Monthly Archives: November 2012

Patty Rob shatters my brain and other type musings.

Today, November 29th, 2012, Pat Robertson challenged creationism.

What. The. Fuck?

Now, I’m not complaining that a famously conservative man of God argued against Young Earth Creationism – I’m just confused. My world view has taken a heavy blow to the head. Confusion aside, I think it’s great. I am convinced that the cultural gulf between people of science and people of religion is both harmful and unnecessary,  so it tickles my tummy to see a conservative media power like Pat Robertson suggest that dinosaurs could have existed in a Created world.

Still, that sense of living in a world where nothing makes sense. . . lingers.

 

Pat Robertson – Taking unpredictable stances since November 29, 2012.

 

All kidding aside (“Just joshing ya, Patty Rob.”), Robertson did manage to say something that struck a nervous note in my stomach. After taking a question submitted by a 700 Club viewer who was worried that her family might go to hell for questioning Creationism, Robertson responded by discrediting James Ussher, a former Archbishop of Ireland and the man who is credited with creating the 6- to 10-thousand year existential time frame that underlies Young Earth Creationism. According to Pat, Ussher, “wasn’t inspired by the Lord when he said that it all took 6,000 years.”

 

Pat Robertson – Pointing out the obvious since November 29, 2012.

 

My first thought, after reading those words, was, “Well, yeah. Obviously.”

My second thought, after reading those words, was, “Holy shit, people really thought that crap was Holy Spirit inspired.”

After a nervous internal pause, my third thought was, “How does anyone ever know if what they think is the Holy Spirit upon them is. . . actually the Holy Spirit upon them?

This question makes me nervous, to be honest, because it’s the hardest question I’ve had to confront since I left the safety of skepticism to embrace faith. My quandary can be summed up thusly:

When two or more parties disagree on any given point, and all parties involved are convinced that the Holy Spirit is guiding them to a conclusion that reflects God’s will, how do we know who is right?

 

In the Old Testament, such questions were answered by the theological equivalent of a West Side Story Jets/Sharks rumble – a good, ol’ fashioned Miracle Fight. Each side would throw down some deific kung fu, and the side with the most impressive magic was the winner (spoiler: it was God).

 

YHVH – Winning Miracle Fights since the Big Bang.

 

Since the Miracle Fight doesn’t seem to be an option these days, the question lacks a clear-cut answer. For years, my rational-skeptic mindset provided me with a comfortingly simple explanation for this question. In my mind, neither party was right. In fact, because both parties believed that they were getting orders from on high, it showed a dangerous mental deficiency, and it would really be better for everyone involved if someone a little more emotionally stable took the reins.

A part of me still wishes I could take the easy way out and just assume that nobody gets inspired by the Holy Spirit, but the fact of the matter is that I have been changed by personal experience that teaches me the fallacy of simple answers. That goes for almost all simple answers, by the way – so someone saying, “I’m right because God told me I am right” is, for better or for worse, just as unconvincing as “neither side is right because there is no God.”

I’ve heard that scripture is the answer to this quandary – the person who is right will be the person whose position is supported by scripture, end of story. This worked wonders for the anti-abolitionists preachers of the American pre-war South. In fact, according to a famous sermon given by Georgian minister Joseph Ruggles Wilson,

Now, we have already seen that the Holy Spirit employs words which He has intended to be understood as distinctly enunciating the existence of domestic servitude–that He has sent to all the world a volume of truth, which is indisputably addressed to men who hold slaves and to the slaves who possess masters–and that, from the connections in which these highly suggestive words occur, He has included slavery as an organizing element in that family order which lies at the very foundation of Church and State.”

See that? The Holy Spirit gives us words which tell us that slavery is okay!  But what would happen if a Christian abolitionist felt compelled (by the same Holy Spirit) to declare that slavery was against God’s will? The two people couldn’t both be hearing the voice of God giving His will, could they? Well, if the question is to be settled by scripture, the abolitionist has a much harder case to present. The fact is, the argument that God supports slavery has some pretty strong support in both the Old Testament (Exo 21:2-6, Lev 25:44-46)  and the new (Eph 6:5, 1 Tim 6:1-2). And if you ask people who right now are arguing against gay marriage, a common reasoning for their stance is that homosexuality is prohibited in both the OT and NT.

