Saturday, October 31, 2009

World Prayers - Interesting Website

I went cruising around the internet last night (oh, big surprise there) checking out some of my bookmarks (or in AOL lingo...My Favorites)  I happened upon a quote at a site I had saved in my favorites

Trying to pray, is praying.  Emmet Fox

I'm not sure who Emmet Fox is.....perhaps something to explore another day.  I like his quote though.  When it comes to praying, I think God gives us an "A for effort." We are much more critical than God is.  He looks at the heart.  We listen to the eloquence of the words.  We think it has to "sound right" and some of us are even convinced it must be done in the proper order (ACTS - Adoration, Confession,  Thanksgiving and Supplication) to "work" but I don't think God is all that picky about it. 

Among the many books on our bookshelves, there is one entitled "Hey, God." It moved in when Keith did...when he moved here from Canada 7ish years ago.  One night, he read to me from the book. To the best of my recollection, it is about an Italian woman (mother of a large family)  who began her prayers with "Hey, God."  I don't think she got too caught up in the ACTS thing....and "Hey God" sounds like a perfectly acceptable way to initiate a conversation with God. It seems her intent was not so much to beckon God to draw near, since he is always with(in) us...but more of an acknowledgment of his abiding presence...of his "undivided" attention.  She knew that we always "have his ear." 

Sometimes...usually, when I talk to God, I don't even bother with the salutation.  Somehow I feel he is always listening to me.  When my sister, Vicki, was dying ( a 6 week process caused by lung cancer that had spread throughout) she told me that "He's right here on my shoulder."  Always with he promised when he said, "I will never leave you or forsake you."     

And then later in my internet travels, I came across a site called "World Prayers."  Many of these prayers are the opposite of a "Hey, God" prayer.  Some are more like poems than prayers.  For those (like me) who are drawn to quotes and eclectic poems...short and snappy, long and insightful, this is a really neat site.  Check it out here

And as you go about your day today...remember he really is "closer than breathing, nearer than hands and feet."  We always have his ear.  Even when we think he is not paying attention.   

Friday, October 30, 2009

Now where was I?

I've talked a bit about a bunch of different topics over the past month or two...and truthfully, I can't remember what I was talking about last.  I know that I've written a lot about the Christ in you..union with Christ, what that means and does not mean, and how the "he who is joined to the Lord is one spirit" is played out in our day to day lives.  Thus the ponderments on everyday mysticism and everyday mystics.  I think that has been the gist of my focus.  And I might as well jump back into the conversation with a quote from Dan Stone. 

annie posted an excerpt from his book,  The Rest of the Gospel: When the partial Gospel has worn you out,  on EU a while back. I saved it in my "write about this some day" file. 

Following is a quote that deals with the "we are (not) borg" union with Christ.  The borg comparison came from annie.  Followed by a link to his writings on the Christ in You web site.

He or she, a spiritual being, who is joined to the Lord, is one spirit. There are two... they are one. You and He are one.

We are one spirit with God. We function as one. We are not absorbed into the Lord, however. There is an I and there is a He, but we are joined to Him and we function as one. It is a function of cooperation, like a union of gears that mesh together. Our union with God doesn't mean that we are so swallowed up in God that we lose our identity. But neither is there a separation. Rather, the two function as one for the purposes of the greater one, God.

He that is joined to the Lord is one spirit. That is a mystery. One plus one equals one. How can that be? The divine and the human are one.

Excerpts from the writings of Dan Stone

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Anne Lamott on Forgiveness...

I know there are probably a half dozen or so series that I've started and promised to finish. And I will.  Just not this morning.  This morning I am opting for an easy post..a post that does not require a lot of thought or editing. 

While looking for something else this weekend, I came upon some Anne Lamott quotes on "Goodreads." I haven't read any of her books, although I have heard of her.  Several of the folks on EU are fans of hers. I liked a lot of the quotes...4 cyber pages of them, all gleaned and contributed by Goodreads members. I didn't know she had dreadlocks but she mentioned it in one the quotes I read. 

I saved quite a few of her quotes but thought these two on forgiveness might be good to share this morning.

"Forgiveness means it finally becomes unimportant that you hit back. You're done. It doesn't necessarily mean that you want to have lunch with the person. If you keep hitting back, you stay trapped in the nightmare..."

"Forgiveness is giving up all hope of having had a better past."

Most of us have people in our lives we've forgiven...and most of us have people in our lives we have yet to forgive.  In some of these relationships, we've lost the need to hit back, say the last word, have the last laugh.  In other situations, we may still be hanging onto that thread of hope that the past will somehow redeem itself and turn out better than it actually was.  Perhaps today, along with me, you can ponder the people in your life who have wronged you, hurt you, inadvertently or deliberately caused you pain... and figure out where they fit on the forgiveness scale these two quotes talk about.  Resentment is toxic.  That is why Jesus said what he did about forgiveness.  Something to think about....


Wednesday, October 28, 2009

The Chapter about Spirituality...

Last Sunday, in my Seeing Gray Sunday School class, based on the book by Adam Hamilton, we talked about the chapter on "The Messy Truth About Spirituality."  The bottom line of the chapter...we are all sinners saved by grace.  From those considered the "greatest" to those considered the "least"...the icons of the faith...the heroes of the Bible...we are all basically in the same boat.

We talked about authors who have impacted us the most.  Max Lucado came to mind first for me.  Max has helped me understand some very vexing spiritual issues...using simple word pictures a child could understand.  Although there are points of theology where I vehemently disagree with him (an eternal hell for example) he has impacted my spiritual life greatly.  Phillip Yancey is another author we talked about.  In Reaching for the Invisible God he says:

As one who writes and speaks publicly about my faith, I have also learned to accept that I am a "clay vessel" whom God may use at a time when I feel unworthy or hypocritical.  I can give a speech or preach a sermon that was authentic and alive to me when I composed it, even though as I deliver it my mind is replaying an argument I just had or nurturing an injury I received from a friend.  I can write what I believe to be true even while painfully aware of my own inability to attain what I urge others toward.

I came across a related thought on a blog called Ethereal Existentialism in a post called One Person's Trash:

I wrote that people (which would include me) continue to write about the same 5 or 8 things over and over because someone may happen along who needs to hear or read exactly what we happen to be writing about. While that's true, I certainly didn't mean to imply that I was a wisdom-dispensing guru who has it all together passing out tidbits for the poor slobs who are completely lost.

I write about what I learn because God told me to. This is stuff I'm, every day...constantly.

I can relate to what he is saying.  I write about what I learn.  I can't not write about it which is why I think "God told me to."  My hope is that every once in a while, what I write might be exactly what someone needs to hear.

As a side note...I ran across Adam Hamilton's blog this morning.  There are quite a few of his sermons back to 2007. 

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

For The Bible Tells Me So....

As I was visiting some of the pro gay web sites last week, I came upon a video called For The Bible Tells Me So. I didn't realize it was available in its entirety (albeit in 10 segments of about ten minutes each) until I ran across a link for it on a blog called Reflections. It is a spiritual blog...not a sexuality blog.  Just another one of those curious coincidences...where I happen upon something directly related to what I'm writing about.  

I watched the You Tube videos this afternoon. The movie tells the stories of several families whose lives were directly touched by homosexuality. The families all reacted with different levels of acceptance. Not all of the stories have a happy ending. There are also lots of snippets and comments from teachers, scholars and religious leaders. Some are gay.  Some are not. 

On the official  For the Bible Tells Me So site, there are several resources specifically designed to facilitate group discussions. (Here and Here) These would also work for further study for individuals.  There are sections that go into "THE" Bible verses in more depth than the movie does. 

This movie provides a peek into the normality of many families who have gay and lesbian children.  It also puts a human face on this issue...and might dispel the stereotype many people have of a "typical homosexual." 

I think I may give this a rest for awhile.  I've posted links to many resources that take a look at alternate meanings for the "homosexuality is an abomination" verses in scripture.  Anyone interested can find lots to ponder and consider.  I may come back to this topic in the future...because there is so much more that could be said. 

