Category Archives: Christian

Same Sex Marriage “Stuff” – Part Two

Click here to read Same Sex Marriage “Stuff” – Part One

Religious-freedom-is-not-freedom-to-discriminate

50 years ago religious freedom arguments that are being made today to discriminate against LGBT people were being used to justify the discrimination of black people and interracial relationships.

At that time scripture was misused to support the exclusion and oppression of black people and interracial couples. Today we have people doing the same thing to justify the exclusion and oppression of LGBT people and same sex couples.

Most people have never taken the time to study what scripture says about same sex relationships for themselves. Most people read scripture with preconceived ideas that have been formed by believing what they have been told by someone else.

If anyone is willing to set their preconceived ideas aside and take the time to study original language while also taking historical context into consideration they will be able to comprehend that there is nothing in scripture that clearly condemns a loving, healthy same sex relationship. NOTHING!

I know!, because as a parent of a gay son I was diligent in my effort to find out FOR SURE what scripture did and didn’t say about same sex relationships. I loved my son enough to go to the trouble. Do you love anyone enough to go to the trouble? If you do, I would be glad to help you.

In fact, there is more evidence in scripture to support slavery than there is to support the condemnation of all same sex relationships.

Scripture also doesn’t put forth the idea that marriage is to be only between one man and one woman or that it has anything to do with people falling in love.

Scripture proves one thing about marriage … that marriage has been changing since the beginning of time. As society progresses, learns and improves, our institutions change.

Traditionally marriage was not between one man and one woman. The idea of marriage as a sexually exclusive, romantic union between one man and one woman is a relatively recent development. In the ancient world, marriage served primarily as a means of preserving power, with kings and other members of the ruling class marrying off their daughters to forge alliances, acquire land, and produce legitimate heirs. The purpose of marriage was primarily the production of heirs. Often times peasants wouldn’t even bother with marriage since they had no property or position to worry about.

The church didn’t even get involved in marriage until the 5th century. It wasn’t declared a sacred sacrament until the 12th century. And it wasn’t until the 16th century that weddings were performed publicly by a priest and with witnesses. A license to be married wasn’t commonplace until the 17th century which was around the time when romance began to have some involvement. As the middle class formed in the 19th century only then did young men begin to select their own spouses and start marrying without the consent of their parents. The idea of women having rights and not being a subordinate to their husband didn’t become common until the 20th century. It was 1965 before the Supreme Court ruled that a wife could be raped by her husband. Until then husbands who forced themselves on their wives were not guilty of rape, since they were legally entitled to sexual access.

The institution of marriage has always been in a constant state of evolution.

“Marriage, like transportation, has always been a part of human existence. But riding a donkey is very different from flying in a jet, and modern marriage has only superficial similarity to what went before. Just as we embrace each new mode of travel that enhances human welfare, no one should mind adapting marriage to the needs of modern people.” – Steve Chapman

Extending matrimony to same-sex couples advances the same interests cited in support of heterosexual marriage. Legalizing same sex marriages encourages stable commitments that offer a framework for procreation and upholds the interest of children in a legally protected family.

The evidence before us is that same sex marriage offers the same benefits to individuals and society that opposite sex marriage does.

And finally, there is nothing in scripture that would support the idea that Christians should not sell their services or products to someone who is, in their eyes, sinning. In fact, that would go against the very tenets of Christianity. Any use of Christianity to justify discrimination is evidence of a misunderstanding about who Jesus was and what his good news was meant to convey to and about humanity. Discrimination and exclusion were not values of Jesus and are in conflict with the precepts of the Christian faith.

Oh – and one last point – the First Amendment does not guarantee us the right to discriminate based on our religion, it instead guarantees us the right not to be discriminated against based on our religious beliefs.

Same Sex Marriage “Stuff” – Part One

This post is part of the July Synchroblog which invites bloggers to post about “Same Sex Marriage.”

As someone who has a gay son and who owns and facilitates a Private Facebook group for more than 500 moms of LGBT kids I have a LOT to say about same sex marriage “stuff.”

