Tuesday, January 17, 2006

A RIVER RAN THROUGH US (PART II)

Sorry about that. A four-day trip to Chicago has diverted my attention. I'm back. Here we go:




After scurrying around to throw on some clothes, they came to the door.

Dusty and Clint. It was clear by their accents and all the nonverbal cues - that men learn to recognize in other men - that what we had here were two gay, native Arkansan, Shetland pony ranchers, who had a strong interest in bourbon and baseball.

We had to explain ourselves to Dusty and Clint several times before they understood our predicament. Admittedly, our situation jumped the grooves of normal expectations; but the fog of alcohol was making it even harder for them to comprehend.

"You came from where?"

"What happened, exactly?"

I felt like the family in Flanner O'Connor's story A Good Man Is Hard To Find. Jeff and I were John Wesley and June Star shouting "We've had an ACCIDENT! We've had an ACCIDENT!" I was just hoping we had not stumbled upon the Misfit and Bobby Lee, the escaped convicts that end up murdering the family in cold blood.

Before long, Dusty and Clint drew a bead on the situation and started scrambling to help. We used their phone to call the canoe outfitter. No answer. Clint drove us down to the river in his his pickup and we hauled our crew up to the house.

Finally, Jeff and Clint decided they would have to take the truck and try to find our vehicle. Good luck. We had no idea where we were, or what bridge the Suburban was supposed to be under. It was about 9:30 when they pulled down the driveway on their search.

The rest of us settled in the living room to wait. Some of us lounged on the couch and most of the kids scattered on the floor. We made small talk and pretended we were all very interested in the fate of the Cardinals. However, I couldn't shake the uneasy feeling I'd had since we came upon the goose.

I kept my eyes on Dusty. He was uncomfortable and fidgety. He kept getting up to go to another room. Each time he left, I made up a reason I needed to follow him. I had to try the outfitter's number again. I needed a glass of water. I guess I was being paranoid, but this was rural Arkansas, and these guys had to have firearms in the house. I think it's the law: Live in rural Arkansas, have gun.

After 11:00 had come and gone, Dusty started to get visibly agitated. His drunk had turned to the droop-eyed stare. I found him gazing darkly at the girls from time to time. Out of nowhere, he would pop out of his trance and ask, "How did you all get here again?" Or, "Somebody tell me what's going on again." Clint was clearly the one who kept it together around here, and Dusty was getting scared. Don't get me wrong, Dusty was a good host. He was kind and helpful, but as the hours passed, the paranoia and bourbon were burning deeper into his brain.

About 11:30 Dusty gestured to me. "C'mo...C-c-can you...c-c'mon out here...side...I need talk t' you." He busted out the front door, clearly upset and ready for a confrontation. I followed him, keeping my eyes on loose objects I could use as weapons. Dusty was a pretty small guy, I think I would have been able to take him pretty easily, but this daddy wasn't going to leave anything to chance.

He pulls me around the side of the house and starts to cry.

"What's going on here?" he sputters. "I don't know y-you. I d-don't know w-what's goin' on. Where's Clint?"

I try to reassure him. "It's okay, Dusty. This must all seem pretty weird to you. But, I'm sure they are just having a hard time finding the car."

"Clint's all I have," said Dusty, with his chin drawn toward his shoulder and the top of his head swaying back to the other shoulder. As he then turned and looked me square in the face, he said, "I'm scared."

I tried to give him a reassuring smile. "I know, Dusty. I'm sorry. Surely they'll be back any minute now."

Then, it happened. He looked me up and down. He spread his arms like Christ and hung his head. He was either that drunk, or that ashamed of this betrayal.

"Can I have a hug?" His body hiccupped a little with sobs.

I was confused. What was I supposed to do? I was still fairly new to the world of liberal sensibilities. I had been raised to believe that this man's lifestyle was sinful. Was I to support it? Was hugging him a tacit endorsement? Would he take it as a come-on? Would a kiss be next? Besides, I was still a little scared myself. My fear and the residue of adolescent homophobia bested my impulse toward grace.

"No, Dusty. I'm not going to hug you. I know you are upset...they'll...be back...soon." My words trailed off as I stood there in shame. Now I felt like crying. I had chosen the route of safety and suspicion. What was I so afraid of? How was this small, scared, drunk, gay man a threat to me? I was spinning.

A few minutes later, around midnight, Jeff and Clint pulled up in two separate vehicles. They had finally found the Suburban, after an exhaustive search of the Northern Arkansas bridge population.

With great relief, we offered our thanks and made our departure. I was experiencing a strange hangover of release and guilt.

Jeff and his family exchanged Christmas cards with Dusty and Clint for a couple of years after that. Eventually they lost touch. I'm ashamed to say that I never pursued the relationship with those men. I suppose part of me rationalized it as Jeff being our spokesman. But, I guess there were just too many secrets I had learned about all of us.

A river ran through us that day. I can't help but think that the Kings, in its sovereignty, took us where it wanted us to be; changed the course of our lives just a little. Sure, the river left us with a great story - few people get to tell about being rescued by gay Shetland pony ranchers in Arkansas - but, I always tell it with a certain amount of regret.

Float trip anyone?

85 comments:

Jennifer said...

Thanks for sharing.

Brandon Fibbs said...

How many times have I been in a similiar situation where God is prompting me in a certain direction with all the subtlty of an electric cattle prod and STILL I choose the path of least resistance, least effort and least impact.

I spend so much time asking God to use me and when he tries, I so often f*#k it up. What would happen, what would the world look like if we always obeyed that still, small voice within us that says, "Love as I love...without strings, without fear?"

I'll try again tomorrow.

The Coreman said...

Let's pay a visit to the Coreman dictionary...

Homophobophobia n. The fear of being, or seeming homophobic.

Is it possible, Reacher, that you just didn't feel like giving a strange, drunk redneck rancher a hug? (Not that there's anything wrong with that.)

Maybe the "gay card" is best played elsewhere.

Great story, though.

MEP said...

I feel for Dusty when he was scared but I was CRACKING UP when he asked you for a hug in between hiccups.

Then I realized that this was actually a serious story with a challenging and self-reflective ending. Darn you, you do that so well.

Redbaerd said...

Finally!

After I read the first installment, I became the decade's biggest advocate for serials.

This is great, I thought, this is like how it musta' been when Sam Clements was spinnin' yarns. All of America just waitin' and wonderin' --

What's gonna happen next?

The waiting itself seemed profound. Such a great story opera singers and teachers lost in a back country river! Who tells stories like that?!

About four days later I decided I didn't like serials so much, because I couldn't stand the wait. Yeah its great living in storied time with a community of readers and all, blah, blah, blah...but I'm ready for the resurrection or the advent or the rapture...or whatever the ending of this story will bring us.

But Dusty & Clint! I couldn't have imagined. And certainly not invented.

Beautifully told. Deeply felt. Thanks.

(I'm open, again, to more serial features now...)

Anonymous said...

Reacher,
I work too much, and as a result, don't get to read your posts enough.
Damn, that was good. You've told me that story before, but I'd forgotten it.

This life is crazy...everyone's got an opinion of whom I'm to distrust, whom I'm to hate, whom I'm to smite with righteous indignation. It's easy to forget that love drives out fear. Especially when I'm the one who's scared.

Shalom,
Jim

Beloved said...

Coreman,
You lost me with your new term... slightly different meaning than "homophobia", but not sure how it relates to your point...

Beloved said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
The Coreman said...

My point is that the Reacher was/is worried that his response to Dusty was homophobic, even though said response may have had other, more socially acceptable motives. I am not calling the Reacher a homophobophobe. But try and tell me that this society hasn't produced a whole slew of 'em.

BL said...

From my Christian perspective, I find the Coreman's attempt at coining words a bit much.

Homophobia is generally defined as fear or hatred of gay people.

Our new word, homophobophobia, is a noun that means the fear of being, or seeming homophobic.

Quite simply, I wonder which of those two is a sin. it strikes me that, like racism, homophobia is a sin.

I don't think the Reacher was attempting to play any "gay card." It appears he was trying to honestly tell a story about what he experienced and what he was feeling.

Judging from most of the comments he did here, he did a good job of being authentic.

Beloved said...

According to that definition, i'm rather encouraged that there are becoming more homophobophobes and fewer homophobes in the world. That doesn't even touch on the issue of the morality or immorality of homosexuality. I don't see that hating or fearing people who struggle with homosexuality in any way, shape or form reflects the attitude or teachings of Jesus. Frankly, i'd be infinitely more afraid of people who hate and fear homosexuals than i would homosexuals themselves. If that makes me a homophobophobic, i'll proudly bear the title. I could see someone being afraid, say, of Nazi supremacists or Al Qaeda terrorists...

On the other hand, i'm not arrogant or ignorant enough to pass judgement on a man like James Dobson by labeling him a bigoted hatemonger. The minute we start maliciously slandering our brothers and sisters in Christ is the minute we have lost our integrity, our witness, and any sense of grace or love. Malice is right up there with all the other sins God "detests".

Beloved said...

For the record, there is no way i would have hugged the redneck dude even if he wasn't gay... It's not like Jesus went around hugging everyone, staring danger in the face. There are many ways to show love to people, even extravagant, vulnerable love... but there's a certain line you don't cross. I'd let go of the guilt trip if i were you, reacher. But then again, i'm not.

The Coreman said...

If only we could all be so transparent and authentic as the Reacher.

I also admire his self-examination. And by posting a blog like this, he's allowed many others to examine him as well. That takes great courage.

Rather than accusing him of anything, I'm trying to encourage him with the possibility that his actions were not bigotry-related.

But about the new word:

Homophobia is very ambiguous, since it can mean to HATE homosexuals, or to FEAR homosexuals. I have never thought that these two perspectives should be lumped into one word. Most of the people who HATE also FEAR, even though they usually don't recognize it. But there are many people who are wary of homosexuals, but would never wish them ill. This is not evil, it's just something childish they've picked up that they need to grow out of.

So if there are two types of homophobes then there must be four types of homophobophobes. 1) Do you hate those who hate gays? 2) Do you hate those who fear gays? 3) Do you fear those who hate gays? or 4) Do you fear those (including yourself) who fear gays?

I encourage everyone to ask themselves these four questions. I think being a #1 or #2 homophobophobe is just as evil as being an old-fashioned gay-hater. I identify with Beloved's sentiments regarding #3, and #4 is the one that reveals itself most in introspection, as may be the case with the Reacher.

It's a silly word, with too many definitions. But I think you can see it everywhere if you look around.

Anonymous said...

Permit me to suggest some other variations--

homephobe: hatred of stable family life.
homophonophobe: fear of gay phone sex.
phonyphobe: hatred of fakes and liars.
phonehomophobe: fear of extraterrestrials (specifically, extraterrestrials attempting to contact their mothership while eating Reese's Pieces).
foamophobe: fear of bulky packing materials and insulated coffee cups.
fengshuiophobe: fear of positive, spiritually-balanced environments.
thrownophobe: fear of being tossed about by a giant.
ponephobe: hatred of the Southern colloquialism for corn bread.
sconephobe: fear of fancy muffins.
shownophobe: fear that someone will know something you don't, and will tell you about it.
knownophobe: the fear of being recognized in public by someone you despise.

Am I missing some?

Jennifer said...

In response to Beloved's thoughts on "men like James Dobson," I think there is a difference between maliciously slandering and having a legitimate anger for those who use Christ's name to further a gospel of hate (I'm assuming by "men like James Dobson," you are referring to those who preach messages against people in the LGBT community). I would agree that we are not to be malicious, but to act in love.

I do, however, notice that the only people Jesus ever spoke against were the religious.

I'm not really sure where the line is. I imagine I've crossed it far too many times.

Beloved said...

Jesus certainly challenged and rebuked the religious on many an occasion. He put them in their places. There are at least three things to keep in mind, however. #1, we are called not only to love our brothers and sisters in Christ, but to love our enemies. In Jesus' circumstance, those men were not His brothers and sisters... they were proud, arrogant Jewish leaders, who had no part in the New Covenant. (By the way, that would make them His enemies, and guess what-- He showed them the fullest measure of love that a man could show. He died for them.) #2, it is ignorant to conclude that folks who take a stand against condoning a homosexual lifestyle hate homosexuals themselves. #3, it may (and i stress MAY) be the most loving thing one could do for someone who struggles with homosexuality (or any other temptation) to help that person overcome it... and the only way to do that would be to recognize in the first place that there was something harmful or sinful about it.

Again, i'm not staking out a position here or trying to chase a rabbit about the morality/immorality of homosexuality. I'm just trying to help promote intellectual integrity.

Beloved said...

You know, reacher, i have a question for you. I am honestly curious how you feel about people reading your story and then beginning a debate about it. Was that your intent? Does it offend or bother you in any way? Or are you glad that stories in general and this one in specific spark such dialogue? Just wondering.

Regards.

Anonymous said...

I am sometimes amazed and amused by the threads that begin with one of my posts. But, that's the great thing about blogging: It can provide a catalyst for dialogue that is alive. When dialogue is dynamic, it tends to go where it wants.

I have no problem with this particular discussion. I had no real agenda with the original post, other than to tell an interesting story.

I don't think it was really about homophobia, but I suppose that's a relevant subtext. I think what I was dealing with was the realization that I was only partially seeing beyond this man's sexuality, drunkenness, redneckedness, etc. when I encountered him one-on-one. My behavior was understandable and could be interpreted a number of ways. The troubling realization for me was that most of the time I objectify people rather than accept them as they are, on their own terms.

The difference between my reaction to Dusty (not his real name, by the way) and James Dobson is that I had no real opportunity to find out who Dusty was, and Dusty wasn't making any truth claims. Dobson, on the other hand, provides a host of proclamations that I am encouraged - provoked even - to judge, proclamations that often are designed to inflame and harm people. Unlike Dusty, Dobson is in a position of power. I think we have a responsibility to speak truth to power, especially when power is used to injure the least of these.

For the record, if given the opportunity again I would hug Dusty before I would hug Dobson. Why? Dusty is honest.

Jody Bilyeu said...

Christians should follow Jesus in rejecting any evaluation of sin that’s primarily based on a code of conduct, including any of the various biblical ones. The question for a Christian isn’t “Is it forbidden or permitted?” but “Is it loving or selfish?”

The two are distinct: we’ve all done things that are permitted by the code yet sinful, and a good number of us have done things, as Jesus did, that are biblically forbidden yet quite holy.

Some things--murder, for instance--are a sin by either measure, but this coincidence doesn’t mean that both measures are valid for a Christian.

Any lapse into a code vision of sin is a betrayal of the faith, and perhaps a symptom that a nominal Christian is actually something other than a follower of Christ—a traditionian, or a controllian, or a fearian, or a biblian. Or something.

I for one, think that “hate” is involved in such para-faiths only incidentally, and is a term of derision used, generally uncarefully, and sometimes even dishonestly, by their opponents to cover such guys as Dobson and Robertson. That doesn’t make those guys any less evil, or any more Christian. No amount of contradiction or dishonesty on the “liberal” side rivals the damage to the faith and the message done by those preachers’ emphasis on statutes and on power, and their associated blindness to the core of the faith. The fact that they offend people is much less important than the fact that they preach a false gospel.

Which leads me to my last question: what is it that’s intrinsically un-loving or selfish about a “homosexual lifestyle”? And how could you fully answer such a question, really, unless you had been in that lifestyle? That gap of understanding, between those biblians addressing “the problem,” having not the foggiest notion of the human truth of the matter, and the people they’re trying to address, is the reason their hypocrisy is utterly intractable in Christian terms. Do they really want God to measure them with a sex stick? Then they should cut it out, themselves, completely, right now, in the hopes of forestalling their own impending condemnation.

Missouri Baptists, for instance, have plenty of sins they could be addressing with some real insight and authority, such as an utter neglect of the poor, for whom they dispensed money in the low five figures out of an eight-figure budget. They can address that sin in others, that is, once they manage to address it in themselves.

Beloved said...

Inflame. That could mean a couple of things. It could mean "to intensely motivate". Or it could mean "to arouse anger". I am guessing you are using the term in the latter sense. In that sense, and in the sense of harming or injuring people, these may be true descriptions of what Dobson's words may have accomplished. But i would caution judging that those have been his intentions. So what does that leave us with? Even if his intentions are good, but the results are bad, he needs to be confronted about it. But how he should be confronted is another story. Confronting someone to help them learn how to express themselves authentically, but in ways that help and do not harm is going to look vastly different from confronting someone who is malicious. I didn't say it before, but i will say it now: I do not believe Dobson is malicious. Misinformed, probably to some extent. Unskilled at promoting unity and grace, most definitely. But hateful and malicious? I believe that is a misunderstanding and a contortion of reality birthed out of vengeance.

Many of "the least of these" are hurt when their plight is smeared across the public eye. However, it was not the evangelical community who brought it into the public eye to begin with. They did not seek to malign and belittle the homosexual community. The gay pride movement initiated the "conversation" by trying to overthrow a socio-cultural atmosphere resistant to homosexuality. And i would guess that you would say to that, "Right on! Stick it to the Man." And you have a right to say that. But don't blame evangelicals for seeking to devour "the least of these". You ask why they make such a big deal about it. It's because the gay pride movement has made a big deal about it. I can guarantee you that Dr. Dobson would, at the very least, hardly mention the topic if it didn't relate specifically to the Church. Who cares what the lost are doing? They're lost. They're supposed to live immoral lives. Nobody was making a big deal about that. What they were forced to confront was the atmosphere of condoning and celebrating sinful lifestyles that had crept into the Church.

Now that's a topic for another discussion altogether. We won't get anywhere on that topic without bringing some SERIOUS factual and theological (note the difference) evidence to the table. You have a wealth of knowledge about gender communication to contribute. But we also need input from a variety (and i stress variety) of Christian biologists, sociologists and theologians to really tackle this. And i'm guessing this is not the time or place we want to do that.

Beloved said...

Jody,
I would have to say you have done a wonderful job of articulating the nature of sin. I want to agree, for now, to that definition, but carry it a bit further. It would be selfish and unloving of me not to confront a brother/sister in Christ with his/her sin. Why? Because another characteristic of sin is that it is harmful to one's self and to others. Any state, emotional, intellectual, spiritual or physical, that is damaging to one's self or to others is sinful. If i see someone who is living a lifestyle that harms them or hinders them from experiencing God to the fullest, i am moved by compassion to help rescue them from that lifestyle. While i have never struggled with homosexuality, i am very close to someone who does and have listened to others who have, and it's not a very "happy" lifestyle. Some conclude that if society and the Church quit laying on the guilt trip, that gays could indeed be much more gay. Maybe so. But there is a fundamental misunderstanding of the role of the people of God in history. We have always been and always will be called to be a "separate, holy people", to be uniquely His. Because we are His, not only does He know what's best, He has the right to mandate it. We can make revolutionary discoveries in science and formulate explanations of why things are the way they are, but it doesn't change God's standard. We can devise methods and rules that seem better to us than the ones He has established, via our own human reasoning and perception. But, how dare we question God's sovereignty, for one, and doubt that He knows best? Ohhhh, but we don't "know" anything, now do we? All we "know" is what someone said about something hundreds or thousands of years ago, and it obviously has little relevance to us today, because "things are different now". Ever hear that old saying, "There is nothing new under the sun"?

The Coreman said...

I'm worried about settling on a standard such as "loving vs. selfish" for two reasons.

1) If our first love is God, then the first test of our holiness is our love for God. And Jesus said that we do not love Him if we do not obey His commandments. That means actions.

2) This new criterion leaves the discernment totally up to us. In order to BE loving, one must DO loving things. Now we're back to where we started... who gets to decide which actions are loving and which actions are selfish... us or God? Obviously He doesn't make every decision for us. But when He calls a particular behavior an "abomination" several times in His Word, my best conclusion is that engaging in that behavior is a very poor way to show Him love.

But Jody is right in that sin actually takes place in the heart, not in the hands or the lips or the eyes, etc. Therefore we are foolish and/or wicked to make judgments about other people's sins. (Dobson included.)

Anonymous said...

I don't know how helpful this will be in determining true motive, but it should at least help and see how Dobson reacted to at least one respectful homosexual individual.

http://family.custhelp.com/cgi-bin/family.cfg/php/enduser/std_adp.php?p_faqid=1225.

Jody Bilyeu said...

Beloved, it's my conviction we'd be plenty distinct, even be considered flippin' weirdos, if we consistently did what we did and said what we said out of love. The code way of being distinct never worked, and is specifically dismissed, in the bible, first by Jesus, and then incrementally by the church in Acts, which decided to preserve precisely 4 Mosaic codes for the new church, and those only provisionally.

Coreman, Jesus' commandments, which he identified explicitly, as opposed to Moses', were all about love: Love God; love your neighbor; and the "new" one you referred to, love one another as I have loved you. The conflation of Jesus' commandments and Moses' is a mistake that's very convenient for people who are trying to order social behavior, and it's also unbiblical, un-Christian, and inevitably hypocritical, as Code Christians pick and choose among the OT commandments to fit their own predilections.

I absolutely reject that the gospel of love leaves anything whatsoever to our discernment. It's the greatest of all submissions, and as such, it's a much more demanding discipline, having as its final aim the obliteration of the self. No greater love--no greater submission to God's sovereignty. In the rare instances when love is lived it's immediately recognizable and unmistakable. By contrast, you can be a completely lost jerk and obey all the codes.

The failures to live out love are just as recognizable and unmistakable, but since they're the default setting for human behavior, including church-human behavior, they tend to be shown up only by rare comparison. Following and proclaiming codes is easy, by the same comparison, and absolutely pointless, spiritually speaking.

You're unaware, it seems, that God, in the bible, revoked vast swaths of His Word--specifically, in a vision he gave to Peter, the nation-distinction codes, but more to the point, the sin of desiring distinction. I suppose many evangelicals would like to think that vision was about food, but neither Peter nor God thought so: "God has shown me that I may call no man unclean," Peter said.

The Coreman said...

"You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your strength... and love your neighbor as yourself."

OK, so I know that the worst possible way to "love" your neighbor is to point out his sins and condemn him to hell.

But are you saying the best way is to blindly declare that everything he does is great?

What about "tough love?"

Beloved said...

Jody, you're right. Our primary and most important distinctive characteristic is to be our love for one another. You can absolutely, without fail, sum up every law in "Love God and one another with everything you've got." We are agreed on that. Unfortunately we are disagreed on the way love manifests itself. I won't go into it now, but the disturbing statistics overwhelming indicate that the vast, vast majority of people living homosexual lifestyles, especially men, suffer SERIOUS physical and emotional health problems, far surpassing that of heterosexual men (and not due to gay-bashing). And that is an understatement. Maybe we can examine the specific facts sooner or later, but for now, i'm dedicated to loving all people with every ounce of energy and every resource God has bestowed me with. And that includes helping steer people clear of all dangerous, destructive lifestyles, and helping those already trapped in those lifestyles to find healing, peace and joy in Jesus. Please don't make yourself a fool by purporting the dangerously false notion that a significant percentage of homosexuals live safe, healthy lives. Few things could be farther from the truth. Denying that truth is, in fact, perpetuating harm and devastation. I can't call that love, in good conscience.

Anonymous said...

The bothersome thing (to my pea brain) about the term "homophobe" is that it is applied to those of us who, while not hating or fearing it, believe the lifestyle is wrong. Reminds me of the new definition for "tolerance", i.e. "agree w/me".

Jody Bilyeu said...

Beloved, I didn't purport anything about homosexuals as a group one way or another, and I don't aim to. I agree: to make such claims in the context of a spiritual discussion, as you've done, is foolish. I do reserve the right to make a fool of myself in other ways, however, and will again soon, I promise.

I think you'll find that statistics will show that the vast majority of everybody is lost and in pain. If the statistics don't say that, I distrust the statistics. You won't find me saying that any group, however you decide to slice up humankind, is doing just fine in their intrinsic beauty and what-not. You're apparently talking to somebody else, there. Universally, we're a sorry, delusional, no-good mess. And in the case that all have sinned, why distract yourself with distinctions based on something as universal, and therefore as trivial, as sex?

I'm not in a position to dispute your studies, partly because you didn't cite any, but I can say that your use of them, valid or not, is completely beside the point. For one thing, if a statistical propensity to danger, destruction, and bad choices is the key to whether a group is sinful, why not key on the poor and uneducated as the most sinful of all groups?

One reason must be that you're well aware that there are people who are doing fine by any statistical measure who are utterly lost, some of whom lead Christian denominations. In some ways, because those people are more secure in a social, religious, or material sense--what they used to call "pride of life"--they're in more spiritual danger than people who've been up against it for whatever reason, who stand a chance of being beaten by their misery into redemption.

That being the case, in the upside-down world of the Christian, or I should say the downside-up world, I imagine we should take as a primary concern reducing the number of wealthy and powerful people in the world.

But the more important thing is that you're never going to find who's lost and who isn't based on statistics, or based on anything so superficial as sexual ethics, or even something that stabs as deep into the soul as wealth. To know who's lost and in what sense, you're going to need relationships, and to get very many of those, you're going to have to stop already with the emphasis on controlling people's behavior, which is to say, you're going to have to resign your denomination. Then you'll be free to really be Jesus to those people.

Anonymous said...

The bothersome thing to me is the strong aversion to discussion or use of the idea of homophobia by people believe the Bible says "the lifestyle is wrong."

There are two reasons this bothers me. One, I have a theology degree with an emphasis on biblical studies and it doesn't square with what I have learned about the Bible and the ancient Near Eastern culture.

Two, I understand racial history in the United States. I know that many people used their interpretations of the Bible to prop up their beliefs that black people were inferior and somehow subhuman.

Also, by reading the Springfield, Missouri newspaper (where I live and where I suspect the Reacher lives also), I see many people don't care if they are considered racist even today. And homophobia is a discussion that is probably best left to another decade in the Ozarks.

I'm pretty certain that if we put it to a vote in the 50s and 60s, many people would pointed to their Bibles as proof that segregation should be the law of the land. Thank God for activist judges.

The Coreman said...

I personally am disgusted by the emphasis that homosexuality gets in the Christian community. It occupies such a tiny part of the biblical text. There is undoubtedly a great deal of hypocrisy going on. (What else is new?)

Beloved: You know that statistics can't determine morality.

Jody: I hope you know that modern sensibilities and relationships can't do it, either.

And anonymous: You are foolish to thank God for activist judges. You may as well just petition for our democracy to be replaced by a monarchy because there's a few kings out there who have made some admirable decrees.

Homosexual sex is a sin (I choose those words carefully) for the same reason we are, in Jody's words, lost: because sacred scripture says so. If the writer of 2/3 of the New Testament can't be trusted to reinforce a particularly relevant Old Testament law, then what's left? Do we throw out the Romans Road? The Love Chapter (I Cor. 13)? "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me"?

Naturally, Leviticus contains a lot of things that don't concern us today. But I dare you to disagree with the part about not having sex with your step-mom or your sister or your horse. The law against homosexual relations is couched right in there. And it's the only one of those that's reinforced by the New Testament at all. Should it also be the only one that we decide is not really valid?

I think that, long before we agree that homosexual sex is fine, we should condone polygamy. Apart from a few vague verses to the contrary (the "one flesh" verse, and that an overseer should be the "husband of but one wife.") God doesn't really seem to have a problem with those men who marry repeatedly. He even warns Israelite kings not to have too many wives. Solomon was punished for having hundreds, but I guess David was cool since he kept it down to a few handfuls.

Don't miss my point. Polygamy is wrong. But anyone who believes homosexual sex is fine and polygamy is sinful is listening harder to their cultural norms than to the actual words of God.

Beloved said...

I'm trying as hard as possible to keep this conversation clear of debate as to the authority, accuracy and relevance of scripture for a couple of reasons. First, that's not what this particular post is about. And second, because i know that some who participate in this discussion hold a very, shall i say, "loose" view of scripture, so getting into that is not going to get us anywhere. Which is why i have tried to reason practically and philosophically with all of you.

For those of you who find yourselves in oppostion to my standpoint, i only wish you could see inside my heart and realize that i love human beings, homosexuals no less, at least as much as you do. I apologize if i came across as trying to argue that "because an actively homosexual lifestyle is destructive, therefore it must be immoral." I'm not saying that i don't follow that reasoning at all, but that wasn't the point i was trying to make. The point i was (and am still) trying to make, out of sincere love, is that the overwhelming majority of active homosexuals have hundreds of sex partners in their lifetime, and at least a third of them range in the thousands. Because of that, not only do they live a lie of sexual indulgence void of the so-called "committment" they have touted, they have unspeakably high rates of HIV/AIDS infection. If you want the facts and figures, i'll get them for you over the next day or two. I hope you're not afraid to face the facts. I don't know how else to say it. Scripture aside, if i had good reason to believe that the homosexual lifestyle was as harmless as traditional heterosexual marriage, i would not be AS worried about homosexuals, per se, although i would still disagree with the morality of it.

Jody, i want to hear you through on this instead of jumping to conclusions, which is so tempting to do in this case. I almost took offense to your belittling of sex as "trivial", but i want to give you a chance to explain yourself. Certainly you don't believe that our sexuality is merely trivial? If you mean that sexual orientation is trivial, i might take less offense, but not much less. Sexuality is an integral part of the way God created us to live, primarily for the sake of reproduction, but also that husband and wife may enjoy their physical union. That is not something to be taken lightly, and i ask your forgiveness if that is not what you were doing. But there are no ways to get around the fact that God designed man and woman for each other for marriage. One might argue, then why would God allow people to have homosexual thoughts? Then i would ask, why would God allow people to have murderous thoughts or selfish thoughts or a fiery temperament? Why would God allow drug and alcohol addictive traits to be passed from generation to generation? Why would God allow some people to be born hermaphrodites? While there are good answers for these questions, only one needs articulated: because God is God and we are not. Who are we to question Him? If He made the man the head of the wife, who are we to question that? If He calls Himself "Father" rather than "Mother", who are we to question?

See, sexual orientation is not quite as trivial as we might think. As you have just noticed, all sorts of touchy issues come up when we start talking about sex and gender. All kinds of "why's" come up. The only completely true answer is "because God is sovereign and He planned it that way." Patriarchy did not occur as a result of man domineering over woman. Man domineering over woman was a perversion of patriarchy. Patriarchy itself is no more bad than sex or food or even monarchy is bad. Bad patriarchy and bad monarchy, those are things which warrant reform, but the systems are God-ordained. By the way, the whole monarchy thing is another good topic to explore. My thoughts on that topic would likely be even less popular than on this one.

Ok, i'll be quiet now that i've opened at least 3 big cans of worms. Peace (seriously).

Annie said...

reacher.. um, i couldn't resist.... and i am fully aware of the tragic possibility that the only reason i see humor in these at all is because it's really late (that's my excuse anyway).

Gnomephobe - Someone who is afraid of little plastic men in yards
Gnomehomophobes - Little plastic men in yards who are afraid of homosexuals
Clonephobic - How I feel after watching "The Matrix"
Gnomeclonephobic - A little plastic man in a yard who is afraid of other little plastic men that look exactly like him
Shalomophobe - A person who is afraid of Jews
Syndromephobia - Another name for hypocondria

Funnybonephobia - A fear and intense hatred of all feelings and sensations associated with blunt impact upon a small but surprisingly vulnerable region of one's elbow

Capitalofsierraleonephobe - Someone who is afraid of Freetown (the capital of Sierra Leone)

1-800-P-H-O-N-E-A-G-N-O-M-E-P-H-O-B-E.. - A free hotline you can call talk to other people just like you who are afraid of little plastic men in yards

I better stop it with the gnome thing (I wouldn't want to beat anything into the ground).

MEP said...

Anon: If not homophobic, I would say the term that describes your position is heteronormative.

And I really dislike the use of "tolerance" to describe how we should approach those who are different than us. Acceptance would be so much better and, by the way, it doesn't imply "agreement" - it implies a lack of judgement or irritation that tolerance involves (e.g. You tolerate the small annoying child that is crying in the theater).

Beloved said...

Helpful clarification, MEP. Acceptance is a better word because it is a stronger word, i believe, than tolerance. I don't think being tolerant is necessarily something to be proud of. We all do it every day. But acceptance requires something more of us, ESPECIALLY when we are accepting individuals who disagree with us, make us uncomfortable, behave in ways we don't approve of, smell bad(?!), etc. Thanks for the reminder.

Jody Bilyeu said...

Coreman, the high truths, I hope and trust, have nothing to do with cultural norms. Then, too, I’m just not a big cultural norms guy. But the high truths and any given list of ethical instructions aren’t on the same plane, as the bible repeatedly says. The one is spiritual and eternal; the other is practical and temporary and destined to be burned away. The bible does us the favor of specifically and explicitly burning away a great many of its own rules, by way of example. We might wish that those rules and regulations had nothing to do with cultural norms. But in this wishful thinking we’d be ignoring the clear teaching of the bible itself.

In the Old Testament, ethics were defined in part by cultural norms, though in reverse, with many of the ordinances having simple distinction from the Canaanite ways as their primary purpose, as the bible says. The New Testament picture of ethics (by then no longer confused with salvation) is defined by cultural norms of the day, too, but by contrast with the Old Testament, it shows cultural norms a great deference. Frankly, I find this deference annoying, but there it is. Jesus does this less so than Paul or Peter, it seems to me. But both Paul and Peter, on a number of occasions, not only advise their followers to observe the norms, but they go so far as to articulate a rationale for following a culture’s norms. I’m not revising this into the bible, understand, I’m reading it in plain black and white, and even occasionally in red.

Moreover, both Peter and Paul say they have in mind how Christians will seem to the larger culture, putting this consideration above the merits of a given ethical issue itself. These normed ethical concerns, by the accounts of those apostles themselves, stem from such things as avoiding offending people, Paul’s emphasis, and wanting to impress people, Peter’s emphasis.

Many of Paul’s ethical stances, such as commanding women’s silence and failing to condemn human bondage, can only be understood in the light of the fact that he fitted his ethical advice to the cultural norms of his day, and the church has long understood the issue thus.

The four statutes preserved for Gentiles from Mosaic law, Acts says, are preserved precisely and merely to avoid offending Jews.

How can the bible’s teachings be so…relativistic? Because after Jesus “everything is permissible,” Paul says, “but not everything is beneficial.”

You’re making a big mistake in supposing that abandoning code for love is the easy way out. Code is the easy, comfortable way. There are far more sins the Jesus way, not fewer, including the very real possibility that we can be perfectly legal and completely lost.

But me? I’ve never said, and don’t believe, that the church should drop its obsession with homosexuals in deference to cultural norms. I’m not a huge fan of normal culture, as I’ve said. I think the church should drop it because it's un-Christian on its face, and because it betrays a pre-Christian spirituality, battling which is my main concern.

Jody Bilyeu said...

Beloved, yes, sex is universal, therefore trivial. We all sin because of sex, a fact which, in ancient times and especially as now, should have us all dropping our rocks, so to speak, and walking away from any sort of sexual condemnation. Since in Christian terms sins of the mind are equal to sins of practice, you, and I, and everybody else with a limbic system, are ongoing sexual sinners, so singling people out based on their sexual practice or proclivity is hypocritical, wrong, and yes, trivial by comparison to the real issues, the deep ones, the spiritual ones, which don’t even belong in the same discussion.

We’re all guilty, not only having abused the gifts of sex, and food, but of having abused our other, even less Christian appetites, too, as for wealth and status. The seeming otherness of homosexuals is a convenient illusion. Only the spell of legalism is capable of underwriting the arrogance that has so many Christians citing certain statutes they are culturally safe from as sacred, statutes situated next to others they completely ignore, and coming from hearts which are themselves steeped in sin, including, now, the sin of being the hypocrites willing to cast the first stone.

I feel strongly, having learned it from Christ, yet frequently denying him on it, that the motivation to reach out to a person or a population cannot validly begin with a conviction of their sin. The bible not only does not authorize such a conviction, it forbids it. Ain’t but one person’s sin we’re authorized to be convicted of, and that’s our own.

A Christian has absolutely no business dropping a piece of code on somebody else. Doing so is in itself a violation of the law of love, and of the bible's specific instruction on the subject. How can we ask people to obey a law, the bible asks, that we couldn’t obey ourselves?

Nor is there any excuse for a Christian to confuse obedience to a biblical code with obedience to God. God and the bible clearly, repeatedly, and sternly forbid that very confusion. The people who are thus confused, by contrast with sexual sinners, call up the rare, specific, and rather final-sounding condemnation of Jesus himself.

Anonymous said...

There are always consequences to sin. And if you love someone you will want them to avoid reaping those consequences. Therefore, to ignore someone's sinful lifestyle (which in this ongoing thread is homosexuality) is an unloving thing to do. So I believe "dropping a piece of the code" on someone is, in fact, the most loving thing we can do if it is done in the right spirit. Like almost everything else we do as believers, it's a matter of the heart.

One more thing on tolerance. I don't try to foist my beliefs on homosexuals, and in most instances we simply agree to disagree. In many circles, however, that leaves me labeled as intolerant because I do not condone the lifestyle. That's not right. I haven't been intolerant of anything except a stubborn refusal to have my beliefs trampled because they're politically incorrect.

Sister said...

Random, disjointed thoughts from me because I lack the coherent brain cells at this point of the day to weave a lucid narrative. Many thoughtful thoughts from y'all. Don't really think I'm in your league today but...since lack of lucidity rarely keeps me from yapping, here goes -

Jody - I think I agree with you if what you're saying is my priority as a Christian is to ACT in love and get MYSELF right. Right?

Anonymous - I disagree with your statement, "...to ignore someone's sinful lifestyle is an unloving thing to do." Deciding what is sin for another and passing judgement on said sin ain't love. This goes for similar comments from others. Any references to sin in the Bible, I think, are for our individual edification.

MEP - thanks - I wholeheartedly agree with your dislike of the use of the word tolerance. Who wants to be tolerated?

To no one in particular - Do you think God sees us in color? Do you think he sees us in sexual preference? Does he see us in gender? How about economic status? Nationality? Party affiliation? Is it possible he sees our soul, nothing but our soul, and is concerned only with what is living and dying there?

Reacher - Is it possible you were just telling a great story without any deep, coded, hidden literary or moral meaning? (Knowing you, probably not but I can hope). I always hated those lit classes that required us to find "WHAT IS THE AUTHOR REALLY SAYING HERE???"
Grrrrrr.

Ok...enough of this. Gotta go be a singer for the evening.
Love ya Reacher readers!

BL said...

Wow, what a dialogue - at times at least.

I find it interesting how some people attempt to discredit other people's views and avoid a discussion of what the Bible really says by claiming that other people have a "loose" view of Scripture.

To begin with, I have a high view of the authority of Scripture and church tradition and also a low tolerance for evasive answers and bad theology.

You can claim that Scripture calls homosexual sex a sin, but I don't buy it and I don't think you've made your case. Furthermore, the Reacher's original story said nothing about polygamous Shetland pony ranchers on the banks of the Kings River, but a polygamous gay couple. Polygamous people don't generate anywhere near as much discussion unless the husband is a cult leader like David Koresh. So I won't even address that red herring.

The Bible does not condemn loving relationships between two people of the same sex. It does address temple prostitution and other sexual perversions but I believe you are wrong to draw a connection that is not in the origianl text.

Furthermore, discussions such as this always remind me of this verse: "Now this was the sin of your sister Sodom: She and her daughters were arrogant, overfed and unconcerned; they did not help the poor and needy."

I've heard a million times that the poor and needy are poor and needy because of a lack of personal responsibility and an overdependence on big government, but I've never seen that in the Scriptures.

Seriously though, I've got to wonder about the Pavlovian response to this story that seeks to attack a supposed mental condition called homophobophobia.

Could it be that seeing bad theology regarding gay people addressed makes some people that insecure?

Beloved said...