Monday, October 26, 2009

More about Nadia

I read more of Nadia Bolz-Weber's posts on the God's Politics Blog...and on her own blog, The Sarcastic Lutheran.  I really like a lot of what she has to say.  She is a reminder that Christians...and pastors....are not all cut from the same cookie cutter.  There is diversity in the body of Christ.  Unfortunately, with diversity there is often division.  The issue of gay pastors ...or the more all inclusive acronym a very divisive issue.  It seems to be the "mother" of all divisive issues.  Perhaps that statement is an exaggeration since Christians have aligned themselves with differing (polar opposite) views down through the eons.  They have even killed each other to defend their views and beliefs.  Thinking of Servetus being roasted over green wood to prolong the torment...and the drowning and persecution of the Antibaptists.  Those two come to mind but there are dozens of examples of this behavior...which is the total opposite of what Jesus taught.  Love your neighbor as yourself.  Heck...even love your enemies!!!  

In the "Snotty Opinions" sermon, she talked about how God threw her together with one of her biggest, most vocal (radio show host) detractors...and how He worked out the details for them to have a grace filled half hour conversation. 

But in keeping with the theme of recent posts here on this blog, the following excerpt is from her sermon about the ELCA's decision to allow GLBTQ pastors.  I found this sermon to be very..very touching and tender. 

As many of you know, my denomination – the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America met in church wide assembly this week.  The highest governing body of the church.  Among the business at hand was deciding on a full communion agreement with the United Methodists, which passed.  And several historic decisions to be made around what this church’s stance is on issues of human sexuality. In the end, we approved a social statement as well as policy changes which now allow congregations to bless and hold publicly accountable those in same sex life long monogamous relationship as well as to call GLBTQ pastors in such relationships to serve as their clergy.  

The debate on the floor between those at the green microphones who support these steps and those at the red microphones who reject these steps was sometimes inspired and sometimes insipid.   Those in support urged the church to be open and loving as Jesus had been.  Those opposed urged the church to heed the Bible.  Both sides were passionate and faithful and I’m proud to say that throughout the debate the assembly paused every 20 minutes to pray together.

As an ELCA pastor serving you,  a community committed to the full inclusion of all GLBTQ brothers and sisters in Christ, I  watched the proceedings with my heart in my throat.  If these policy changes hadn’t been approved I honestly had no idea what I could possible come back to you and say.  Watching people’s comments I would try to fight off thoughts like “man, that guys an idiot” with more or less success.  I watched people say prayerful things, hurtful things, thoughtful things, and idiotic things on both sides of the aisle. Yet there several of my friends were: standing faithfully at the Green microphones.  Standing faithfully to make this church a house of prayer for ALL people. 

And I couldn’t help but think…if Jesus was here, he’d be standing in the green line.  And then a young pastor got up to speak at the green microphone and the first thing he said, in a quivering voice was “anyone else frightened to speak?  I’m shaking.  Please pray for me” and the man standing right next to him in at the red microphone reached over and laid his hand on him and prayed while his brother of the opposing view point spoke. 

Then I knew that Jesus was really in between the red and green microphones. Not in some sort of neutral “Jesus as Switzerland” sort of way, but in the you must lose your life to gain it sort of way.  Jesus is between the red and the green microphones…between the red and the blue states offering us life and salvation in the Words of eternal life and in the Sacrament of his own body and blood.  Jesus right there between the liberals and conservatives speaking the word that the first shall be last and the last shall be first.  Jesus standing there between those who are harmed and those doing the harming saying forgive as you have been forgiven.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Isn't That The Holy Spirit's Job?

You know, I love it when something seems to fall from cyberspace....kerplunk...right into my lap. I take it as God's go ahead...his "a-okay" concerning  some of these more controversial issues I take a look at and voice an opinion on.

Sometimes I do pause, wondering what the more conservative folks who happen to end up here on my chance or by choice....think about some of this stuff.  There are several I know who visit here regularly. But a girls gotta' do what a girls gotta' do...and so I write.  And God has been so good to lead me on these exhilarating google searches where the most interesting and varied tidbits of information appear (like magic) on my laptop screen.

Today I was a bit surprised how stumbling on the blog post by Nadia...and the subsequent "research" about her fits so well with what I have been writing about.  I wasn't surprised that she is considered a rebel...but it appears that she is very gay inclusive. There is no hint in anything I've read about her that she herself is gay...just that she is very inclusive and supportive of gays. Where did I find a lot of this information?  Oh...where I often find some of my best quotes and information about heretics.  The "anti sites." 

Anti everything and everyone. The particular anti site that I happened upon via google is an amazingly PERFECT example of the kind of self righteous, error exposing, sola scriptura Christians who raise the hackles on the back of my neck. They totally...totally...piss me off.  Modern day Pharisees at their absolute best (worst?)

This one is called Apprising Ministries...following is their mission statement:

This time in which we find ourselves is one of rapid change, revisionist history and so called "postmodernism." Is it any wonder that people wonder what to believe, and even who they can trust?

(snotty remark from Cindi...perhaps they should trust the Holy know the Counselor, Helper, Advocate, Intercessor, Strengthener, Standby (ty Amplified Bible) that Jesus promised would lead us into all truth)

Today faithful believers in Christ face more and more pressure to be “politically correct” — which in the end is simply a mask for relativism. And while the nature of God, and the beautiful simplicity of His Gospel remain the same, the cornucopia of attacks leveled at our Lord’s Church by the enemy are increasingly fierce and constantly changing.

Apprising Ministries is a non-profit and tax-exempt labor extending as a fully integrated auxiliary from Connecticut River Baptist Church (CRBC). Rooted in classic, historic, orthodox Christian theology, AM, as in Awaken—It’s Morning, is actually to be a bit similar to the type of ministry done by Dr. Walter Martin (1928-1989), founder of the Christian Research Institute, only in an updated fashion. The idea is to also handle Contemplative Spirituality/Mysticism, apostate Roman Catholicism as well as to deal with issues related to semi-pelagian postevangelicalism and the postliberalism of the Emergent Church in addition to counter-cult evangelism.

As they say in "As Seen On TV" commercials...But wait!!! There's more!!!  I found an anti site blog that is a "reader's digest" of sorts...Reformata. It compiles about 10 or so anti-cult blogs under one roof.  One stop shopping.  You need never be caught unaware of some new perverted, heretical doctrine because this group of "humble" bloggers are on top of things and with all those eyes peeled looking for heretics, none will slip under their radar.  Their self description follows:

Because the Church must always be reforming, we believe we must ever be analyzing our faith and practice and adjusting it into greater conformity with God’s unchanging Word. This involves defending the truth by addressing and exposing error, false doctrine, and sin within the body, as well as edifying believers through the clear proclamation of biblical Truth.

(Again, usurping the clearly stated authority and function of the Holy Spirit who "will reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment")

This must always be done circumspectly and humbly,

(Humbly? ROFLMAO)

yet boldly and with Scriptural clarity. The cancers of sin and heresy must be condemned for what they are, yet the antidote, God’s grace in the Gospel, must always be presented.  It is for these purposes that the Reformata blog network exists. May God be glorified in using weak vessels such as ourselves to proclaim the glorious Gospel of his Son.

More tomorrow about Nadia's sermon presenting her views after the historic ELCA vote to include gays as clergy in their denomination.  More about Nadia (the more I read about her the more I like her) and my thoughts and notions about her views and her ministry. 

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Some Thoughts On Evangelical, Christian Fundamentalists....

A few months (or so) ago, while surfing around the internet, you know..."researching"...I came upon the Sojourners web site.  It is an emergent, Christian political activist, "love your neighbor as yourself" kind of web site.  Jim Wallis' God Politics blog resides there.  It is a collaborative effort of quite a few emergent, Christian political, "love your neighbor as yourself" activists like Brian McLaren, Shane Claiborne, Bart and Tony Campolo...and others whose names do not ring a bell.  It definitely leans left of center.  I would say that 99.9% of the contributors (and readers) voted for Obama.  Their readership probably does not include the likes of Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh, Sarah Palin, Ann Coulter, Pat Robertson, Jimmy Swaggart etc. etc. etc. etc.

While I am not very politically inclined, some of what they write resonates with me.  And because I signed up for email updates, I find Sojo in my AOL mailbox every morning.  I probably would rarely go to the site otherwise.  I have so many interesting, thought provoking, inspiring sites stashed in my bookmarks/favorites... sites that I rarely go to.  So many sites, so little time.  But Sojo shows up in my inbox and so I do sometimes click the link and visit.  I visited this morning.  I checked out their verse of the day, their prayer of the day and scrolled down the list of recent God Politics Blog entries.  This one caught my eye....