In fact, I have so much to say, I don’t know where to start.

But, I guess a good place to start is with my own story about how I went from believing same sex relationships were sinful to believing that condemning same sex relationships is sinful.

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When my son came out he told me he had come to the conclusion that the bible did not condemn loving, committed same sex relationships.

I fully expected to be able to prove him wrong.

I was accustomed to “studying” scripture as I taught women’s bible studies for years. I knew what it meant to dig into original language and consider the historical context of the verses I was studying.

I was shocked to find that my son was right …  none of the “clobber” verses were speaking about a loving, monogamous, healthy same sex relationship.

In fact, after a lot of studying and searching I had to admit there was no sufficient evidence in scripture that “clearly” condemned or supported same sex relationships.

One would have to put their integrity at stake and make scripture say more than it does in order to claim that scripture clearly condemns or supports same sex relationships.

(I could go into greater detail here about what I found and didn’t find in scripture, but instead I would like to share a link to a message by Pastor Stan Mitchell of GracePoint Church in Franklin, TN. The message is “Dialogue On Full Sacramental LGBT Inclusion.” This message includes almost everything I discovered in my own journey. I personally think this should be required listening for all Christians living in 2015 but I will just say “if you are a Christian who loves anyone – ANYONE – who is LGBT, you should take the time to listen to this message right away.”)

In light of discovering there was insufficient evidence in scripture to condemn same sex relationships I then had to ask myself, “What should I do?” and “How should I respond to something if scripture doesn’t clearly condemn or support it?”

The only thing I could think is I needed to find out if there was any evidence to indicate same sex relationships hurt people.

I searched and I couldn’t find that kind of evidence either – in fact, the evidence I discovered showed healthy same sex relationships had the same healthy effect on individuals and society as opposite sex relationships have on individuals and society.

Two more things happened which ended up playing a significant role in my journey.

First, I ran across this quote:

“A traditional religious belief is that “grace builds on nature,” in other words religious life depends on a good foundation in human health. Therefore we can legitimately evaluate the validity of a religious belief system by its psychological consequences. Good theology will result in good psychology and vice versa. Accordingly, bad theology will have negative psychological consequences. This is nothing more than an application of the biblical norm: “You will be able to tell them by their fruits” (Matt. 7:16) If Saint Irenaeus proclaimed, the glory of God is humans FULLY ALIVE [emphasis mine], then clearly a belief system that results in the destruction of human health cannot serve the glory of God.” ~Dr. John J. McNeill

And second, I kept bumping into Micah 6:8:

“He hath shewed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the Lord require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?”

The quote by Dr. McNeill made so much sense to me and supported what I had always believed in my heart … which was the tenets and beliefs of Christianity should mostly lead to a person’s health and wholeness. In other words, our mental, emotional, physical and spiritual health should all be “better” if we are embracing good theology. Like Dr. McNeill explained, good and right theology should mostly lead to good psychology (good fruit).

As I considered this idea I began to understand that when our theology about something is resulting in a lot of bad fruit or bad psychology – such as hopelessness, depression, self hate and self harm – we have an obligation to re-examine what we believe and ask ourselves why we believe it.

And Micah 6:8 became like a guiding light for my journey. The words reminded me that justice (doing what is right) is a very high priority to God and led me to ask, “What would it look like, in light of what I have discovered, to do justice, love mercy and walk humbly with God?”

Everything combined together led me to the conclusion that it would be unjust, and lack mercy and humility, to condemn a loving, monogamous same sex relationship.

There was nothing in scripture to clearly mandate the condemnation of same sex relationships, there was no evidence that same sex relationships caused harm to anyone (in fact, the opposite was true) and the theological position of condemning same sex relationships was not producing good psychology (good fruit).

Those things together have given me peace in my heart about being a Christian who affirms same sex relationships. Those things have led me to believe that condemning same sex relationships is a sin.

The transition didn’t happen overnight. Although I was able to see right away that what I had believed wasn’t right, it actually took somewhere between one and two years of study, prayer, learning, listening and thinking for me to officially change my position/belief.

