A classic from Joe Dallas Online
Interviewer: Now, Jesus â€“ uh, do you prefer being called Lord?
Jesus: You call me master and Lord, and you say well, f…
I recently came across a poll which found that many people believe that religion offers no benefits to society. Well, this study seems to contradict that:
This post is in response to links to this one: http://anthropologist.livejournal.com/1314574.html which I found cropping up on friends walls on facebook, and then noticed was posted on numerous blogs and forums. That one is similar to a new one found here: http://io9.com/gay-marriage-in-the-year-100-ad-951140108?fb_action_ids=10201784798360900&fb_action_types=og.likes&fb_source=other_multiline&action_object_map=%7B%2210201784798360900%22%3A213350815487451%7D&action_type_map=%7B%2210201784798360900%22%3A%22og.likes%22%7D&action_ref_map=%5B%5D
My response here is in its preliminary stages – Ill add more to it, as I have done to previous posts on this blog.
Have churches wed same-sex couples in past centuries? I dont know for sure, but it wouldnt surprise me if there were some cases here and there. Over the centuries there have been times when most of a given country could not read, and Biblical literacy was low, so it’s not surprising that Christians back then got things wrong here and there. Was it common or sanctioned by people like St Paul? I very much doubt it, firstly because ancient writings identify that homosexuality was not accepted in the Jewish religion or in Christian culture. As such the final sentence of the above post is misleading.
The above posts are based very much on the work of John Boswell. Brent D. Shaw from Fordham University writes a damning report of Boswell’s work here and here, implying “tendentious misreadings of antiquity” and that Boswell read things into the original texts that were not there. Ross Douthat wrote that Boswell was “clearly mistaken” about the nature of the apparent same-sex weddings. And there is another review here. There was even a book written about the impact that Boswell had. In The Bible and Homosexual Practice, (EG p. 119 of Chapter 1) Gagnon too exposes flaws in Boswell’s claims.
“What one historian or pseudo-intellectual may see as harmless theorizing; another may take as the Gospel Truth from God. Anyway, it can all lead to hell.”
Perusing early Christian references to marriage, suggests to me that it was at that point regarded as a heterosexual institution. EG look through the quotes on this page, and see how it’s referred to as a commitment between a husband and a wife.
I suggest that when most people compare liberal Christian theology to conservative Christian theology, they tend to think of liberal theology as being about ‘heart’ and conservative theology as being about ‘rules’. Liberal Christians will tend to talk about “welcoming minorities”, about “equality”, and often whatever the political left are fighting for at the time. Their basic message tends to ultimately be one of sharing and love and encouraging unified happiness in the present. In the other camp, Conservative Christians will tend to talk about what the Bible says, about traditional family values, and often whatever the political right are fighting for at the time. Their message tends to focus more on enduring the difficulties of life by working hard, by following and possibly suffering under the rules, but then ultimately being rewarded for that. Amiright?
And of course there is value in either of those perspectives. There are also flaws in both perspectives. From a Christian point of view, the conservatives have a valid point when they say that the liberals dont take the rules (ie the Bible) seriously, and likewise, the liberals have a valid point when they say that the conservatives tend to lack loving attitudes.
And from where do these biases arise? Well, I have some theories…
I think conservatives are very much influenced by fear. Fear of slipping into sin, fear of going to hell, fear of having no money, fear of societal anarchy. A conservative is more likely to stay away from those they deem to be big-time sinners; homosexuals, prostitutes, criminals. In the continuum between fearing and avoiding the sinner in order to keep ones self safe from sin, compared to the opposite of loving and befriending the sinner, the conservative is more likely to err towards the former. Fear can be a blessing, and also a curse. Jesus supported the idea of fear though; fear of God and fear of hell. But if a conservative falls in love, or comes to a place of greater security, then for a while at least, the fear reduces, and their location on the continuum shifts. Love casts out fear (1 John 4:18).
And I think liberals are very much influenced by their hearts. They seek to love anyone who they feel might be missing out on societal sharing and caring. In the continuum between fearing and avoiding the sinner in order to keep ones self safe from sin, compared to the opposite of loving and befriending the sinner, the liberal is more likely to err towards the latter. Love can be a blessing, and also a curse. Of course, Jesus is recorded as being a huge supporter of love. But the liberal has a greater tendency to listen to their hearts rather than to the specifics of what the Bible teaches. Paradoxically, the heart actually leads well-meaning people away from a Biblical perspective (Matthew 15:18-20).
Rare is the Christian who is a deep lover of people, but who also fears God enough to truly honour what the Bible states.
Time and again in discussions about the Christian perspective on same-sex marriage and on homosexual sex, people claim that Jesus said nothing about the topic. EG as per the picture on the right, and here and more recently in this meme. But while these claims are kinda true, they are actually misleading, as good Christian leaders will tell you. In passages such as Matthew 19:3-11, and Luke 14:26 Jesus portrays Christian relationships only as heterosexual, and the first of those two passages includes Jesus affirming Genesis 2 where Christian marriage is defined as being between a man and a woman.
Gay activists sometimes devise quite intricate ways to cast doubt on the idea that the Bible portrays gay sex as sinful, EG claiming that various original Greek and Hebrew words in the Bible do not mean what mainstream translators tell us they mean. But when it comes to marriage, the Bible is particularly clear about the initial design of the genders involved. In the Book of Genesis, it says woman (ie women) was made from man by taking some of him to create her (Genesis 2:21). The book of Genesis then explains that marriage is an act of bringing those two together again to recreate the original “one flesh” (Genesis 2:24). Jesus affirms the notion of coming together to form one flesh, when he speaks of Marriage in Matthew 19. But two people of the same gender cannot rejoin to recreate one flesh. John 2:25 says that Jesus knows what is in mankind. This suggests that He would know that there were people around him who were homosexual. Experts tell us that this amounts to one or a few percent of the population. Logically, Jesus would have taken this into account, when he portrayed Christian marriage as simply heterosexual Matthew 19. The implication is that Jesus was teaching that for Christians should either have heterosexual relationships or stay single.
If Jesus was silent on the issue, this would suggest that he was affirming the status quo. But the status quo in his context, was the Jewish religion, which believed that homosexual sex was sinful (Leviticus 20:13) and that the standard model of relationship for Jews was heterosexual. Despite various views in the culture at the time, the Jews were united in believing that homosexual sex was sinful. Non-scriptural records from the era, eg from Tacitus likewise suggest that the status quo at the time was not particularly supportive of homosexual relations. If Jesus disagreed, surely he would be recorded as having said so, especially since he did affirm an Old Testament passage (Matthew 19) which touched on the topic. If Jesus felt that it is okay for a Christian man to have a husband, why would he repeatedly portray a Christian man’s spouse to only be a wife? It’s also notable that Jesus preached against “sexual immorality” (Mark 7:21) and his audience, coming from Jewish culture, would have assumed this to have included gay sex. Some perceive Jesus to be a mellow tolerant guy. But as Gagnon has said “On matter relating to sexual ethics Jesus often adopted stricter, not more lenient demands than most other Jews of his time.” (The Bible and Homosexual Practice, chapter 3).
Although Jesus is not recorded in the Bible as explicitly describing homosexual sex as sinful (unlike other revered leaders depicted in the Bible), he is presented as advancing a heteronormative approach for Christians. In other words, the Gospels indicate that Jesus effectively said that a Christian lifestyle is a heterosexual lifestyle. This is nicely illustrated here in a diagram.
Along similar lines, some claim that Jesus never said “love the sinner, hate the sin.” It’s true that such a sentence cannot be found in the Gospels. But this does not mean it’s unbiblical. The doctrine summarises the New Testament teachings that Christians should hate sin (Romans 12:9, Hebrews 1:9, Revelation 2:6) but still love their neighbour (Luke 10). IE be like Jesus who loved the woman caught in adultery, but he still told her to stop sinning (John 8). And yes, lets remember both parts of the phrase – Christians are supposed to (platonically) love homosexuals.
When faced with criticism of “imposing religious views on others”, even Christians, can sometimes pause to consider whether same-sex marriage should be a legal option for those non-Christians who want it. Various celebrities (EG1, EG2), politicians and others have said that they are Christians, but said that they support same-sex marriage. Unfortunately, these people tend to have a one-sided grasp of what the Bible teaches, perhaps influenced by the gay activists and even some who call themselves Christian ministers or even archbishops who claim or imply that God and/or the Bible in no way oppose homosexuality.
Certainly it’s true that the Bible records do not portray Jesus as forcing others to agree with or comply with his teachings. He advocated certain things, especially love, and he warned of hellfire, but he did not coerce. So then what should the response of a fair-minded Christian be to whether same-sex marriage should be legalised? Some high profile Christians who recognise that gay sex is sinful, still say state support of gay marriage is okay. I suggest that this is a question without a clear answer in scripture, but there are clues there that we can draw from.
The Bible portrays Christian marriage to only be heterosexual and homosexual sex to be sin, but there is nothing in the New Testament that calls Christians to seek political power to establish laws against sin. If a Christian perhaps has a the position of city mayor, it’s not clear that that mayor should rule against same-sex marriage even if most constituents support it. If the mayor was to do so, that action would not align closely with Jesus’ approach, which was to encourage individual’s to follow him one by one, and have their behaviour adjust as an outcome of that religious commitment.
Some Christians do get side-tracked by morality, and come to treat it as the focus of their religion. It’s not. The focus of Christianity is salvation. The ultimate aim is the encourage others to become Christians rather than to just become moral.
However, despite morality not being the apex of focus for Christianity, it’s still a priority. Throughout the Old Testament there are examples of entire regions being judged based on their morality, eg Hosea 4:1-3, not just the town of Sodom. This judgement is portrayed as likely to fall even on those in the town who were being true to the religion. This being the case, it’s in the interest of a Christian to encourage their fellow citizens to comply with Christian morality, in order to avoid sharing in their judgement on earth.
Some people have suggested that when gay people cant marry each other, this results in gay people having more sexual partners. The degree to which this is true, is probably unknown. But statistics indicate that even US highschool students have a higher on average number of sexual partners if they are gay rather than straight. This suggests that when the question of marriage is removed from the factors of influence, gay people are more promiscuous than straight people. And we do know that many married gay couples are not monogamous. We also know that when gay men contract HIV, often (ref. 2, ref. 3) it’s from a primary partner, indicating a lack of stability even for partnered gay men. But while some claim that getting married hasnt changed their gay relationship, others have claimed that the increasing availability of gay marriage is changing gay behaviour. Others claim that the legalisation of gay marriage would mean greater acceptance and less discrimination and harassment against gays and lesbians. This is possibly true, however even some gay sources have pointed to evidence to the contrary. Meanwhile, there have also been claims that gay marriage will strengthen the institution of marriage overall. However, there is apparently evidence that contradicts this claim.
The Bible teaches in Matthew 18 that Christians should point out the sins of other Christians to them. Additionally, Ezekiel 3 teaches that if followers do not warn others of their sin, then God holds the follower accountable for this, and that both will be punished.
So is it a Christian duty to speak out against sin? Yes. As far as Im aware, same-sex marriage is not a more severe sin than other sins, and from the Bible it would appear that it’s homosexual sex that is the clearer sin rather than homosexual marriage. But a Christian should not go so far as to support either. A Christian should take a loving attitude towards homosexuals though, and in environments where having no state recognition of a homosexual relationship means that those people suffer, eg based on tax or welfare provisions, then it seems reasonable to support an alternative, such as civil unions, as the Church of England apparently did. At the same time, we need to learn from past mistakes of treating homosexual desires as a sacred cow that cannot be questioned. Certainly Christians should look out for the needs of the oppressed, but marriage is not necessarily a clear way to remove oppression. Some in the GLBT* communities have suggested it entrenches oppression, and others have raised the question of whether same-sex marriage would actually increase a sense of marginalisation amongst the many homosexuals who find themselves unable to find a long-term partner. Also it should also be noted that those who support same-sex marriage still tend to support discrimination against polygamists, so claims of oppression are often hypocritical. It’s also noteworthy that not all (ref. 2, ref. 3, ref. 4) GLBT* people want same-sex marriage legalised.
The catch cry from non-Christians is of course that Christians are hypocrites who cant even follow their own policies. Yes, sadly there is some validity to that claim. But it should be remembered that Christianity is about following God rather than other Christians, who as people are flawed. It should also be noted that statistics about Christian hypocrisy can be misleading (Cf https://ifstudies.org/blog/what-god-has-joined-together-religion-and-the-risk-of-divorce).
Also relevant to this topic, is that fact that when a culture embraces homosexuality, that position becomes a stumbling block to Biblical evangelism. Christians who point out the flaws in pro-homosexual propaganda, and show that gay relationships do not mirror heterosexual relationships, may be to some degree engaging in pre-evangelism by helping people perceive the Bible as making sense.
As an update to this post, Ill add a thought about President Obama, who recently said that as a Christian he now supports same-sex marriage. Firstly, I suggest that a truly committed Christian would not be voted in as President in our era. The degree of commitment that Jesus requests to him, is in conflict with the degree of commitment a president needs to make to reflect the wishes of the bulk of the population. I can accept that a president can have a degree of Christian commitment though, even if it’s not full Christian commitment. Based on the reports I read, Obama’s key piece of scripture used to support his decision in favour of same-sex marriage, was the Golden Rule of Luke 6:31; “treat others in the way that you would like them to treat you”. And on a superficial level, Obama’s angle on this makes sense – gay people want to get married, so wouldnt the kind response be to let them be happy? But lets think a bit deeper. Would the Golden Rule principle apply to all sins? Is it generally kind to help others commit whatever sin they are inclined to? Is it ultimately kind to help others sin? Ill let you choose a few sins to use to ponder those three questions. I suggest that if a Christian thinks through the Golden Rule, it doesnt make sense that it extends to the point of helping others sin – that interpretation would lead to you violating most of the rest of scripture. The Golden Rule makes more sense, if interpreted to not mean placing yourself if the other person’s ideology and acting accordingly, but rather simply considering yourself as being in their position, while retaining your own ideology. As a Christian, you dont ever want others to help you sin, so likewise, you should not help them sin. So if they are cold and without a solution, and you have a spare blanket, you would lend them your blanket, on the basis that you would hope they would do the same for you if the situation was reversed. But if they are suicidal and ask you for a full box of painkillers, in following the Golden Rule you dont give them a full box of painkillers, because based on the Christian ideology death is generally best avoided and the loving thing to do is to provide a better solution. Others seem to agree, and one of Obama’s advisors apparently rebuked the president on this point. Some say that theology was not a key reason for Obama’s decision, suggesting it was more about funding and politics per se, but I guess we may never know for sure.
Political support for Obama reportedly dropped after he announced personal support for same-sex marriage. However, at least one young man took Obama’s pro-gay message to heart, although not in a way that Obama intended.
Your feedback is welcome, either in a comment box below, or via the menu under the article title.
Who Is Misrepresenting Who?
Christians Tired of Being Misrepresented (CToBM) are a group of ideologically focused liberals with Christian interests, whose basis lies in affirming homosexuality. They have a facebook page with over 80,000 followers, and they run a blog.
Active homosexuals engaging in Christian practises is not new. Often they will disregard the relevant scriptures about gay sex or will avoid a theological focus in general, while others find elaborate ways to reinterpret the Bible in an attempt to read it as neutral or affirming of gay sex. Even back in the year 1730 there was a report of a minister trying to argue that ‘sodomy’ was not a sin (London Journal, Aug 29, 1730). CToBM periodically post links such as this one (in January 2014) which masquerade as serious theology suggesting that there is nothing sinful about homosexual relations; crafty arguments that are flawed and very misleading.
At first, it’s easy to get misled into thinking that CToBM are an authentically Christian group, firstly of course due to their name, but secondly by the topics they discuss, which are often related to Christianity. However, on close examination, it’s clear that the Christian connection they have is very selective according to ideology, and more of a theme than a foundation.
On their Our Posture section of their blog, they state that they welcome both Christians and non-Christians. This open-door welcome to non-Christians isnt for the purposes of evangelism though. On their ThisWeBelieve blog page, they explain their unbiblical opinion that they; “… recognize the faithfulness of other people who have other names for the way to God’s realm, and acknowledge that their ways are true for them, as our ways are true for us.” Their Our Posture section also states that those who attempt to debate them using opposing theological positions, risk being banned from the group. IE it’s more important to them that you dont challenge their point of view, than it is whether you are a Christian or not. In March 2013, they wrote a facebook post that ‘concern trolls’ are banned from the page. They defined these as people who say “We agree with you but are concerned for you because you are leading people down the wrong path, or X, Y & Z.” Such people “will be banned without warning.” Likewise in November 2013, an admin posted to facebook that “If you use the phrase “Love the Sinner, Hate the Sin”, in any way you risk being banned.”
The values that they espouse tend to align with the political left wing, and they often repost messages from the Huffington Post, Patheos and sometimes from a group named The Christian Left. Although their facebook wall feed isnt simply a political feed, sometimes their focus is more politically flavoured than religious. This perspective is often framed in the negative, so rather than simply promoting left wing views, they frequently condemn right wing views and those that hold such views. As such, the group serves as one of the clearer examples of a contemporary left-wing based hate group.
But like most so-called hate groups, hating is not all they do. Paradoxically, they also advocate love, primarily for the oppressed. This aspect is actually one that many Evangelical Christians are lacking in, so some “cross-pollination” might be of benefit. However CToBR seeks to distance themselves from standard Christians, preferring to demonise them. On the ThisWeBelieve page of their blog, they write “We have allowed the Christian religion to become captive horde of Bible-worshiping, chorus-singing, homophobic, fundamentalist bullies who have naive answers for all of life’s deepest ills.” In July 2013, they wrote on their facebook wall; “Frank Schaeffer understands the motives behind the Christian Right because he helped to create it in the late 70’s and early 80’s. What is their motive? Money and power.” In October 2013, they posted a quote on their facebook wall, without critical analysis of it, that stated in part “It is no coincidence that the Tea Party is mostly made up of evangelical white southern Christians of the born-again variety. They are now the collective enemy of you and your children’s future.”
CToBM seem to promote a superficial slice of Christianity; of form without the standard Bibilcal substance (ref. 2 Tim 3:5). Their disdain for the Bible was evident in a February 2015 posting of an article on the creation of a “Museum of the Bible”, where their admin commented “Oh look!! Spending $400 Million to build a structure to idolize a book that specifically says not to have idols.” In January 2013, the facebook page included a post affirmingly quoting Nelson Mandella stating “No one is born hating another person … people must learn to hate …” which is a message affirming love, but contradicting the fundamental Biblical theme that human beings are born with an inherent natural inclination to engage in sins such as hate. Their post on their blog on December 4th 2011, included a youtube clip where John Spong is interviewed. The posting includes no critique of the clip, which features Spong saying that hell is an invention of the church, including the specific statement “I dont think hell exists”. This of course contradicts the Bible, EG where Jesus speaks of it. In the clip, Spong even states “people dont need to be born again”. The last statement could barely be more of a direct contradiction to the Bible, eg John 3:7, where Jesus is quoted as stating “…You must be born again.” In 2013 a CToBM admin posted the following quote on the facebook wall “Easter need not involve the claim that God supernaturally intervened to raise the corpse of Jesus from the tomb. Rather, the core meaning of Easter is that Jesus continued to be experienced after his death, but in a radically new way: as a spiritual and divine reality.” And without additional comment, the admin simply cited the quote as being “—from The God We Never Knew”. As was indicated in feedback below the posting, this contradicts various Bible scriptures, including John 20 where the risen Jesus says he is more than spirit, and 1 Corinthians 15, where it states “And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith.” As Easter approached in 2013, CToBM admin Jack posted a link on their facebook wall. The link was to blog post was titled “Washed in His Blood My Ass” and the admin included the citation “As we work our way closer to the Cross this season I invite you to explore Christian theology that does not begin with a God that needs a blood sacrifice to settle the score. I invite you to walk with a God that has shown us what true power looks like – love, compassion and forgiveness. [an excerpt from the article] ~jack”. Yet sacrifice was central to what Jesus life was about. The post almost advocates a hollow Christianity without Christ. It’s as though they are not familiar with Bible passages such as Matthew 5:13 “You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt has become tasteless, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled under foot.”
