November 20, 2018

Why I am an Ally – Part 5 – My Conversation with Geoff

Welcome to part five in the series.  If you would like to catch up on other posts in this series, or on anything else I have written, Internet Monk keeps them all here.

My Conversation with Geoff

Six years ago I received Birthday greetings from Geoff, a former work colleague. He wrote:

Michael, Happy Birthday. You’re the only dyed in the wool Christian, other than my mother, that has had my back. I will always be grateful to you for that.

In the nine years that I had known my colleague, and in many years before that, he had not met another Christian who he thought that he could depend on. The thought of that made me very sad.

I had a series of follow up questions for Geoff that he graciously answered, I had intended to share that that interaction with the Internet Monk audience years ago, but never felt the time was right was do so. This was partly because of other posts that were occurring when I initially had this interaction, partly because I was unsure of my own thoughts on the matter, partly because I had a leadership position in a church that would have frowned on my posts, and partly because I was afraid it would come across as me saying, “hey look at me!” It is for these reasons that my attempt to finally share this story has grown into a series to provide some context. Geoff has again provided permission (for the 3rd time) for me to share his answers. Here then is my interaction with Geoff.

Hi Geoff,

Thanks for helping me out.

I might be asking the wrong questions too, so feel free to let me know and answer the questions I should be asking! 🙂

Michael, my friend, before I begin I need to state for the record that I am not a Psychologist, Psychiatrist or a Social Work. I’m just your average Joe middle age, middle income [gay] man and these thoughts are just my own from my own experiences through the book of life.

Understood! What does “dyed in the wool Christian” mean to you?

Being brought up Christian and Canadian I may have a different view than others on this. A “dyed in the wool Christian” to me is someone that started off life in a Christian family and continues to be a Christian to this moment. I know many would say that phrase has shades of Fundamentalist in it but I don’t see it. It’s can be a harsh phrase as it has feelings of absolute to it but to me it just means you always were and always will be until, if and when, something changes your mind.

Now for the qualifier (now a qualifier he says?). A “dyed in the wool Christian can be a “good” Christian or a “bad” Christian. I don’t distinguish on principle until I know the person better. That would be like saying my Mother is the same as Fred Phelps.

Do you have any recollection of how you found out I was a Christian? Any recollection of your original feeling about that?

Michael, you were never overtly exercising the Gospel when I met you, if that is what you mean. I think we all, at work, found out around the same time when we were talking about education and yours came up. You expanded on it over time but it was never an “aha” moment. It was from good Canadian conversation (and I say Canadian because I think we are unique in our ability to have those conversations).

I find your expression “never overtly exercising the Gospel” an interesting turn of phrase.  I would describe myself as someone who wears my Christianity on my sleeve, but  I am not someone who will “beat you over the head with it.” 

So, how did I “have your back”? What did that look like to you?

Interesting. First we must bring some context to the situation. We were in the cafeteria at our place of work and I was being questioned by, what I would term, a blind Christian about Leviticus and such. Being a learned man and one that did not take kindly to having his faith misrepresented you calmly and politely corrected the gentlemen on his interpretation of the Bible. You pointed out that Leviticus as more a teaching guide for Jewish leaders of their faith in a time much different than ours. You went on to educate this man that Leviticus also speaks of not wearing mixed fibers (heaven forbid we wear a poly-cotton blend), that we should stone our children if they mistreat us (or was it disrespect us?) and that during a Woman’s monthly cycle that men should not look upon them.

You didn’t agree or disagree with homosexuality but you would not let the text of your religion be dissected and conveniently used to prove a point. I knew then that you were a learned man, much like myself, and believed in the truth and the whole truth. Only then can a person make a sound decision, judgment or statement. You came to my defense because the person did not have a clear understanding of the words on the page. You did good for two people that day. You de-vilified me in the context of educating another man on the whole truth and you educated him in that he was not looking at the whole text and to understand part you must understand the whole.

You know, I only have a vague recollection of that conversation. It did happen over six (now twelve) years ago! I think I reacted strongly because I saw a friend being picked on, and because as you say, I did not like the Bible being “dissected and conveniently used to make a point.” My own opinion on those scriptures is certainly more nuanced than I expressed, but the person we were talking to wasn’t interested in nuances or having a generous discussion, so I shut him down.

As a Christian I am especially interested in how we are perceived by others. What in particular stood out to you in the way that we interacted?

I do not think this has to do with being gay or straight. I think this has to do with social factors based on today’s norms. Some saw you as socially awkward and in a very “high school” way did not want to interact with you. Unfortunately, at that time, I was particularly drawn into that and I apologize for that. That said, deep down I knew I could always connect with you on an intellectual level that wasn’t always present amongst my chosen peers. Again, this has nothing to do with sexuality but more to do with play ground bullying. I enjoyed my talks of faith and politics with you. We did not always see eye to eye but that is what makes for a good conversation. Who in their right mind would want to live their lives unchallenged? Faith or not faith, that is probably the truest teaching of them all.

“Socially awkward”? Ouch, that hurts. I do find that a very interesting comment. I have had a huge range of interactions in varying workplaces. In some I fit right in. In others, like where we worked together, I stood out like a sore thumb. More recently I think some lessons I have learned from my kids has helped. (But enough about me. 😀 )

I did appreciate the fact that we could have good respectful conversations without necessarily seeing eye to eye on things.   Part of the reason why I wanted this interaction was to let others read your viewpoint regardless of my own opinion.

How have you been treated by other Christians? Has there been a range of experiences with different people?

I am not of the norm. This is very important to understand. I grew up in middle class central Canada. Canadian Christians, at the time, were not militaristic like we see in some other countries (or in regions of our own today).

The best example was, again I’ll refer to my Mother, of a woman born of the Salvation Army in a somewhat divided home that rediscovered her faith through the Anglican Church later in life.

She was the last person I came “out” too. I was so worried. I love my Mother so deeply and dearly that I couldn’t stand that though of her tossing me aside as I had seen so many other mothers do to their gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered children. How foolish was I? She did play a large role in making me who I am today (as a man not a Gay man). At first it was a shock. I’m sure she cried as I didn’t have the guts to tell her to her face. When we talked on the phone she said to me that “there are some things a mother does not need to know” and I gently replied that there were “something that a mother has to know”.

She struggled for a few years, always polite to my boyfriends but that is more about her being English than Anglican. Until one day we were left alone on my balcony in Toronto while my brother and Dad went off to find some bargains in the city. She said to me the most comforting thing ever. By this time she was becoming more frank with her words and said, “You know, back in the days when the bible was said to be written, it was all about the size of your tribe. Well, of course, if you couldn’t procreate you were seen as a Sinner. If you can’t add to the numbers of the tribe what good where you? But times have changed and we are no longer tribal people are we?”

In that short powerful statement she represented history, common sense and in her own way her undying love for her son. She was able to reconcile it in her mind and it allowed her love to flow freely again without being dammed up by hyperbole.

Again, I say I’m lucky. Many a men and woman I’ve known and read about have suffered greatly at the hands of so called Christians. A quick Google search can show you the damage and hate that a fundamentalist or narrow minded person can do. Christian’s are not alone in that. To this day there are several faiths that still publicly hang homosexuals or cast them out from all they have ever known to be nothing more than a street pariah. Christians do not have the copyright to discrimination. It is vast and wide spread throughout this world. We just see it more as a “Christian thing” here in North America and Europe.

What could and should be Christians be doing differently?

Oh, this is hard. I am as flawed as any man and who am I to say what one should and shouldn’t do? That said, if I were in front of any religious congregation I would say a couple things. First and foremost, love is at the root of all your texts and I don’t mean “love the sinner but hate the sin”. I mean just LOVE. Secondly, I would encourage any man or woman of faith to learn as much as they could about the foundations of their religion. For example, the Bible was put together by men, who are by your own faith’s omissions, inherently flawed. Where is the Book of Mary? It’s not just homosexuals and mentally ill who have been left out, but also women. We know today they are as every bit capable and intelligent as any man, as well as just as flawed. Learn your history, then take the teachings of your text and put them in context. What was then, is not now. That is not because of “evolution”, but because of understanding and education. Finally, should I be speaking to the Christian flock directly, I would say really think about what the words of your Lord. Jesus, according to the historical transcripts, was a good and just man that just wanted love and understanding to be spread. So don’t see a homosexual woman, a brown skinned person, or someone lame as someone inflicted, but someone that can enrich your understanding of the world your God created. What would Jesus do? Well, I can tell you with some certainty what he would not want you to ever do… have hate or fear in your souls. Wash yourselves of that and rise above to accept all “men”, as we are all created from the same thing… the force of life.

…oh, and for the love of Pete, take your jackets off when you’re in church! It drives me bananas when I go back to my old parish with my mother and see everyone with their outdoor coats still on. Where are you going? Get comfortable and listen to your faithful leader. Brunch will still be there when you’re done.

Do you recall what I might have said about my own beliefs about homosexuality? (And yes I am being deliberately vague here, as I am interested in your impressions here.)

Short and simple, you never divulged to me your innermost thoughts on homosexuality. They were your own, I believe, and they had no context in our communications.

It doesn’t surprise me that you would respond that way. I was, and still am very much, in process with my own thoughts. (I have come to enough of a resolution in my own mind that I could finally write this series.)