I’ve been accused of letting my love for my son blind me to the truth, but nothing could be further from the truth. My love for my son made me study more than ever, it caused me to ask tougher questions and to carefully consider all the evidence before me. I love my son too much to mislead him in the wrong direction if I can help it.

I’ve been accused of disregarding scripture and the Christian faith, but nothing could be further from the truth. My high view of scripture, my determination to not make scripture say more than it says, my commitment to study in a thorough manner, my deep devotion to being a follower of Christ and to do my best to live into the kind of radical love that he demonstrated and calls me to imitate … those things have led and guided me to where I am today regarding same sex marriage. I do not affirm same sex relationships in spite of my faith. I affirm same sex relationships because of my faith.

And as I have talked to other Christian mothers of LGBT kids I have witnessed them going through the same sort of process … digging deep, not accepting easy answers, wanting to make sure as much as possible.

As mothers our love doesn’t let us off the hook … instead, it is the reason we must be even more resolute and thorough. Our love is that great.

Like I said … I have a LOT to say about same sex marriage “stuff” and this is just the beginning … but I’m a firm believer that blog posts shouldn’t be too long … so stay tuned for part two of “Same Sex Marriage Stuff” coming soon. (Go here for part two)

In the meantime, check out the other July Synchroblog posts about “Same Sex Marriage

Prayer For The Week – Don’t Put God In A Box

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A beautiful prayer to guide us through the week:

A Prayer on “Knowing” God and Humbling Ourselves by Mark Sandlin

Good and gracious God,

There are so many understandings of you
and yet there is only one you.
So many faiths.
So many denominations.
So many differences
even in the Gospels we read about you…
even between theological experts…
even between well read followers…
even between me
and the others who read this prayer.

You are so ineffably difficult
to pin down,
to understand,
to describe,
to know fully.

Yet we sometime become
full of ourselves,
acting as if we
know,
hold,
have,
the “Truth” about you —

Believing that we have done
what thousands of years of history
have not been able to do,
we sometimes think
we have the final truth and understanding
about you.

God of all times and all peoples,
humble our hearts.
Silence our sometimes haughty souls
and lend us perspective.
Guide us closer to you.
Teach us how limited our knowledge is.
Give us spirits which seek more of your truth.
Instill in us
a willingness to admit what we don’t know.
Inspire us
to not only share what we have learned
with others,
but to open ourselves
to what we can learn from them.

Plant within us spirits which revel
in the reality
that there is more to learn
about you,
spirits which celebrate
what we don’t know
because it means we can still
grow closer to you,
spirits which are willing
to toss away
what we once knew
for new understandings
which grow us closer to you
and all of your Creation.

We joyfully give thanks
for all of the possibilities
which lie in front of us
to know you more fully
and to share
your love more abundantly.

Amen.

You can follow Rev. Mark Sandlin on Facebook here.

Prayer for the Week – Welcome Everything

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The Welcoming Prayer by Father Thomas Keating

Welcome, welcome, welcome.

I welcome everything that comes to me today
because I know it’s for my healing.

I welcome all thoughts, feelings, emotions, persons,
situations, and conditions.

I let go of my desire for power and control.

I let go of my desire for affection, esteem,
approval and pleasure.

I let go of my desire for survival and security.

I let go of my desire to change any situation,
condition, person or myself.

I open to the love and presence of God and
God’s action within.

Amen.

Sorry

This month’s synchroblog calls on bloggers to address the subject of handling spiritual abuse so the Christian tenets of justice, forgiveness, reconciliation and redemption are honored.

Man_Crying
Sorry means you feel the pulse of other people’s pain as well as your own, and saying it means you take a share of it. And so it binds us together, makes us trodden and sodden as one another. Sorry is a lot of things. It’s a hole refilled. A debt repaid. Sorry is the wake of misdeed. It’s the crippling ripple of consequence. Sorry is sadness, just as knowing is sadness. Sorry is sometimes self-pity. But Sorry, really, is not about you. It’s theirs to take or leave.