This is my last word in this conversation, because it is now apparent that all hope of Christian unity and of ethical dialogue (at least in the context of this blog) is utterly impossible. I can't stomach the unbelievable selectivity and flat-out blindedness to scripture which has been spread so thickly across these posts. And i've been blamed of doing the same, so now it's a game of pointing fingers.

Above all, some of you have a great big ole' log in your eye, because while you condemn judgement, you are the ones passing judgment. I'm sorry, but that's as hypocritical, closed minded, bigoted and hateful as it gets. Apparently i've wasted my time and energies on some of you, but hopefully not all of you.

Adios.

Jody Bilyeu said...

Well, Beloved, if you get time, sling me an email with more specifics as to where I've done any of the things you've said, and I'll be happy to mount a defense, or apologize, as appropriate, once it's clearer I'm one of those accused, and we'll continue the dialogue.

Anonymous said...

Okay, boys. You be nice, or I'm gonna turn this blog around and go home right now, you hear me? I brought this post into the world. I can take it out.

Amidst trying to start a new semester, I think I have picked up the following from the above talk.

There are two kinds of sinners we keep talking about: gays and Dobsonites. Some say homosexuality is a sin, others say it's not. Both do a nice job of using scripture to justify their positions.

Those who are adamant that homosexuality is a sin go on to say we shouldn't condemn gays; but they are very fervent that we get it straight that gayness is sin. In fact, that is repeated enough to emerge as a judgment. Yet, the same people suggest that we have no right to judge Dobsonites. Apparently, we shouldn't even suggest that they are sinful. Did I mention that they believe homosexuality is not okay?

Those who reject the idea that gayness is a sin seem to be a little more okay with judging Dobsonites. They appear to be okay with an exception to the judgment rule, applied to those who thrive on...judgment.

You got yer Coders and Lovers. That's a pretty elegant contribution.

Some who lean the Coder direction suggest that if we accept homosexuality, we have to accept polygamy, incest, and bestiality. Nice piece of conditional epistemology.

Another Coder reminds us that God is a man and that women should submit...and avoid gayness.

Annie talks about gnomes. Heh.

The Lovers are very uncomfortable calling a sin a sin, at least as far as sin as code-breaking goes.

Beloved got mad and bid us farewell. Again.

Dude. Keeping the conversation going is more important than being right. Maybe that's the difference between the Coder and the Lover.

My head is swimming. I think it's time to move on to another topic.

Puppies. I think maybe puppies. Gay puppies. Hmmm? Hmmm?

Mahalo Cheez-its said...

To ignore what is obviously sinful, i.e. pedophilia/adultery/murder/yes, homosexuality/meanness "just for fun he says... 'Get a job'" etc. because what is sin for me is not sin for you so smacks of situational ethics (which I thought was discredited 20 years ago) it makes me pound my head on the door frame.

Ow.

Look. Have you ever been to a bath house in SF? Do you know the depravity and lust that hangs so heavily in the air you can almost cut it? Have you experienced man/boy love, with all that it entails? The initial selfish satisfaction, followed by the inner torment? Yeah, well, me neither.

Okay, back to the situational ethics rant. There are things in this world that are black and white. To ignore that does nobody any lasting good.

MEP said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
MEP said...

I know we're supposed to be stopping this conversation, but . . .

Mahalo: pray tell, what is black and white according to you?

Mahalo Cheez-its said...

Gee, it's a long list. For a partial explanation, see my previous post.

Anonymous said...

Mahalo,

I suppose you can spend all your energy determining who's right and who's wrong, based on your particular Code. The Lovers out there would like to just move on to relationship. Sure, there may be the need to address wrongdoing from time to time, but it sounds like you want to major in it. I have faith that Love can change people. When I fail it isn't that I failed to bitch at the sinners, it's because I failed to love sincerely.

By the way, the only people who talk about situational ethics, or who have declared that discussion over, are the members of the Religious Right who want their peculiar brand of truth to reign triumphant. So, better get some aspirin for your head.

Beloved said...

Reacher,

You called me on it. If i didn't value your friendship personally and you were just some anonymous internet personality, i might be tempted at times to throw in the towel when conversation gets frustrating. But that's not the case, so i'd be a fool to do that. Others i don't know so well, so there isn't as much buy-in. But you know me well enough to know that my arch enemy is misunderstanding. I want to understand others and i want them to understand me. So i try to be as transparent as possible.

That said, i want to let you know that i didn't (in blog terms) storm off fuming again. It's more like i breathed a big sigh, slumped my shoulders and said to myself, "What's the use." Then you remind me again this morning that relationships are what matter most. But then again, sometimes i don't feel that coming through "from the other side". And as hard as we try to blur lines and avoid "sides", the more we converse, the starker those lines appear. There's a reason for that, but i can't quite put my finger on it.

Jody, first of all, i don't think a personal email is necessary, since what is said in the blog is public and should be addressed in public, at least by Christian standards. Here's what you said that i took personally, and judgmentally:

"Only the spell of legalism is capable of underwriting the arrogance that has so many Christians citing certain statutes they are culturally safe from as sacred, statutes situated next to others they completely ignore, and coming from hearts which are themselves steeped in sin, including, now, the sin of being the hypocrites willing to cast the first stone."

I am not offended that you judge that my heart is full of sin. You have every right to judge that, because it is a fact for all of us. The reason i take offense to that is that there is a notion--and Reacher, you apparently have gotten this impression as well--that i (and others who have shared my convictions) have picked up stones and am poised to throw them at dirty sinners (though you are right that that would be obviously hypocritcal). If you knew me very well at all (or if you paid much attention to what i actually wrote), you would know that i don't find myself anymore righteous or moral than the next guy who happens to struggle with sin. I'm not interested in bringing others low so i can climb on their backs and prop myself up. I'm interested in helping people. Period. If you don't believe me, then that is the point at which you are judging (and judging incorrectly).

I'm also not interested in being right as if i get some sort of erotic pleasure out of it. I don't view debate (especially over serious matters) as a game, in any sense of the word. I view them as means by which to come to a solution. I'm a problem solver. I'm not content to theorize and philosophize and talk till i'm blue in the face just so i can hear myself talk (see myself type?). (By the way, i'm not accusing you of that.) In fact, i have been accused by some of being a "philosopher" and neglecting to "get out there and actually help somebody." At times that has been the case. So i have prayerfully heeded their admonition.

That's really all i have to say. If we actually had the time and energy to devote to getting all the relevant info out on the table to actually engage the topic realistically, we'd all have to make it our full-time jobs. So in that sense, i surrender the efforts to "solve the problem" in the context of this blog. But i suppose i shouldn't surrender the conversation altogether. For that, we will need not only one another's help, but grace.

Mahalo Cheez-its said...

Reacher,

How is it I am being labeled part of the Religious Right? Because I said some things are always wrong? That there is such a thing as black and white in this grey world?

If situational ethics remains valid, then I would assume you agree that (in certain situations):

pedophilia is okay

adultery is okay

murder is okay

homosexuality is okay

pornography is okay

Am I missing your point? Because by my way of thinking, these things are ALWAYS wrong. A child is always injured when abused; adultery always leaves at least one innocent victim, usually more; murder obviously (right?) leaves multiple victims; homosexual relations go against the laws of nature (gee, d'ya think that steer really thinks he's going to have some real fun w/that other steer?); pornography destroys families, healthy relationships, promotes the objectification of women, etc.

Hmmm, all those reasons to believe the things listed are "wrong", and not one Bible thump. Code? No; I reject that label.

By the way, if there is any passage in the bible that best characterizes my approach to religion it is Ephesians 2:8-9. Why would that surprise you?

Jody Bilyeu said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
middleclasstool said...

You know, I really like puppies. Especially the gay ones. Had one once, did wonders with our interior design. The nonstop pop music gets old, but hey, we all gotta adjust.

Also, I find that pie is very tasty. I sure could go for some pie right now. I hope my wife's reading this comment.

Mmm. Pie.

Stephanie said...

Great story, Reacher, as usual. I really appreciate the authentic way in which you relate something that has has affected you and make it touching, relevant, and provocative.

The resulting discussion also has been quite interesting and insightful. It brings to mind a passage in the Bible that says we can not hold the "world" to the same standard we live by because they do not adhere to it (my paraphrase since I can't remember the exact passage). Whether or not one would call that situational ethics may be debated, but it's a good reminder that Christians are set apart and also that we can't expect everyone to follow the standards of Christians.

Good distinction on Coders and Lovers. I've been both.

Regarding those who think it their moral obligation to correct their brothers who have "gone astray": to do so in love, as the Bible requires, means you must continue to show them love (acceptance). It's very hard to do both, and I have deep respect for those who I know love me without a doubt even if they think I'm making some bad (or immoral) decisions.

Anonymous said...

Wow. Jumping across the Rockies.
We went from a nice, seemingly monogomous pair of gay Shetland Pony Ranchers along the Kings River to San Francisco bath houses.
How 'bout them frequent flier miles?

sister said...

Jeez-Lou-Eez
I go blissfully about my business for 24 hours and look what happens!

I value all we discuss here - disagreements included. Rumor has it I love a good fight. Honestly, I get enough of me all day; surrounding myself with exact duplicates would be incredibly boring. (So, let’s see, that makes me clonephobic?)

I don't think anyone is discounting the existence or effect of sin in this world; we just seem to have differing opinions as to what to do about it, although I don't think it will be eradicated anytime soon. (Especially if we can never reach a consensus as to what exactly it is, dammit)!

I can't debate scripture with y'all. Most of you are far better versed than I. I can't debate theology or doctrine or one-up you with stirring commentaries. Reacher's the wordsmith brainiac in the family. I can, however, make sure you have somewhere to sleep tonight. Give you some encouragement. Take you to lunch. Buy you some shoes. Listen for awhile. I have not been charged with the task of changing you from your evil ways. I am to love you.

