The Definition of Marriage

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Answering the Gay Question Part 4

What does the Bible say about marriage?

There has been a lot of talk about what the definition of marriage is in this country.  Is it between a man and a woman or between two people regardless of sex?  The conservative Christians hold to the idea that the Bible states that marriage should be between a man and a woman.  After all God created Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve.

There is really very little consistency in the books of the Bible as to what really defines marriage.  Shall we have one spouse or multiple?  Is divorce ok or not?  Exodus 22:16 says that if a man rapes a women all he has to do is pay a price and he gets to marry her.  Good thing we don’t follow that one today.  I have found only one verse (1 Timothy 3:2 & 12) that says a man should only have one wife.  In that instance the writer is specifically talking about overseers and deacons and not necessarily about everyone.

What about Jesus?  Jesus didn’t really say much about who should marry.  His main statement is that there should be no divorce and boy we aren’t very good with that one.  In that verse he says, “But I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for marital unfaithfulness, causes her to become an adulterer, and anyone who marries the divorced woman commits adultery.”  Matthew 5:22.  Many people argue that since Jesus said wife and did not talk about a husband’s husband or a wife’s wife that marriage is between a man and a woman.  My question to them would be why would he?  The question of homosexual marriage was not happening in their time.  If he started talking about irrelevant things then he would have become irrelevant.

Going back further to Adam (or Mankind as it could be translated, Eve meaning the source of life), there is a contradiction in the two creation stories that is worth looking at.  Many discuss that the two become flesh as meaning that God wanted male and female to partner up in marriage.  However in Genesis 1:27 it says that God created man (Adam) in his own image, in the image of God he created him, Male and Female he created them.  So they are already of the same material.  They are already of the same flesh.  So why would God (Elohim) in Genesis 1 create them in the same image and God (Yaweh), in chapter two create them differently?  Which is correct?

In Genesis 3 the story continues and Yaweh declares that the woman will be ruled by the male. (Vs. 16) By the way, that belief in male domination is about the only consistent marital connection throughout the Bible.

Also we must take into consideration that the writers of Genesis lived in the days when a man could have multiple wives and taught according to that belief.  Paul however said that you should only get married if you burn for another.  1 Corinthians 7:9-10.

1 Corinthians 7 also says that divorce is ok in some circumstances, that according to Jesus was not.  But according to the Pentateuch it is ok.  So which is right?  Isn’t Jesus supposed to be the final answer and yet our churches are full of divorced people?  Many of them are in leadership too, but that isn’t what the writer of Timothy says.

Colossians 3:18-19, 1 Peter 3:1 and Ephesians 5:22-33 all tell women to submit to their husbands as we do to the Lord.  There is no equality in this. We submit all things to the lord.  Our entire life is given up and we serve him faithfully.   Is this what women want? Do women want to serve the husband?  To give up their entire life and follow the man wherever he goes without getting explanations?

Of course we have rejected this idea and want a partnership in marriage.  We want one spouse for life.  But if that somehow does not work out, there is forgiveness and you can be reinstated in the church and in life.  There is no real sound definition in the Bible.  The only definition is what we want to believe it is.  Maybe that is how God left it.  For us to decide who we want to love.  After all, he loves us all and created us all, so why shouldn’t we be able to love that person who God created for us?

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Answering the Gay Question 2

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Romans 1 Homosexuality

Last blog I discussed some issues with the Old Testament and homosexuality.  This time I will try to tackle Romans 1.  I would like to know what Jesus thought, but he said nothing about homosexuality and very little about marriage.  The only thing Jesus said on marriage was that there should be no divorce and that Moses allowed that because of hard heartedness.

Romans 1 is often a big thumper verse that people use to condemn homosexuality.  I actually find it quite unimportant in today’s society when it is taken into context with the surrounding verses.  In some ways, I think Paul was setting up the Roman readers when writing the first chapter of this letter.  He does list sins and then in verse 2:1 Paul tells them that they are doing the same things and to stop judging others. (Please read chapter 2 as Paul lists their problems.) As in the day of Paul, we like to hide our sins (gossip, laziness, hate, adultery etc.) and focus on someone else.  So first of all, we need to know that we should not be condemning of others sins. That is God’s job and you and I are not God.

Secondly, I did say that Paul listed sins and for some people verses 26 and 27 seem to indicate that homosexuality is a sin.  Romans 1: 26 Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural relations for unnatural ones.

27 In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed indecent acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their perversion.

