Yeah, today’s the day.

I’ve said before that I would someday comment on my stance on homosexuality. And since North Carolina’s proposed Amendment One has made the news – an amendment that would ban gay marriage, as well as domestic partnerships, in that state – I think it’s time for me to man up and share my opinion, such as it is.

Yeah, so. I’mma do that right now. But first – check it out! A pastor in North Caroline “didn’t say” it was okay to punch your kids when they’re acting “gay!”  In case my quotes made that confusing, Pastor Sean Harris  totally said that parents should hit their kids when they’re “dropping that limp wrist.” He says that he doesn’t endorse beating kids, but hey, some people lie. It happens. Either way, I haven’t seen someone backpedal so furiously since that one time I got super drunk on the “Pedal Pub” in Minneapolis.

“You. . . you shu’ up. . . it’s righ’y tigh’y, leffy. . . leffy. . . SHUT UP you’re not the boss of ME!” – Me, before vomiting, that one time.

What a relief, man. I was afraid that the bible did not support abusing my children when they act fruitier than Carmen Miranda’s hat.

Anyway, my stance – the Bible does not take any clearer a position on homosexuality than it does internet usage. Anyone who says that the Bible is “crystal clear” on the subject of homosexuality is, in my humble opinion, not researching this shit. I use the word “research” deliberately, because many people do not know that there is an argument against the sin nature of homosexuality. But there is.

Now, I have, in the past, mentioned that Jay Bakker got flack for taking a “radically inclusive” stance  that basically states that homosexuality is not a sin.Well, much of Jay Bakker’s position on  homosexuality is influenced by Rev. Mel White, who wrote this extremely helpful pamphlet about it. And while I do not feel that White has definitively answered the “gay” question once and for all, I think he presents data sufficient to cast doubt on the traditionally-iron-clad assumption that homosexuality is a sin.

Some people don’t see it that way, of course. The day after the article about the North Carolina “go ahead and beat your young flamers” pastor came out, Billy Graham made the news by publicly supporting Amendment One. Because he loves me, and he loves giving me things to poke fun at, Mr. Graham used my all time favorite catch phrase about the scripture.

“The Bible is clear — God’s definition of marriage is between a man and a woman.”

“You guys BETTER be about to say grace or something. I’m just sayin’.”

What I find so funny about the phrase “the Bible is clear” is that it is never used about things that are actually clear. Nobody ever says, “Dude, stop murdering people, the Bible is clear on that.” Idolatry – that is a sin the Bible is crystal clear on. Not taking care of the poor is definitely poo-poo’d. These are things for which the above statement can be appropriately used.

But how clear is the Bible on the definition of marriage, Mr. Graham?

Okay, cool. That straightens it out, I guess.

Now, I’ve been accused of being a cynic, and I want to own up to that. In my cynical mind, I think the problem that most people (not just Christians) have with homosexuals is that the idea of two guys kissing is something that many people (not me) find gross. That image I put up, of the two guys holding hands? I almost put up an image of two men kissing. I didn’t because even while I’m putting a post that I know could generate controversy (among my literally dozens of readers) I didn’t want to include an image that might be too “offensive” to people.

But you know what? I really don’t care. Being “grossed out” is no excuse, and we should be grown-up enough to get over it. People’s lives can be broken by a hateful response to their sexual orientation, and no single organization in human history should be more responsible for loving and caring for people than the body of Christ. When that guy in North Carolina talks about punching your sons if they act in an effeminate manner, I’m not upset because he’s just some asshole. I’m upset because he’s an asshole pastor.

“I’m gonna set back the church fer decades, YEEEEE-HAWWW!!”

Honestly, it’s time like this that I wish I had a mega-blog – not because I have an ego (although God knows) but because I wish I could be a loud voice in speaking out against this kind of anachronistic nonsense. I wish that anyone cared how I feel about Sean Harris’s hate-filled sermon. I wish more people knew that there is good, solid room for doubt about how the Bible addresses homosexuality. If you don’t know why that is, and you didn’t read the link I put up about Mel White’s pamphlet, seriously, read his pamphlet.  Maybe you won’t agree with it one hundred percent, but it can’t hurt to see an opposing viewpoint, right? At least it could start a positive conversation.

And for the record, I don’t think that it’s as easy to get into Hell as some people believe it is – so I don’t think being on the wrong side of a theological argument is going to get anyone damned. But that being said, the Bible is important. If there is any possibility that you have understood something inaccurately, is there a good reason not to explore that further, maybe hear out the other side’s argument?

Even if you think it’s gross?

Just man up, it’s not that bad.

One last thought.

Yes, we’re all human. I know that to be human is to be broken. As Brandi often tells me, the Bible is the story of imperfect, finite human beings trying to relate to a perfect, infinite God. And I know that Sean Harris isn’t really a bad guy. Neither is Billy Graham. Both of them are people who have dedicated their lives to doing a very difficult job, and they are my brothers in the Body of Christ.

But here’s the thing – part of a brother’s job is to tell people when they are being an asshole. It’s especially important now, because all those little kids who might get their wrist “cracked” because it was “limp”, they’re my brothers and sisters, too. And I love them just as much.