Any thoughts as to how I marry my view of scripture with my support for a Gay colleague?

Simply through the intelligence you were given. Descartes is often misunderstood by truncating his work down to “I think therefore I am”. Hogwash. His work was about proving there was a God and it was because you could think that there was a God [in short]. Take scripture and put it into context of the time is was originally written, how it was manipulated through the ages and marry it with what we know now. You will naturally come to your own conclusion. I can not give that to you. You must come unto it yourself but for the love of anyone’s God, use the brain you were given. If something doesn’t seem right then question it and back that up with the empirical evidence of the age. If I was to walk into King Arthur’s court with a pack aof smokes and a lighter would they not call me the devil’s witch? Today, it’s just a filthy habit that I’ve yet to shake. Take everything in context, my friend. I’m not asking you to forsake the real, real teachings of the man you call your savior because I love his words even though I do not see him as the son of God any more than I am (as we are all sons of God). He wanted you to love and help without restriction. Nowhere in the New Testament does he say, “help here but not there”. He preached love and help. If you want to honour your Lord then do his bidding by loving each and every creature of this planet to the best of your abilities. Just love.

Do you have any thoughts as to how Christians with a “high view of scripture” can treat bible verses about homosexuality?

As I’ve said before, but I’ll say a little more bluntly here; Get an education. Learn, learn, learn. Understand the times and the context in which the words of your faith were written and then transcribe them into the here and now. Again, you will find the fundamental truth that carries is to love. Your God forbids you from judging and I think that is a sound piece of philosophy. That’s “his” job, not yours, so in the meantime just love.

Michael, I want you to ask your readers, “When was the last time they fed the poor? When was the last time the helped the ill? When was the last time they comforted sorrow?” It’s not all about homosexuality. We are just part of the mix. We can be ill, sad or hungry. We can also be, as several I know, good Christian citizens that know how to love. I encourage all of you to watch Reverend Brent Hawks. He is probably the most wonderful religious man I’ve ever met next to my sadly departed Reverend Flemming of Saint Stephen’s on the Mount.

Love!

How can a Christian parent with a Gay child show support for that child?

In a word, and at the risk of beating a dead horse, love them. Just love them. Let them be. Let them find their way. Who I was at 13 at 16 at 25 and now at 43 was not who I was at 10. Grow and evolve with your children and try to instill into them the values of decently, kindness and compassion. Who they lay next to at night has no bearing on those overarching principles of humanity. That’s what my Mother did.

Let me recount to you one last story. Then I will close with a final statement. Shortly after you “stood up” for me by way of educating the uneducated that same man came to me and told me that one of his sons preferred to dress in women/girls clothing and was adamant that they were not a boy but a girl. Was this a phase? I do not know as I’ve lost touch with this person but he did humbly ask me, “What do I do?”. Again I said, “Love them”. Does a lilac not turn from white to purple over time because of its pollinators? It’s still beautiful. It still makes use smile. The funny thing about a lilac or a poppy is that as soon as you clip it from its roots, all that is beautiful soon falls to the floor. They were never meant to be clipped, trimmed or captured in your home. Leave them be but nurture them so that they may grow and be beautiful in the place that the heavens meant them to be. Don’t control them but love them for what they are and if they are sickly or in danger protect them.

Any closing thoughts for us?

Michael, you are unique in Christianity for the simple fact that more than once you have reached out to me. Homosexuals fear any fundamentalist religion that seeks to destroy and vilify us. Sure, there are good and bad amongst my peers but the same can be said about yours. There are some dang right scary people out there today that would see me hanged or worse. That terrifies me and limits me as a person. You don’t have to understand or even “like” what we like but you do, as is my understanding of Christians, have to love without reservation. You are not the ones to judge. Your Father will do that for you. If you want of follow the true teaching of the man know as Jesus of Nazareth then drop the garbage propaganda and love every person as if they were yourself. Let everyone choose their own path and don’t judge them for it because that’s not your job. Your Father said so.

Understand history and all its faults and apply them to the new knowledge that we have been gifted with today. Feel the grass under your feet and the wind in your lungs and ask yourself, in light of this does being “gay” really matter?

I ask one last thing of your readers. If you see any sense in what I’ve just said – if you are moved in any way by my words then take up a bigger battle and protect the planet that your God gave us. Stop buying products with Palm Oil in them to same God’s beloved Orangutans. Take up a collection and buy a portion of the Rainforest that cleans our air, or simply walk up to the person you feel most awkward around and say, “Is everything ok?”

Thank you Michael for asking.

Thank you Geoff for being so open to me and our readers. The time you took to respond to my questions was really appreciated.

Internet Monk readers, please feel free to comment on anything you read here. Did anything in particular catch your attention? I think the one thing I would encourage our readers about: Many of us will find usourselves disagreeing with parts of Geoff’s theology. Try not to get too hung up on that, but instead listen and respond to Geoff’s heart. Geoff was uncertain as to his availability over the next couple of day, but I look forward to a good Internet Monk discussion from the rest of you.

Comments

  1. john barry says:

    Mike Bell, I really like and respect how you have brought this topic up for reflection and discussion. Geoff personal story puts a real person perspective on the issue.

    How I would say respectfully ask , what is the issue? Certainly in Canada the legal and secular issue homosexual rights/acceptance has been adjudicated , resolved and settled in the secular , popular and social courts of popular opinion as most certainly the legal system.

    To use an overused expression people of faith who do not accept, condone or agree with same sex marriage or normalizing homosexual activity are on the wrong side of history For me it is natural, I am usually on the wrong side of everything.

    There are many mainline or not mainline churches, corporate worship places that not only accept but even seek homosexual members . Finding a place of worship and support certainly is not hard even in the conservative area I live in.

    If a person in the every day , secular world treats you like everyone else but their faith does not believe in homosexuality lifestyle what do you want them to do? If they are not trying to convert you, get you straight or make you uncomfortable is that enough or is it necessary for their religion to accept the homosexual lifestyle in their belief system?

    I never bring up he subject of anyone’s sex life or preferences but they do to me ? Why? If I want to argue I will go home and talk to my wife. Why do they care what I think, I am not going to be on the Supreme Court, unless I am on the list.

    Personally, I will stay with the natural law espoused by Magnus and St. Aquinas .

    So what is the issue. I would not go to a church or organization that believes smoking is morally wrong or drink alcohol is wrong and ask if I can join their church/organization. Either they must change their beliefs or rules or I must quit smoking to attend their services/meetings.

    So within a generation this issue will as relevant as women wearing “pants” or rouge , however if some organization somewhere believes wearing rouge is wrong or immoral as long as they do not interfere with rouge wearers in the public everyday arena why would a rouge wearer want to join them in worship?

    Many of our laws, religious beliefs and legal codes were made to produce and maintain a viable society based on the natural law. Personally, I do not think monogamy is not “natural” for men as individuals but absolutely good for society and certainly children. Monogamy was normalized and held up as the ideal situation to have a family. That is now falling by the way side.

    So to Geoff the advancement of homosexual acceptance since you first met Mr. Bell has been very significant if not totally complete in the legal, secular and social world.

    Again what is the issue? Is it complete , absolute, non judgement acceptance of homosexuality lifestyle by those who believe it is morally wrong?

    • “Again what is the issue? Is it complete , absolute, non judgement acceptance of homosexuality lifestyle by those who believe it is morally wrong?”

      What, like “judge not lest ye be judged”? 😉

      Seriously, let’s for the sake of argument assume that homosexuality is a sin. What exactly makes it a worse sin than day, gossip? Or gluttony? Or any number of the other sins that are catalogued in Scripture? We seem to get along just fine with the gossips, gluttons and bigots without getting in their faces about their sins every waking moment. And then there is the issue of wider impacts of our actions. For the vast majority of people of whatever sexual attraction, they just want to live their life and love their partners. Who causes more damage to society – them, or the people who exploit workers? Dump chemicals into the water? Throw children in cages? The Bible has FAR MORE to say about economic sins than sexual ones. By an astronomical ratio. Yet many American Christians prioritize policing others sexuality over everything else. Is that really God’s priority?

      • Adam Tauno Williams says:

        Thank you.

        The storm of hyperbole that surrounds this issue is exhausting – and the tangled mat of Slipper Slope fallacies. That storm has certainly influenced my “theology” on the issue – leaving me pretty much at “I can’t be bothered to care very much”, and mostly wanting the people screaming about it to shut up and sit down. Anyone who looks out at our world, and particularly our nation, and gets bent about THIS only betrays themselves as in need of a serious reality adjustment.

        From where in this text, or anywhere in this series of posts, can someone manage to fish out the idea: ” Is it complete , absolute, non judgement acceptance of homosexuality lifestyle”. It ain’t there. And, pragmatically, how many people have ever asked anyone else for a “complete , absolute, non judgement acceptance” of any of their relationships? Has never happened to me, and it would never occur to me to ask anyone else for the same; this is a hypothetical fairy land argument (aka Hyperbole)

        • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

          And, pragmatically, how many people have ever asked anyone else for a “complete , absolute, non judgement acceptance” of any of their relationships?