The question is what is this unnatural that Paul is referring to?  This may be one of the most misunderstood passages in the Bible.  I find that no one really seems to know what exactly Paul is referring to.  Is he referring to Temple prostitutes as in the Old Testament?  Homosexuality as we see it today?  Procreation vs. sexual pleasure?  Is Paul simply a homophobe or was he gay and hating himself for it? I have read scholars’ ideas on all these subjects. So if Scholars can’t agree, how can we be sure of what it is?

From what I have read, there was not as much Temple prostitution going on as we might think, so although this is a possibility, I don’t think this is probably what Paul was talking about.  However if it is temple prostitution then it is moot for our time.  We don’t have temple prostitutes so it is not a problem. According to most of what I have read, homosexuality as we see it has nothing to do with what the society of Paul saw, so I really reject that idea as well.  I don’t think Paul was gay, nor do I think he was a homophobe.  He taught grace for everyone and equality for all.  He often spoke about there being No Jew or Gentile, no free person or slave etc.. I can’t see him hating or fearing anyone. That left me with procreation vs. sexual pleasure.

I have often had people tell me that God could not have created homosexuals because they can’t produce children.  Some denominations also have ideas that no birth control should be used and that sex is only for having children.  Though there is no specific verse for this idea there are many that could be taken along these lines.  Those ideas seem to have also been prevalent in Paul’s day.  This is what I believe people were doing that was so unnatural.  So in that case any form of homosexuality would be considered a sin, because you can’t procreate through it.  However we would also have to say that sex just for pleasure would be a sin.  So would the use of contraception (such as the pill or condoms), oral sex, and anal sex (homosexual or heterosexual).  You could also add anyone who is infertile or had an operation to “fix” themselves or people who decide not to have children for risk of passing on certain genes or because it could cause health problems for the wife.  You must also include any women above the age of menopause.  All people unable to have children having sex would be considered a sin.

So basically if you condemn homosexuality you must condemn all those others that I have mentioned and more.  However we don’t.  Actually, homosexuality seems to be the only one of many non-procreation sex acts that we do condemn.  So here is the question.  Why condemn only one act and not another?  Are we picking and choosing what to believe is a sin and what is not?

The verses also do not say that women had sex with each other.  I have found no place in the Bible that condemns that, unless you decide to read into it something that is not there.  So question two would be why would male homosexuality be a sin, but female homosexuality not?  Is it because the male writers were homophobes or is it that they were thinking something entirely different than what we read it as today?

Question three may be if so many scholars have so many different thoughts on what this could mean, how can we really be sure of its meaning.  And if we can’t be really sure how can we truly use this against so many people?  In other words, can we condemn people on verses that are unclear when their meaning may be unknown?  This is especially true when Paul (immediately after these verses) tells us not to judge.

The Final question would be what else does Paul and the New Testament say about homosexuality?  I guess that will have to wait until the next blog.  I try not to make these too long to read, so I’ll just leave you to contemplate what I have said so far.

Feeling Trashed

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Without feelings of respect, what is there to distinguish men from beasts?

Confucius

It’s been about four years since one family member stopped talking to my wife and me.  At that point we asked what we did wrong and we were told that we knew.  Umm, NO WE DID NOT!  Sigh.  That’s why we were asking.  Of course that really seemed to be a way to say “I’m not talking about what the problem really was”.  I send them friend requests, birthday greeting etc… but without response.  I am still hoping they will respond someday.  Once their entire family came to the town where I live and everyone but that person came to see me.  This made me feel like trash.

Recently another family member got ticked off at us when we came out of the closet in support of gay rights.  Never did any family member ask us why.  In fact this is really the only member that talked to us about it and all they did was quote Leviticus 18:22 and say “it’s a sin.”  When I tried to explain my thoughts and what the Bible said through the Hebrew, Greek and its original time period, I was told that I didn’t listen.  (Sigh).  And now we have been cut out and tossed aside by yet another.

This past week a family came to my school.  I work with special needs kids.  The students we have are the students that the general school districts can’t deal with.  This family has had two children in our program.  The mother is in her 40’s, dying and now in a wheel chair as this disease slowly takes her away.  When the mom and dad came into the school she motioned to me and slowly asked me to go get her son and do it quietly.  So I went to his room and got him without telling the teacher.  The reason was that they had roses to give to the teacher and they wanted it to be a surprise.  That’s the kind of family they are.  They truly love everyone.  They have support from both sides of the family as they take care of their farm, two kids, and everything else that goes along with what they are going through.

