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How Love Really Wins

June 29th, 2015 No comments

I’ve written about same-sex marriage before. It’s a touchy subject with opinions running to insane extremes (like everything else). But maybe by writing a little of it here I can sort it out in my own mind. Maybe even offer some light where there is so much heat.

The passages that are generally cited to support what we call “traditional” marriage are in Genesis, where God created Eve as a helpmate for Adam and affirms “a man leaves his father and mother and clings to his wife” (Gen/ 2:24 NAB), and Matthew (19:5), where Jesus quotes the Genesis passage. These would seem to suggest that marriage is willed by God as between a man and a woman. However, there are a number of instances where Biblical men were involved in marriage to a number of wives. 1 Kings 11:3 states that King Solomon had 700 wives and 300 concubines, which must have kept him quite busy. Makes you wonder about the wisdom part. But anyway there is no instance in the Bible about a marriage between two persons of the same sex.

What we think of as “traditional” marriage, like much else that we consider traditional, is actually quite modern. It is true that at least in the West since the Middle Ages monogamy has been preferred, enforced by the Church, and that starting in the thirteenth century the Catholic Church required potential marriage partners to post “banns” or announcements that they intended to marry (in order to reduce the instances of fake marriages). Up until this time the Church accepted the word of the parishioner as to whether or not they were married. After this the marriage ceremony began to be held in the Church, but the ritual did not officially become a sacrament until the Council of Trent in the sixteenth century. And until the last two centuries marriages had much more to do with political and economic alliances than with love.

“Homosexuality” is not addressed in the Bible, because homosexuality falls under the category of gender identity, which is a twentieth-century concept. The Bible has a bit to say about homosexual practice but never supports it. Christians by and large believe that Christ fulfilled the Old Testament Law so those quoting Deuteronomy as a warning against homosexual practice are off base. But the New Testament also identifies homosexual activity as sinful. The Bible also identifies heterosexual activity outside of marriage as sinful.

The reason why it’s important to distinguish between “homosexuality” and “homosexual activity” is because the first indicates what you are and the second indicates what you do. God may condemn what a person does but never what a person is, because each person is in the Image of God. Since we concede that all are sinners, if God condemns anyone he condemns everyone. That is in fact the whole point of the Incarnation. Because no one can be justified by their own merit, Christ paid the price for all.

That last part doesn’t add up to a license to sin because the way to receive Christ’s merit is through his death. We die a spiritual death and leave behind our old lives, taking on the life of Christ. “I have been crucified with Christ,” Paul writes, “It is no longer I who live, but it is Christ who lives in me.” (Gal. 2:19-20 NRSV). What that means is that once we are “in Christ” we move away from sinful activity. The “good news” is not that we can sin and get away with it, but that we become able not to sin. In fact, as Paul tells us, we eventually become unable to sin. This doesn’t mean that we never sin, but that we can’t persist in sin. What honest Christian can deny that they have purposely chosen sin, even in open rebellion to God, and found themselves convicted by the Spirit (conscience, whatever) to the point that they had to stop? So one of the indications that we are actually “in Christ” is that we become more aware of how sinful we really are. John Newton, former slave-trader, English clergyman, and author of the hymn Amazing Grace, said at the end of his life: “Although my memory’s fading, I remember two things very clearly: I am a great sinner and Christ is a great Savior.” Bottom line: we can’t persist in sin if we are in Christ.

That is why the Church cannot sanction activity that scripture unequivocally identifies as sinful. And that means all sins, not just the ones we don’t like. And that’s why I cannot support same-sex unions as valid Christian marriages. I am not in a position to, but if I were and I were asked, I would not perform a marriage ceremony involving two people of the same sex. If I were under coercion, I would suffer the consequence.

BUT. As indicated by attitudes of public morality I think most citizens of the United States are not Christians. The United States is a pluralistic society. In the same way that I draw the line at being forced to violate my conscience as a Christian, I concede that those who disagree with me have every right to do so. Even if they think I’m a bigot or homophobe or whatever. I’m not asking for anyone’s permission to live out the Gospel, nobody’s asking for my permission to live any other way. And that’s fine. That’s what tolerance actually means: not that I agree with you or approve of anything, but that even if not that’s not really my business. Thank God that in the United States I have the freedom to profess my beliefs without persecution!

Because the Church and the State are and ought to be completely separate institutions, and because the State contains people of all backgrounds and ideologies, what laws the State enacts or enforces are beyond my immediate concern unless they violate my own freedom of conscience. So if the State wants to grant recognition to something that has nothing to do with me who am I to complain? It will only become a problem for me if the State tries to force me to accept as Christian what in my mind as stated above is clearly not. Obviously there is no universal definition even of what is and is not Christian, and there are many who call themselves Christian who feel differently about the issue than I do. I’m totally OK with that. I’m not seeking your approval; I can’t imagine why you’d need mine.

As a professor I am bound to teach all of my students. Some are gay, some are not, some are Christian, and some are not. I often don’t know who is what, and even if I do I cannot distinguish between them in the performance of my job. They are not asking for my approval, and I am not offering. I’m just doing my best to love them and help them get through the course.

If God is going to judge and condemn anyone, that’s his business. It’s not mine. He has made it clear to me through his Word that I am as great a sinner as anyone, and I need all of his grace to avoid my own condemnation. And I believe that the true meaning of Christ living in me is that he lives through me as well. As a co-worker with Christ my mandate is to help to build the Kingdom of Shalom, the peace that surpasses understanding. I can’t do that by condemning you, only by loving you. As MLK said:

Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that. Hate multiplies hate, violence multiplies violence, and toughness multiplies toughness in a descending spiral of destruction … The chain reaction of evil – hate begetting hate, wars producing more wars – must be broken, or we shall be plunged into the dark abyss of annihilation.

As a Christian I believe it is my calling to bring light, not darkness. Light only comes through love. So I will love you as Christ loves me. Christian love is not what I do with my sexual organs, it is how I place you ahead of me. It is more than anything else sacrifice. The greatest example of love is the cross. So I will love you in spite of whatever separates me from you. I will love you even if you despise me. I will love you as you are nailing me to the cross and spitting on me. I will love you as much as I can for as long as I can. And I will not ask you to love me in return.

Dipped in Magic Waters

June 28th, 2015 No comments

This is like the cartoon with the angel one shoulder and the demon on the other. What James Earl Jones is promoting is abandonment to a faith that defies logic and reason. The brother in law is warning of the worldly consequences of trust in the unseen. What a difficult decision this is! Most of us choose the world. But when we choose faith, it is as if we have been dipped in magic waters.

Yes, It Was About Slavery

June 28th, 2015 No comments

Yes, it was about slavery. In a nutshell, to Southerners slaves were property. Southerners feared Lincoln and the Republican Party would abolish slavery, which would in effect deprive the slaveholding states of millions of dollars in property, the fact that that property consisted of living human beings notwithstanding. Each of these States makes the constitutional argument that since the national government is destructive of the property rights of the States, they are no longer bound by the covenant of union. That is why later, after the war was over and the slaves were freed, Southerners claimed the war was about States’ Rights: the States’ right to maintain humans as property. In truth, most Southerners were not slave owners, and most Southern Soldiers were convinced that they were fighting against the same tyranny as the revolutionaries of 1776. But these documents show incontrovertibly that the States seceded to maintain the institution of slavery.

Further, people in the North by and large did not support the war for the purpose of freeing slaves, rather they fought to preserve the Union, as Lincoln made clear. When accused by journalist Horace Greeley of lacking resolve on the issue of slavery Lincoln replied,

I would save the Union. I would save it the shortest way under the Constitution…. If I could save the Union without freeing any slave I would do it, and if I could save it by freeing all the slaves I would do it; and if I could save it by freeing some and leaving others alone I would also do that.[1]

The armies that invaded the South and sought to subdue those States were not doing so to free slaves. It is telling that when Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation (which had the practical effect of keeping the British out of the war and at the same time freeing exactly zero slaves), a number of Union officers quit the cause, disdaining to fight for the freedom of “colored” people.

The Declaration of Causes of Seceding States

[1] Abraham Lincoln, “Letter to Horace Greeley,” Abraham Lincoln Online, August 22, 1862, accessed June 21, 2015, http://www.abrahamlincolnonline.org/lincoln/speeches/greeley.htm.

Amazing Grace

June 26th, 2015 No comments

President Obama delivers Eulogy for Rev. Clementa Pinckney 6/26/15.

Neil Young Responds to Donald Trump

June 20th, 2015 No comments

Yesterday my song "Rockin in the Free World" was used in a announcement for a U.S. presidential candidate without my...

Posted by Neil Young on Wednesday, June 17, 2015

“Don’t see nothing the matter here ma…”

June 6th, 2015 No comments

This guy is kind of a hard core Calvinist but he makes a good point here…

They can try to cure all the STDs, have expensive government programs to provide for the broken families, kill the unwanted babies, train the kids in “safe sex”, educate or force us to be approving of all the sad broken results of this madness like Bruce Jenner, pretend there is nothing weird at all about a 65 year old man calling himself Caitlyn and posing in a women’s magazine in a slinky dress, and provide psychotherapy to try to fix all the scarred and shattered souls…. Every single person in the world could fully support and celebrate a 65-year-old man making himself a eunuch and God would still be God and the results will still be horrible. –Matt Powell

Portraits of Forgotten Heroes

June 4th, 2015 No comments

By now everyone has heard about “Caitlyn” and her(?) transformation from man to woman. She(?) is being lauded as a hero by many, from the President of the United States to ESPN to any number of those whose life work is to redefine sexuality by broadening the definition of gender.

At the risk of being accused of bigotry, I’m going to state here un-categorically that I see nothing heroic about spending a fortune to alter your body in a desperate attempt to find wholeness. I don’t believe there’s anything natural about it. I don’t think one can point to any scientific data that suggests a human being must be altered surgically in order to become complete, as if nature needed the assistance of modern medicine to correct and complete its creations.

I do not hate “Caitlyn.” In fact, I have more in common with her(?) than I am comfortable with. As a Christian I believe that a fundamental dissatisfaction with who we are and the way the world is has marked human nature since the Fall. The story of what happened in Eden had nothing to do with apples or sex, but instead reflects the tendency of humanity to worship itself. This self-worship leaves us incomplete. We are right to be dissatisfied because we do not live in the perfection which is our heritage. All of the strivings of humankind from beginning to end have been to find a solution to the dilemma posed by the distance between the way things are and the way we innately know they ought to be.

We have been very creative at devising strategies to overcome this, but none have solved the conundrum. We cannot find fulfillment in material gain, in physical feats of excellence, in prestige, in human relationships, or in sensual pleasure. No matter how much money or power we have to arrange ourselves or our world, we find ourselves left when we are alone with a nagging sense of dis-ease. Looks like the Rolling Stones were right.

The peculiar obsession of our age is radical individualism. We have elevated self-contentment above every other consideration. What in the sixties was thought a liberating notion: “if it feels good do it,” has become so embedded in our culture that we are enslaved by it. Without even thinking we weigh every decision against its potential for personal gain. The idea of sacrifice for the good of the community is esteemed, to a degree, as long as I’m not the one sacrificing. I will give only to the point that it doesn’t cost me too much. I don’t mind giving up some of my excess. I feel righteous when I fling a coin to a beggar.

But, in spite of how misguided we are, we still can recognize true heroism. In our culture those who command universal respect are those who give up more than just what’s left over. Our greatest admiration is reserved for those who give up all for the sake of others, with no possibility or expectation of reward. This is what love really is; not a sweaty sexual act, no matter the “orientation.” True love is to lay aside my own needs and desires for something that is greater than me.

We recognize the man who stood in front of the column of tanks in Tiananmen Square as heroic. We recognize social reformers like Gandhi and Martin Luther King, and those who sacrificed for justice: Dietrich Bonhoeffer and Oskar Schindler and the Freedom Riders and those who marched across the bridge at Selma. In our day, in contrast to the post-Vietnam era, we have come to regard those who serve in the military as heroic. Not everyone who serves is a hero, and our preoccupation with military heroism is often more jingoism than heartfelt, but there are heroes who serve.

william stacey

Two of them come to mind. Sergeant William Stacy from Seattle joined the marines, he says, as an idealist.[1] He served four tours in Afghanistan, and was weeks away from returning to the United States for the last time when on January 31, 2012 he was killed by an IED.[2] He left behind a letter for his loved ones to read in the event of his death or incapacitation. In the letter he described why he believed that dying in Afghanistan was worthwhile:

There are so many things wrong with this world and too few who care enough to do anything about them. Perhaps I joined the Marines as an idealist. But I’ve learned and dug deep down for what I truly believe. My death did not change the world….it may be tough for you to justify its meaning at all. But there is a greater meaning to it. Perhaps I did not change the world. Perhaps there is still injustice in the world. But there will be a child who will live because men left the security they enjoyed in their home country to come to his. And this child will learn in the new schools that have been built. He will walk his streets not worried about whether or not his leader’s henchmen are going to come and kidnap him. He will grow into a fine man who will pursue every opportunity his heart could desire. He will have the gift of freedom, which I have enjoyed for so long. If my life buys the safety of a child who will one day change this world, then I know that it was all worth it.[3]

Here is a man few have heard of. A man who, in the prime of his life, gladly gave himself up for an unknown child in Central Asia. No public applause. No magazine cover. But this man is a hero.

dwyer

Pfc. Joseph Dwyer of Pinehurst, NC became famous at the beginning of the Iraq War in 2003 because a photo journalist captured him carrying an Iraqi child named Ali through a battle zone to safety. He was instantly hailed a hero as his face appeared on the front pages of newspapers around the country. The photo became the expression of the humanitarian nature of our triumphant liberation of Iraq. But that image of America’s involvement was shattered long ago, and like Iraq, Joseph Dwyer could not find peace. He too came to a tragic end. He died of an overdose in 2008, a victim of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder from his time in the war zone.[4] Unlike Sgt. Stacey he left behind no eloquent letter, and there was nothing eloquent about his death. But in the end he too was a casualty of war. He gave himself up for something greater than himself. Maybe for that Iraqi kid. When they buried him there was no public applause. No one remembered. But this man, too, is a hero.

I am overwhelmed with sadness when I think of these two young men who suffered and sacrificed so much for others. I am saddened that their names are destined to fade into oblivion in the face of the blaring glaring hypocrisy of the mainstream. And I am angered when people hold up what can be no greater symbol of self-absorption than “Caitlyn” as heroic, when we forget about these. What the hell is wrong with us? One thing is certain. She(?)truly is the face of how great our debasement is.

I urge you to honor true heroism by turning off “Caitlyn” and reading the articles in the links cited.[5]

[1]Will Stacey, “Will’s Full in Case of Death Letter,” Will>>>Sergeant William Stacey, May 30, 2012, accessed June 3, 2015,http://www.williamstacey.com/wills-full-in-case-of-death-letter/555/.

[2] Eric Lacitis, “Seattle Marine Killed Jan. 31 in Afghanistan Made His Mark,” Seattle Times, February 2, 2012, accessed June 3, 2015,http://www.seattletimes.com/seattle-news/obituaries/seattle-marine-killed-jan-31-in-afghanistan-made-his-mark/.

[3] Stacey.