And yet, I am thoroughly convinced  that God was, in that argument, on the side of the abolitionist. I imagine I’ll be able to find very few people who disagree with me on this point.

So if two or more people can be equally convinced that they are doing the inspired work of God as given to them by the Holy Spirit, and those people are doing opposite things (one supporting slavery, one supporting the abolition of slavery), and scripture does not give us an obvious answer to the debate, what is our next step? Do we turn to classical philosophy for our answer? Do we kibitz with folks of alternate faiths to get their take? Do we (stay with me now) turn to science for insight? Or do we just ask a Magic 8 Ball and hope for the best?

 

Magic 8 Ball – Providing answers (to stoners) since 1972.

 

I’ve presented this question to folks of various backgrounds and different times in my life, and so far I haven’t found an easy answer. Some people, when presented with this conundrum, just kind of double-down on the scripture answer.

Them : “Go to scripture – the Holy Spirit will never disagree with the Bible!”

Me: “But what happens when scripture doesn’t give a clear answer, or more clearly supports a side that history shows is completely wrong?”

Them: “. . . .Go to scripture.”

I’ve found this response to be less than helpful. So I’m asking you guys for your take! Has this happened to you? Have you ever felt the Holy Spirit compel you to take a stance that is the opposite of someone else’s Holy-Spirit-fueled stance? How do you know that you’re right? How do you make the argument that the other person is wrong?

And sub question – for extra intriguing conversation – did you ever have to reverse a stance that you were once convinced was the will of God? How did you deal with that? Give me your thoughts, and as a reward, I’ll stop beating a dead horse with my caption jokes. 

 

Dan Mitchell – Totally being a dick and refusing to stop using the same stupid joke gimmick since 27 minutes ago.

 

Okay, I’m done.  This is all of the world-shattering I can handle for one day. I need to get away from the internet before I find out that Sean Harris supports gay marriage and my brain liquefies.


This one’s about strippers!

A little over a week ago, What the Faith featured its first guest author, Rev. Ryan Bauers, and holy sanctified poop of God did you guys respond to that! Five-thousand views and eighty comments later, I like to think we contributed, in our small way, to the defeat of the Minnesota Marriage Amendment. So for all of you readers who voted “No,” thanks for your support. And for all of you readers who voted “Yes”, let’s keep being friends! ‘Murica is a great place for people who disagree with each other to hang out in, especially in the parts of it that serve beer. Unless you’re an angry drunk – if you are, we can be friends, but I’m ordering you a vanilla Coke.

 

Not QUITE the problem solver you’d expect it to be.

 

As the debate about the marriage amendment swelled (both on my blog and elsewhere) I was, at times, surprised by my own vehemence. It can be hard to remember that all Christians are my brothers and sisters when my blood gets boiling. Luckily, that’s why we have things like communion – rituals that we partake in together, which remind us that even though your brothers and sisters can be total douchebags, they’re still family. I really wanted to attend one of the nationwide election day communions, but it took me a little longer than expected to vote, so I was able to. Still, in the spirit of confession, I was a (in my heart) a total douchebag myself, to many people who disagreed with me about that particular issue. So, if you are a person who leaves (or left) rude comments on my blog, I probably called you names. I’m sorry. I could have been a lot more patient with you, and I regret that I wasn’t.

Anyway!

I had a singularly odd experience a few weeks back, when I was attending my best friend’s bachelor party. I was his best man, but being that I lived 2000 miles from my friend, didn’t know any of his current friends, and had no idea where to host the thing, he ended up planning the party himself. We started the evening at another friend’s house, where he, about ten of his friends, and I all hung out and awkwardly made small talk while waiting for strippers to arrive. After about an hour and a half, I turned to my friend and said, “There are going to be dinosaurs on this dinosaur tour, right?” People laughed.