          That guy I used to know who went crazy from mid-life crisis at 30 and had the Damascus Road Conversion Experience into becoming a same-sex sexual predator, for one. So they ARE out there, a lunatic fringe often gravitating towards Vocal Activism. Funhouse-mirror reflections of our Fred Phelps types.

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

        Yet many American Christians prioritize policing others sexuality over everything else. Is that really God’s priority?

        It’s said “Sex Makes People Crazy”, and Christians are tunnel-visioned on Pelvic Issues.

        Maybe it’s because those same Christians personally benefit from the economic sins. Hard to see the SIN in something when it’s to your own personal/political benefit. However, Pelvic Issues are safely The Other Guy’s SIN, and Same-Sex Pelvic Issues the Ultimate Other.

        Us vs Them, and when you Meet the Enemy, you Cannot have it be Us.

    • Michael Bell says:

      You’re the only dyed in the wool Christian, other than my mother, that has had my back. I will always be grateful to you for that.

      Why have I written this series?

      This.

      And Craig. And Steve and Bill.

      In the case of Steve and Bill, both were already parts of Christian communities.

      This is written for the Grandmother who wrote me about her grandchild because of what she read here.

      I am not seeking to change church rules and regulations, I am seeking to change hearts.

      I have two posts left in this series. In the next one we will hear from some traditional evangelical pastors, in traditional evangelical churches, as to how they approach the topic. I will then wrap the series with some concluding thoughts.

      • Christiane says:

        Hello Mike,
        Thank you for this post. For a long time, many have failed to RESPECT one another UNCONDITIONALLY as human persons. What there is that makes us ‘human’ is something even more basic than our ‘maleness’ or ‘femaleness’ . . .
        and that IS a difference that invites us to engage with people who have gender issues on more common ground:
        our common human origin . . . the very soil from which we were formed and the very life breathed into us by God.

        The person, as a human person, is infinitely more important than any issues that might cause concern. If we fail to remember this, we lessen our own humanity in how we interact humanely with one another.

  2. Adam Tauno Williams says:

    “””Let them be. Let them find their way. Who I was at 13 at 16 at 25 and now at 43 was not who I was at 10. Grow and evolve with your children””””

    The Issue aside, there are a whole lot of adults with a living parent, who can appreciate this sentiment. Existing as a snapshot of some point of time in someone’s mind is not a pleasant experience.

  3. senecagriggs says:

    If eternal God is indeed, the author of Scripture, then the moral law is unchanging. But if Scripture is just another book, then the moral law is shifting according to the beliefs of the current culture.

    God being God, it doesn’t matter when He chose to give us His word; it applied then, it applies now.
    ________

    And to be honest when looking at Scripture, you must recognize the difference between the ceremonial laws, the civil laws and then the unchanging eternal moral laws. Adultery was a sin then, it’s a sin now.

    • Robert F says:

      You know what’s a sin, even though the good book never utters a moral condemnation of it? The institution of slavery is a sin, and a far worse one than adultery or any other sexual sin could ever be. The glaring moral omission of the Bible in its failure to condemn even in a modest way the sin of one person enslaving another is more than sufficient evidence that it is a human book, and a morally deficient one. That’s the end of the argument concerning the eternal perfection, never mind the unchangeability, of its moral code, as far as I’m concerned.

      • senecagriggs says:

        Robert F, then you don’t believe Scripture is actually God’s word to mankind?

        • Adam Tauno Williams says:

          If your Scripture sanctions chattel slavery, then Mr. Griggs, I reject it utterly, without hesitation.

        • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

          …then you don’t believe Scripture is actually God’s word to mankind?

          Channeling PastorRaulReesCalvaryChapelWestCovina, are we?

          P.S. In such context, SCRIPTURE is always pronounced all-caps.

        • Christiane says:

          Senecagriggs,

          when our services begin, the bible is carried in procession into the Church as ‘the word of God’ and everyone stands out of respect, as we all stand again when the Holy Gospels are read

          HOWEVER, there is a time that we kneel, when THIS is read:

          ‘and the Word became man and dwelt among us’

          I think my Church has got the priority straight: we acknowledge sacred Scripture as a ‘sacramental’; but it is THE ‘Word’ Incarnate to whom we bend the knee . . .

          and SURE we see Our Lord as THE lens through which to read sacred Scripture

          and SURE we believe that the Holy Gospels of Our Lord are the heart of all Scripture

          and ABSOLUTELY do we red-letter what is written as the recorded words of Our Lord in Scripture, and count them as MORE than the words of others whose voices are recorded in the bible. Why? Because in the recording of sacred Scripture, Our Lord spoke and acted in the very Person of God, and this gives Him the higher recognition, of course.

        • Robert F says:

          @senecagriggs, I believe that God communicates in the human words of scripture, but in some more than others, and in others not at all. Some words in scripture are just human beings (mostly men) justifying themselves and their ways before God. The failure to condemn slavery in scripture is because the men who wrote scripture saw nothing wrong with chattel slavery; their thinking was morally wrong.

        • Oh, if it were only that simple…

      • Robert- the idea of mistreating others was seen as sin, so the seeds of challenging such institutions were laid. As scholars such as Ben Witherington hold, there is a trajectory from those seeds that impacts theology and application (Witherington uses this approach to advocate for women in ministry, for example).

        A good description of that is said here by Phil Moore: “Paul therefore taught slaves to experience true freedom whilst still slaves, but he also sowed the seeds for the eventual overthrow of slavery in years to come. When people saw the godly character of Christian slaves, they began to take Paul seriously when he argued that the slave trade was evil (1 Timothy 1:10), that slaves should gain their freedom if they could (1 Corinthians 7:21), that masters ought to view their slaves as equals (Ephesians 6:9 and Galatians 3:28), and that they ought to set them free at the proper time (Philemon 16). Although governments resisted his teaching for many years, the historian Rodney Stark argues that Paul’s teaching eventually won the day: ‘Of all the world’s religions, including the three great monotheisms, only in Christianity did the idea develop that slavery was sinful and must be abolished. Although it has been fashionable to deny it, antislavery doctrines began to appear in Christian theology soon after the decline of Rome and were accompanied by the eventual disappearance of slavery in all but the fringes of Christian Europe. When Europeans subsequently instituted slavery in the New World, they did so over strenuous papal opposition, a fact that was conveniently ‘lost’ from history until recently. Finally, the abolition of New World slavery was initiated and achieved by Christian activists.8”

        https://thinktheology.co.uk/blog/article/why_doesnt_the_new_testament_condemn_slavery

        Now the question is whether this trajectory approach can be applied to the topic of Mike Bell’s series.

        • Why can’t it? 😉

          The NT is quite clear that marriage is a function of *this world* – that in the New Creation there will be no marriage (see Jesus’ disputation with the Sadducee on the subject) Paul said in I Corinthians 7 that he would have preferred if everyone could be unmarried. Marriage and family, in the New Testament, are *a* good – but they are far from the highest good. Take that as the starting point, and bear in mind the ultimate relativization of marriage in eschatology, and what does that imply with regard to monogamous homosexual relationships?

        • Clay Crouch says:

          I’m sure the “seeds” sown by Paul were of some comfort to the untold millions of humans that suffered for two millennia under the Christian institution of chattel slavery.

          Yes, it took the willingness of Christians to look beyond, as some here like to put it, The Word of God, to finally reject that scripturally approved institution. It also took that damned war.

          • Clay- Valid point to consider. At least two things to consider: 1) what was the context Paul was speaking to, which again may relate to MB’s post/topic, and 2) was it the fault of Paul/Scripture for the continuation of slavery, or was it the fault of Christians who ignored the “do unto others” aspect of the New Testament?

            https://www.orthocuban.com/2012/01/did-the-church-fathers-address-the-issue-of-slavery/

            • Clay Crouch says:

              RDavid, I’m glad Paul addressed this issue. I think it gives us permission to question and wrestle with the proper relationship of scripture to our private and public life. Most of us would not choose to live under the cultural restraints of ancient near east societies. The real challenge for us in the 21st century is the same as it always been: how do we love our neighbors as ourselves. As I commented below, I will spend the rest of my life repenting of using the Bible as a weapon against my fellow man.

            • Robert F says:

              The point is that nowhere in scripture is slavery condemned, not even in Paul. Paul was used easily by many Southern Christian slave owners, who thought of themselves as “good” and charitable masters who only had the best interests of their slaves at heart, and who justified whatever inhumane failures they fell into as occasional sins that the Lord would forgive so that they could go on become the perfect masters they wanted to be. The scriptures and their writers simply did not see chattel slavery as a sin, and so they put up no resistance to it as an institution; exhortation to be kind to slaves is not the same as moral condemnation of slavery. This is a terrible deficiency in scripture that was corrected in Western societies only after the Enlightenment universalized the idea of the “rights of man”. That there may be some resources of exhorted humanity in scripture does not change the fact of its failure on this point. Slavery is a far worse sin than any consensual, non-coerced/nonviolent sexual activity could ever be.

