom over bondage. Amen!
For me the day I trade my doubts and freedom for the certainty of three songs and one man who has “all the answers” is the day I begin to lose my soul.
The irony is, since I have begun to embrace my doubts and the paradox of life, I have never felt closer to God. I feel delighted for you 🙂 But time is beginning to fly by. Could you, to conclude, talk about the World Vision catastrophe? You know, this Evangelical welfare organization who ended up stopping discriminating Gay people among their employees. Consequently, most Conservative supporters retracted their help. Could you please put this in a nut shell?
It was tragic. I thought their initial decision was good but then when everyone jumped ship and abandoned the kids which was so upsetting. I know they backpedaled because of that. In the end the children were the ones who got hurt. It was just awful. I find it appalling that people would abandon children over the issue of loving all people. I entirely share your feelings. But in Europe, Conservative Evangelicals are much less focused on homosexuality than in the States. What could one do for fostering the evolution of mentalities in this country of yours?
I think it is currently evolving and at a rather quick pace. The millennials in particular are much more inclusive than previous generations.
But, I think that attunes are changing across all generations. We are in the process of becoming a much more inclusive people and that makes me very happy
As always I think it is a matter of empathy. 🙂 🙂 So I thank you very much for this interview. You’ve been truly wonderful.
Of course! It was my pleasure. I really enjoyed it.