A little divergence - as a mom, there is nothing in this world that could separate me from the love I have for my children. I'm guessing my little ragmuffins are decades older than most others represented here so understand I'm not talking about trials like little Thumper dinged daddy's car with his bike or Bambi cut her bangs again. I'm talking about those middle of the night phone calls from the state troopers or being on the receiving end of the one phone call your child gets to make from jail. I'm talking about a pregnant teenager getting married straight out of high school. Watching helplessly and praying constantly as they make stupid decisions and struggle to pay the consequences. Or just the pain of paying and paying and paying for college while someone tries to figure out what to do with his or her life. You know, basically finding out your kids are just as vulnerable and human as everyone else’s. Who knew? These examples are mild compared to those of many parents. I could go on, but here's my point: I suspect, as unflappable as my love is for my children, comparing it to the love God has for his children is like contrasting the light and heat of a match to that of the sun. The comparison is ridiculous. His love is incomprehensible. Every human on this planet throughout all eternity is his creation and a child of love. Not just those that are right, those that agree with us, those that live according to the rules we've decided must be. All of us. Each and every one. Without one exception. Exactly as we are. Does he want us to be more, do more? Does he want us to get it? Do we all fail in one way or another everyday? I know I do. But I believe he wants most for ME to love more. With no strings.

Beloved said...

Word.

Couldn't agree with you more. Couldn't have said it better myself (mostly b/c my only child is 7 mos old).

Keep the love.

Nate said...

I am late to this party, so I will summarize my feelings about the original (brilliant) post and all the succeeding comments regarding the nature of Sin, the immutability of scripture, homosexua...

Wait. You pretended you were interested in the fate of the Cardinals?!?

Nate said...

With a slight pang of guilt, some Smart Ass-edness.

Nate said...

Oh for Pete's sake (because he liked to impress people)...

http://www.mcsweeneys.net/2006/1/25budd.html

Anonymous said...

Was it a Cardinal sin?

Nate said...

No. That would be a complete implosion during the pennant series in 05. Or, while we're at it, the World Series in 04.

Nate said...

Of course, all this baseball is only a means to forcefully assert my heterosexuality. My biggest fear is appearing gay to others, for I am a homisconstrumophobe.

Then there is the:
Homafrophobe – someone who is not afraid of gays in general, but specifically gay black men in need of a haircut, of which there are legion.
Homonymophobe – someone who is afraid of sentences like, “That’s just like him to carp about the small Carp he caught.”
Homalonaphobe – someone who is afraid of McCauley Culkin, which they have every right to be.
Hominyphobe – someone who is afraid of what appears to be regurgitated corn.
Home-monophobe – someone who is afraid to enter houses not equipped with the latest in surround sound stereo equipment, or, alternatively, someone who is afraid to enter any house where an occupant has mono.

This last is understandable, of course, but it means that the homonymophobe is afraid of this word.

BL said...

That reminds me of the story I heard.

Some folks at a country church had a gullible city slicker pastor. They were all standing around in the church parking lot one day talking and looking at the mountains and all that.

One country fellow says: "I don't believe I have ever seen anything as beautiful as a hominy plant in full bloom."

All the other local folks nod their heads and say stuff like, "Oh yeah," "Right purty," and "You ain't never lied."

The city preacher was a bit confused. He had to ask them if they could describe for him just exactly what a hominy plant looked like.

Then all the good old boys had a good laugh and explained that a hominy plant is an ear of corn.

Annie said...

haha nate. those are way funnier than mine. :-(

Mahalo Cheez-its said...

Reacher,

My questions to you were sincere and honestly presented. I am disappointed that you have not responded. Did something offend you?

Anonymous said...

I'm sorry, Mahalo, did you say something? As I look back I see that you were left hanging. My bad. I've been pretty busy the last few days, and I got used to watching everyone else engage. Forgot I was supposed to be in charge.

My answers to your questions will be unfortunate and weak, since I don't have the time to go back and review all the contexts again; but here goes:

I didn't lump you with the religious right because you believe in absolutes, I did so because absolute precepts (code) seem to have become more important to you than relationship. That's relig. right territory. If it quacks like a duck...

You claim I believe in situational ethics. I don't know what that means, so I can't respond to the charge. As for your list of violations, you will also need to do some defining. By pedophilia I assume you mean adults fantasizing and engaging in sex with children. What counts as fantasizing, sex, or children? If a man watches a comely 17 year-old girl in such a way that inspires sexual thoughts is that pedophilia? In cultures where marriages often begin at 12 or 13 (like ancient Palestine), are they practicing pedophilia?

What is adultery? What are all the conditions and rules that qualify it as adultery? Does it require penetration, or is a thought okay? If it's thoughts, how explicit does it have to be to qualify as adultery?

Must there be a threshold of motivation crossed before killing becomes murder? What about an intruder in my home? What about the deaths of innocents in war? What counts as life? Unborn? Brain dead?

Homosexuality? I'm pretty sure I don't think it is a sin to exist the way you were biologically created. Been covered ad nauseum above.

What is pornography? Nudity? Dirty thoughts? Bawdy humor? Sensual behavior?

You asked if you were missing my point. Yes, I think you are. All of the things you listed would be covered by the calculus laid out in scripture and clarified by Jody. If love is your guide, you wouldn't hurt innocent children, damage the vulnerable, betray trusts, take life unjustly, or objectify people by their sexuality. To do those things would violate the law of love, and, yes, they would ALWAYS be wrong; but not because they are on a list (it would have to be an infinitely long list), but because they corrupt relationships. Is it easy to pass a law or create a bumper sticker that makes that point? No. It's a hell of a lot easier to inflame the anger of the righteous and bash gays. By the way, your point about homosexuality in nature is dead wrong. Clearly you have never spent time around a barnyard.

Mahalo Cheez-its said...

Dude,

Grew up on a farm. Never once saw penetration when it was steer on steer. Or steer on bull. Or bull on steer. Or heifer on heifer, for that matter, though I'm not sure what they would... ah, never mind.

I don't claim you believe in situational ethics. As far as not knowing what SE is, I can understand that. It changes like a chameleon, right?

Yeah, I read Jody's posts, though I would not say it "clarified" anything. What is hate? What is love? What is real? Pass the bong, man.

I don't understand why you label scriptural absolutes as "code". It strikes me as a means to refrain from serious discussion about important scriptural truths lest you offend your constituency. If something is difficult, just pass it off as legalism and go about your merry way.

When the woman came to the well what did Jesus say to her? Something like "I don't condemn you, but stop doing what you're doing." The implication being that she was sinning and he wanted her to stop. I don't read where he struggled over intruding on her personal definition of sin, or that he worried about hurting her feelings by instructing her to change her ways.

Grace? Yeah. Crazy, fervent, unbelievable, "Why are you so nice to me?" grace. Ignoring sin because we live under grace and so nobody need get uncomfortable about anything? Paul makes mention of that in Romans 6.

Hope you don't take any of this personally. It's not a personal attack. Though the whole "what is pedophilia?" load of mush makes me think you've been concentrating too hard and have fried your circuits. Assuming you're married, have you tried the "what is adultery?" line on your spouse yet? Yeah, somehow I would expect you both have a pretty solid and similar definition of adultery in your home.

Thank you for taking the time to answer.

Beloved said...

"You've been concentrating too hard and have fried your circuits." If it's not an attack, it's at least aggressive language, which is most usually perceived as an attack in our culture (not always so in others).

You can ask my wife what she considers adultery, and most other women out there, and they will agree with Jesus. "If you even look at a woman with lust, you have already committed adultery." Some women who have been so taken advantage of their entire lives that they no longer value themselves might not be hurt if their husbands confessed that they lusted over another woman, but most women would. Jesus made the Mosaic law even stricter, not more lenient. He clarified it, whereas the Pharisees twisted it and added all their own garble to it. He did so to prove a point to anyone and everyone who thinks "they're a pretty good person", so they'd realize their need for Him.

Thanks for the reminder that Jesus both loved the sinner AND hated the sin (He hated the sin BECAUSE He loved the sinner and didn't want to see them suffer and live apart from Him any longer).

Mahalo Cheez-its said...

Ah, the sentence immediately following the disclaimer that it's not a personal attack was written as a gentle chide. See, that's the problem with text communication. The subtle, friendly smile behind the typing fingers doesn't translate.

Take note, Reacher: Wry smile in place whilst typing that gibe.

Jody Bilyeu said...

I think my clarifications will be clearer if they're briefer, and dislodged from an argumentative exchange:

Behavioral proscriptions--codes--are not truths in any sense, whether scriptural or spiritual. This distinction holds, even when those proscriptions are in the bible. I know this because the bible tells me so.

The bible expressly says, several times, that its own codes are provisional and conditional, and demonstrates that they are so by revoking and changing them explicitly and frequently.

The bible explicitly advises us which parts of it are the most important, which parts trump, override, and revoke others, what of it is spiritual truth and what is merely code. Some of itself it has the good grace to merely leave suspended in mid-debate, as Paul and Peter's heated disagreement over who began the mission to the gentiles, or the disagreement between the writer of Kings and the writer of Chronicles as to whether Solomon was a hero of the faith or the apostate who doomed the nation. And it warns us of the deadly danger of reading it by the letter.

It says, several times, that parts of it are subsumed and rendered moot, not just by temporary changes in code, but by the spiritual law of love, and by the presence of Jesus in our lives.

Jesus made Mosaic code more strict only in the sense that he completely changed our emphasis as Christians to the heart, rather than to behavior. But then, in the same chapter in Matthew, he specifically revoked a great deal of that law, including, in no uncertain terms, the passage that Mosaic law defines as one of its guiding principles.

In Acts, the apostles went even further in proclaiming that Mosaic code would not apply to gentiles whatsoever, with the exception of 4 statutes, which they asked gentiles to abide by, not because those statutes were scriptural "truths" but because the apostles wished to avoid having the gentiles offend the Jews.

In cancelling Mosaic law for what would turn out to be the vast majority of Christians, the apostles had no anxieties whatsoever about a collapsing social order, or about a reduced veneration of the scripture they had just proclaimed moot.

This is because they, by contrast with what appears to be most modern evangelicals, followed the true faith, and knew that Christians who loved one another as Jesus had loved them would live lives richer, fuller, and more moral than those of any people who placed their faith in codes. And here we are talking not just about code in the abstract, but a clear and specific dismissal of the vast bulk of biblical code. The apostles led a people for whom the bible didn't even exist for all practical purposes, and even this obviously troubled them not one whit.