Sorry means you leave yourself open, to embrace or to ridicule or to revenge. Sorry is a question that begs forgiveness, because the metronome of a good heart won’t settle until things are set right and true. Sorry doesn’t take things back, but it pushes things forward. It bridges the gap. Sorry is a sacrament. It’s an offering. A gift. 
― 
Craig SilveyJasper Jones

At first I had a very difficult time imagining what the path to restoration would look like for a religious leader who had committed spiritual abuse.

My difficulty comes from the fact that far too often spiritual abusers aren’t held accountable for their actions because they hold too much power or celebrity and the abuse is ignored and goes on without being confronted until it becomes normalized. Too often the abused are told that they are the problem and their perspective is wrong.

If the abuser is not held accountable and doesn’t take personal responsibility I can’t imagine a way that the Christian tenets of justice, forgiveness, reconciliation and redemption can be honored.

But, if the abuser is held accountable for their actions, is willing to take responsibility and is sincerely sorry for their actions and the harm they have done I believe there is a way for us to honor the Christian ideals of justice, forgiveness, reconciliation and redemption; and I believe it can be done by practicing a form of restorative justice.

In my opinion the process would need to emphasize repairing the harm caused by the abuser and would include:

  1. Creating opportunities for victims, offenders and community members to meet and discuss the abuse and its aftermath.
  2. Allowing those who were abused to participate in determining the resolution.
  3. Having offenders take steps to personally work towards repairing the harm they caused.

If this sort of process is practiced I believe that there is a way the offender could be restored to a whole, contributing member of the Christian community. However, I think we must be cautious about setting that up as the goal. I believe the goal of the process should be to seek the justice, protection and restoration of those who have been abused.

I believe that when offenders are truly sorry about their actions and the harm they have caused and are more concerned with the well-being of those who have been harmed than their own self the possibility of their redemption and restoration become real.

Sorry is the necessary sacrament, the imperative offering, the essential gift.

Be sure and check out the other contributions to this month’s synchroblog:

Happy Reading: Disquiet Time

(This post is the beginning of what I hope to be an ongoing series on Grace Rules called “Happy Reading” where I write about books I recommend and why.)

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I love to read and for years I read a LOT of “Christian” books – some “Christian” fiction but mostly “Christian” non-fiction. I was always teaching at least one, usually two, women’s bible studies and leading women’s ministry so I was always in need of “new material” as I was in front of people talking a lot about the bible (which I was digging into pretty much everyday – mostly because of needing to prepare lessons and presentations – once I even memorized the whole book of Philippians for a bible study) and what it meant to live a Christian life.

When Nick came out the thing that “stuck” from ALL the bazillion minutes of time and study and prayer and teaching and reading – the thing that seemed to really matter – the thing that seemed to be the answer … was love. God loved me, God loved Nick, I was supposed to love Nick the same way that God loved me and Nick. ALL the other stuff didn’t seem that important anymore.

I did spend about a year or a little longer digging into the clobber verses and ideas and questions that came from studying those verses. I wanted to figure out what scripture really did or did not say about same sex relationships.

As I’ve mentioned before I was surprised that scripture turned out to be so vague on the subject. There just wasn’t anything ironclad in scripture to condemn a loving, committed same sex relationship … the kind of relationship that my son wanted to find with another guy.

At first it was a real shock to me to realize that I couldn’t find “the” answer in scripture that I was looking for. I cried out to God “what in the world do I do without a clear answer about this?” “who do I believe” “how do I go forward?”

Over and over again Micah 6:8 kept coming up … He has showed you, O man, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God?

All the questions I was asking had the word “do” in them and here was Micah 6:8 telling me what to “do” …. I started looking at the different versions … do justly, do justice, do what is right, to act justly, to act with justice, promote justice, do right judgment.

That led to me studying “justice” and how God views justice and what he perceives as justice. And there was plenty in scripture about justice and how passionate God is about justice.