[4] Kelly Kennedy, “Medic in Famous Photo Dies After Ptsd Struggle,” Army Times, July 3, 2008, accessed June 3, 2015,http://archive.armytimes.com/article/20080703/NEWS/807030320/Medic-famous-photo-dies-after-PTSD-struggle.

[5] Lawrence Downes, “Losing Private Dwyer,” New York Times, July 15, 2008, accessed June 3, 2015,http://www.nytimes.com/2008/07/15/opinion/15tue4.html?_r=0.

A Great and Fatal Mistake

June 1st, 2015 No comments

Personalities AE  6As I was doing some research for a new essay assignment I am working on in my US History I (to 1877) classes I ran across an address in opposition to the proposition of acquiring all of Mexico after the Mexican-American War by then Senator from South Carolina John C. Calhoun. Calhoun was an unabashed racist, white supremacist, and supporter of State’s rights over Federal power and he is mostly known for these things. In his speech he cited as one of his reasons:

Nor have we ever incorporated into the Union any but the Caucasian race.  To incorporate Mexico, would be the first departure of the kind; for more than half of its population are pure Indians, and by far the larger portion of the residue mixed blood.  I protest against the incorporation of such a people.  Ours is the Government of the white man.  The great misfortune of what was formerly Spanish America, is to be traced to the fatal error of placing the colored race on an equality with the white.[1]

His speech is mostly remembered for this, more to our shame than his I think because he was reflecting a commonly held belief of the time. But I found in the speech an observation about liberty that I think is pertinent and worth considering, and I am including it here only for that consideration. I do not endorse Calhoun or his racist ideas (nor, in fact, do I long for secession), but I think he makes a valid point here in terms of our own estimation of liberty and our foreign adventures.

But of the few nations, who have been so fortunate as to adopt a wise Constitution, still fewer have had the wisdom long to preserve them.  It is harder to preserve than to obtain liberty.  After years of prosperity, the tenure by which it is held, is but too often forgotten; and I fear, Senators, that such is the case with us.  There is no solicitude now about liberty.  It was not so in the early days of the Republic.  Then it was the first object of our solicitude.  The maxim then was, that “power is always stealing from the many to the few”; “the price of liberty is perpetual vigilance.”  Then no question of any magnitude came up, in which the first inquiry was not “is it constitutional” — “is it consistent with our free, popular institutions” — “how is it to affect our liberty.”  It is not so now.  Questions of the greatest magnitude are now discussed without reference or allusion to these vital considerations.  I have been often struck with the fact, that in the discussions of the great questions in which we are now engaged, relating to the origin and the conduct of this war, their effect on the free institutions and the liberty of the people have scarcely been alluded to, although their bearing in that respect is so direct and disastrous.  They would, in former days, have been the great and leading topics of discussion; and would, above all others, have had the most powerful effect in arousing the attention of the country.  But now, other topics occupy the attention of Congress and of the country — military glory, extension of the empire, and the aggrandizement of the country.  To what is this great change to be attributed?  Is it because there has been a decay of the spirit of liberty among the people?  I think not.  I believe that it was never more ardent.  The true cause is, that we have ceased to remember the tenure by which liberty alone can be preserved.  We have had so many years of prosperity — passed through so many difficulties and dangers without the loss of liberty — that we begin to think that we hold it by right divine from heaven itself.  Under this impression, without thinking or reflecting, we plunge into war, contract heavy debts, increase vastly the patronage of the Executive, and indulge in every species of extravagance, without thinking that we expose our liberty to hazard.  It is a great and fatal mistake.  The day of retribution will come; and when it does, awful will be the reckoning, and heavy the responsibilities somewhere.[1]

[1] John C. Calhoun, Speech in the United States Senate January 4, 1848 in Richard K. (Richard Kenner), 1800-1864. Crallé, The Works of John C. Calhoun, vol. IV (New York: D. Appleton and Company, 1888), 396ff.

 

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