That line isn’t an important part of the story. I just wanted to share because I want people to know that I made a joke, and that people laughed at that joke.

 

Wait for it. Waaaaaiiit for iiiiiiiit. . . Zing.

 

So after we gave up on the “house call” strippers (adult dancers not being known for their punctuality) we all drove down to a charming establishment called, classily, Cheaters. My friend changed into a black t-shirt that read “I support single moms” under the silhouette of a woman dancing on a pole. We entered, paid our cover, and somehow – somehow– got convinced, as a party, to purchase a $200 bottle of Captain Morgan’s spiced rum. “Why did you do that,” you may ask. “Was it better than a regular $30 bottle of Captain Morgan’s?” No, reader. No it was not. In fact, so far as I can tell, the sole purpose of buying a $200 bottle of $30 rum was so that the dancers would be encouraged to come up to our table and drink all of our fucking rum.

Rum-scavenging aside, the dancers spent a lot of time in our corner of the club. After all, we were a bachelor party. We had a groom in our midst. We had a group of dudes with money to burn (except me – I was saving up for a family vacation happening just days later). We even had a kid who, at nineteen years of age, had never been to a strip club before. Suffice it to say, I was surrounded by boobies.

Here’s where the surprise comes in.

Those boobies made me depressed as hell.

I’ve said before that I didn’t believe in “wholesome” bachelor parties. I’ve said that I felt that bachelor parties were supposed to be “sinful” – it was the whole point. I’ve also said that I don’t, as a Christian, think that God cares as much about what we do with our private parts as some other Christians believe. On top of that, Brandi had ordered me to go enjoy myself at this bachelor party. She told me that, as the best man, I had to have fun, or else I would bring people down. And while we both knew I wasn’t going to spend any money at this shindig (again, we had a vacation coming up just days later) I was supposed to watch the girls dance up and down the pole and hoot/holler like everyone else.

 

I was supposed to wear a zoot suit, too, but I left it at the cleaner’s.

 

That’s not what happened. Sure, I saw boobs, but I didn’t actually look at boobs. Since my group had the groom, the strip-club-virgin, and the $200 bottle of mid-level alcohol, I was propositioned for private dances dozens of times. Dancers would come up to me, sit in my lap, shake their butts in my face, and try to entice me to give them $20 to simulate the dirty-dirty in a curtained closet. Now, knowing that I was broke, I knew I wasn’t going to give them money – but I thought that I would at least regret being broke. Instead, I found myself hoping, whenever a topless lady would walk toward my group, that she would go grind on someone else. And yes, I did bring the party down – and if any of those fine gents are reading this article, I apologize for being a prude. One stripper, after failing to entice me to show interest in her chest, even said, “Man. I suck tonight.”

I saddened a stripper, guys.

So why did I feel this way? I hesitate to say that the Holy Spirit swooped down upon me the moment I walked into Cheaters and used its power to cock-block me. It wasn’t Brandi – she’d told me to have fun at the bachelor party, and she wasn’t checking up on me or anything. But then again, maybe it was Brandi – I kept texting her the entire night, and I had more fun chatting with her than anything else. And let me offer this piece of advice – if ever you want to make an adult dancer leave you alone, check your phone for a missed text when she’s flashing you. She’ll get the message.

 

“What? Oh, I’m sorry, I was reading a forward from my aunt. Nice thong, bee tee dub.”

 

I like to think that (cell phone checking aside) I wasn’t rude to any of the dancers. I tried to be friendly – to show them that, even though I had no interest in them as a sex object, I could still be interested in them as people. I complimented those who had nice tattoos – I saw all the tattoos – and I got into a decent conversation with a dancer who supported the legalization of marijuana, and who then offered to start the party early by selling me marijuana. One girl was wearing cats-eye contact lenses, and they looked cool, and I told her so. For the most part, the girls would talk to me for about thirty seconds, figure out that I wasn’t going to ask for a private dance, and go away. Sure, I was willing to show interest and respect toward them as people – but they didn’t want my interest or respect. They wanted $20 for a private dance. They weren’t looking for friends, they were looking to pay their bills. They weren’t looking to drink our rum – no, wait. They were looking to drink our rum, but they did so while trying to convince us to give them $20 a lap dance.