In the end I realized it would be unjust for me to condemn something without sufficient evidence that it should be condemned….if there was no scripture that clearly condemned it and there was no clear evidence that it was harmful then it would be “unjust” for me to condemn it. It would be wrong and God calls me to do right, to do justice.

People often think that I became affirming because my son was gay and I loved him so much that I was willing to disregard what scripture says and go against God. To be honest with you I don’t know what would have happened if I had found evidence that same sex relationships were wrong. I know I would not have quit loving my son or quit being in a relationship with him – that was decided long before I had finished wrestling with the clobber verses. And I don’t think I would have abandoned my faith either. I love God and I love my son. No matter how it turned out I don’t think I would have had to choose between the two. BUT it didn’t even turn out to be a problem. My love for my son did not blind me, it did not make me have to twist anything to fit, my love for my son combined with my love for God sent me on the sincerest search I have ever been on and I am completely at peace with the answers I found.

These days I hardly read the bible and I don’t read very many Christian books. I still read a lot but I read mostly very good fiction which I think holds a lot of truth that God uses in my life …. but when it comes to “Christian” books I usually feel like I’ve read it before if you know what I mean and I’m still working on trying to live out the stuff in scripture that I do understand … like loving my neighbor as myself, doing justice, loving mercy and being humble before God.

Of course there are a few exceptions – sometimes something sends me running to scripture the way I sometimes need to listen to a certain song or reread a beautiful poem and sometimes a good Christian book comes along that is different enough that I want to read it in hopes that it will show me something new that I am ready to know and I try to keep my eye out for those … which leads me to the reason I started out this post in the first place…

I wanted to tell you about a “Christian” book that I just ordered, one that is being praised by some people that I respect and one I am pretty excited about reading.

It’s a book of essays from a collection of diverse writers who wrestle with the challenges that thoughtful faith provokes.

“Disquiet Time: Rants and Reflections on the Good Book by the Skeptical, the Faithful, and a Few Scoundrels” is not your average Christian book and I hear that some of the essays might even make some people mad.

I’m excited about reading it because it sounds like it might be written by people who are sincerely searching for answers, people who have allowed themselves to really delve into how their life and scripture intersect, people who are not afraid to ask questions, or to say something doesn’t make sense or to point out the problems they have with something that scripture says.

I like that kind of honest approach to scripture and I like to listen to others who take that kind of approach.

I like what Steve Beard had to say in a review he wrote about the book:

“With nearly 50 different contributors, this isn’t an authoritative text on biblical interpretation. Instead, it is more like a funky theological jam session – no sheet music, brother riffing off of sister, guitar solos, tooting of the horns, banging of the drums, thumping of the bass – testifying about both estrangement and enduring love for the Bible.”

If you are interested in checking DisQuiet Time out there is a whole site of information here

Happy Reading!

Why are American churches still so racially segregated?

This month synchrobloggers were invited to write about “Race and Violence and Why We Need to Talk About It.

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As I thought about the questions from this month’s synchroblog theme and recent events, such as the one in Ferguson, I began to reflect on the lack of racial diversity in American churches and wondered if things might be different if our churches were more integrated.


Would we be having more and better conversations if our churches weren’t so segregated?

Would there be less racial prejudice if there was more diversity in our faith communities?

Would it help eliminate some of the violence, fear, marginalization, demonization that exists in our society if our faith communities were racially integrated?

 

On March 31, 1968, a few short days before his assassination, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., preached at the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C. and spoke a phrase he had used on a number of occasions and which by now, almost 50 years later, has gained a hard proverbial ring:

“Eleven o’clock on Sunday morning is the most segregated hour of America.”

According to a recent study not much has changed. The study found that churches are as racially segregated today as they have ever been in the history of our country.

Why are American churches still so racially segregated?

Why aren’t churches working harder to achieve racial diversity?

Do you think the racial segregation that exists in American churches is harmful?

Do you think we can have true racial integration in our country if we persist in remaining segregated in the worship experience on Sundays, even when we share the same religious beliefs that teach otherwise?

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Check out the other September synchroblog posts: