“It’s Not Me, It’s the Bible.”

An article from the Huffington Post came through my Twitter feed this evening that compels me to get theological again. The article is sadly typical and tells the story of a man who was told he could not play music in his church any more because he was gay.

The minister was quick to say they are not a “church of hate” and that the musician, Chad, is still welcome to come to services.  Do the people who make these kind of statements really believe that the person will take them up on the offer?  “Sorry about the whole being damned to hell thing, but if you want to come worship with us, it’s fine.  Just want to make it clear we disapprove of you.  See you on Sunday!”  They can’t really imagine such a thing, can they?

As I mentioned in a previous post, I’ve been delving deeply into the letters of Paul lately.  It is Paul who provides the New Testament ammunition for people who feel strongly that homosexuality is a sin.  (By any way you count references to homosexuality are few in the Bible.  None attributed to Jesus. Our emphasis on it is of an entirely different proportion than it is in the Bible.) 

Some will point to Leviticus and Deuteronomy for support, but because Christians have not found it necessary to abide by all of the other Jewish laws included there: dietary laws, temple ritual and circumcision, the argument that we should be bound by only the laws from these Old Testament books that happen to deal with homosexuality is not particularly strong.

Most Christians who feel that homosexuality is a sin try to make a distinction between the desire and the act.  It is not the person, it is the activity.  If they would only stop doing those dirty deeds there would be no problem with them being gay.  The pastor in the Huffington Post article takes this position:

“We love our neighbors as ourselves. No matter what you hear or read, that’s what we practice here.” he said.  “…The difference with Chad is that he switched from struggling with his sin to embracing it.”

Here is the problem:  Paul specifically condemns homosexual desire.  In Romans Paul says that as a punishment for idol worship: “God gave them (the Greeks) over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural sexual relations for unnatural ones. 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.”  (Romans 1:27-28)

It is shameful lust not only shameful action.

But don’t get too comfortable.  It is not only homosexual desire that is a sin for Paul, it is any desire, the desire for status, the desire for wealth, and good old fashioned heterosexual desire.

When it comes to the last on that list, Paul believes that the ideal is for all people to remain celibate as he is.  “It is good for a man not to touch a woman.”

The best thing he has to say about marriage is that it is a lesser evil than promiscuity.  It is better not to be married, he says, but “as a concession” if men are not able to control their desires, they should marry and render to their spouses the affection due them. Marriage, in Paul’s mind, is a way to contain desire. “If they cannot exercise self-control, let them marry, for it is better to marry than to burn with passion.” Being married puts the fire out.  (1 Corinthians 7:1-9)

In Paul’s view humans should not desire anything carnal and of this world, their desire should only be for God.

Straight members of Cross Point Church, do you ever burn with desire for things other than God?  I bet you do.  Do you even try to “struggle with” your desire for your husbands and wives or have you crossed over to embracing your sin?  Do you “struggle with” your desire for more money and status such as better job titles or have you actually started embracing that sin?  Shouldn’t you all be fired from the church?  Be thankful for God’s mercy.

If having no worldly desire except for God seems far too high a burden for human beings, you’re right.  We are not perfect.  We are human beings not angels.

Paul describes the human predicament in Romans: “For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate.”

Paul and Jesus both say, in too many places to cite chapters and verses, that God knows we fall short and he loves us anyway.  We are brothers and sisters and our duty is to love one another.

In Paul’s theology Christ’s sacrifice is the answer to the problem of our complete inability to live up to our highest expectations of ourselves.

Remember that Paul immediately follows Romans 1 with its condemnation of homosexual desire (and lots of other stuff) with Romans 2.

“You, therefore, have no excuse, you who pass judgment on someone else, for at whatever point you judge another, you are condemning yourself, because you who pass judgment do the same things. Now we know that God’s judgment against those who do such things is based on truth. So when you, a mere human being, pass judgment on them and yet do the same things, do you think you will escape God’s judgment?”

It is not your place to pass judgment on man, that right belongs to God.

I, personally, do not feel that a Christian has to embrace every part of Paul’s world view.   I happen not to think that desire is sinful, whether homosexual or heterosexual.  The question is whether sexuality is expressed in a spirit of love or exploitation.

But even if you affirm that you must agree with every one of Paul’s beliefs, there is no basis in scripture for defining sin as “pointing out other people’s shortcomings while overlooking your own.”

The main test for how to behave towards others is whether or not you are acting with love.

“For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this; Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.” (Galatians 5:14)

“Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.” (Galatians 6:2)

So to the people at the church who were involved in the decision detailed in the Huffington Post I would ask: How did Chad Graber feel when you, the members of his community, told him you did not think he was moral enough to share his music with you any more?  Do you think he felt bathed in your love?

