Same-Sex Marriage /or/ Fence-Sitting (my most controversial blog so far!)

This is a blog that has been in my head for some time, and maybe in my heart for longer. It has taken time to weed out the irrelevant bits (just via my brain filter) and get it down to the point. This truly is going to be controversial, simply because I do not believe anyone else will concur with me; it is my thoughts and feelings alone. I am going to annoy everyone, in both camps, I am sure, friends and foes alike.

Sitting on a fence can be done, but only for short periods. I am getting very sore indeed by now, being just so unable to decide on which side of this fence I can dismount.

I am an evangelical Christian (formerly atheist) who decided to follow Jesus Christ as a teenager. I have a disdain for liberal churches that too easily water down the message of the gospel of Christ, but I cannot ally myself with the all-too-prevalent policies and political wranglings of conservatives, often labelled as the ‘religious right’. I am both conservative and liberal* on differing topics, and seldom find any political party or grouping to whom I wholly subscribe.

*[ I later tried to outline just how I differentiate conservative and liberal in another blog here.]

Today is the day my own local assembly votes on the issue of same-sex marriage, so maybe it is about time I addressed this: ‘Liberal’ churches have been seeking to re-draw the borders on their relationship with homosexuality and find a way to accommodate everyone into one big happy agreement so we can all get along so easily. ‘Conservative’ churches are seeking to voice their opinion that such a thing is sinful and wrong, and make their stance known to the world that they shall oppose it at every turn and at any cost.

However, my own holistic reading of the scriptures, which tries to take on board all that I read, and marry together the seeming ‘contradictions’ that exist there, leads me to believe that both camps have got it wrong.

To the liberals:

I must point out how I read my Bible: it is the mind of God! I do not and cannot decide to ignore any part of it (unless it happens to be a later addition to the manuscripts that has no original authenticity in it), nor do I choose to read some verses and pay no (or less) attention to other verses. It has often been said that one must read a Bible verse in its context; this is very true, and for me the context is the whole thing. Such is the mind of God that it is fantastically complex beyond our comprehension, but my Bible reveals to me what I believe he wants me to discover about him as I read it.

There are plenty of scriptures, in both the Old and New Testaments, that highlight that homosexuality is a sin in God’s eyes. I wish it weren’t, truly, for the friends I have had and still do have, who are homosexual; I know that they believe that they had no choice in the matter, and cannot help what they feel. To say it is purely a choice is far too glib and off-the-cuff for most homosexuals but there are clear cases of identical twins who become adults, with one clearly declaring their homosexuality, the other not, so it is also glib and off-the-cuff to say that homosexuals are just born that way: it is a complex thing, and needs to be addressed within churches in love, care and understanding, by true leaders with pastoral hearts. SO; to say that it is not sinful, and accept it as a lifestyle within a Christian church, flies in the face of our scriptural teachings. If you wish to do that, I would personally prefer you change your name to something else, not Christian, to be perfectly frank! [amendment: I have read some really good exegesis presented by these groups on the topic, and cannot fault their commitment to scripture, so my declaration was one of pride: I have always known I am not one to judge another’s salvation, so also I now realise I cannot demand they change any label they so wish – if they belong to my heavenly family, so be it].  I recognise I have to concede that so many various weird and wacky groups can claim that tag, I just have to live with it. I only try to live by the scriptures of his word. I struggle to negotiate between my soul and my spirit that is united with God’s Holy Spirit in this matter, but I accept his word. Though it is not a matter of salvation, in my humble opinion.

To the conservatives:

Yes, there are plenty of verses that highlight this sin, and that goes along with all other sin, as I have already tried to point out in previous blogs. Let’s take it in the context of the whole Bible again, as I stated earlier – I cannot help but read through it and recall to mind various admonitions and commands:

 ‘You have heard that it was said, “Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.” But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also. And if anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your coat as well. If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles. Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you. ‘You have heard that it was said, “Love your neighbour and hate your enemy.” But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, (Matt. 5:38-44)

‘If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.’ (Rom.12:20 – quoting Prov. 25:21,22)

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonour others, it is not self-seeking… (1 Cor. 13:4-5)

He will cut him to pieces and assign him a place with the hypocrites, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. (Matt. 24:51)

That last verse, from the words of our Lord concerning the wicked servant, makes it clear to me that hypocrites do not belong in the kingdom; Jesus often hurled this insult at the Pharisees and Teachers of the Law for saying one thing and doing another, or condemning others for things that in reality they did too, or something similar.