              • “Why did Paul not simply ask for Onesimus to be released from slavery? Why (for that matter) did he not order all Christian slaveowners to release all their slaves, rather than profit from an unjust social structure? Slavery was one of the really great evils of the ancient world, under which a large proportion of the population belonged totally to another person, for better or (usually) for worse, with no rights, no prospects, the possibility of sexual abuse, the chance of torture or death for trivial offences. Some slaves were fortunate in having kind or generous masters, and by the end of the first century some secular writers were expressing disgust at the institution. But for the great majority, life was at best drudgery and at worst “merciless exploitation’. Why, then, did Paul not protest against the whole dehumanizing system?…What alternatives were actually open to him? He was committed to the life, and the standards, of the new age over against the old (Col. 3). But a loud protest, at that moment in social history, would have functioned simply on the level of the old age: it would have been heard only as a criticism by one part of society (Paul, not himself a slave-owner, had nothing to lose) against another. It would, without a doubt, have done more harm than good, making life harder for Christian slaves, and drawing upon the young church exactly the wrong sort of attention from the authorities. If Paul is jailed for proclaiming ‘another king’ (Acts 17:7), it must be clear that thekingdom in question is of a different order altogether from that of Caesar. In addition, inveghing against slavery per se would have been totally ineffective: one might as well, in modern Western society, protest against the mortgage system…Even if all Christians of Paul’s day were suddenly to release their slaves, it is by no means clear that the slaves themselves, or society in general, would benefit: a large body of people suddenly unemployed in the ancient world might not enjoy their freedom as much as they would imagine…
                Paul’s method is subtler… like Jesus, his way of changing the world is to plant a grain of mustard seed which, inconspicuous at first, grows into a spreading tree. And in the meantime… he teaches slaves and masters to treat themselves, and each other, as human beings.”- NT Wright

                https://young.anabaptistradicals.org/2009/04/24/paul-and-slavery-a-view-by-nt-wright/

                As often is the case, Scripture deals with complex contexts in this messy world. Which may also impact how we deal with the topic of MB’s post.

                • Robert F says:

                  If Paul or any of Scripture had unequivocally condemned slavery, even without recommending revolt or political action against at the time it because of all the complex contexts you mentioned in your comment, it would have prevented Paul and Scripture from being used by later generations of Christians as justification for the rights of the slave owners, and from being used by owners and apologists for slavery to pacify slaves. That would’ve made a tremendous moral and social difference for the course of slavery in the West, particularly after slavery had died out and then was revived in the colonial projects of Europe; indeed, it is even possible that slavery would not have been revived without the support that the silence of Scripture regarding the moral status of the institution provided. As it was, Scripture’s failure to condemn the morality evil of the institution (quite apart from any call to revolt against it) provided all the opportunity it needed to revive and thrive for several centuries. That is a real moral failure on the part of Scripture that is not God’s failure, but that of the men who wrote it, including Paul.

                • Robert F says:

                  RDavid, in either case, whether one believes that scripture has good reason for it, or that it doesn’t, can we both agree that, though scripture does not make an explicit and unequivocal moral judgment against the institution of slavery, enslaving persons, whether then or now, is still in fact a greater moral evil than any act of consensual sex has ever been?

                • Robert F says:

                  And doesn’t that mean that the explicit moral articulation of the Bible is something that we as Christians in the 21st century must go beyond, because it is inadequate to our situation? If you and N.T. Wright are correct, then Paul spoke a word of situational ethics to the other Christians of his time, and since we must do the same in our different situation, not only to other Christians but to all other human beings, what we have to say in and to our situation regarding slavery, war, sexuality or a host of other issues may legitimately sound and be very different from what Paul and the rest of the Bible said to theirs.

        • “The Bible says a lot of things” — The Simpsons.

          Seeds? What other seeds are there? There are as many seeds as Christian churches with committed Christians. As many seeds as struggling humans who “search the Scriptures” and make it fit there mindsets.
          Two options: “It’s all Rock and Roll” or “There’re going to Hell”.

        • “The Bible says a lot of things” — The Simpsons.

          Seeds? What other seeds are there? There are as many seeds as Christian churches with committed Christians. As many seeds as struggling humans who “search the Scriptures” and make it fit there mindsets.
          Two options: “It’s all Rock and Roll” or “There’re going to Hell”.

      • Burro (Mule) says:

        I understand, Robert. I feel kind of the same way about cannibalism and sodomy.

        • Robert F says:

          You don’t feel that way about slavery? You think sodomy and cannibalism are equally sinful/evil acts?

    • “then the moral law is unchanging”

      The thing is, large chunks of that “unchanging law” were indeed changed – in fact, tossed aside completely (Hebrews 7-8). What has remained unchanged? The whole “love Gid with all you are and love your neighbors as yourself” bit. And THAT came right from the mouth of God made flesh.

      “when looking at Scripture, you must recognize the difference between the ceremonial laws, the civil laws and then the unchanging eternal moral laws.”

      Oh, must you? Within the OT context there *is no difference*. The whole “ceremonial/civil/moral” distinction I was taught in seminary is a theological construct imposed back onto the OT. A Jew living under the Law would recognize no such distinctions – in fact, they would have seen ALL the Law as “moral”, by the very line of argument you give in your first paragraph. Yet… we are not under the Law. The NT is clear on that. Christ is our Law. So if you want moral principles, look to His life, not the tablets of Moses.

      • Christiane says:

        Eeyore,
        if ‘the moral law’ you speak of is based on ‘Natural Law’, then it may apply in the area of ‘reproduction’; but not so much in the area of marital companionship which, in my fiftieth year of marriage, is based on ‘cherishing’ and nurturing and companionship as well as mutual help in time of need as both of us have been seriously ill at different times this year . . . we were THERE for one another to fulfill the vow of ‘in sickness and in health’

        I think that ‘marriage’ is more than reproduction. And yes, it’s an issue the Church needs to discuss.

        • Certainly marriage is more than reproduction – and certainly it needs more discussion.

    • Clay Crouch says:

      So are you saying those divorced and remarried couples attending your church and the myriad of other churches are living in adultery? Oh my! Now *that’s* a real problem.

    • Michael Z says:

      @senecagriggs, you should probably re-examine the assumptions you are taking for granted about the nature of Scripture. You may wish that God had given us a simple and straightforward list of infallible moral rules to follow. But what God has given us instead is a rich and complex book that shapes us and transforms us as we wrestle with it and revise and deepen our understanding of it over our lifetimes.

      If read the whole Bible cover to cover a couple of times, you’ll find that it’s simply impossible to fit it into the box of a “rule book.” There’s something much more interesting going on in Scripture: a conversation that invites us to join it, a story that we can make our own, a record of human beings who have encountered God throughout history. And that entire record is “perfect” not in the sense that every statement it makes is factually accurate (there are obvious examples that are not) or that every moral law it dictates is universal (again, we ignore many of them today) but in the sense that the Bible is what God knows we need, not what we think we want it to be.

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

        You may wish that God had given us a simple and straightforward list of infallible moral rules to follow.

        If that’s what you want, there’s the Koran and Hadith.

        • Actually, HUG, the Qur’an can be as vague as the Bible. It’s the Hadith that acts as commentary and clarification on it, much as the Talmud does for the Tanakh. Although for Muslims there are two different collections of hadith, one for the Sunni and one for the Shi’ih.

    • Richard Hershberger says:

      “And to be honest when looking at Scripture, you must recognize the difference between the ceremonial laws, the civil laws and then the unchanging eternal moral laws.”

      This is where you lose me. The purported distinction is a modern interpretation inflicted upon the Bible by people who want to cluck their tongues in disapproval of where other people put their pelvises, while enjoying their ham and cheese sandwich and wearing their cotton-poly blend. That this interpretation is produced by people who proudly proclaim that they don’t interpret Scripture is the icing on the cake.

      What is important? Jesus was asked this, and answered: love God and love your neighbor. Everything else is mere commentary. Some of the commentary still applies, while some clearly does not. How are we to tell the difference? Not by picking the commentary you don’t like and dismissing it as mere ceremonial law, while the commentary you do like is timeless moral law. Rather, by taking Jesus’ words seriously. If your timeless moral law results in what looks a whole lot more like persecuting your neighbor than it does loving him, you have gotten it wrong.

      • Ronald Avra says:

        I’m compelled to agree with a great deal of what your observations. I wish however that ‘loving God and loving your neighbor’ was a bit more of a slam dunk than it is. It seems to require more energy and thought than what I have available or am inclined to expend at a particular moment. And it does come in moments, it’s not something that I can ‘once and done.’

    • Richard Hershberger says:

      More on those “unchanging eternal moral laws.” In the 19th century, Sabbatarianism was very much put in moral terms. A baseball game played on Sunday would routinely be condemned as immoral. The Evangelicals were at the fore of this condemnation. Nowadays the idea is simply quaint. Evangelicals think nothing of playing or watching a ball game on a Sunday. What changed? Cultural context. The unchanging eternal moral law of how to behave on a Sunday proved to be merely a fleeting battle in the culture wars. Nowadays Evangelicals pretend that Sabbatarianism never really was a thing, or at least not a serious thing. The same, I pray, will come of today’s battles in the culture wars.

    • “If eternal God is indeed, the author of Scripture, then the moral law is unchanging. But if Scripture is just another book, then the moral law is shifting according to the beliefs of the current culture.

      God being God, it doesn’t matter when He chose to give us His word; it applied then, it applies now.
      ________

      And to be honest when looking at Scripture, you must recognize the difference between the ceremonial laws, the civil laws and then the unchanging eternal moral laws. Adultery was a sin then, it’s a sin now.”