From The Onion
queerfaith:

“Sure, I looked at the Book of Leviticus once or twice—everybody has,” Faber said. “We all experiment a little bit with that stuff when we’re growing up. But I was just a kid. I didn’t think it meant anything.” (via Gay Teen Worried He Might Be Christian | The Onion - America’s Finest News Source)

From The Onion

queerfaith:

“Sure, I looked at the Book of Leviticus once or twice—everybody has,” Faber said. “We all experiment a little bit with that stuff when we’re growing up. But I was just a kid. I didn’t think it meant anything.” (via Gay Teen Worried He Might Be Christian | The Onion - America’s Finest News Source)


In its upcoming fall issue, Montreal’s Maisonneuve magazine looks at this surprising group within the U.S. evangelical movement.
The cover feature by American-Canadian author and professor Clancy Martin looks at how the gay evangelical movement was started quietly in the 1970s and has tried to co-exist within the mainstream evangelical community…
The Maisonneuve editorial team brainstormed a number of ideas for their fall cover. “We thought about Jesus coming out of the closet,” Nelles said.
"In the end, this was the most powerful, the most iconic and the most simple," he said.

Not to mention, one must imagine, the most likely to grab headlines.

In its upcoming fall issue, Montreal’s Maisonneuve magazine looks at this surprising group within the U.S. evangelical movement.

The cover feature by American-Canadian author and professor Clancy Martin looks at how the gay evangelical movement was started quietly in the 1970s and has tried to co-exist within the mainstream evangelical community…

The Maisonneuve editorial team brainstormed a number of ideas for their fall cover. “We thought about Jesus coming out of the closet,” Nelles said.

"In the end, this was the most powerful, the most iconic and the most simple," he said.

Not to mention, one must imagine, the most likely to grab headlines.

Gay Catholics hear this all the time, said Charles Martel, president of the advocacy group Catholics for Marriage Equality, natural law theory used as an argument to “justify denial of civil marriage rights and benefits to same-sex couples.”

"The reality is that gay people, too, are part of God’s nature, and therefore we are a part of the laws of nature. We need to remind Cardinal Dolan and the Church that God created gay people to be fully who we are; we are not a ‘mistake,’" explained Martel over the telephone and in e-mail correspondence.

Like Martel, National Stonewall’s Davis also found Cardinal Dolan’s presence at and prayer offered during the Republican National Convention disquieting.

"I am beyond disappointed at the selection of Cardinal Dolan to give the benediction at the convention and NSD was among the first to lodge a complaint with the DNC when the news was announced," Davis said in email correspondence.

"Dolan has been one of the most virulent anti-LGBT leaders and has said some pretty ugly things about us. Even so, there is a broader context here. This Democratic convention is, by far, the most LGBT-inclusive convention in history. With nearly 540 official LGBT participants, the adoption of a plank endorsing the freedom to marry, and speeches by prominent LGBT Americans, there should be no doubt about where this party and this president put their loyalties," explained Davis.

Quick to smile and slow to criticize, Rev. Jim Lucas is one of the last people you’d expect to stir up controversy and encourage what some would term “radical” change. Yet, he’s done just that, making our society more accepting in the process.

This year Jim is celebrating his 20 years of ministry to the LGBT community in West Michigan. But to reach this point he’s traveled worlds of change within himself and at times wondered if life was worth the trip.

Recently, he recounted highlights from these years in a presentation at First United Methodist Church in Grand Rapids titled, “From Shame to Shalom.” The word “shalom” means peace in Hebrew.

Since 1992 Jim has provided individual and group pastoral care for hundreds of LGBT persons, as well as their family members and friends. Speaking extensively in churches, college classes, and other community venues, he’s helped audiences understand what it’s like to be a gay Christian in West Michigan.

"Attending my new church was like having a weight lifted off my chest. I was free to commune with God as a whole human being. I could bring all of who I was to the altar and really worship Him. The whole experience deepened my relationship with Christ…Spirituality shouldn’t hurt. When we go to church to worship God as gay Christians, we shouldn’t walk away feeling bruised and battered."

— Darian Aaron

(Source: thegavoice.com)

gay-men:

A gay friendly church in Seattle, USA.

gay-men:

A gay friendly church in Seattle, USA.

(via vivreenverite)

The draft rites are here, and the part that everyone’s curious about (from the traditional “I know pronounce you man and wife”) looks like this:

"Inasmuch as N. and N. have exchanged vows of love and fidelity in the presence of God and the Church, I now pronounce that they are bound to one another in a holy covenant, as long as they both shall live. Amen."

And the vows:

In the name of God, I, N., give myself to you, N. I will support and care for you: enduring all things, bearing all things. I will hold and cherish you: in times of plenty, in times of want. I will honor and keep you: forsaking all others, as long as we both shall live. This is my solemn vow.

Religious people should support LGBT equality, not despite religion but because of it.

"The debate is usually framed as freedom of speech (for LGBT people) versus freedom of religion (for Christian conservatives). But LGBT Christians also have a right to freedom of religion."

— Commentary on an article on the desecration of an lgbt nativity scene on the Jesus in Love blog.