The cultures of the world will always have laws to protect their people, and we're of course free to debate those on their merits. This is not about abolishing law. This is about not confusing it with God's word, or even, as many Christians do, with God himself.

Mahalo Cheez-its said...

Jody,

I appreciate your attempts to clarify your viewpoint in a different context.

To be concise, it seems to me that at the end of the day, we simply disagree on the validity of scripture. I would submit that "behavioral proscriptions--codes" are exactly what Jesus was talking about with the woman at the well, to list one of many examples.

There is, all throughout the Old and New Testaments, a call to personal holiness. That call is not invalidated by grace, but rather affirmed by grace.

With regard to the Law, Jesus did not cancel the law, he fulfilled it. The purpose of the law wasn't for us to sacrifice a nice goat to make God happy; it was to show us that none of us could reach God's standard. We all fall short.

If we are to choose on which side to err, law or grace, I obviously choose grace. But I see no sense in throwing out the baby with the bathwater. Grace trumps law, but the Bible's call to us on how to live a life pleasing to God is extremely important and can't simply be dismissed.

Anonymous said...

I find it interesting that you say your disagreement is about the validity of scripture, suggesting that Jody doesn't accept the validity of scripture. Seems to me that Jody has demonstrated a far better respect for and knowledge of scripture than anyone in this discussion so far. Are you prepared to say that the extent to which his take doesn't square with yours is the extent to which his view is invalid?

I don't understand your interpretation of the woman at the well at all. Where do you get that the interaction is about code? Even if I try really hard I don't get that. The amount of theological gymnastics necessary to make that story about code makes me pull a hamstring just thinking about it. The entire point of that story is to physically and metaphorically challenge the power of rules over the new love.

I'm with you on the purpose of the law. It is not designed as pre/proscription; but as ever-present standard we cannot achieve without help.

You say you choose to err on the side of grace, but you don't. Erring with grace is to take leaps of faith, to trust, to love with foolish extravagance, to defy the conventional wisdom that props up right behavior as the ultimate goal of religion. Every time there is the appearance of a conflict between grace and law, you seem to favor law. I don't think this is what you believe, but you promote a notion that holiness must precede grace, that grace is not entirely free.

You remind me of a preacher I once heard say, "Sometimes I think we can take this grace thing too far."

Jody Bilyeu said...

The law of love not only doesn't preclude sin, holiness, personal and social responsibility, ethics, and piety, it sets a higher bar for all those things.

Codes are the easy way out.

I, too, am intrigued and disappointed that none of those who say they have a high regard for scripture have engaged the many scriptures I've given them, nor contested the bible's many utterances on this subject, but have instead merely reiterated their personal conviction of the usefulness and sacredness of code.

Beloved said...

Thank you for the clarification Jody. It was actually very helpful, and much more helpful in a non-combative context.

That said, i can hardly disagree with you, for the most part. One could hardly ignore the fact that several large portions of the Old Testament have virtually no relevance to our lives whatsoever, not because our culture is different, but because of the new covenant (which did indeed establish a new kind of culture... a counterculture, if you will). You may be surprised at how similar our convictions are when it comes to actually living out the gospel in an ecclesiastical and personal context. The differences, as C.S. Lewis noted, trivial in comparison to all that we agree on.

For the sake of dialogue, however, i would like to further clarify some statements (if i may). The first thing i'd like to mention is regarding the notion of "truth" and "truths". Now, hold your breath and leave the stones on the ground until you've heard me through... :) But values and codes are not truths anymore than wishing you were a million dollars richer is a truth. "Codes" or laws, are nothing more (and nothing less) than a standard by which we are judged. They are not our enemies anymore than the boundaries of a football field are the enemies of those playing the game. Anyone who has played football with his/her siblings or friends when he/she was young understands how frustrating it is to try to play without boundaries. Whether it's five-gallon buckets or white chalk, boundaries allow us to enjoy whatever it is we are doing. Even those activities which might be deemed "freer" than others (such as mountain climbing, snowboarding, kayaking, etc.) would be pointless without some sort of constraints (gravity, snow, a slope rather than flat land, water with land on either side).

Jody, you're interpretation of Jesus' motive for the beatitudes is RIGHT ON THE MONEY. Something that many forget is that God has always been concerned with matters of the heart. Strict adherence to codes, even codes He established, was never enough to please Him. Doing so FROM THE HEART was His command ("You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart..."), so the legalists of any time and culture have always been like smoke in His nostrils. But then there's this overwhelming mass of scripture (throughout the Old and New Testaments) that says resoundlingly that "If you do not obey my commands (codes) you do not love me." And we have a paradox on our hands. Perhaps a bit of hyperbole. And it all brings us back to the fact that the law, even the New Law, is too big a burden for any of us to carry. Praise God for Jesus.

Another thought about "The Law". When i refer to The Mosaic Law, i'm more or less referring to the Ten Commandments, not to all the religious detail regarding sacrifice, personal hygiene, Levitical CODE :) and so forth (not that we have nothing to learn from God's issuance of those codes).

I think we are very close to being on the same track. The question boils down, once again, to motive, which you and i can only judge in ourselves. Do we completely ignore all our sin, throw up our hands and say "What's the use"? In Paul's words, "By no means!" We keep striving to live lives of holiness, even though it is impossible, not only "because God said so" but because only in doing so are we imminently and constantly reminded of our insufficiency and God's supremacy and perfect sufficiency.

Jody Bilyeu said...

Yeah, now we're making hay.

As to your first point of clarification, I agree completely. Restraints make life richer. I also believe the country needs laws, and lots of 'em. I hope I've never said or implied otherwise. I believe I have not.

But,as you know, love trumps law, not just as a spiritual matter, but as a guide for right living. It precludes, not just more behaviors than law, but the very thought of wrongdoing. Not just that, it busts out of the land of the law by demanding loving action, and making failure to take such action itself a sin. Dear God, forgive me, how far I have to go.

You can easily be a hypocrite under the law because you can easily obey the law and condemn others who don't. By contrast, Love is very simple, but also immensely difficult, eternally challenging, a daily eye-opener and castigation. I'm not always there, understand, but when I'm in the Love way I'm constantly reminded of how far I have to go, the depths of my own failures of vision and depravity. I hear, not Jesus, of course, him being god and all, but strikingly, the apostles themselves making a very honest and compelling clean breast of their ongoing failures and fallings short. This from the heroes of the church, the authors of the bible. I don't hear that from Jerry Falwell or Pat Robertson, BTW, or most other "bible-believing" pastors. I think those apostolic gifts of honesty and humility, those necessary manifestations of love, are the things that in our day most easily distinguish Christians from religioso para-Christian wannabes, or newbies.

Anyway, in Love, any conversations with others as to their problems have to start from a place of complete, even abject humility, "thinking others better than ourselves."

As to your second point, I would reiterate one distinction I've alluded to previously. I believe Jesus is clear about which things are his commandments, as opposed to Moses', taking great care to identify them as His commandments--e.g., "this is my commandment..." And the things Jesus identifies as his commandments are exclusively about love.

The other evidence I see that Jesus' commandments are to be distinguished from Moses' is his explicit revocation of "eye for eye," which is not just a Mosaic commandment, but a principle of Mosaic law. Jesus' commandment, "Love your enemies, do good to those who persecute you," not to mention "turn the other cheek," would have stopped Israel's progress in Egypt. Moreover, Jesus specifically suborns all the law and prophets to just two of his commandments, both, of course, having to do with love.

I agree that we have much to learn from the code, not being under it, but without finding the subject worth arguing over, I'd point out that our special veneration for the ten commandments is not biblical, but cultural. The bible distinguishes them not at all.

In fact, the contrary is true: one of the two commandments that Jesus identifies as the most important, as one of His own, is not in the ten commandments at all. Not that I'd quibble with the content of any of the ten commandments, of course, or launch a campaign for their de-veneration. But I might start taking pains from here on out to make mention of "the two commandments," following Christ, or "the one commandment," following Paul. The number of the Great Commandments, two or one, seems to be unimportant in the New Testament, which holds that the two are "like," and obviously that one flows from the other. The means of articulation, the letter, is totally subordinated to the spirit. How telling, how different.

I agree with your last paragraph completely. Well said.

I hesitate to bring this up, but all the foregoing, what you most recently wrote, and what I've written here, completely leaves aside the question of whether homosexuality, per se, is now "against God's law," as opposed to being another thing that's merely against Levitical code or late hellenistic practice, or even a thing that we're not bound to because we're not bound by law, but is yet sinful on its merits, by the love test.

There may be a love reason that it is, but I just have to say I'm not aware of it.

Judging from what you've written here, maybe you'd agree now that it's not appropriate to say that inviting compliance with Levitical or other behavioral codes is itself an act of love, with the idea that we want people to escape the consequences of disobeying Levitical law on a "because-I-said-so," "God said it" sort of basis.

As I've said, there are, under love, now many more behaviors that are sinful for Christians than there were for ancient Jews, but on the other hand there are a sizable number that are now allowed, such as ham sandwiches on leavened bread at Easter, racial intermarriage, mingled fabrics, the campaign to free slaves in Africa. Is homosexuality on that list of the now-permitted? I won't ask you to say that it is, because that's not for either one of us to say, maybe, but I will ask you to allow that it's a heck of a lot more complicated question than most "bible-believing" preachers and advocates make it out to be. To pretend there's a clear biblical prohibition is...unbiblical.

Finally, I'm not surprised at all how close we are on this. Your people are my people. I know exactly where you're coming from. I also know the power of the teachings of our culture, how easily they pass for truth, and the high price of difference. I think I understand very well the sword Jesus came with, if you take my meaning, including the temptation to dodge it a while longer.

Owen said...

Hey, this dialogue is getting interesting to say the least. Now I have a question for any or all. Considering the "codes" and commandments and their breakage being sin. Which ones are the "biggies" and which aren't? I was never good at understanding mortal and non-mortal sin and this ties in pretty well. And what is the "point count" that determines salvation? I sure don't follow the Levetical practices of abstention and blood sacrifices, but I don't do a real good job of following either the 10 or the 2 commandments either, sorry to say. So does Grace cover me? And I guess that leads back to the question of whether we use Grace to then act like we wish?
Just curious where this all fits in?
owen

Nate said...