God Does Not Heed My Snotty Opinions About Evangelicals

When I read this blog post written by Pastor Nadia Bolz-Weber, I found that I do, indeed, share her snotty opinions about evangelicals. As proof of this, I could probably spout off a dozen or so snotty remarks about all of those people I singled out by name at the end of the first paragraph. And I admit, I do have a problem with some (most?) evangelical, Christian fundamentalists. They seem so cocksure that they not only have God's ear but also a total understanding of His heart.

They remind me so much of the Pharisee in the parable in Luke...the one prefaced with:

To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everybody else, Jesus told this parable

Jesus said:

The Pharisee stood up and prayed about himself: 'God, I thank you that I am not like other men -- robbers, evildoers, adulterers -- or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.

Hmmm...the first thing that seems amiss is that the Pharisee   prayed about himself." A "pat himself on the back" kind of prayer (but that is a topic for a whole other post) He went on to say (obvious paraphrase) "Thank you Lord that my sins are so much less serious and so much less of an abomination in your eyes than the, for instance, that guy over there...that tax collector.

But am I exempt from this self righteous mind set?  I admit that I have a very difficult time not judging those who set themselves up to subjectively judge the actions and beliefs of others based on their own (narrow) interpretation of scripture. Yet am I a way...doing the same thing? Judging my brothers and sisters? Somehow I think there is a distinction, a difference, that I would be hard pressed to explain...a difference that makes my righteous indignation against the Ann Coulter's of the world somehow less offensive than her righteous indignation against....well against just about everything that does not mesh with her mean spirited, right wing world view.  Even Jesus got pissed at the Pharisees!!

Like I said, the distinction is difficult to define or along with the tax collector in this parable, I will simply have to throw myself on the mercy of the court and proclaim.....God have mercy on me, a sinner.  

I have more to say on this subject....for instance....a few quotes from and comments about the blog post by Nadia Bolz-Weber.  She is quite interesting...with a full sleeve tattoo and a blog site named The Sarcastic Lutheran.  She is also the pastor of the the House For All Sinners and Saints.  I want to post something annie wrote that touches on this left wing/right wing, conservative/liberal, evangelical/progressive feud. 

I am closing this post with a quote from Anne Lamont for all the aforementioned either/or's to ponder:

"You can safely assume you've created God in your own image when it turns out he hates all the same people you do."

More to come...

Thursday, October 22, 2009

A Few Links...

The night got away from me. Gray's Anatomy is fast approaching and my brain is definitely not working at lightening speed.  I've been typing and writing and forming words into sentences all day. Nothing very interesting mind you. Things like compiling the results of the latest Environment of Care self inspection at the hospital, the minutes from a meeting or two...and about a zillion emails.  A large part of my job involves Outlook Express.  So all this to say that I really don't have anything much to say tonight...or at the very least, I don't have the thought process required to get it from brain to cyber paper. So I am going to give you a bit of remedial reading to do.  Following are a few links to some writings I have come across the past few days that I think are worth taking a look at.  

Christianity and Homosexuality Reconciled by Rev. Joseph Adam Pearson, Ph.D.

What The Bible Says and Doesn't Say About Homosexuality by Mel White

Does the Bible Condemn Homosexuality?  An Interview with Dr. Reverend Cheri DiNovo 

And check out this web page with 175 various and varied articles. 

Perhaps the peanut gallery will post a few thoughts tomorrow but for tonight, the most my poor, tired brain can handle is a visit to Seattle Grace Hospital in greater downtown TV land. 

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

The Chapter on Homosexuality - 4

Coincidentally...and not instigated by me, there is a discussion about homosexuality on EU.  We have discussed it before...there and on other back to the hey days of the Wider Universalist Fellowship.  My opinion has not changed a lot since then.  My friend annie, who is one of the most loving people I know, has evolved a bit in her views.  I think, perhaps, they are still in a state of flux....not solidified into a doctrine. 

The other day she posted an article written by Bishop Spong...a rather militant article aimed at those who view homosexuality as an abomination.  The Jerry Fallwells, Pat Robertsons, James Dobsons of the world.  She disagreed with many points in the article...and especially the tone...which was an "us vs them" kind of theme.  annie believes (and I've witnessed her trying to live it out in her day to day life) that we are all one.  The Pat Robertsons and the Bishop Spongs....the gay and the straight....the liberal and the conservative.  Divisive rhetoric is not her style.  She posted the article mainly to discuss we often do on EU...looking at all points of view...seeking to learn even from those we disagree with. 

Spong begins his article by saying:

A Manifesto! The Time Has Come!
I have made a decision. I will no longer debate the issue of homosexuality in the church with anyone. I will no longer engage the biblical ignorance that emanates from so many right-wing Christians about how the Bible condemns homosexuality, as if that point of view
still has any credibility.

...the tone of the article does not change much.  Some more quotes from here and there in the article follow....

I will no longer take the time to refute the unlearned and undocumentable claims of certain world religious leaders who call homosexuality "deviant." will no longer listen to that pious sentimentality that certain Christian leaders continue to employ, which suggests some version of that strange and overtly dishonest phrase that "we love the sinner but hate the sin."


I will no longer seek to slow down the witness to inclusiveness by pretending that there is some middle ground between prejudice and oppression. There isn't. Justice postponed is justice denied. That can be a resting place no longer for anyone.

Therefore, I will from this moment on refuse to dignify the continued public expression of ignorant prejudice by engaging it. I do not tolerate racism or sexism any longer. From this moment on, I will no longer tolerate our culture's various forms of homophobia. I do not care who it is who articulates these attitudes or who tries to make them sound holy with religious jargon.

and he concludes with:

I invite others to join me in this public declaration. I believe that such a public outpouring will help cleanse both the church and this nation of its own distorting past. It will restore integrity and honor to both church and state. It will signal that a new day has dawned and we are ready not just to embrace it, but also to rejoice in it and to celebrate it.

annie mused that perhaps by shutting down the dialogue with those he deems "other" (the religious right) that no change will ever come.  She posted something this morning that made me cry.  I don't think I have heard this story before...perhaps I missed it in the avalanche of posts on the WUF and now on EU.  It expresses a side of the "gay wars" that is so often not seen by the religious right sadly, I think, because they choose not to see.

yes...  perhaps he's not abandoning the call, but rather passing the mantle.  after a fashion, it's easy to take up the cause of the poor, the disenfranchised, the marginalized.  but, if we're all truly one, do we not have to care for the privileged callous, the fundamentalists, the ones that are harder to feel empathy for?  i feel somehow that if we simply persist in reaching out to them there will come a point where they simply cannot deny the Love...  tis the kindness/goodness of God that leads men to repentance. 

it was witnessing love that first began to open my mind.  in 1983 i cared for my first aids patient.  ironically, it was a guy i'd gone to high school with who dated my best friend.  i would have never dreamed warren was gay (although he was into drama and quite flamboyant with 20/20 hindsight).  i wouldn't have recognized him - all of his thick dark hair gone, his emaciated frame practically glowing yellow from his failing liver, covered in the purplish kaposi's sarcomas.  but, i recognized his name on the chart when he came into the ER where i was called to draw blood gases on him.  basically, he came into the hospital because he had nowhere else to go.  his family had disowned him.  it was just him and his life partner, the two of them against the world.  ken never left his side in the 3 weeks it took him to die.  the nurses barely had to care for warren because ken took care of everything...  when he threw up or defecated in the bed, ken was always there to clean him up - gently, lovingly.  everything i thought i knew about an 'abomination to God' flew out the window.  the only words that came to mind were 'greater love hath no man than this'.  it wasn't some sick debauchery i witnessed.  it was genuine unselfish overwhelmingly sacrificial love - to the very end.  it broke my heart as i watched ken leave the hospital that last time - alone.  my heart broke again when i read six months later in the local obits that ken had died too.  i wondered if he died alone, no one to give him the kind of care he had so lovingly given as he poured himself out.

i was forever changed by that encounter.  not by angry gays marching (though i've come to understand what drives them).  it was years before i saw it as anything other than an illness, saw them as 'wounded'.  but, i never again thought of them as 'wicked'.  i think more hearts will be changed by love that cannot be denied than by whatever theological arguments one could make...  just remembering...  namaste - annie

Thanks always say things so well....