I wish my family was more like that.  I wish my family took family more serious.  I wish they cared about me.  They aren’t the only ones but they are the ones that most affect me. I don’t know what it will take for my family to get anywhere near this point.  I’m guessing it will never happen.  My grandmother spent 50 years not talking to her daughter because my aunt married the wrong guy.  By the way my uncle and my aunt were married for 50 years.  Guess grandma didn’t know everything.

That’s the thing.  Others don’t know how you or I feel or why you or I do things if they don’t take time to ask and REALLY listen.  Instead they have just thrown us into the trash.  They make us feel totally that we are worthless to them and they don’t seem to care one iota.  The second sibling above even posted on my facebook page how wonderful it was to be able to block people from his life.  This bragging (at least it came across as bragging) came shortly after blocking my wife and right before unfriending me. I can find no other reason for writing that other than they wanted to hurt me. They did what they wanted.  That hurt me a lot!  But when I confronted them, they again said they did nothing wrong.  And again I felt like I was tossed out like all the other refuse they had tossed to the trash.

Why is it that people don’t talk out their problems?  Why don’t people care about family?  Why do people just want to hurt others?  I will probably never know.  I really doubt that either of them will ever tell me.  I doubt I’ll ever hear from them again except at funerals.  Then again I doubt they’ll speak to me then.  Wonder if they will even acknowledge my presence?  Would they come to my funeral?  Would they even care?  I’m sure they wouldn’t come to my wife’s funeral.  They made it plain with their actions as well as words that they both hate her.  Again I have absolutely no idea why they would hate such a loving person.  And if they don’t come that’s ok.  I’d only want people who actually care to come, but maybe something like that will have to happen to wake them up.  I hope not.

Hopefully those that read this aren’t people tossed in the trash.  If so, remember you are not alone.  Maybe we can lean on one another.

If you’re one that has tossed others in the trash, please figure out what is really important.  And it’s not whatever grudge you’re holding on to.  What matters is family and friends.  It’s love.  It’s caring, kindness, listening and spending time with people.  Hopefully you’ll understand that before it’s too late.

“Strength of character means the ability to overcome resentment against others, to hide hurt feelings, and to forgive quickly.”  Lawrence G. Lovasik

DAD

Dad

Today is my Dad’s 81st birthday.  I can’t believe that he is that young. 🙂  There is so much that I have to thank my dad for.  I have to thank him for making me, me.

1)      He gave me a passion for God.  I remember him pouring over the Bible searching for what it was saying.  He is one of the few people who could ever beat me in Bible trivia.  “When in doubt say Isaiah” was one of his favorite quotes.  That was often true in that game.  Along these lines he helped me to see that you can find other ideas that are not Orthodox that may be true.  He’s been teaching prophecy in our home church for nearly 30 years, and not the Orthodox end times, but an understanding of his own.  People respect him and come to him for thoughts on the Bible because they know he understands it so well.   I have had people say similar things about me.  In fact in college they called me the RBS.  (Resident Bible Scholar) Makes me proud to be like my dad.

2)      My sense of humor.  Yes, I tell the same jokes and get the same rolling of the eyes that my dad surely still gets.  Don’t laugh at the jokes he’ll just keep going they say.  Still when I tell my jokes, I can hear my dad saying the same thing and giving that smile of his telling you, he’s just messing around.  I do the same thing.

3)      Dad also really listened to people.  Even if he might think the person was way out there.  It’s possible they might have some truth.  He respected people and really tried to care about what they had to say.   I have had many people over the years tell me all sorts of things. Why?  They tell me I’m such a good listener and don’t judge them.  I’m proud that I can be like this.  Just like my dad.

4)      He also taught me a love for nature.  I remember taking so many walks with the family in the woods. Most of the time that was in the Adirondack Mountains.   I still enjoy taking those walks even though I don’t know all the birds, trees or foot prints that I come across.  It is so beautiful to walk in the woods and watch or see nature.  Thank you dad.

5)      He has always been there for me.  I remember calling dad in college when I was looking at a friend’s Washing Machine.  Over the phone I described the problem and he told me what he thought was wrong with it.  He was right.  I have always been amazed at his knowledge of things like that.

6)      One thing that I did not get from dad is his ability to fix things.  Cars, house, appliances etc… He could fix it all.  Wish I had been able to learn that.

7)      Never going the same way.  Dad often did this.  He liked to always take a different route to places.  Maybe he wanted to break up the monotony or just explore, I don’t know but I do the same.  I like to drive all over the place and see what I can find.  I draw maps for my wife, just like dad draws maps for my mom.  Although I often use map quest since my art ability lacks.  Thanks dad for being you.