The whole experience was just depressing. It wasn’t just that the dancers’ value had been reduced to a dollar amount – it was that my value had been reduced to a dollar amount, and once it was clear that the amount in question was zero, I was basically an obstruction to be avoided. I was a lump taking up space on a (hopefully clean) couch at Cheaters, and I was no good to anybody.

It felt wrong. Not “Oh Lord, I have sinned against you!” wrong, but, “We should mean more than this” wrong. Just because I didn’t want any of these girls to rub their crotches on me didn’t mean that I disliked them. And if I’d met them outside of a strip club, maybe we could have chatted. Maybe we could have been friends. And sure, I wouldn’t have known what they looked like naked, but that’s perfectly fine by me – I have lots of friends, and I don’t think I’ve seen any of them naked. But in that particular place, on that particular night, nobody was anybody. The people dancing on the poles and the people sitting on the (oh dear Lord, please let them be clean) couches had become dollar signs, and all of the strawberry-scented, sparkly body lotion couldn’t mask the smell of desperation in the air.

Luckily, none of this was noticed by my friend, the groom, who was a straight up pimp that night! He got dances from all of the girls, some of them multiple times, and went home with a grin on his face. I was the designated driver, so in the end I was useful. And if I didn’t have as much fun as Brandi ordered me too, well, that’s all right. The next day I ran into some old friends I hadn’t seen in years, and we geeked out for hours, talking about video games, cartoons, comedic movies we could all quote by heart – the things that matter to me. All in all, it was educational – I learned that I am a shitty pimp, but an awesome geek. At a strip club, I am worth zero dollars – but amongst my real friends, I am worth gallons of water.

 

Hah! Worked in a “Dune” reference. I rest my case.


Christians can vote “No”, too. – Guest Post by Rev. Ryan Bauers

Introduction by Dan

Full disclosure – pastor Ryan Bauers is a good friend of mine, my brother-from-another-mother. I’ve mentioned him numerous times on What the Faith, and if any human being can be credited for my transition from skeptic to believer, it’s him. Ryan’s been a full-time pastor for over thirteen years, and his intelligence, insight, patience, and humor have been a crazy blessing for the folks who attend Hillside Church in Duluth Minnesota, where he and his beautiful wife Krista have served as the lead pastors for the last eleven years. I’m honored to present him as the first guest blogger on What the Faith, and I hope you guys enjoy reading his article as much as I enjoyed publishing it.

*          *          *          *          *

“Why I, as a committed Christian and ordained pastor will Vote “NO”, against the Minnesota Marriage Amendment and encourage others to as well.”

By Rev. Ryan J Bauers, Lead Pastor, Hillside Church, Duluth MN

October 2012

 

An Amendment will appear on the ballot this Tuesday, November 6, as a legislatively-referred constitutional amendment.  The measure would define marriage in the Minnesota Constitution as between one man and one woman in the State.  The proposed measure was supported by several legislators, was approved in the House, stalled in the Senate and is now up for public vote.  According to supporters, although same-sex marriage is already not recognized in the state, they hope to reinforce this with the proposed Amendment that, if passed, would write in a “traditional definition of marriage” and be very difficult to overturn in the future.  For those of us who are Minnesota residents, we will have the opportunity to vote on this Amendment on Tuesday, November 6.  A “YES” vote will confirm support for this proposed Amendment to define marriage in this specific way, and a “NO” vote is a vote against this proposed Amendment, leaving the Constitution as it is.