But there ARE theological arguments for those who have to reconcile their beliefs with scripture.  I am not saying that is a bad thing...just that sometimes it takes some digging to understand what scripture REALLY says.  I think it is similar to reconciling UR with scripture.

I've found some really good resources that take a candid look at what the Bible really says about homosexuality, cult worship, temple prostitution, idolatry.  I've touched on it in previous posts but will delve into it a bit deeper in the next post or two...and provide some links for anyone who wants to explore it more "on their own time" :)


Sunday, October 18, 2009

The Chapter about Judging...

No..I am not done with the series on homosexuality.  Just like I am not done with the series on everyday mystics, Christ in you, the Third Eye, and probably a half dozen or so other series that I started but then got distracted.  I am coming back to all of them eventually.  I am a hopeless, perpetual digresser. 

I read Chapter 5 in Adam Hamilton's book, Seeing Gray last night before I went to sleep.  Finding the Sweet Spot. It is the chapter du jour today in Sunday School class. WAS the chapter we talked about in today's Sunday School class.  The first two paragraphs of this post were written early this morning.  This is now late afternoon...headed toward evening and hopefully I can finish it before all the to-ing and fro-ing of the next few hours. 

One of the original couples showed up today!  I was glad to see them there.  Jeff was out of town and the two college students (Josh and Brandy) who were absent last week were there this morning.  Matt was not.  So there were 6 of us.  Every couple of classes there is a video to watch.  Today was video day. 

I really like what Adam Hamilton has to say about this topic.  According to Hamilton, the sweet spot "spiritually speaking" is somewhere about midway between legalism and anything goes.  Keith and I sort of had this same discussion yesterday at Denny's.  How does one determine was is permissible...what is ethical...what is pleasing to God.  Not everything is okay, is it?  Keith quoted Paul...all things are lawful but not everything is expedient.  True.  So how do you decide what is okay?

Well...Keith told me long ago that he viewed the 10 Commandments more as the 10 Promises.  When Christ has been fully formed in you, there will be no need of a commandment that tells you not to steal from your neighbor, kill him, commit adultry with his wife because you will love him as you love yourself.  It will not be in your heart to do such things.  And will we need a commandment to tell us have no other Gods before us if we love God with all our heart, soul and strength?  When we reach the point where we love God with all our heart and we love our neighbor as we love ourselves, that is a pretty good backdrop from which to judge right and wrong etc.

In the video today, Hamilton listed the following four points to consider when we try to determine what is right in the situations we encounter in our day to day lives.  Some very serious...some not so serious. 

      • The first point is directly related to the love God part of the condensed version of the commandments ...from the lips of Jesus.  What would honor God in this situation?
      • The second point is a question I have heard phrased in various ways...What is the loving thing to do?
      • The third point is to consider the golden rule.  Sounds trite I know but putting ourselves in another's shoes can help us determine the right thing to do. 
      • The fourth point to consider is another tried and true cliche'...although a bit more modern than the Golden Rule.  WWJD.  What would Jesus do? 

He talked a bit about the Parable of the Good Samaritan.  Interesting perspective that I will perhaps discuss another day...

The book mentions the verses in Jeremiah 31...

I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.  No longer shall they teach one another, or say to each other, "Know the Lord," for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, says the Lord....

After Sunday School, during the praise and worship portion of the church service, the praise team sang a Hillsong tune...Till I See You.  One of the lines in the song captured my attention...

You are the whisper my heart that speaks to me

Perhaps, when trying to figure out cases of "situational ethics," right and wrong, how to handle the many circumstances we encounter every day that defy black and white solutions, we should strain our ears to hear the heart whisper...the still, small voice in which he speaks to each of us. 

Saturday, October 17, 2009

The Chapter About Homosexuality 3

Since I've been getting email notifications via my Borders Reward account announcing "free wifi" at Borders stores starting in October, I thought I would give it a try.  I had to pick Beth up from work at I went up an hour early expecting to sip a cup of their oh so strong coffee while cruising the net. To my disappointment, the Borders I frequent not only has no FREE wifi....but still has no wifi at all. 

So I looked through some of the documents I have saved on my flash drive in the "Homosexuality" folder. I saved some of these documents quite a while ago.  As I've mentioned, I've "researched" this topic several times over the past ten years or so.  Not an all out investigative effort...but with enough thoroughness to come to the conclusion that the commonly held Christian view of homosexuality could very well be (and most likely is) a sacred cow that needs tipping.  At the very least it is not in a special category of sin.  It is not the ultimate abomination in the eyes of God.  Non promiscuous, monogamous homosexual relationships do not strike me as an abomination.  How do I get around what the Bible "says"??

I am a Universalist....a Christian Universalist.  I realize there are verses in scripture that SEEM to say there is a hell....a hot everlasting hell.  Yet...if those verses are dissected, if meanings of the the Greek and Hebrew words are understood, if the verses are taken in context with some understanding of the times and the customs of that time period, the Bible declares no such thing as an eternal hell. I think a very similar case can be made for the verses that condemn homosexuality.  Hasn't the Bible also been used to justify slavery?  It has been used....and in many circles is still being prevent women from full participation in the ministry.  I think homosexuality may be the next stronghold to crumble.  I hope it is. 

In this post...and probably the next few posts, I am going to take a brief look at some of the verses/arguments used to clobber homosexuals. 


But WHAT did He REALLY say?  That is the big question.

The article I read last night is from the Rainbow Alliance web site.  The article is called Cultic Temple Prostitutes and Homosexuality - A Christian Hoax?

It quotes from a book entitled The Invention of Sodomy in Christian Theology by Mark D Jordan.

The link leads to a limited preview on google books. Looks quite thorough. 

Also...check out Jordan's bio.

Mark D. Jordan, a renowned and wide-ranging scholar whose academic interests include the varieties of theological rhetoric, the performance of religious identities, Christian teachings on sex, and the work of Thomas Aquinas, has been appointed as the first Richard Reinhold Niebuhr Professor of Divinity at Harvard Divinity School. He will take up the new post in January 2009, moving to Harvard from Emory University, where he has been Asa Griggs Candler Professor since 1999.

Although today's post is getting quite wordy, I am still going to copy and paste a rather longish excerpt from the Cultic Temple article...more on all of this in my next post....

The KJV mistranslations I mentioned earlier are of the Hebrew term "quadesh" (male), "quadeshah" (female).  This term refers to cultic temple prostitutes, probably connected with the rather prevalent worship of Ashtart found generally throughout the Semitic world at that time.  Ashtart was known by a number of similar names, Ashtart, Asherah, Ishtar, Astarte, etc.  Ashtart was the consort of Baal. 

First a bit of background.  The Bible itself tells us that Ashtart (Asherah, etc.) was worshiped even in temple of Jerusalem for about 2/3 of the time it stood.

1 Kings 14:21-24 Solomon's son Rehoboam was forty-one years old when he became king of Judah, and he ruled seventeen years in Jerusalem, the city which the Lord had chosen from all the territory of Israel as the place where he was to be worshiped. Rehoboam's mother was Naamah from Ammon. The people of Judah sinned against the Lord and did more to arouse his anger against them than all their ancestors had done. They built places of worship for false gods and put up stone pillars and symbols of Asherah to worship on the hills and under shady trees. Worst of all, there were men and women who served as prostitutes at those pagan places of worship. The people of Judah practiced all the shameful things done by the people whom the Lord had driven out of the land as the Israelites advanced into the country.

2 Chronicles 33:1-6
Manasseh was twelve years old when he became king of Judah, and he ruled in Jerusalem for fifty-five years. Following the disgusting practices of the nations whom the Lord had driven out of the land as his people advanced, Manasseh sinned against the Lord. He rebuilt the pagan places of worship that his father Hezekiah had destroyed. He built altars for the worship of Baal, made images of the goddess Asherah, and worshiped the stars. He built pagan altars in the Temple, the place that the Lord had said was where he should be worshiped forever. In the two courtyards of the Temple he built altars for the worship of the stars. He sacrificed his sons in Hinnom Valley as burnt offerings. He practiced divination and magic and consulted fortunetellers and mediums. He sinned greatly against the Lord and stirred up his anger.