Seven is supposed to be the perfect number so I’ll stop there, even though I could go on.  No one is perfect, but my dad is close enough.  He made me the man I am today.  Thank you so much Dad and have a wonderful birthday.  Since he is not on Facebook, I’d appreciate it if someone would print this for him.

For those that love their dad, feel free to leave a story or thought about him.

 

The picture, I “stole” from my brothers web site.  Click on the pic to see more of his photo’s.  Thanks Davy!

Confessions of a Pepsi Drinker

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It seems that there has been big controversies about the Super bowl add that Coke a Cola put out.  Here is the link in case you have not seen it.  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z8uSVUiniWQ&feature=share

I guess that since the Super Bowl wasn’t too super that we have to stir up something to talk about.  I watched the advertisement when it came on as I was sitting with friends but no one thought a lot of it.  It was simply a commercial selling Coke.  It wasn’t funny.  Those are the ones that we look for during the Super bowl.

However it did really spark an interest with people who tend to think that Americans should only speak English.  Often we think that America was settled by the people from the British Isles.  It was, but not simply by only them.  The Germans came, French, Spanish and so much more from Europe.  Then many came from Africa.  Mostly by force.  The U.S. only became Englishized (if that is a word) through treaties and wars. 

Here are a few things people said negatively.

 http://pulsefeedz.wordpress.com/2014/02/03/you-hate-america-if-you-hate-cokes-super-bowl-commercial/

From the beginning America has been a melting pot of different cultures and yet 200 plus years later we still can’t get along.   At different times in our history we have had problems with immigration.  Most of those problems came from people being scared that their lives would change because there were too many Irish, Asian or Mexicans coming to America. 

I find it ironic that this commercial would come out during Black history month.  This is supposed to be a time where we celebrate the diversity in America.   Yet it seems that we have not really come very far from the 1950’s.  Sure African Americans are somewhat more accepted, but we have just taken our racism from them and placed it on another group.  The problem is still there and needs to be fixed.  It will never be fixed though by hating those of different race, religion, language, sexual preference or toe nail paint. 

Some people will find hate no matter what.  The rest of us need to show the love and acceptance of others and stop dividing America.  We should not have Red and Blue States.  We should be Purple.  We should be one nation working together and not ripping apart. 

 America does not have a national language and there is no reason to have one.  I find it fun to learn another language, customs etc… of others.  I have lived in three states and all of them are different even though they are near each other.  That is how we learn.  If we want simply to stagnate and fall apart then we can try to make everyone just like us.  However I don’t want to be a clone.  I want to be free to explore and learn and change and grow.  That is what we should be like. 

So let us get off our high horse and find someone that is different and get to know them.  Buy them a Coke, have a good time.  It will change your life and probably theirs too.

Looking Back and Moving Forward

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As we end the 2013, it is often a time of reflection on what the year has brought to us.  We remember the good times and the bad, those who have come into our lives and those who have left us.  For my family it has once again been a trying year.

In January, I finished my masters degree in Special education but that was one of the few highlights of the year.  Most people who know me would chime in that I’m pretty special too.

In February we lost our nephews dad.  This left a 13 year old boy without any parents.  Through heartache, pain, worthless social workers and much more, he ended up in foster care.  For months we have tried to communicate with him and right before Christmas he sent us an e-mail.  We had waited and struggled through nearly 10 months for him just to say hi.

This past summer I left my position at a church that I had been with for seven years over disagreements about how people should be treated and just plain exhaustion over what had transpired the previous year.  Recovery was really what I needed to find.   At that point I was done with church.  I still loved God, but I didn’t care if I ever entered a church again.  My wife made me go to a couple churches as we looked for some place that we felt comfortable at.  I remember at one Bible study we went to the leader asked everyone why we had come.  I responded, “My wife made me.”  We didn’t stay at that church.  They didn’t seem to be friendly.  We have been attending a church since July that we feel more comfortable.  Yet I still feel like a hammer is going to drop at some point.  Maybe it’s because I have been hurt too many times by those that I trusted or thought were my friends.

I didn’t get my teaching job like I was hoping, but that may have been a blessing in disguise.  Because of the car accident in November, I missed a lot of work, but I had sick days so I was still getting paid.  I only worked one full week from the first of November until now.  Partly due to the accident, Dr.’s appointments, strep and some weird body rash that I passed to all my family members.  This past week was my (hopefully) last therapy session to strengthen my back.