      Answering this could be a book in itself, but i don’t have time (or patience) for more than a few disjointed thoughts.

      First, is everything in the Bible (every command) an eternal command? Of course not. Paul says that women should have their heads covered when participating in public worship. Do we require that today? No. Most don’t know the reason why (in Roman culture married women were expected to have their heads covered in public, or they were thought to be promiscuous) but most are smart enough to realize that is a culture-bound command. And it IS an apostolic command, and it is a MORAL command, and all Christians were expected to follow it. And Paul’s command is clearly an accommodation to the expectations of the current culture (something fundamentalists tell us we should never do)! I could give dozens of other examples, but this is low-hanging fruit.

      Second, the OT law is not applicable in the New Covenant. The OT law was given to, and ONLY binding upon national Israel. It is the ‘document’ that regulated the covenant between God and national Israel (given at Sinai, renewed in Deuteronomy). Since Gentiles were never a party to that covenant, the OT law was never binding on Gentiles (see Acts 15:10, a clear statement that Gentiles were not currently under that ‘yoke’, as is attested by many ancient Jewish writings, and Rom 3:19). And dividing the OT law into ‘ceremonial, civil, and moral’ elements is a Christian innovation (because they don’t understand that the OT law ONLY applied to Israel). No ancient Jew (including Paul) would have thought of that division. James himself says to violate any part of the law (even ceremonial law) is to be guilty of violating the LAW. It is ONE and all of it is binding on ISRAEL (or at least was until Christ came – Gal. 3:22-26). As Christians we are under a new covenant, and the document that regulated the old covenant does not apply to the new covenant. We are not under the OT law; we are under the ‘law of Christ’.

      So, if you are going to use Leviticus to argue homosexuality is a sin then so it planting two kinds of crops in your garden or wearing blended fabrics. You can’t separate the OT law into binding and non-binding parts.

      Is there value in the OT law? Of course. But it must be read with cultural understanding, as God’s instructions for his people in a specific cultural setting. We no longer live in that cultural setting (even the first-century Christians lived in a different cultural setting). One cannot simply bring bronze-age ethics (or bronze-age family models, economic systems, business practices, etc.) into the 21st century without running into serious problems (and errors).

      But the larger point is that understanding Scripture is different than just reading it (as though God wrote it directly TO and FOR us – a point I made yesterday). It was written TO and FOR people who lived in very different cultures, with different value systems, economic systems, etc. Faithful biblical interpretation requires understanding those cultures, what the Bible meant to them, and then asking questions about how, or IF, it applies to us in our culture. I could give examples of this as well, but for the sake of space I’ll skip it now (also knowing the futility of arguing about interpreting Scripture with Seneca).

      But taking the Bible serious is more than simply taking it literally. I would argue that people who simply read it and say ‘God said it, I believe it, that settles it’ don’t take it seriously at all! They disrespect it and often to great violence to it (again, examples abound).

  4. senecagriggs says:

    Where the Evangelicals stand – Scripture is indeed the very, unchanging Word of God.
    __________

    Where do the post Evangelicals stand on Scripture?

    “Let’s not take it too seriously?”

    And that is the chasm between the conservative Evangelicals and those in the Evangelical Wilderness is it not?

    • I take Jesus’ words very, VERY seriously. And Scripture. I argue *my* points *from* Scripture. You just issue blanket dogmatic statements with nothing to back them up.

      If you expect us to take you seriously, and consider you to be someone other than a troll out for lulz… then give your defense, like Scripture tells you to (I Peter 3:15).

      • senecagriggs says:

        Eeyore, so you go with “the Words of Jesus” and reject the words of Paul?

        • Specifics. I quote verses, *you* quote verses. That’s how argumentation works. 😉

          • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

            Dueling Verses — just like Dueling Banjos:
            https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_jBF1dcTlcM

            “QUOTE! QUOTE! QUOTE! QUOTE! QUOTE!”
            “QUOTE! QUOTE! QUOTE! QUOTE! QUOTE! QUOTE! QUOTE! QUOTE! QUOTE!”
            “QUOTE! QUOTE! QUOTE! QUOTE! QUOTE! QUOTE! QUOTE! QUOTE! QUOTE!”
            “QUOTE! QUOTE! QUOTE! QUOTE! QUOTE! QUOTE! QUOTE!”
            “QUOTE! QUOTE! QUOTE! QUOTE! QUOTE! QUOTE!”
            (guitar riff as both run out of verses and go at each other with fingernails and teeth)

        • And, just for the record… I am NOT of the opinion that when a word is used in a modern English translation, that it has the ECACT same meaning and context as it did in the ancient world. You have to take social and historical context into account. It’s not just platonic transmission of Eternal Truths.

          • Adam Tauno Williams says:

            “when a word is used in a modern English translation”

            It may not have the same meaning as the same English word 50 years ago.

            Languages are alive-by-proxy from the societies which **USE** then – – – we must always remember, front and center, that Language is a UTILITARIAN human construct. Language is not something distilled from the ether.

            • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

              “when a word is used in a modern English translation”
              It may not have the same meaning as the same English word 50 years ago.

              Never mind the same Englyshe word circa 1611.
              English is the fastest-mutating language in existence.

              • Pellicano Solitudinis says:

                “Englyshe” is more of a Chaucerian spellynge, so 1411 rather than 1611, but your point is valid.

        • Patriciamc says:

          To correctly interpret Paul, you have to look at the situations Paul was specifically addressing (such as pagan practices in Ephesus infiltrating into the church) and above all, reconcile them with Christ’s teachings.

    • Clay Crouch says:

      Mr. Griggs, actually the bible is not, as you put it, “Word of God”. The bible informs us that Jesus is the Logos of God. I also suspect that you have a faulty understanding of the concept of logos.

      • senecagriggs says:

        Clay, I’ve got a graveyard full of faulties.
        _________

        But, is not the divide between conservative Evangelicals and non Evangelicals how we each approach Holy Scripture?

        I think that is the divide.

        • It is.

          You see Scripture as the pure, unadulterated record of Unchanging Eternal Truths handed down directly from Heaven. In point of fact, I used to think that way too.

          Now, I see Jesus *alone* as that manifestation of Truth. And from the record of the Gospels, He had no truck with handing down clear Eternal Truths. He spoke in riddles and parables. He hung around with whores and loan sharks. He often flipped the “eternal unchanging laws” of the OT on their heads. He refused to seek honor and glory. And in the end He was framed, betrayed, tortured and slaughtered.

          And after that, He rose from the dead.

          The Lutherans are right. Christ, not the Law, is – *must* be – the starting point. The Scriptures are given not to give us Laws, but to proclaim Christ. And Christ was no Platonist.

        • Clay Crouch says:

          Don’t we all.

          I will spend the rest of my life repenting of using the the Bible as a weapon against my fellow man.

        • Michael Z says:

          I believe in a God who chose to redeem humankind by taking on flesh and living among us – all the immeasurable treasure and perfection of the immortal God housed within a frail, limited, vulnerable human frame.

          I believe in a God who chooses to transform this world not by stepping in and forcing people to do what’s right, but by partnering with us, God’s people. A God who entrusts the treasure of God’s presence into our “earthen vessels” even though we make mistakes in how we present God to the world.

          I believe in a God who spoke through the prophets, not by dictating the exact words they should speak or taking over their bodies and speaking through them, but by putting the message in their hearts and allowing them to use their own human abilities – their poetry, their eloquence, their imagery – to express that message, so that the words they spoke were the product of a divine and human partnership.

          If God’s way of interacting with humankind always seems to involve an interdependent relationship, divine perfection and human frailty intertwined, why would the Bible be any different? Taking a “high view” of Scripture is only a virtue if your view matches what God intends. If your view of the Bible leaves no room for its human element, then you’re failing to apply the lesson of the Incarnation to your understanding of Scripture.

      • “You search the Scriptures because you think they give you eternal life. But the Scriptures point to me! And yet, you refuse to to come to me for eternal life.”

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

        Mr. Griggs, actually the bible is not, as you put it, “Word of God”.

        During my time in-country in the Evangelical Bubble, “This Is the Word of God” was a very common name for the Bible.

        One of the characteristic shticks I observed (both in that not-a-cult and Campus Crusade) was to hold up a Bible and ask “What Is This?”
        If you answered “a Bible”, that was The Wrong Answer and you would be immediately corrected:
        “This — ” (shake Bible) “– Is The WORD OF GOD!” (pronounced in all-caps).

        • Michael Z says:

          Interesting side note – in the Bible itself, “the word of God” / “the word of the Lord” almost always refers to one of two things:

          1. The prophetic impulse / knowledge / empowering by which the prophets spoke in God’s name.

          2. In the NT, the teaching of Jesus and the preaching and receiving of the Gospel.

          That is, in the Biblical world-view “the word of God” almost always referred to new, living and active revelation through the power of the Holy Spirit. Obviously the Biblical texts are, in part, a record of what people spoke through the word of the Lord, but it’s hard to find any Biblical precedent for applying that label to the texts themselves. (And in fact, at many times in the Bible the prophetic “word of God” actually serves as a critique or reinterpretation of the existing scriptures or the way they are being interpreted.)