So, Pastor Sean Harris – I love you, brother, but you have some reading to do.

You can start right here.

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About Daniel Mitchell

50% of "What the Faith?!?!", a blog about two skeptics who turned to God for no apparent reason. View all posts by Daniel Mitchell

47 responses to “Yeah, today’s the day.

  • Rebekah Grace

    “I’m not upset because he’s just some asshole. I’m upset because he’s an asshole pastor.” – THAT had me literally laughing out loud and banging my fist on my computer desk. Thanks for the Friday evenin gigglefest – I’m always up for a laugh!!

    Just read in Donald Miller’s book, Searching for God Knows What:

    “Jesus was not afraid of controversy, of revealing the worth of those considered worthless. The modern-day equivalent (of the Good Samaritan story) might be to tell a story to a group of conservative evangelicals about a plurist, liberal homosexual who heroically stops to help a stranded traveler after a preacher, a Republican, and a Christian writer have passed him by.”

    • Daniel Mitchell

      I LOVE that line. That’s the only Donald Miller book I’ve read, and I LOVE it.

      Glad I made you laugh! 😉 It’s a subject that makes me a little peeved, and if I didn’t laugh, I’d explode. Or cry.

  • wildgoose558

    I guess my response from yesterday didn’t post I just said it was a brave bold post on a difficult subject.

    But now I have a minute to elaborate. I read the pamphlet and I appreciate his scholarship. I’m still not sure that the bible is as fast and loose with homosexuality as the author implies, but I do agree and have long agreed that homosexuality is just an easy target for pharisees who seem to want to rank sins according to their own tastes and not according to the heart of God, as it is revealed in the scriptures. Of course, judgement and ultimate judgement are rights that God reserves to himself and so … ding … people who are judging their brethren are sinning by judging their brethren.

    Assuming for the purposes of argument, if nothing else, that homosexual acts are sin, then why are we all working so hard to outlaw THAT sin and not others. Why aren’t people working to target adultery and divorce? Why not ban drunkenness? Why not outlaw pornography – you know, put a Constitutional amendment on the ballot – after all, it causes people to sin by having lust in their hearts. The reason that these and more widespread and “popular” other sins are not targeted by the so-called fundamentalists is that, as you say, they find homosexuality icky. Also, if they can spend a lot of time and effort and money and resources avoiding dealing with their own sins.

    • Daniel Mitchell

      Talk to me, Goose! Hehehehe. Sorry.

      But on a serious note. . . I agree that Mel White’s article isn’t a “one-two” punch that knocks out the idea that homosexuality is sinful. What it DOES do, for me, is show that the evidence on both sides of the argument – sinful or not sinful – is circumstantial at best. Where the Bible isn’t 100% clear, we need to treat this question like we’ve treated other large questions (such as the role of women in leadership), and that way is through prayer, meditation on scripture, intelligent conversation, open dialogue, willingness to grow if growth is called for, and love for all human beings. If I can do nothing else with this article, I would like to dispel the idea that the Bible is crystal clear against homosexuality.

      And yes, I do agree that if homosexuality IS a sin, it’s definitely treated differently that other sins. I’m glad to see I’m not the only one who thinks that!

      Thanks for joining the conversation, my friend. Blessings for you, dude.

  • Tom Henderson

    Kudos to you for tackling this subject. I’ve been silently reading all your blog posts with great interest and I have to say you’re really thinking things out. Sadly I can’t seem to get any of the pamphlet links to work but I’ll try again tomorrow.

    Reading your spiritual journey as you experience it is incredibly interesting (off topic I know but I’m going to claim I have typing ADD or something). To see you chiming in on this subject that’s so touchy while you grow spiritually is both brave and awesome.

    As for that pastor talking about cracked wrists, even if the bible WAS clearly in his favor stating that homosexuality is a sin(Which I don’t believe to be the case) he should be ashamed of how he voiced it.

    • Daniel Mitchell

      Hey, Tom. I knew you were lurking around here somewhere!

      If you can’t get those links to work, just Google “Mel White What does the Bible say about homosexuality” and it’ll come up. It’s a great pamphlet, very thought-provoking info in there.

      What really bugs me most about that Pastor Sean Harris in NC is that his apology wasn’t really an apology. “I’m sorry I offended anyone” isn’t the same as “I’m sorry I said stupid shit.” He’s not sorry he said that, he’s just sorry that some peoples’ feelings were hurt by his words. Not the same.

  • Craig

    “And I know that Sean Harris isn’t really a bad guy. Neither is Billy Graham.”

    Actually: yes, they are. Overt religiosity does not provide a “get out of arsehole free” pass. What Harris and Graham are doing is causing real harm to real people, right now. They deserve to carry the judgement for that.

    • Daniel Mitchell

      Dammit, I had a big response to this, and WordPress ate it. Lemme try this again.

      First off, hi Craig!

      Secondly, it’s possible that Sean Harris and Billy Graham ARE bad people. I don’t feel that I know them well enough to judge the entirety of their character. I like to give people the benefit of the doubt – it’s possible that they are entirely ignorant of the arguments against the sin nature of homosexuality – arguments popularized by Rev. Mel White, and linked a bunch of times in my article. If they are practicing theologians then I have some room to doubt that, but still, it could happen.

      It’s possible that, in giving them some benefit of the doubt, I chose my words poorly. Perhaps I should have said “maybe they aren’t bad guys” instead of “I know they’re not bad guys.” That’s poor writing, and that’s on me.

      Another point is that, while I’m pissed off at these guys, I’m not going to “hate” them into change. So far as I know, nobody changes because of hate alone. People might be PRESSURED to change, but I don’t know that there are enough people within the Christian community (the only community these two gents will recognize) that hold opinions similar to mine to make a pressure to change effective. That said, I can hold some small hope that love in the spirit of correction accomplish what hate can’t. That’s unlikely, honestly, but I have to try something.

      And either way, these guys are being assholes. Let’s call a spade a spade.

      Thanks for joining the conversation, Craig!

  • weofui

    Excellent post; both informative and well written. Here on the other side of the religious fence the focus is often so centered on fundamentalists and extremists that reasoned moderates get lost in the shuffle. I’ll be reminding my readers that such individuals exist by sharing your post (I found it through the Rock Beyond Belief blog), and encouraging others to do the same.

    Keep up the good work. 🙂

    • Daniel Mitchell

      Hey, that’s awesome of you to say! Thanks so much!

      To be honest, when I became a Christian, I was stunned to find out that reasoned moderate Christians existed – I thought I was creating a new thing. There are truly more of us than one might think, and I have a feeling that as our generation comes into our own (I’m in my early thirties) you’re going to see more and more of us. We grew up with the Internet, after all – the kind of inbred, isolated community mindset that encourages most of the negative traits found in the evangelical community is hard to maintain when you are able to build relationships with people all over the world.

  • kafoodie

    While I appreciate that you call Harris an asshole, it is merely what any non-asshole should do…nothing heroic or revelatory there as some seem to believe.

    However, I do take issue with your rationale for disagreeing with Harris. You use the bible to try and convince readers that striking a child is wrong. Really? Do you Christians really need to have the bible tell you that hitting a child or breaking their wrist is wrong?

    Unintentionally, I’m sure, you are an enabler of assholes like Harris. You insist that interpreting the bible is a valid method of determining morality…empathy and reason be damned. That is exactly the same rationale Harris uses to determine that beating children is morally right…he just interprets the same book in a different way. Why should anyone consider your interpretation any more valid than Harris’s?

    What you’re really doing, although you seem loathe to admit it, is cherry picking those parts of the bible that don’t offend your evolved empathy and reason thereby indicating you don’t need the damn book of myths in the first place. Morality should be determined by thinking, empathetic people. Sure, determining right and wrong can be a messy business but most of us can get it mostly right most of the time. Hell, I’ve been an atheist for years and I know for sure that beating a child is wrong and I will never be convinced otherwise no matter what your damn book says.

    • Daniel Mitchell

      Hey man (or woman, robot, intelligent plant, etc.)! Thanks for responding. 🙂 This is a very meaty response, so if you don’t mind, I’m going to break it up into bite-sized pieces.

      “While I appreciate that you call Harris an asshole, it is merely what any non-asshole should do…nothing heroic or revelatory there as some seem to believe.”

      Yep. Agreed.

      “However, I do take issue with your rationale for disagreeing with Harris. You use the bible to try and convince readers that striking a child is wrong.”

      Actually, I don’t think I addressed the “child striking” issue in my post. If I am mis-remembering, I blame being at work. Please accept my apologies! But I’m pretty sure my post is more my take on a different Biblical argument regarding homosexuality. Which leads quite nicely into your next point.

      “You insist that interpreting the bible is a valid method of determining morality…empathy and reason be damned.”

      Actually, no I’m not. In fact, very few modern theologians believe that the Bible is the last word on morality. This is evidenced by churches that are lead by women in leadership (which is spoken against by the Apostle Paul), as well as by a universal Christian abhorrence of slavery (which is not condemned anywhere in the Bible, except in the case of the Israelites being enslaved). Many modern Christians understand the Bible in a different way than their predecessors. I have been engaging Christ for less than a year, but before that, I lived a remarkably moral life by many standards, all without the direct aid of the scripture.

      “What you’re really doing, although you seem loathe to admit it, is cherry picking those parts of the bible that don’t offend your evolved empathy and reason thereby indicating you don’t need the damn book of myths in the first place.”

      A couple of things here.

      1) No, I don’t need the book to define my morality. You’re right.

      2) It’s not cherry picking to correct bad information. For instance, when the Apostle Paul wrote, he never used any of the common words for “homosexual” that existed in ancient Greek. Considering what we know of Paul and his mastery of ancient Greek, it means that the two words he did use (“malakos”, which usually means “soft”, and “arsenokoitai” which is a made-up word that is a combination of “man” and “beds”) should not be assumed to mean “homosexual,” as has been commonly done. Surely a rational skeptic can see the difference between cherry picking and clarifying?

      3) If I am cherry picking out of the Old Testament – and I assume you mean the Old Testament laws – that would imply that I was keeping some. That’s not the case. If a law in the OT does not make any sense, or if it conflicts with my morality, or if the law only had relevancy in the context of the ancient Israelites, I don’t abide by it. Neither do most Christians. TRUE cherry picking is to use the Levitical code against homosexuality as the word of God while ignoring all the other Levitical codes – which is what I am arguing against.

      If I can sum up your argument in a general way, and I apologize if I am wrong here, it would be, “You used the Bible to make a moral/ethical point, and that’s stupid.” I don’t know. That’s possible. But let me offer a thought in response. The Bible is a tool – it’s used be some people, and mis-used by others (many, many, many others), but it itself is neither good nor bad. If I am misrepresenting the Bible to make an ethical point, that’s an abuse. If I am trying to add information regarding the interpretation of a book that is almost two-thousand years old, that’s just part of the academic process. If anything, I am trying to use facts to counter an interpretation I believe to be incorrect. And if that’s a bit messy, well, isn’t it always?

      Another thought on the “Using the Bible for morality is stupid” argument – do you reasonably suspect that the Christian community is going to stop reading the Bible and using it as a rule book? I think the former use is AWESOME. I think the latter use is destructive when mis-understood, and out-dated with regards to some subject matter. If I thought that the Bible clearly condemned homosexuality, I would make my point (namely, “Homosexuality is fine, calm down”) another way. The fact is that I don’t HAVE to do that, so I chose to engage my argument in such a way as to have the greatest possible impact on the people who need to hear it the most.

      Thanks for joining the conversation. Have a great one!

      • kafoodie

        My point, which you seem to echo, is that the bible has nothing relevant to say about morality. Now, if you were just using the bible as a tool to convince those who cannot be convinced it is nonsense, then fine. But you indicate that you think that bible is, in some weird way I don’t quite comprehend, somehow indicative of what god wants. That’s what I really take issue with. There is no evidence that a god exists, even less evidence that the Christian god exists and very clear evidence that the bible is a book of myth written by ignorant (by today’s standards) men in an attempt to explain the world and control their societies.
        As to your point that you were talking about homosexuality rather than child abuse as you spoke about what the bible said…point taken. But, what the bible says about homosexuality is as irrelevant as what it says about child abuse (which it is often cited to condone).

      • Daniel Mitchell

        Well, it seems like your argument is really more against Christianity and its relationship to the Bible, as well as its relationship to a God that Christians believe in, than anything else. To address this point. . .

        “But you indicate that you think that bible is, in some weird way I don’t quite comprehend, somehow indicative of what god wants. That’s what I really take issue with. There is no evidence that a god exists, even less evidence that the Christian god exists and very clear evidence that the bible is a book of myth written by ignorant (by today’s standards) men in an attempt to explain the world and control their societies.”

        . . . I’m going to copy and paste a sentiment I shared, via email, with Justin Griffith.

        “I will admit that the process that led to me leaving agnosticism for faith is entirely personal and anecdotal, and my reasons for believing in a God cannot be empirically proven. They are also not particularly convincing, from the standpoint of traditional Christian apologetics. They are, simply, my own reasons, and were found sufficiently convincing for myself.”

        If God could be empirically proven, I doubt atheism would exist. What you’re elaborating on is the gulf between the conviction of a theist and the conviction of an atheist. If I had an answer that bridged that gap, I wouldn’t be writing for a tiny little WordPress blog – I’d be raking in the fat dough that (I hope and assume) awesome philosophical arguments (should but don’t) produce. Instead, I’ll say this – theists and atheists disagree about God, and there isn’t a silver bullet argument to change one stance into the other. Furthermore, the purpose of my blog isn’t to even pretend that I know that silver bullet argument, and if I (or my wife, who also co-writes the blog with me) gave off this impression in any way, we apologize for the lack of clarity.

        So to be completely clear, I don’t know that the Bible is a rule book, but my personal conviction is that it is an important book for Christians to read. That may be loony, but part of my own faith experience has been that the universe doesn’t always make sense. I understand that you probably don’t feel that same way, which is awesome – God loves all kinds. My faith in the existence of God is not threatened by anyone’s faith in the non-existence of God.

        That said, there are times when nothing else will do but to say “I respectfully disagree”. And really, as long as we can leave a conversation like that still willing to hang out and share some microbrews afterward, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that.

      • Daniel Mitchell

        Well, it seems like your argument is really more against Christianity and its relationship to the Bible, as well as its relationship to a God that Christians believe in, than anything else. To address this point. . .

        “But you indicate that you think that bible is, in some weird way I don’t quite comprehend, somehow indicative of what god wants. That’s what I really take issue with. There is no evidence that a god exists, even less evidence that the Christian god exists and very clear evidence that the bible is a book of myth written by ignorant (by today’s standards) men in an attempt to explain the world and control their societies.”

        . . . I’m going to copy and paste a sentiment I shared, via email, with Justin Griffith.

        “I will admit that the process that led to me leaving agnosticism for faith is entirely personal and anecdotal, and my reasons for believing in a God cannot be empirically proven. They are also not particularly convincing, from the standpoint of traditional Christian apologetics. They are, simply, my own reasons, and were found sufficiently convincing for myself.”