Now I believe that I have a right; the right to practice my beliefs and my faith unhindered. Surely it is clear that I would be hypocritical were I to say to any other believer, Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, atheist, whatever, that they should not have that same right. I will defend anyone of any belief to maintain their right to believe it and live by it. I can still speak and preach against it, and state that I believe Jesus is the way, the truth and the life” as he claimed boldly himself (John 14:6) but not allow myself to fall into the trap of the hypocrite in denying my rights to others. I had a Muslim friend in school who debated hotly with me. We disagreed with each other, but remained harmonious friends throughout.

As for my rights, I am commanded to lay them down for others. I am to count them less. What? Seriously? Yes, indeed – Jesus even talks about the right to defend yourself and states ‘no! turn the other cheek!’ If someone wants to take what is mine (my shirt), I am to give them more (my coat as well). Stop and think about this, for just one minute; is our Lord Jesus serious about this? Too right he is! His way is radical and ground-breaking! To follow him is to go against all the ways of this world – we are to have a different mindset:

Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. (Rom. 12:2)

This way is against not just the world, but our own natural nature, and this is what we are to wrestle against, as Paul related so eloquently in Romans 7 – we all struggle with sin, and if sin is going against his commands, then if we are being ‘self-seeking’ over our rights, or ‘dishonouring’ to others, or ‘boastful’ or ‘proud’ about our own stance on anything, are we not disengaging ourselves from what Jesus wants in us? He clearly and truly wants us to be subject to others, even our enemies; that is his way, and it is certainly not ours, but we must strive for this.

Again, my soul that wants to fight back when I’m kicked or offended argues with my spirit over this, but again, I must accept his word (even though I might not always attain it). If others have a belief in something and ask for a ‘right’, regardless of what it is, I must acquiesce to that request. I do not wish to do so, but, as my dear beautiful Lord prayed in Gethsemane before he went to his fate for me, “not my will but yours be done.” (Luke 22:42)

Were I to be asked myself to vote on same-sex marriage, I could not, in all conscience, vote yes: for me it is wrong, against God’s word but at the very same time, I cannot see myself actually voting no. I feel I must abstain. And in any democracy, we can, no, we must accept the democratic will of the majority. If we decide that we like democracy only when it suits us, then are we not just plain hypocrites all over again? If you wish to block democracy, then just state that you don’t believe in it! Is there any politician who would do that?

That fence is still painful, but this is a cushion to my seat. Maybe I should see it not as a fence but as simply a narrow and lonely path that I follow. I shall get down now and follow my path. Here I walk; I can do no other.

Grace be with you.

STONE THE ADULTERERS!

This YouTube video short is by a woman who saw the sign on a church in New York that stated that homosexuals should be stoned. She called the guy out on it!

First, if a church wants to go back to the Mosaic Law, the Torah of Judaism, the idiots should read Paul’s epistle to the Galatians before they decide anything!

Second, apparently this church and others have been referring to the account in John 8:1-11 to highlight how this still stands. Hold on!: THAT passage refers to a woman caught in ADULTERY, not a homosexual, AND in that case, Jesus refused to condemn her to death but simply commanded her to ‘sin no more’! Does this mean that Jesus was lax over adultery? Not at all! In fact, he raised the bar!

“You have heard that it was said, “You shall not commit adultery.” But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” (Matt. 5:27-28)

So, best thing this church could do is call out for all those who have committed adultery and get them to line up in their car park behind the big pile of stones. Better than that, go the whole hog: Deuteronomy 22:13-21 outlines how a woman who is not a virgin when she marries should also be executed! Get all those women up off the pews too!