In the This We Believe section of their facebook page, it states “We consider everyone to be our brothers and sisters, not just those within the Christian faith” and “We don’t accept the idea that there is only one way to God”. This contradicts Jesus’ statement that he is the only way to access God (John 14:6).
In February 2013, a CToBM admin posted this image on their facebook wall, quoting a Rev. Hagler. Someone commented in response that the Evangelical paradigm is not usually understood this way, and a group admin replied in turn, writing “… we have never considered ourselves to be Evangelical – we don’t feel the need to convert everyone to our belief just to love and care for them as they are.” Of course, this attitude deviates from Jesus’ final directive to his followers recorded in the Gospel of Matthew, where he told Christians to go to all the world and make disciples (Matthew 28:16-20). CToBM reiterated this position of disobedience in November 2013, when they posted a link to this article about evangelism to Jews, and described such evangelism as “wrong on so many levels”! And again, in February 2013 CToBM expressed priorities that do not match those of Christ, when a CToBM admin posted on the wall about Christian football player Tim Tebow, writing “Given the sorry trajectory of his underachieving NFL career, Tebow should be more concerned about his weak arm than leading the armies of Christ.” Then in March 2013, they posted a picture of a Bible and of Jesus, with a ‘does not equal’ sign between the two. This contrasts and perhaps contradicts what the Bible portrays in John 1, and is illustrative of the fundamental reasoning of the group. IE CToBM rejects the Bible as the ultimate authority for doctrine. They reject the best guide available for determining what a Christ follower would be. This attitude was reinforced in a post they made to their wall in October 2013, when an admin wrote in part “Those of us who run CToBM see the divinity in Jesus, but are not compelled to worship him in the way Christian theology directs us to.”
In March 2013, CToBM admin Janet posted on the facebook wall an explanation that I had not seen before; “… I created this Page after hearing a gay man share his story, which involved being raised in a Christian home, coming out to his best friend and being rejected, finding hate from the very people he considered family, and how he struggled in his Christian faith. He is a successful youth minister now. After listening to him, my fundamentalist Christian, Religious Right Wing extreme views were blown out of the water. And here we are. …”
Ironically, in mid 2013, CToBM quoted an article on their wall about the pro-life movement, stating “… it is time to be honest in the way that you self-title your movement: the anti-abortion movement. It’s accurate and truthfully describes your agenda. Own it.” Have they not considered whether this approach would apply to their own group?
CToBM exemplifies the sin of people “doing what is right in their own eyes” (Judges 21:25), rather than truly following Jesus. Those who run the group are aware that they are confusing, as per this screenshot mentioning Carrie Underwood, which was on their facebook page on July 1st, 2012. In March 2013, CToBM admin Janet wrote on the facebook wall “We are considered “Not Christian!” all the time by our fundamentalist inquisitor visitors. Most of the time, we choose not to respond. …” In March 2014, one admin post to their facebook wall, finished with the lines “For those who have moved beyond Christian tradition, do you wrestle with labeling yourself as a Christian? It’s quite a dilemma, especially if you’ve created a successful Fan Page with the word “Christian” in it. ;-)” Interestingly I found that one of my facebook friends, who regularly posts atheist memes on his facebook wall, and whose references to religion are usually disparaging, is also a member of the CToBM facebook group. So obviously some members are actually anti-Christian rather than even being neutral. On a blog post dated November 27th 2011, CToBM responded to the following comment; “I have a (possibly daft) question: How many people who follow this page/group are actually church-going, living, practicing Christians? Just, I’ve been following this group for over a month, and I’m a tad confused …” Indeed, looking into this group makes you question just who is misrepresenting who.
Quotations from the This We Believe, and Our Posture pages are accurate as at mid 2012.