        If God could be empirically proven, I doubt atheism would exist. What you’re elaborating on is the gulf between the conviction of a theist and the conviction of an atheist. If I had an answer that bridged that gap, I wouldn’t be writing for a tiny little WordPress blog – I’d be raking in the fat dough that (I hope and assume) awesome philosophical arguments (should but don’t) produce. Instead, I’ll say this – theists and atheists disagree about God, and there isn’t a silver bullet argument to change one stance into the other. Furthermore, the purpose of my blog isn’t to even pretend that I know that silver bullet argument, and if I (or my wife, who also co-writes the blog with me) gave off this impression in any way, we apologize for the lack of clarity.

        So to be completely clear, I don’t know that the Bible is a rule book, but my personal conviction is that it is an important book for Christians to read. That may be loony, but part of my own faith experience has been that the universe doesn’t always make sense. I understand that you probably don’t feel that same way, which is awesome – God loves all kinds. My faith in the existence of God is not threatened by anyone’s faith in the non-existence of God.

        That said, there are times when nothing else will do but to say “I respectfully disagree”. And really, as long as we can leave a conversation like that still willing to hang out and share some microbrews afterward, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that.

      • kafoodie

        Similarly, my faith in the non-existence of god is not threatened by anyone’s faith in the existence of god. Unfortunately, my freedom along with the freedom and safety of others is very often threatened by others’ faith in the existence of god. That’s why I challenge even seemingly nice and harmless believers like you. Saying that believing in things without any evidence, particularly things that determine your morality, is acceptable validates others who think this way but are neither nice nor harmless.

      • Daniel Mitchell

        “Saying that believing in things without any evidence, particularly things that determine your morality, is acceptable validates others who think this way but are neither nice nor harmless.”

        It sounds like you’re general argument here is “faith is dangerous.” I would counter that faith, as a human motivator, is powerful, and all power can be abused.

        I’m not really going to enter into a debate over whether atheism or theism is best – that’s too subjective a question. My personal take is that some bad people are theists, and some bad people are atheists, and we should always be on our guard to curb the influence of all bad people on our lives, regardless of their self-justifications for being bad.

      • kafoodie

        Yes, I am saying that faith is bad. People make better decisions if they have correct information…wouldn’t you agree? Faith (i.e. belief without evidence or in the face of evidence against) is bad…or at the very least unreliable…information. I want my moral choices to be the best they can possibly be so I rely on the evidence to provide me with the closest I can get to truth.
        Also, believing in a morality laid down by a supreme being results in a totally arbitrary morality; “god says X is good and Y is bad so that’s the way it is”. What did god base this decision on?
        I contend that the best morality arises from our evolved empathy and reason. It just feels bad to hurt others and some actions can be shown to do harm to people…that’s generally how morality should be arrived at. As I wrote before, this can be messy. Sometimes any available course of action results in harm to someone…these are the moral dilemmas we have to navigate our way through…such is life. At least when I think I’m acting morally I can defend my actions rationally and explain why it is the best course of action. Saying “it’s good because it says in this here book that’s it’s good” just doesn’t cut it. That kind of thinking can justify any atrocity. “Good people will do good things and bad people will do bad things but for good people to do bad things, that takes religion”- Steven Weinberg.

      • Daniel Mitchell

        Fair enough. 🙂 On the subject of faith, let us agree to disagree. But more importantly, let us continue to be on the lookout for bad people of all convictions who want to hurt us as people and as a society. And should we find people who are doing harm, let us take all the steps in our power to encourage them to stop. This, aside from all else, was the point of my original post.

        Thanks for a lively conversation!

  • b4rJ4sf2

    And, despite my earlier bitching: I am extremely grateful that you posted this.

    The key factor in the maintenance of extremist Christian bigotry has been the silence of Christian moderates.

    Thank you for valuing what is right above tribal loyalty.

    • Craig

      That was me; I put something unintended into the “name” field, and your duplicate-posting prevention is stopping me from fixing it. If you can, either delete the post or change the name to Craig. Thanks…

    • Daniel Mitchell

      Hey, no problem. You said, “The key factor in the maintenance of extremist Christian bigotry has been the silence of Christian moderates.” And I agree one million percent. That’s why this blog exists.

  • qitty1

    Thank you for this! We need more thinking, caring Christians. 🙂 I am not Christian, I prefer paganism, but I am a believer. Doesn’t matter, in my opinion, the details that we believe in, just that we hold God in our hearts and behave in a proper, humane, and civil manner. Our religions should help us do that. We are tool users, religion is a tool – but, tools can be abused as easily as used properly and, like guns or any other item of power, all it takes is a handful of wrongs to bring condemnation down on all.

    • Daniel Mitchell

      Hi there! I’m glad you liked the post. I actually spent several years as a neo-pagan in my high school days and I have the pentacle tattoo to prove it. 😉

      Let me quote something you said.

      “We are tool users, religion is a tool – but, tools can be abused as easily as used properly and, like guns or any other item of power, all it takes is a handful of wrongs to bring condemnation down on all.”

      As we Xtians say, amen to that.

      Thanks for joining the conversation! 😀

  • B-Lar

    That was classy. I reckon you should see some more hits soon…

    • Daniel Mitchell

      This may be the first time I’ve been accused of being classy! 😉

      Hits are welcome, if only to get the conversation going. I just hope I don’t keep people waiting too long for moderation – I’m a work! Being paid to blog is still in the “dream” category.