The Book of Kings describes the removal of the artifacts and courtesans of Astarte worship from the temple.

1 KINGS 22:46
He (Jehoshephat) got rid of all the male and female prostitutes who were left in the land from the time of his father Asa. 

2 KINGS 23:7
He destroyed the living quarters in the Temple occupied by the Temple prostitutes.

Now back to the Hebrew term 'quadesh' 'quadeshah' …

In the Zodhiates HEBREW-GREEK KEY STUDY BIBLE, you find the following,

"It [the masculine form] means a consecrated one, a devoted one, a sacred person; a devotee to a licentious idolatry, a cultic prostitute or priest of Astarte..."

Zodhiates goes on to define the feminine form thusly, "It means harlot, whore, sacred temple prostitute.  Prostitution received official sanction from the Canaanite religion which made reproduction part of its summum bonum.  As in India today, at the Holi festival, there were seasons of sexual orgy associated with Astarte.  The temple precincts became an inglorious brothel..."

The 1611 King James Version of the Bible contains a rather stunning mistranslation of the male form, "quadesh".  When studied in context, it is hard to imagine that the error was due to ignorance or simple error.  It appears to be deliberate.

Deut: 23:17 uses both the male and female forms of the term "quadesh".  The KJV translates them as follows: There shall be no whore [quadeshah] of the daughters of Israel, nor a sodomite [quadesh] of the sons of Israel. 

The more modern and accurate NIV translates the passage this way, "No Israelite, man or woman, is to become a shrine prostitute."

The KJV rendering of two entirely different meanings of the same word root is nonsensical. It is so nonsensical it is difficult to accept the possibility it could be an innocent error. 
There are others as well.  Among them:

1 Kings 15:12
KJV: "And he took away the sodomites [quadesh] out of the land, and removed all the idols that his fathers had made."
NIV: "He expelled the male shrine prostitutes from the land and got rid of all the idols his fathers had made."

The KJV translation is not only a stunningly inaccurate translation of the word "quadesh,", but in this instance it breaks up the continuity of thought within the sentence. It is another gross error.  How could it have been accidental or irresponsible?


The Hebrew term "toevah" is found in the oft-quoted verses of Lev. 18 and 20. It is one of a number of terms translated to "abomination" in English. And it seems to be the favorite verse of those who use the Bible to justify prejudice and discrimination against homosexuals.

The Canaanite god of the sun, Baal and his consort, the fertility goddess Ashtart (Ashtoreth, etc.)  were commonly worshipped in the area.  The term "toevah" appears throughout the Law to denounce idolatrous practices. In fact it is used over 100 times in the Old Testament in the context of idolatrous practices. Temple prostitutes participated in the worship of the fertility god "Baal" on an altar-like bed. The incident at Baal-Peor (Numbers 25) was about idolatry with Baal prostitutes, not mere sex. The cult temple prostitutes had sex with anyone who paid money and worshipped Baal, whether man or woman. It's nothing more than political dishonesty to define a cult prostitute as a homosexual.

We are told three times that the laws set forth in Leviticus chapters 18-20 are to prevent the Israelite priests from engaging in the religious practices of the Egyptians and Canaanites (18:2-3; 18:24; 20:23). Chapter 20 even begins with a discussion of the god Molech, who was worshiped in Canaan.

Leviticus reserves other terms such as "zimah" to refer to immorality or sin. For instance it is used in the references to rape, incest and child sexual abuse.
Clearly the Levitican passages made a distinction between things that were immoral and/or sinful (zimah
) and things that involved idolatry.

And the following excerpt from the article seems to be expressing, in more detail and with scriptural references, what Peggy Campolo believes.  Paul was not speaking out against monogomous, same sex relationships but against temple prostitution. 

There can be little disagreement that the early Christians were concerned about the competing religions. Many texts that we have from Christians of the first few centuries represent documents explaining the deficits and evils of the other religions. The many texts quoted above attest to the fact that not only were the church fathers aware of the goddess religions, but were confronted with them to the extent that they dedicated several specific attacks on them in their writings. This isn't surprising, given the popularity and influence of the religions on the Greek and Roman cultures.
That Paul would have been familiar with the goddess religions seems inescapable. Temples and shrines to Cybele, Artemis, Venus/Aphrodite, Astarte, and others were scattered densely around the region of Paul's upbringing and missionary travels (Asia Minor, Greece, Cyprus, etc.). Vermaseren describes (via Pausanias) the area surrounding Corinth.  'First there were two shrines of Isis and two more of Serapis; then there were altars of Helios and a sanctuary of Ananke and Bia. Above this there stood a temple of the Mother of the Gods with a stele and a marble throne.'[M. J. Vermaseren, Cybele and Attis: The Myth and the Cult]
As Jeremy Townsley shows us in Paul, the Goddess Religions and Homosexuality, Paul's letter to the Romans most certainly describes one of the non-Christian religions of the area.

Rom 21-22: They claimed to be wise but were foolish:
The galli [eunuch priests of Cybele] claimed to tell people's fortunes, but everybody thought they were mad due to their frenzied dancing and self-mutilation. The Greek texts describe the "mania" of their rituals.

Rom 23: They made images of man and animals to worship:
The Cybele/Attis temple statues were primarily of Attis and/or Cybele, who were typically surrounded by images of other animals, particularly lions, birds and snakes. In addition, these temples were often filled with birds, because the galli believed they were too holy to touch, to chase them away.

Rom 26-27: They exchanged natural relations, etc:
One of the primary goals of the galli was to remove gender differences. This occurred through transvestitism, physically cutting off one's genitals and the exchange of sexual roles. The male galli would serve sexually "as women" to male worshippers in the temple. Women had sex with men (and possibly with other women), but in order to avoid pregnancy, they would have anal sex, not vaginal, as indicated by early church writers such as Anastasius, Clement of Alexandria, Augustine, and two apocalyptic texts.

Christianity has a long history of trying to make the case that the many Biblical condemnations of cultic temple prostitution are condemnations of homosexuality.  Although the work of numerous scholars has corrected the errors, the message just isn't getting out. Too many Christians have adopted a "KJV Only" mentality and refuse to benefit from advances in knowledge made over the last 400 years.  Even more Christians find that the errors serve as very convenient excuses for the promotion of hatred and discrimination.   

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

What Peggy Campolo has to say...

The article I am going to talk about in this post is a transcript of a discussion about homosexuality between Peggy and Tony Campolo from...1996.  Outdated perhaps, but with opinions and sentiments that are hot button issues 13 years later.  I touched on their views in the first post in this series.  As I said, both she and Tony believe that Christians have screwed up the mandate to love our neighbor as ourselves and have openly persecuted homosexuals.  Not all Christians of course...but the Jerry Falwell's, Pat Robertson's, James Dobson's and Fred Phelps' who claim Jesus as their lord yet have fallen short in the "and the greatest of these is love" department. 

And the Campolo's also agree that homosexuality is not a choice but Tony believes that the Bible mandates celibacy.  Peggy does not.  In reference to one of the most oft quoted portions of scripture declaring homosexuality an abomination in the eyes of the Lord, she says the following:

I'd like you to note that Paul wrote Romans in the city of Corinth where the prevailing religion was the worship of Aphrodite. Aphrodite was a hermaphrodite with both male and female sexual organs and in the worship of Aphrodite people played the role of the opposite gender and engaged in sexual orgies with same sex prostitutes who were available in the temple. It was against these orgies that Paul wrote in the first chapter of Romans. There is an obvious connection between idolatry and homosexual practices in Romans one and what Paul says here cannot be applied to the kind of relationships created by loving homosexual partners who are making a lifetime monogamous commitment to each other.

I don't think that that's a proper use of the Bible. Some people, including my husband, say that those who believe as I do about Romans one are stretching the passage to agree with our own a priori beliefs. They say it is arrogant to declare that 19 hundred years of church history and tradition are in error. I would remind these people that all those years of church tradition supported an interpretation of Timothy 2:11 and 12 that disallowed women from church leadership. We only know what the church fathers said because those who might have been the church mothers had no voice.

Later on in this series I will mention a few more scholarly writings that more or less say the same thing, but for this post, I want to quote what Peggy has to say about her time "in the closet."  Even though she was a minister's daughter, until she was 47 years old she faked a relationship with God.  Peggy "met" him at the deathbed of a dear friend of hers.