 

There seems to be a pretty resolute voice of support from many of my friends who are Conservative or Fundamentalist Christians and pastors to Vote “YES” for this Amendment to pass.   And, while I completely support their right to express their view and vote their conscience, one might begin to feel that all people of faith take the same stance that they do about the proposed Amendment.   Therefore, as a committed Christian and an ordained evangelical pastor who takes the Bible and following Jesus seriously, I want to share a few of the reasons why I will Vote “NO” on Tuesday, November 6, against the Minnesota Marriage Amendment.  My hope is to offer an alternate Christian perspective on this issue so that voters who consider their faith a central part of their lives can be informed about this complex issue and vote their conscience with a sense of confidence.

 

From a more legal perspective:

 

The proposed Marriage Amendment contradicts the Minnesota Constitution itself and would force everyone to follow a religious definition of marriage at a State level.

As a Christian, I am thankful for the rights given by our State that grant me the freedom to worship as I would like.  As passionate as I may be about my faith and about what I believe it offers, I am very much in favor of each person’s individual freedom to choose if and how they worship.  One of the great things about our Nation and our State is our ability to choose freely on matters of conscience, and the guarantee to not have other people’s religion or faith forced upon us.  The Minnesota Marriage Amendment’s goal is to write a “Biblical” or “Traditional” definition of marriage into the Minnesota Constitution as “only between one man and one woman”.  Because this is overtly influenced by a one religious perspective, this directly violates the healthy separation of church and state and would force everyone in the State to follow this very specific, religious definition, whether they are Christian fundamentalists or not.

 

Article 1, Section 16 of the Minnesota State Constitution itself guarantees that the State cannot or will not impose any single religion’s definition of any one matter on another person or persons.  And, I quote, “The right of every man to worship God according to the dictates of his own conscience shall never be infringed; nor shall any man be compelled to attend, erect or support any place of worship, or to maintain any religious or ecclesiastical ministry, against his consent; nor shall any control of or interference with the rights of conscience be permitted or any preference given by law to any religious establishment or mode of worship.”  (Highlights my own to emphasize)

 

Even as (or especially as) both a committed Christian and an ordained evangelical pastor, I feel that we desperately need this separation from the State imposing any single religion’s viewpoint on all people, so that our own personal freedoms are not restricted in any way.  I would not want someone else’s personal beliefs or religious stance on an issue to be approved by the State as law and forced on my life.  I would be very upset if the State imposed a religious agenda demanding that I not be able to visit my sick loved one on his or her death bed nor marry the person of my choosing (or other such things like how many kids I can have or what kind of clothing is appropriate in public).  I appreciate these freedoms for my own life and I want them for others as well.  I will vote NO because I do not believe that we should adopt a law that would impose a specific, Fundamentalist Christian definition of marriage on a State level.

 

The proposed Marriage Amendment will restrict the fundamental civil liberties of fellow human beings.

Even though same-sex marriage is already not recognized in the State of Minnesota, supporters of the proposed legislation want to insure against it for a long time.  For me as a Christian, a pastor and human being, the question for how I will vote fundamentally comes down to the fact that this will directly further restrict the civil liberties of my friends and fellow human beings. To be clear, voting NO to the Marriage Amendment is in NO WAY a vote for same-sex marriage.  However, as stated above, I believe that the State should not restrict the basic freedoms of human beings, especially from a conservative religious vantage point, including a restriction on marriage.  Even if a person does not “agree” with same-sex marriage, the State should not be able to tell two consenting adults who are in a life-long committed partnership that they cannot enjoy the same freedoms that I do.

 

As our Declaration of Independence eloquently describes, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”  We do not live in a Theocracy, nor in a Religious Dictatorship (thank God), nor in a Christian Nation, we live in a Republic whose function is to ensure the basic civil liberties of its people regardless of and separate from religious ideology.   These basic civil liberties should include those that allow each of us “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness”, including the freedom to marry.  The State’s responsibility is to protect and even to expand these wonderful, “God-given” and “self-evident” basic rights to its citizens, not to restrict them.  I will vote NO on Tuesday in an effort to voice my opinion that civil liberties in this case should be expanded rather than restricted to include only a certain, very conservative religious understanding of marriage.