      • B-Lar

        Conversation is mightier than the sword, and I hope that we all see more of it. Your style is fresh, free of rhetoric (which as we know is the antithesis of conversation), and is littered with honest expression. It is that honesty which will bring the hits. I high-five you from afar.

      • Daniel Mitchell

        I will see your high five from afar and raise you an imaginary man-hug, complete with ethereal back-slapping. Unless you’re a woman. In which case, I’ll take it easy on the back-slapping.

        Seriously, those are very kinds words. Thank you!

  • Jim

    Hi Mr. Mitchell. I think you should know that Kafoodie left a comment under another name over at freethoughtblogs. He had this to say:

    >Mitchell is really just cherry picking those biblical passages and interpretations that don’t offend his reason and empathy while ignoring those that do, thereby proving he doesn’t need the damn book in the first place, but **he’s too brainwashed to even realize it**

    I thought you should see both comments, in the name of science, of course.

    • Daniel Mitchell

      Hey Jim. Welcome to the chat! 😀

      I don’t mind people assuming I’m brainwashed. I used to assume that Christians were brainwashed as well. While it’s an inaccurate judgement in my case – I’m in my early thirties and I’ve been Christian for less than a year, so barring some pretty intensive, MK Ultra-type-stuff I think I’m safe – some fault lies on the Christian community for being, sometimes, kinda, maybe a little bit brainwashed. It was a criticism I held against them for decades. In many ways, I still hold it – I just don’t blame God for it.

      As my wife and I always say, the proof of the pudding is in its eating. If I’m brainwashed, I’ll show myself to be in ways more conclusive that those mentioned above. Stick around and see!

      • kafoodie

        I stand by both my comments which basically say the same thing. Just so no one thinks I’m being sneaky by using two “handles”, kafoodie is the one under which my wordpress blog is registered so I was automatically signed in to this one with that name. FreeThoughtBlogs, despite being wordpress, does not recognize my kafoodie sign in so I had to make a new one.
        Just thought I’d clear that up.

  • Roxane

    I’ve wondered why liberal and moderate Christians have been allowing their right wing to run the table (and drive me from mild-mannered agnosticism to angry atheism in the process). It’s good to know that there are a few people who are willing to get up on their hind legs in defense of the Christian brand.

    • Daniel Mitchell

      Hey Roxane! Thanks for joining the conversation.

      I’ve wondered the same thing most of my life (which was mostly a skeptical, non-Christian life). Now that I’m part of the “community”, as it were, I’m not “willing” to face this stuff, I feel obligated.

  • wildgoose558

    I’m not so sure that I come down in the moderate camp. I reject situational morality and moral relativisim. The thing is that the folks who are “labeled” by themself or others as fundamentalists are almost always moral relativists. Oh, heck, maybe we all are. But I think that if we are going to operate in the world as believers in the bible and the heart and will of God for people as expressed in the scripture then we should do it across the board. I disagree with those who are screeching about the impact of gay marriage on families and NOT screeching about divorce or lust or greed (just a few of the things that Jesus DID talk about). I think that some of them are just mistaken and I think that some are mean-spirited, while others might just be ignorant. So if that’s what a moderate is, then maybe I am moderate.

    I think that there is a legitimate debate about the clarity of the bible in addressing homosexuality as sin. You know, maybe that would be a better argument for truth seeking Christians to engage in and “render unto Caesar what is Caesars” in terms of codifying an anti-gay Theocracy in the US with these amendments.

    And … as my Grandma used to say “you catch more flies with honey than with vinegar.” We do Christ and the Message no service by alienating seekers whatever sin (or lifestyle) they are into. Ultimately we are all imperfect and need to be spending time plucking the plank out of our own eye rather than the speck out of our neighors.” Again, that’s something that Jesus DID for sure tell us to do.

    • Daniel Mitchell

      Welcome back, Goose.

      I think the definition of “moderate” in this context is just to contrast someone with any kind of extremism – in this case, a moderate is the opposite of a fundamentalist. Moderates, in this usage, are people who are self-aware, humble, open to conversation, compassionate, and willing to admit to their limitations. Or something similar to that. I call myself a moderate (or at least don’t contradict those who do – it doesn’t come up all that often for me) because I’m not a fundamentalist. . . and it seems to me, if you’re attempting to join a national conversation about Christianity, you’re kind of one or the other.

      And you’re right – maybe we’re moral relativists, to one extent or another. But that doesn’t make or break a moderate. In my opinion, fundamentalists aren’t just moral relativists – they’re people who feel a need to set the world according to their moral standard.

      That’s just plain wrong.

  • jojo

    great post!

    so how would you have voted with regards to amendment one? what if it were an amendment to legalize same-sex marriage in the state (since it was already illegal for 2 dudes or 2 ladies to get married there BEFORE this amendment was even drafted)?

    • Daniel Mitchell

      Thanks! Welcome to the conversation!