    • Richard Hershberger says:

      Where the Evangelicals stand – Scripture is indeed the very, unchanging Word of God. Where do the post Evangelicals stand on Scripture? “Let’s not take it too seriously?””

      This certainly is the Evangelical self-image, but it isn’t how things are done in practice. In practice, selected snippets of scripture of very carefully chosen, the selection criteria being that they reinforce the desired position. Huge swaths of scripture of equally carefully overlooked, if they don’t reinforce the desired position.

      This is how we end up with people claiming with a straight face that the Bible is unconcerned with social justice, while very concerned indeed with sexual morality. It’s not that they are lying. It is that they are following their training on how to read the Bible. It is deeply ingrained unseriousness about scripture.

      Even the selected snippets are treated very carefully. Ignore what comes before the snippet. Ignore what comes after. The snippet is to be treated as if it had no context. It is not part of a text written by a person advancing an argument. The snippet by itself is TRVTH. Some other part of scripture contradicts this TRVTH? Simply ignore it. Someone else has the poor taste to quote that other scripture? Shout them down. You have TRVTH on your side!

      Serious? feh. Hardly.

  5. senecagriggs says:

    About adulterers. I certainly know the temptations – I feel it in my heart.

    But I cannot ally with them to accept them for who they are.

    I CAN ALLY with them to fight the ongoing battle.

    • Look. Are you going to give actual biblical arguments for your positions, or are you not? Because I am done with these games. Until you actually argue for your case, this is my last reply.

      • senecagriggs says:

        “This is my last reply.”

        Eeyore, somehow I doubt it – dryly

        You want me to argue the case against adultery? Seriously?

  6. senecagriggs says:

    Conservative Biblical stance on sexual expression – unchanged thru the centuries.

    The ONLY God ordained sexual expression is between a husband and wife.

    • Mike Bell says:

      Is it?

      How about this: http://www.internetmonk.com/archive/41575

      How about Abraham marrying his half sister.

      How about Solomon’s wives? They are clearly understood as being a sign of God’s prosperity.

      How about Isaac and Rebeccah? “Then Isaac brought her into his mother Sarah’s tent. He took Rebekah, and she became his wife;”

    • Now you’re just denying the Bible in favor of tradition.

      Don’t you believe the Bible is God’s word to mankind?

    • Michael Z says:

      If you’re talking about what the Bible actually teaches, that would be “wives,” potentially plural, not just “wife.” Also, concubines.

      And, there’s not any passage of the Bible that spells out exactly where the line is of what’s acceptable between unmarried people. There’s not even a passage that states unequivocally that sex between unmarried people is a sin, although I think you could argue that the Biblical writers are clearly operating under that assumption.

      • Michael Bell says:

        “And, there’s not any passage of the Bible that spells out exactly where the line is of what’s acceptable between unmarried people.” Other than the principles of self sacrificial love, and mutual submission, what is acceptable between married people isn’t spelled out either.

    • Unchanged through the centuries? What about polygamy in the OT? What about practices during the patriarchal period, such as sexual hospitality (which was practiced in many ancient cultures), traces of which are evident in the episodes with Abraham, Sarah, and Pharoah/Abimelech, as well as Sisera and Jael (Judges)? What about the OT law allowing divorce, then Jesus revoking that except for ‘sexual immorality’ (whatever that refers to – as I noted recently, barrels of ink have been spilled in scholarly articles over that), and then Paul adding another exception – believing and unbelieving spouses (1 Cor 7)? Hardly looks unchanged to me (unless you pick out a few centuries from the Middle Ages).

  7. Burro (Mule) says:

    This is going to be long, and y’all gonna hate me, but nothing new there.

    My daughter came to my wife some years ago and asked her why the Church was so lame when it came to sexuality. From my daughter’s point of view, both the Evangelical church and the Orthodox Church failed her in not preparing her for the sexual no-mans-land of the early 21st century. From my daughter’s point of view, that of a sexually-active straight cisgendered woman in her mid 20s, the Church (and the church) should be involved in teaching people how to have medically safe and psychologically satisfying sex lives, regardless of their marital status or sexual orientation.

    From a secular point of view, it is hard to argue with her. From a moralistic point of view, it is hard to argue with her. My wife fell back on the Evangelical dictum that the church exists to declare the Word of God as it is in the Bible, and to expect her to accommodate her message to a mode of thinking that does not derive from the Bible is unrealistic. My daughter, not surprisingly, said that’s f*cked up. Everything’s so different now than it was during the time the Bible was written that the rules have all changed (Does that hermeneutic sound familiar?). In tears, my wife came to me and asked me what I would have told my daughter.

    I told my wife I did not have enough understanding to make a call on this, but that the old tactic of “the Bible says no, so it’s wrong” is clearly not working, and I think everybody feels somewhere in the bottom of their hearts that as an argument or an apologetic it is severely dysfunctional. I told her I would think about it, and I have, deeply, and I have come to some conclusions. Although these conclusions are tentative, it should come to nobody’s surprise that I consider them superior to the other opinions already offered here. They are, after all, my opinions.

    First of all, I would like to offer some Scripture and some St. Maximus, both primary and secondary:

    4 And he answered and said unto them, Have ye not read, that he which made them at the beginning made them male and female,
    5 And said, For this cause shall a man leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife: and they twain shall be one flesh?
    6 Wherefore they are no more twain, but one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder.
    7 They say unto him, Why did Moses then command to give a writing of divorcement, and to put her away?
    8 He saith unto them, Moses because of the hardness of your hearts suffered you to put away your wives: but from the beginning it was not so.

    Matt 19

    28 Therefore in the resurrection whose wife shall she be of the seven? for they all had her.
    29 Jesus answered and said unto them, Ye do err, not knowing the scriptures, nor the power of God.
    30 For in the resurrection they neither marry, nor are given in marriage, but are as the angels of God in heaven.

    Matt 22

    23 And Adam said, This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh: she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man.
    24 Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh.
    25 And they were both naked, the man and his wife, and were not ashamed.

    Genesis 2

    7 For I would that all men were even as I myself. But every man hath his proper gift of God, one after this manner, and another after that.
    8 I say therefore to the unmarried and widows, it is good for them if they abide even as I.
    9 But if they cannot contain, let them marry: for it is better to marry than to burn.

    I Corinthians 7

    4 These are they which were not defiled with women; for they are virgins. These are they which follow the Lamb whithersoever he goeth. These were redeemed from among men, being the firstfruits unto God and to the Lamb.
    5 And in their mouth was found no guile: for they are without fault before the throne of God.

    Revelation 14

    18 There be three things which are too wonderful for me, yea, four which I know not:
    19 The way of an eagle in the air; the way of a serpent upon a rock; the way of a ship in the midst of the sea; and the way of a man with a maid.

    Proverbs 30

    We are not to fight against creation, which has been created by God, but to the contrary we must fight against the disordered and unnatural movements and activities of the powers within us.

    the creature willingly moves in accordance with the logos of its nature towards the fulfillment (telos) of its being in God. After the Fall the creature is partially ignorant or sinfully inclined and deliberates to the point of making a choice.

    …in the darkness of ignorance, for earthly pleasures, …instead of the light of God, Adam made death alive for himself throughout the course of this present age.

    26 Then God said, “Let us make man ‘adam in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.”
    27 So God created man in his own image,
    in the image of God he created him;
    male and female he created them.

    28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave[a] nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.

    “It appears that the Confessor considered these verses through the lens of a trilogy schematizing the general movement of the cosmos, possibly the one referring to the origin (arche), middle or current state, (mesos lit. “central position”), and ?nality (telos) of everything.

    The use of this concealed triadic pattern here is suggested in the observation of the saint of an imbalance or “inequality” (the term occurs twice in plural, as and between the middle term as represented by Gen 1.27, and the terms situated at the ends,as signi?ed by Gen 1.26 and Gal 3.28 respectively.”

    So, let’s unwrap this. The protestantized, desacramentalized, secular, corrupt view of the world is that it is composed of “things” which are inert and neutral in themselves. Thus, humans have considerable freedom in their use and, lamentably, abuse of these “things”. Thus, they tend to attempt to maximize their pleasure and comfort and minimize their discomfort and suffering, and they call this “good sense”. This is what Fr. John Strickland calls in his series “Paradise and Utopia” a reorientation of the world away from Paradise (original or terminal) and towards Utopia, an idealized state of affairs in this world that maximizes human happiness and comfort. It goes without saying that a large component of this ideal state of affairs is sexual, and ‘sexual fulfillment’ becomes a pillar of the promise that apostate culture holds out to its devotees. this, an erection becomes a vocation, and orgasms replace the Blessed Sacrament as the sanctifying force in human life.

    Thus, there are two stations allowable to those seeking the Kingdom of God; marriage as composed of the lifelong union of a man and a woman reflecting the original Paradisical state, and celibacy as reflecting the final, truly transgendered Paradisical state. All else is gnomos, false movement, a movement towards non-being and towards the opposite of the Chalcedonian adverbs; division, separation, change, and confusion.

    If this is inherently unfair to those whom God in His wisdom has ‘gifted’ with same sex sexual attraction, the only thing I can respond is that most marriages are a lifelong martyric struggle whose major component is not passion but mutual repentance and mutual pardon. Those whose marriages are not should consider themselves deeply fortunate and the rest of us should guard against envy. Indeed, I have to say that ‘fairness’ does not appear to me to be one of God’s primary concerns and thus I am trying to excise it as much as possible from mine.