Particularly relevant to this discussion might be Monday's topic on NPR's Fresh Air: Terri's interviewing Marc Zvi Brettler (author of "How to Read the Bible") about points of contention regarding the Old Testament.

It may cover some pretty worn ground for some people posting here, but I expect it to be pretty enlightening for a scholastic neophyte such as myself.

That's 91.1, 3 p.m., if you are not an NPR nut like me.

Beloved said...

Ahh, i've finally found someone who is more long-winded than i. :) Just messin' with ya.

It might come as a relief (perhaps not?) that your last response (shall i say, essay?) sets quite well with me. About the fifth paragraph from the end, we start to diverge a bit, but not worrisome so. I would certainly distinguish sexual relations from Levitical code without hesitation, with the exception of refraining from "relation" to an "unclean" woman. Oh, and you forgot about shaving the sideburns. Bad stuff. :) In all seriousness, though, you have good reason to need a "love reason" for claiming that homosexuality is a sin. But we must start not from our perspective, but from (to the best of our abilities) God's. As one who has studied and visited other cultures FAR different and removed from my own (as in, on the other side of the planet), we are on the same page as far as socio-cultural influences. I am working from a very good theoretical framework (thanks to the fine instruction of the Reacher and the curriculum he imposed upon us...i may have been drooling on my desk, but i was listening) of intercultural communication. That said, i hope you don't dismiss my convictions as purely (and i say purely, because we unfortunately cannot escape the reality which helped construct us) culturally formulated and/or other-culturally blind. Now it may be that i am blind, not out of ignorance, but because i don't WANT to see certain evidence. But let me affirm that that is not the case. Now we can talk.

I will start by expressing some frustration with the Bible in regards to an issue which was brought up earlier. It frustrates me that nothing is said condemning polygamy, although it was commonplace in Old Testament times. Because of its apparent silence, we might then conclude that God was ok with it. But i don't think that is necessary. God didn't have to explicate that "polygamy is a sin" in order for us to see in scripture that it is clearly sinful. We see precepts through and through that point to that fact, namely the value of committment and the TWO becoming "one flesh". Now, we might be tempted to use this to support our claim that "God doesn't give a rip about behavior, in this case, sexuality" if we didn't have the New Testament.

But then there's this wacko Paul who starts saying things like, "Your body is a temple; therefore, honor God with your body" and "Do you not know that he who sins sexually sins against his own body?" (I Cor. 6). Well then, we are forced to ask him, "What do you mean by 'sinning sexually'? That's awfully obscure and rather relative, isn't it?'" And he is not silent. In fact, he gives a rather lengthy list of "sinful identities" in the previous verses, one of which is "homosexuals". Now i heard someone earlier use a verse from that passage out of context, that "Everything is permissible, but not everything is beneficial." But surely he isn't refuting himself two sentences later? Certainly he must have had a reason for giving a "sin list"? Probably for the same reason we need such a list today. So people know what it is they are not supposed to do, or who it is they're not supposed to be. If you look at the list, you will notice that not one of the "sinful identities" mentioned is culturally specific, unless of course you want to make exception to homosexuality. But the context doesn't support that.

That's simply (?) from God's perspective (i know it is oversimplified, for the sake of space and redundancy). Now let's look at it (in light of His perspective) from our perspective, as we have established, the perspective of unconditional, extravagant love. And here the point is not to single out homosexuality as the premier sin, only to keep from excluding it as a sin whatsoever. I would even say that i suffer from a sin WORSE than sexual sin... pride. But that doesn't mean i don't do my best (and trust God and my brothers and sisters in Christ to help) to fight against my own sexual sin (which i do battle).

From this perspective, we have to ask the very question you asked: "What could possibly be loving about recognizing someone else's sin, even after recognizing that our own sin is equally as bad, if not more bad?" And here it is: we are to carry one another's burdens (Gal. 6:2). Not to condemn one another by any means, but to help each other overcome our sin. Why should we try to do that, since we're always going to sin? Because our spiritual lives are like rays...you know, the type you learned about in math and physics. They begin at the point we receive the Holy Spirit (and thus the gift of eternal life) and continue on, in one sense, until we die physically, and in another sense, infinitely. In the first sense, our earthly spiritual lives are likened to a race, even a battle, to be won. No matter how hard we try, we don't win until we die. But that doesn't negate our trying, for at least two reasons.

One, as i mentioned previously, is so that our desperate need for Christ is always before us. The other is that the effectiveness (e.g. Christ-likeness) of our lives is of paramount importance NOT FOR OUR OWN SAKE, but for the sake of others, both Christian and non-Christian. We are the visible image of Christ to humanity and it is His desire that we would mature, progress, increase in sanctification. That ray is not a point on a line which we reach and then just wait for death. Contrarily, it is the beginning of a process, a process which God is ultimately performing through us, but that He wishes us to engage in with Him. That process is comprised of one thing, simply put: "Becoming more like Christ", which involves putting sin to death and putting on humility and love, from which all other virtues flow. The more like Christ we become, it follows, the better we will be able to love and commune with others (in every way).

The key to the connection between our "personal decisions" and "loving others" is the fact that our attitudes, words and behaviors really are not personal at all. Each of them affects individuals whom we know and whom we will never know, and the number of individuals influenced by our lives is tremendous! We do not live in individual bubbles, which is why the American ideal of "personal freedom" is bunk. It stands to reason that the world would be a better place if we all had all the personal freedoms we wished, but we can all see that that is obviously not true. There are a good many things that might be "permissable" for us to do in this country which would create absurd damage (and have) if we all choosed to do them.

So now we are left with the question, "What is it, then, about homosexuality that has such a negative effect on others?" And this is where the Dobsonites most often enter the conversation. The debate that follows is not an easy one, but it is easier if it is built upon the framework i just established. But i need to take a break. Please don't put words in my mouth, for i am not about to ditto every claim Dobson makes about homosexuality being the very thing that will erode the fabric of civilized society. However, i will not leave it alone. And please don't start refuting me before i even speak. As tempting as it will be, it defies the rules of interpersonal engagement, which it seems to me we are agreed on. Thanks.

Ok, so maybe i'm still longer-winded than Jody. Coreman, you know that as well as anybody. Sorry! If we were dealing with simple matters, simple answers would suffice. But... we aren't, so this is our lot. And as long as we're all ok with it, then... we're all ok with it. :)

Peace.

Beloved said...

HA, "choosed". I really do know how to write in good English. I got a 35 out of 36 on my ACT. Forgive my slipup.

Beloved said...

On the English portion, i meant. Don't want anyone to think i'm claiming to be a genius... we KNOW that's not true!

Mahalo Cheez-its said...

Master Reacher,

I had composed what I thought was a concise reply to your last post to me but was interrupted in mid-sentence. I finished and posted it (I thought) but it seems to have disappeared into cyberspace. So in lieu of 20 minutes of thoughtful rebuttal, here's one minute's worth:

I can't believe you seriously mean that you have to do "theological gymnastics" with regard to the woman at the well. You are an intelligent person so I must wonder if you are being deliberately obtuse. Jesus told her he didn't condemn her and to go and sin no more. He didn't say "Neither do I condemn you. Have a nice day. See you later." He loved her, showed her that love, AND gave her some guidelines to improving her life. In your vernacular, he laid some code on her.

I don't consider myself extreme right wing. Perhaps you do, but I suspect the truth is I'm middle right and you're middle left. And as far as not replying to Jody's posts, you and I both know it is easy to take passages of scripture to support almost any postion we so choose. So going there with Jody seems pointless to me.


Beloved-

Years ago in an OT bible study we discussed the bible's position on polygamy. I can't remember the references off the top of my head (and that material is at home) but here's something I found on it from the GIV (Google International Version):

The Bible says that God’s original intention was for one man to be married to only one woman, “For this reason a man shall leave his father and his mother, and be joined to his wife; and they shall become one flesh” (Genesis 2:24). Mankind quickly perverted the concept of marriage to allow for multiple wives (Genesis 4:19). The Bible does not specifically condemn the practice of polygamy until the New Testament (1 Timothy 3:2), but that does not mean God approved of polygamy before.



We see in Deuteronomy 17:14-20, that the kings were not supposed to have multiple wives. Ultimately the case can be made from Genesis 2:23-24, 1 Timothy 3:2 & 12 and Titus 3:12 that nobody should have multiple wives. Although the New Testament passages relate to elders and deacons we can apply it to all Christians men because these are worthy standards for all men and we should all seek to be Holy as God is Holy (1 Peter 1:16), and if these standards are holy for elders and deacons then they are holy for all.

Beloved said...

Cheez,

Jody may have lost some of us in his earlier ramblings (as even he confessed) but brought things back down to earth so we laymen could engage him thoughtfully. Because of that, he has done a tremendous amount to help turn this conversation in a positive direction. What i'm saying is: don't dismiss him.

Thanks for putting some meat on the bones of my thoughts regarding polygamy. The argumentation in your last sentence is very weak, and while i lean more toward you than away from you, i'm not fully convinced of your point. Terms like "worthy" and "should" are, in fact (how ironic), relative terms, particularly because they are your opinion. But I'm open to seeing substantiation for them, so long as it holds water.

Mahalo Cheez-its said...

Beloved,

The stuff from the GIV was exactly that; I didn't double check anything so I can't comment on the validity of the arguments.

The Coreman said...

I was too intrigued by Jody's words several comments up to not write a post of my own about it.

The Core Blog: Love trumps Law?

So who is everybody's pick for the Super Bowl? The Cubs or the Canucks?

Sister said...

Am I the only one that thinks in using examples like the story of the woman at the well, we have a tendency to associate ourselves with the role of Jesus rather than, what is likely more accurate for each of us, the role of the woman?

The Coreman said...

Sister, you are absolutely right. We are to take Jesus' example, but we are to remember that His is the love that actually forgives sins. Our love at its best is only a pale comparison.

And isn't the "woman at the well" the Samaritan who tries to argue with Jesus about the proper place to worship, instead of the alleged adulteress who is used by the Pharisees to try to bait Jesus? I don't think there was a well involved in the latter scene.