      Sounds like you’ve got two questions, really. 1) How would I have voted in regards to Amendment One, as it is written? I’d vote against it. In my opinion, it’s a sloppily-written, unnecessary, and divisive piece of legislation. 2) Would I vote for an amendment to legalize same-sex marriage? I would. To me, the question (from a legal standpoint) is a matter of equal rights. Churches have the freedom to chose not to practice gay marriage within their congregations, or to talk against homosexuality and homosexual unions ’till the cows come home. That’s their right. From a civil rights perspective, I believe people who chose to engage in homosexual unions are due the same rights and protections as heterosexuals.

      Also, on a personal note, I think that the homosexual community NEEDS to be allowed – even encouraged – to get married. I’ve had many, many homosexual friends over the years (a big part of why I have feelings on the issue) and a few of them fell into a cycle of promiscuity that I thought was dangerous and unhealthy. I have no problem with people engaging in sexual intercourse with people of the same gender – but in general, I think they should do so maturely and responsibly, and the most mature and responsible way to engage in sexual activity is through the union of marriage. But this opinion is 100% my own, and the opinions expressed in this blog are not necessarily the opinions of anyone but myself and my wife Brandi. 😀

  • wildgoose558

    Daniel (and Brandi)

    Would you be actively encouraging your heterosexual friends to get married rather than engage in a life of promiscuity? I guess I know a lot of people are into seeking satisfaction through casual sex or even serial monogamy. Just saying that ending promiscuity is not a big reason for supporting gay marriage on my part. I would argue for gay marriage as a civic institution as just being the right thing to do. Atheists, Muslims, Jews, Buddhists and whomever else does not share my faith, but I don’t have any place to condemn them for getting married.

    Christians who are certain that gay marriage is not sinful should have the right to marry homosexuals in their churches. And the government should really be there to rubber stamp these marriages not to decide if they are valid or not. Now, if a gay couple wanted to get married in our church, I would not support that. Or, I’d have to get a lot more explanation about why Gay Marriage is biblical. I have not seen or heard of any gay marriages in the Bible. The discussions of homosexuality are, as you stated and referenced in your post, almost always about something else: Rape, lust, gluttony and etc. So the bible seems fairly mute on the institution of gay marriage. I personally WISH that it said something more. And I WISH that the bible sad that gay marriage was on equal footing with heterosexual marriage, but I don’t think it does. I also wish that God would make me rich, too, but that is just not his will (for now) as revealed.

    (I also agree that the posting on this blog is a bit confusing. I have a gravatar but it seems like that doesn’t register right or something. So some places I am Wildgoose, some I am WildGoose558 and some I am me. But that’s a pretty low level problem. By and large your blog is great and keep it up! )

    • Daniel Mitchell

      First, on the Gravatar – it IS a bit confusing. I only just realized who you are yesterday, as a matter of fact! Now the secret is out, so I’m less confused. 😉

      I also want to say that I really appreciate your honesty in this conversation. And I appreciate the philosophical plight that you’re experiencing on this subject, because I believe it’s very common. Now, you’ve been doing this Christian thing longer than I have, so I have no basis for attempting to give any advice on the subject. I do, however, have an opinion which, right or wrong, might be relevant to the conversation.

      My opinion is this – when deciding what God approves or disapproves of, the Biblical take on it should be the BEGINNING of the conversation, not the end. Nobody, for instance, uses the Bible as an instruction manual for meteorology, or dermatology, or international finance. Some things the Bible does not address head-on. The level of information available to the writers of the Bible is not the same as the level of information available today. So we can’t expect that the Bible will say something SPECIFICALLY about every subject we encounter. Homosexuality, as defined by a fundamental sexual identity that many people are born with and cannot change, was not even theorized until the mid-1800’s. So the Biblical take on homosexuality (which, when it was written, was linked to rape, and degradation, when it wasn’t linked to the prostitution of little boys or pagan worship practices) is not based on a modern understanding. So instead of looking to the Bible for specifics of the law, I look to Jesus for the Spirit (capital intended) of the law. The Bible will never be thick enough to address every modern concern with specifics, but Jesus’ words give us a FRAMEWORK by which we can answer moral quandaries. When Jesus came, he left two specific instructions – 1) Love God with all of your heart, mind, and spirit. 2) Love your neighbor. When I try to decide if something is okay with God, I put it that test. Now, “Love God” is something that only YOU can do – in other words, YOU make sure that YOU love God, and that mandate is on all of us as individuals. Jesus didn’t say “Make sure your neighbor loves God.” So I do not see any room in Jesus’ words for anyone, Christian or otherwise, deciding who can get married. It just doesn’t seem to happen. But keeping two people who are deeply in love, who want to raise a family, who want to build a house together, who want to plant a garden together, who want to honor God together, who want to hold hands in front of their friends and family and Jesus Christ and say, “I will never leave you, for richer or for poorer, so long as I shall live” – keeping those two people from getting married seems very, very, very far from loving my neighbor. And God isn’t cool with me doing that. In my head, I picture Jesus shaking his head, face-palming, and saying, “GUYS! Seriously! I gave you TWO RULES! Can’t you handle TWO RULES?”