    • senecagriggs says:

      Awesome comment.

      Life ain’t easy. God’s standard appear truly impossible to hold to, probably are , in this life for us sinners.

      • Michael Bell says:

        Matthew 12:28 One of the teachers of the law came and heard them debating. Noticing that Jesus had given them a good answer, he asked him, “Of all the commandments, which is the most important?”

        29 “The most important one,” answered Jesus, “is this: ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. 30 Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ 31 The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself. There is no commandment greater than these.”

        This is God’s standard.

        • senecagriggs says:

          Mike as Jesus told the prostitute, go and sin no more.

          • Michael Bell says:

            As Jesus told the Pharisees and keepers of the law: “Let him who is without sin, cast the first stone.”

            You seem to be forgetting that part.

          • Rick Ro. says:

            Question: do you seriously think she sinned no more?

            • That Other Jean says:

              Not unless she was happy to starve to death. What else was she supposed to do? Except for those of the highest class, prostitutes in 1st Century Judea were either slaves or women who had no other choices.

    • “The… desacramentalized, secular, corrupt view of the world is that it is composed of “things” which are inert and neutral in themselves.”

      Ok, but what if we consider this option… the progressive Christian view of the world is that it is composed of “things” which are created by God and good in themselves. Including humans, and including human agency. Thus, humans have considerable freedom in their use and, lamentably, abuse of these “things”. A component of this present state of affairs is sexual, and ‘sexual fulfillment’ is one of the outlets by which humans Express love and fidelity. However, this is a present state of affairs sexuality and gender are not fixed platonic ideals, and indeed will be set aside when Creation is consummated (pun intended). Therefore, sexual mores as related to gender and reproduction are not central to Christian ethics and living.”

      How about that?

      • Burro (Mule) says:

        Nope, not ever. Doesn’t even get off the launch pad.

        I smell Gnosticism in most of your remarks, as if this present state of affairs will pass away and we won;t have penisses or vaginas in the resurection, or if we do, they will be of merely historical interest.

        Your final sentence is true, “sexual mores as related to gender and reproduction are not central to Christian ethics”. I would drop ‘living’ because we live as gendered beings, and this is something that is ‘traditioned’ to us. To tamper overmuch with this is akin to sitting down and inventing your own language and demanding that other people understand it.

        Sex between a man and a woman in a sacramental marriage actively sanctifies, much as partaking of the Chalice or Host. I don’t expect Protestant yobbos to ‘get’ this because Protestantism doesn’t produce saints, just ethicists and their brand, libertarians, and your brand, Democrats.

        • “I smell Gnosticism in most of your remarks, as if this present state of affairs will pass away and we won;t have penisses or vaginas in the resurection, or if we do, they will be of merely historical interest.”

          If that’s what you define as Gnosticism, guilty as charged. But so then is Jesus (that discussion with the Sadducee I referenced earlier) and Paul (the whole “I wish all people were ad I am” argument in I Corinthians 7). Careful how wide a tar brush you swing…

          “Sex between a man and a woman in a sacramental marriage actively sanctifies, much as partaking of the Chalice or Host.” Well, this Protestant no-party-affiliation “ethicist” has some doubts about that, from a biblical perspective. Start and be amazed.

        • Iain Lovejoy says:

          I think you are miscasting the LGBT affirming position as one that denies sexual morality or the sacredness of sex and marriage. It does not. It does not start with the position “Fidelity is hard, relationships are hard,live is hard, so let’s not bother and so something easier” as you seem to suggest. It starts with the observation that the Church’s historic approach to homosexuals and homosexuality does not look like love, and the Church’s assertions as to God’s will in this matter appear to portray God as unjust, which God cannot be.
          An affirming Christian does not then conclude that God got it wrong, but asks whether we have misunderstood God, something which we do depressingly often. They will then re-read and study the Bible, and pray, and consider how the Bible should be understood so as not to slander God as unjust or unloving to people who are gay. I would say if we read a Bible passage and it seems incompatible with God as perfect love as revealed in Jesus on the cross, we do not understand the passage.
          As for the Bible on homosexuality, what little it says on the matter treats homosexual behaviour as essentially an extracurricular activity by straight people. It does not deal with sexual orientation at all.
          The result of this is that you have two choices in enquiring about homosexuality, neither of which can lay claim to a “straightforward” reading of the text.
          You can do what the Church has historically done, when it knew nothing of sexual orientation, which is apply teachings in the Bible intended to apply to heterosexuals to homosexuals. The Bible says that a person not called to celibacy and who desires love, sex, intimacy and family life should seek it in the sacredness of marriage. The Church says to a homosexual that he is required to be celibate whether called to it or not. It reverses Paul’s injunction and says “better to burn than to marry” denying someone who is gay even the possibility of love and intimacy and married life. Whether this is right or wrong it is not just “following the Bible” – it imposes burdens on the homosexual that it does not on the heterosexual.
          Or, instead of treating homosexuals as if they were heterosexuals, you can do what the LGBT affirming Christian does and treat homosexual sex for homosexuals as heterosexual sex for heterosexuals. This is not abandoning traditional sexual morality but upholding it; not denying the sacredness of marriage but permitting and encouraging homosexuals to participate in the sacrament.
          That the Holy Spirit is in this is to my mind proven by the results. The “homosexual lifestyle” now is being transformed from what it was 30 or even 20 years ago. Homosexuals are, as i understand it, increasingly favouring long term loving, faithful relationships over multiple short term partners. Affirming homosexual relationships is transforming their very nature for the better in a way that affirms rather than undermines a traditional morality (as long as it is applied to homosexuals as being homosexuals not heterosexuals).

          • Burro (Mule) says:

            “treat homosexual sex for homosexuals as heterosexual sex for heterosexuals.”

            It feels very much like a false equivalency to me. I’m sorry, but body parts matter in a way that is not apparent on the surface. It’s not a Bible thing, it’s an ontology thing. I am just not convinced that we know enough about the subject yet to change something this blithely. And I’ve never been big on ‘love’ as letting people do as they please.

            There is no relationship between people of the same sex which is improved by the addition to it of genital sex.

            I discern no Holy Spirit yet. I haven’t had my pigs-and-lobsters-in-the-sheet moment, and I’ve prayed about this a lot. We can both be wrong, but we can’t both be right.

            • Iain Lovejoy says:

              “It’s not a Bible thing, it’s an ontology thing”
              Precisely the point made by affirming Christians. Arguments from the Bible against homosexuality start from the premise that homosexuality is wrong, and strange and different and can’t be treated in any way parallel to heterosexuality, read the Bible on that assumption and, hey presto, there are the proof texts to support the case. Start with the premise that homosexual affection is no different in character from heterosexual, and read the same texts, and, hey presto, there is no such condemnation there.
              The trouble is it’s not an abstract theological problem – we’re messing with people’s lives.
              We may both be wrong, but I can’t see that you’re right. The answer given by the Church to a gay Christian asking how they should live their life “better to burn than to marry” is inadequate, and rather than draw them in to love of God and neighbour, drives them from the faith, and into despair and even death.
              I am open to better ideas, but given the available choices, LGBT affirming is the best answer we presently have.

    • Christiane says:

      “This is going to be long, and y’all gonna hate me, but nothing new there.”

      Burro, you know better, I hope.

      • Burro (Mule) says:

        I should have said “y’all gonna disagree with me”. Sometimes I can’t tell the difference 🙂

        • Richard says:

          And you guys have stumbled over the crux of the problem, from the outsider’s point of view: is it simple disagreement, or hate? They do look a lot alike sometimes.

  8. Well, right.

    It’s important for me to say thank you to Geoff, and to Mike Bell, for the very measured and thoughtful conversation, and for sharing it here. And for the emphasis on love, for people the way they actually are.

    I’m posting this when there are 50-ish comments, and there are a few phrases that make me want to stand up and cheer. The rest is the usual trainwreck: can’t stop watching, but oh, the humanity.

    Burro’s daughter’s 3-word summary works for me: “That’s f*cked up.” The visions of human sexuality that are presented in this argument are nothing like what I find in the wild.

    I say this as a genderqueer/genderfluid assigned male at birth person, who’s been celibate for 8 years, since his marriage to a lesbian failed. And I was celibate for many years before forming that relationship. You might think (I did think) that with the insistence on celibacy, there would be active support for celibate people in every Christian community. There is not.

    • “I was celibate for many years before forming that relationship. You might think (I did think) that with the insistence on celibacy, there would be active support for celibate people in every Christian community. There is not.”

      I feel you. Been there, done that, still bear the scars. 🙁

    • Michael Z says:

      What all the evangelical “solutions” to LGBTQ folks over the last 50 years have in common is that we’ve said to people, “You’re welcome to be a part of our community as long as you make it possible for us to pretend that this part of yourself doesn’t exist.” That is, the burden is entirely on the LGBTQ person to change to win the community’s acceptance, not on the community to change to support or accommodate the LGBTQ person.