My husband got in trouble some years ago for saying that Jesus is a presence inside of every person whether or not that person is a Christian. Furthermore, Tony said the place to find Jesus is in loving service to poor and oppressed people. Some in the Christian community argued that Jesus dwelt only in those who believed in him. Right here in Chicago there was actually a heresy trial in 1984 which ended with the jury saying that Tony was not a heretic but did need to be more careful about how he stated things.

But later that same year I learned first hand that Tony was right about where to find Jesus. It happened at the bedside of my dear friend Helen who was dying. Helen had always said she believed in God but now she didn't have any assurance about heaven or peace about dying and there I was, her best friend in this world, not even remotely in touch with God, with Jesus or any hope of heaven. I felt more inadequate than I'd ever felt in my life.

Helen needed God to die and I needed God desperately if I was to be any comfort at all to Helen. So I decided I would tell my friend all that I had ever heard about God and going to heaven. And after all those years in church I knew it well. Helen held my hand for dear life and I know she heard me and as I shared God's grace and love with my dying friend, the presence of God became real to me.

Helen grew too ill to talk after that day but I could talk to her and I did and I believe God did take her home to heaven even as I know God has remained with me. It was in my caring for Helen that I had come to know God. My husband's quest in theology about finding God in those who are in need or being oppressed became a reality to me that day in the hospital. You do stand with God when you stand with and for those who suffer.

She goes on to explain how she came to the realization that God was calling her to stand with and for homosexuals. 

Interesting article...interesting lady.  And for more from both Peggy and Tony, there are four audio messages (two from Tony/two from Peggy) on Gay Christian Network.  I haven't had a chance to listen to them so if anyone has...or does...comments are very welcome here on this blog....

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

The Chapter about Homosexuality- 2

Sunday's class ended up being very small.  Three of us.  Robin, one of the teachers was away and only one of the college students showed up. Matt. The other two....Josh and Brandy weren't there.  Hopefully they have not thrown in the towel like the "adults" have. After abortion, homosexuality is probably the hottest button topic of the "culture wars." I probably had the most liberal position of the three of us, but the views of the other two guys were pretty balanced and not at all condemning. 

Following are some excerpts and observations from the chapter on homosexuality in the book "Seeing Gray."

Adam Hamilton begins the chapter by saying:

In the spring of 2000, I was a reserve delegate to The United Methodist Church's General Conference, held once every four years.  I was sitting in the balcony when the issue of homosexuality was being debated by the church. 

He goes on to tell of how demonstrators who sought to end the UMC ban on ordination for self avowed, practicing homosexuals, and who hoped the church would remove language critical of homosexual practice from its discipline entered the Convention Center during the vote.  They (peacefully) surrounded the delegates by standing on the perimeter of the room and the balcony to watch as the delegates voted on the issue.  The Church voted to maintain their current stance and the pro gay demonstrators started to file onto the convention floor.  Others came to the balcony and stood in a ring around the balcony.

A woman came and stood at the end of the aisle in my section, directly in front of me, looking down upon the delegates twenty five feet below.  She was shaking and visibly distraught.  Soon she climbed up onto the edge of the balcony and she stood there, looking over the floor at the conference, looking at the people who had just voted once again to exclude her from full participation in the church, and she began to shout at them.  I could not understand what she was saying, but I sensed that she might be planning to jump.  I stepped out of my seat, along with another, and quickly reached for the woman just as she began to leap.  We pulled her back down into our laps, and held her as she lay shaking.  We held her in our arms until a few moments later, when a friend arrived to care for her and walk her out.  The entire incident took place in a matter of seconds, but the impact upon me, and others at the conference still lingers. 

In the spring of 2004...right before the next UMC conference, Adam decided to preach on the topic of homosexuality so his congregation would hear the issues surrounding the debate from him.  He said he was not prepared for the inner turmoil or confusion he experienced as he tried to prepare his sermon.  He includes the sermon in its entirety in the book.

Hundreds of people gradually left the church over the course of the following year because they did not feel he took a strong enough stand against homosexuality.  However during that same period of time about 1,000 people joined the church. 

In the sermon, he does a good job of explaining both sides of the gay and anti gay.  His personal beliefs are somewhere in the middle.  In preparation for the sermon he asked members of the congregation to email him their personal stories and opinions.  Many responded.  

One mother wrote, "I've known for four years that my son is a homosexual.  This doesn't make me love him any less than I did.  In fact, I love him more since I know the struggle he has gone through his whole life." 

Adam comments on this by saying:

It struck me, when I read her words, that the love of a mother for her son may very well be a picture of the love of our heavenly Father for his children who are gay. 

He ends the chapter with a post script written several years after the sermon....and he still doesn't have the answers. He is disturbed that the church has devoted so much time and energy in leading efforts against certain rights for homosexuals.  He believes that Jesus would reach out to them but at the same time he does not believe that Jesus would set aside monogamous heterosexual marriage as the ideal.   He ends the chapter thusly....

....I've brought some resolution to my inner struggle over the two sides of this issue by thinking of my own daughters.  I try to imagine if one of my daughters felt she was homosexual.  How would I respond to her?  I would love her.  I would want her to be welcome in our church.  Would I welcome her if she wanted to bring her partner to church?  Would I be able to love the person she loved?  I think I would. 

Monday, October 12, 2009

The Chapter about Homosexuality....

This week in my Sunday School class, a class based on the book by Adam Hamilton, Seeing Gray in a World of Black and White...we are discussing the chapter about homosexuality.  I will be digressing for the next day or so...perhaps longer. 

I spent most of the day yesterday at gay Christian web sites. I have visited some of these sites before since this has long been a topic of interest for me.  I was about forty when I became a Christian and had long lived an almost totally secular lifestyle. I knew gay people...and had known them most of my life. Homosexuality was no big deal to me. 

When I was in my teens, I spent several summers in Wildwood, New Jersey with my (very dysfunctional) family.  My "sort of in the closet" gay uncle...probably in his forties at the time... spent the summer there with in the apartment we all shared. He worked as a doorman at a night club that featured (surprise, surprise)female impersonators.  I got to see the show several times (Diana Ross and Liza Minnelli come to mind) and met some of the guys.  It was not really regarded as a perversion by my family....or by me...and it was openly acknowledged that these guys were gay.  So what?

My grandmother (wild, wild...oh so wild) had a good friend...Warren...who I met a few times and who was openly gay.  I knew what gay was when I was a kid...but I didn't know about the Christian stigma that surrounds it.  Warren did of course and he chose to reject the God who rejected him.  He was a very convinced atheist. 

Later, as an adult, my ex and I had several friends that were gay.  Very gay.  We were invited to their home several times a year and many of the other guests were gay couples. big deal.  They were all very nice, professional people. No leather chains etc. I didn't really care what their sexual orientation was. 

I worked in restaurants a lot in my younger years when my body could still take the wear and tear of waitressing and I've known a lot of gays throughout the years.  Some were in the closet...some were out.  I remember one guy I took a particular liking to when I lived in Nashville...Wendall.  He was openly gay and I was fine with that.  One day he called me into the back room because he wanted to tell me something.....something that nobody else knew at the restaurant where we worked (Shoney's) "I have AIDS," he said. He had been diagnosed ten years prior.  He was kind of an oddity then since he was still so functional.  This was 13 or 14 years ago and there has been a lot of progress made in the treatment of AIDS. 

  He was involved in what he thought was a long term monogamous relationship.  It was for him...but not so for his partner. His partner was promiscuous, became infected with AIDS and passed it on to Wendall.  He was a kindergarten teacher when he was diagnosed. The doctor told him he had to quit his job immediately or he would infect all the he quit...and ended up working at Shoney's when he was able.  His main symptom was neuropathy in his legs. 

In spite of his illness, the loss of his career, the heartbreaking betrayal of his partner and the shunning of the Church of Christ (not the liberal United Church of Christ but the ultra conservative southern version of the Church of Christ) he was a happy go lucky kind of guy....a real hoot...hilarious.  He me laugh all the time.  I lost touch with Wendall when I changed jobs and then finally moved away from Nashville.  I wonder about him sometimes though.  I hope he was able to take advantage of some of the new therapies and meds that are available now for AIDS patients. 