Emmmm? Can I raise my hand too? I think I can confess to doing that a few times, you know, that thing that Jesus said, looking lustfully at another woman; sure I’m a red-blooded straight man! OK, I’m on my way out to be stoned, right now.

If you are going to call out sin, call it all out!

Need I even quote the bit Jesus said about the plank and the speck? Well, since these people only really know a few bits of their Bible:

“For in the same way as you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.

‘Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, “Let me take the speck out of your eye,” when all the time there is a plank in your own eye?” (Matt. 7:2-4)

We are called to be righteous, but not self-righteous.

Grace be with you.

Jubilee!

Jubilee!

Excellent blog from another blogger, from a few years ago on the jubilee year in Levitical law. I knew about the jubilee, but never realised how far-reaching it was, thinking it only applied to servility. Not so… and for anyone wanting to know about God-ordained principles to apply in law, this is an eye-opener! Just click on the title above for the link.

Why I accept the entire canon of scripture – in brief!

This is a quick reply to a post on Facebook, from a page that I largely agree with. 100% agreement with other believers is IMPOSSIBLE, unless you close yourself off into a community like the Amish (and even they have differing factions who apply different kinds of head coverings, etc.!).

The statement offered is that we follow Christ, and not Paul, to paraphrase. That goes down the same route as Marcionism (which has been mentioned). Marcionism is one of the foundations of right-wing free market thinking that I addressed before (see my post: THATCHER THE HERETIC), and its main failing is in cherry-picking which parts of scripture to read and which not. Marcion’s canon was practically all Pauline.

Such an error can go either way i.e. by rejecting Pauline theology. Once we start this, we end up deciding which little pieces of our faith can be accepted and which not. I could go to the extreme of acknowledging the Sermon on the Mount but not the account of Jesus’ words on the cross, since there were far more witnesses to the former than the latter!

I shall avoid any debate on the early church and their decisions on accepting the canon we have, Council of Nicaea, etc., etc. Far too involved. From a simple point of view of faith, I accept that my faith as handed down to me is in my Lord’s hands. I have received the scriptures. I accept them all. If there are apparent contradictions, then this is actually proof to me that they are not man-made nor ‘chosen’ by men, since such ‘inaccuracies’ would be ruled out by any ruling council or which sect of my faith was in ascendency at the time. The canon was selected (for the most part) on authenticity, not doctrinal stance. They were much closer to the time of the original documents and in a better position than centuries later, where we can only speculate ad infinitum.

The alternative to canonical acceptance is to just cherry-pick, as I said, and that leads you to making up your own religion as you go along. Why not just add in some words of Buddha, Confucius, Mohammed….? Then you no longer have a right to call yourself Christian, if I am totally frank. You are entitled to your belief but you reject all of Christianity that has gone before us, good and bad. Create a new ‘one world faith’ if you like, but it shall be your faith and nobody else’s, for you shall not agree totally with anyone else. In reading all of scripture, I do find that the grace given by way of Calvary supersedes the OT law, covers it, and renders it unable to save; That is what Paul expertly defines in his writings – he completes the message of Christ. And yes, certainly, one has to allow context into reading, in order to fully understand, but rejecting whole tracts that we don’t like ignores how we can accept all of scripture, even interpret it in differing ways, yet still hold to the tenets of our faith as it is, not as we think it should be.

I too reject the bad things that Christianity is responsible for, but I do not shy away from allying myself with the faith in Christ that we have. Our final rule of thumb is scripture, and I strive (mainly in this blog) to highlight the parts of these scriptures that others seem to fail to read. We who attempt to do this, and point out to many, like the ‘religious right’ that they cannot just choose some verses and ignore others, cannot then blatantly go ahead and do the same thing by selective reading; such a stance could easily be labelled hypocrisy, and that is not a trait becoming a Christian – Jesus mentions hypocrites all through the synoptic gospels, so you can’t dodge that one!

Grace be with you.