      Richard, you say you were formerly “married to a lesbian” – what do you think about the rhetoric that’s common in evangelical circles these days that blames “affirming” folks for destroying ex-gay marriages? Or conversely, people saying that Christians have to be vocal about the traditional position (and even keep advocating conversion therapy) in order to create a “safe space” for the ex-gays in our midst? I often wonder how much of the anti-gay rhetoric in evangelical churches today is still being driven by a desire to justify or cover up that horrible mistake we made of thinking we could “fix” people.

      • Richard says:

        [how do you make those cute boxed quote things??]

        >> “You’re welcome to be a part of our community as long as you make it possible for us to pretend that this part of yourself doesn’t exist.”

        Right. For a community of folks who hold the truth in such high regard, forcing people to lie about themselves in order to belong seems… counterproductive. People are inherently very diverse, and pretending they’re not is just another kind of denying truth.

        >> what do you think about the rhetoric that’s common in evangelical circles these days that blames “affirming” folks for destroying ex-gay marriages?

        I, for one, see no evidence that conversion therapy actually changes anybody. In a different context (grief support), it’s said that trying to fix someone else doesn’t change anything, it merely tells them it’s not OK to talk about it.

        That said, if people want to try the hard way, looking like everybody else despite how they feel, may the grace of God go with them, and far be it from me to tempt them away from their choice. Divorce does tend to be somewhat contagious, perhaps showing other folks that it’s not so very bad getting out of an untenable relationship.

        I’m not sure how to strike a balance between being authentic people with histories and not rocking the boat so that people whose balance is precarious will fall out.

    • The lack of respect for celibacy in so many non-liturgical churches is a significant point to ponder. It certainly informs the whole Gay Conversion Therapy phenomenon, now in merciful if partial retreat. When I would hear Catholic priestly celibacy derided as “unnatural” in my days as a single, straight young Evangelical, I would often think to myself “Let me tell you about it, Brother Marriedman”.

      Unquestionably, something’s askew there. Perhaps “the thoughts you’re not supposed to entertain must always be heterosexual in nature” comes close to capturing the common mindset, I dunno.

      • Richard says:

        >> The lack of respect for celibacy in so many non-liturgical churches is a significant point to ponder.

        And many liturgical ones as well, for ordinary lay people who are not in religious orders. But yes, I think there are a lot of gay people involved in those orders.

        >> Unquestionably, something’s askew there. Perhaps “the thoughts you’re not supposed to entertain must always be heterosexual in nature” comes close to capturing the common mindset, I dunno.

        One character in a story I was writing put this “What does it matter who-all I’m not sleeping with, as long as one of them is you?”

  9. seneca griggs says:

    Richard, most respectfully can you give a relatively workable definition of genderqueer/genderfluid? I would truly appreciate that. Sen

    • Richard says:

      I have, since an early age, wondered why my gender doesn’t seem to be like what other people say about theirs. There were no words for transgender things in those days. I tried to fit in, but the more I learned about what “be a man” means the less I wanted anything whatever to do with it. Nonetheless, nature takes its course, and I look like a man, despite everything.

      This is not a unique experience at all; lots of folks are trying to figure themselves out and finding that the words other people are using on the internet or in print do a pretty good job of articulating what they feel. I considered transitioning to female, but that’s not me either. Sometimes my experience of gender seems feminine; other times kind of neutral or irrelevant. And yes, sometimes masculine. So “genderfluid” seems a good one-word description of that changeability. And it’s oh so queer, but in a way that has to do with gender identity and not sexual orientation. Some folks are using “nonbinary” to talk about this kind of thing: the notion that they don’t fit anywhere along the male/female continuum.

      My wife, who was identifying as bi, found a gender indeterminate person attractive, precisely for that reason. I had thought that the lack of a clear gender on my part probably meant I would always be unable to find a partner. The one really new thing about the internet is that it allows unusual people to find others like ourselves. The “I’m the only one” feeling is demonstrably false.

      There is in our culture, especially for those who look like men, this odd notion that one should invest all of one’s emotion into a marriage. It’s terribly unfair to the wives, needing to be someone’s everything. But there it is: we are cut off from all other connection of any significance.

      I have, at various times and in various places, been part of church communities, most recently for nearly 20 years in an Anglican parish in Boston. I was sort of evangelical in the early 1970s, and still recognize something of myself in the endless arguments. But ultimately, it has to be about love, you know? And not about quibbling over words and judging people because they don’t measure up. Which is why I found Geoff’s very honest answers so refreshing.

      • Burro (Mule) says:

        As Fr Stephen Freeman says, most of us are out of communion with our bodies.

        Despite the vehemence of my goalpost-guarding, I could do with less gender policing myself, and I’m genuinely sorry that you and your wife weren’t able to make a go of it.

        The best marriages are the ones not where you have a manly-man and a girly-girl together, but one where there is a lot of outside support from extended family, the parish, and the wider community, regardless of how ‘queer’ the participants may seem to be.

      • senecagriggs says:

        Thanks Richard; best to you in your coming days.

    • Mike Bell says:

      Seneca,

      As critical as I have been of your comments, I would like you to know that this was my favourite comment of all comments of the day.

      My goal is not to change people’s minds on this. My goal was to get people talking to each other on this topic on a respectful and considerate manner. Minds may change as a result. It doesn’t have to be a one way street either. We can learn from each other.

  10. Rick Ro. says:

    Great post, great comments.

  11. john barry says:

    So be clear what the issue is make it simple for John Barry

    People of faith believe that homosexual behavior is sin as are the other sins of immoral behavior. This has been belief and teaching since the beginning of the Christian religion. They do not want members in their church who are practicing homosexuals. People are welcome to come, worship and repent which means change I believe. The homosexual says no I will not change , you are wrong and you must change to accommodate what I believe is correct. Now to be clear I am only talking about what the church believes for believers who follow their faith teachings.

    Now in the secular world the church members do not oppose homosexual rights, same sex marriage and other sea level changes that have happened the last 20 years at lightening speed. They may support a legal challenge when they feel they religious liberty is at issue, I.e. The cake bake, the florist, but they have rendered unto Ceaser what is his and accept and follow the secular law without losing their faith teaching .

    A homosexual comes into church, he is welcome, he hears the sermon against immoral sexual behavior etc and what the church believes. They encourage him to change his lifestyle and accept Christ. He does not want to . Now why would he want to be a part of that church? What is the issue.

    The battle of homosexual acceptance and rights has been won in the legal and secular world and is the observed law of the land. The last hold out are some people of faith who still call it a sin.

    What do you want the people of faith to say , to do to satisfy the homosexual community. God loves you but not your sin that you think is not a sin but we do .

    Again leave this church, this faith and move on to those who accept you and your lifestyle.

    Again what is the issue. Must every person of faith agree that homosexual , immoral sexual behavior is not a sin?

    • Seems downright liberal ( in the bad liberal people sense) to just wantonly toss scripture and millennia of tradition aside and say it isn’t sin. Still, when I think about my family and friends, Kathleen and Cheryl, Jim and Eric, Brian and Brandon, and others they are not hiding a ‘sin’ like I would hide a sin. They have no consciousness of guilt because they feel nothing to be guilty about. Now is this the abomination of desolation and we are calling good evil and evil good? I don’t know. There certainly is a fair bit of that going around. Here’s another possibility. At various and sundry times through history God has evolved the situation by saying that at one time such and such was a necessity but no longer. Now I’m doing a new thing. He never provides us with a script when it happens. There is only a post script. Could that be going on now? Could there be a sea change in the works? If we are to welcome homosexuality as sanctioned it could only be such a radical move of the Spirit or an abomination in my view. For me personally all I can say is that I love the Lord but that love never compels me to say anything to my loved ones. I love them too, just the way they are. I don’t really have a good answer to all of that but I remain open eyed and conscious.

      • Rick Ro. says:

        +1.

        I wear a mask or two around pretty much everyone so that they don’t know some of my true nature. I can’t throw any stones at those who are more open with their true selves.

      • There are certainly examples of this ‘evolution’ – slavery, womens rights. God revealed truth about those issues that went beyond the Bible, and in some cases, against the Bible. The basic questions are does God continue to reveal truth? Are some of the Bible’s teaching/commands ‘situational’? Are God’s commands arbitrary or are they for our good in particular situations and cultures? And of course, how do we interpret the Bible? I believe one can take the Bible ‘seriously’ and believe it’s not the final word on all issues, even issues it addresses directly.

    • Michael Bell says:

      John, not to shut down this topic, but in next weeks post I will be asking pretty much your questions here to a bunch of evangelical pastors. (Almost all of my friends who are Pastors are evangelical by the way, it is the circle that I have traveled in for my entire life.)

      I will be interested to see what their responses are. (I haven’t asked the question yet.)

      If it takes more than a week to compile the questions and answers into a meaningful format, I may only publish it in two weeks, and present another “Made in Canada, eh?” next week.

      After hearing from the Pastors, I will give a concluding and summarizing post the following week.

  12. john barry says:

    Mike B. thanks will look forward to that . I have always found Canada refreshing but dry, looking forward to more Canada info.

    • Michael Bell says:

      You know why Klasie Kraalogies and his old friend Johannes Vandemerwe were arrested for public intoxication shortly after arriving in Canada? As they landed at the airport they saw a giant billboard that said “Drink Canada Dry” and they promptly proceeded to try to do so. 😀