I've known other gays through the years.  Even now, I interact with several gay people on a daily basis. I won't belabor the point by retelling the details of every relationship and all of my experiences with gays. From my anecdotal dealings (which have perhaps been more extensive than the interaction most people have with least knowingly) I see them pretty much as just regular people with a different sexual orientation than mine.  I do not see it as a choice....and in situations where it is truly a lifestyle choice, it is the exception and not the rule.

I know there is homosexual promiscuity...the bath houses...multiple partners...stories of human "chains" but there is promiscuity in heterosexuals too.  And it is my firm belief that if you hear you are a piece of crap enough times, you will act accordingly.  Society, churches...especially churches....have driven home the point that homosexuality is sickening.  Hate the sin, love the sinner.  Even if that was the ideal, how many times is that REALLY put into practice in our churches?  What if the sin is as ingrained as the color of your eyes? 

I've digressed in this digression.  This all sort of started when annie posted an article on EU about a former hate spewing "Christian" who thought homosexuals did not really have the right to breath the same air as he did....whose life changed dramatically one day after he delivered a tirade on the blight of homosexuality at a family gathering.  Afterwards his mom asked the simple question...."do you think your beliefs are Christlike?"

That is a good question, don't you think?  And people on both sides of the issue...people with "black and white" sexual orientations and those with every shade of gray in between should ask themselves that same question.  Do you think your beliefs are Christlike?

I am going to copy and paste the article annie posted below. A couple of other things I found interesting. the day of a pro-gay rally in Washington.  In my web journeys yesterday I read that the Evangelical Lutheran Church (following the lead of the Anglican church) allows gays in monogamous relationships to be ministers.  And a sort of related interesting note is what I read yesterday about Tony Campolo and his wife Peggy. 

Although they agree on some things related to homosexuals...such as the fact that the LGBT folks need to be assured of equal civil rights, that homosexuality is not really a choice...that the church had done way more harm than good to/for homosexuals...and other similar beliefs, they differ on a very important point.  Tony thinks that homosexuals should practice celibacy.  Peggy believes that monogamous relationships between members of the same sex are a-okay.

I will talk more about that in the next few days. 

A Step in Faith

Evangelical Christian Brent Childers explains his journey from believing that homosexuality was an abomination to marching in a pro-gay march on Washington.

By Brent Childers | Newsweek Web Exclusive

Oct 8, 2009

Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) Americans are a diverse, extraordinary, resilient, and passionate group of forgiving men and women. I wouldn't be standing beside them demanding full and equal treatment under the law and speaking out against the harm caused by religion-based bigotry at the National Equality March in Washington, D.C., on Oct. 11 if I thought they were not created in God's image the same as myself, same as my family, as we all are—we are all God's children.

And I know better than anyone, since six years ago I was one of those bigots. At that time it would have seemed abominable to even consider attending a "gay-rights" event. To me, these would have been the people tearing apart the very seams of our culture and our country.

Today, it is a natural expression of who I am. Some might call that a miracle.

So what it is that would bring someone from a place where he once declared himself a "Jesse Helms Republican," a man who condemned homosexuality as a threat to children and society, told his own son that being gay is a ticket to hell, to travel from Hickory, N.C., to the West Lawn of the Capitol building on Oct. 11, 2009? How can one travel from the seemingly impossible road of bigotry to one of acceptance and love for our LGBT brothers and sisters? The answer is one that I hope religious leaders such as Pat Robertson and James Dobson (and most importantly, their followers) will hear.

It's because something deep inside told me that I needed to step out in faith onto a bridge of knowledge and understanding. I didn't know where this bridge would take me but something was telling me it was a path I needed to walk. My own mother challenged me in 2003 to look at my beliefs and the true intent behind the teachings I held in blind faith. "Do you think your views are Christ-like?" she asked me. Her question was dead on: once I walked away from the Church's teachings of rejection and condemnation, my relationship with God transcended to a higher spiritual plateau. I realized an unparalleled sense of spiritual clarity when I opened my heart and mind to a genuine expression of love, compassion, and acceptance of all sexual orientations and gender identities.

This new voice—Christ's voice—became the core principles of my faith: love, compassion, and respect. That voice I now realize was desperately wanting to be heard, a voice no longer comfortable with the place in which I had chose to confine it for so long—a place of bigotry, prejudice, fear, and misunderstanding.

The walk across that bridge wasn't very strenuous but it was at times painful. The pain came as I began to realize for the first time that I had been using my faith to bring harm to others. That's not a pleasant realization for anyone who marches under a Christian banner of love, respect, and compassion.

During the past four years I have looked into the faces of those I once caused harm to with religion-based bigotry and prejudice. And while I may have never inflicted a physical blow, I know today that my words indeed caused deep wounds—perhaps at some point deeper than I care to dwell upon.

They are the faces of individuals like young Sean Kennedy, who died in Greenville, S.C., in 2007 after being struck by a person who considered Sean a "faggot"; Pat and Lynn Mulder of Auburndale, Fla., whose gay son also died as a result of a hate crime; Jared Horsford of Texas who carved derogatory words into his flesh because he thought it would help control the demon he was told lived there; Nicholas White who was relentlessly berated by fellow 4-H peers at camp this summer as other 4-H campers stood behind the tormentors in silence; or the mother I met recently in North Carolina who grieved over her dead son—a child that had been rejected because he was gay and thought peace could only come through suicide.

There are many, many others I have met in my work with Faith in America, as we try to bring awareness and understanding to the pain and trauma caused to LGBT people, especially youth, when church teaching is misused to justify and promote a societal climate of rejection, condemnation, and discrimination. This environment fosters suicide, hate crimes, an epidemic of antigay bullying in our schools against all kinds of children gay and straight, legal workplace discrimination against LGBT citizens in 20 states, military service members forced to serve in silence or discharged for being honest about who they are, lesbian and gay parents unable to protect their children without the legal structure of federally recognized civil marriage, and lesbian and gay couples unable to provide security for their partners in the absence of federally recognized civil marriage. This is what we march for on Oct. 11 and every day. Every person coming to Washington—whether they are religious or not—does share one faith, and that is faith in America. We can and must do better. As the progress of history has shown, Americans will prove themselves able to see beyond religion-based bigotry to the promises of equal treatment for all. Those who use religion-based bigotry to persecute and discriminate against LGBT people are on the wrong side of history, just as they were with slavery, interracial marriage, the treatment of women, and so many other issues.

I remember the first time I met Sean Kennedy's mother, Elke, sitting in her family's living room just months after she had lost her precious son as the result of a senseless and hate-filled act of violence. And I will never forget that momentary look on her face when I explained to her that I once was someone whose attitude had helped perpetuate the societal climate in which her son lived and died. It was a moment in which I realized the depths of the wounds I may have inflicted upon a gay teen contemplating suicide or a perpetrator looking to justify hate violence. It is a moment that commands me to continue to march, to speak out, and help others experience the spiritual blessing that comes from unshackling the chains of religion-based bigotry and prejudice.

Brent Childers is the executive director of Faith in America. After changing his views on homosexuality, he left the Southern Baptist Church and now attends both a local Pentacostal and a nondenominational church in Hickory, N.C.



Sunday, October 11, 2009

Sorry Walter, No Fan Club....

More from Starcke...but first...a disclaimer.  Lest it seem I am forming a new chapter of the Walter Starcke fan club on this blog, I am not.  Several quotes from this interview captured my attention and got the wheels and cogs moving in my brain.  The quotes are a good starting point for me to build on...and so I have based several posts on thoughts pertaining to them.  Truthfully, a lot of what he says in his devotionals does not resonate with me.  It is a bit too much "I am God" for me. I guess at this point, I agree with Elwin Roach.

Although we may be one with our Father and one with Christ -- we are not our Father; despite the fact we find Him in each of us -- we are still not Him; and even though we may be in His very image -- it does not make us Him. We can be everything He is, do everything He does, manifest godliness at all times, and we can exercise all His authority as it is given to us -- but we will never be Him! We will forever have God as our Father, and we will always be His sons and daughters -- but not HIM!