 

Much of the information used by the proponents for the Marriage Amendment is rooted in fear and unfounded claims.

The disappointing thing that I have experienced as I have done my own extensive research on this matter is the massive amount of mis-information being presented by proponents of the Marriage Amendment.  Their commercials, web sites and ad campaigns rely heavily on creating fear by presenting unrealistic hypothetical scenarios of “what will happen if this Amendment is not passed.”  There have been numerous analyses of the claims made by neutral, third-party groups and many of their claims have been found to be inaccurate and misleading because that they relate to a scenario that has nothing to do with the outcome of this Amendment.

 

One such fear proposed in these ads is that Christians will be “forced” to put up with expanded versions of marriage and that will threaten our personal religious freedoms and impose them on our churches.  They claim that if same-sex marriage is eventually legalized then pastors will be forced to marry gay couples in the church.  As a pastor of a congregation and someone who has many friends in the GLBT community, I do not see how this is even plausible.  First of all, I already have the right to “discriminate” who I am going to perform a marriage ceremony for and who I am not, based on my relationship with them, their connection to our congregation and my personal conviction.  People are very understanding if it does not work out for me to perform their wedding ceremony.  Second, I can’t see how anyone, especially my friends in the GLBT community, would want to force any pastor to perform a wedding for them.  Can you imagine how grouchy a forced pastor would be in this context?  Not a very fun ceremony.  All of the folks that I know would want someone who supports them as a couple and believes in the sacredness of their relationship to perform their wedding, not someone who is forced.  Additionally, I know pastors who, in their conscience before God after serious prayer and study would be glad to perform a same-sex ceremony.   So there is no need to force anyone to do anything they would not want to.

 

 

From a more Biblical perspective:

The above arguments could well be enough to convince any American who believes in basic civil liberties to Vote NO on the proposed Marriage Amendment.   However, I am going to diverge from the immediate subject of how one might consider voting on the Amendment for a moment, because I would like to address several related topics to bring additional perspective for those who are interested.  I do this recognizing one fundamental reality: Voting NO to the Marriage Amendment on Tuesday is in NO WAY a vote for same-sex marriage.  And yet, many people of faith are wrestling with questions related to same-sex relationships as they consider how they will vote for this Amendment.  My hope is to share some of my thoughts about these particular related issues from a Biblical perspective as a trained theologian and pastor.

 

Throughout the centuries, embarrassingly, the Bible has been used to support other issues that are now considered outdated; including the ownership of slaves, prohibition against alcohol and a Woman’s right to vote. 

Many times, my friends from Conservative and Fundamentalist Christian perspectives will speak of their support of the Marriage Amendment or other related topics as “Biblically obvious” and criticize anyone as unfaithful to Scripture if they happen to see it differently.  However, this same attitude has, sadly, been used throughout the centuries to support other, now known-to-be-outdated views of current issues such as: divorce and remarriage, the ownership of slaves, prohibition against alcohol and a woman’s right to vote.

 

People like myself who are committed to the Bible because we believe it offers a unique and “inspired” interaction between God and humans throughout many centuries need not choose between Biblical faithfulness and a relevant and reasoned understanding of current issues.  My Conservative or Fundamentalist friends may call me and people like me who ask questions and reassess issues “not committed to Scripture”, but I would argue that my open-minded position is actually more faithful to Scripture, not less.  It is approaching what is supposed to be a sacred text with a deep sense of reverence and humility in an effort to understand the ancient texts from a fresh perspective in a modern setting.  It is relating to the Bible like it is really “living and active”, best interpreted with the presence of God’s Spirit and wisdom in a real world setting.  It is being willing to give up past-held, even misguided ideas about certain topics and looking at them with fresh eyes in the middle of Biblical context with proper analysis.  It is recognizing that we, as fallible human beings, can misinterpret the Bible and misuse it to support things that are not right and further, being willing to apologize and make adjustments when we realize that we have erred (in some cases, gravely so).

 

There are many thoughtful, serious Christians who believe that the Bible does not prohibit what we know today as monogamous, consensual, same-sex relationships. 