      On another note, a similar conversation – doing something that is a subject of social and societal pressure but isn’t supported by the Bible – has already taken place, and the Body of Christ can use that example as a precedent, clearly supported by the Holy Spirit, of how we can act in a Godly manner in lieu of direct Biblical commandment. This example is the abolition of slavery. The Bible provides one example of condemning slavery – when it was a condition afflicting the Israelites. Aside from that, you won’t see any writer, Old or New Testament, saying that slavery should be abolished. In the decades before the American Civil War, this conversation WAS happening, and it was a debate that invoked so much passion, it makes the gay marriage question look like a disagreement between two friends about where they should eat dinner.

      In your comment, you said, “And I WISH that the bible sad that gay marriage was on equal footing with heterosexual marriage, but I don’t think it does.”

      Well, a lot of people on the fence about the slavery question felt the same way. To be sure, some preachers supported slavery because it was to their benefit – maybe they owned slaves, or they loved their Southern state and slavery was just part of its identity. But some maintained that slavery was Biblical just because, well, the Bible didn’t say it wasn’t. And while some could argue that the Bible is against God’s people being enslaved, nobody ever freed an African American slave just because they came to Jesus. I’m sure there were people who shared your concerns. I imagine some people said, “Look, I’ve heard the arguments against slavery, and personally I don’t mind if we abolish it, but I’m afraid of defying God – I wish the Bible was clearer on slavery.” But the Bible does NOT condemn slavery, and we still moved on as a society and took the undeniably Godly stand of freeing all Americans from bondage.

      The reason I site this example specifically is because I 100% believe that, historically, the issue of homosexuality in the church is going to be viewed in the same light. I believe that homosexual love and gay marriage do not violate the only two laws that Jesus specifically left us before He died – but that opposing them does, in fact, violate one of those rules. In the interest of living a Godly life in a world that requires a little tolerance for ambiguity (in the Bible and otherwise) I support gay marriage, especially in my church.

      Also, it was a smaller throw-away question you asked at the beginning of your comment, but I do want to answer your question – would I encourage my heterosexual friends to leave a life of promiscuity and get married? My answer is yes. I don’t feel that promiscuity is emotionally healthy. It’s also, medically, a high-risk lifestyle. What I want is to live in a country where I can give my heterosexual AND homosexual friends the same advice.

  • Veronica M. Surges (@jurisdoctorette)

    Long time no comment (work’s taken over my life this semester and I’ve been slowlyyyyy catching up on your posts). I don’t have time at the moment to read all of the responses above, but wanted to throw out a blog you might like: gcnjustin.tumblr.com. It’s the personal blog of the director of the Gay Christian Network, and this guy exemplifies being Christ-like better than anyone I’ve seen – and has quite a few Biblical resources. Now, I honestly don’t know where I stand on whether I believe homosexuality is a sin or not. I understand the arguments for and against on both sides. What I DO know is that it’s not an issue for me personally. I’ll love someone as much if they’re gay as if they’re straight and I never want that to get in the way of my relationship with someone.

    • Daniel Mitchell

      Heyyyy, Vee! Nice to hear from you again! I’ll definitely check out that resource. Thanks for bringing it to my attention. 🙂

      I think that my personal inability to stop poking at the question of homosexuality as a sin (like a sore tooth) is a larger question of whether or not a church should allow an actively gay member into a position of leadership. If homosexuality is a sin, then someone practicing it actively shouldn’t be leading. If it’s not a sin, then it’s obviously a non-issue. So I think that if I were to take a step back and just focus on how *I* feel about it, it wouldn’t really be something that takes up so much of my attention.

      Welcome back to the blog. 🙂

      • kafoodie

        You seriously can’t decide if something is morally right or wrong on your own? It’s a pretty simple process really. Ask yourself: Is anyone being being forced to do anything against their will? Is someone other than the person taking the action being hurt by the action. If no, then it is not morally wrong (i.e. not a sin). Simple, eh?
        Sure, this is a simplification because sometimes someone is harmed by any action that is available…then you have to try and minimize harm.
        Even more simply put: Moral actions are those that seek to minimize harm to people and maximize people’s happiness. Obviously, homosexual acts between consenting adults are, by this criteria, moral. Any act anyone takes which reduces the freedom (and, therefore the happiness) of homosexuals without clearly demonstrating an overwhelming benefit to others is an immoral act.

      • Daniel Mitchell

        Actually, I was a moral person before I came to religion, and that was less than a year ago. The context of this particular conversation is biblical. You may not agree that it’s a context that is valid, and I respect that opinion – but it IS the context. My feelings on homosexuality have not changed, and my personal feelings have always been that there is nothing wrong with it. However, this is a faith blog, and the writers of this faith blog are Christian. Christians talk about the bible.

        To wit, being angry that Christians keep talking about the bible is like being angry that athletes keep exercising – you should expect that they’re going to, even if you don’t want to do it yourself, and getting upset about it is just kind of silly.

        If you’re interested in a more general conversation about the merits (or lack thereof) of using ANY scripture as a source of morality, I’m happy to move that conversation offline. You can email me at “arcanazero2@gmail.com”. However, this conversation seems to be going further afield from the subject of this particular blog post, which is a different BIBLICAL take on homosexuality. This post is not meant to compare/contrast theism with atheism. If that post ever happens (and it certainly might) then this debate would be welcome, even encouraged, within that context.

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