My wife was diagnosed with Fibromyalgia, an auto immune system problem that has often left her sick, hurting and often unable to do much of anything.  The stress of this year sure hasn’t helped that situation at all.  That combined with the fact that often people just don’t get how someone so young could have so many problems led to people thinking she was for some reason faking it all.  She was also diagnosed with Aspersers syndrome, which is high functioning Autism.  Most people think of Autism as those that I work with in school that do not have high IQ’s.  So again people jumped to conclusions that we were making up stories for some reason.

So yes, it has been a tough year, but it has also been a growing year.  My family has stood together, struggling as we might.  We had a year where we grew as a family.  Not only by one cat, (our nephew’s cat) but also spiritually, and love for one another.  We learned to be strong through tough times and to lean on each other and God.  I don’t know what I would have done this past year without my wonderful wife and my faith in God.  They are what have kept me going.  Well, I need to go do my exercises so that I don’t have to get back to therapy.

I hope your year has been better.  We look forward to a new year and new beginnings.  After all it can’t get much worse than the last couple of years.  Can it?  Grace and peace to all of you and Happy New Year!

Christmas Just isn’t the Same

christmas present

“Christmas just isn’t the same.” That’s what my mom told me Christmas Eve when I talked to her.  I remember growing up in upstate NY.  We always seemed to have snow for Christmas.  Every Christmas Eve my family would get together with all my aunts, uncles, cousins, and grandparents from my mom’s side of the family.  We’d have food and drinks and open presents and just have so much fun.  Afterwards my family would go home and we would do the same.  I never grew up believing in Santa Clause.  We opened all our gifts on Christmas Eve so there really wasn’t any reason to believe in him.

Between 1986 and 1989 my mom’s parents passed away.  No longer did we get together with the rest of the family.  It was just us.  Still we had good times.  We would be singing silly to my parents, having that special family time and always goodies to eat.

I moved away for good in 1999 and have spent my Christmas’ in Indiana and Ohio since then.  People tried to help me fit in by inviting me to their family parties, but I felt that I was simply an outsider, trying to fit in with their traditions which were not mine.  I do appreciate those families reaching out to me, but it was never the same.

Since being married, we have tried to include my wife’s family into Christmas.  Maybe not on Christmas day but we would at least try to meet them somewhere for dinner to exchange gifts.  In the past couple years those have all died and my wife’s one nephew is in foster care, with little contact with us so far.  The past two years we have not even put up decorations.  Last year because we moved two days after Christmas and didn’t want to take everything down and pack it up and this year because since our car accident on November 1st my wife has had Bronchitis, MRSA, and now some rash caused by some virus.  My back was injured in the car accident, so I couldn’t lift anything for a while.  When I started getting better I got strep along with that rash that my wife now has.  We just have not had the energy or desire to be in the Christmas mood this year.

Even when I do go home, it’s just not the same.  The area has changed, people have changed, and I have changed.  That should be expected; after all it’s been 15-20 years since I have lived there.  Life moves on with or without me.   In some ways I feel like an outsider there too.  Longing for the days when we were all together and life didn’t seem so hard.   I also think that goes both ways and that sometimes even my family expects me to be the same as I was when I lived there, but I’m not and never will be.  Equally they will never be the same.

The Gospel of Luke according to the traditional view portrays Mary and Joseph as outsiders.  Luke says they were from Nazareth and that they could not find any room to stay in so tradition tells us they had to settle for a barn or cave.  The story brings shepherds to the manger.  People who were often poor and certainly not ranking high in society’s idea of important people.

I wonder sometimes if they felt alone.  Did their family and friends talk about them?  Did they wonder how they could be so different?  After all they had a baby out-of-wedlock.  According to the Torah it was a sin that could have killed them both.  I wonder what the priests in their hometown said about that?  However once that baby was born, nothing was ever going to be the same.   They followed the path that God had given them even though others may not have understood it.  This often puts people by themselves.  Maybe that’s why Jesus grew up challenging authority and reaching out to those in need.  If he had been the cause of rumors and the ostracizing of his parents and probably himself, he would have been well aware of how that feels.  He would have known the hurt that his parents felt.  He would have wanted to help those that society did not think was important because they were like his mom and dad.   He would have also challenged those who thought otherwise because they were the ones who hurt his mom and dad.

I feel Jesus was about accepting others, because he was not accepted.  I also feel that Jesus had little patience for those who thought that was ok.  My wish for this Christmas is that people will accept that people change.  That it is not that they have developed some skewed view of the world; but that life has taught those lessons that they don’t feel they can go back on.  These lessons were meant for them and not you, because either you didn’t need it or quite possibly you’re not ready.   If they are not harming people, simply let them walk their path and accept that God has given you a different path.  May God bring you peace and joy this Christmas.