In Romans chapters 14 & 15, Paul urges his readers in the early church to give space for disagreement over what he calls “disputable matters”.  At the time, these were first order moral issues that these early communities of faith were facing and serious, devout followers of Jesus were staunchly divided over them.  In this context, they were fighting over whether a serious Christian could legitimately eat meat that had been sacrificed to idols or not.  Some felt in their conscience that it was absolutely fine and no big deal while others felt in their conscience that there was no way that they would ever be caught doing so.  These “debatable issues” did not include central issues of orthodoxy, creed or dogma that everyone agreed upon since the beginning of Christianity (like the resurrection of Jesus) and subsequently those thing affirmed in the Apostles and Nicene Creeds.   They did, however, and do to this day, include lesser matters related to conscience and each individual’s response to their personal conviction as they interact with Scripture and hear from the Holy Spirit.  These “disputable matters” are issues like:  Is killing in war murder?  Is it ever appropriate to divorce and remarry?  How much consumption by a person constitutes gluttony?

 

After very careful study of the passages in the Bible that are said to relate to “homosexuality”, it is debatable whether those texts can accurately apply to what we know today as monogamous, loving, consensual, same-sex relationships.  Scholars disagree on what these texts actually say about “homosexuality” and how, if at all, they apply in our modern era, causing the topic of homosexuality in general to be a “disputable matter” among Christians (as it is a minor subject in the whole of Scripture and each passage is well debated).  Some feel that it is “obvious” that homosexuality is condemned in these passages.  However, many scholars are convinced that the Bible is not prohibiting what we know today as monogamous, consensual, same-sex relationships.

 

So, committed Christians can take the Bible seriously and still be accepting of same-sex couples without violating their conscience, their commitment to the Bible or their Christian faith in any way.  After much study and prayer, I am convinced that it is not an “obvious” or black and white issue, but one that is significantly complicated, nuanced and open to disagreement between serious Christians.  Wouldn’t it be nice, in this day and age of such polarization in politics and worldviews, if we could learn from Saint Paul and realize that certainty was not always the aim of the Bible, but rather it was unity, love and humility?  How much better would our world and our faith communities be, if we did not allow peripheral, “disputable” matters to divide us, but like the early church we kept the main thing the main thing and united over learning to love God and love others?!

 

The possibility of same-sex marriage does not threaten the “sanctity of marriage”.

One of the arguments by proponents for the Marriage Amendment as to why they are convinced that everyone should vote “YES” to pass it, is that they argue that doing away with the “traditional” or “Biblical” definition of marriage will destroy the sanctity of marriage (it will taint it) and subsequently disrupt the family system as we know it.

 

As an ordained evangelical pastor who has led premarital counseling and performed countless wedding ceremonies, I recognize how sacred the word “marriage” is to some people.   However, in my personal experience, it is not the State that gives marriage that sacred power, nor is it the Bible itself, but it is the love and commitment shared between two people in the presence of God.  My own marriage is not reduced in “sacred-ness”, because some random couple is getting married at the courthouse right now, who may not be ready for marriage and who may divorce in a few days.  The sacred aspect of my marriage does not have anything to do with what other people do or think.  It has to do with my partner and me, our relationship with God, the commitment that we made on June 12, 1999 and our dedication to live that commitment out faithfully every day.  The sacredness of marriage rests on my commitment to making my own marriage sacred and powerful and not in restricting it for others.

 

Additionally, what those proponents define as the “traditional” or “Biblical” definition of marriage when analyzed through a historical perspective is a minute percentage of the actual relationships and family structures that have existed throughout the centuries.  From tribes where more than one parent is involved in the life of each child, to structures where men care for children while the women work, to households where one parent is working outside the home a significant amount of the time, to single family homes, to mixed culture homes, “traditional marriage” does not seem to exist as the norm historically.