But there is something to this sacred humanity.  Even Jesus talked about it.  He often referred to himself as the Son of Man. In one article I skimmed over, it claimed that he used that name/title for himself over 80 times. I am going to ponder this topic in upcoming posts...soon...depending, of course, on how often I digress :)

The Starcke quote...from his interview...follows

From the beginning I intuitively knew not to reject the human as being less important than the spiritual. To me one did not exclude the other. I was uncomfortable around people who did not recognize the spirit within them and also (uncomfortable) around those who were denying their humanity—and just trying to be "holy." I'm happier today than I have ever been, because there are so many of us now who are consciously expressing (their divinity without rejecting their humanity) both our humanity and our divinity.

He goes on to say:

Joel (Goldsmith) summed up his teaching by quoting the Gospel of John: "In the beginning was the Word and the Word was made flesh and dwells among us." Then Joel would add, "But being flesh it is still the word," meaning that everything around us is consciousness manifesting in form. I sometimes say (I don't see people). Well, of course, I see them. What I mean is that I see consciousness manifesting as a form. The point I'm trying to make is that we're here for one reason—to become conscious beings. That means that we don't identify ourselves as form only.

Like I said...some resonates very much...some, not so much, but it is thought provoking....

Friday, October 9, 2009

Which Reality?

Back to the Starcke Interview.  In the snippet below, Starcke mentions that during sleep, "consciousness" in egoic consciousness (carnal reasoning/adamic mindset...whatever you choose to call it) has been off guard.  I wonder if perhaps it is not more than that...if perhaps God communicates with our spirit as we sleep?  As our "flesh" saws we slumber...are we refreshed and revitalized more than on just a physical level?  Perhaps?

I find that for me the best time of the day to meditate is when I first wake up in the morning. It's like taking a psychic bath. I've taken on a degree of personal sense in the previous day, and my consciousness has been off guard during sleep, so my morning meditation is the time when I let go of the personal sense, get rid of it all, and open myself to the experience of the presence. This is when I am most likely to experience that inner "click" of realization.

I've seen the shadow side of this...the con rather than the pro.  Our consciousness may be off guard when we sleep...but when we can come swooping back in with a vengeance. During times when my life was in shambles, I have wakened in the morning (or the middle of the night) and within moments my worries and fears come flooding back.  Heavy, frightening, hopeless.  Ahhh-ha...the egoic mind has me in its clutches yet again. 

But I've also experienced the reverse.  The quiet, almost pristine time in the very early morning shortly after waking (after, perhaps, a sip or two of coffee) when His Presence fills the room and I am keenly aware that he is there...with me. 

But doesn't His Presence still fill the room (an us) on those mornings when we are drowning in a sea of vain imaginations? When we are lost in the throes of carnal angst? Is he any less with us?  Isn't he ALWAYS with us?

If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there. (Psalm 139:8 NIV)

Perhaps it's all a matter of perspective...

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Let Me Put That Another Way...

There is a song I hear now and then...with very catchy lyrics (that I cannot find...even via google) It words this casting down vain imaginations thing a little differently.  I like it...

I surrender my opinion to Your dominion.

Doesn't that mean when I am riddled with doubts, plagued with fears, consumed with hurt I can reflect on what He says..look at things through His eyes?  Surrender my opinion about my circumstances?  Easy to say...not as easy to do :) 

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Still more on vain imaginations..

Among the daily devotionals on Walter Starcke's site, I thought the following fit in with this conversation on vain imaginations....

From January 23rd. 

What you need now is instant obedience. You have come to the most difficult and liberating step in your life: instant obedience. Instant obedience is the ability to stop the first negative, judgmental, or discouraging thought right in its track before it can take hold. Reasoning is addictive. If you allow the first poisonous thought to take hold, the next comes easier until you are drunk with self-concern. Instant refusal to play your mind’s game allows you to hear me. It ends self-centeredness. Instantly obey the spirit of love that is your true being and watch the miracles take place.

The griping fear and worry about what the 'morrow brings is surely what The Message refers to as loose thoughts, emotions and impulses.  Starcke refers to these thoughts as poisonous. It seems to be a universal trait of humanity...and Jesus addresses our tendency to fret about what the next day brings by telling us to give it no thought.  For a wise commentary on this verse (Matthew 6:34) check out Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary on the Bible. (scroll down)

At the conference in Uniontown that Keith and I recently attended, during the sermon Lola Hiles preached, she mentioned the saying on a magnet her daughter had given to her. 

                    Everything Will Be Okay In The End. If It'S Not Okay, It'S Not The End. Note Card

Probably a good sentiment to remember when our minds start to do the "what if" tango....


Monday, October 5, 2009

The Chapter About Abortion....

I've written a couple of posts about the Sunday School Class that I am attending...Seeing Gray in a World of Black and White.  Well, the herd has thinned out a bit.  Some people are just not into gray, I guess. One of the couples has been MIA for the past three weeks.  The other couple for the past two weeks.  That leaves the three college students,the two leaders and me.  There is another women who will be in and out because of her job.

I'm hoping that other obligations have kept the couples away, but I am thinking that's probably not the case.  It's not a class for everyone.  Not at all.  Today, one of the leaders was preaching all three Sunday services, so the herd was even thinner today with only the younger leader, Robin and the three college kids....whose names I cannot remember.  I like them all.  There are two guys.  One is very talkative, very articulate and very likeable.  The other one is shy...more traditional and very conservative.  He is a history and religion major.  And the girl doesn't say too much...but I enjoy hearing their perspective. I am very comfortable in the class.  I am also not the most liberal one there...which is kind of nice.  Robin is.  Today the topic was abortion.  After hearing our views she told us hers...she is pro-choice. 

The class was based on Chapter 18 of the book by Adam Hamilton.  And it had some surprising statistics.  46% of the women who have abortions in the United States are not using birth control when they become pregnant.  70% of all women having abortions in this country identify themselves as Christians! The major focus of this chapter is that those on both sides of the issue can and should work together to decrease the number of abortions.

His message is to the moderates. Not to those who bomb abortion clinics or hunt down abortion doctors and shoot cold church.  And probably not to those who refuse to see a fetus as anything more than a kind of parasite sucking its life from the mother...with no rights and no humanity and no need for protection at any stage of gestation.  His suggestions are for the moderates. 

Roe v Wade has been in effect for over thirty years.  Abortion does not seem to be going anywhere so it might behoove those pro-lifers to work with those pro-choicers to reduce the number of abortions that are performed.  He points out the following

1) Pro-choice advocates and pro-life advocates each have legitimate concerns.

2) Abortion is both "not ideal" and yet, occasionally "necessary" (at the very least, most pro-life advocates would allow abortion to save the life of the mother)

3) Decreasing the number of abortions in America would be desirable.

4) Adequate information about and access to birth control can reduce abortions.

5) The longer a pregnancy progresses the more morally problematic an abortion becomes.

6) No one should be pressured into having an abortion. 

7) If an abortion occurs it should be safe. 

I think I pretty much agree with his list. 

One thing I really liked about the class was that even though there was great diversity of opinion, the conversation was very respectful.  Josh (I remembered one name) believes that abortions should never be performed even to save the life of the mother.  Robin is pro-choice...the other end of the spectrum. The rest of us were somewhere in between.  There is a vast difference in our ages.  The students are probably under 20...Robin will be 30...and I am in my fifties.  I really enjoyed the class. 

After church, Keith and I went to Denny's for lunch.  While we were sitting there we noticed a few people passing by with lawn chairs.  Then later, a few more passed by...carrying signs.  It turned out that there was a protest planned.  People stood all along the Golden Strip (the shopping district) on both sides of the street, holding anti-abortion signs.  We drove by many of them on our way to Staples.  The signs expressed several sentiments

      • Abortion Hurts Women
      • Abortion Kills Children
      • Adoption: The Loving Option
      • Life: The First Inalienable Right
      • Lord Forgive Us and Our Nation

There were even a few signs that supported the other side of the issue, "Keep Abortion Legal."

And there were several signs with a sentiment that transcends both sides of the issue. 

Jesus Forgives and Heals. 

Indeed, he does....

Something for BOTH sides to remember....

For more in depth reading on the topic, the blog Blue Christian on a Red Background has the following detailed posts on abortion from a political perspective. 

Supreme Court's Ban on "Partial-Birth" Abortion: A Pro-Life Liberal's Take

Getting Personal: Why this Pro-lifer is voting for Barack Obama, Part 1

Getting Personal: Why this Pro-lifer is voting for Barack Obama, Part 2

For a long list of pro-life websites and organizations...some radical, others not so much check out this link