 

A final word

While there is much more that I could say (and may very well in the future) and other articles that you may be advised to read on this subject in addition to this one, the aim of this paper is to share my perspective as a committed Christian and ordained evangelical pastor after a significant amount of research, thought and prayer.  I did not come to these opinions easily, nor do I share them lightly.  I do hope that by sharing honestly you will find that there are alternative viewpoints that serious, devout Christians take on these complicated issues.  I believe that what is desperately needed in this generation are more people committed to the relentless pursuit of truth, however uncomfortable that may be.

 

May you and I be these people!

 

References used & suggested reading

 

One such article outlining some of the misleading information presented on Pro-Marriage Amendment marketing and media:

http://ballotpedia.org/wiki/index.php/Minnesota_Same-Sex_Marriage_Amendment,_Amendment_1_(2012)

 

A thoughtful article from the Saint Paul Pioneer Press by someone who explored and wrestled the issue for a long time and who looks at it from both sides.

http://www.twincities.com/opinion/ci_21882332/george-latimer-good-people-both-sides-minnesota-marriage?source=most_emailed

 

The Bible Made Impossible by Christian Smith

This book reveals the weakness in the modern, North American evangelical perspective on the Bible.  It is helpful for those with an evangelical background in seeing that particular, narrow culture from the outside, especially regarding Scripture.  It helps to give people a fresh perspective for reading Scripture in a more balanced and, dare I say healthy, context.

 

Paul Among The People by Sarah Ruden.

The entire book is excellent at making sense of all of Paul’s letters in the context of ancient Greek & Roman culture.  The chapter on Homosexuality is especially helpful in flushing out what that Bible refers to when it prohibits homosexuality in the ancient Biblical context.  It is historically plausible that Paul’s prohibition against homosexuality was pederasty (married, heterosexual men having intercourse with pre-pubescent boys in the sex temples).  It is hard to draw a correlation between this prohibition then and modern day, monogamous, same-sex relationships today.

 

Jesus, The Bible and Homosexuality; Explode the Myths, Heal the Church by Jack Rodgers.

As a Presbyterian minister, a seminary professor emeritus and author, he once opposed homosexuality.  Yet, after taking years to study the issue in depth, he shifted from a literalistic method of biblical interpretation (common among evangelical churches, especially those from a Reformed Theological background) and moved to one that sees Scripture through the lens of the redemptive life and ministry of Jesus Christ.  This completely changed his outlook on all Biblical texts, especially those referring to homosexuality.

 

Born Gay by Glenn Wilson & Qazi Rhaman

This book is one of the most comprehensive works that aptly summarizes the modern scientific discoveries regarding sexual orientation.  Written by some of the primary researchers in the field and filled with all of the latest available research, this book will help explore the hard science related to the issue.

 

Seeing Gray in a World of Black and White:  Thoughts on Religion, Morality and Politics by Adam Hamilton.

In the modern era where people are often polarized on two, very hard-line sides of any issue, this book is a refreshing invitation to the middle ground to take a look at both perspectives.  As a pastor of one of the largest churches in North America and a Biblical scholar, Adam Hamilton helps his readers journey into some of the most complicated issues that face thoughtful people today and welcomes us to see these issues in a more balanced, nuanced and “gray” way.

 

The Mosaic of Christian Belief:  Twenty Centuries of Unity and Diversity by Roger Olsen

This is excellent exploration of the different stances on specific doctrines within the worldwide, historic church.  The introduction proves very helpful in that the author established the category distinction between dogma, doctrine and opinion, which is essential in helping to frame something as a “debatable issue”.  He demonstrates that serious Christians can have unity over the central Creeds while respectfully agreeing to disagree over a host of other issues.

 

A Moral Vision of the New Testament by Richard Hays

This is an excellent introduction to Moral Theology which many Christians and church leaders are weak in.  Hays pitches that the New Testament has a strong bent toward a unified ethical vision.  He demonstrates how the New Testament provides moral guidance on the most troubling ethical issues of our time, including violence, divorce, homosexuality and abortion.  Even though he takes a traditional approach to homosexuality, he argues that it is an example of a “debatable issue”.